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Merry Christmas

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My blog readership is diverse - from personal friends to church leaders around the country to aspiring church planters and youth pastors. 

For all my blog readers and Twitter followers, may you experience a deeply satisfying Christmas from the only One who can deeply satisfy:

"Had He remained upon His throne of glory, and had we continued in the ruins of the fall without receiving His salvation, communion would have been impossible on both sides.

Our position by the fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Belial to be in concord with Christ.

Jesus must clothe His people in His own garments, or He cannot admit them into His palace of glory; and He must wash them in His own blood, or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of His fellowship.


O believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus "became poor" that He might lift you up into communion with Himself." - C.H. Spurgeon


* I drink Squirt *

My tall, crisp glass of Squirt this fine winter evening inspired me to dream up and tweet out new tag-lines for the makers of Squirt. 

I've been told my Squirt Tweets (yes, I am going to copyright that term) are blog-worthy.  Enjoy:

SQUIRT: Bringing you under-rated soda since 1938

SQUIRT: Because lemonade was meant to be carbonated

SQUIRT: Sounds like a short-lived 1980's Saturday-morning cartoon show and tastes like really old Mountain Dew mixed with melted ice

SQUIRT: the Detroit Lions of softdrinks

SQUIRT: Caffeine-free because caffeine doesn't do Squirt

SQUIRT: the runty, always-picked-last-in-gym-class,
distant cousin of 7UP

SQUIRT: Like a little piece of heaven.  No, scratch that. 
It's more like a sip from purgatory.

SQUIRT: No, not a Wal-Mart soda knock-off.  We're really Squirt.

SQUIRT: The elf Santa avoids.


Top 10 Christian Author Team-Ups We'd Like to See in 2011

10.  Joel Osteen + Shane Claiborne: Your Best Life... oh, wait.

9.  Rob Bell + Mark Driscoll: Love Wins Even When I Punch You in the Throat

8.  John Piper + Louie Giglio: Let the Telescopes and Microscopes Rejoice

8.  Perry Noble + Steven Furtick: 
     Stand Still Sons.  Seriously, Let Us All Catch Up!

7.  Carlos Whittaker + Anne Jackson:
     How to Blog About Taking a Break from Blogging

6.  Rick Warren + Perry Noble: Purpose Driven Jockey Lots

5.  Joel Osteen + Matt Chandler: Your Best Silly Toys and Trinkets Now

4.  Ben Arment: The War on Twitter
     (Forward by Ed Stetzer: Missional Cracker Barrel)

3.  Tony Morgan + T.D. Jakes: Giant Inflatable Blue Monkey, Thou Art Loosed!

2.  Erwin McManus + Francis Chan:  Where the Heck Are We?

1.  Rick Warren + Mark Driscoll: Purpose Driven Throat Punching


Honorable Mentions:
Andy Stanley + Erwin Lutzer audiobook:
Pretty Sure This Is What God's Voice Sounds Like

Reggie Joiner + Seth Godin: Orange Cow


Spurgeon on Open Hearts

Observe the words (about Lydia in Acts 16:14):

"Whose heart the Lord opened."

She did not open her own heart.  Her prayers did not do it; Paul did not do it. 

In order for us to receive the things that bring about our peace with God, the Lord Himself must open our hearts.  He alone can put the key into the hold of the door, open it, and gain admittance for Himself.  He is the heart's Master as He is the heart's Maker.

The first outward evidence of the opened heart was obedience.  As soon as Lydia had believed in Jesus, she was baptized.  It is a sweet sign of a humble and broken heart when a child of God is willing to obey a command that is not essential to his salvation, that he does not feel forced to comply with out of a selfish fear of condemnation, but that is a simple act of obedience and communion with his Master.

The next evidence was love, manifesting itself in acts of grateful kindness to the apostles.  Love for the saints has always been a mark of the true convert.  Those who do nothing for Christ or His church give but sorry evidence of an "opened" heart.  Lord, give me an opened heart forever. - C.H. Spurgeon


Calcium in the Backbone

Whether you lead a team of paid staff
or high-impact volunteers,
you're the leader
.

Together, your team can make what could be and should be actually become.
But you carry the vision banner forward.

Stay tuned into your team for the following:

  • Vision leaks
  • Communication sabotage from the Enemy
  • Misunderstandings that sabotage hope
  • Grumbling that looks backward

When these pop up on your leader, the sky is not falling.
Its just part of the cycle of leading a team.

Your team is the backbone of your organization.
When things feel brittle, the leader is the calcium in the backbone.

Refocus your team on Jesus.
Big, thundering Jesus.
His white-hot vision for your team will resolidify a sturdy backbone.

The late Dr. Martin de Maat used to always say to me,

"No one will ever follow you down the street
 if you're carrying a banner that says,
'Onward toward mediocrity.'
"

Let the fire in YOUR bones contagiously reignite THEIRS.
Leader, you are the calcium in your organization's backbone!


Seize This Season

The Top 5 times* that people are most open to considering matters of faith are:

5.  After the birth of a baby (28%)

4. After a natural disaster (34%)

3. After a major national crisis, i.e. 9/11 (38%)

2. During the Easter season (38%)

1. During the Christmas season (47%)!

This means that NOW is the time to INVITE someone to church!

Think about the people who are CLOSE to you and FAR from God.  Its time to make the ask!

Did you know that the Top 3 ways* Americans are willing to receive information about a local church are:

3. Ad in the newspaper (48%)

2. Personal invite from a FRIEND or NEIGHBOR (56%)

1. Personal invite from a FAMILY MEMBER (63%)!

Gang, let's reach the lost at any cost.  Make the ask!  Don't say "No" for someone... invite them out to experience a Sunday morning at a place passionate about changing the way they think about church.  Point them to a Christmas Eve ExperienceSeize this season and make a difference for eternity!

* all stats courtesy of LifeWay Research


And slowly, renewal began...

In the early 1980's, Bona Vesta United Brethren Church in Bryan, Ohio was struggling.
They almost closed the doors permanently
Attendance had dwindled. 

Dick Thorp moved his family to Bryan, Ohio in July 1984
On his first Sunday as the new pastor of this tiny church,
there were 16 people in attendance.

And slowly, renewal began.

Soon a young Andy Sikora was impacted by the ministries of this now-healthy, thriving church

Andy studied at Huntington University. 
I became friends with Andy afterward while he taught at 707 and I taught at Catalyst

And now Andy is planting a new church in Ohio.

In 2011, Colwood Church will partner with Andy to help start Renew Communities in Berea, Ohio.

And slowly, Renewal begins.

And old Dick Thorp from 1984
In God's complete providence, he joins Colwood in 2011 as our new Visitation Pastor.

Not to mention that little Danny Thorp, who started kindergarten in Bryan, Ohio, is our Worship and Missions Pastor.

God's amazing threads are woven together
Bringing Renewal to all things.

Join us in building something beautiful in 2011.
More this Sunday, as we share details of our Christmas Offering...