Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Deck: Why We Love The Church

Product Description: Why We Love the Church presents the case for loving the local church. It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold. It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the "leave church" books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs. Why We Love the Church is written for four kinds of people - the Committed, the Disgruntled, the Waffling & the Disconnected.

Looking forward to starting this book sometime in the next couple of days. The anti-Church movement among Christians is getting old. Yes, I think the organized church can do better. But I'm not sure the solution is for all of the 'young whipper-snappers' to go start what I like to call the 'come as you are, we've got an Espresso bar' churches. Sure, some of these are good things. Most work under the premise "we're going to reach the lost." But I have a hunch the bulk of them just attract other disgruntled folk who, instead of helping the organized evangelical church figure out new paradigms for ministry and how to contextualize it in our culture, find it a lot easier to just go congregate at the local Java the Hut.

So I'm anxious to see what these guys have to say, and hope to write about it here.


I want to lose some weight.

OK, let me say that differently...I need to lose weight.

I've been heavy for a long while. A number of years ago, I was able to start a regimen that allowed me to lose over 50 pounds, get in shape through exercise, and maintain for a while.

I don't know how it happens, but it just does - I become more sedentary, lose focus, and eat a lot. Not just a lot, but a lot of the wrong things. I'm not gaining weight by over-eating salads. It's chips, pizza, fried this or that, breads, cookies and the like.

I'm troubled by it all for a number of reasons. First, I feel like crap. I didn't just start feeling lousy today. It's been around for a while, so you would think I would see the correlation and do something about it. But its so easy to get busy, unfocused, and undisciplined. Clothes don't fit well, you get winded easily, and self esteem sometimes takes a hit. All which works together to make me feel lousy, mostly in a physical sense.

Second and perhaps most importantly is the bad example. I'm heavy because its my fault - its not genetic, etc. I've spent a good bit of my life developing myself as some sort of leader. But the example I'm setting for those in my sphere of influence - not to mention my own children - isn't a good one. I must do better. I will do better.

Many Mondays have come & gone where I've said 'today is the day that I hit it and make a change.' Funny, that worked once. Can't put a finger on it, but I just resolved that I was going to make changes, and I did. And it worked. But the many times in the past year I've tried have come up short.

Here's my plan: write about it often. Sure, very few (if any) read my blog anyway, but I plan to start mentioning on Twitter and FB that I'm blogging and see if some come over. I think it could be an interesting way to find some accountability. But speaking of accountability, I plan to seek out someone this week to help me in person, face to face. I'm praying about who that person is.

I plan to count calories like before, and follow the Body for Life workout program. There are lots of ways to go, but I know this works - I did it before. And I remember how good I felt as the lb's came off.

I owe this to myself and to my family. And I owe it to God to be everything I can for Him. Added responsibilities and interesting twists & turns of life make it important that I be healthy and full of energy.

Your prayers and encouragement are valued and welcome.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

20 Assumptions of a Christian Blogger

Read this at the Church Crunch blog and found it interesting (good to follow on Twitter, etc.) Here it is, blatantly 'borrowed' and credited!

Here’s a list of assumptions that I’ve been thinking about for a while that I finally wrote down on paper this past week. I’m giving very little context for why my thoughts have been moving toward these ideas, but take it for what you will! I think these are pretty “safe bets” though:
  1. It’s safe to assume that you will probably never make a full-time living off of being a Christian Blogger.
  2. It’s safe to assume that you will be misunderstood theologically from pretty much every camp, including your own.
  3. It’s safe to assume that you will never have the “numbers” like a secular blog does that may in fact cover the same scope and content.
  4. It’s safe to assume that your family, friends, fellow staff members, congregation, and pretty much everyone has or is reading your blog.
  5. It’s safe to assume that your pastor has read your blog (and has some thoughts about it).
  6. It’s safe to assume that God doesn’t need you to be a blogger.
  7. It’s safe to assume that you aren’t blogging about something that’s entirely original, both in coverage of content and theologically.
  8. It’s safe to assume that you’re probably not doing good enough of a job attracting non-Christians to your obviously overly-Christian blog.
  9. It’s safe to assume that if you’re blogging under a pseudonym that you will ultimately and inevitably be discovered.
  10. It’s safe to assume that you’re going to have to work harder, smarter, and better to increase your readership than in other industries.
  11. It’s safe to assume that much of your readership is probably technologically backwards, to varying degrees.
  12. It’s safe to assume that you’ll eventually question whether it is “God’s Will” for you to be a blogger.
  13. It’s safe to assume that you’re not as good of a blogger as you’d like to think that you are.
  14. It’s safe to assume that pride is ultimately not a sustainable mechanism for success in Christian Blogging, so probably best to ditch it.
  15. It’s safe to assume that your blog design looks light years behind the industry standard for taste, appeal, and quality, so you probably should spend more time (and money) on it.
  16. It’s safe to assume that some people will actually be impressed with you and it’s your job to remind them that you’re just as human as they are.
  17. It’s safe to assume that the world would be just as bad (or good) without your blog content. See #6 again.
  18. It’s safe to assume that people will misinterpret your motivations for being a Christian Blogger.
  19. It’s safe to assume that God intends to use the web and blogs to further His Gospel Message, be encouraged.
  20. It’s safe to assume that God will get His Glory regardless of whether you’re a blogger or not; whether you blog about Him or not.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Better Ways to Spend Your Money

I'm not a big Starbucks guy. I have no problem if others want to spend their hard-earned dollars on their products. We all have our ways to spend our money, so if my friends want to double-latte themselves, have at it. Truth is, I'm not a coffee drinker at all, and fortunately I have a wife who is very content with the 99 cent cup of coffee or cappucino from the local Speedway.

And I've really only been in Starbucks a few times. Most of those visits were made on a trip to the Philippines with a group of guys, and every time we saw on, we had to pull in. I think I had an over-priced muffin, but that's about it.

They do sell bottled water there, and the pitch that's used is that you and I can help with the worldwide clean water crisis, which is very real and something I hope we all pay attention to and respond. But the Starbucks approach with their Ethos brand water is troubling, misleading, and a huge waste of money.

Ethos, a brand of bottled water acquired by Starbucks in 2005, is sold at locations throughout North America. Ethos bottles feature prominent labeling stating "helping children get clean water", referring to the fact that $.05 from each $1.80USD bottle sold ($.10 per unit in Canada) is used to fund clean water projects in under-developed areas. Critics have argued that the claim on the label misleads consumers into thinking that Ethos is primarily a charitable organization, when it is actually a for-profit Starbucks brand and the vast majority of the sale price (over 94%) does not support clean-water projects. Although sales of Ethos water has raised over $4,000,000 for clean water efforts, the brand is not a charity and has added to Starbucks revenue. The founders of Ethos have stated that the brand is intended to raise awareness of third-world clean water issues and provide socially responsible consumers with an opportunity to support the cause by choosing Ethos over other brands.

Well, that's all fine and sounds good. My, those socially-conscious folks at Starbucks...let's give them a hand!

Not so fast. I've been told that the water actually costs a more than that (remember, I don't frequent SB, and I live in a town where...believe it or not...we don't have one), and some report that only $.02 of each bottle goes to fund water projects in these under-developed areas of the world. But let's stick with the $.05 per bottle. Guess how many bottles had to be sold to come up with $4 million bucks?
How about 80 million. OK, so maybe there were donations along the way, etc. to help them get the $4 million. So lets say they sold 40 million bottles - still seems like a lot, but 40 million bottles at $2 each is $80 million bucks....of which $4 million went to the cause they use to market the water.
What if each of those people took that $2 and instead of buying over-priced, trendy water which really pads Starbuck's bottom line more than it helps provide clean water worldwide....and gave it away instead? If 80 million of these bottles have been sold, what if instead...that money was just given to Blood:Water Mission, or any number of reputable groups who are really in it to serve people and not make a profit? $2 x 80 million....$160,000,000.
I think a lot could be accomplished in the worldwide clean water crisis for those kinds of dollars. Don't you?

Oh, and on a side note of great importance...Starbucks WASTES over 6 MILLION gallons of water EVERY DAY!

I know this controversy isn't new - others have pointed it out long before me, and much more convincingly. Doesn't seem to change much of what Starbucks is doing with Ethos. Funny, the definition of Ethos from Websters is 'the character, customs, and habits which distinguish a people or community from another.' Well, with Ethos, Starbucks doesn't appear to be distinguishing itself from anything. Just another way to make a buck and make us all feel like we're helping in some way.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Narrow Way

Came across this image called The Narrow Way. Thought it was particularly interesting. Artist is David Hayward, aka The Naked Pastor. You can see lots of his work - some funny, some edgy, some funny & edgy, etc. on his blog.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Stand By Me

Terrific video, shot in various cities all over the world. Street musicians, all singing the same tune, put together for a documentary. Very cool....

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's going on in the world??

Funny thing about Facebook: you connect with people you haven't seen in years, and you get the occassional out-of-the-blue question.

Happened to me this week. Friend from High School, whom I haven't seen or heard from since 1985, sent me this question (keep in mind I know nothing of his background or religious involvement, or lack thereof):

I hope you don't think this is a crazy question .... but, since you are a bible scholar, what is your take on what is going on in the world? I know we haven't talked in over twenty plus years, and if you do not feel comfortable answering this question, I understand

So I answered...and here it is.

Hey. Well, first off, wouldn't really consider myself a scholar at anything. Just so you know where I'm coming from...and not coming from, too!

I'm not a "these are signs of the end times" kind of guy. OK, so if the Cubs were to get to and win the World Series, I might start looking for the heavens to split open. I'm sure there are those out there who are talking gloom & doom, etc. Not just because of the crappy economy or the never ending flood of bad news that seems to be all we hear.

Though I don't go down that road much, as a Christian I do remind myself often that we have to always be prepared for whatever might come. I vividly remember watching the towers fall back in '01, and my heart sank for lots of reasons. Lots of the same questions that many of us had flooded my mind, but I couldn't help but think about the specific people in those buildings who just went to work that day like they had hundreds of days before, no inkling that it would be their last.

I heard a preacher from LA talk about that day, and how he got home late that night after dealing with so many people and so much emotion. His wife told him he needed to talk to his own children and help them too. So instead of just telling them that everything would be fine, not to worry, he told them this: "We have little control over how we die or how things will end. The only thing we have control over is how we live our lives." Well, that stuck with me a good bit. I suppose because there is so much truth in it. We only have control of how we live our lives, and no say in how or when it ends. So as a Christian, what does that mean for me? I just try to live in a way that I suspect Christ would (it's not that easy...if it were, more Christians would do it!).

The Bible does talk about worry, and in a nutshell it simply says 'don't do's not good for you.' Funny, many think the Bible is just a bunch of rules and they want nothing to do with that sort of life system. But God lays those sorts of things out because he knows us pretty well (he created us, after all) and knows what's in our best interest. Example: divorce. Yes, it does happen, and the Bible has some things to say about it. God says that he hates it (pretty strong words). Now, is that a rule designed to screw up our lives? Or is it God saying He hates it because He knows how much hurt, anger, bitterness, etc. that can come from it, not to mention the carnage of our children that get stuck in the middle and have all sorts of baggage to deal with, etc....(Writing this having no idea if you've gone through offense or preaching, just an illustration). I have lots of friends who have been through it, its always messy, and no one wins. I see why God hates it...

Anyway, there are certainly a lot of things going on in the world that I can't explain. But my absolute conviction is that we've created most of the mess, and with God's help we can fix some things. But my even bigger conviction is that God hasn't abandoned His throne...he's still on it. He's bigger than bailouts, Israeli & Palastenian skirmishes, presidents we may or may not like, tyrant dictators, recessions & mortgage crisis', and Oprah :) And he cares enough to hear me out when I talk to him, too. (I can't get anywhere near Oprah....)

Scripture does say that if God's people will humble themselves and pray, God will heal their land. My hope is that God's people will do their conviction is that God can do his. Don't know if that makes any sense or answers the question, but it just sort of all came out.

Lemme know what you think.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sour Grapes?

ONE hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the things to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”


Came across this from Aesop's Fables, quoted in a book I'm currently reading called 'Made to Stick.' Immediately thought of some of the conversations/blogs/comments/friends that I've interacted with in the last couple of years, and how I think this applies to some of those thoughts.

I like to talk about the Church. What its doing well, where it appears to miss the mark, and how we can learn from those who are doing some things well....and learn from others who are missing the mark. So I listen, read, visit, and chat with lots of folks about the subject. And sometimes, I venture outside my pre-conditioned box w/in which I grew up and was trained and continue to serve to this day (a movement, btw, that I have no problem claiming...I'm a card-carrying member and proud of it).

Seems as though I have a good number of friends and acquaintances who take a "baby AND the bathwater" approach to certain limelight pastors and churches. Sure, they have laundry lists of reasons - some of them based on doctrine, preference, or just plain dislike.

Or could it be sour grapes?

I'll be the first to admit that I've wondered what life must be like as a leader at one of 'those' churches - Willow, Southeast, Northpoint, Saddleback, et al. Perhaps even crossing the line of envy on occassion. And usually I look forward to the chance to learn from what the leaders at these places have to say. Part curiosity, part learner. And no, I don't just buy everything they're selling and run off to implement it into my life/church/organization.

Maybe its just the type of crowd I run with, but there seems to be a lot of bashing going on. Almost that 'if its successful, they must be compromising something.'

But I keep coming back to the question: Is it simply sour grapes? Are we quick to point fingers at that which, apparently, we can't have? Is it possible that in our insecurity, we complain about not having a seat at the big-boy/big-church table? And does our insecurity lead to openly ripping other brothers and sisters in Christ who are doing, in many cases, amazing things in and for the Kingdom? And instead of starting an Anti Rick Warren/Bill Hybels/Andy Stanley blog and finding all the feet of clay we can find and hurling our attacks, shouldn't we instead be focusing on the lost around us and figure out ways we can bring them to the Throne? Kind of like those aforementioned guys are doing?

Look, most of us have no idea what it must be like to walk in the shoes these guys have been given. And just because their style doesn't jive with ours, and they may come across as smug, as a CEO, or a know-it-all....we're not walking in their shoes. Just how might that heavy load of leadership responsibility change any of us.

So, I for one and going to stop calling the grapes sour. I'm not going to throw stones at those whom God has chosen to do high-impact, national level ministry. Maybe I'll even pray for those guys from time to time. I'm sure its not as easy as some of them make it look. In the meantime, God has equipped little ol' me with some special skills and abilities. And he gives me the privilege of joining His team and using them for His glory.

"And that," quoth me, "will be my contentment."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Love the Sinner?

Interesting article in USA Today (click here). Interesting on a couple of points...

1) Anything that gets God in the conversation is/can/should be a good thing.

2) There needs to be more people saying things like this in particular. If for no other reason than to balance out all of the 'hate' that seems to get most of the media microphones.

Your thoughts??

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Feeling Old

Along the way I've discovered that there are certain benchmarks in my life that have made me feel, well....old.

I remember the first: buying my first lawnmower. I don't know why, but that made me feel so 'adult'. Afterall, you just don't go buy a lawnmower when you are a kid, a college student, or a newlywed living in an apartment. So I felt old.

Though there have been others, the most recent is my oldest son being turned loose to - gasp - drive a car! And if that wasn't bad enough, it coincided with his new JOB! at our local culinary bastion of seafood, Long John Silvers (OK, so its part Long John's/part A&W). Nonetheless, he's driving and he's working.

And dad suddenly feels old.

The good news is, I couldn't be more proud of him. He's certainly not perfect. But he's turned out to be a very impressive young man. He's freakishly talented (all sorts of music), treats people with respect and kindness (siblings excluded...I hear that doesn't really kick in for a few more years), and seems to be paying attention to God and His will.

Oh, and last night I felt a little older still....he sends me a pic from his cell phone of him standing in Times Square, where he is with his kick-butt choir to perform in Lincoln Center. Here is an audio of the actual choir, one of the songs they're doing that they recorded a while back.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Couldn't help myself - another Demotivator that I had to share.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The More Things Change

Wow, so much has happened in the past coupld of's the 5-cent summary:

Moved from Anderson IN, a place we loved & lived for over 16 years. Came back to our Alma Mater to assume a staff role and a change in direction from 19 years of local church ministry. Loaded a moving van on New Year's Eve and brought my family to a small Eastern KY town, leaving behind a great place that wasn't exactly what I would call 'cosmoplitan,' but hey, we had a Target - so that's something. Pulled my 3 kids out of their school, away from their friends, and their HS music program that I think probably stacks up to the best there is. Not to mention that its the only town/church/school my kids have ever known since we've been blessed to have such a long stay at one place. Did I mention the 3-bedroom apartment with not so great insulation and a heat pump system that should never have been installed north of Atlanta, GA? I could rant a bit about how it hasn't worked at all (really...completely shut down) the last two nights as it dipped down to single digits...but stuff happens, and we earned our Boy Scout Polar Bear Badges in return!)

Now before you read into this...all 5 of you that regularly read this (you know who you are), I am not complaining at all! Truthfully, not even a hint of regret...just a disclaimer regarding why its been such a drought on this here forum (OK, so I've already lived here too long...)

And now its March 4th, two months later. And from everything I'm sensing, the family is doing well. OK, so we're occasionally cold. And we've given up a convenience or two. Kids are plugging into school (when they have it....a lot was missed due to snow), and we're starting to hone in on youth groups, etc. Wife and I have both hit the ground running with our roles at the school, and we seem to be in the 'sweet spot' of where we should be.

So, as blogs go, I've been a little preoccupied. Truthfully, a friend introduced me to Facebook, which I used to make fun of. Now I'm somewhat addicted, and have found it to be a terrific way to both find old friends and stay in touch with the masses. It has taken more of my time than I ever imagined. The first night I was on, a friend and former youth group kid said keenly "Welcome to Facebook. It will eat your soul." Pretty insightful.

Perhaps its just getting older, or maybe its the role I play in my new job. But the notion of reconnecting with friends and acquaintances from the past is more attractive to me than ever before. Around 16 years or so of my adult life have been spent in youth minsitry at two different churches. I am amazed at the number of kids that I have had in and out of my life, so many that I've even forgotten some (perhaps that's not because of the sheer number, but my increasing age!) But our paths keep crossing, and its enlightening to hear about their journeys.

What on earth does this all mean? Couple of observations. First, this social networking thing is bigger than I imagined, and appears here to stay. How can the Church harness it in a productive way, and not start something lame like "GodBook" or something (I'm guessing its already happened...). Second, we need people. I've said that before, and used it as part of my philosophy for small group ministry. But we really do need people. Yes, FB and other mediums aren't face to face interation, but those are still people typing those words on the other side. And our interactions with one another can be meaningful, helpful, encouraging, supportive....or mean spirited, etc. Is the Church paying attention? Are we learning anything? Are we taking a page from this phenomenon and seeing that somehow, someway, people need to interact, talk, share, joke, debate, encourage & be encouraged, etc? Is that happening in the local church en masse, or are we stuck in some other time? Third, I know a lot of folks who tend to run from culture. I guess its the assumption that it's all evil or something. So they don't go to movies unless they're G, the don't listen to music unless its K-Love or The Fish or something that could only be a Christian station, and they avoid or very much limit any Internet usage to email. I'm all for knowing what our kids are into, and being responsible parents - that's not my point. Rather, shouldn't we be the ones out there "in the mix", being Salt & Light? I know that many are, and I applaud it. We're engaged in meaningful dialogue with all sorts of flavors of people, some who are hostile to Christianity - often because of how Christ has been misrepresented to them somewhere along the way. Regardless, seems like a golden opportunity to be a part of the transformation and perhaps redemption stories that some of these folks might tell to their grandkids one day.

After all, those are real live people out there typing those words.