Wednesday, May 31, 2006

free parking

For family - here's a video of Isaiah's band "Free Parking".

Isaiah - next time mix it with some of your own music but cool video anyway.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

the davinci code and truth

If you are one of those few people who have not yet read or heard enough about The DaVinci Code, then you really need to listen to Rich Nathan and Steve Robbins of VCF-Columbus preach on the topic. Truth does matter.

politically conservative rock'n'roll

I am an American. Politically speaking, I am an ultra-conservative, right winger. I like Rock and Roll. And I read National Review.

The guys there just came out with the top 50 conservative roll'n'roll songs of all time.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

angela at worldfest

Angela took some shots of herself at FIS's worldfest.

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why does the church exist

Geoffrey recently posted a few quotes. This one from NT Wright was new to me;
According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination. Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the byproducts of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. The purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving, and just creator: that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by his Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it.
How excellent is that!?!

I am really getting a hold of this concept that we the Church are the seed that God is sowing into the world. That through us, His Kingdom is revealed and we, together, represent His glory. Because of this we must live lives of unity and love. We must reach out into the world with the Gospel. We must be righteous and set apart from worldliness - lust, greed, slander, immorality, drunkenness, fear, worry, etc.. We must demonstrate the miracle of His overthrow of spiritual darkness through healing physical, emotional, and psychological needs.

We are to continue Jesus' work.

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burying talents

My friend David recently spoke of how we are given talents from God and too often we are found burying them, Mt 24.14-30. When the Lord returns, what will He find? How have we sown the deposit of His Holy Spirit in us?

As I meditate on that, there seems to be several reasons for burying the talent. The servant cited fear as the cause. Good one, that is often true. We sometimes fear our master. We troll through Scripture finding abuses. We look around at others and find abuses. We use these examples and even God's Word confronting them as our reason to not step out in what God has given us.

Then the master's perspective. The servant is wicked and slothful. Another reason we do not use what God gives us is due to our laziness. We simply don't give Him our time, energy, and money. We find that we simply love a life of ease. It takes effort to invest.

I think these are obvious and have been preached on a lot so I won't belabor them. The less tought on angle is that we often do not see what life in the Kingdom looks like. We do not clearly see what the return on the investment is. We are comfortable with our old life. Our sinful nature, that body of sin, is too familiar to us. We settle for much less than God's desire for us. C.S. Lewis puts it like this,
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
We must see the Kingdom of God and understand its value. Having found it, we sell everything that we have to purchase the Kingdom. There is nothing of greater worth. There is no recognition from man that can compare. God and His Kingdom is worth our all.

To complete the cycle, we can never give to God anything that didn't originally come from Him anyway. Our talent is His to start with. We are simply demonstrating our trust in His provision and recognizing His greatness when we give back to God.

Do not be caught still hanging on to that original talent. Give all that you are and all that you have for the purpose of His Kingdom. Then you will be found to be the good and worthy servant.

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edwards on god's sovereignty in salvation

James Spurgeon posted on God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men. In it he references this great piece by Jonathan Edwards by the same title on Ro 9.18, "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."

When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man's heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening. So the apostle said, that he was unto some "a savour of death unto death." So God is represented as sending Isaiah on this errand, to make the hearts of the people fat, and to make their ears heavy, and to shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Isa. 6:10. Isaiah's preaching was, in itself, of a contrary tendency, to make them better. But their abuse of it rendered it an occasion of their hardening. As God is here said to harden men, so he is said to put a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. 2 Chron. 18:22. That is, he suffered a lying spirit to enter into them. And thus he is said to have bid Shimei curse David. 2 Sam. 16:10. Not that he properly commanded him; for it is contrary to God's commands. God expressly forbids cursing the ruler of the people. Exod. 22:28. But he suffered corruption at that time so to work in Shimei, and ordered that occasion of stirring it up, as a manifestation of his displeasure against David.
Ganz klar?

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Friday, May 19, 2006

pastor dancing

I don't know how the Todd at MMI does it; he keeps finding the funniest stuff.

Personally, I'd like to see more "pastors" doing the stuff below ...

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

da vinci jihad

If you have missed the news of the chaos following the release of the Da Vinci Code, here's your official update by the Cent himself...

Rioting in the … what?
by Clark Kent

As news of the Da Vinci Code dominates the Today show in the hope that no one will notice that Katie Couric is leaving for really big money at CBS, Christians and people who wish they were Christians are causing chaos worldwide in protest of the new movie starring Tom Hanks.

No fewer than 7 books have been published by Protestant and Catholic scholars refuting the historical errors of the work, and they are selling at a tepid pace. Nuns are praying at the foot of the cross. Opus Dei is opening up its trade schools and inviting the press to come in and have a look around at the lives it is changing. [more]

relational fulfillment

Today's quote comes from novelist Tom Robbins:
When we're incomplete, we're always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we're still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on--series polygamy--until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.
He is mostly right except that there is one (and only one) relationship that does fulfill us. That relationship is with Christ Jesus.

Interestingly, until we find the complete fulfillment that comes through Christ, we can also delude ourselves in more than partnership relationships. We can practice "series polygamy" in terms of our employment, our friendships, good works, and even our involvement in spiritual communities.

Although we have no money, we are to come to Him to buy food and drink which truly satisfy (Is 55) and in doing so, we are more than satisfied, we are restored!

Here I am reminded of John Wimber's Spirit Song.

O let the Son of God enfold You
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have those things that hold You
And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life
And make you whole

Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill Your Lambs
Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill Your Lambs.

O come and sing this song with gladness
As your hearts are filled with joy
Lift your hands in sweet surrender
To His name
O give Him all your tears and sadness
Give Him all your years of pain
And you'll enter into life
In Jesus' name

there is a god

I came home to some great news tonight. First Isaiah sent me this video of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson playing Jimi Hendrix's "Red House". Then to top that, I found allofmp3 is back up and running. Yes!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

warren on evangelism

I like this guy more and more - don't agree with everything he says but I like how Jesus looks in him. Here's an article about Rick Warren from The Independent.
The new evangelism: The man who put conscience on a coffee cup

Rick Warren is not your typical American evangelist. He's not an especially charismatic speaker, keeping his rhetoric deliberately folksy and low key. He's unassuming, a little bit pudgy and has a fondness for Hawaiian shirts, even when he's delivering his weekend sermons.

A long time ago, he decided he never wanted to be on television. He doesn't think a lot of televangelists or the powerful, media-anointed leaders of the Christian right, whom he accuses of "self-centred consumerism" and self-aggrandisement at the expense of their spiritual mission. Until relatively recently, he worked almost entirely under the radar and, despite building a movement of extraordinary power and reach in churches around the world, was barely known in the broader culture. [more]
I like the closing quote, "I could have bought a Pacific island and spent the rest of my life having people bring me drinks with little umbrellas in them," he said. "But this is not about me, as I wrote in the book. It's all about others."

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got milk?

John Piper continues to proves why he is one of the greatest preachers of our time. I just received this sermon from his library (September 1996). While many of struggle in an effort to somehow be relevant, he is able to to exegete Scripture and in a way that remains timeless.

By This Time You Ought to Be Teachers
is based on He 5.11-14. The disease is dullness of hearing, i.e., hearing without faith and the moral fruit of faith. The remedy is to move to maturity with milk. The milk is what moves one from infancy to maturity and only then can the meat be enjoyed. The key as Piper explains is what you do with the milk of the Word. "The pathway to maturity and to solid Biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person."

He then explains three steps to grow with milk to maturity.
  1. Drink the milk. Babies are thirsty. You cannot keep healthy babies from milk. Who/what are you reading, watching and listening to? Do you long for more and more of God's Word?
  2. Savor and swallow and digest and be satisfied. As you drink in the milk, is it good (Psa 34.8)? Take time to meditate on and enjoy the Word. As you do so you will be transformed by it.
  3. With a heart satisfied with God now, discern good and evil. The milk of the Word becomes a "word of righteousness". Piper says, "Discernment is what you do naturally when the milk of God's promises is so savored and so satisfying that it gives you the mind of Christ.
Only then, as we move to maturity, i.e., obedience can we expect to understand the weightier matters of the Bible. The Word of God contains inexhaustible truth and we are foolish to think that we can discover the deeper things if we have not first allowed the truth we already have to transform us into His righteousness.

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christian glossary

Some irreverent definition of terms from holyoffice: The Interpretative Dance Theocrats.

Premillenialism - This is the belief among some Christians that, ever since Jan. 1, 2000, it has no longer been possible, in the words of the Prince song, "to party like it's 1999." Postmillenialists are those Christians who believe that it will always be possible to do so, while Amillenialists believe that in this context, "1999" cannot be understood literally, but must be read as an allegorical term roughly meaning "a time at which it is especially appropriate to party."

Rapture - This was a #1 hit in 1980 for Blondie (#5 in the UK), from the otherwise underwhelming "Autoamerican" album. Many Christians now concede that the then-pioneering use of rap in the song sounds a little lame in retrospect. In their best-selling series of books about the song, "Left Behind (Parallel Lines)," Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye defend the rap verse's hip references to Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy, and maintain that when Jesus returns, all believers will be united in accepting that Blondie's cover of "The Tide Is High" is better than the original.

The Pope - The Pope is the President of Christianity. He is elected every four years by the Congress of Cardinals, which is divided into the Senate and the Holy House of Representatives. As president, the pope can veto important pieces of legislation, which he tends to do. The pope is also magical, and cannot be seen with the naked eye except for one hour on Christmas Eve every year.

The Bible - The Bible was written by God as a merchandising tie-in to His blockbuster film "The Ten Commandments." Each book of the Bible is named after a person who features prominently in it, for example, the Book of Numbers, which is named after Herschel Numbers, who invented numerals. The Bible was so successful that God wrote a sequel, "Bible II: On to Rome," now generally called "The New Testament." Protestants believe the Bible is literal and exactly true in every detail except the description of the Eucharist, while Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible.

Catholics - Catholics are the New York Yankees of Christianity. They are the biggest and wealthiest team, and their owner is intensely controversial (this makes St. Francis of Assisi the Derek Jeter of Catholicism: discuss). Catholics all wear matching uniforms, and are divided into "parishes," or "squadrons," to make choosing softball teams easier. Catholics are rigidly controlled by a hidebound hierarchy that starts with priests and ends with priests' housekeepers. Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible, eat meat, or refrain from worshipping statues.

Orthodox - For many years, American scholars believed the Orthodox were, like leprechauns, unicorns, and Eskimos, purely the product of the fanciful imaginations of medieval writers. Recent evidence leads us to tentatively conclude, however, that Eastern Orthodoxy may have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 million adherents. Protestants tend to see the Orthodox as "Catholics with beards," while Catholics confess to a haunting sense that they are simply "Orthodox without beards."

The Protestant Reformation - This is the name historians give to a major labor dispute that erupted in Germany in 1517 when a group of monks hammered a proposed union contract to the door of the pope's house, requesting a 95 percent pay raise. The pope refused to negotiate with the monks union until it agreed to pay to have the door fixed, and the result was the world's longest-running strike. For nearly 500 years, a huge portion of Christians have been on strike from being Catholic, saying they are "justified" in their work stoppage because the pope won't expand the number of indulgences they get per year. Currently, the matter is in arbitration.

Calvinism - This theory was worked out by the French theologian and fashion designer John Calvin Klein, who argued that some people are predestined to be glamorous while others are doomed to be plain. America was founded by Calvinists, who sought to establish a country where they could pursue their belief that buckled hats were fashionable.

Fundamentalism - The belief that basic elements of play - like passing, ball handling, and defense - are the essential building blocks of a winning basketball team is generally referred to as "fundamentalism." The fundamentalists formulated their doctrine in the 1980s against the showy, heretical play of Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers. Leading fundamentalist institutions include Bob Jones University and Syracuse. Larry Brown's failure to get the Knicks into the playoffs has been seen as a major setback for the cause of fundamentalism.

Baptism - Baptists are Christians who believe God can only be accessed by means of a swimming pool or, in some cases, a shallow outdoor stream. The first Baptist was John the Baptist, who was said to eat locusts and honey, although contemporary Baptists generally prefer barbecue. "Baptism" is also the term used to describe a key Christian ceremony, in which prospective members of the church are either initiated actually (Catholics, Orthodox, confused Protestants) or symbolically (Protestants, confused Catholics, religious studies professors). Catholics believe that anyone can perform a valid baptism, Orthodox believe that any Christian can, while Baptists, paradoxically, believe that only they can.

The Emerging Church - This is a term that refers to churches attended exclusively by white people in their 20s and 30s who have at least one tattoo or body piercing. Their distinguishing characteristics are a refreshing, "up to date" interpretation of Christianity, and a reluctance to directly answer questions.

The Nicene Creed - This statement of faith is the Christian Pledge of Allegiance, recited every Sunday in squadron meetings by Christians all over the globe. Adopted in the 4th century at the behest of Emperor Constantinople, it was designed to counter the influence of the Aryans, who argued that Jesus was German.

Touchdown Jesus - When professional athletes thank Jesus for helping them win a game, this is the Jesus they're referring to.

The Trinity - This is the Christian expression of God, who Christians say is personified by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not all Christians accept this: Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and some Pentecostals reject trinitarianism, as do Muslims. Interestingly, while this does not mean Pentecostals are Muslim, it does mean that Muslims are Jehovah's Witnesses. St. Augustine famously summed up the difficulty of comprehending the Trinity when he recounted a dream in which a small boy told him he would need a bigger bucket if he wanted to bail out the ocean.

Sex - Christians are not permitted to have sex. This unpopular doctrine was formulated by Pope Lactose LX at the Council of Disney in 1439. Despite this restriction, Christians have managed to increase their ranks to the point where there are roughly 2 billion of them. Scholars attribute this to the competitive health benefits and generous "flex time" arrangements offered by Christianity.

Heaven - Heaven is a term referring to the ultimate destiny of a certain number of souls. Depending on who you listen to, heaven is either: where all of us will end up (Origen); where many of us will end up (St. Gregory of Nyssa); where some of us will end up (John Calvin); where a small portion of us have, in some sense, already ended up (John of Leyden); where precisely 144,000 of us will end up (Charles Taze Russell); or where Jack Chick will end up (Jack Chick). Theologian Belinda Carlisle once posited that "Ooh, baby, heaven is a place on earth," but explorers combing the globe have yet to confirm this.

The Devil - Although the Devil - also known as Satan, Lucifer, the Father of Lies, and, to his friends, "Hef" - is mentioned numerous times in Bible II, most Christians today are uncomfortable with belief in a literal, personal demonic entity. Instead, they prefer to think of the Devil primarily as the potential for wickedness that exists within all human beings or, in some cases, as an especially unreasonable landlord.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006

happy mothers day

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isaiah prom

Much to my dismay, my son Isaiah is dating. While I prefer that he wait, I am happy with his girlfriend Emily. Last night they went to her prom for European School Frankfurt. The event was held in the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof. Here are some photos.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

music mistake

Jon Reid picked up this quote up from his daughter's piano teacher but it runs much deeper than the direct music application.
It's not that you made a mistake; mistakes happen. But when you made the mistake, you became flustered. For the next few measures, all the notes were right but the music was gone. Get beyond the mistake. Music is not like painting. In painting, if you make a mistake, it's there forever. But in music, if you make a mistake, we forget about it because we are looking forward to what is coming next.
Well I liked it ... seems like it could make a good sermon.

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mclaren's leaders

In The Church On The Other Side, Brian McLaren reminds us that the writer of He 13.7 didn't say, "Consider your leaders and imitate their hair styles, speech patterns, and gestures." Instead he said, "imitate their faith". Good reminder.

McLaren then describes some characteristics of future leaders. Here are a few that I thought were excellent.

Personal authenticity - they will know who they are and what they stand for. They will not imitate others, they will maximize how God created them.

Team development - because they know who they are, they are also aware of who they are not and will build teams correcting for their limitations.

New approaches to training - because change is continuous, training must also be continuous. This requires new forms in addition to the static classroom environment.

Count the cost - the cost of leadership is everything. Here he quotes William Easum in Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers:
Many books have been written on the process of transforming an organization. Most of them make far too much of the logistics involved. The process is simple; the sacrifice is often great. Transformation takes focus, tenacity, and a willingness to be crucified! Transformation is successful when God's people understand the high stakes for which they are playing. The problem with too many of our church leaders is that they no longer see ministry as a life-and-death issue. Too many clergy are professionals; too many laity see the church as just another association or club.
As John Wimber often reminded us, we must be committed to Christ, His Church, and His cause. The cost of that is our lives. The gain - the Kingdom of God!

Leadership is a matter of love and spirituality - "a place for spiritual sages, not just organizational technicians". He quotes Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership:
It is not enough for the priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable, but it is not at the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word and taste fully God's infinite goodness?
I thought these were great points. I guess my only disappointment was that he did not discuss leaders of the future having great faith which is where I thought he was going based on the opening comments. Oh well ... still good.

osteen buys houston

Lakewood Church to buy Houston, rename city Housteen

Mayor Bill White announced Sunday that the city of Houston has been sold to Lakewood Church for approximately $2 billion and is officially changing its name to Housteen, citing the massively deep pockets and ever-surging population of Joel Osteen Ministries.

"We weren't so sure about it at first, but they started waving that cash in our faces, and hey...this is Houston. You know we can't resist cold, hard cash. For $2 billion, they can call it 'Rimjobville' for all I care," Mayor White said. "Besides, think about how many strip malls and suburbs we can build now! We'll be bigger than L.A.!" [more]


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missional church indicators

In 1999, New Life Ministries wrote "An Anabaptist Look at Natural Church Development". It contained the following table of empirical indicators of a missional Church.
  1. The missional church proclaims the gospel. The good news of God’s reign is publicly announced in word and deed, audibly and visibly. It involves individual and communal salvation. Persons, in their words and actions, express to others what God has done in the world and in their lives through Jesus Christ. There is evidence that this is a community that can be entered into as a concrete expression of the living gospel story.
  2. The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus. Citizenship in the reign of God is learned—those behaviors and processes that witness to the way of Jesus, who is forming his people for life in the reign of God. Participants train, mentor, and nurture each other in following Jesus Christ. New participants indicate that they are being helped to integrate their life with the practices and habits of life in the reign of God. Existing participants in the community indicate that they are engaged in a lifelong process of integrating their lives with the practices and habits of life in the reign of God.
  3. The Bible is normative in this church’s life. It is expected that Christians will know the Scriptures and seek to be obedient to the Word revealed in Scriptures. The community reflects on its hearing of the gospel and its obedience to the gospel’s imperatives in order to become more faithful disciples. The community translates the biblical message into the language and experience of its immediate context.
  4. The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord. The church is consciously seeking to conform to its Lord instead of the multitude of cultures in which it finds itself. The church is willing to follow the way of the cross and share in the sufferings of Christ. Members can give examples of instances when the church was willing to suffer or take risks for the sake of the gospel. The church’s distinctive conduct is frequently different from and often in opposition to the world’s patterns of behavior.
  5. The church seeks to discern God’s specific missional vocation for the entire community and for all of its members. The goal is discerning together the will of God. The need for the gifts and insights of all members is emphasized. Believing that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to all, the community identifies, commissions, and uses the gifts of new and continuing members. Leadership teams demonstrate, model, and cultivate in their behavior what the whole community is called to be and to do.
  6. A missional community is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another. Acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of one another both in the church and in the locale characterize the generosity of the community. Members spend more time with one another, take their relationships with one another more seriously, provide tangible support for one another.
  7. It is a community that practices reconciliation. The church community is moving beyond homogeneity, toward a more heterogeneous community in its racial, ethnic, age, gender, and socioeconomic make-up. Differences are dealt with constructively. Conflict is used to enrich discussion. Healing and forgiveness takes place. Violence is rejected as a method of resolving difference.
  8. People within the community hold themselves accountable to one another in love. Substantial time is spent with one another for the purpose of watching over one another in love. People place a high value on sharing a common life. Participants indicate that they are accountable to a grouping of people with whom they are learning to live the Christian life more faithfully. The community is characterized by a unity of spirit. Participants pray for one another. The community reflects on how its structures hinder or enable mutual love, respect, and accountability.
  9. The church practices hospitality. It welcomes the stranger into the midst of the community. People are reached and invited into new relationships with God and with one another. People are becoming citizens of God’s reign. Visitors experience welcome, aid, and comfort. The church demonstrates a sense of urgency about inviting people to enter the reign of God.
  10. Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future. There is significant and meaningful engagement in communal worship of God, reflecting appropriately and addressing the culture of those who worship together. Worship is the community’s action of publicly giving allegiance to the triune God. Worship focuses on God and gives opportunity for human responses to God. Worship provides for the formation of people into a new humanity. It celebrates God’s presence and promises. Participants can give anecdotal evidence of how corporate worship enables persons to become incorporated into the life of Christ, and thus the Christian community.
  11. This community has a vital public witness. The church makes an observable impact that contributes to the transformation of life, society, and human relationships. Its public deeds do not impose the church’s moral will on others but give hard evidence of the reign of God that intrudes into the world as an alternative vision and practice. Members can identify actions that have resulted in the transformation of lives, changed conditions, promotion of justice, and combating of evil.
  12. There is a recognition that the church itself is an incomplete expression of the reign of God. There is a widely held perception that this church is going somewhere—and that somewhere is more faithfully lived life in the reign of God. The measure of success used in this church is the quality of Christian love experienced in its common life and ministry. Participants indicate that this church is on a journey to the future, that it has not yet arrived. Participants are able to pray with meaning Jesus’ prayer, "Thy kingdom come." This prayer creates for them a sense of expectancy and anticipation of God’s fulfillment of all God’s promises.
I learned a lot from Christian Schwarz's Natural Church Growth and I'm not clear what these guys are saying about NCD but I like their list of Church norms. I'm not sure if this would have been my list but it's pretty good.

Regarding the twelfth point relating to the Kingdom of God, there's good emphasis on the "net yet". I would have balanced that with a little more of the "already".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

irresistible banana

I understood that the "I" in TULIP stood for "irresistible grace". Fortunately, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have helped me see that it is really the "irresistible banana". Praise God!

Yep - this oughta be shown at every church this Sunday - and then, we arm every Christian soldier with a video iPod and we "take it to the streets". I can see it now! Glory (if you live on the planet of the apes).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

mclaren on da vinci

And now McLaren weighs in on The Da Vinci Code. See here for interesting comments. I have to say I like a lot of this guy's thinking.
For all the flaws of Brown's book, I think what he's doing is suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own caricature of Jesus.
and this one - ouch! (well - ouch for some - I'm ok with it)
The book is fiction and it's filled with a lot of fiction about a lot of things that a lot of people have already debunked. But frankly, I don't think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels.
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king tut's missing member

I wonder what kind of money these scientists get paid?

Found! King Tut's penis

"King Tutankhamen's rediscovered penis could make the pharaoh stand out in the shrunken world of male mummies, scientists say." [more]

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rick's personality

Everyone is taking the DNA personality test so I thought I would jump in.

I was quite pleased that while scoring 100% on masculinity, I seemed to be in touch with my feminine side, scoring a whopping 14%. I was also happy with my strength areas, empathy and trusting others, at 0% and 2% respectively.

Apparently I lack some confidence and am not as extroverted as I thought with only 94% and 98% in those areas.

My Personal DNA Report

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baby got book

Sorry for this but I just now figured out how to embed video and I thought I would start with a classic. Baby got Book

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god is cooooool

News flash - it's cool to follow Jesus! Get your t-shirt now.

HT: Marc at Purgatorio

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

church growth via iPod

I just read this at Horn Swoggled. I think it's ok.

Church Offers iPods for Musical Variety

Members of a small Lutheran church in rural Iowa aren't ready to give up their traditional hymns on Sunday morning, despite their new pastor's prompting. But Pastor Jim Drew, 58, says he's found a way around their opposition. He has won a grant from synodical officials allowing Redeemer Lutheran church to buy 25 iPods, which will be filled with various types of praise music and other songs.

"We have to draw people together as a community," said Drew. "And one way of doing that is through music.

"Kids today don't want to hear a lot of old hymns. They want modern stuff that was written by their peers -- songs like 'Peace Like a River,' and 'Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore.'"

Ushers will distribute iPods, along with a worksheet listing which of the pre-loaded songs will create the desired affect for that particular service. Drew said he knows everyone won't want to stick to the scripted songs, though.

"We've loaded the iPods with all sorts of music, because worship needs to be about creating a receptive mood," he explained. "We've got everything from Michael W. Smith to Nine Inch Nails, because we know God created all kinds of people, with all kinds of musical tastes."

Of all the positives of the project, Drew says he's most excited about the implications for his small, elderly, rural congregation to grow again. "This church has been looking inward for so long," mused Drew, "it's exciting to think about young and old worshiping together in the same place, lifting their voices to the Lord in their own way. This project is really all about bringing us all together as one body to share our praise."

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is the woman leadership issue important

I've posted a little about women in church leadership but I don't think I've discussed how important or unimportant that is. The guys at T4G made it sound important. I'm thinking it is more of a level 2 issue - that is, not critical to the Gospel (we can still work together and love each if we disagree) but important enough that it would lead us to separate congregations (this effects polity and I wouldn't think one could lead in a church where "he" doesn't align with the leadership structure).

David Wayne (the Jollyblogger) covers this nicely in Women's Roles in the Church and the Gospel.

tech help needed

This is a request for some technical help regarding feeds. Every once in awhile someone tells me my blog feed is not right. The reader I use is Bloglines. When I subscribe to my own blog, it find three feeds:

Clicking any of the links seems to give me a good feed. But if I preview the feed, the last two are old. I have no idea how to fix that or even if that is important.

Are any of you tech savvy enough to help me out?

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Monday, May 08, 2006

who's in and who's out

Brian McLaren continues to stir it up with his views on hell [here and here] in Leadership Blog: Out of Ur. A lot of what McLaren says makes me cringe but I like his angle.
We obsess on “who’s in” and “who’s out.” As I see it, Jesus is trying to answer the question, “How can the kingdom of God more fully come on earth as it is in heaven, and how should disciples of the kingdom live to enter and welcome the kingdom?”
I completely agree with McLaren on this. We are far too occupied with the wrong questions. Certainly as I look back through my blog I see the same thing. I focus on points that seem important (especially at the time) but when looking at the bigger picture over a broader period of time, I really do not see the importance that I thought was there at the time.

Much of our doctrinal debate serves only to divide. We need to focus on conversation and behavior that encourages unity. This unity however must have at its center Biblical truth. It is not ok to move the center to accommodate where people are at. Our beliefs, worldviews, etc., must shift to the center as opposed to the center shifting to us.

Unfortunately, because we are concerned about compromising truth, we become focused on defining that truth over drawing people into it. It's the bounded verses centered set stuff all over again.

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outreach belgian style

In his article "Allah Takes Over Church" in The Brussels Journal, Paul Belien reveals some interesting "goings on" in Belgium. According to Belien, Bishops there are opening church buildings for illegal Muslim squatters. On the surface, it looks very wrong. What is not clear is the motive behind this. I wonder if this is intended to be compassion toward the downtrodden or an attempt to expose Muslims to Christian values or ???

I suspect it is nothing more than the church trying to manipulate politics mixed with an ignorance of the differences between Islam and Christianity. From my side, one "no" vote.

What do you think? Is there an angle to be considered that would make this ok? I think I can imagine one but I'd like to hear from you.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

christian light bulb jokes

Sorry - these are ancient but someone recently laughed at one so perhaps it's time to recycle. Here is what I believe is the definitive list of Christian versions of the how many does it take to change a light bulb joke.

Q: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One, since his/her hands are in the air anyway.

Q: How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. God has predestined when the lights will be on.

Q: How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 10, as they need to hold a debate into whether or not the light bulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb they may not go ahead and change it for fear of alienating those who use fluorescent tubes.

Q: How many Anglo-Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They always use candles instead.

Q: How many evangelicals does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Evangelicals do not change light bulbs. They simply read out the instructions and hope the light bulb will decide to change itself.

Q: How many atheists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But they are still in darkness.

Q: How many Brethren does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Change?????

Q: How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 10, one to change it and 9 others to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Q: How many tele-evangelists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But for the message of hope to continue to go forth, send in your donation today.

Q: How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.

Q: How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: The whole congregation needs to vote on it!

Q: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three, one to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls!

Q: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Twenty one, one to change it, and twenty to share the experience!

Q: How many conservative Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to change it And two to storm out in protest if the person changing it is a woman!

Q: How many missionaries does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 10. Five to determine how many can be changed by the year 2010, four to raise the necessary funds, one to go find a national to do the job!

Q: How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: This statement was issued. "We chose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that's fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb (or light source, or non-dark resource), and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence."

Q: How many neo-orthodox does it take to change a light bulb?
A: No one knows. They can't tell the difference between light and darkness.

Q: How many independent fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, because any more might result in too much cooperation.

Q: How many worship leaders who use guitars does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.

Q: How many members of an established Bible teaching church that is over 20 years old does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One to actually change the bulb, and nine to say how much they liked the old one.

Q: How many youth Pastors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Youth pastors aren't around long enough for a light bulb to burn out.

Q: How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 109. Seven on the Light Bulb Task Force Sub-committee who report to the 12 on the Light Bulb Task Force, appointed by the 15 on the Trustee Board. Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Committee Executive of 5, who place it on the agenda of the 18 member Finance committee. If they approve, they bring a motion to the 27 member Church Board, who appoint another 12 member review committee. If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting. They appoint another 8 member review committee. If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of the light bulb, and the congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the light bulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a 7 member committee to find the best price on new light bulbs. Their recommendation of which hardware store has the best buy must then be reviewed by the 23 member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connections to Disneyland. They report back to the Trustee Board who then commissions the Trustee in charge of the janitor to ask him to make the change. By then the janitor discovers that one more light bulb has burned out.

While this list is the best I've found, it is clearly lacking. There are no Emergent or Post-Modern versions. Please help me out if you have others to add. I want to ensure that I have the ultimate list.

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more on women

A few days ago I posted a reference to women in leadership by the Jollyblogger. Subsequently I was "taunted" by a friend to be more clear on my position. This is a tough one because I find it hard to write in a way that respects the excellent arguments on both sides of this topic and especially to do so in a way that still conveys the highest value and respect toward women.

I'm completely aligned with the Danvers Statement developed by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He are the affirmations of that statement.

1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18).

2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).

3. Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).

4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).
  • In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.
  • In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.
5. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18; Gal 3:28). Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community (Gen 2:18; Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Tim 2:11-15).

6. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse.
  • In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands' authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands' leadership (Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7).
  • In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:11-15).
7. In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission-domestic, religious, or civil-ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin (Dan 3:10-18; Acts 4:19-20, 5:27-29; 1 Pet 3:1-2).

8. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God's will.

9. With half the world's population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world (1 Cor 12:7-21).

10. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large.

I highly recommend the resources available on the CBMW site for anyone interested in a serious debate on the topic. Then for further reference and some good discussion representing both sides of the issue, the Vineyard has published some papers on The Ordination of Women. All of these articles are worth a read. The summary is that the Vineyard has left it to the conscience of the local community to determine how to practically apply the Biblical directives. Some see that as wavering but I think it demonstrates the strength of allowing for levels of division.

Now I just need to find a community matching my level 1 & 2 doctrines ... uurgh ...

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women speakers

Today we had a great message by Gayle Claxton. I really appreciate this godly woman and her passion for obedience to whatever God is calling her to. She models willingness to risk it all for Christ.

Unfortunately, in explaining why it is ok to have Gayle speak, I heard someone say, "I know some people don't believe God can speak through a woman ..." and this was followed by laughter. This made me sad inside. I know there are some that hold that position but I doubt few if any present held that view. Instead, this seemed to be a caricature of those of us who hold to the idea that men should bear the primary responsibility for Christlike leadership and teaching in the church. I think the comment served to reinforce a naivety regarding the difficult discussion of women in leadership.

For those of you that do not know me, I believe that overall, it is detrimental for women to assume leadership roles in the church. This does not mean that I think women should be silent. Male eldership means men bear the responsibility for the overall pattern of life. It does not prescribe the details of who does precisely what activity but it does mean that the male leader bears the primary responsibility.

This is a hot topic - one that fits level 2 doctrine, and therefore it saddens me to hear leaders make flippant comments on these types of topics.

levels of division

Al Mohler of T4G fame wrote a helpful article some years ago to provide a framework for understanding how to deal with theological differences within the family of God.
Today's Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context. This applies both to the public defense of Christianity in face of the secular challenge and the internal responsibility of dealing with doctrinal disagreements. Neither is an easy task, but theological seriousness and maturity demand that we consider doctrinal issues in terms of their relative importance. God's truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis.
To help us navigate this minefield, Mohler provides a 3 level grid:

Level 1: These represent fundamental truths of the Christian faith. Denying these represent denying Christianity itself. The doctrine contained in this level can easily be identified via the Nicaean and Chalcedonian creeds. I contend that we should not be in partnership with those denying these.

Level 2: These are doctrines that come about as we organize ourselves into congregations and denominations. While we stand together as we face the world regarding first-level differences, we do not need not forced alignment on these second-level issues. In fact, we should not serve in leadership positions in each other's communities where second-level differences exist. At the same time however we should choose to learn from each other regarding these differences and we should honor each other based on our first-level bond.

Level 3: These are issues which we can agree to disagree on and yet have no bearing on our communion. An example might be the details of eschatology.

Net - all of this is said to ensure that we understand that while theological liberalism is not acceptable, we do not always need allow all disagreement to bring division.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

relationships over being right

To Ted Gossard at the Jesus community I say "Amen".
In a true sense to put relationships as being opposite of being right- is wrong. Truth is important. Grace and truth are put together in Scripture (John), of course. Meaning that truth without grace, or grace without truth- is missing something vital. Truth is the basis for our understanding grace and relationships. Yet grace is the way we receive truth, as a gift from God. Therefore both are really inseparable in God's universe.

I am sorry to see relationships take a back seat to being "right". None of us is entirely "right". Does that mean we vacate truth and say truth doesn't matter? Of course not. Does that mean that there are no evil people in the world, or people who in word and deed lead others astray? Scripture makes it clear that some "Christian" teachers can be false. And therefore they and their teaching must be rejected. [more]
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useful men

Jonathan Edwards said:
Useful men are some of the greatest blessings of a people. To have many such is more for a people’s happiness than almost anything, unless it be God’s own gracious, spiritual presence amongst them: they are precious gifts of heaven"
Earlier today I started a post about the frustrations that I and others have been having with our churches. Over the past 2-3 weeks I've had dinners, lunches, emails, and phone conversations with literally dozens of believers. Sadly, the common denominator in the majority of these conversations have been that we are carrying some kind of hurt and, at least in part, we blamed the church we attend as the source (no - we are not all from the same church).

Today I am choosing to change that focus to asking what is God revealing and shaping inside of me through these circumstances and then thanking God for the godly men He is using to shape that within me. While I cannot defend everything each leader I know has done, I understand that they are in the positions they are in because God has put them there. They are not there by accident. If for no other reason, they are there at this moment in time to be used by God to form me. Today I choose to thank Him for these guys and recognize them as His gifts to His body. I pray that just as He is shaping me and cleansing me from the garbage of my old nature, that He would do the same for them and increase their usefulness in His Kingdom.

In this I am reminded of the sequence in Isaiah 6:
  1. we see the Lord in His Glory
  2. our sin is exposed
  3. we repent
  4. we are healed of our sin and it is taken away
  5. we hear His call
  6. we respond by going and being His messenger to the nations
Far too often the sequence really looks like this:
  1. we look at the people around us (often our church leaders)
  2. we try to expose their sin
  3. we try to get them to repent
  4. they don't change in our eyes
  5. we leave
  6. we try to make the best of the next place we go to
  7. the cycle starts over
Today I am surrounded by useful men that are spiritual and appointed by God yet I choose to focus on their faults. God is saying to focus on Him and His glory. When we do that, we change. We change by the power of His Spirit and often through help given by the godly men we would otherwise attack. Lord forgive me and help set my eyes on You.

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a pickle(d)

Hungary workers get shock at bottom of rum barrel

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian builders who drank their way to the bottom of a huge barrel of rum while renovating a house got a nasty surprise when a pickled corpse tumbled out of the empty barrel, a police magazine website reported.

According to online magazine, workers in Szeged in the south of Hungary tried to move the barrel after they had drained it, only to find it was surprisingly heavy and were shocked when the body of a naked man fell out.

The website said that the body of the man had been shipped back from Jamaica 20 years ago by his wife in the barrel of rum in order to avoid the cost and paperwork of an official return.

According to the website, workers said the rum in the 300-liter barrel had a "special taste" so they even decanted a few bottles of the liquor to take home.

The wife has since died and the man was buried in a proper grave.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

controlling structures

In The Church On the Other Side, John McLaren notes that control will be less important than being a catalyst for action. Bureaucracy will be replaced by networks that free and empower.

Whether or not that is how the Church on the other side will look, I agree that our current structures suffer from far too much control. In McLaren's analysis, our effort to prevent problems lead us to stifle life. Our efforts to avoid having problems have led us to no experience at all. At best we keep life in the Kingdom at arms length by relegating it to the theoretical. Then, sadly, we turn to a gospel that precludes full Kingdom living so as to avoid the emptiness that we feel when our experience doesn't match our understanding of Scripture.

We need more risk taking. We need to suffer from a little more error (oh oh, I already can see the comments coming). We are a long way from having to worry about God inspiring another letter to the Corinthians. I do not think this is to our betterment.

McLaren wrote, "It is better to have structures that encourage something to Happen! Envy those who have so much happening that they are legitimately worried about things getting out of control! The question in the new church will not be, How can our structures control, but How can they be catalytic?"

I doubt too many of our churches are at risk of wrongly "over-using" gifts of the Spirit.

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king of the hill megachurch

Everyone is posting it and I don't want to be left out ... the King of the Hill looks for a new church - and finds the obvious answer in "the megachurch". If you haven't seen it, check it out.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

steve vai video

This is how I play guitar - at least in my mind. Steve Vai rocks!!! And I like that suit he's wearing.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

preaching to a bear

Thanks to Amy and Marco for sending me this one ...

A priest, preacher and rabbi would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk shop. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn't really all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it. Seven days later, they're all together to discuss the experience.

Father Flannery, who has his arm in a sling, is on crutches, and has various bandages, goes first. "Well," he says, "I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary, Mother of God, he became as gentle a lamb. The bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation."

Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheelchair, with an arm and both legs in casts, and an IV drip. In his best fire and brimstone oratory he claimed, " WELL, brothers, you KNOW that we don't sprinkle! I went out and I FOUND me a bear. And then began to read to my bear from God's HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrestle. We wrestled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So I quick DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And, just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day praising Jesus."

They both looked down at the rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IV's and monitors running in and out of him. He was in bad shape. The rabbi looks up and says, "Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start things out with my bear."

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the jollyblogger on women

I've about worn out the predestination topic so it's time to move on to another hot one.

JollyBlogger has stirred it up a bit with this post. To quote a friend of mine, "I agree with most of what he says". Let's here hear (thanks Randy) what you have to say and then I'll decide if I want to post more.

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mac commercials

If you're a pc guy, you probably haven't seen these ... I encourage you to check them out.

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the time 100

Did any of these influence your world? Time magazine thinks so.

I'd list those that have most influence mine this year but I will not since some of them read this blog - don't want them to get big heads ...

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Monday, May 01, 2006

4 stages of church decline

This post from MMI is too good - I copied it in it's entirety.

Confessions_3It's estimated that between 60 and 80 percent of American churches have either plateaued or are in decline. In his new book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev., Mark Driscoll has a section where he talks about the four stages of church decline. It's Monday morning, and a great time to sit back and really consider where your church is at. Read the following stages that Mark discusses and honestly ask yourself, "Which phase are we in?"

Phase 1 - Creative, the dream stage

The creative phase is the beginning of a new church or a new project within the church. This phase is marked by enthusiasm, hope, and numerous ideas that are considered for implementation, which causes momentum. The early days of our church plant were filled with this kind of creative energy, and the young and motivated people in our church were filled with ideas for all that we could do. Once we lost our building, we were thrust into another creative phase as we struggled to survive. And we returned to a creative phase when we acquired the two buildings and were able to again dream of ways to grow our ministry. I noticed that each time we were in a creative phase, our church attracted more entrepreneurial types of skilled leaders who were excited about the opportunity to try something new and make a difference in our city. This indicates that chaos and crisis can be leveraged to a church's benefit.

Phase 2 - Management, the reality stage

In the management phase, the ministry project becomes a reality and requires a great deal of organization, management, and problem solving to make it successful. This phase can be a lot of hard work and is not as enthusiastically pursued because it is tedious and difficult. But without managing the creative ideas, success is not possible. We spent a few years working through very difficult management issues, such as obtaining and renovating facilities, opening a concert venue, maintaining ministry homes, and starting new services. Each of these ministries succeeded, which required increasing management, such as funding, facilities, systems, leaders, theology, and technology. The hope for every church is that they work through their management issues, thereby enabling them to return to the creative phase, where they dream up a new project and enthusiastically undertake it and raise a whole new set of management issues to overcome. Therefore, the goal of the management phase is not to get the church organized or under control. Rather, the management phase is needed to eliminate the inefficiencies and barriers that are keeping the church from refocusing back on the creative phase and creating a whole new set of problems to manage.

Phase 3 - Defensive justification, the failure stage

In the defensive justification phase, something has gone terribly wrong and has failed at the management stage. Or the church succeeded at the management stage but never returned to the creative phase and got stuck with a bunch of well-organized managers running the church but no creative and visionary new ideas to move the church forward. When this phase sets in, the church begins to stall, plateau, and slowly decline. People are less motivated to serve, money is less generously given, and a cloud of lethargy and complaint begins to settle in. This is because some leaders in the church start to act defensively and justify their failures rather than finding creative or management ways to overcome them. In this phase, time, money, and energy are used to explain problems rather than to fix them, which is the primary clue that organizational death is on the horizon unless changes are made. Because the church is in a defensive posture, people start to leave the church, and the best and brightest people are no longer attracted to the church because it has lost sight of any risky mission that calls people to rise up in faith. The peculiar truth of the defensive justification phase is that many of the excuses provided in this season are in fact valid. But whether or not they are valid, the fact remains that they need to be overcome.

Phase 4 - Blaming, the death stage

An organization that remains stuck in the defensive justification phase for too long inevitably then declines to the blaming phase. In the blaming phase, it is obvious that the church or ministry is going to die, and excuses and explanations for the death have been devised. This does not necessarily mean that the church will be closing its doors; effectively dead churches have been known to keep the doors open on Sundays for many years to welcome a handful of people who have no mission. In this phase, the focus of the church is determining who will be blamed for the failure so that another group of people can escape responsibility for the failure. Some churches blame the pastor and fire him, others blame Satan and spiritualize everything, and still others blame the outside culture as being too hard for a church to thrive. Rarely does the leadership of a church in this phase rise up to repent of the things that are preventing the church from returning to the life-giving creative phase, and eventually the church dies. It was precisely this kind of church that gave us the free building after they died.

So... where is your church? Phase 1, 2, 3 or 4? If you're in phase 2, what needs to be done for you to re-enter into a creative phase? If you're in phase 3, what excuses need to be overcome? And if you're in phase 4, how can you stop the blame game and begin to get back to a place of health rather than death?

These are important questions to answer... where did you find yourself? Please take a few moments to share your thoughts in our comments section.

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mclaren's definition of missional

Geoffrey is reporting on his thoughts of Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy. In it he uses these two diagrams to explain that being a missional person is "defined by being a person in the church in the world, rather than being a person who has a church, who does stuff for the world."

In addition to the physical relationship of the location of the circles and the resulting arrows radiating out, I also like the difference in the relative size differences of the circles between the two drawings.

It seems in the first model we too often tend to think largely of ourselves and how we can give a piece of ourselves to the church and subsequently the world. The second is more accurate. I am fully submersed in the body of Christ which is larger than myself and we are in the world to impact it by giving our whole selves.