Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Look

Hey everyone!!! Don't freak out!!! You are in the right place. After nearly a year and a half of blogging on the same (boring) template, I decided to give the old site a bit of a nip/tuck. When I upgraded my template, I lost my book and music photo links that were on the left of the screen, but there is a lot of cooler stuff I get to do now, like pick my own background pic for my heading (don't you just love sunsets?) and more colour control (I love the black and yellow look). Anyway, it is a new look, but it will contain the same exciting and thought provoking content you have come to expect. Did I hear someone boo? Godspeed friends.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Books R' Us

I used to be one of those people who read one book at a time. I would finish a book every week and a half or two weeks and then pick up another. However, the demands of ministry and life, as well as my own scattered interests have forced me to read a myriad of books all at the same time.

In addition, I am also a giant nerd. I love to read. I love to tell people about what I'm reading. I also love to recommend books to people, have them read them, and then talk about the book with the other person. Welcome to my curse. Anywho, here is the small library of books I am working on right now. If you would like to discuss any of these or if I inspire you to check one of these out, please let me know.

A Mind For God James Emory White

I finished this book recently having plowed through it in a day and a half. It is not long, but man, does Jim White hit the nail on the head or what? J. E. White is a great mix of passion for the Lord, academic standards, and practical ministry rolled into one. In A Mind For God, he talks about the importance of Christians thinkers in our day and what it mean to have a mind for god. We are giving this book to our graduates in June.

Jesus the Jewish Theologian Brad Young

I just started this one today. I had been fond of Brad young already having studied his book on parables and their Jewish context, so this book was a no brainer. It is a very scholarly look at Jesus in His culture, that is first century Judaism. The truth is, the 21st century church has largely dejudaised Jesus and Christianity, which is missing the entire context of Jesus. A dense, but interesting read.

Love is a Choice Robert Hemfelt, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier

This is the definitive book on codependency. The truth is that 80% of ministers are estimated to be codependent, and I would guess that about 80% of people in our society struggle with codependency issues. If I was mentoring a young minister, this would be required reading, because we all have the responsibility to examine our past hurts and families of origin and struggle with how it may be effecting how we act and treat others. A deep read that is sometimes painful, but always helpful and interesting. I am reading this book very slow because it is so introspective.

Story Robert McKee

Coming highly recommended by Donald Miller, this book tackles about every possible element that exists within a story. McKee talks about what makes a good story and a bad one, a good protagonist and a bad one, a good climax and a bad one etc. At about 500 pages, I don't expect to finish anytime soon, but it is fun to glean all I can from a master storyteller like McKee.

Overcoming Barriers for Growth Michael Fletcher

We are reading this book as a staff and I couldn't be happier. Michael is one of my favorite people to hear speak and he is almost as good a writer as he is a speaker. this is a good 'ol book on church growth, which is a topic of particular interest to me. I would recommend this for all leaders serving in churches.

Praise Habit David Crowder

I just started this one too, but I love David Crowder. we are looking to really step up our worship on Wednesday nights, so I though David could help us with that. it turns out that he is a pretty good writer. I'll let you know more about this as I get into it further.

Ask Me Anything J. Budziszewski

I love apologetics, which is why I was turned onto this book. Written for college students, the arguments are spelled out very well and the issues are very real and relevant. The thing that caught me off guard was that it is written in story form, as if a professor were eating and talking with some students. It is a nice change of pace, but not as good as I expected. It is still worth a read and will be a great reference for me in the future.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"An Invitation To Know God"

I'm back again with more from Donald Miller in Searching For God Knows What. I have to say that this may be my favorite book of all time, and it is definitely in my top three. We are doing a series in LiveWire Service this month on Identity, borrowing stories and examples from this book. It has been my favorite series we have done in the last three years.

Here we see Donald explaining how his thoughts on God and what it meant to follow Him changed. He wraps this up quite beautifully.

Jesus was always, and I mean always, talking about love, about people, about relationships, and He never once broke anything down into steps or formulas. What if, because we were constantly tyring to dissect His message, we were missing a blatant invitation? I began to wonder if becoming a Christian did not work more like falling in love than agreeing with a list of true principles. I had met a lot of people who agreed with all those true principles, and they were jerks, and a lot of other people who believed in those principles, but who also claimed to love Jesus, who were not jerks. It seems like something else has to take place in the heart for somebody to become a believer, for somebody to understand the gospel of Jesus. It began to seem like more than just a cerebral exercise. What if the gospel of Jesus was an invitation to know God?

There are a couple comments I would like to make about this.

1. It seems clear that Donald is referring to the experience of being born again; falling in love with the Savior and entering into an intimate relationship with God. I think we would agree with this in principle, but I would argue that it is not played out practically as much as we would like to think. For instance, what percentage of your church would you say is born again? By this, I mean really born again. They have had an undeniable encounter with the risen Christ. They have the appetites that born again people have, the appetite to worship, to read and study the scriptures, to pray etc. They have a faith that is stronger than just believing in a set of principles, but that is drawn from an experience that no skeptic can undermine. What percentage would you say? Half? Less? My pastor and I have a theory that the Church has taken people who are not born again and told them that they were, and then told them to crave the scriptures, and worship, and service to the body etc., but they do not have the appetites because they are not born again, so they do not grow.

2. Secondly, what percentage of the Christians you know merely subscribe intellectually to a set of true principles, and how many have actually fallen in love with Christ? I think this is one problem churches run into who make scripture "the point." I dint think we believe in God and have a relationship with Him because of the scriptures, and if we do, I would argue that it is an intellectual thing. No, I think it is the other way around. We believe the scriptures because we have met the risen Christ. Scripture then becomes our guide and our primary and authoritative source of hearing the will of the Lord. But, it is not "the point." God is "the point."

Anyway, those are my rants. I love how Donald can deliver a paragraph that is both beautiful yet incredibly deep and thought provoking. May we continually stress the importance of being born again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The most relevant message in the history of mankind"

A few months ago, I was walking through the series of posts from my favorite Donald Miller book, Searching for God Knows What. Well, I got side tracked and was blogging about other things, but it is time to pick this up again. Here is a quote from chapter 3.

[I]f the gospel of Jesus is just some formula I obey in order to get taken off the naughty list and put on a nice list, then it doesn't meet the deep need of the human condition, it doesn't interact with the great desire of my soul, and it has nothing to do with the hidden (or rather, obvious) language we are all speaking. But if it is more, if it is a story about humanity falling away from the community that named it, and an attempt to bring humanity back to that community, and if it is more than a series of ideas, but rather speaks directly into the basic human need we are feeling, then the gospel of Jesus is the most relevant message in the history of mankind.

Amen, Donald. I think points like this are important. They are what I call mental forks in the road. You can choose to believe this or you can choose to believe that, but here are the implications. A more famous one is saying what C.S Lewis and Josh McDowell have said, where they demand that you can either believe that Jesus was who he said he was or you can believe he was not, but don't call him a great moral teacher if you think he wasn't who he said he was, because great moral teachers don't make the claims the Jesus did. The alternatives make him out to either be a liar or a madman.

What Donald does here is is say if you want to claim the entire Jesus message is merely a religion, a list of "do's and don'ts", and a formula by which to live, fine; just don;t expect anyone to be jumping on board. This is why I think that so many mainline denominational churches see so much fall out when students leave for college. If they have been given a formula that does not connect with their innermost needs, they have no need for it. If we have reduced Jesus to a formula and a lists of "do's and don'ts", we have sold him sadly short.

However, if you believe that the message and gospel of Jesus is something much more, an attempt by the god of the universe to bring his beloved creation back into covenant and relationship with him, then, as Don so eloquently puts it, "then the gospel of Jesus is the most relevant message in the history of mankind."

Donald simply paints the picture of the choices and the outcomes here and leaves the reader to decide, although it is clear in the rest of the book which way he has chosen. May we continue to present the message of Jesus for all it is and resist the temptation to reduce it to a formula.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Lies We Tell Young People, Part 2

While navigating Yahoo! to check my email, I was struck by a headline on their news page. you know, the ones that they make as shocking and eye catching as possible so they can report more hits to their advertisers? Anyway, the title of the article is Can Cheaters Change: Can cheaters stop straying, or is infidelity a personality trait? What!?, I thought. Cheating is a personality trait now? Unbelievable. I read the article, which is very short and a disappointment based on the headline, but it basically says that 25% of men and 15% of women admit to sleeping with someone else while in a relationship, and that those who cheat are more likely to cheat again.

So, I'm sure you are left to conclude, as I am, that cheating is a personality trait, right? And what follows from that is that is it is a personality trait, like introversion/extroversion, it isn't wrong, per say, but part of who they are.

What a crock. Our culture is becoming so steeped in moral relativism that cheating, a practice that obviously hurts and destroys, is seen as a personality trait. This is the dominant worldview that is being handed down to the next generation: that all morality is relative, there is no absolute truth, and every belief is equally valid. Join me on my quest to find more examples of this in the media.

If you care to read more on this subject, I recommend this book on relativism by Greg Koukl and Frank Beckwith. I am about half way through it, and they have already blown relativism to shreds, both logically and practically. It employs quite a bit of deep logical terminology, but most high school grads should be able to follow it for the most part.

As a note before I close, I found it funny that this article, by David Zinczenko, is in a series called "Mysteries of the Sexes Explained." After thousands of years of trying to figure this out, thanks, Dave, for making this all so clear.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Lies We Tell Young People

This decal that I saw on a Myspace page capsulates perfectly the mindset that many young girls have about dating and the opposite sex. Unfortunately, this seems to fit perfectly with what guys are wanting: attention (laughing at their jokes) and sex. It also seems to meet the wants (needs?) of the girls: attention (checking out their slutty clothes) and to be cherished (sex). I would suggest, though, that each thing that both the guy and the girl think they are getting in this scenario are cheap imitations of what they are actually seeking. They are pseudo-fulfillment of the deep needs that God put inside each man and each woman.

For the man, it is the need to be honored and respected by his wife. He has an innate sense that he wants to make her proud and represent her well. In addition, he has a strong sex drive, a desire for the most intimate connection with a woman; a connection and an intimacy that is partnered with the safety of commitment and the security of "until death do us part."

For the woman, it is the desire to be loved and cherished by a man. The desire to be special in his sight and catch his eye, and to captivate him with her beauty. In addition, the woman is cherished in the intimacy of sex, a sex that operates within the confines of love; love that "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

This cartoon above is apparently the best that secular culture has to offer our young people. In a culture of moral relativism where feelings become the new determiner of truth, instant gratification becomes king. The fastest, easiest avenue to get what you want becomes the road they take. It results in a hollow fulfillment, emptiness, and disappointment, not to mention the more concrete results like STD's, divorce, single moms, and abandonment. Children in single parent homes are more likely to repeat this behavior, so the process is continued.

So, what is needed? Fathers, who will cherish their daughters and teach them the way a man should treat them, and who teach their sons the way men should act. Mothers who will love their children, not by spoiling them, but by instilling in them the values that make a whole person. Boys, who will stop viewing girls as objects and delay gratification for a better end, and who will think, even why society is telling them they should be idiots. Girls, who will see that they have value and worth and beauty, who will set their standards high and not sell themselves short to get attention. But most of all, I think what is needed is the Church, the local body of believers who will step up and change culture one young person at a time.

May we counter the message that is being sent to the young people of this age.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Prison Break

In honor of what is probably my favorite show on TV right now, Prison Break, having shown its season finale last night, here is a funny video along the same theme. You can find this video and more at

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"A Bunch of Scheming Swindlers"

Here is a great quote by Kierkegaard that I came across in Shane Claiborne's book Irresistible Revolution. My wife and I are leading a team of 9 students to the Philippines for 3 weeks this July and we are reading this book and discussing it as a team (let me know if you would like to get involved by donating to the team). I thought it would be a great quote to share with you all.

The Matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we as Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament."