Monday, December 31, 2007

Living in Paradise

Detroit - 30 degrees

Ft. Lauderdale - 80 degrees

It really isn't so much the temperature difference, but the absence of the sun. Not seeing the sun for 7 days affects a person psychologically. Not to mention not seeing the Sun for months at a time. Shoot, when we visited Michigan in May and June of this year we barely saw the sun, so it isn't just in the winter.

Getting off of that plane in Ft. Lauderdale and being greeted by palm trees, billowy clouds, blue skies, and the sunlight reminds me of why we moved down here in the first place.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


White Castle burgers at 1 am. Gotta love Michigan.

And yes, I did pay for it the following morning.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Michigan Living

At a neighborhood ("white trash") bar listening to Kid Rock. And watching my brother sing karaoke. Michigan is awesome. Except for the cold weather of course.

Entertainment Weekly

We've had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly for quite some time now. The reason for this is simple: it is a quick easy way to keep abreast of cultural currents. EW has, in every issue, charts that show the top movies by gross, top television shows by rating, top book sellers, and top album sellers. Some of the content of this magazine can sometimes border on pop tripe and celebrity gossip, but those four charts make the subscription worth it.

In the past we've had subscriptions to Wired, Newsweek, Martha Stewart Living, Outreach, Rev, Relevant, and This Old House, but the only magazine we never tire of is EW. It also doesn't hurt that Stephen King is a regular contributor to EW. There might be cult phenomenons, but those four charts are worth their weight in gold, the numbers don't lie. Besides, I love it when a movie like Superbad tromps on a movie like Invasion. Or I love seeing that The Simpsons has consistently been one the highest rated shows for all of these years.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Miami City Ballet

Lest you think me a single-facet dolt of a metalhead, I thought I'd add that we spent the evening yesterday at the Miami City Ballet. It was quite nice.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Greetings and Wishes....

Truth be told. I am one of those people who'd just as soon avoid church during Christmas and Easter. The idea of being part of that mob of people who pop in to pay their respects twice a year has always made me a bit queasy. So, rather than leave you with a sappy video of Linus explaining to us all the true meaning of Christmas - quite simply, that it is Jesus' Birthday, I'd much rather leave you with some videos that are more educational and in tune with my personal taste. So without further ado, Have yourself a Merry Metal Christmas - five of my favorite Metal videos:

Shadow's Fall - This dude, at one time, had dreadlocks down to his knees. Way cool.

Clutch - The working man's band.

Downset - Metalcore at its finest. I'd give anything to see them again.

Rage Against the Machine - "Know Your Enemy" - their best song.

KoRn - this is one of the greatest videos of all time. if you are a hip-hop enthusiast, you need to watch this video. Come on, a KoRn video that stars Snoop, Xhibit, David Banner, and Lil Jon - you can't top that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor?

Today, I am going to use this forum as an opportunity to vent my frustrations. You'd think that with a name like Revolution, there'd be more of that here, but really, I am a pretty mellow person.

We've lived in our house for almost 3 years now and we get along with each of our neighbors beautifully, except one. His name is Steve. He is 40-something, divorced, and quite possibly the most selfish, loathsome person I've ever met - and I have the dubious honor of living directly next door to him. Steve runs his own mold-home-inspection (scam) business, so he spends most of his time locked away in his house by himself. I visit with him and conversate with him as often as I can muster. Other than me, his only visitor is his on again/off again girlfriend - a twenty-something stripper who recently had her kids taken away by the state. Last time I checked, she hasn't been back since she stole his car and went on the lamb with it.

We first ran afoul of this neighbor during Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. He offered to put all of our frozen/refrigerated goods into his freezer/refrigerator that was running off of a generator. He then announced to the neighbors that he was going to take his girlfriend (a different 20-something stripper) to the airport in Orlando; he collected everyone's gas cans and cash and promised that he'd be back by nightfall - he obviously turned off the generator when he left. Five days later (we thought he might be dead), he returned empty handed with this excuse: "She couldn't fly out, so we got a hotel in Orlando. I didn't come back because I was getting laid. Do you blame me?" I stifled the expected reaction, and simply tried to ignore the fact that all of our food had spoiled in his refrigerator/freezer (food that we and our neighbors would have gladly eaten had we known that he was going to skip town on us). That was infraction #1.

Infraction #2: The hurricane blew over the wooden fence that divides Steve's property from mine. I absolutely need a fence to keep my dog, Memphis, contained. Steve made it clear that he had no intention of doing anything at all about the fence until his insurance company cut him a check (we all know how long that could take.) 3 days after the hurricane I embarked upon the job of erecting the downed fence and using posts to brace it up as a temporary measure for containing my dog. A few weeks passed. We came home from church one Sunday morning to find the fence was completely gone - removed and piled in his front yard for bulk garbage pick-up. Luckily, his excuse for being an A-hole this time did not involve him getting laid, for I might have snapped. His excuse for removing the fence without a word to us? I wouldn't know. I shelved it. Now by some miracle, we came home to find that our dog had chosen this morning of all mornings to sleep in. She hadn't yet gone outside to find that the fence was missing! Let me clarify that when a Bluetick Coonhound gets out, they have no limit as to how far they will go. So it was a miracle that she did not go missing. No thanks to Steve. Within a week, I had erected a chain-link fence that probably cost me about $150 and hours of back-breaking work digging the holes. Seriously, that was one of the worst jobs I've ever had to do - installing that chain link fence.

#3:Over time, Steve has become more lonely, loathsome, and irritable. Last month, we invited some friends and neighbors to come by and sit around a bonfire in our backyard. Apparently Steve thought that we were being too loud, because he came out of his house and yelled, "Shut the F__ up!" Keep in mind that every one of his neighbors was out there with us. (He didn't know this because it was dark out.) Also keep in mind that I have consistently invited Steve to every party we've had and he is the only neighbor that has not yet made an appearance.

#4:Only two weeks later, he had the audacity to curse out my wife in broad daylight. She was out in the back yard on a Saturday afternoon playing with our dog, and he came bursting out of the house and proceeded to lay into her with a string of obscenities, telling her to "shut her F-ing dog up." Those of you who know my wife, know that she is no damsel - that he is lucky my Irish red-head didn't hop over that fence and kick him in the jewels. That Steve would scream at a woman in this way tells me a lot about his character - or lack of it. It also helps to explain his fascination with bedding young women who have low self-esteem.

#5 & the reason for this rant: I return home today to find that the chain link fence has been torn down. Steve has decided to put up a wooden fence in its place. When I asked him why he didn't at least tell me about these plans, his response was classic A-hole Steve, "You weren't home yesterday, when the crew came over to start the job. Besides, the contractor says that the fence is on my property so I can do anything I want to do with it." But that isn't even the best part - the fence he is erecting will no longer reach all the way to the front edge of his home, leaving an 8 foot gap in my own fence line. When I asked him about this 8 foot gap in my own fence line he proclaimed, "It's not my problem!" and stomped back into his house. Lucky for me, the contractor is a dog lover and he situated (jerry-rigged) the fence in such a way that my dog is not presently able to escape the yard. The contractor added, after Steve left of course, "I like your dog. She is a cute pooch."

I was quite upset, to say the least. I promptly called the city to inquire about my rights as a homeowner. Interestingly enough, they informed me that he actually has no permit to build the fence and as such, there's no way he'd actually know where the property line is without the permit. And to top it off, the contractor just came over to my house and asked me to check my phone line because he just "hit" the phone line in the back yard with his jackhammer. I neglected to tell him that I don't actually use AT&T. I'll let him sweat it.

So here is the dilema: Do I continue to grin and bear it (taking it on the cheek, so to speak), or do I finally stoop to his level and do something dastardely - like reporting him to the city for building the fence without a permit and also reporting him to Sunshine State One-Call for hitting the underground phone line. Of course my instincts tell me to do exactly that and much, much more. (Like pummeling him in the face.) But I really do hate to be that person. There is that part of me that wants to wait it out and see if he finally does the right thing. I suppose, when he screws me over and leaves an 8 foot gap in my fence, I could still call the city and report him. It just makes me sick to my stomach to be put into this situation. I am a very easygoing fellow and I really do genuinely want to be able to love everyone, no matter how unlovable they may seem to be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Vintage Worship Gathering

Church Field Trip #22

The name alone would suggest that Vintage Worship Gathering (VWG) is, without a doubt, an emerging church. More so, that they would especially have a Dan Kimball influence - as Kimball supposedly coined not only the term "vintage worship" but "emerging church" as well. I must admit that when I first read Kimball's book, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, I didn't quite get it. I struggled to grasp why and how an almost "Catholic" atmosphere would work within a postmodern worship experience. Having experienced this atmosphere at VWG, I now get it. Take the beauty and serenity of the Catholic experience that we had months ago, and infuse it with postmodern relevance and you have a service that is beautiful, serene, and NOT boring. Go figure. It actually works.

We arrived about 15 minutes early to find that they have a 1/2 hour of "hang time" before the service. They all arrive early, eat breakfast (quiche, pastries, cookies, bagels, juice, coffee, etc.), and build relationships. During this time, we were engaged in conversation with at least 5 different people, including Albert - the preacher. I never once heard him or anyone else use the term pastor, so I won't either. There were candles everywhere, as well as plenty of comfortable chairs to sit in while everyone just hung out. It was a very inviting and comfortable atmosphere. Also, everyone wears a name tag, which has both its advantages and disadvantages.

VWG shares a small playhouse theatre called Mos'art with a theater company that performs plays there as well as an art gallery. It was a really cool set up for a church service; sorry, worship gathering. Albert started the church about a year ago with 15 other people who were tired of "church as usual". They now have about 50 people each week gathering in the small theater that seats about 100.

The worship was acoustic (two acoustic guitars and one djembe) and introspective, though we were told that their worship experience can often run the full gambit from small and acoustic to full-blown electrical onslaught requiring them to hand out earplugs at the door. I neglected to take a picture of their stage setup because the theatre company was putting on a show that afternoon and the stage was set up accordingly for the play itself. The worship leader introduced himself only as "Captain." I didn't inquire about the name's nature or origin.

Before preaching, Albert brought two soon-to-be missionaries, Nick and Jesse, up to the stage to discuss their missionary calling. In the spring they will be going to a Muslim country that is hostile to Christian missionaries, so they will actually be working for an NGO there and spreading the Gospel on the sly. I'd like to also note that during the entire service, I believe we were lead in prayer at least half a dozen times by at least three different people.

Albert used Matthew 2:1-12 for the basis of his sermon. Here are some notable excerpts from his teaching:

"Every day that you submit to God, you become more like Jesus."

"I always find myself wanting to build up my own kingdom, rather than live in God's kingdom."

"Repent and believe, because the kingdom of God is near."

"The Gospel is Christ breaking into this world, bringing God's kingdom. This presents us with a choice - whether or not we will submit to His rule and authority."

"The Gospel is this: God isn't on a power trip. We are on a power trip. He let us kill Him. And yet He still invites us to join His kingdom through mercy and forgiveness. Is this Good News to you? Or is it Bad News?"

"It is God's desire to have a relationship with you, even to the point of self-sacrifice."

We had a great time at VWG. It was very relaxed, authentic, and easy to engage despite us being first-timers. Having to drive an hour away to find a church like this is just heart-breaking in a metropolis with more than 5 million people.

I'd like to remark on something that I noticed at both VWG and also at Epic Remix last month. While both of these churches definitely have their fair share of twentysomethings, they are by no means solely made up of youngsters. Kelly, at 48, and Albert, at 40, have both managed to find a faith that appeals to all ages, if the makeup of the congregations is any indication.
Follow-up: We received a personally written email from Albert.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My thoughts on Inflation / When I become President

Anyone who has been friends with me for a significant period of time has heard me pontificate at one time or another on the sweeping economic changes I would instill were I to become President of the United States. (Go ahead. Laugh it up.)

I hate inflation. I really do. In some areas at least. Let me tell you what I'd do, economically, if I became President.

  • Reset and freeze the price of a large pizza with one topping to $5.00

  • Reset and freeze the price of a 12 pack of pop to $2.00 (that's right. I said "pop")

  • Reset and freeze the price of gasoline to $1.00/gallon

  • Make essential health care free to all, except hypochondriacs

  • memberships at fitness clubs would be free to all, except people looking to hook up

  • bottled water - free

I think that's about it. That's all I've come up with in the past 15 years. If I've forgotten anything, I'm sure my wife will notice, because she's heard this spiel a thousand times. Every time I have to pay $15 for a large pizza or $3.50/gallon for gas, she knows that it is coming. "One day. When I am President....."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wii Wish You a Merry Christmas


Church by the Glades, in Coral Springs, FL, is giving away a Nintendo Wii at each of its nine Christmas services taking place on December 20-24 as part of its “Wii Wish You a Merry Christmas” campaign.

The nine services will take place on Thursday, December 20 at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, December 22 at 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Sunday, December 23 at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12:00 p.m., and Monday, December 24 at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.

It seems that the one thing that everyone wants and no one can get this Christmas is the Nintendo Wii,” said David Hughes, teaching Pastor at Church by the Glades.

In order to win the Wii you will have to fill-out a registration card. The winner will be selected during the service and then presented the Wii before its conclusion.

Some may ask why a church would do something like this. According to Hughes there are two reasons. First, he doesn’t believe that church should be boring. He thinks this will be a way of creating some energy during the services.

Second, there is no doubt that a lot of people will come hoping to win a Wii, but we believe that many will leave with the hope of eternity that comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Hughes.

History shows that Church by the Glades is in the habit of using things that are creating a buzz to draw people to the church. During one recent series of teachings called “i: Living in a Self-Absorbed World,” they gave away a free iPhone and iTunes gift cards to first time guests to promote the series. More recently, they gave away four tickets to the sold-out Hannah Montana concert at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Book of the Law - Halftime Report

In the past six months we've covered more than half of the Book of the Law. Leviticus has been grueling indeed. If we met every single week, this process would be much easier. As it stands, though, we have decided to take a break from the Book of the Law. Meeting every other week, including a couple of schedule interruptions, has brought our progress to a grinding halt. We will most likely not meet again for our study until the first week of January - what with the holidays and all that. Even then, we need a break from the Book of the Law. When we reconvene in January, we will shake things up a bit with some topical discussion. Well, we're going to give it a try at least.

For each meeting we will bring a pre-prepared question/topic to the table for discussion and investigation. Pre-prepared means that each of us will have done whatever research is pertinent concerning the topic at hand. I offered two resources as a guide for our group in brainstorming some good questions:

  1. - Got Questions is a great site and resource for any spiritual/Biblical/religious/church question you may have.

  2. - The site set up by Mars Hill Church in Seattle so that anyone could ask Mark Driscoll any question and he would answer it through his preaching in 2008.

So, come January 2008, we'll see how it goes. As always, the invitation is open for anyone to join us. And if anyone would like to give us a topic for discussion, feel free. We will most likely continue to meet every other week on Sunday nights, though we may change it to Friday nights so we can light a bonfire.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

International Charasmatic Mission Church (G12)

Church Field Trip # 21

It's kind of hard to miss a new church that meets two miles from my house with a sign out front that reads: Revolution South Florida. From here on out, it gets a little confusing. International Charismatic Mission Church (ICMC) is a G12 cell church. G12 is an international cell-church network based out of Bogota, Columbia. According to Anthony, the pastor of the South Florida G12 Network, Revolution SF is the theme for this year, placing an emphasis on reaching the teens and twenty-somethings of South Florida. They have services every Saturday night at 8, targeting the younger generation; and they have services every Sunday morning at 10, for families and everyone else.

After hearing many of my christian peers complain about the mega-church movement leaving discipleship by the wayside, it is interesting to see a church/movement that is entirely made up of small discipleship groups. In G12, small groups aren't a ministry of the church, they are the church.

We arrived on time at 10 am, only to find that they run on "Spanish time, which means 20 minutes late", according to Anthony's wife, Jennifer. We received two bilingual greetings and soon discovered that everything was done bilingually; literally everything. The music - two singers singing in both English and Spanish interchangeably; and the preaching was done by two gentlemen bilingually and also interchanging throughout. You would think that this would either be frustrating or confusing, but it was neither. It took about 20 minutes to get used to it, and I would imagine that if I went to this church every week, I would probably learn a lot of Spanish. Anthony himself said that before he joined G12 and started the South Florida network with 8 people 6 years ago, he didn't speak any Spanish. Now he is fluently bilingual.

The service was in a former school gymnasium and there were probably about 500 people in attendance (over 1000 for the weekend.) They did an excellent job of transforming the space into an environment conducive for a great worship experience. To say that the worship experience was off the chain would be an understatement. They were loud, really loud. They were excited - everyone in the building - 100% participation. There was an energy level that I have never before seen in a church service. It was much more like going to a concert than going to a church service. We really had a great time. During one high energy song, they actually pulled one girl from the neo-pit that had formed at the front of the stage and let her freestyle rap during the song. I wish I could have gotten video of that moment - it was awesome. Now let me say two things that will undoubtedly bring me back for a repeat visit to this church.

  1. The lead singer is actually the daughter of the leader of the worldwide G12 network. She and her band, Soulfire, were not present for this service. They are out touring and will be back in January. So that means that this was the "backup" band which rocked our socks off. Unbelievable. The worship leader, Vince, also told us that the preacher was a "backup preacher" which is also significant because he knocked it out of the park along with his Spanish partner.

  2. We went to the Sunday morning service geared toward families. I can't imagine what the energy level must be like at the Saturday night service.
The whole service was somewhat chaotic, with people milling about, kids playing, mother's feeding their kids, people quietly talking, and I even saw at least one person on their laptop during the teaching time. For those of you who worship structure and organization, this would be a distracting nightmare - but for us, it was quite enjoyable. My wife described it as such, "It was like being at a wedding reception. Everyone was having a good time and just celebrating life." And for those of you who would dare to walk into a church like this and ask, "What are you going to do for my children?" or "I want my kids to be entertained." or "What youth and children's ministries do you offer?" (Come on. You know who you are.) The answer would be - "Stuff it. Go find a consumer-driven church. There are plenty of them." (That's my answer, not theirs.)

The topic for the sermon was "Understanding the Times", derived from I Chronicles 12. The pastor also used Nehemiah 2:17, II Cor. 13:5, Phil. 1:6, and Acts 3. He used a handful more verses, but I admit that I was lost at times, and was struggling to keep up. Having two preachers, one for each language, was fun and entertaining. They played off of each other and joked with each other, especially when there were translation difficulties. They were both equally energetic and engaging.

Here are some notable quotes:

"Don't wait for someone else to do what God has put in your heart for you to do."

"There are 3 types of people:
  1. People who watch things happen
  2. People who wonder what happened
  3. People who make things happen

"How many warriors are in here?" At which point, he had us yelling like a scene out of Braveheart - Referencing I Chronicles 12:38. This church took audience participation to a whole new level. By the end of the service I was worn out and almost hoarse. But man, did I have a good time.

"God is here to meet you at the point of your need."

"God is in the restoration business."

"There are four things that you need to do.

  1. Examine yourself
  2. Ask for God's forgiveness
  3. Have confidence in God's calling
  4. Get busy doing God's work

To say that they presented the Gospel in a clear and convicting manner would be a gross understatement. If there was ever a church that didn't need to present the Gospel, it would be a G12 church. They don't actually expect anyone to just walk in off the street (like we did) because of their model of cell group evangelism. But that didn't stop them from presenting the Gospel in possibly the most compelling fashion that we've seen to date. I was starting to wonder if they were going to check us at the door and make sure that we were saved before we left.

As we were leaving, Pastor Anthony and his wife, Jennifer snagged us and engaged us in conversation for about 10 minutes about the G12 vision and God's calling on our lives. We exchanged contact information with them, as the church did not have any printed materials available - no bulletin, no brochures, no guest card, nothing. Very organic.

I shot some video, but, like a moron, I accidentally recorded it without audio. Sorry, I am an idiot. But I figured I would throw the video up anyways.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tom Brokaw reports on the Emerging Church

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Favorite Beer

Where do I begin? I grew up in Michigan. As a matter of fact, I've only lived in South Florida for 7 years. In the past 7 years, the beer selection in South Florida has improved significantly. I used this analogy before and I will use it again to show the difference between Michigan and South Florida. In Michigan, when you go to the local corner store, the entire back wall of coolers will be devoted to cold beer - if you are in the mood for Sam Adams, you'll have your choice of at least 7 of their 20 available flavors. 7 years ago in South Florida, you'd have had your choice of 2 flavors of Sam Adams beer - regular and light, maybe a seasonal if you were lucky. Now, at our local Publix Grocery, we are offered at least 4 varieties of Sams, sometimes even 5.

But I'm not going to dwell on Sam Adams today. Today I want to talk about Leinenkugels Brewery, a small brewery in Wisconsin. Though small, it was bought this year by Miller and they've since been shipping Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat throughout the entire nation. Sunset Wheat is an excellent beer and definitely in my top 5. But there was one beer that was available in Michigan that I've missed since we left - Leinenkugel Berry Weiss. In Michigan, we usually had a choice of at least 5 or 6 different Leinenkugel varieties.

I have just recently discovered, to my delight, that South Florida now carries 3 varieties of Leinenkugels beer - Sunset Wheat, Honey Weiss, and (drumroll) Berry Weiss. I am a happy fella. And I don't want to hear any crap from you manly men who think that it isn't right for a guy to enjoy a "berry flavored" beer. From my experience, most of the "manly men" out there get by on a steady diet of "yellow-colored water" - better known as American Light Lager (Bud, Miller, etc.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Pulpit, the Podium, or the High-top Table?

The Evolution of the Preacher's Pulpit

As the pulpit has evolved, the preacher has been brought closer to the congregation; made to seem more informal; and made to seem more transparent. The old-school pulpit is almost laughable, with the preacher hoisted up in a cockpit 5-10 feet above the ground. This is how we always picture the great preachers of old laying the smack down on their congregation with sermons titled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The second generation pulpit is reminiscent of the typical traditional baptist church. These pulpits are more business-like, but are still usually festooned with Bible verses, flowers and religious symbols like fish, crosses, and doves. These wood pulpits are usually covered in semi-ornate carvings of vines and a catchy quotation of Jesus claiming to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This pulpit usually matches a nearby table used for communion that also has matching carvings with verses pertaining to the Last Supper: "Do this in remembrance of me."

The third generation of the pulpit attempts to make a name change as well as a change in appearance. On 60 Minutes recently, Joel Osteen gave a tour of Lakewood Church. The reporter asked him, almost rhetorically, if this was his pulpit sitting at the center of the stage. Osteen replied, "Well, we prefer to call it a podium." Right, because that is less religious and more business-like. You could almost see the news anchor's eyes rolling out of his head. Of particular mention is the transparent, completely clear plastic podium, which Osteen didn't have. This "podium" conveys the idea of the preacher being transparent to his congregation; he has nothing to hide. Even transparent, they are usually still festooned with floral arrangements around the base.

The fourth generation of the pulpit throws out the podium altogether and replaces it with a high-top table and one chair. In many churches, this table still serves the exact same purpose of the transparent podium: the preacher can't hide behind it and he still has a place to put his stuff. This "stuff" usually includes a Bible, coffee, a water bottle, a small clock, notes, and any items that might come in handy for visual sermon illustrations. The irony of this fourth generation pulpit - the high-top table - is that some preachers are visibly uncomfortable using it for it's intended purpose. It is a table and it is meant to be sat at. This act of sitting while preaching further conveys the concept of informality between the preacher and the congregation. But, from my experience, there are quite a few preachers who are just not comfortable with it. Some of them will sit at it for a brief moment, but it is obvious that they are not comfortable sitting. And some of them will not use it as a table at all, but rather as a glorified podium, sometimes even placing the "traditional" floral arrangement around the base. There is one added bonus of the high-top table pulpit. If the pastor wants to team teach with his wife on the topic of marriage, sex, women's roles, or marital submission, all they have to do is drag out the matching chair.

The fifth generation of the pulpit throws out the table and chair and replaces them with a single, small high-top side table. Something just big enough to hold a bottle of water and a Bible. This final version of the pulpit has finally removed any possible barrier between the preacher and the congregation, leaving just enough space for the bare essentials. And the preacher doesn't have to worry over whether or not to sit, especially if they are uncomfortable sitting.

What's Next? I really have no idea. Anybody have any ideas?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Experience a Church Service on the Internet

We have taken a two-week hiatus from church field tripping. This is simply poor timing considering the bevy of new readers that have come to this site because of the Sun-Sentinel article. This weekend, we will be back out on the road again. With that in mind, I thought I would give you the next best thing - the ability to take your own church field trip.

There are a handful of churches that show their entire service on the internet. I find this to be useful for two groups of people.

1. Those who are obligated to attend their own church and never get to experience other churches.

2. Those who have no interest in actually going to church, but are curious to see what it would be like.

Here are some churches which offer this opportunity to take a look inside:

Newspring Church - Anderson, SC - Edmond, OK (streams live only)

Granger Community Church - Granger, IN

Flamingo Road Church - Cooper City, FL (streams live only)

Vineyard Community Church - Cincinnati, OH

The People's Church - Franklin, TN

(Thanks to Jeff, for a couple of these.)

If you know of any more churches that provide video of their ENTIRE service, let me know. I'd love to watch them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Marching to the Burger King Headquarters with the C.I.W.

Here is some poor quality video that I shot at the March to Burger King with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It was fun. They were jamming some good music, a lot of drums, horns, steel drums. I even heard Cypress Hill pumping out the speakers. I'd guess that there were at least a thousand people. I'm not really sure.

Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, wrote a really good article in the New York Times yesterday about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their fight against Burger King. Here is an excellent quote from that article: "As for human rights abuses, Burger King has suggested that if the poor farm workers of southern Florida need more money, they should apply for jobs at its restaurants."

Why We March

Today, farmworkers from Immokalee, Florida and their religious, labor, and student allies are marching 9 miles through the streets of Miami to the world headquarters of Burger King.
There is a human rights crisis in the fields of Florida. Tomato pickers who harvest tomatoes for the fast-food industry face sweatshop conditions every day, including sub-poverty, stagnant wages (pickers earn about $10,000/year on average and a per-bucket piece rate that has not changed significantly since 1978) and the denial of basic labor rights.
We have seen five slavery operations in the fields brought to the federal courts since 1997, helping to liberate over 1,000 workers and sending 10 employers to prison.
Burger King contributes directly to farmworkers’ poverty through its high-volume purchasing practices, for decades demanding the cheapest tomatoes possible but never demanding fair treatment or just wages for the people who harvest those tomatoes.
In the past years farmworkers and consumers have united to bring Taco Bell and McDonald's to the table to help improve tomato pickers' wages and working conditions.

Here is an article from this week's Palm Beach Post explaining how Burger King has, this month, undermined the deal that was struck with Taco Bell and McDonalds, destroying any progress that had been made for the migrant workers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sun-Sentinel Story and Response

It was fun to have the South Florida Sun-Sentinel write a half-page story about my church field trip reviews in this past Sunday's edition. Part 1 of the Story/ Part 2 of the Story. It will give me something to clip out and send to my grandmother in Michigan.

It has been interesting to see the difference between those churches that instantly knew that they had been written about on the internet (tech-savvy churches) and those churches that didn't have a clue until my reviews showed up in the Sunday paper (the old-fashioned way).

More importantly, the article evoked a response from a friend of mine that I would like to share with you. I have been friends with Victor for about a year or so, and he runs a site called My Living Mind. Here is what he had to say this week:

Lew has created an interesting blog topic by reviewing churches.
The interesting part is that he is not your typical southern christian with a
conservative attitude. He's a metal head, a beer connoisseur, and is
one of the most open and honest people I know. I actually had no interest in
religion in the past few years but have recently in the last few months
considered a new outlook on religion because of Lew's blog.

If I die anytime soon, you can go ahead and put this quote on my tombstone. It means that much to me. Some of you may scoff at my endearment for this quote, but a small few of you may actually understand.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving:How Each of Us Can Change the World

I wouldn't normally bother to read a book by a president, but President Bill Clinton's book Giving, caught my eye on the bookshelf. I liked the title. I was well pleased with this book. It doesn't serve as motivation or inspiration so much as it serves as an excellent resource for giving. Here is the way President Clinton breaks it down (I've included a small handful of the websites that he endorses as well):

Giving Money

Giving Time

Giving Things

Giving Skills

For each area, he tells an inspirational story of someone who stepped out of their comfort zone and took risks in order to help their fellow man. He also goes into great detail listing and describing those organizations that are trustworthy and successful in each area. Even if you did not care to read this book, you could still use his website for the resources on giving.

His conclusion towards the end of the book:

"Why don't people give? I think the reasons are simple.
  • They don't believe what they could do would make a difference, either because their resources are limited or they're convinced efforts to change other people's lives and conditions are futile.
  • They don't feel morally obligated to give.

  • No one has ever asked them to give.
  • They believe that they'll enjoy life more if they keep their money and time for themselves and their families."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy? - A Morgan Spurlock Film

Morgan Spurlock is the filmmaker who brought us Super-Size Me, an excellent movie. If you haven't seen Super-Size Me, you need to stop what you are doing right now and go watch that movie. And while your at it, you might as well watch Fast Food Nation too.

Spurlock's new film, What Would Jesus Buy comes out this week, just in time for the Christmas Holiday Shopping Season. In the film, Spurlock follows a preacher/comic, Reverend Billy, who preaches against the consumerism and materialism that has run rampant in our culture. On a side note, I noticed that some retailers were opening as early as 4 am on Black Friday this year. Is there a point at which the corporations will push too far and force the population to realize that they are being corrupted and bankrupted?

My wife and I have decided that 2007 is the year that we will begin to put the brakes on the "Christmas Consumer/Materialist Shopping Season." We've decided that we really enjoy opening presents, so we plan to continue to wrap empty boxes and put them under the tree because they look pretty and we'll still have presents, albeit empty ones, to open on Christmas morning.
This isn't a classic case of uptight Christians boycotting certain companies because they don't hold to their personal values. This is a case of people being fed up with what they are being fed: in this case - rampant consumerism and materialism that peaks each year during Christmas.
What are your thoughts on:
  • the Christmas Shopping Season
  • incurring a massive amount of debt each December
  • stores opening at 4 am for Black Friday
  • counter-cultural alternatives to this consumeristic dilemma
  • getting stuff for ourselves in the guise of "buying gifts for each other"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

March on Burger King - Coalition of Immokalee Workers

On Friday, November 30 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is sponsoring a 9 mile march, a rally, a conference, and a concert to fight against Burger King for humane treatment of Florida agricultural workers. Immokalee is a migrant town about 80 miles west of Ft. Lauderdale.

Central Florida is full of these migrant towns that look much worse than many inner cities. As a part of my vocation, I visit each of these towns once each month. Last year, I rescued a starving, almost dead puppy from Immokalee and brought it back to Animal Aid to be nursed back to health.

The CIW has been successful in recent years at getting Taco Bell and McDonalds to concede to their requests for humane treatment of agricultural workers. Now they are taking the fight to Burger King at the Burger King Headquarters in Miami.

Visit the CIW site for more information on the March on BK, as well as more information regarding the plight of Florida's migrant workers. At the last CIW concert/rally in May, Rage Against the Machine showed up and jammed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Journey Church

Church Field Trip #20

Journey Church meets at Lake Worth Christian School (in the gymnasium) every Sunday at 10:10 AM. They have established an interesting partnership with the school involving outfitting the gymnasium with audio/visual equipment. We arrived about 5-10 minutes late, but according to Jerry - the Small Group Pastor, they usually start about 5-10 minutes late anyways. Upon entering, we received two standard greetings and we were funneled to a table where everyone who enters gets a name tag. I like that they make everyone take a name tag, rather than just visitors, but I also have a problem with name tags. They make you lazy. When everyone is wearing a name tag, you are neither prompted to introduce yourself nor ask someone their name. Name tags are self-defeating in purpose.

The worship set only lasted about 15 minutes and it was pretty mellow. There were about 400 people packed into the gymnasium which was dimly lit. The gym floor was covered with a dark protective covering, there was a 12 foot black curtain running behind the entire front of the setup, and the stage itself was lightly illuminated in a "black light" (you know, the purple kind.) I liked the atmosphere. I liked the darkness, and I thought that the black light was an interesting touch. For my own personal tastes, I wish that some of the music had been a little more uptempo and I wish that the worship had lasted longer.

After the worship set, Pastor Scott Baugh introduced us to a missionary to Haiti. The missionary spoke for about 5 minutes about their work and then showed us a short video about their mission trip to Haiti. Scott talked about how Journey Church was going to begin getting involved in microfinance in Haiti, as well as building churches and schools there. He also showed a slide show of church members renovating a youth center next to the school in Lake Worth.

Pastor Scott gave a traditional Thanksgiving "Be Thankful" message. He taught on Deuteronomy 6:10-12, 8:10-18, and 26:1 - Three instances of God warning the people of Israel to be careful not to forget where they came from and what God had done for them.

Here are some excerpts from the sermon:

"What is the source of your wealth? Is it God? Or is it your own hard work?"

"When you are successful, you tend to forget about your dependence on God."

"There is no such thing as a self-made man."

"Haiti is only 2.5 hours away from us, but it is a completely different world from the one we live in."

"This isn't about feeling guilty for being blessed, it is about feeling grateful for being blessed."

He gave us a piece of blank paper so that we could write down what we are grateful for. He then told us that, in the past week, his father has had two strokes and his wife has miscarried their first child. Pastor Scott broke down into tears as he told us about his difficult week. It was difficult to watch. He then used this as an illustration of how, even in the worst of times, there are things that we can still be thankful for.

The Gospel was a complete no show. He didn't allude to it, reference it, or give any other such show of having anything whatsoever to say to those in the congregation who might be lost spiritually.

After the service, Jerry engaged us in conversation for about 10 minutes. He was definitely interested in whether or not "we liked the service" and if "we were coming back." Jerry told us that the church is now 4 years old. They gave us a guest bag that contained some left-over Halloween candy, a pen, a statement of faith, and a sermon CD on Parables.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne

When I read Radical Reformission: How to reach out without selling out by Mark Driscoll last year, it really jacked me up. Since I had become a Christian, I had been taught that I needed to squeeze into a certain mold in order to be found acceptable. Driscoll taught me that I could keep my unique personality intact while following Jesus. He also convicted me of loving Jesus but not loving people, especially people who do not know Jesus. That book messed me up so bad that I had to re-read it at least 3 times in order to fully understand how my life would change as a result of "reaching out without selling out."

Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical holds the potential to do almost as much damage to my life for the cause of Jesus. For more information about Shane, go to the Simple Way, the semi-homeless community in which he lives. I am going to simply say, "Read this book." And I am going to list some notable excerpts here:

"Some of us haven't even asked the right questions, or found a church that would let us."

"I had become a believer, but I had no idea what it meant to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live."

"We decided to stop complaining about the church we saw, and we set our hearts on becoming the church we dreamed of."

Quoting Soren Kierkegaard, 'The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we 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. 'My God', you will say, 'if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world'?'"

Quoting the late Rich Mullins, "You guys are into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too. But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest."

"That doesn't mean rich people are excluded or not welcome. It means that it is nearly impossible for them to catch the vision of interdependent community, dependent on God and one another. Rich folks, while they may be starving for God and community, still believe the illusion that they are self-sufficient autonomous individuals, and that belief is incompatible with the gospel."

"I'm not sure we need more churches. What we really need is 'a church'. I have tried to remove the plural form 'churches' from my vocabulary, training myself to think of the church as Christ did, and as the early Christians did."

On his experience in Iraq, "I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq. I was floored by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith. This was the land of my ancestors. Christianity was not invented in about that?"

"Sometimes people ask me if I am scared, living in the inner city. I usually reply, 'I'm more scared of the suburbs.' While the ghettos may have their share of violence and crime, the suburbs are the home of the more subtle demonic forces - numbness, complacency, comfort - and it is these that can eat away at our souls."

"The higher a person's frequency of church attendance, the more likely they are to be sexist, racist, anti-gay, pro-military, and committed to their local church."

"The pervasive myth is that as a church grows larger, it can do more good. As congregations grow in terms of staff and property, their giving to causes outside of operating expenses decreases dramatically, especially money given directly to the poor. Rich people are significantly less generous than poor people proportionately, and large congregations give proportionately far less to people in poverty than do small ones. In fact, they rarely even have poor people among them."

Claiborne concludes the book with a four-page list of organizations (also available on the Simple Way website) that are looking to revolutionize the church through social action.

Florida Baptists - "Jesus is a recreational drug user"

This week, the Florida Baptist Convention approved a bylaw amendment agreeing to "abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs." (I wonder how many of those old geezers get by on a daily cocktail of caffeine and pharmaceutical drugs.)

This is just another account of Baptists further distancing themselves from Jesus by holding to tradition. The executive director of the FBC said that he was embarrassed that any discussion was even necessary when clarifying the issue of alcohol use.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Church - The Time Consumption Monster?

This quote comes from the Mustard Seed (a faith-based un-church community in Northern Palm Beach County). It is a response to No Good Reason To Go To Church.

"Attractional models of church and need-based programs simply do not leave time for people to actually be in their communities. There is just too much effort required to pull these things off, and the monster must be continually fed by more money, more volunteers, more staff, and more time."

I guess the question would be: if you spend all of your time in the church, what's left for the neighbors? How do you balance between the two? Does your church encourage or inhibit your involvement in the very community in which you live?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Epic Remix Church

Church Field Trip #19

Our first emergent church! And possibly the only one we'll find in South Florida. Epic Remix was planted a mere 3 weeks ago. The founding pastor, Kelly Lyons, was a pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for the past 13 years. They meet at the North Broward Prep School at 6:30 pm on Sunday nights. (They meet on Sunday nights out of necessity, not preference.) Kelly was raised by missionary parents in Peru, but has lived in the States for the past 17 years. Kelly draws no salary from the church and has no plans to draw a salary. Epic Remix intends to give away 75% of its income, using only 25% for in-house costs.

It would not be appropriate to state whether or not we were "greeted." Rather, we had at least 5 different people engage us in genuine conversation before the service began. Two of these people were Kelly - he doesn't like to be called "Pastor Kelly"; and Chelsea - she runs the Homeless Outreach program called Love Bags. They don't just throw stuff at the homeless, but they actually get to know them as friends. They are even housing a couple of them in their own homes. The service began about 7 minutes late, but we didn't mind because we were enjoying the conversation.

Epic Remix openly models themselves after Mars Hill Bible Church/Rob Bell and Mosaic Church/Erwin Mcmanus (both prominent "emerging churches") - though I found it curious that Kelly didn't know that there was a Mosaic in Miami. The set up was a half-circle of chairs with Kelly seated on a stool in the middle. They began the service with a New Testament reading - a woman got up and read Col. 1:19-23.

The worship time was leaderless. In other words, it was us facing the screen. Despite the fact that they supposedly have a handful of worship leaders in the congregation, Kelly wanted to experiment and try video-led worship. It was a little weird; a little uncomfortable. But it was also kind of cool. I've never been so aware of the people around me. Unfortunately, our posse of 7 (4 adults, 2 youths) seemed to be among the few in the group of 60 people that were actually excited about worshipping. It was a catch-22. The videos that they played, Hillsong, were high-energy and really enjoyable. But most of the crowd around us, including Kelly standing at the front, seemed as if they were disinterested in worshipping.

Following worship, Kelly taught on I Kings 9-11 for about 20 minutes. The title of the teaching was "Everything is Not O.K."This passage showed that Solomon was beyond wealthy, rich in wisdom, and certainly blessed by God. Despite his outward appearances of rich blessing, Solomon was actually headed down the wrong path away from God because of the influence of his many wives. Kelly correlated the experience of Solomon to our experience in modern day America. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams (compared to the rest of the world), but morally and spiritually, things are a mess. He then showed us a video by Chris Seay, called "The 8 Dollar Hot Dog." After watching the video, Kelly led us in a 20 minute session of Question and Dialogue.

Here are some excerpts from the teaching and Q&A time:

"justice and righteousness are one and the same"

"Do we live in a Kingdom of comfort? Are we oppressing others without meaning to? What if our wealth was shared in such a way that it changed the world?"

We discussed: child labor, migrant workers, undocumented workers, organ trade, where our clothing comes from, etc.

"How can we listen for the cry of others? We need to get out of our house and meet people and get to know them."

"What makes God angry today? The self-serving complacent church. The church is not an institution. We are the church."

"What am I doing with what God has given me? We need to educate ourselves about what's really going on around us. We should pray for the people who make our clothing, because they are most likely oppressed."

"Fair Trade is not the same as Free Trade."

At the end of the service, Kelly invited us to participate in the Ten-Minute Party (which was actually almost a half hour of conversation). I have to say that some of the people in the group drilled him much harder than I would have, but here are some of the statements that he made in trying to describe the vision of Epic Remix.

Are you emergent?
"We refuse every label anyone wants to give us."
(Trust me, they are emergent. As a matter of fact, that would be the classic emergent answer to the question.)

"What if church is not about us? What if church was about it's non-members? What would an upside down church look like? What if the church didn't need massive amounts of money in order to operate? Where might that money go? What could it be used for?"

"What if the people of my generation (Kelly is almost 50) let the younger generation lead? Where would they take us?"

"The Grand Story of Scripture is not about us, it is about God."

"Epic Remix wants to be a safe place for you to ask questions, even questions you're not supposed to ask."

Do you preach a watered-down Gospel? Do you replace the Gospel of sacrifice and redemption with the Social Gospel of feeding and clothing the poor and oppressed?
"Of course we preach Jesus. Of course we preach a Gospel of repentance."
(Except, like many of the churches we've been to, he didn't. I guess, at least in Kelly's case, it is somewhat purposeful. The emergent thought is that a person will be saved through the experience of going on the journey with other followers of Christ, not by being told about their sin and the sacrifice that was made on their behalf by Jesus. It is in this respect, among others, that I disagree with the popular emergent theology. While it was great hearing so many ideas that we've never heard in church before; it is unfortunate that they willingly choose to leave out the most important message of all - the Gospel.)

"I'd love to keep Epic Remix as organic as possible."

"I think that liturgy and scripture readings can be a powerful aspect of worship."

Phew! After that experience, we decided that it would be appropriate to go to the ultra-hip Starbucks (I've never been there because I don't drink coffee) to discuss our emergent experience. As an added bonus, we had taken a 20 year old de-churched college student along with us to Epic, so we had the benefit of her perspective as well. Like many college students, she hasn't been involved in the church since she was in high school.

Yes, I've heard the hype about the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. And yes, it was, quite possibly, one of the greatest liquids that I have ever put into my mouth. And I'm saying that as a non-coffee drinker.

Follow-up: Kelly invited anyone who didn't have family in South Florida over to his house for Thanksgiving Dinner. This is a show of personal hospitality that I appreciate.

Follow-up: Kelly sent us a personal email thanking us for our visit as well as the feedback. He also invited us to come over to his house for dinner this week. Yet another show of the hospitality that Paul speaks of when listing the qualifications of an elder.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leviticus 10-15

We had the great luxury of having my Jewish neighbors join us for our study of Leviticus 10-15. They brought their authentic Pentateuch complete with Rabbinical interpretations. They also brought a loaf of challah (traditional Sabbath bread). Pretty cool. I tried to refrain from drilling them with questions, but it really was a great element to add to our study of the Book of the Law. Plus, it is just really great having our neighbors over for dinner. They were interested in the practice of us praying for each other, especially when we prayed for their dog which had just run away. At the end of our study, their dog had been found by a neighbor - they were quite surprised by the power of prayer.

Leviticus 10 tells the story of Aaron's sons (paraphrased by me): they improperly lit the incense in the Tabernacle and God burned them alive for their indiscretion. Moses then tells Aaron, "I told you so." And Aaron takes it like a man. Later, Moses accuses Aaron's two remaining sons of improperly handling sacrificial meat (cue ominous music), to which Aaron responds, "We were bummed out about my sons getting fried right in front of us and we didn't feel like eating a bunch of steaks." Personally, I'd have punched Moses in the face. He had it coming.

We then briefly discussed:

  • clean and unclean animals for consumption

  • bodily discharges - who knew semen was "dirty"?

  • Childbirth - women were given a "stigma" because of Eve's inaugural sin in the garden. Paul tells us that Jesus lifted this stigma with his sacrifice.

  • Mold and mildew in the home - this is highly appropriate for those of us living in South Florida.
  • Contagious skin diseases. We noticed that infected people were consistently given the opportunity to be healed and subsequently declared clean. Notice that by the time of Jesus, people who were sick and marginalized were quickly shoved off to the brink of society with little chance for redemption.

In our next Dinner and Discussion, November 18, we'll pick up in Leviticus 16 - The Day of Atonement.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Poll: Southern Baptists Should Not Drink Alcohol

A recent poll by Lifeway Research shows that:

  • 77% of Southern Baptist pastors believe that "Christians should not drink alcohol"

  • 98% of Southern Baptist pastors believe that "drinking alcohol in a public setting can cause others to stumble"

  • 75% of Southern Baptist pastors agreed that "when a Christian does not drink alcohol, this makes non-believers who see this more interested in Jesus Christ"

  • 3% of Southern Baptist pastors admit to drinking alcohol

As a former Southern Baptist pastor, I would have been a part of that 3% that believe that honesty is more important than image.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New City Church

Church Field Trip #18 There are three reasons I wanted to check out New City Church.

  1. The name was different. I'll check out any church with a name that doesn't begin with "First Church of...." or carry a denominational tag in the name.

  2. The logo looks cool.

  3. The Senior Pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, is the grandson of Billy Graham. (I watch Billy Graham preach almost every Saturday night on t.v. This would explain why I am so geeked up to hear the Gospel on Sunday mornings. Graham can really lay the smack down, and I love every minute of it.)

This church was founded about 4 years ago. Their attendance runs at about 500 at two services at the Monarch High School auditorium. Upon arrival, we received no greetings, though one gentleman did hand me a bulletin (a twelve page booklet.) The bulletin/booklet listed just about every piece of information you could possibly want about the church: mission statement, order of service, the words to all of the songs - because they haven't been able to use a projector/screen in the school, 4 pages of ministry descriptions - more than 25 listed, as well as a list of all staff, elders, and deacons - we did notice that all of the deacons were men.

The worship was enjoyable, with a quaint, authentic atmosphere. The style was classic contemporary praise and worship choral anthems without the choir. They didn't do Shout to the Lord, but did manage to work in Awesome God, Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy, and Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. This church was heavy on the prayer, I like that. Before the sermon had even started, we had already prayed at least 4 times.

The preacher, Pastor Tchividjian, was young, energetic, and articulate. He spoke for almost an hour and he leaned heavily towards philosophy and intellectualism. I understood most of his references to philosophy, theology, authors and speakers, but I doubt that most would be able to keep up with him. I'd say that he was possibly too smart for his own good, at least in presentation. For more than a year now, he has been working his way through the book of Ephesians - a 7 page book with only 6 chapters. This week, he taught on Ephesians 6:13-20 - the armor of God, more specifically the Sword of the Spirit. Here are some excerpts from his teaching:

Sword of the Spirit = God's Word

God's Living Word = Jesus

God's Written Word = Scripture

"Many think that this means that we should simply know Bible verses to use in times of need." He criticized those who continually pick verses out and toss them about, without having a holistic view of the Bible.

"Red-Letter Christians make a fundamental mistake in thinking that the words of Jesus are more important than the rest of scripture."

His grandfather, Billy Graham, turns 89 this week. Recently, Graham told his grandson that he hasn't been able to read the Bible for more than a year because of poor eyesight. He is lucky that he knows the Bible so well through meditation and memorization. (During the sermon, he told 3 anecdotes about his grandfather and grandmother.)

The 3 Big Questions that Everyone Asks:

  1. How did it all begin?
  2. What is wrong with the world?
  3. What is the solution to the problem?

The Story of the Bible Answers those 3 Questions:

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Redemption

Why don't people read the Bible?

  1. Don't know where to begin.
  2. Don't understand much of what they've read.

He made a few off-the-cuff references to the Gospel. One member of our group described it perfectly by saying that the "preacher danced around the Gospel, but never actually presented it." Bummer. That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bloggers are often Critics

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

But there are times when a critic truly risks something. And that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent and new creations. The new needs friends."

- Food Critic, Anton Ego from the movie Ratatouille

I think that this quote speaks volumes to bloggers, myself included.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

This Beautiful Mess

Pastor Rick Mckinley sent me his book so that I could review it here on Hands down, Rick is one of my favorite preachers. He is the pastor of Imago Dei in Portland. I like listening to Rick because he takes me outside of my comfort zone with his social/green outlook on christian living.

I was not disappointed with this book. I tore through it in about 3 days. Much like his preaching, there were parts that hit directly home with me and there were also parts that took a step outside of my comfort zone. I'll admit that sometimes he loses me with his language and perspective, but that is a good thing. Like I said, it stretches me.

I went crazy with my highlighter and pen on this book and I will definitely be rereading it at some point.

Here are some excerpts that jumped off of the page at me:

  • "You can study God expertly in his parts and miss Him entirely in his being."

  • "When you observe what passes for American Christianity - in politics, on T.V., in churches, - don't you sometimes find yourself saying, 'I don't want to join that team'?"

  • "Relevance happens when we choose to be real people caring for other real people. Authentic relationships make us relevant. You don't have to work at being relevant because love given without any agenda is always relevant."

  • "The American Church doesn't produce martyrs, we produce celebrities."

Also, towards the end of the book, he discusses the viewpoints that he has gathered from having christian friends around the world. These people often look on us "rich American Christians" with pity and concern, and prayer. Compared to much of the world, we are like spoiled millionaires. Don't believe me, check the Global Rich List. Now, given what the Bible has to say about being rich and being a Christ-follower, what does that have to say about our plight? Spiritually speaking, who is better off? Someone in a third world country with almost no material possessions relying completely upon God's providence or someone living in America worried about which (insert material possession here) to purchase next. How ironic that it is them praying for us, worrying about us, feeling sorry for us.

I'm now determined to read his first book, Jesus in the Margins. Thanks for the book, Rick. It's a keeper. Now if I could just get all of the authors on my wish list to send me their books pro-bono.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Posting Comments

It has come to my attention that some of the readers of this site need a primer on posting comments. Here goes. When you read a post and you feel that you'd like to respond to that post with a comment of your own, just simply click on the link at the bottom of the post that reads: COMMENTS.

This will bring up another separate window. There will be an empty box in which you input your comments. Underneath that box will be a code verification (to keep the spammers out). Underneath the code verification, you will have three choices with which to identify yourself.

  1. If you are a fellow blogger, you can sign in. For everyone else, DON'T BOTHER.
  2. You can choose NAME, and simply type in whatever name you want, even a nickname.
  3. You can choose Anonymous.

To date, I have not removed a comment that was posted, so feel free to say whatever comes to mind. I'd be interested in hearing from some of you, who have been reading for months without comment. I know you're there.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

30 Rock - Funniest Show on T.V.

We don't watch much t.v. We'll usually flip on the t.v. while we're eating dinner and watch the Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Family Guy. On Monday nights, we make a concerted effort to watch Heroes, the best show on t.v. On Thursday nights, we'll try to catch Survivor, but it isn't necessarily an imperative. We can't afford a DVR, so we watch t.v. the old fashioned way - we use the VCR to tape the stuff that we want to watch.

We've had digital cable from Comcast for about 3 months now. Their Video On Demand service comes in handy every once in a while. Recently, thanks to VOD, we discovered 30 Rock. It stars Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan from SNL. And Alec Baldwin simply blows the roof off of the show. 30 Rock is roll-on-the-floor funny. Baldwin and Morgan should win awards for their performances. I don't know, maybe they have. As a matter of fact, we can't remember Tracy Morgan being funny at all on SNL. I guess this show just brings it out of him.

We have only watched the first four episodes of the second season. I suppose we'll have to make a trip to Blockbuster at some point to rent the first season. How did I not hear about this show last year? This is the funniest show I've seen since Seinfeld.

Watch this video and tell me it isn't the funniest thing you've ever seen.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Leviticus 3 through Leviticus 9

We read about the Peace Offering, the Sin Offering, and the Guilt Offering. We also read about the ordination of the priests. We learned that God is not a big fan of people eating blood and fat. We discussed the portions of scripture where something is mentioned as being "permanent." Specifically, we related this question to the words of Jesus in Luke 16:16-17.

We noticed the use of the word unintentional in relation to people committing sins. This brought about the question, "How often do we treat people as intentional sinners, when that really isn't the case?" We also read in Leviticus 4, that ignorance of sin does not excuse guilt. We discussed atonement and forgiveness, both essential elements of the Gospel.
We found out that poverty did not opt one out of the sacrificial system. God made it possible for the poor to also participate.

In Leviticus 6, most of the sins that required a Guilt Offering were basically instances of people lying and stealing. That definitely translates to our contemporary culture. Lying and stealing are still two favorite past times for humanity.

We learned that God always kept the sacrificial fire burning because He is always ready to forgive.
This Sunday, Nov. 4, at 6 pm, we will read about Aaron's two sons -priests who blow it and get fried.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

When Christians Attack Episode 1: Halloween

I grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan. My family lived in a middle class neighborhood and went to the Baptist church that my father had been going to his entire life. Every year, on October 31, we celebrated Halloween the way that everyone else did. We dressed up as vampires, bums, cowboys, sometimes donned a hockey mask, and went trick-or-treating to as many houses as our legs could carry us in the time allowed. We always participated in Halloween, and I never even heard mention of such a thing as "harvest night" or any other "Christianternative."

We did not participate in Devil's Night however. You see, where I grew up, October 30 is Devil's Night. If you were able to escape from the parental figures, you went abroad and caused as much havoc as possible. This would usually include toilet papering the trees, egging houses and cars, busting windows, and any other means possible of making a complete mess of the neighborhood. That was Devil's Night in a Detroit suburb. If you lived in Detroit proper, they didn't egg your house on Devil's Night, they set it on fire.

Little did I know that this was a phenomenon peculiar to Detroit. We've been in South Florida now for 7 years and we've had to adjust to the differences in culture. Luckily, South Florida has never even heard of Devil's Night - that's a good thing. Unfortunately, there is some confusion down here about Halloween.
There are some Christians here who were raised in the island cultures where Santeria and other forms of voodoo are practiced. To these cultures, especially in Miami-Dade County, Halloween is a reality which brings about numerous animal sacrifices and, subsequently, their dead carcasses littered about as proof of the way in which some choose to "celebrate" this holiday.

On the other hand, there are plenty of Christians here who have been transplanted from the Bible Belt (Texas, Georgia, etc.). These Christians are generally uptight about everything and Halloween just happens to be the tip of the iceberg.

With that in mind, Halloween is the time of year that my wife and I generally like to avoid Christians altogether. We throw a party each year in honor of our Midwestern heritage (remember the Halloween episodes of Roseanne and Home Improvement?), and we invite all of our friends, even knowing that many of our Christian friends won't bother.

For us, Halloween isn't confusing or difficult. We find that usually, it is the Christians that can be confusing and difficult. No sweat. We'll keep doing our thing, while they do theirs.
Here's some pics from our party this week:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Good Reason to Get Married

We were having a good conversation with some cohabiting single friends of ours recently, and it reminded me of this video. As usual, any video from is fun and entertaining.

Why should you bother to get married, anyways?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pastoral Cribs - Ed Young Jr. @ Fellowship Church

This is a trip. It is fun to see how the other half lives.

Monday, October 29, 2007

No Good Reason To Go To Church

Shaun Groves wrote an article called, No Good Reason to Go to Church. It was thought-provoking, to say the least.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Calvary Chapel Jupiter

Church Field Trip #17

The drive to get to Calvary Chapel Jupiter took about an hour. They meet at Jupiter High School, but they are presently building a church in Jupiter Farms which they will move into sometime in the spring of 2008. We parked our vehicle and then embarked on what seemed like a 1/4 mile winding journey through the school campus until we finally found the auditorium. Sometimes, in order to have a worship service, you do what you have to do. Because of this long walk, we received about 8 standard greetings from all of the greeters who were stationed along the way. Their attendance runs at about 500.

According to the Worship Pastor, Jeff Thompson, this week's worship was stripped down and acoustic. Though stripped down, it was still pretty high-energy. I don't know quite how to explain it, but sometimes I have fun during worship because the atmosphere is "helping me along" (Church by the Glades and come to mind.) At other times, that sense of worship seems to come from somewhere inside of me with a sense of it being more raw (CC Jupiter and Oasis church come to mind.) I wouldn't say that either of these worship experiences is better than the other, just different. Jeff promised that next week, they would be back to their usual "plugged in" experience which also includes a DJ. Big props on using a DJ, Jeff. As I've mentioned before, the heavy participation by the audience during worship at CCJ was a big influence on my worship experience.

Pastor Dan Plourde founded the church 10 years ago. A few years back, he determined that his church of upper class homeschoolers had become too comfortable in their own Christian culture bubble, and they were no longer reaching the unchurched community. So he decided to change their atmosphere by bringing in Jeff with a fresh take on worship.

Plourde puts a high priority on expository preaching. So much so that the slogan for the church written on all of their materials is: Chapter by Chapter...Verse by Verse. Presently, Plourde is working his way through the Book of Genesis. Specifically, he taught through Genesis 41, the story of Joseph's rise to power.

He began the teaching by asking the congregation this question: "How many of you here are believers? If you are a believer, please raise your hand. This message today is for you: You should be absolutely convinced, as Joseph was, that God is with you." It is ironic, how often we have attended these churches only to find that the message was solely intended for the church family and not the unchurched who might be visiting.

He went on to say that this was "the great promise of the Bible: That God is always with us." To illustrate this, he referenced Isaiah 41:10, Hebrews 13:5-6, and Matthew 28:20.

Pastor Dan was convinced that the story of Joseph had special meaning for this congregation in particular, because they are a congregation that is "blessed when it comes to the corporate ladder." "Many of us in this room would be considered the rising stars of the business world, much like Joseph." "There are CEO's here, you've done very well, you're very successful. "This congregation could be considered well-off." "So this might be the most appropriate teaching for this congregation - Joseph's rise to power."

Mid-way through the teaching, he related a story about a motivational/infomercial speaker, Stephen K. Scott, who ended his series of motivational tapes by telling the listener that he was a Christian. The motivational speaker said that "he wouldn't be doing his job, if he didn't tell people the Gospel of Jesus." Unfortunately, Pastor Dan's only mention of Jesus at all was in this quote of the motivational speaker. And the quote itself was almost self-condemning of Pastor Dan's own failure to tell those congregants whose hands were not raised anything at all about Jesus.

He pointed out that he would be available to speak to visitors at the connections table outside in the courtyard (reminiscent of the Ten Minute Party at Calvary Fellowship). I like this because it sends the message that the pastor places a priority on meeting new people. We were given a gift bag with a variety of informational pamphlets, including a doctrinal belief statement. It also included a sermon CD entitled "The Gospel" and a small booklet by Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter. One of our group asked the pastor how many hands were not raised when he asked the believers to raise their hands. He explained that, "on a typical Sunday, probably 20% of the congregation would indicate that they are not believers. And another 20% probably think that they are even though they are most likely not."

Follow-up: Jeff, the worship leader, asked us to join him for lunch. In 16 church visits, this would be a first. We accepted, ate BBQ, and talked for almost two hours. It was an enlightening conversation.
Follow-up: We received a hand-written note from the "Calvary Jupiter Staff" including an invitation to their Newcomers Night.

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