Monthly Archives: November 2008

Louder Than Words

These are the notes for the lesson I taught in Sunday School this morning.  The class is a group of 30-40 year olds.  Most of us are married and have young kids.  We are starting to ascend to leadership positions in the organizations where we work and volunteer.  The resources for the lesson are

1.      Andy Stanley’s opening talk at Catalyst 2008 titled “Louder Than Words”

2.      Visioneering by Andy Stanley

3.      Shane Claiborne’s talk at The 2008 National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN. Gen. Session #2

Arrival: (Divide into small groups of about 5 people)

1. Everyone in the small group needs to name at least one leader that they respect

2. List the qualities of the named leaders that make them worth following (come up with at least five).

3. Describe a time when you were in a group that was lead by a “leader by position only, but did not have any authority.”

4. Everyone in the small group needs to name at least one leader that lost their respect (personally or on the National stage).

5. What was it about their “action” that caused you to stop following them?

Warmup: (Discuss in same small groups)

Read Luke 7:18-23 (NIV)

18John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 20When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ “

 21At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

1. How does Jesus respond to the question from John’s disciples?

2. Can you respond the same way that Jesus responded if someone at work, or wherever your position of authority is, were to come ask “Are you the one who is to manage us, or should we expect someone else?”

3. Could we respond the same way if someone asked us “Are you a Christian?”

Notice that Jesus didn’t highlight all of his major accomplishments we typically do in an annual review with our boss.  He didn’t say “I fed over 5000 people with only 2 loafs of bread and five fish” or “I spit in some dirt and wiped it on this blind guys face and now he sees”.  He simply responded with “Take a look around and tell him what you have seen.”  His actions spoke louder than words.

Exercise: (Come back together and work as a large group)

Read Nehemiah 5:1-13 (The Message)

1-2A great protest was mounted by the people, including the wives, against their fellow Jews. Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”

 3 Others said, “We’re having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving.”

 4-5 And others said, “We’re having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. Look: We’re the same flesh and blood as our brothers here; our children are just as good as theirs. Yet here we are having to sell our children off as slaves-some of our daughters have already been sold-and we can’t do anything about it because our fields and vineyards are owned by somebody else.”

 6-7 I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother.”

 7-8 Then I called a big meeting to deal with them. I told them, “We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?”

    They said nothing. What could they say?

 9 “What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?

 10-11 “I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop. Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”

 12-13 They said, “We’ll give it all back. We won’t make any more demands on them. We’ll do everything you say.”

    Then I called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word. Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, “So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn’t keep this promise-turned inside out and emptied.”

    Everyone gave a wholehearted “Yes, we’ll do it!” and praised God. And the people did what they promised.

Do people really act like this?  It sounds like a “Bible story” – “Thus saith the Lord, and the people obeyed….” How could Nehemiah command this much respect from his people with just one conversation?

Let’s look at the context of this passage?

  • Nehemiah was the cup bearer to King Artaxerxes, Babylonian King, and he had a vision to go rebuild the wall in the place where his father is buried (Jerusalem).
  • He travels to Jerusalem and finds the Hebrew people and the town of Jerusalem a total mess.
  • The Hebrew were people in high debt to the Gentiles.
  • Nehemiah assumes all of the debt of the Hebrew people. They are now financially free.
  • Most of the Hebrew people don’t know how to manage their resources, so they get right back into trouble.
  • This time the wealthy Hebrew people start loaning with high interest (Lowell Baron style) to this same group.
  • This is against Mosaic Law – Nehemiah gets very angry – and the story picks up at 5:1.
  • The Hebrew people had to work the fields during the day, and after work they worked with Nehemiah on the wall.

 Let’s continue on in the story…

 Nehemiah 5:14-18 (The Message)

14-16 From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah-from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years-neither I nor my brothers used the governor’s food allowance. Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. But out of fear of God I did none of that. I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn’t have time to line our own pockets.

 17-18 I fed 150 Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn’t use the food allowance provided for the governor-the people had it hard enough as it was.

19 Remember in my favor, O my God, everything I’ve done for these people.

This is why the people listened to Nehemiah:

  • He didn’t take what was owed to him – he sacrificially gave himself to the vision.
  • He didn’t leverage his position.
  • He lived with alignment of creed and deed.
  • He knew their work on the wall was a sacrifice, so he sacrificed equivalently.
  • He didn’t ask them to do anything he, himself, wouldn’t do.

Cool Down: (Large Group)

Nobody cares how smart you are as a leader – Do they believe that you believe in what it is that you are asking them to do.

How would you feel if your boss paid you more than what they were paying themselves because they knew they needed you to get the job done?  Would you follow this leader?

Christ lived with perfect alignment of Creed and Deed.  He didn’t have to present a resume of polished activities to prove who He was.  All he had to say was “Go back and tell John what you have seen”. 

Are you living louder than words? 

Are you living with alignment of your creed and your deed?


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Stuff Larry Likes

Hillary Dunham tagged me in one of her latest posts to name five things that I love.  I usually ignore these types of lists, but since I have nothing better to write about on Black Friday, here goes:

1.      Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg – Yes, the inventor of the printing press.  Why?  Because I love books!  I didn’t read much outside of assigned literature during school, but about the beginning of graduate school I started reading.  As I started focusing on a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering, my brain needed something non-technical to keep it fresh.  The habit has stayed with me.  I now have at least one book going at all times outside of what is required for work.  I started out reading a lot of fiction.  Some of my favorite fiction authors are John Irving, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut.  Lately I have been reading a lot of non-fiction related to leadership, culture, and the Christian Faith in action.  Magazines and other printed media that are shaping me right now are Good Magazine, Need, Fermi Words, Esquire, and the Catalyst Groupzines.

2.      Earl Grey tea – I am a minority in the US in that I don’t drink coffee.  I drink hot tea.  My favorite is Earl Grey.  I tried coffee one night in college preparing for an exam the next day, and my hand was shaking so bad that I could hardly read my hand writing.  I decided I didn’t need that much of a jolt.  There is just something very comforting about Earl Grey.  When I was a kid I hard bad ear infections that hurt all the way down the Eustachian tube.  My mom would fix me a cup of hot tea to make me feel better.  I would drink the tea slowly and let is drain down the side of my throat that hurt.  The hot liquid loosened the gunk up and always made me feel better.  Now I’m just addicted to it like every other coffee drinker.

3.      My black jacket – We all have a few items of clothing that just feel right when we wear them.  For me it’s my black, zip up, polyester jacket.  It’s the right length, the sleeves fit, Its perfect for most nights in the south (for the really cold nights I break out my black wool jacket).  Other pieces of clothing that feel right: my red WILCO T-shirt, khaki colored denim cargo pants, Johnston and Murphy leather shoes, and THE red speedo bathing suit.

4.      Mixed CDs (or iMixes thanks to iTunes) – I am that guy, the one that makes mixed CDs for different occasions and most of the time just for the heck of it.  I started out making mixed tapes for my wife in high school (yes, we have been together that long).  I am glad that I was able to introduce her to bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Stone Roses, The Pixies, The Cure, and The Essence.  Later, I started making my own mixes and sending them out to a few friends that I thought would enjoy them – kinda like the CDs in Spin or Paste Magazine.  There is a real art in making a mix.  I usually start with a theme and find music that fits.  The lyrics, genre, tempo are all important – The music must fit together without having too many redundant songs in a row.  I lost most of the CDs I made pre-iTunes, but my good friend, James D., still has most of them. 

5.      Teaching – I really enjoy teaching.  I am a practicing Engineer by trade and only get to teach as a hobby.  I was a tutor in the Engineering Department at Auburn all through undergrad, and I taught a few classes in the EE department in graduate school. Once I moved back to Huntsville, I started teaching at UAH as an adjunct professor in my “spare” time.  I don’t have time to teach at the college level anymore, but I have found different outlets for me to teach.  I get to educate customers at work, teach my children at home, lead a Sunday School Class of “30-somethings with kids”, work with my Reading Buddy at Terry Heights, mentor younger engineers at work, and lead the Youth on occasion. I love to sink into a new subject and figure out how to break it into coherent lessons.  I love the excitement of getting up in front of a crowd and leading them through a lesson or presentation.  I enjoy existing in the tension of conversations – knowing when to transition to the next subject or to let a conversation play itself out.  Teaching may not be my career, but I do believe it is my vocation.

(Hillary, thanks… I’ll be sure to forward you the next email I get that says I will “burn in Hell if I don’t forward to twenty people in the next five minutes.”)

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I’m Especially Thankful For … “A Shark”


Amanda opened Joshua school folder and found this.  We both laughed so hard we had tears.  It’s nice to know that Josh is thankful for “a Shark” before anything else in the world – especially one with huge teeth (or dentures).  I laughed about it all day long.  Awesome!

I asked him about it this afternoon.  I then told him that “I love lamp”.  He looked at me with the same facial expression that I had when looked at his picture last night.  Then we both started laughing.  I love my boy!

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The American Dream

I am attending the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN this weekend.  At the general session last night three speakers were given 18 minutes to give a talk followed by 5 minutes of discussion with the people sitting around you.  At this point everyone was given the opportunity to text questions to a number on the screen.  The speaker then had 10 minutes where a moderator asked the speaker some of the questions that were texted.  It had a Q feel to it with the addition of a cool use of texting and speaker feedback.  The speakers were Shane Claiborne, Andrew Marin, and Tony Campolo.  Andrew’s talk was about Christians reaching out to the Gay and Lesbian communities.  I thought he did a great job telling his story and the story of what the Marin Foundation in Chicago is doing to reach out to a community that traditionally is not only neglected, but shunned and denegrated by the Christian community.


The talks by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo were also good, but I am having a difficult time digesting a theme that was in there talks and the talks of a few of the other presenters on Saturday morning.  These speakers on Friday night and Mark Yaconelli on Saturday morning all made comments declaring that the American Dream is dead.  They all said that the current market crash is going to force America to live differently and abandon the old ways of consumerism.  Now, there is no argument from me that America has demonstrated horrible fiscal policy from a bloated government that runs a massive deficit every year down to the average household that has been spending way more than their incomes can support.  The government views us as “consumers” instead of “citizens” as demonstrated by their solution to economic woes – Every gets a check in the mail with the directions to go spend it.  To me, that’s like giving an alcoholic another bottle of Wild Irish Rose because we have to keep the liquor industry afloat.  I believe that the church should be modeling Biblical spending principles, and that Christians should be tithing and saving and not reacting to the current situation with fear – like everyone seems to be doing.  But, to say that the American Dream is dead is foolish.


After a discussion with some friends I realized that nobody has a clear definition for “The American Dream”.  Tony Campolo defined the American Dream as “a desire to have a better life than your father had” and others simply defined it as “Comsumerism”.  Based on their definition of The American Dream, maybe it is dead, and for good reason.


I have a different definition.  I believe that the American Dream is to live in a place that fosters creativity and innovation and gives everyone the opportunity to bring their great ideas to fruition.  My definition is one of creation and innovation – one inline with what a dream should be.  Maybe my definition is off.  The American Dream that the speakers were talking about is the ugly thing that many in American have turned the American Dream into – one of greed where wants and needs have been greatly confused.  This economic downturn is a wakeup call for everyone.  I believe that this country will innovate and create its way out of this hole.  There will be some pain, but in the end we will be stronger.  It’s time for new ideas to rise up and for Dreamers to create.


There was a comment that I really did like about this topic from Mark Yaconelli.  He said that the era of purchasing whatever we want off credit cards – a practice that has contributed to isolating us from community – will be replaced with one where we start looking out for our neighbors. 


Instead of “keeping up with the Jones’s”, hopefully we will start “looking out for the Jones’s”.  This type of community is something I Dream about.


What is your definition of “The American Dream”?


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My Sister is an Artist

My older sister is an emerging artist in Huntsville, Alabama.  Her name is Krista Colvin.  I think her art is beautiful, encouraging, and redemptive.  Two years ago she was inspired to start painting after one of the messages at the Catalyst Conference in ATL.  She started to take her talent seriously and is now starting to explore and create some engaging art.  I’m really proud of my sister!  She is tapping into the talent God planted inside of her. 

If you are looking for an opportunity to see some of Krista’s art, visit 801 Franklin on November 19th for an Art Opening to benefit The Care Center.  Here are the words from the flier –

Wednesday, November 19

5:30 ~ 7:30

$20.00 suggested donation

heavy hors d’oeuvres

cash bar


Join us in celebrating the unique art of two local female artists ~  Krista Colvin & Ruth Ann Stephens. 


The artists will be available to discuss their artwork and answer any questions.  They have chosen The Care Center as the benefactor of this opening.  The Care Center provides a food bank, clothes closet, one-on-one tutoring for at risk students and home repair for the elderly of Madison County.  We are honored to host this evening of Art, Food & Cocktails to benefit such a worthy cause!


Here are five pieces of Krista’s art that I enjoy.



“Dream Wide Awake”



“Sunflowers” (I want this one for my kitchen)









“Together 2”


Krista, Keep creating!



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I just finished reading Tribes by Seth Godin.  He was one of the speakers at Catalyst 2008 in ATL.  At the end of his talk he gave everyone in the Gwinnett Arena (over 12K people) an advanced copy of this book, which was a very nice gesture.  I had never heard of the guy before Catalyst, and now I check his blog every day.  He has a keen insight into leadership, and basically just makes me want to take some of the ideas in my head seriously.


At first I thought this book should be read by everyone, but now I don’t think that is the case.  This book is for the person that sees a better way, the creative that thinks it would be fun do “art” differently, the person that is not satisfied with the same old systems that produce the same old results, the heretic whose ideas don’t fit into the status quo.  This book is not for members of organizations that care more about numbers than fans, leaders that want to lead to see themselves in the headlines, people that equate management with leadership, and those that think there is a manual or secret code out there that tells them how to lead.  If you are the least bit fidgety about a movement that you want to start, no matter how big or small, this book is for you.


In the book, a tribe is defined as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”   We are all members of one tribe or another. I can name five tribes that I am a member of without thinking too hard (Crossfit Huntsville, Leadership Connect/Impact, GATR, Couples For Christ, and Fermi Project).  Now, think about the tribes where you invest your time, energy, and resources.  I bet there is a group of people, a definite leader, and a shared idea.  Tribes don’t just form.  It takes a person that has a unique idea.  The idea resonates with enough people that pretty soon they want to join and participate.  The tribes also give the members a way to communicate, explore, and spread the message amongst themselves.


I stumbled upon a great example of a tribe that may be familiar to some people.  After completing Tribes early last week, I grabbed Fight Club by Chuck Plalhniuk to read on the airplane on my last trip to DC.  I had seen the movie many years ago and remember thinking that the movie was equal parts profound and disturbing.  In the story the narrator is so tired and burned out on the safe, but unfulfilling life that he is living, so he agrees to join the Fight Club started by his friend, Tyler Durden.  The club attracts men from all walks of life that hate what they have become.


“You have a class of strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something.  Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need.  Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they really don’t need.

We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression [you can tell this was written in the 90’s], but we do, we have a great war of the spirit.  We have a great revolution against the culture.  The great depression is our lives.  We have a spiritual depression.”


They fight each other to feel physical pain in order to feel “real” again.  Tyler made specific rules for Fight Club that everyone follows – The first rule of Fight Club is that you never talk about Fight Club.  Each night they have Fight Club, new people show up and eventually there are Fight Clubs all over the place and everyone wants to meet the legend that is Tyler Durden. 


In the fictional story, Tyler Durden sees the world in a different way.  He casts his idea out there and it resonates with a lot of people.  They get involved, a movement starts.  This is what Tribes is talking about.  Whether it is a group trying to change the way Public Education is administered, a group that starts scrapbooking clubs to give stay-at-home mothers an outlet, a group dedicated to Creation Care to challenge the wasteful, throw-away culture we live in, or leading a Youth Group by showing them there is a way to react to this world, there are tribes out that are waiting to be led. 


I recommend reading the book, especially if you feel like a unicorn in a balloon factory.


(Marla also gives a review of the book on her blog if you want another review of Tribes).


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What is Expected of Us as a Community of Faith?

(These are the notes for the discussion in the Couples For Christ Sunday School Class tomorrow)



What does a healthy faith community look like?



What does our class do right in terms of helping to create community?



Where do we fall short?



In my opinion there are two different areas we need to examine with regards to the expectations of our Faith Community: Inward tending to one another’s needs, and Outward serving the needs of the community.  What are the differences?  How do these two functional areas work together?





(From Andy Stanley’s article “Divine Community” in the Catalyst Groupzine vol. 4.: Intentional About Community)

It is sometimes said that when someone faces death, one’s conversations reveal his or her deepest passions, hopes and dreams.  That’s why we go out of our way to honor dying wishes.  In His final hours, Jesus gives us clues to His chief concerns.  What does John 17:20-22 reveal about Christ’s wishes/desires for us?


So that they may be one as we are one.


The significant of this statement cannot be overstated.  Jesus is praying that His disciples – the men who for three years had disappointed Him and misunderstood Him and would ultimately abandon Him (in other words, human beings like you and me) – would experience something amazing.  He prayed that they would experience the same quality of relationship with each other that Jesus experienced as part of the Trinity since before the beginning of time.


What does relationship amongst the Trinity look like?


Enjoying each other (Genesis 1:26)

Encouraging each other (Matthew 3:17)

Supporting each other (John 14:25)

Loving one another (Mark 9:7)

Deferring to one another (John 14:10)

Glorifying one another (John 17:1)          

We all need community.  We are a society living in isolation seldom enjoying the benefits of meaningful relationships.  We live around a lot of people, but most of us have chosen to do life alone.  This is certainly not what God has in mind.  We were created by a relational God with relational needs for connection – significant connection.



Main Course:

(Summarized from Matt Chandler Podcast of The Village Church titled, “Village Core Values: What is Community?” 4/27/2008)


Nobody gets hit by the gospel and just stays where they are – It’s moving and creating, and It’s different for everyone.  Once your heart is awaken to the reality of Jesus Christ, you begin Progressive Sanctification, which is growth into Him or spiritual growth in body, intellect, worship, and missions.


Progressive sanctification is a process that can only take place in the confines of deep relationship.  There is nowhere in scripture when it comes to sanctification and growth into the fullness of Christ where words were spoken to individuals removed from the communal aspect of our faith.  For example,

·         Opening to all of the letters in the New Testament – To the Saints in Galatia, Saints in Ephasis, Philippi, etc.

·         2 Corinthians (1:3-4) – Why does God comfort us?  So that we can comfort others.  – Communal

·         1 Thessalonians (4:18) – Encourage each other… – Communal

·         1 Thessalonians (5:14) – Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. – Communal

·         Galatians (6:2) – Carry each other’s burdens…. – Communal


Discuss what a tremendous asset it is to have people who know you well enough to engage you at that level.


·         How well does it work to “warn those that are idle” if you don’t really know them?

·         How well does it work to try to hold someone accountable if you don’t have a deep relationship with them?

·         How well does it work to ask to carry someone’s burden’s when you don’t have a relationship of trust established?

·         How well does it work to try to grow yourself spiritually when the entire gospel message is inescapably communal?


Just because you attend a small group like our class does not mean that you have real Christian community.  Attending is really the easy part.  The next steps – opening up and being honest, caring for others, contributing, … This is where it starts to take intentional action, which can be messy?  Why?

We need to protect ourselves from being too shallow in our relationships.  For example,


·         When was the last time someone close to you invited you out for a drink to tell you that constantly jabbing and disrespecting your wife in public isn’t funny – and ask you what’s really going on.

·         When we the last time someone close to you said that maybe your other affiliations in life (college football, political parties, social clubs, etc) are dominating your conversations and thought processes and borderline on becoming toxic – and then remind you that you are a Christian first before ANYTHING else.

·         When was the last time someone close to you confronted you on devious behaviors that are taking you away from community, family, God? – We all have areas where darkness resides, but are all responsible to help each other grow in Him. 


This is the sticky and uncomfortable part of our relationship with each other.  We have to realize that this is not a game.  Back to John 17:21 – “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus is saying that the credibility of His life and message in the eyes of unbelievers  is dependent upon the way we as followers relate to one another.  Somehow their belief and our behavior are connected.  Do you feel the weight of this passage and our responsibilities as a Christian Community?


We have to realize that we are in a body.  When you cut off a finger (illustration relevant for shop teachers) it doesn’t continue to grow.  We have to be in community in order to grow in Him!





I like to think of Christian community as a large dinner party (something our class relates too very well).  Each person has their own gift and talent that is given by the same Holy Spirit.  Some like to cook, some like to clean up afterwards, some like to generate conversation, some like to open their houses to host, some like to pay for the drinks and meal, some like to bring the music, some like to take pictures of the event, some like to make sure everyone is having a good time, some like to move furniture in the hosts house (inside joke).  When we combine our talents and live in community – really live in community and push each other toward progressive sanctification – you can feel the dynamo that is Christ.  I hope we continue to encourage each other AND confront each other. 


As Andy Stanley says at the end of his article, “I take comfort in the fact that community is God’s idea.  That means He will assume the lion’s share of the responsibility for making His dream come true.  We have to be willing to partner with Him to make His dream your reality and a reality for many others as well.”


Grace and Peace!

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