Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Centrality of the Resurrection

I had a bit of a rough day today.

It happens to everybody. I've come off a long, stressful stint of business at the church. The pressures of life continue to chip away. In addition, a few big things happen that are very rare, but that heap on the stress. Days like this don't happen to me too often, so when I get like this, I think it's a much bigger deal than it probably is.

However, when I get like this, I tend to turn to the thing that, for some reason, gets me back on track: deep thought. Don't ask me why, but deep thought about some important issue gets me back on my feet. I think and then I write. I guess it's just the way I'm wired. Tonight, my thinking is on the resurrection of Jesus.

It has come to my attention recently that many Christians today don't believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Some have written about this, and I have blogged about it here. It's down right scary if you want to know the truth. The resurrection was the primary event in the life of Jesus, the primary theme in the preaching of the apostles, and the thing that makes Jesus different from every other religious leader ever. If you take the resurrection away from Christianity, you get foolishness. Insanity. Why would a group of people claim to follow a dead guy? I would argue that the resurrection is an, perhaps the, essential ingredient needed to call oneself a Christian. Other issues that we would call important, virgin birth, gifts of the Spirit, the Trinity, should hopefully be there too, but one could conceive of a Christian who had not fully accepted one of those issues yet. I cannot conceive of a Christian who denies the resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith.

Tonight as I was pondering this, I read again 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul is arguing for the resurrection. What a statement he makes. Paul states that if Jesus was not raised from the dead...

1. Our faith is useless
2. We are misrepresenting God, and
3. We are still in our sins.

He goes on to say that if Christ has not been raised, we may as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. This is all we have. However, if Christ has been raised from the dead, then we are no longer in our sins and death is not the end for us. We, too, can be raised from the dead like Jesus was. Which do I choose...?

In addition, the resurrection is not an event that a guy created in his basement wearing a bath robe. No, Jesus appeared to 500 people at the same time after he had risen from the dead. He appeared to the disciples as well. They were so convinced of this fact that they were willing to die martyrs deaths for this man. You don't do that for an executed criminal, but for a risen Lord? In a second.

And there it is. I have found myself back to a place where, despite my difficulties in life, my focus has again re-centered to Christ and what he has done for me. It is hard for me to stay depressed when I know a God who loves me as much as he does. Thank you, Lord, for your many gifts to me, and thank you for life!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Spoiled Kids

Allow me to take a step away from my normally spiritual conversation and be a tad cynical (okay, I guess that's not new). As I saw on Joel Maner's blog, you can buy just about anything for your kid nowadays. Want a lifesize princess chariot for your daughter? No problem. Want a 7 feet tall radio controlled talking robot? No problem. Want a working Zoltar machine like in the movie Big? No problem (the jury is still out on whether it grants wishes or not). It all depends on how much you want to spend ($47 thousand, $50 thousand, and $9 thousand respectively on the aforementioned three). This website tells of it all.

The sad thing is that there are actually rich parents who will buy these things for their kids for Christmas this year. Some of those kids will not be satisfied. Other families will not go to this extreme, but will certainly overspend on their kid, and continue the process of deeply rooting materialism into the next generation. I know, I sound like a bitter old man, but it's true! How many families do you know who have young kids that think Christmas is all about presents? I bet just about every single one. I can't say much. I was showered with gifts as a child too. My parents were not rich, but I was an only child, so I got more than the kid in the similar middle class family with 3 brothers. I have to admit, it was pretty great. I also have to admit, though, that it has lead me to need to often check myself for materialism. I have to be careful what I buy. I have to make sure I don't spend my money on junk. It is humbling to have to confess that, but it is true. Has materialism ever produced a content person?

What is the answer, then? Are we to no longer buy our kids gift on Christmas so they think all of their friends get the good stuff and they miss out? Are we to deprive our kids to make a statement? I don't know. I am not a parent yet, so I have some time to figure this all out. One thing I vow to do, though, is to make Christmas about Jesus, and to do this by telling his story every year and by helping others. Maybe we (Ang and I) won't get our kids presents, and let the grandparents' presents be the bulk (Lord knows that is enough). But regardless, we will make Christmas an event that instills into the next generation a message of love and of a life-even history-changing story. May we continue to journey towards making Christ the center of Christmas.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Donald Miller Interview

As many of you know, I got to tag along as a friend of mine, James Brown, got to interview Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, back in September. I wrote about it here. finally, after the editing of the video is done and a copy made it into my hand, and I was able to transfer it to text, I am now posting the transcript of the interview. I tried unsuccessfully to post the video on myspace or youtube, but it is 3 times the maximum limit for space. I will continue to look into converting the video into a smaller format so I can post it on here for you guys. The transcript is not the best substitute, but you get the meat of what he is saying.

The interview was very conversational, so I did my best to keep it accurate. Unfortunately, that results in some grammatical issues and run on sentences. Please forgive that for now. I felt it was more important to keep it as close to the original as possible. I have added my own commentary in italics, if you care. If not, please feel free to skip over it. Also, forgive me as it is very, very long. I thought about posting it in 2 or 3 parts, but decided to just give you the whole thing and not mess with the flow by breaking it up. This is the longest post ever, but I think it is worth reading. Thanks ahead of time for reading it and I hope you enjoy. Let me know what you thought.

James Brown: Hey everybody, we are here with Donald Miller, and we are here to take a look at his book Blue like Jazz. Thanks so much, Donald, for coming…

Donald: Good to be here.

JB: …and spending some time with us. I don’t know if our community knows that much about you, so if you could tell them a few things about who you are; the essence of your being, what would you tell them?

DM: I love cats. I have over 50 cats in my house at all times.

JB: Really!? It must smell really good.

DM: When I come home. I’ve been gone for 3 weeks and they haven’t been out.

JB: Really? (laughs)

DM: I doubt it. But I love cats. My whole life is about cats. Cat posters, ceramic cats, cat snow globes. I collect cat things.

JB: Wow!

DM: Yeah.

JB: Well, my name is James Brown, I introduced myself earlier, but my dog I had for a little bit, his name was Ray Charles, so the two of us together made a fantastic pair.

DM: (laughs) I would imagine…that’s great.

The Interview started off on a fun note. If you couldn’t tell, Donald was making all of that stuff about the cats up as a joke (he confessed later off camera). Although, in a weird way, he did answer the question. He did give us a look at who he is as a person…because that’s him. He is a joker and likes to keep people on their toes. He also likes to make people a little uncomfortable, and you must admit that you were about half way through his story. Donald is a fun guy, and that is seen early on in the interview.

JB: So the title of your book is Blue Like Jazz. Can you tell us a little bit about the title, why you picked that?

DM: Yeah, ya know it’s not the greatest story ever but it was the working title. Usually if I’m working on a book it has a working title, then we come up with another title later when the book is done. So, we sat around for a couple hours, me and a bunch of marketing people, and we tried to come up with another title, but we couldn’t. We couldn’t think of one: most of them were very cheesy. So, Blue Like Jazz was the title we gave the book as a way of giving up on it. We literally were saying, “Well, let’s just throw it away and call it Blue Like Jazz.” And, I’m glad we kept it. I always liked it and wanted it but didn’t think I was going to get my way. Sometimes you don’t. And, uh, we kept it, and I really liked it because it is just a great metaphor for the idea…it makes sense to people, “Blue Like Jazz”, and yet it doesn’t make any sense at all. And sometimes that’s the way that not only faith works, but relational dynamics work that way too. We can’t really explain it, but you just sort of get it.

JB: It’s kind of a metaphor for it.

DM: Yeah. A metaphor for what faith actually is.

I love his explanation of the title for a couple of reasons. First, it gives us a bit of background as to the history of the book: that it was being given up on etc. We Americans like a story where an underdog prevails, and this book is sort of like that. Secondly, I love that even the title, he admits, is a metaphor. I feel that one of the things that Donald does best is attach metaphors to faith issues. He does that, even with the title. I also like the whole idea where he admits it makes sense, but it doesn’t make sense at all. His writing echoes that in places, and I think it is quite beautiful.

JB: Very cool. Also one of the things I thought was interesting about the book was the subtitle, in addition to the title, which is “nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” I’m curious, why do we need nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality?

DM: I don’t know that we need them. That’s just what it is. Ya know, that’s just what the book is. I’m not certain that we need them or that it’s better than something else or anything like that. I think that’s where I was when I lived the stories that were in the book, um, I think I was tired of religion, ya know, I was tired of trying to earn something with God. I was tired of what religion meant in a political sense, at least in our culture. And, I wanted faith, I wanted spirituality outside of the trappings of what religion meant, and religion has meant many different things throughout history. But, for me, in my context, it didn’t mean very many good things that I wanted, and yet I didn’t want to throw God out. I wanted that. So I just tried to explore what a relationship with God looked like outside of some of those religious trappings. And the book is a series of stories of what I’ve found.

Donald really hits on something here. More and more people are giving up on religion…myself included, because of what it has come to mean in our culture. I like how he says he was tired of trying to “Earn something with God.” I think we need to guard against religion and focus on a relationship with our God, which is exactly what Donald is doing. You’ll be happy to know, as I was, that he did go back to the church, something he talks a lot about in BLJ. I think the danger in people getting fed up with religion is that they will abandon the church and try to do it on their own, which almost never works and is seldom a healthy alternative. Donald is a good example of how to leave religion without turning your back on God or the church.

JB: With that being said, did you have an audience in mind when you were writing the book?

DM: No, I didn’t. And I normally don’t. I think that when you’re writing, you want to write to yourself and you hope that if you think it’s funny, someone else will think it’s funny. If you think it’s beautiful someone else will think it’s beautiful. And what’s great about that is that you’re not trying to sell anything. If you have an audience in mind you’re trying to sell something to them, and instead you’re just sharing your life and your story and your thoughts. And the other thing that is great about that is the people who are touched by that, you tend to click pretty well with those people. It’s a nice benefit of being yourself, of trying to be yourself at least, in your work.

This is the first place we see Donald mention this idea about phoniness and the beauty in being yourself etc. I agree with him on this issue. I think we have become too much of a salesman type culture. It is refreshing to me to hear him say that he was just writing to himself. I feel that is what I do in this blog…write to myself and hope others come along for the ride. Interesting thoughts.

JB: Tonight’s our kickoff for meal groups. One of the values for our meal groups is the idea of community, and I know that in your book you talked about the community you had with the fellow Christians at Reed College, and then those that you lived with in Oregon. What is it about community? What is it that our people should strive for as they begin these meal groups?

DM: (laughs) I don’t know. That’s not unlike saying “What does it look like to be in love?” It looks a million different ways to a million different people. Um…I think we’re obsessed with doing things right. And our obsession with doing things right illustrates our bad theology. It really does. It illustrates our desire for redemption outside of Christ. To some degree…this is getting much too complicated. I should just give you a simple answer like “people are happy” [in community].

This was a hard part to edit. He doesn’t really answer the question, but his reaction to the question is good enough to include. He talked a bit more about this later, off camera, but the point we should take from Donald is that community is not created with an easy formula, and our attempts to boil it down to an easy formula are sorely lacking.

JB: This book has obviously resonated with a lot of people, both religious and nonreligious people. People who have been in the church for years, and people that I interact with in a coffee shop that would never consider themselves to be in a relationship with God, but it resonates with them. The book seems to be for “now,” at this very moment. Is there something in culture that you recognize that this is resonating with?

DM: Well, I’m not sure what it is that people are responding to. I think…I think, ya know, when writing the book, I didn’t really expect that many people would read it, so there is a level of honesty there that you normally only reserve for your closest friends, and I think that’s part of it, which really tells us something about relationships, that it pays to be honest and be who you are. And, you lose some people, but those people you never would have had anyway, ya know, unless you were fake. And, so there is a level of vulnerability in the book, that, ya know…it taught me a lot, to do that and not know that anybody would read it, and then to have it take off has told me that it’s okay to just kinda be who you are; to at least try.

JB: So this idea of gut level honesty is really appealing. We don’t have that on a day to day basis in our relationships.

DM: No. Think about our culture; everything is fake. Everything is a spin on some half truth. So, we’re being sold products all the time. And in order to sell a product you spin; you point out the benefits and not the reality of what you’re actually going to get. So we encounter this all the time. Our politicians give us half truths …or they can’t get elected if they told us the truth. Um, unless you’re in Minnesota, apparently. You can get elected if you tell the truth. (laughs). Which in a funny way is really great. And, so I think it is so refreshing when someone comes along and they just tell the truth. It’s hard at first. I have a friend who just let me in on some difficulty in his life, not necessarily dark or anything like that, but I just found myself for the month or so after he told me about all this stuff kind of not wanting to talk to him, ‘cause I like things being [neat]…and then suddenly it occurred to me that everybody has this stuff and this guy just actually has the guts to be honest with me. And now I find myself drawn to that friendship and finding it to be real; that this is what I want. I don’t want the pottery barn catalog version of friendships, ya know. I want real life with baby toys around and cheerios. And the Pottery barn lamp is nice, but ya know.

JB: There’s a beauty in that.

DM: There is! There’s a beauty in reality. It’s an acquired taste. It’s not something that immediately you like. But once you acquire a taste for reality, for no BS, no spin, you actually lose your taste for all the sugar that we are constantly being fed, all the spin. And I think we have to break through that in community, in meal groups, whatever, we have to break through the spin and we have to go, “What am I really dealing with?” ya know, and “What’s really going on, both positive and negative?” and not delve into the negative and live in that place, ‘cause there’s so much hope that God gives us, but, at the same time to go, “Here’s where I really am.” “Here’s who I am” and “Here’s what I need” and we find true friendships in those places.

This string of dialogue is my favorite in our time with Donald Miller. He makes some great points about our culture and the relationships we have. You see how he has this hunger for truth and honesty, and this very strong distaste for “pitch” and “spin” and those sorts of things associated with selling a product. One of his primary messages, which he doesn’t connect here, is that god is not a product for us to sell: he is a Father we can choose to relate to and have a relationship with. I think that is a great thing to keep in mind for those of us in church work. How often do we sell Jesus as savior, but leave out the part where he says “Pick up your cross and follow me” or “all men will hate you because of me.” We have been selling Jesus as a self help manual, and it isn’t working. May we not spin Jesus. May we offer him to people in all of his humility and all of his offense.

JB: So as we wrap up with Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, are there any concluding thoughts for us?

DM: No, just have a great time. Meal groups are…I mean the idea of sitting around, together, with a group of people, is the closest picture that we have to the ancient church. It really is. Ya know, we go to these ancient cathedrals in Europe and we think “Oh, this church is a thousand years old” and “The way they did things…”. It is incredibly far removed from the actual church that the apostles started, which looked just like meal groups. They weren’t reading Blue Like Jazz back then. But, ya know, if you had the books they were reading back then they would be in Greek and we wouldn’t understand them anyway. Blue Like Jazz is in English (laughs). But have fun, and I think You’ll find God in those places.

It is good to see Donald point back to the ancient church like this…something we could all do more. It is also appropriate that he ends on a light, humorous note. That is Donald. I find it interesting that his goal, as it appears here, is “finding God.” What a great goal. May we vow to find God in whatever way we can and, if we do, I think we have found a great thing.

JB: Excellent. Thank you so much.

DM: Thank you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


"I haven't had a bad day in 35 years."

His name is Steve.

"I have had a few bad minutes in otherwise pretty good days, but I never have bad days."

Steve's optimism is unmatched. He loves to smile and laugh. He always has a joke or a funny saying to share, like "The US Postal service is looking into this email thing...they are just looking for ways to make it slower and more expensive before they get involved." He bubbles with contentment and joy. He loves to serve. All of this is amazing considering the hand that life has dealt him recently.

You see, Steve ran a small restaurant in Hasting for 13 years that quickly became very successful. He got to do what he loved to do and get paid for it. Life was good. Then, in the spring, the landlord inexplicably wanted to get rid of Steve's business and get some new blood in the building, forcing Steve and his business to look elsewhere (the building remains empty still, 6 months later). With the prices of all of the new strip malls being driven up by national conglomerates like Starbucks and Chipotle, Steve was forced to rent a smaller place across the river in Prescott, a town a 6th of the size of Hastings. They now have days where they may only see 1 or 2 customers. They have gone from a very successful restaurant with many friends and regulars to struggling to get by.

What is Steve's response to all of this? "Any day I wake up on this side of death is a good day. And, even if I do go, I have made my peace and I'm not worried in the least!" he announces jovialy. This short, grey haired hippie embodies something that I think we would all do better to learn. With the rates of depression and suicide rising, as well as financial and social pressures at, perhaps, an all time high in this world, Steve remains of the forefront of joy.

The Bible talks a bit about this sort of thing. It offers advice such as "Be joyful always" and to "be content, no matter what the circumstances." The Psalms describe praise to our God as lifting the "spirit of heaviness," letting the "oil of gladness flow down." If this is the case, then why are more Christians not joyful, glad, and optimistic like Steve? Is it a spiritual thing? Is it an attitudinal thing?

I think both are true. But, more than that, I think we are at a time when we need Christians who love living. I am not sure we do anymore, honestly. A hundred years ago, hymns were being written saying things like "if I can just tarry one more weary day" the Lord might come back. I think, on some level, we still believe that today. Is that the attitude God wants us to have? Are we to limp along in this life hoping for the sweet release of death? Is that the best witness of the life changing power of Jesus and the joy that he brings?

To conclude, I quote Rob Bell in the Nooma Video Trees:

May you trust Jesus, when he says that death has been taken care of, and that you can live forever with God, that you're never, ever, ever going to stop living. May you believe that death has been taken care of, and you can be a partner with God in redeeming and restoring this fallen, broken, hurting world. That you can literally be a partner with God in making this the kind of place that God originally intended it to be. May you be the kind of person who, when you live this way, the very trees of Paradice are being planted.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Nerd Moment

I returned on Monday from traveling down south to see some old friends. The missionary I worked with a few years ago. The professor I worked for for 2 years. A good friend who was who was a student when I was there was visiting at the same time. The whole department of Bible professors. It was a great weekend. When I get in that culture again, I am reminded of how much of a nerd I am. I sat in on 5 classes on Friday, and it makes me realize how much I miss school. I just love learning in a class format.

Anywho, I thought I would look back at my top 5 favorite classes at Evangel. It was hard to narrow it down to 5, but I think I have done it. Here we go.

5. Intro to Psychology with Dr. Grant Jones

I was a psych minor, but when I took this class my first semester, I knew almost nothing about psychology. It turned out the class was awesome and a great intro into the field. It was one of those classes where it was fun to study for the tests because the material was so interesting. In addition, Dr. Jones was so good at tying in Spirituality and discussing faith matters in the contexts we were talking about. It made the class great.

4. Acts Book Study with Dr. Wave Nunnally

Nunnally was the man. Still is. He has such a handle on the historical context of the scriptures, as well as other factors that we tend not to think about, like geography. He lived in Israel for grad school, so he was immersed in the culture. In addition, Acts is something of his specialty. He has since written a full length commentary on the book which is amazing. I learned a ton about the book of Acts in this semester and which I could take it again.

3. Composition and Rhetoric with Dr. Nathan Nelson

I never would have thought that a composition class could be one of my favorites...but it is. This course is a big reason why I like writing so much now. Again, this class amazed my by how often real life issues came up in the context of faith and living. We only had 4 grades in this class, and it was 4 papers. That was a bit intimidating to a freshman, but I did good and learned a ton. I sat in on this class over the weekend and they were talking about the last paper, which involves exploring music for lyrics on social action. It was a great class all around.

2. Synoptic Gospels with Dr. Wave Nunnally

This class was so amazing. We looked at the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and learned about the characteristics of each. This class is still with me, as it has provided a framework for how I read the synoptics now. There were so many great questions asked and discussed in this class. The word I would connect with it is profound. It was a great one.

1. Jesus in the Gospels with Dr. Robert Berg

There are about three courses I could put on this list from Dr. Berg. He is simply a great teacher. He may be the best I know at presenting material, and then getting discussions going on the topic. He would often play the "Devil's advocate" and argue against whatever side students were arguing. He had inventive ways of illustrating points and making teaching points stick unlike anyone I have ever seen. This course was a seminar course on Jesus and his life. The culmination of the course was a project where we had to research one area of the life of Jesus and then do a half hour presentation on it. I chose "Jesus and Gentiles" and thoroughly had a blast doing it. I took this my last semester and wonder if maybe that it why it is my favorite. Regardless, it was a great class and I would love to take it again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

To Invest in People...

Allow me to talk for the next few minutes about a personal thing in my life.

I spent the summer of 2003 in Thailand, specifically Bangkok, doing missions work with a team from my college and another Assembly of God school. There were 8 of us in our group who all worked together: Crystal and Rebecca, 2 of the greatest ladies that could be on a trip like that with me, who were, like me, from Evangel, and Mark, Dylan, Jasper, Duffy, and Niina all from Washington State, and amazing people in their own right. We became very close during this trip, forming something of a family bond. The missionary we worked with was Alan Johnson, a fulltime missionary to Thailand for 20 years. He spoke Thai fluently and led us all over the place; to slums to minister to the poor families, to putting on outreach services for youth, to Thai churches, and to other villages where we would have the priviledge to minister. His amazing wife Lynette would cook our food (what a great cook she was) and do our laundry. In addition to working with Alan and the other 7 students, I also got to work with the youth at International Christian Assembly (or ICA Bangkok), which was an English speaking church that had over 30 nations represented. These couple of months were some of the best in my life.

Alan and Lynette were like parents to us when we were there. I look back most fondly on the meals. In addition to feasting on great food (did I mention Lynette was a fabulous cook?), we would often have deep conversation about spiritual topics: the strategy of missions in Thailand, what Jesus meant when he said "The greatest will be the least and the least will be the greatest," how to treat people and show them the love of Christ, what it meant to be a great leader etc. I have never met anyone in my life who was more intentional with his conversations or who utilized opportunities to disciple young people better than Alan. I feel that I grew more in those months than I have in any other similar period in my life. Now, 3 years later, 4 of those 8 have gone back to Thailand for longer missionary stints, and 2 of those plan on being there full time. 2 are full time youth pastors. 1 is involved in various ministries in his home town. The last is an elementary school teacher in Missouri. 8 college students, from different states, with different goals and dreams and different reasons for going to Thailand, are now all changing the world and investing in people. I wonder how much of that is due to Alan being so intentional with us and the time we had, how much he believed in us, and how much he lived out and showed us what a leader who is sold out for God and people should be.

I leave tomorrow to drive 10+ hours to go visit Alan. The way it works is they spend 4 years in the field, followed by 1 year at home. If I don't take this opportunity to see him now, I may not get to spend time with him for a long time. My wife and I are struggling financially, and I am plenty busy at the church. But, for me to not do everything I can to connect with Alan at this time would be, I feel, bad stewardship on my part. Such is the effect that Alan was able to have on me in one summer.

May we all follow his example. May we all value people in an incredible way. May we intentionally pour ourselves into the next generation of world changers. Thank you Alan, for the difference you have made in my life, and countless others.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thoughts on the Ted Haggard Situation

With Ted Haggard's confession being officially read at this mornings New Life services, we have now entered into the "wake," as it were, of this scandal. Before we continue to my comments, please be directed to the actual confession and press releases made publicly available:

  • Ted Haggard's Statement

  • Gayle Haggard's Letter

  • New Life Press Release

  • Latest CNN Article

  • Naturally, this incident is being likened back to the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals of the late 80's. It seems, at least so far, that this is less huge, for several reasons, but mainly because Haggard is not near as popular as either Bakker or Swaggart were. Here is a BBC news brief of the Swaggart situation to put it into perspective. No, this is a smaller thing.

    However, there certainly are some repercussions. I have met Haggard personally on one occasion. I have heard him speak on several occasions. I have read all of his early books. If you remember, I put his The Life Giving Church as 3rd on the most influential books in my life. I was accepted into the 24/7 discipleship program coming out of high school (I didn't end up going). Churches I am and have been a part of have done his "Loving Your City Into the Kingdom" projects and are members of the "Life Giving Network." Needless to say, there are not too many prominent ministry figures that could have fallen that I would have been more connected with (Perhaps Erwin McManus or Bill Hybels). Having said that, allow me to make a few statements about this incident.

    1. May We Maintain an Appropriate Response

    I think the 2 most common responses to this issue are to either say "Everyone sins; it is not a big deal," or "Crucify, crucify!" I think that both are unhealthy and inappropriate, and that the proper response is somewhere in the middle. This is very much a big deal, but we must hope and pray for forgiveness and restoration, rather than lifelong estrangement.

    2. Be Thankful for the New Life Accountability Board

    Not every church has the oversight that New Life does. That is one of the things Haggard stresses in his writings and that caught on more after he wrote about it. They have a very good accountability board that has and will continue to handle the situation well. One of the reasons Swaggart fell so hard is because he rejected the decision of the oversight committee. Haggard's best ally for his restoration and spiritual growth from this incident is the oversight team. It appears that they have done their job.

    3. He Seems Repentant

    Until I read his confession earlier, I was very concerned. Up to that point, Haggard had not seemed contrite and repentant. After reading his letter, however, it seems that he has become broken before God and has repented.

    4. May We, As Young Leaders, Get Our Lives in Order

    If there is one thing to take away from this, it is that we as young leaders must get our lives in order NOW. Do not put problems off, for they will catch up to you. "Your sin will find you out." These are not scare tactics. Rather, the battle is too important to lose anymore casualties like we have been. The Enemy will show no mercy. May we, as young men, draw a line in the sand and say that pornography and sexual addiction will stop with us. May we raise up a standard of purity that may be emulated. May we be the kinds of leaders that can and will change the world because our character is strong enough to handle the weight of our successes.

    Saddam Sentenced to Hang

    News came out today that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will face the gallows, along with 2 of his subordinates. After a 9 month trial, one in which 3 defense attourneys and 1 witness was murdered, some manner of justice is finally served, and Saddam will hang. Seems appropriate (doesn't it?) a country so far behind in the political and social worlds would resort to one of the oldest styles of execution to forever down this director of evil.There is now an appeals process, which could take awhile. But, if the death sentences are upheld, they must be carried out in 30 days. So, in a little over a month, Saddam may be no more. By Christmas, this world may be short 1 evil dictator.

    The question I am pondering is “What do I think about this?” I am about 80/20 against the death penalty (a recent change) and am still wrestling with that reality. The reason is because I believe that God can change even the evilest of hearts…and since escape is never an issue, why execute? However, if there has ever been a time to utilize the death penalty, I would suspect this is it. So, I go back to “What do I think about this?” I ask myself what many of the feelings of the Shiites and Kurds might be. I suspect relief. Relief to know that the man who slaughtered countless numbers of their brothers and sisters will not longer be able to do so. Relief to know that, despite the apparant power that still seems to exist, no escape will be possible after Saddam is dead. Relief to know that it is possible for justice, or some sense of it, to be served in their homeland. As our President said, "Today, the victims of this regime have received a measure of the justice which many thought would never come." In addition, though, I suspect their is some uneasiness as well. What waits around the corner? War? Death? Peace? Who knows? The future remains very uncertain. However, I have to think that with such a powerful and evil person about to be dead, things have improved.

    So, as I continue to suspend judgment on this issue, I am tempted to waive my position on the death penalty, and think that this is probably the right thing. May we continue to lift up and support our fellow humans in this war torn land. May God show his face in a land that is still so dark.