Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Exodus 19 & 20

At our July 22 Dinner & Discussion, we studied Exodus 19 & 20.

God meets with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, and delivers the ten commandments. The people freak out, out of fear, and ask that Moses be their mediator from then on.

  • We looked up a few instances of New Testament authors referencing the material we were reading to remind ourselves of its continued relevance. Those guys really knew their stuff!

  • We learned that most of the ten commandments carried the death penalty, and that most of them were re-stated in the New Testament.
  • We discussed the difference between idol worship and the use of art in worship, as well as the use of art in general.

  • We also discussed what it means in the modern context to "misuse the Lord's name": swearing - G.D. & J.C. (when my wife first became a christian, she replaced J.C. with "cheese & rice"), using it idly - "oh my God", and even using it in merchandising - bracelets, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc.
Other thoughts brought out by the text:
  • internal thought life vs. external actions

  • the need for a mediator between man and God

  • sabbath as a day for rest and worship

  • does Paul do away with the sabbath commandment altogether?

  • Jesus said to stop swearing oaths and "just let your yes be yes and your no be no."

  • God can put on a pretty good (terrifying) show when He wants to.

Our next Dinner & Discussion will be Aug. 5 at 6 pm - we will be discussing Exodus 21 - 23:13 - proper use of altars, fair treatment of slaves, personal injury, property rights, social responsibility, and a call for justice.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Simpsons Characters

Over at the Simpsons Movie site, they have a generator that will turn you into a Simpsons character. Here's the rendition of me and my wife, Laura:

Yes, it's true, my appearance could easily be described as unkempt.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pastoral Response

Here are two pastoral responses to the church field trip reports of late:

.....cafe con leche y tostada. (Pastor Dan at Relevant Church) said...
Hey thanks for writing this blog. It's awesome to see some feedback after a service. I appreciate the comment on "just throwing in the gospel". This will help me in making sure the gospel is presented. Believe me my heart is in evangelism and nothing excites me more than see people give their hearts to Christ. I am praying for you guys as you continue in your journey. I will tell you it is tough, but it is worth every moment. God bless you guys. we will keep improving I promise!!!!

FRC Sawgrass Campus (Pastor Matt at Flamingo Road Sawgrass) said...
thanks for blogging about my church and for checking out my blog. I'm going to pass your blog on to some of the other pastors. thanks for the honest feedback!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Gospel Defined

It took awhile, but I finally got the response I was waiting for: someone wants me to define the Gospel in my own words. (Up to this point, I've been using a video link to Mark Driscoll delivering the Gospel in less than five minutes. I listen to Driscoll every week, and I've heard him consistently drop the Gospel into his sermons, often in less than two minutes.)

Here are their requests:

1. What exactly do you mean by "the Gospel"?

2. If the gospel in the narrower sense is your meaning, what good does it do to have that gospel preached to the believers each week in church?

3. You distinguish between content and cultural relevance, but this seems to me to be academic. If we don't communicate in relevant terms (as Jesus did via parables, and Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 9:22), then is that really preaching good news to people, or just empty words (to them, if not to us)?

I couldn't have posed these questions any better myself. These are excellent questions, so let's begin.

In my own words:

My answer to Question #1:

The Gospel is the story of man's fall, (Adam bringing sin into our relationship with God), God's Law - making clear to us what is and isn't sin, God's sacrificial plan for redeeming us from the penalty of having broken that Law (which we all have, countless times, over and over), and Jesus' place as our substitutional sacrifice in that plan of redemption.

In other words, Jesus died as a payment for the penalty of our sins, if we place our trust and belief in Jesus, repent from our sins, and commit our life to living for Him, we become God's children, inheriting all of the blessings that He promises to his obedient children, not the least of which would be eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, yes, I mean it in the narrower sense: I want to hear, however briefly, about Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection and it's implication on my own life. I realize that there are other aspects and implications included in Jesus' life, but I'd at least like to hear the bare minimum.

My answer to Question #2:

I would hope that a church service isn't "full of believers", because I'd like to think that those same believers would have invited some of their non-believing family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends along with them to the service. Also, Jesus spoke in Matthew 13:24-30 about the presence of non-believers among the believers as a given, something to be expected. Not to mention the fact that many believers simply need to hear the Gospel again and again, because they are just as forgetful as the Israelites of the Old Testament were, forgetting their first love, and why they became a Christ-follower in the first place.

My non-answer to Question #3:

Your third question is a tough one. Which is worse (or better, I suppose): the preacher who preaches in relevant language, but fails to mention the Gospel, or the preacher who nails the Gospel, but fails to do so in a culturally relevant format. First of all, I'd almost like to leave this question up for debate without actually weighing in on it. Second, having only attended each of these churches once, I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt to these preachers that they aren't as one-sided as they may seem at first glance.

Here is another appropriate question that someone recently asked me concerning this matter: Which would be easier? To teach the Gospel-driven preacher how to be culturally relevant; or teach the culturally relevant preacher to be Gospel-driven? I'm assuming that all of these preachers know the Gospel, what I'm questioning is the priority that they've given it or denied it in the place of a church worship service.

To all of you out there lurking, this is your chance to "weigh in", and answer these three questions....

Monday, July 23, 2007

Community Christian Church

Church Field Trip Report #6

Community Christian Church caught our attention because they are about to move into a new facility over 6 miles away from their current facility. They presently have four services every Sunday in an older church building that holds about 300. We arrived a bit early and were greeted by the Senior Pastor, Scott Eynon (probably in his 40's). He talked with us awhile, and then we talked to Stephanie, the Connections Director, and also Brian, the Worship Pastor, as well as a couple other members who took the time to get to know us. Our friends checked their children into the kidz ministry and we missed the first song of the worship set, "Freedom". (Our traveling posse grew from 4 to 9 this week.)

The music set was classic contemporary. One of the songs we sang was, "Shout to the Lord", (that should speak volumes to some of you. If not, I'll just say that this song is statistically, the most played song in churches for the last 14 years running).

The pastor spoke about "How to get along with other people - Anger Management". He quoted a bunch of verses out of Proverbs, as well as a few other Bible verses. He used a variety of Bible translations, relying heavily on The New Living Translation and The New International Version. He also used Today's English Version, New Century Version, and The Living Bible.

During his sermon about controlling our anger, he used Jesus as an example of how we can choose to forgive rather than react with anger. "Jesus, who had been beaten, crucified, and slandered, chose to forgive them. Jesus had the strength and the power to not get angry with others."

He closed with an excerpt from a book by Andy Stanley, "It came from within". During the closing prayer, he told us that we could "ask God to step into our life and help." God could give us "wisdom, courage, and discernment." He could help us to "reconcile our relationships with others."

As far as I could tell, the Gospel was a no-show. But what we did next was the true irony of the situation. This church shares communion every Sunday. As they are handing out the elements (bread and juice), there is a power point slide up on the screen that reads, "The unleavened bread reminds us of Jesus' body and the cup of juice reminds us of Jesus' blood. If you are a believer, you are invited to join us. Please eat and drink after prayerful meditation." Once again, it seems to me that it is a foregone conclusion that everyone in attendance is familiar (and apparently bored) with hearing the Gospel. What exactly is the bread and juice reminding me of again? Oh, that's right, it is reminding me that Jesus had the "strength and the power to forgive His enemies rather than be angry with them for killing Him."

After the service, everyone was very friendly and we spent some time talking with the pastors some more. The worship pastor finally realized that he and I had sat next to each other in an all-day break-out session during a recent "Wired Church" conference at Flamingo Road Church in April. It will be interesting to see how this church evolves once it moves into its new building this fall.

Follow-up: Someone from the church dropped off a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies at our front door this week in a bag bearing the church logo, with a note thanking us for our attendance.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Plantation Baptist Church

Church Field Trip #5
Plantation Baptist Church

This church is literally within walking distance, we walk past it every day with the dog. It is a pretty church building and, despite the fact that we knew it was a traditional (1950's) baptist church, we decided to drop in anyway. Besides, we heard that they had a new pastor in his 30's.

Upon arrival, we were immediately escorted to the information desk where they solicited us for contact information and gave us a visitor's packet. The visitor's packet contained two separate pamphlets delivering the Gospel message, as well as pamphlets concerning the various ministries of the church. We were also invited to attend their Sunday school groups, which met before the service. The congregation may have had about 200 people covering the full spectrum of race and age.

This was a traditional church service - we were the only ones wearing shorts, there was a full choir, we sang hymns accompanied by piano/organ, used the King James Version of the Bible, prelude/invitation/benediction etc. In other words, the church I grew up in - 20 years ago.

Now I think that I've made it clear, that what is most important to me is that the Gospel gets delivered clearly and completely. Well, this church passed with flying colors, despite the cultural disparity.

During the opening prayer, the Gospel was delivered. The sermon itself - "The Man: Christ Jesus" was wholly devoted to the Gospel, referencing I Timothy 2:1-6. Pastor Tom Hunter covered not only the whole Gospel, but several other doctrines including atonement, mediation, the virgin birth, the trinity, the Levitical sacrificial system, the false doctrine of Catholic Atonement as shared by Jesus and Mary, original sin, God's character, and Jesus' duel humanity/divinity. I really don't think he missed anything, pretty impressive. He is 34, married with four children, an original Michigander, and a graduate of Bob Jones University (which would explain a lot). His style was classic; I don't know how else to describe it. When you think of a classic preacher, this is what you picture. The slogan for his podcast on iTunes: "The Way Church Used To Be."

Here's the problem I have with hymns: The language is outdated and the music is outdated. BUT, the content is priceless. When was the last time you sang a song in church that dealt with blood, sacrifice, atonement, mediation, etc. Many contemporary worship songs have been stereotyped as being nothing more than "Prom Songs to Jesus". After singing those hymns, I might be inclined to agree. I am in agreeance with those who would promote "new" songs that carry the theological weight of the "old" hymns.

I fully admit to being culturally liberal and theologically conservative. This causes some problems for some, and it also makes it harder to find a place to fit in. But I'm not going to compromise my God-given values, and I'm not going to drastically alter my God-given personality. I am a real-world guy who loves Jesus.

Follow-up: Pastor Tom called us and left a message twice during the week, once on a Tuesday night, and once on Saturday morning. We also recieved a letter from Tom during the week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Since I've moved to south Florida, I've been exposed to an ever increasing number of ethnic restaurants. Cuban, Spanish, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Japanese, French, English, German, Italian, to name a few. I've never been a big fan of most of these.

For me, ethnic is Taco Bell and Chili's, but hey, I'll try anything.

Recently we went out to a hibachi restaurant, Japan Inn in Sunrise, FL. I had fun. The food was good. Let's face it, having a guy cook at the table, make big fire balls, throw shrimp at everyone, while flinging his knives around, making jokes, and talking smack is a no-brainer. And I know what you're thinking - "what rock have you been hiding under that you've never had hibachi?". As I said, I'm more than content with Taco Bell.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Deathly Hallows

I've never wanted to read a book so badly. While I was waiting for each of the Lord of the Rings movies to be released, I promised Jesus that as soon as I had finished watching the Trilogy (the extended versions of course) I would be ready for His return.

I now recant that promise.

Dear Jesus, as soon as I (and my wife) have finished reading "Deathly Hallows", I will be ready for your return. I'm serious this time, really.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Faith Center

Church Field Trip #4

We've been to the Faith Center once before, to see one of our favorite preachers, Tony Evans. So we knew what to expect, partially, before heading into this one (Word of Faith/Pentecostal). In addition to our posse, there were probably six other "white" people in the entire church that comprised almost 2,000 people. This church was celebrating it's 16 year anniversary (it started in a school cafeteria with Bishop Henry Fernandez and his wife, Pastor Carol. She also holds the titles of Dr. and First Lady.)

As expected, their music/worship was off the chain. There's nothing like dancing and clapping along with 2,000 other worshippers who are all dancing too.

After worshipping for some time, we listened to two different testimonies: one health - a woman who was cured of breast cancer; and one wealth - a couple who gave money to the ministry, then lost $20,000 in an investment, then prayed, and subsequently received $25,000 from various outside sources.

A mission offering was taken to go towards buying school supplies for poor children in Jamaica. Bishop Fernandez asked all who were able to give $100 toward this special offering.

We read through a "confession" that must've used the words: prosperity, wealth, blessing, and health at last half a dozen times each. (An obvious exaggeration, it was more like three times each.)

We then listened to music and testimony from special guest Helen Baylor. She told us of her deliverance from drug abuse and prostitution, and then she gave an invitation to come forward to all those who didn't know Jesus. She even put people on the spot by saying, "If you brought a friend with you today, lean over and ask them if they'd like to go forward with you at this time to receive Jesus."

She also invited anyone who had not yet been blessed with the gift of tongues, "the only sure sign of the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit", to also come forward to receive that most important blessing. "If I couldn't speak in tongues, I don't know how I would get through this life," she said.
Trust me, lady, it's not that hard, really. I've managed it so far.

Bishop Fernandez closed the service with the "first fruit" offering.

Here's the bottom line: my wife and I both love the energy and fun that comes from being partially charismatic (or as Mark Driscoll describes it, "charismatic with a seat belt"), but when the Pentecostalism comes into play, its gone too far for both of us. Translation: "Don't tell me that I haven't experienced God if I'm not speaking in tongues."

Second, I love the "real world" grittiness that comes from a church like this - people talking about their afflictions and struggles with disease, poverty, property taxes and insurance, drugs, Satan, and life in general; as well as people actually believing in the gifts of the spirit rather than dismissing them as obsolete in our modern world. But there is also an obvious obsession with the aspects of the Bible that deal with health and wealth. I look to Jesus to keep me healthy and pay my bills too, but I don't think that I am consumed by that one aspect of our relationship.

That said, I don't think it was possible for anyone to have been a part of this service, and not have been "moved" in some way. Inspirational might be a good word to use.

And while we were leaving the sanctuary, there was a sign that hung over each of the doors that read: "YOU ARE ENTERING THE MISSION FIELD." Perfect. I love it. I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Patriarchs

A quick overview of the patriarchs

In looking at these men, pay attention to who initiated the contact - man or God. Also ask why contact was made. Also ask why a covenant was made/confirmed, and what were the conditions/promises of the covenant? As you read through these stories, always be looking for how Jesus ties into them, as He is the centerpiece of the entire Bible.

Adam (lived 930 years)

Gen. 3 - The Fall

Noah (600 years old during flood) (lived 950 years)
Gen. 7 - “because I have found you righteous”
Gen. 9 - covenant – no more floods

Abraham (Abram)
Gen. 12 - Abram called
Gen. 15 – covenant - land and offspring
Belief = righteousness
Read Gen. 15:12-16
Gen. 17 – Covenant = circumcision
Gen. 22 – Abraham tested

Gen. 26:3-5 – covenant confirmed

Jacob (Israel)
Gen. 32:22-30 – covenant confirmed
Read Gen. 46:2-4

Jacob’s Sons (70 descendants went into Egypt)
Gen. 46:8-25 – list of sons
Their generation dies, but multiplies
Exodus 1 – The people are enslaved

Exodus 2 – His birth
Exodus 3 – Burning bush
Exodus 12 – The Passover
Exodus 14:21 – Crossing the Red Sea
Exodus 19 – Arrival at Mount Sinai

We will begin our study in Exodus 19 on July 22 at 6 pm

Monday, July 9, 2007

Relevant Church Miami

Church Field Trip #2
(#3 if you count Church by the Pool)

Thanks to the Relevant Magazine Church Directory, we discovered Relevant Church Miami.

They meet in a middle school auditorium in Miami Lakes, Fl. Upon our arrival (10 minutes late) we received two "genuine" greetings outside and then another once inside the cafeteria. At the door, a gentleman took a picture of each of us individually with a Polaroid and gave us the picture.
The music was mainly acoustic with a background track, though thoroughly enjoyable. They are praying for a band, so if you play (drums/bass/elec. guitar/latin perc.) make your way over there and volunteer. The set-up was very tasteful and very well done, considering the cafeteria setting. The 19 year-old worship leader was enthusiastic and barefoot and open to any artistic expression that one might want to add to the worship service. There were probably about 50 people (July 4th weekend is a notoriously low week for attendance at churches). They started last year with 15 people. The pastor, Dan Egipciaco, was probably the most energized worshipper in the bunch (a bonus), standing right up front, hands raised, leading by example in worship. I should also note that the congregation was mostly 20 and 30 somethings, as Pastor Dan himself was 32. He is tri-vocational. He is a realtor and also a salesman for U.S. Imaging Solutions.
Pastor Dan was a high-energy, relevant, and humorous preacher. He talked about "Perceptions" - specifically our perception of beauty vs. God's perception of beauty. He talked about fantasy, pornography, inner/outer beauty. He used I Samuel 16:7 and I Peter 3:3-4. He mentioned the fact that too often, subjects such as sex are avoided in the church, despite the fact that our generation is crying out to hear what God has to say about it. Dan used the Polaroid picture as an illustration of how God sees us as beautiful. A Polaroid is a moment in time captured and cannot be photo shopped to look better. We have to accept it as is. He recommended that the congregation check out Relevant Magazine, and then he closed by reading an article from it, "This body that I wear."
Pastor Dan briefly mentioned the Gospel in passing during his closing prayer. I was disappointed, but at least glad that it got "thrown in" at the end during a prayer. As we neared the end of the service, I was beginning to fear that the Gospel wasn't even going to make an appearance. I really don't want to criticize, because I really liked this church and I loved Pastor Dan too, but I guess I am just a stickler for hearing the Gospel in a complete and clear fashion. I'll just chalk it up as a non-Gospel week.
At the end of the service, Dan remarked that he didn't really like the idea of "church marketing". "If someone is excited about their church, they will invite people, " he said. He asked the congregation to join him next Saturday in handing out fliers in the surrounding neighborhoods. He also invited everyone to join him on July 14 in providing a Free Car Wash to the surrounding community. They are doing the car wash as a service to the community (they are not asking for donations or money, they are simply telling the community about the church.) They will also be giving out free bottled water while the cars are washed. I really like where this guy's heart is at.
Now let me tell you my two favorite things about this church. When their one-hour service ended at noon, they spent almost an hour talking to us, telling us about their vision, and introducing us to whoever else was hanging out, drinking Cuban coffee and espresso. For an entire hour, no one lifted a finger to break down the equipment. They just mingled, hung out, and chatted it up. Awesome. When the people finally did start to break down the equipment, Pastor Dan handed his 8-week old off to his wife and remarked, "I really need to go help these guys break down, it's not fair to let them do all the work."

I'll just come right out and say it: THEY HAD A DJ SPINNING BEATS BEFORE AND AFTER THE SERVICE. Awesome. The DJ also runs a ministry during the week in Miami Springs, Fl.
We had fun, and we met a lot of cool people. They really seem like they've got it together, and we will definitely be praying for them.

Follow-up: We have been added to the church email list, and began recieving email updates from them almost immediately.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Book of the Law

We have decided to begin a Bible Study in our home. We will meet every other week in our home on Sunday nights at 6 pm for dinner and discussion. We are going to do a quick overview of the Patriarchs and the Exodus (Genesis 1 through Exodus 18). We are then going to begin reading through the Book of the Law (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). As we read through these books, I will report what we've discovered here on this blog.

Our first meeting is Sunday, July 8 at 6 pm. We are not currently able to entertain children, but we are quickly working to remedy that and should be ready within the month.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


When I first heard that they were making Transformers last year, my reaction was, "meh."

When I saw the first trailer that showed the actual robots transforming and destroying stuff, my reaction became, "ok, that looks pretty cool."

After watching the previews and promotions over and over again on t.v., I got pretty burned out on the movie and any excitement I may have had was lost.

I say this so that there is no suspicion of previous bias. I was not a fan of the 80's cartoon, and I was not particularly looking forward to this movie.

I saw the movie last night.

It was one of the coolest movies I've ever seen. Hands down.

The action sequences were off the charts. The sound effects were deafening. The casting was spot on. Nothing was overdone.

You do not want to watch this movie on your television screen at home in six months. I repeat. You have to watch this movie in a movie theatre.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Welcome To Jamrock

Welcome To Jamrock

Apparently, I must be part Jamaican, because I can't seem to shake the reggae music. Though I did manage to shake the ganja.
Unfortunately, I've been hiding under a rock for the past two years, because I somehow missed Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and his album, Welcome to Jamrock. I was in a club last week, and the title track caught my ear. I haven't been able to remove it from my head since.
I'm a big fan of reggae, but have never been a fan of dance hall, its faster paced cousin. I really dig Jr. Gong because he manages to update reggae into the modern era without feeling the need to speed it up.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

To the people formerly known as....

This is a collection of posts that I ran across recently. They are in the order they were given:

The People formerly known as the Congregation

The Penguins formerly known as Waddle

The People formerly known as "The Pastor"

The Girl formerly known as a "normal christian"

While not agreeing with any of them completely, I would be remiss if I did not admit that each of them definitely strike a chord within me. This is the genesis of a revolution after all.

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