The past six weeks have been crazy busy around the LifeWay Small Groups halls. And the majority of my time has been devoted to a resource that will release in February. It’s called Stolen, it’s with Chris and Kerry Shook, and it’s compelling … to say the least.

Kerry and Chris Shook founded Woodlands Church, formerly Fellowship of The Woodlands, in l993. Since then the church has grown to 17,000 in average attendance each weekend. It is one of the fastest-growing churches in America. Kerry and Chris wrote the New York Times best-seller One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life as well as Love at Last Sight: Thirty Days to Grow and Deepen Your Closest Relationships.

Here’s a little bit about this six-week study: Over the course of our lives the Enemy works hard to rob us of the treasures God has set aside for us—our inheritance, strength, peace, dreams, joy, and passion.  In this creative small-group Bible study, Pastor Kerry Shook and his wife, Chris, use specific biblical examples to lead you into a discovery of the ways you can reclaim these treasures. From illustrations of how Paul was able to find strength in God’s promise to the Shunammite woman who had allowed her dream to die to how we see passion play out in the story of the prodigal son, you’ll discover the bigger picture of who we are in Christ and all He intended for us to experience.

Watch for more information coming soon. But first check out this message from the Shooks. And get ready for a journey to reclaim what is rightfully yours!

Until next time,
Signe

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A flower…are you kidding me?  I was actually thinking about the start of a new football season: high school football games on Fridays, college football games on Saturdays, even NFL pre-season games on Sundays right now.  Fantasy football is kind of cool too. So the topic I was thinking about was passion.  About the things that raise my energy, raise my emotional level, stir my heart.  I must admit I was a little concerned about what photo the internet might associate with “passion” but I sure didn’t think a picture of a flower is where I would end up!

There are several times in the course of a day where my voice becomes a bit louder, the pitch rises, I become more expressive, and folks around me know…really know that I care about something…that I am passionate about something. At times it’s sports, at times politics, at times family, and often work-related.  I wish there were more times though that my passions told others the true story of my heart.

Here are just a few definitions of the word passion for our edification:

1. Passion- a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc

2. Passion- ardent love or affection

3. Passion- the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm

4. Passion- the sufferings and death of a Christian martyr

Big difference there, huh?  I sure wish my passions fell more often somewhere between the third and fourth definitions (at least in a figurative sense).  How about you?  What are you passionate about?  How does that compare to your passion for Christ?  No guilt trip here.  Just sayin’…

justice2It often surprises me when I Twitter (@chinavols), or post on Facebook, which posts get the most attention.  I can always count on a lot of “thumbs ups” if I mention my children or if I brag on my wife.  If I post on my favorite college football team (Go Vols!), I can get a lot of cheers as well as jeers for sure. But the topic most likely to bring lengthy columns of conversation is politics. Since that’s such a small part of my life (especially considering the fact that I lived in a communist country and couldn’t have an opinion for eight years ;-)) it seems really strange when I look back and see it monopolizing my space. And then I’m even more surprised to see me filling other friends’ spaces in the same way! So why is politics one of the “big three”? What is at the heart of politics that brings out our passion?

While trying to think through this as objectively as I am able, it seems that at the heart of politics is really the idea of justice. Regardless of which side of the aisle we are on or which side of the issues, at the heart of most political debate lies the concept of justice. Those on the Right want justice for unborn babies. People on the Left want justice for unwed mothers. Those on the Left want minorities to be given an extra boost to be fair. And those on the Right think it is unfair to give one group a leg up. Conservatives see war as a way to bring justice to bear. And Liberals see war bringing much injustice to innocent people. While I have strong opinions about all of these political issues, for once I want to stand on the fence and try to understand what really makes us tick…all of us.

It seems that it really boils down to a sense of justice that dwells deep within our souls. Perhaps it is a key attribute of the image of God that remains with us, quietly working while waiting to fully come alive. Whether it is rightly or wrongly applied by one side or another, I will leave for another day or just leave for you to decide. One thing is certain: we are powerfully moved by our strong desire for justice.

The Bible has much to say about justice in the Old Testament and the New.  Deuteronomy 16:20 reminds us to “Pursue justice and justice alone, so that you will live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.” One of the key things that help me to step back and stop vilifying those who disagree with me on political issues is to remember that there is something deep inside them that echoes the heart of God. When awakened by the Spirit of God, redemption will make all things new and hopefully we will all make decisions, political and otherwise, that fully reflect His righteousness.

So, what are some things that you recognize in those with whom you disagree that are really a glimmer of the heart of God?

Any other thoughts on justice?

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I consider myself somewhat of a romantic, nostalgic, something-like-that kind of Nomad. More than anything else probably, I’m a collector of stories from around the world. That has only increased since traveling to some of those awesome places where missions movements were either birthed or met their temporary end. One of the groups that has always fascinated me is the Moravians. First of all, I really love their motto:

(Latin) In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
(English) “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity”

That helps us keep a pretty healthy perspective and is certainly applicable for small group life. Some of the other aspects of their movement that I appreciate are:

Passion- Their passion led to sending 9 missionaries out for every 1 who stayed behind at one point. Some of them even sold themselves into slavery in the Caribbean so that they could better reach slaves with the Gospel.

Piety- Their piety was evidenced by a continuous prayer watch that lasted for 100 years 24/7. These folks really sought to live the holy life.

Simplicity- They lived in settlements where people maintained personal ownership but lived out the principles of simplicity and generosity.

Small group focus- They formed hundreds of small renewal groups that encouraged personal prayer and worship, Bible study, confession of sins and mutual accountability


Here are a couple of links to learn more about the Moravians. Hope they offer you some encouragement and a reminder that we are part of a missional legacy much bigger than ourselves!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moravian_Church

http://forallnations.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/the-worthy-lamb-history-of-moravian-missions/