Thursday, December 20, 2007

Benefits of Suffering for Christ

We were studying Acts 14 where Paul and Barnabas are stoned by the people in Iconium and greatly misunderstood in Derbe. Never the less the two messengers rejoiced that they were able to give the good news of Jesus Christ to others. What follows is my outline of thoughts on the chapter.

Benefits of Suffering for Christ
  • We participate in the sufferings of Christ. (Colosians 1:24)
  • The suffering becomes non-verbal preaching
  • It is a pragmatic way to take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24)
Benefits of Preaching in a Hostile Environment
  • Your message is tested for the audience
    • Is the gospel true?
    • Are you motivated by pure motives?
  • You as the messenger must rely on power from above
  • The struggles heightens the importance of the message for the hearers
Benefits of Preaching in an Environmental Context that Distorts the Message of the Gospel
  • It forces the messenger to discern what is timeless and abandon those things that are temporal and fleeting
  • It forces the messenger to set priorities for those things that are most essential and wait on those things that are of lesser priority

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Review of Scottsdale Bible Church

I got to worship this past Sunday at Scottsdale Bible Church. The first thing I noticed is that though they are huge, they try really hard, and successfully, to not be a monstrosity. The church is 6000 strong so they have divided into a couple of campuses. I attended just the south campus 8:15 worship. When you pull into the front parking lot there is maybe enough room for two rows of cars. It does not look that big. I actually thought I might have a parking problem. Just go to the rear of the property and there is what seems to be hundreds of rows of parking. It is all tucked away so that no one feels that they have some sort of zoning issues with the church. With that, the campus was broken in to a small town feel instead of a large building feel. There was various buildings. It sort of gave the feel that I was in the old west, yeah I know I was in the west but you know, the old west. One of the most unusual aspects of that was a building with the movie marquee. By the way, that was not the sanctuary at all. There were no signs on the front sides of the building for the highway travelers to look at. The signs were on the back side where all that parking was.

When I walked into the church the choir and orchestra were just fantastic. The choir is sang with gusto and spirit. Everyone moved somewhat with the music, seeming to suggest they had been coached by their director to do so. It was an impressive site. The orchestra performed flawlessly. The choir and orchestra led the congregation in singing Christmas carols. Often in churches I attend we sing all the verses of the carols so we only have time for three or four carols. There they sang a medley of carols, hitting just the first verse and moved on. This gave the congregation the ability to sing a lot of carols in a short time.

There sermon was short but solid. It seems to me that since the 80's a 40 or 50 minute sermon was the mark a church being truly dedicated to the Word of God. The problem of course with a sermon that long is that most people don't really focus that long. I did not time it, but I think their sermon was closer to 30 minutes. It was a solid sermon. The projection screens projected the pastor and not his points until he transitioned between the points. It was effective.

Being there on one Sunday morning and not being plugged into their other activities, I did not meet people. This experience was closer to going to a concert or seminar than church that I normally experience. I'm sure if I was to go to Sunday School or their other small group activity that I would meet people rather than be a part of the crowd. Some people like that feel so it is not a criticism. So in a church this size you have to work a little to find friends. Some of the people I noticed seemed very close. Sitting near me was a group of older, presumably single women who all seemed to be great pals.

The book store, just outside the sanctuary begged the question about Jesus being less than pleased with the money changers in the house of prayer. I'm not sure I feel comfortable with that. They had a stand a few yards from the sanctuary building which sold Starbucks coffee and other refreshments. In that same court yard was a place to find out about various ministry opportunities. I think I would have rather had the bookstore a little further away from the sanctuary. But this whole question of selling books in church is somewhat problematic to me. If you depend upon the local bookstore to stock what your church would like, you may not get the desired outcome.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Hearing Test. What about Yours?

I took the test to see how high I can hear. I'm not really smug about it but that is what the results say. I would not mind hearing, pun intended, what others get for results. Follow the ling provided below.

But Terry can just about hear some of these tones that those youngsters are on about so he might be feeling moderately smug.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that he can hear is 10kHz
Find out which ringtones you can hear!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Snow, snow, wonderful snow

Most winters we don't get snow until after Christmas. The snow we have in Maryland makes the season that much more as we approach it. Fall was late in coming but now winter is here. I'm sorry, but snow means it is here even if not on the calendar officially.

I'm reminded that we live in a world that has seasons of change to keep us from a mundane existence. Growing up, we had a variety that came with the season, but each year the fruit from the plum trees was just a little different. We had an great abundance some years. Some years there was very little. We sometimes had persimmons and sometimes Cousin Marty found wild grapes. It was seasons with variety. Working in an office makes me wonder what I'm missing out doors.

Each Christmas is a little different. This is the first Christmas that my daughter and her husband will celebrate it far away. Different, but I rejoice at their successes in establishing their own home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


The Christian Science Monitor has a series of articles on military chaplains. I have not read all the articles, there are several, but I'm working my way through them. The articles open up some interesting questions. What is the job of a Christian Chaplain? How does one express his or her faith while dealing with religious pluralism? How does one minister to those not of your own faith? How does one relate to Muslim chaplains from other countries?

Monday, November 26, 2007


HT: Jollyblogger

In high school I gave a presentation in my geometry class on human decision-making. I basically understood the gospel to be a gospel largely of choice. That is that God has done everything but make your choice for you. I saw that each person had outside influences and then internal aspects of their being that caused them to make the choices they made. I thought that each person was free in their choices. But as I described this, my teacher said that the ideas I described were fatalism. I did not understand what he was saying but the more I thought about it as I studied philosophy the more I saw that I had described a type of physiological, biochemical or Freudian determinism. I had not described what sort of system existed in the individual that governed the decision making process. That each person was who they were and this was the bases of decisions. In essence I described the bad news, that we have a nature and it governs our choices. Whether that nature is built on a biochemical bases or some sort of psychological make up was not my concern. It really does not matter which type of mechanism you choose, pun intended, you ended up with a type of determinism. Mind you, I actually believe in freewill more than ever, but I'm realistic that my choices are limited by my nature, by my environment, by the choices my parents made, by choices I made prior to this current choice, by choices my neighbors have made, and a host of other factors. So what if God comes in to free me from some of these factors?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How To Say Hallelujah With Gusto for Beginners and Fans of the Dirge.

How To Say Hallelujah With Gusto for Beginners and Fans of the Dirge is my sermon that you can find on Sermon Cloud.

Am I Creative?

I got this from Mischief Managed, A.K.A. Noelle my daughter. She scored higher on creativity for the test.

You Are 73% Creative

You are beyond creative. You are a true artist - even if it's not in the conventional sense of the word.
You love creating for its own sake, and you find yourself quite inspired at times.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yard Alive

Starlings every 8 to 18 inches digging through the leaves in my backyard rustling through the leaves looking for a morsel to sustain them in their Fall migration. As I walked to the window 50 or 60 took to flight in unison and descended a safer ten feet a way. They seemed to be particularly jittery. The motion of scratching, scanning and peaking for food made the ground alive. The shear numbers were incredible. The humble backyard was now bird sanctuary. I called out, “Hey, Barb, Elaine come up here, but quietly.” I went to other windows in the house. There more birds on the grass in the neighbors yard. Then as silently and quickly as they came everyone of them was gone.

Monday, November 12, 2007

D.J. Chang, Look What You Got Me Into

Way over a year ago I was reading a Wired Magazine article on the most popular websites. Facebook was one of the top and I did not know what it was. I mentioned this in passing to my wife and my then 18 year old daughter came back with her laptop and showed me how it worked. But I could not get an account at that time since my school did not have a Facebook page. Fast-forward to the present and I see D.J. Chang has posted on his blog his Facebook. My thought was, "If D.J. Chang can have a Facebook account so can I". D.J. is cool and I want to be cool. Right? So I have been distracted by Facebook the past two weeks, and my blogging has suffered. Part of the reason I blog is the social aspects and Facebook meets that need. The other thing blogging does is puts my thoughts out in a public forum. I just enjoy publishing my thoughts even if it is to a small audience. So I don't think Facebook will replace my blog but it is a great new addition to my Internet activity.

By the way if you are a Christian blogger, there is a Facebook group you may be interested in, "Christian Bloggers Network". Yes D.J. Chang is involved as Network Advisor. Go D.J.!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Spurgeon Quote

Our singing should be that God hears it with pleasure- singing in which there is not so much Art as Heart, not so much musical sound as of Spiritual emotion- Charles Spurgeon

I Worship You

This song speaks the glory of God. I'm listening to Mercy Me sing it on their CD "Almost There"

Mercy Me Lyrics

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Worlds Largest Corn Maze

I have never done a corn maze. I did do the maze at the Del Monte visitor center in Hawaii. I am posting this for my wife who seems to love these things.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ya know, like, this was sort of cool like.

I have been reading a book on conversation and how linguists look at it. This clip seems so appropriate.

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost And he got it from PyroManiacs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

End Times Fever

Mars Hill Audio had a story with Norman Klassen & Jens Zimmermann on how the educational institutions of the US have become enamored with facts that have mathematical certainty while leaving questions of value, meaning and purpose to be found by the individual with minimal guidance. So these institutions teach literature and history with no purpose or meaning. Purpose, meaning and value is what the humanities are all about. This intrigued me in thought, but as I thought about American Evangelical theology of the second coming, I think perhaps we have taken a subject that is ultimately about meaning, purpose and value and made it mostly about facts. To put it another way, the Scripture speaks of the end times primarily so we understand our ultimate destiny, not in order to have the scoop in the New York Times Newspaper when these events do come about. (Papers may not actually be published in those days, but perhaps they will.) While I believe there are facts to be understood from Biblical doctrines of the end times, these are facts with a purpose. These are facts that show us the destiny of the all mankind.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What Could Happen if the GOP Puts Up a Pro-choice Candidate?

Parableman has a good discussion on Dobson Prefers Hillary to Rudy. While the professor of philosophy has some excellent points, I'm wondering if the GOP punts on the issue of abortion, could this actually be good for the pro-life movement. Currently the debate is at a stand off. Both side have positioned, both side generally are only picking up new followers from children maturing to make up their own mind on the issue, and both sides are looking for something to shake out. Christianity is often at its best when it is not the dominant social order, and in fact when its members are persecuted. Perhaps if there is no political party or no power structure supporting the pro-life movement, those who truly just want to save children can persuade others to have mercy. Being asked to submit to someone (or a law) is more difficult than being asked to have mercy. Also, perhaps we pro-lifers would have to depend on the great deliverer rather than our alliances with powerful leaders who are balancing our loyalty with many other political commitments.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Christians and Yoga

Exercise is a part of my daily routines. Partially because I need it to control stress and weight, and partially I like it. It's a hobby. Those whose job it is to sell gym memberships and exercise videos are always looking for a way to gain from the latest exercise trend. One that has seemed to be a bit of a stretch for me to embrace, pun intended, is yoga because it has religious implications if not religious doctrine included. I have no issue with the whole idea of stretching to gain a sense of well-being. There is an interesting article at Pulpit on yoga, a transcript of John MacArthur and Doug Paige discussing Christians and yoga.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dropping The Old Testament Over a Cliff

Greek Exegesis Class was about to begin. I'm one of the old guys there. Less sophisticated and a little less 'with it'. But one of the young and experienced seminary students was talking with his buddy. He knows the system. He says to his buddy, "You don't really need to study the Old Testament, just study the New." He went on to explain that this is where you need to preach from. It is contains our theology and so just concentrate on that.

In a sense we do have to set priorities, we can't be experts on all aspects of Scripture. We do have to concentrate on the passages with foundational significance. But I would argue this is exactly why our churches need more than ever the Old Testament. Our people do not start out with an understanding of how God works in his sovereignty. We don't know how he works in covenant relationships with his people. We don't understand about suffering. We can tell someone how to say the sinners prayer but we don't know who we are saying it.

Stephen in preaching to the Jews at his defense trial just before he was stoned answered his accusers with the Old Testament. (Acts 7) His accusers leveled charges that he was against the customs of Moses and the Temple. He developed his defense from the Old Testament narratives about Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the building of the Temple. Some of his points was that neither Abraham nor Moses worshiped in the Temple, and besides the Temple can not contain God who made heaven and earth. Moses was actually rejected by the people. He pointed to another one who was to come and the Jewish leaders of the day rejected him too.

If the early church developed their message from Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, can we better them?

If we don't understand how Jesus was foretold by Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, how can we really know the one whom we testify about?

In our American middle class churches we need to understand that Abraham lived a very different lifestyle. If are to be children of Abraham with faith, we have to understand what that means. He wondered in the desert. He left his home. He never possessed the promise land. That was left to his children. He was a man of faith, not of success.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Taking a Stand

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:6-10

I'm reading through Galatians in my class. Something that impresses me is Paul's strong opposition to those who would change the gospel. This would never go over in today's modern-let's-play-nice-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness environment. I heard a little bit of a story on NPR about how the Columbia University President Lee Bollinger denounced, insulted and challenged the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad directly, especially opposing his position that the Holocaust did not happen. While I would not expect this from Columbia University, I find it refreshing that he would take such a stand. He may or may not have been able to use more civil tones to get his point across. The real point in civil discourse is can I take some hard indictments from my opponents and not get off the real issue. Can I stand for the truth and not get offended, discouraged, or reactionary? These are hard things. It is easy to pretend to play nice. It is easy to isolate myself and take potshots from afar. It is quite different to address the issues.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Living With Brothers and Sisters

In my spiritual walk things have been changing but I'm a little confused. It is my desire to be transparent with people. With my wife and children, I think I share both my hopes, desires and some honest self-assessment. I understand my weaknesses and seek to find grace in them. One of my entirely overwhelming weaknesses is that I have a different sense of what would be appropriate. I don't recognize this as sin but as simply being different how I step in social and organizational circles. As the old saying goes, if everyone thinks you have a problem, then you probably do. So I probably do have a problem. However, my experience though is that when I try to discuss the issue with a brother in the Lord they immediately start to distance themselves from me. Then sometimes I even have those same people want me to confess my sins to them. I wonder, if they can't stomach my weaknesses, how much more will they reject me along with my sin. I do believe in confessing our sins to God and to other Christians. While this is not what I desire, my mode of operation is to not trust my brothers in Christ with my weakness or sin. This is not where I want to be in my spiritual walk. In a sense it is not what the books on Christian discipleship say should be going on. I'm at a loss to know how to talk with my brothers in Christ. If I'm feeling this and I believe in transparent witness and walk, how much harder is it for those who really don't know if they believe it or not.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16 ESV

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Trunk Monkey Compilation

My friend Don told me about these over the top funny videos. I think they actual commercials but with an extraordinary sense of humor. I want to know which of the videos you think are the funniest.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where is the PCA?

I wondered where presbytery boundaries were for the Presbyterian Church in America and I found this map. It shows where the churches are, sadly not the presbyteries. So if anyone has a boundary map, I would like to see it. But this map is really good though I did not find what I was looking for.
Hat Tip: Sean Michael Lucas

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

God Tube

For you fans of Internet video, there is now a site with Christian videos called God Tube. I'm still wondering if this is a Christian Ghetto thing or if it is genuinely good thing. I'm sure there are strengths and weaknesses but I'm still evaluating. I would like to hear what others think about it. Checking out God Tube in Technorati there is only discussion of or pointing to particular videos on God Tube.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Obama: Muslim or Christian

Not long ago I started seeing blogs with political cartoons that suggest that Barak Obama is Muslim. I would think this would be discussed in the mainstream media as well in the blogosphere so it bore checking out. According to the The Caucus, a NY Times political blog, Obama is a Christian and attends Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 West 95th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628. Their worship center is the photo above.

I'm not saying that Obama and I would agree on everything doctrinally, but if he claims the name of Christ, I will take him at his word that he is a Christian. Then dialog starts with agreement that Christ is God incarnate, that God is three in one, that sin is our most fundamental problem and the atoning sacrifice of Christ is the solution. It seems less than generous to label Obama a Muslim because his father was a Muslim. It appears to be a ploy to discourage voter enthusiasm for Obama given that Islam is not the mainstream religion. Perhaps those making this claim are latching onto the fact that Obama's father was Muslim and then later became an atheist. Obama as far as I can tell claims the name of Christ.

Unlike other countries of the world, the US has no religious identity recorded by the federal government as an official status. Religion is not built into our political system but it is a component of our social fabric. Many take this to mean that ecumenical agreement is the religion of the US, which of course is still simply choosing one religion over another. The rules of how various religions participate in the social fabric are changing with the rub of new situations, new religious ideas, and new doctrines. The concept of the dominate religion of the culture is hotly debated in civic tones. The key concept in this debate for many secular thinkers is that there is no dominate religion, we have freedom of religion in the US. And for many, this has changed from freedom of religion to being free from religion even in the expression of others. In essence this becomes a religious idea in and of itself. Many of my fellow Christians feel that Christianity is the dominate religion of the US but others are free to practice their own religion too. I would see both ideas as flawed because Christ says that His kingdom is not of this world. He transcends earthly, human government. While some Islamic thinkers do have the goal of gaining a political position for Islam, to be fair some Muslims are closer to deists in their thought. So, Islamic thinkers have a similar spectrum of thinkers as does mainstream America, some seeking religious domination while others seek broad agreement. As Christians, since Christ Kingdom is not of this world, how do we vote for people with different religious views? I think we can all pray for national leaders regardless of religious affiliation, but how do we vote? Should I vote for someone as an olive branch to heal racial strife in the land? (I do see race relations as an important moral issue, but should I vote that way? I have an African-American friend who will probably vote for Obama because they are from the same "community".) I think as Christians we often need to practice the same types of service as Daniel who refused to engage in false worship, served a dominate government which oppressed his people the Jews, and was faithful to seek God above all else. I still don't think this tells me how to vote, but the goal is not to dominate the culture. Participate in the political process? YES. But should I vote for someone who may choose to put the church of Jesus Christ in a lesser position in society? Should I vote to be dominated? It is one issue among many that has to be weighed in choosing a candidate.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

All The Glory

You can listen to the song I am about to blog about at All The Glory by Will Pavone is a refreshing worship song because it uses words of we use to describe our own desires and surrenders them to Jesus. While I often enjoy the language of Scripture to describe my prayer life and my walk with God, Will Pavone has captured something that a lot of praise music misses, a sense of self that recognizes it's selfishness and then turns that to worship.

He also does some interesting switching up of the verses just to make things interesting.

If you are looking for a fresh praise song, check this one out.

All The Glory
By Will Pavone

All of my affection,
All of my attention,
All of my devotion,
I bring
to you.

All of my existence,
All of my ambitions,
All of my allegiance,
Will be
for you.

All the glory
be to Jesus.
Songs of praises
rise to thee.
Lift your voices.
shout the chorus.
Render praises
to our King.

All of my affection,
All of my attention,
All of my devotion,
I bring to you.


You are my Lord, my Rock.
You are my Lord, my Rock.
You are my Lord, my Rock.
You are my Lord, my Rock.

All of my existence,
All of my ambitions,
All of my allegiance,
Will be for you, for you, for YOU!

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah to our King.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah to our King.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah to our King.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Repost from Reformation 21

Check out this discussion between the Baptist point of view and a Presbyterian point of view. I know David Coffin so appreciate his having been a party to the discussion. By the way, this image to the left is one of the oldest images of baptism. You will notice the immersion is done by standing in the water, not dunking. The post is not about mode of baptism but statements of agreement between the two points of view.

In the summer of 2001 Mark Dever (SBC) and David Coffin (PCA) held a public conversation at Capitol Hill Baptist Church on baptism. They came up with the following 17 statements that both on them agreed on:

1. No one disagrees with professor baptism (except Quakers).
2. This is a subject of great import.
3. There are clear commands for and examples of professors' baptism in the New Testament.
4. This fact is not evidentially determinate of the question (i.e., it does not preclude infant baptism).
5. God's Word alone should settle the matter (but we do not mind using history as confirmation of a biblical pattern).
6. There are no command for or clear examples of infant baptism in the New Testament.
DC: Uncertain about the word "examples." What do you make of household baptism (Philippian jailer, Lydia, etc.)? These examples are problems only for baptistic Christians
MD: There is not reason the first reader of the text should not refer to baptism of believers. For example, the word was preached to the Philippian jailer's whole household.
7. Baptism was appointed by Christ to be of permanent value in the Christian church.
8. Baptism is a rite of initiation; the Lord's Supper is a rite of continuance.
9. There is no articulation of a Reformed understanding of infant baptism before Zwingli.
DC: Someone in 250 AD would not have thought baptism to be salvific.
MD: Didache suggests that believer's baptism was assumed in the early church.
10. Infant baptism is widely practiced by the late second second AD
MD: By this point of time, church fathers assumed baptismal regeneration.
DC: Their words only mimic biblical language.
MD: Guidelines for believer's baptism exist in second century AD.
DC: This is perfectly understandable in a missionary enterprise.
11. There are some who are baptized who are not in fact saved.
12. There are some who are not baptized who are in fact saved.
13. There is a regular temptation of the visible church to trust in the outward rather than the inward.
14. God can create faith in a child before that faith is evident.
15. The texts urging "believe and be baptized" or referring to "household" baptisms do not of themselves constitute conclusive evidence for either side.
16. The covenant made with Abraham is an administration of the covenant of grace. Nothing in this particular administration violates the general covenant.
17. Children of believers enjoy particular privileges and have special obligations.
MD: Do not treat your children as if you presume they are elect.
DC: Tell them that they are disciples in the school of Christ. By virtue of Christ's command to the contrary, they will in some way be lacking if they have not been baptized

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Psalms As Theology

Psalms have been something that I have for years thought was a balance in Scripture. Paul's letters reach the mind and makes you wonder, but certainly when the Lord told us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might, he meant to include that we should love the Lord with our emotional aspects of our being. So the Psalms seemed to be a solution or balance with those who might make Christian religion an egg head, mind centric sort of thing. But I recently read through the Psalms with refreshing insights. For the first time I saw the Psalms as theological. Take for instance, Psalm 65:2 tells us that, "When iniquities prevail against me, you (God) atone for our transgressions." In this we see substitutionary sacrifice for sin. It points to God being the source of the atonement, not man. Another Psalm with theological insights is Psalm 82:8 where it says, "Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations." This give rational for God judging all nations because he shall inherit all nations. There is a hint of all nations coming to the Lord of Glory, being some what of a foreshadowing of the Great Commission.

Feasting on the Psalms without finding theology is sort of like eating a sandwich without tasting the meat. It is good to have a tomato, lettuce and mayo on a sandwich but you need some bacon or salami to bring it all together. Theology in the Psalms brings it all together.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Calvary Chapel Ocean City, NJ

We had an exciting time at Ocean City, NJ. Our goal was to have a restful time. If you want pictures or other details you will need to visit here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.

So part of what I love on vacation is visiting a new church. Calvary Chapel Ocean City was a great worship experience. As all five of us came in, someone asked his friend, "Did a bus just let people out or something?" I did not tell them that we did not even have all our crew, since Annalee has gone to live in Illinois with her loving husband and Corrie was back in Glen Burnie holding down the fort and working at the hospital. Ryan from Pennsylvania sat next to me. He was just visiting also. Visitors at worship during the summer is a thriving ministry for the congregation. The sanctuary had folding chairs which were just about filled to capacity when we got there. Just a few minutes later, they started packing worshipers into the overflow room who are linked via a video feed. While crowds can intimidate me if I'm competing for space, I felt at home and with a group of friends who I had just met. There were ushers well identified and who were helpful. They gave out bulletins but there was no order of worship in it. There was no need. We sang, took up an offering and announcements, then listened to preaching.


The worship music was forceful and moving for me. I don't think it connected as well with my teenage daughters. I'm guessing that the music connected well with me since I had worship at a Calvary Chapel in Monterey for about 18 months. So I was in sort of homecoming situation and riding on the high of nostalgia. Jeanie, I believe was her name, led a band of several musicians. The wall to wall packed room of worshipers helped with the acoustical effect and the worship was heart-felt. I did not know all the songs but the words were projected on the white wall at the front. Each song had a distinct moving background which contributed to the experience of singing in worship.


Pastor Matt Stokes preached from Colossians 3:10-17. He did a verse by verse running commentary. He was careful to not speak down to his audience and was careful to point out that he struggled with sin in ways his congregation did. His style was down to earth, invigorating, and used humor in an engaging way. He made several references to pop culture. I came away from the sermon thinking ensure I am not adversarial with those in the body of Christ.

While on the island I scanned the band for radio stations. I found one that I liked, The Voice 92.7. I noticed that several of the pastors who preached on this station were Calvary Chapel pastors so I started wondering if the station was a low power station, and indeed it is. I really enjoyed the music. It has a different sound and beat that I am used to in praise music.

According to Pirate Jim who is the author of the webpages called New Jersey FM Radio History, Calvary Chapel Ocean City owns a low power FM station, WLOM-LP 92.7. I never heard the call letters used, nor are they on the website. Station could use a larger webpage explaining the owner and mission of the station. The Calvary Chapel Ocean City page regarding radio station does have a good program guide but it is unclear who owns the station. Some radio enthusiast would be interested in that aspect of the station regardless of the program content.
WLOM-LP - 92.7 FM, Ocean City
WLOM-LP was one of the first LPFM's to be granted a CP in New Jersey in June 2002.
The station is owned by the Calvary Chapel Of Ocean City.
WLOM-LP went on the air in December 2003 with a Christian format.
I did later see in the Calvary Chapel Ocean City bulletin that 92.7 FM The Voice is owned by the church.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bible Reading at the Beach

I'm reading my Bible each morning on the porch of our beach condo. I had already started reading Genesis through part of Joshua before I got here. I just finished 2 Samuel this morning. Here are a few insights from the past week's reading.

1. Joshua and others were told to be strong and couragous. Those who were not strong and couragous were not following God's will. I think the message for anyone reading the book is "What ever you had finds to do, do with all your might," assuming of course that you are working within a godly framework.

2. The children of Israel wanted a king like the nations around them. They got what they wanted but it did not have a good result. Saul turned out to be a good looking leader who became very self centered. Lesson for everyone, becareful that you don't seek to follow the things of the fame world.

3. David was a man after God's own heart. He depended upon God to establish his kingdom, not his own smarts. He waited for God to act. Likewise we need to be aware that what we want needs to show the grace of God blessing us.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Evangelicals Support A Two State Solution To the Middle East Crisis

Pastor Bob Roberts of Northwood Church is party to a letter to the President supporting a two state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Often evangelicals have been strong supporters of Israel for biblical reasons with the unintended outcome of disenfranchising Palestinian Christians. This disenfranchisement has led to numerous conversions to Islam by young people who came from families who were Palestinian Christians. I think the sentiment is that the Muslims care about the Palestinians while the West sides with Israel. If you want to read more follow the link to Northwood Blog called My Northwood or follow the link to this New York Times article.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

So I'm Not Too Addicted

As I have blogged before, I was totally addicted to coffee and I both desire and am scared of coffee today. I go by and smell it but then never want to go back to having to have it to get through the day. I don't know that my blogging is going that way.

57%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

San Diego Singles from Mingle2

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Being Missional

When we talk about being missional as a church we talk about reaching those who do not know the gospel. While that is true, a part of being missional is contextualization. Three things that being contextual is not about:

1. It is not about hanging out with folks just like I am.
2. It is not about finding out who likes me and then appealing to them.
3. It is not about figuring out where the rich people live.

If we can't reach the poor with the gospel, what makes us think we can reach the rich. After Jesus' discussion with the rich man, when he said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," Mk 10:25, he implies that the poor don't have the same stumbling block to accept the gospel. I think some church planting efforts I have heard focus on the areas that most economically developed. While I see the business sense of such a move, I wonder the gospel sense.

Zeal for Truth has this quote in a book review on the Externally Focused Church:

Jesus seems to have had a special love for those people on the margins of society, and therefore externally focused churches do as well. These groups are often the people we can most serve. Specific groups identified in the book: the poor, children, the aged, widows and single parents, orphans, prisoners, the sick and disabled, and immigrants.

There is a review of the same book here by Joe Ellis.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Worship Songs

I have been in class the past few months with Will Pavone, but now I'm spending time on my i-pod with Will. He is a pastor and music leader of his church in northern Virginia. I would encourage you to sample and check out his music at his website.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Church Planting Poll Response

A friend of mine wrote the following response to the poll on Church Planting.

I define a church plant as the starting of a new church (perhaps as a "child" of a nearby mother church), but I exclude any well-established church that merely relocates to a more advantageous site or building.

When I hear of a church plant, I say "Praise God for the committed people that have the vision and energy - and courage - to undertake such a challenge. Even if the circumstances are not optimum, I have no negative notions whatsoever like "That is ill-advised" or "They probably will fail." Rather my view simply is to optimistically wait to be a witness to a God's hand at work as He moves to increase His Kingdom. (Differing from your response list, I rarely feel inclined to want to be part of the early days of a church plant, but I never rule that out a priori. I always try to respond as I feel God is leading me and so far that has not been in an originating group.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Poll on Church Planting

A recent discussion brought up some different views of starting new churches, also known as church planting. Church planting has been an interest of mine for quite some time. As a part of that interest I would like to learn about some other points of view so I decided to make a poll.

If you are interested in church planting, perhaps you could point to this poll from your website or blog.

If you have not spotted it, the poll is off to the side.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What does the New Testament teach us when using the word επιθυμια?

A friend of mine looked at my desk and saw some NT Greek vocabulary cards and the word on top was the word for ''lust, passion, desire', επιθυμια. He was wondering why the New Testament used this word. So this study is a response to his question.

This is a study is a quick look at what the New Testament teaches when using the word επιθυμια. It does not intend to address syntactical issues or various uses of the word. The word does not always mean something negative, sometimes it expresses a positive desire such as accompanies friendships.

Mark 4:19:
19but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Desire chokes out the Word of God when it is heard.

Luke 22:15:
15And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Simply Jesus explaining how he earnestly desires to share this celebration of the Passover with his friends, disciples before he suffers.

John 8:44:
44You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: A person’s desires are dependant upon who he is following, God or the devil.

Romans 1:24:
24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: The idea here is that having ungodly desires is actually a permissive punishment.

Romans 6:12:
12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: When someone is living a life obedient to sinning, they are obeying passions.

Romans 7:7:
7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Romans 7:8:
8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Here Paul is quoting the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which says, “do not covet”. Paul probably is quoting this one because even if one is a stickler for following the externals of the Law, this one helps each of us examine our heart. He does this not so that we all feel guilty but so that we focus our attention to the state of our heart.

Romans 13:14:
14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: There is a contrast between our union with Christ and following our desires.

Galatians 5:16:
16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: There is a contrast between walking in the Spirit and following our desires.

Galatians 5:24:
24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: There is a contrast between union with Christ and following our desires.

Ephesians 2:3:
3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 4:22:
22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: There is a contrast between the old life of living according to lusts, desires and living for Christ.

Philippians 1:23:
23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Paul is now torn between dying when he would be in the presence of Christ and living to serve Christ here on earth.

Colossians 3:5:
5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: The Christian should not live in lust.

I Thessalonians 2:17:
17But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Paul was a close friend with the Thessalonians believers.

I Thessalonians 4:5:
5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Living according to lust is a mark of someone who does not know God.

I Timothy 6:9:
9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Lust for money can be damaging.

II Timothy 2:22:
22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Young people have particularly open to certain lusts that are to be avoided.

II Timothy 3:6:
6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Some false teachers draw people away to themselves by enflaming their passions.

II Timothy 4:3:
3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: People often like to follow the teachings that suit their own passions. Some pastors like to preach on marriage because it allows them to discuss sex.

Titus 2:12:
12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Self-control is contrasted with living according to worldly passions.

Titus 3:3:
3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Living according to our lusts is enslaving.

James 1:14:
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Temptation comes from within. When I sin it is not someone else’s fault but my own.

James 1:15:
15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Self-control is contrasted with living according to worldly passions.

I Peter 1:14:
14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Obedience to God is contrasted with living according to our lusts.

I Peter 2:11:
11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: It is foreign to this world to live not by our passions.

I Peter 4:2:
2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: We should use our days and hours for God’s will not our lusts.

I Peter 4:3:
3The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: The non-Jews of those days plunged into their own sensuality.

II Peter 1:4:
4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: The cause of sin and corruption is sinful desire.

II Peter 2:10:
10and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Lusts are often accompanied with arrogance.

II Peter 2:18:
18For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: False teaches sometimes enflame our passions.

II Peter 3:3:
3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Lusts are often accompanied by scoffing arrogance.

I John 2:16:
16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Ours lusts to do not originate with God in a primary sense.

I John 2:17:
17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: Our lusts are temporary but God’s will is eternal.

Jude 1:16:
16These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: The character of these evil people is that they follow their lusts.

Jude 1:18:
18They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: A prophetic word that following one’s own lusts will be prevalent in the end times.

Revelation of John 18:14:
14“The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”

Explanation of how επιθυμια is being used in the teaching: This is speaking about Babylon, but in this passage it means this world’s system in contrast to those who know and follow God. The teaching here is that this world’s system is characterized by following one’s own desires.

Credits: This study was done using The Sword Project and the quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. The Sword Project is some really good free software that I would encourage you to use. The ESV is a good translation that merits a good read.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Models for Ministry

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." --Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

When it comes to trying to obey the great commission, there certain actions that we must take as essential in fulfilling it. For instance the main verb that is in the imperative is "make disciples", however there word "go" is a participle which derives its sense of meaning in relation to the main verb. We can not make disciples of "all nations" without going. The two things we need to do to make disciples is to baptize them and teach them to obey.

As we look at ways to fulfill the great commission, we have different ways to attempt to carry this out, all of them must involve baptizing and teaching. Wycliffe Bible Translators attempt to define which language groups need the Bible in their language, study the language, train people to read their native language, and translate the Bible into that language. Each step in the process is intensive. Wycliffe is one of the largest mission agencies. They are intentional in giving every language a copy of the Bible, still yet they have come to the conclusion that their current rate of translation using processes they have used for a number of years, it would take an absorbent amount of time. It sort of becomes an equation; X number of people who can meet the qualifications need Y number of givers to support them on the field. Those people who can meet the qualifications is rare. A large component of these people going is their ability to raise funds to support them in their work. Then there is tremendous educational challenges along with the ability to face hardships in the field. So they have concluded that there is a need for indigenous translators if the task of Bible translation is to be accomplished.

Peter Wagoner has said that church planting is one of the most effective strategies for fulfilling the great commission. Church planting looks different in different denominations (or undenominations). In some denominations church planting looks like establishing a Bible study. In others, a church plant can only be done by the truly gifted, those who can preach, counsel, and be a visionary who has great organizational leadership skills need only apply. However, this sort of thinking actually give an equation that is similar to the Bible translation dilemma; do we let the task go undone or do we accept people who are not ideal for the task. There are only so many people who meet the qualification and only so much money to support them.

Evangelical church might consider the possibility that there is more than one model for church planting; some models look like a large programmatic approach, some look like a consortium of families who form a church around the Christian education of their children, some look like a grouping of small groups (cell groups) and others look like a house church. The PCA, which is the denomination to which I and my family belong, has churches of the first two types. Opening the doors for different models could open up opportunities where they did not exist before. I would propose that the PCA needs to embrace more creative models, perhaps even experimenting with various models.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Suburban Legends

Mysteries and urban legends are fun and cool. I have to say, I have been fooled by not just a couple of urban legends. The bogus quote from Petronius Arbiters had me fooled for quite some time. (Who knew that the word "reorganize" was not really used in ancient times.)

Two urban legends I have heard recently made me want to hunt these down.

The first was told to me over the supper table: Mr. Rogers wore sweaters to cover up his tattoos. I found an answer at a tattoo enthusiast blog: Bella OnLine says the following:

I was at a social event recently when a friend pulled me aside. She said she had taken a look at my Bella site and really liked the tattoo articles I was writing. I asked if there was anything she’d like me to write about. She asked if I could find out more about Mister Rogers’ tattoos, and said she had heard that was why he always wore long-sleeve sweaters.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tattoo Urban Legend #2, the Mister Rogers tattoo story. Sometimes the ink is attributed to a stay in the military. Sometimes the military story comes with the elaboration that he was a sniper and each tattoo represented a kill. Nonetheless, there is a persistent rumor that Mister Rogers had seriously tattooed arms.

As cool as that might be, it is very much untrue. You will find the question posed here and there on message boards with all manner of answers, and the story certainly was revived by his passing in early 2003. However, all reports from friends and colleagues would indicate that 1) Mister Rogers was not a tattooed person and 2) his style of dress was chosen for a type of relaxed formality. Remember folks, this man was an ordained minister who worked with children: not exactly the tattooed type.
Just because a tattoo enthusiast says does not make it true. But I would expect if it was true she would/should know.

Then the other urban legend is the one popular in the forwarded e-mail circuit that the Toyota Prius harder on the environment than the Hummer if you consider the total life of the vehicle. I'm not sure about this one. There are lots of blogs posting the forwarded e-mail as a blog entry. It is not clear what the truth is on this one to me. If someone can point me to a authoritative source I would be happy to post a link to that source. Until then I would like to refer you to a site that is pro-Prius.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wedding Picture

My wife and I after our daughter's wedding. Carolyn Pruitt is the photographer. (c)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Since the advise from Nigel telling me to improve my stage craft when preaching, I have been thinking about joining a Toastmasters chapter. I visited today as a guest. I enjoyed myself quite a bit though I was a little scared to make many sudden introductions to people. There was a speech given by one of the Toast Masters (TM) on her banana boat adventure in Jamaica. She did a great job of speaking but the folks were very forgiving on her weaknesses. That made me think this is a place safe to improve my stage craft.

Talking about improving my preaching, I noticed a preaching blog cited by Transforming Sermon called Biblical Preaching. I have placed it in my bookmarks. You might consider doing the same.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Terry Pruitt Interviews with Joe Friday, Nigel, and Mr. Miyagi.

I have not been up to much blogging lately. It has sort of been a journey that could not go public. Depression regarding my mid-life re-evaluation of my life messy and I need to rebuild. Depression is a good sort of pain, it make you focus on what is important, what is meaningful and what you ultimately value. Depression is the impetus for the triage of life. It is sad, even down right depressing, that people want to treat it as a disease instead of work off the pain as energy for change. It is sort of like an athlete who refuse to train because it is a bother. I had been working through some issues in my head and not getting anywhere with it. I was sort of isolated, spiraling down and just loaded down in burden. Then God gave me a nudge that broke up my downward momentum. For three days I met with three different men, one each per day, who gave me very divergent and helpful types of counsel. The first guy I met was Joe Friday, you know the guy who just wanted to know the facts from Dragnet. We talked for about 45 minutes and I just told him what was going on with me. It was sort of releasing just to state my problem. The second guy I met was Simon Cowel of Idol, well this guy was tons more nice than Simon, so perhaps more of a Nigel Lythgoe of So You Think You Can Dance, who usually gives nice but candid advise. He let me know where some of my weaknesses are and some practical ways to improve. The third and last guy I met with, in keeping with my entertainment personalities theme, was Mr. Kesuke Miyagi. This guy sympathized with problems and gave me a couple of practical tasks to express confidence in me. The three together were a godsend. So I think I'm back, back for my blog, back for my church and most important back for my family. I have done the triage now I'm working my issues.

Talking about regrouping and rebuilding my life, I was also rebuilding my bookmarks since my hard drive failed on my Linux box and Messy Christian is back as Messy Christian 2.0. Sort of nice to hear again from this sweet Asian sister in the Lord. There are some folks who I used to visit their blog but I'm not remembering how to get there. I'm sure a Google search in a few days will get me up to speed.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hypocrisy and Power

Parableman has an excellent discussion about Civil Libertarians and Hypocrisy. Parableman, being the great teacher philosopher that he is, takes on the question of how Larry Flynt and other pornographers are philosophical about the morals of their free speech. I will not repeat his excellent post here but let you follow the link.

Recent discussions I had with some friends of mine help me see how the ideology of modernism only sees moral issues as issues of human will and desire. In this sense we are discussion morals as one would discuss a movie, a gourmet dish of food or a painting, it is merely likes and dislikes. However, if we see morality as actually have more substance to it, then we must apply that criteria to the issue of hypocrisy too. Parableman goes on to ask why Larry Flynt is so against hypocracy given how and what he thinks is moral. My guess is that accusations of hypocracy is sort of a trump card in many debates of morality. It is easy to play and easy to reuse. In the end, my guess is that it is a power issue, not an issue of truly evaluating someone's moral system that Mr. Flynt is concerned about. The reason Jesus attacked hypocrisy so harshly was not to throw the Pharisees out of power, but to bring them to repentance.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I had a lot of respect for Jimmy Carter back in the 70s. I voted for Jimmy Carter when he lost to Ronald Reagan. It was my first election to vote. I get the sense that Jimmy Carter is a smart man, a nice man, a Christian man and a dedicated man. However, these things were not the things that people were looking for at the time. We were in the midst of a stand-off with Iran regarding our hostages and we were looking bad in the eyes of the world. While I'm sure some good things were happening during the Carter administration, what people remember is the shame we felt as a nation when we could not get the American hostages back from Tehran. When we sent in Special Force troops, the mission failed. When we tried to negotiate, it was for naught. We just looked bad. We had pragmatic problems like a fuel crisis, but that is not as important as regaining our prestige.

I used to have a fellow soldier in the Army who was a fantastic runner. He had a realistic hope and chance of competing in the Olympic games that were to be held in Moscow. That was the year that Carter boycotted the Olympics for Soviet human rights violations. This soldier was totally against Carter because the president took a little of this runner's glory and achievement and sacrificed it on the altar of being "Mr. Nice Guy".

For my fellow soldier, his concern was his own reputation and that of his nation. Our nation might have benefited from winning a few Gold Medals at the Olympics. (I'm sure we would have won at least a few.) We needed our dignity as a nation restored.

During about this same period of time, Evangelical Christians were in the midst of creating their own celebrity culture: the world had Johnny Carson but we had Jim Bakker, the world had American Top 40 but we had Amy Grant, the world had Richard Pryor but we had Mike Warnke, and so on. I think there Christians wanted dignity and parity. Then for a while in the late 80's and early 90's you could not sling a dead cat without hitting someone who was talking about the Christian ghetto. What they were referring to was the fact that the Christian alternatives to mainstream media and celebrity culture just did not come up to par with the style, artistry, sophistication or quality of the mainstream media. But another issue addressed in this call for leaving the Christian ghetto was the fact that it was not based on Christian ideas but on Christian's mimicking the world. I actually appreciate Sandy Patti and the Imperials; but I also appreciate the likes of Francis Schaeffer who was a prophetic voice saying that the Christian ghetto was not a good way to go. In the end, I sense that at least partially, both those producing the Christian alternatives to mainstream pop culture and those who later called it the Christian ghetto were concerned about the issue of dignity and respect of the Christian church.

While I do not know for sure and perhaps not in all cases, I believe a lot of the debates in Christian circles are at least partially about dignity, status and reputation.

Those who are a part of the emerging church do not want to be a part of the stodgy crowd.

Those who are a part of fundamentalist church do not want to have lax standards.

Those who are a part of the mainline traditional church do not want to be unsophisticated.

Those who are a part of the Pentecostal church do not want to be unconnected to the Spirit.

Those who are a part of the Reformed tradition do not want to be shallow.

In each of these, there is a point of dignity and pride. If we want true unity and love in the broader body, we must show respect for one another's strengths. Nobody wants to be considered a loser.

It sort of makes me think of David Crowder's song: We Win

We’re gonna
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
loud until the walls come down

We’re gonna
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
loud until the walls come down

Yeah yeah yeah

Because we’ve already won
And You don’t have a chance
Yeah we’ve already won
No you don’t have a chance
It’s already done
And you don’t have a chance
Because we’ve already won!
We have already won!

We’re gonna
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
loud until the walls come down

We’re gonna
shout loud,
loud until the final sound
shout loud,
loud until the final sound
loud until the final sound

Because we’ve already won
And You don’t have a chance
Yeah we’ve already won
No you don’t have a chance
It’s already done
And you don’t have a chance
Because we’ve already won!
And You don’t have a chance
Yeah we’ve already won
No you don’t have a chance
It’s already done
And you don’t have a chance
Because we’ve already won!
We have already won!

We’re gonna
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud until the walls come down
shout loud,
loud Because we’ve already won
And You don’t have a chance
Yeah we’ve already won
No you don’t have a chance
It’s already done
And you don’t have a chance
Because we’ve already won!
We have already won!
We have already won!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mark Schultz - Cycling Across America


Sure it is for a good cause, but the travel aspects alone are interesting. You might want to check out Mark Schultz Blog and YouTube Videos regarding his trip across the USA. I like the videos of landscape in New Mexico.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Missions and Health Care Blog

Check out this blog on health care missions called The Lord is the Healer. This is a sister in our church who spends a whole lot of her own time and her resources to minister to others. She could be raking in the bucks but she has a desire to serve the Lord in very practical ways. Please surf on over to her blog and leave an encouraging word or two regarding the work she is doing.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Today is my Dad's Birthday

I remember my Dad. I have many good memories about him when I was little, before I turned six. He may not remember those days the same way I do, but maybe he will. I remember a warm afternoon when we read a turtle book together. I'm sure he was bored but he was nice to read it with me.

I remember our family eating eggs together when we lived in KC. My Dad and brother would order soft eggs. I ordered soft eggs too because I did not know what soft or hard eggs meant.

I remember my Dad owning hound dogs. He taught me how to cast a fishing line. We would watch Gun Smoke together. My Dad like trucks. He had an orange pick-up.

These are all good memories of my Dad.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Book Review: Simple Church

I just finished reading the book Simple Church: Returning to God's Process For Making Disciples by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger. I have read quite a number of church growth and management books. This one follows the normal suite of taking modern business management techniques and applying it to the church management. In this case, product design is the current trend in business success thinking and is now applied to the church. It is keenly illustrated from the world of business and case studies from churches. The Scriptural justification for the principles in the book are in short supply. There is some use of Scripture, however, as many management books do, this book makes a heavy use of definitions, statistics, and case studies. The style is easy to read and gets the main points across easily.

The basic idea is that churches that have a simple design of ministry empirically are shown to grow the most. The product is defined in the book as discipleship process. Christians and seekers come to church to grow spiritually, therefore, everything outside of that sphere is really a distraction. Then the corollary is that churches with a complex smorgasbord are offering many products that detract from their main core business, discipleship to Jesus Christ.

Perhaps both a strength and a weakness of the book is that it does not tell one actually how to implement this. The implementation is left to the imagination of the pastors who will have to make it happen. It is implied that simple design means using small groups. This need not be so. Other models for simple design could be focus on a worship service and then visitation by the pastor. This model has been successful. Elders (deacons or other lay leaders) follow the example of the pastor and visit those in need. Another model that I have seen used is the Navigator model of one-to-one discipleship. I have never seen this used as a sole means of discipleship but I think it could be done in a simple design church. While the book has a strength in not actually offering a design outright, it also has a weakness in not seeing a variety of simple designs. The authors point to one certain design to follow, that is the small group church, rather than simply discussing design features that make a strong design and listing a variety of examples. A variety of designs should be listed in the updated for future versions of the book. Also, churches in other cultures should also be addressed as well as churches in other periods of history. Adding these to the research, not the illustrations, could help to make the book transcend the immediate context of today.

Perhaps the most important contribution to thinking on church management the book makes is that people need to feel the know what you are about. It must, must be easily understood. By analogy, if I enter a store, if I have to know where their organization headquarters is, and what their process for promoting their employees, there is something wrong. The church need NOT be hard to understand nor hard to navigate within.

Also, check out this article in Wikipedia on Simple Church. This is something quite different from what is talked about in this book.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Veiled Confessions

Veils function in a variety of ways with people. It is usually a garment for women. Modern American brides wear a white veil as almost a bridal crown. Usually very little is hidden by the veil in this situation. A widow will wear a black veil to show just how sad she is and to hide the tears and puffy red nose. It works just the opposite of the bridal veil. The Arab veil is used as a way of segregating society. Women are only seen by other women and their close male relatives. Still this is a sort of hiding but one that is imposed by society. It is expected.

When I was in California I attended Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay. Bill Holdridge was my pastor there but he has moved on to teach at a Bible College in Brazil. I loved Bill's preaching and I have tried to pattern my own preaching after his. Any way I do like his preaching and think that if he is teaching at a Bible College it is good thing to have someone of his caliber passing the torch to the next generation of evangelists, pastors and missionaries. Talking about passing the torch, Bill's son Nate has become the Pastor of Next Generation at Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay. I am also one to whom Bill passed the torch. Bill participated in a discipleship program called “Barnabas” which has ties to Ray Steadman of Peninsula Bible Church. Ray Steadman taught the pastor of Mayflower Church in Pacific Grove, who may have been Cliff Stabler if I remember correctly. That pastor taught Bill. Bill taught Steve Martell. Steve Martell taught me the material. One of the main points of the material was an honesty with God, with others and with yourself. Ray Steadman's favorite books of the Bible is 2 Corinthians. The most striking point made in the material is how there is a tendency to be on a spiritual roller coaster at the beginning of the Christian life. Sooner or later we want to fake it. We want others to think we have it together when we don't. The Scripture used was from II Corinthians 3:

“6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

The emphasis of the in the Barnabas curriculum was that people tend to not allow the Spirit of the Lord to work but instead put up a vail. We want to be strong but the Lord is most glorified in saving us rather than us being strong. If the Lord has done something good in our life, we want that to be what people see, not our sin. The Barnabas program encouraged transparency and honesty. While I have tried to maintain this sort of transparency, I sometimes fail. I also find that people will use this against me. If I confess a fault, they jump on it and broad cast it to others. When other see the glory of the Lord fading from my face, I want to put up a veil so that others don't see how I am not walking in glory.

Paul in discussing his own weakness calls himself the chief of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15) I don't think Paul is feigning humility here or trying manage expectations. I believe he is actually calling himself the chief of sinners to communicate how evil he has been. It is unclear to me if he means that he was actually the most sinful person alive, which seems to me a terribly difficult thing to judge. Perhaps he just means an extremely sinful person that is an example to all. But by this he is trying to encourage others that there is hope for others though they have sinned greatly. Read Paul's words for yourself from 1 Timothy 1:

“12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I'm reading through Earl Creps book Off Road Disciplines. It is a good book and I have started reading his blog. This week he has a post that mentions that he feels that there is freedom in declaring yourself ignorant when you give a talk. Perhaps it is freeing to lower the expectations of others so you do not have to live up to them. I'm not sure if it is a fad right now to talk this way, but I have heard it a lot here lately.

Last spring we had a men's advance (same thing as a retreat only not so wimpy) and the speaker was there to talk about raising children for Christ. He then introduced himself as being a failure. He told how though he worked with a nationally known youth discipleship organization, however his son was not embracing the faith. Personally, I would have loved to hear what this man had to say about youth discipleship, but his talk on raising a family seemed to be dead before the party began. He did not confess his failure and then declare the Word of God, he let us just share in our own ignorance. I'm not saying that guy has worse or better faults than my own, it just does not seem fitting to listen to someone who claims to have no advise. It might appeal to someone who likes to get a lot of attention to have the floor given to them by the conference or class speaker. Then it becomes a platform for the bold, desperate, or needy to get their speaking needs out on the group.

It is great to be honest about faults with a crowd when teaching or preaching. If one is truly honest it can be refreshing, it can be invigorating, it can be eye-opening, and it can even be jarring. But I have noticed with more than one teacher that they use a confession not as a method of leading someone to a better path but as a buffer against expectations. Perhaps this resonates with youth culture today. Somehow I doubt it. I think most people respect a fellow struggler but do not care to invest their time with a fellow who fails to struggle.

Rather than being a lowering of the veil off our faces we can use a confession as a means putting up a veil. It is how we lower expectations, give ourselves an opportunity to not work so hard and generally take it easy. We should be honest. We should take down the veils in our lives that keep us from being close to God and people. This will mean that we confess sin privately and sometimes publicly. It means that we take criticism well. While veils may be a feminine garment in our culture, Moses wore a veil and many a Christian of both genders is wearing a metaphorical veil today. God calls us to take down the veil.