Thursday, February 28, 2008

All Saints Carnival

At our last community group, we didn't get a chance to talk about our intended topic, Evil: Where is it today? We've all had an eventful few weeks, so we talked, prayed, and then decided to shelve our topic until next time. We then went over to All Saints Catholic Church for their annual carnival. They have all of the usual carnival fare: rides, junk food, games, etc. But they also have a few extras: an international food tent with about 20 vendors, a couple beer trailers with 5 diferent beers on tap, a huge dining tent filled with tables and chairs and a DJ spinning tunes. Personally, I'd prefer a live blues band, but I'll take what I can get.

I love that I can go to a church sponsored festival and not get hit up to join the church. It feels like the church is throwing the party for the benefit of the community. I like that.

At our next gathering, Feb. 29 at 7 pm, we'll actually try to get to the topic: Evil - Where is it today?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Discipleship - 'Feed me, Feed me' or Feed Someone Else?

How tired I get of hearing people say, "I'm not being fed, spiritually." I do believe that this absence of discipleship is an epidemic in today's church. And I do not blame the church. And I do not blame the lead pastors of those churches.

What happened to one person teaching 12 other people everything they know about everything?

What happened to one person seeking out someone who might be willing to teach them everything they know about everything?

We got lazy. We became an army of infants, crying for our milk. "Feed me, feed me." Whine. Cry. Complain. Grumble. Gossip. Leave. Only to find another nursery with big fat bottles from which we might suck.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Missions - Across the Sea or Across the Street?

I believe that both are equally important. Neither should be pursued to the neglect of the other.

Those that believe that the "ends of the earth" have been reached are just plain ignorant.

And those that believe that we live in a nation full of Bible-believing, Jesus-following authentic Christians are just as ignorant.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Authenticity - Keepin it Real or Pretending to be Transparent?

Religion breeds fakery. Church breeds conformity. There are any number of elephants in the pew, take your pick. Some churches tout authenticity, whether real or imagined, and some churches don't even bother. Real authenticity is something that must be continually strived for in the "church environment." There is no magic solution, except that of perseverance and determination. One message that consistently comes through in the Bible is : You have nothing to hide. Let it out. To God, and to others.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cutting the Cheese

I'm not a fan of Bud Light, but this commercial is priceless. I couldn't pass it up. Thanks, Ben.

Church - Institutional / Denominational or A group of people who follow Jesus?

I am not against the institutions/denominations of church, but neither am I in favor of fighting for them. Rather than attempting to tear down the institutions of church, I believe they should be left to stand on their own. But at the same time, that does not necessarily mean that I, personally, want to be a part of those institutions.

Too often, traditions are built and then defended with bared teeth. I want no part of that fight. I believe that the church is indeed the Bride of Jesus, but I prefer to see that bride as a group of followers rather that a building with a sign out front.

"My team is better than your team" may work well in the sporting world, but it is pretty unbecoming for churches. Too bad I run into it more often than not.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hospitality - Consumer lifestyle or Servant lifestyle?

The idea of opening up your home and your life to a stranger can be a foreign and even frightening prospect. Our culture is highly driven by a consumer mentality. Fast food, television, air conditioning, Internet, etc. We want it our way, now, and in the privacy of our own home.

I can't say it better than Mark Driscoll in Radical Reformission: "Isn't it odd that we are apparently becoming a nation of attractive people who sit at home alone at night with our pets, watching our television shows about relationships and taking medication for the depression brought on by our loneliness? Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way?"

Hospitality isn't just about "opening up your home", but about serving others. Too many people are guilty of consistantly asking themselves, "What am I getting out of this?"

"Me, me, me." Doesn't it just feel good to say it?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Social Involvement - Taking care of our own or Taking care of others?

Discovering the needs of the culture often requires one to first step into the culture, get to know it, learn to love it, and finally be able to respond to its needs. Listen, the culture is a not a collection of t.v. shows, music, and movies. The culture is made up of the people that are surrounding you on a daily basis, particularly your neighbors and coworkers.

And let's not forget the marginalized. The Bible constantly harps on the plight of the "poor, the widows, and the orphans". We cannot ignore this and we cannot simply use the excuse, "Well, I just don't know anyone who is poor, widowed, or orphaned." This is obviously missing the point. Or at least, you'd think it was obvious.

If you find that your finances and your time are consumed with self-preservation, it is a common problem, but a problem that must be dealt with nonetheless. This principle applies both to individual Christians and corporate churches as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Evangelism - Missional, Attractional, or Confrontational?

I believe that all three are viable means of disseminating faith, though each has its own pitfalls.

  • Confrontational - yeah, the "bullhorn guy". As long as he speaks a message of love with an attitude of love, which can coexist with words like "sin" and "hell", I'm a fan. Hey, it's a job that no one really wants, but Jesus, John the Baptizer, Peter, Paul, and a host of Prophets were known to get up on the "soapbox" and rant to a crowd. Unfortunately, nowadays, most soapbox types wouldn't know love if it was standing right in front of them.
  • Attractional - Of course, you actually have to be able to attract people in the first place. Unless you can pull off the miracles that Jesus was known for, I guess you'll just have to rely on technology and geniune creativity. That is, if you can afford it. Then again, Jesus was never a big fan of those who came just to see his parlor tricks, was he?
  • Missional - This can be described as "Get out of your christian culture bubble, you lazy/scared Christian!" Unless you find yourself surrounded at dinner by "sinners" and "drunkards", you are not missional. I heard Darrin Patrick say recently, "Church happens at the dinner table and in the living room."

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that Jesus was the master of all three of these methods of evangelism. Might we want to follow in His footsteps?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Truth - Absolute or Relative?

It's not that absolute truth isn't to be had, it's that no one would believe you if you had it, so why bother beating them over the head with it? The "certainty" of my faith is meant for my own "assurance", not for clobbering other people into submission. I do believe in absolute truth, but it does little good in our culture to wave it around as a banner of self-righteousness. Rather than pursue a "You're wrong, I'm right" attitude, I find it more appropriate to adopt a "watch how I am living my life for Christ" attitude.

I'm always amused at how some "intelligent/educated" circles will discuss, ad nauseum, the distinctives of post-modernism. But what I find in my daily life is that most postmodern people don't know that they are exactly that. Their own ignorance of such a philosophy almost makes our constant discussion moot. Almost. I also find that most people who are agnostic also do not know that their belief system actually bears such a name. That is, until I give it a name. So why are we spending so much time discussing philosophical and religious ideas that the general public is totally ignorant about? To goad our own egos? Can we really say that we are trying to "reach people" by discussing concepts they know nothing about?

So is truth absolute or relative? I know that my neighbor could really care less. So whenever I go over to hang out with him, I might as well leave that one at home.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Bible - Narrative or Formulaic?

I believe it is a little of both. I do not believe that the Bible is a Big Book of Answers, a code-book, a text-book, a Book of Rules/Laws, etc. Certainly, there are parts of the Bible which are codified and legalistic, but I do not believe that the Bible, as a whole, is meant to take on this purpose for which it is so often used. (Like those who pull verses out as proof-text for any given means necessary.)

I believe that the Bible, on the whole, is a God-given collection of historical stories about God interacting with people - though these stories do take on a number of literary styles. The principle and primary character of the Bible is Jesus. Every story in the Bible points to Jesus either directly or indirectly.

If people saw the Bible for what it really was, I think that they would spend more time reading it, and more importantly, enjoying it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beliefs and Practices

Over the course of the past several months, I've slowly formulated some basic thoughts on my beliefs and practices with the intent to publish them on this site. Each of the following posts will concisely explain what I believe and what I am passionate about. Each post will be labeled Beliefs and Practices.

Tentatively, there are 10 posts in all. I will try to post one each day for the next several days. Try to keep up.

As usual, I've tried to keep my thoughts down to a minimal amount. In this particular area, I could unleash upon you a thoughtful and wordy "mission statement" that would make Jerry Maguire proud. But, true to the format of this site, I will restrain myself and leave it where I've left it. For now. Feel free to weigh in on each of the following posts. You won't hurt my feelings.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Florida Panther gets throat slashed during game

Anyone else see Florida Panther Rich Zednik get his throat slashed during last night's game in Buffalo? His teammate's skate came up and slit his throat during gameplay. The amount of blood that came shooting out of Zednik's throat was sickening. I'll refrain from posting the video here, but you can Youtube it. Zednik has been listed in stable condition in a Buffalo hospital.

So much for the fighting being the dangerous part of hockey.

In case you didn't notice. This is that time of year when one is forced to switch from watching football to watching hockey. (I can't stand basketball or baseball.) Besides, my Red Wings are womping on just about every other team out there - with a salary cap. I'll start really paying attention when the playoffs start in April.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jack Johnson

My good friend Bethany turned me on to Jack Johnson about two years ago as I was helping her and Matt pack up for their move to North Carolina. I recognized many of Johnson's songs even though I had never actually heard his name before.

I've since become thoroughly addicted to Jack Johnson - I've got just about everything he's done. My wife's complaint is a valid one: "Most of his songs sound the same". True. But it is his upbeat nature that I enjoy most. I like Santana and Marley, but it is the upbeat, yet somehow still mellow sound of Johnson that has enthralled me for these past two years.

In my old age, the musical releases that actually hold some interest for me are becoming fewer and fewer. So I relish the release of an album that I might actually enjoy for more than a cursory listen.

Without further ado, I am pleased to inform you that Mr. Johnson, a surfer from Hawaii, has released his latest effort this week: Sleep Through the Static.

I'm enjoying it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Masturbation and Porn

Our discussion on porn didn't last very long. Everyone pretty much agreed that "God doesn't like porn/doesn't approve of porn" and that "porn is definitely a problem in today's culture". We essentially agreed that "porn is bad" and consequently dropped it from the conversation. We did discuss the fact that porn is still not addressed as it should be by the church - the elephant in the pew.

Masturbation, on the other hand, was a different matter. There was much discussion of the various aspects of masturbation which have real implications in both our thought life and our physical actions.

Here are some of the issues we discussed:

  • When do children become "aware" of themselves sexually? And when does that "awareness" become sinful?

  • What does one think about when they masturbate? What thoughts would garner God's approval?

  • Is this issue different for women and men?

  • Is this issue different for singles and married couples?

  • Can a married person just "think of their spouse" while masturbating?

  • What if a married person "approves" of their spouse masturbating?

  • Can a single person just "imagine their future spouse" while masturbating?

  • Is it an issue of self-control or physiological release?

  • What if a person thinks of an abstract concept rather than a specific person while masturbating?

During the course of our discussion, we looked at three verses which spoke to the importance that God places on our thought life, as well as the extreme nature of sexual sin in God's eyes: Deuteronomy 5:21 (CEV), Matthew 5:27-30 (NLT) , I Corinthians 6:17-19 (ESV).

We looked at two quotes which were interesting, possibly even absurd.

"Fathers should urge theirs sons, if they masturbate, to imagine their future wife, and never some girl they may know." - James Dobson

"Single males should pray before masturbating, thanking God for the gift of their sexuality and keeping Him in mind while achieving self-release." - Herbert Miles

If you listened to the church, you might be led to believe that women don't masturbate at all, but studies show that 60% of women have masturbated and 30% of the internet porn users are women.

Our next get-together will be on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 5:30 pm. We are going to talk for awhile about Evil: Where is it today?

At around 7 pm, we are going to go down the street and eat at the All-Saints Carnival, a catholic carnival which hosts local food vendors.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Why visit church worship services?

A friend of mine recently asked me two good questions:

  1. Why are we visiting various church worship services?

  2. What have we learned from these experiences?

I'd like to begin by stating that I do not rank, rate, or otherwise grade the churches that I visit. I merely report on my own personal experience during a worship service as a first-time visitor - as well as the experiences of those who join us. Another person's experience could be vastly different from my own, for better or worse. Also, I recognize that by solely experiencing the worship service only, my knowledge of a particular church in all of its functions and personality is severely limited. Also, let me clearly state that we are not "church shopping", "church hopping" or otherwise looking for a church family. Be that as it may, we have learned much from these past 8 months of church field trips.

We began this journey simply to see "what was out there" with a secondary motive of searching for any church which might fit the bill of "emerging". It is one thing to read about it, another to experience it.

Too many people never leave the spiritual/religious box in which they were raised: Catholic, Unitarian, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, or no church at all. This also goes for adult converts who immediately adopt a "version" or denomination of Christianity. Simply leaving the box (a friend of mine calls it a pilgrimage) is a worthy exercise in itself. I would be lying if I said that I haven't been outside of my own comfort zone on more than one occasion during these field trips.

My wife and I have discovered that we are more charismatic in belief, if not practice, than we once thought we were. Having left the box, we've frequently found ourselves among people who both engage us, excite us, as well as just freaking us out with their own level of excitement about being followers of Jesus.

We have indeed seen the methodological aspects of the emerging church movement firsthand, and we like what we've seen.

We've seen bi-vocational pastors who immerse themselves in ecclesiastical hardships. We've seen pastors, as well as lay people go out of their way to meet and engage new people. Unfortunately, we've also seen some pastors who seem to driven purely by their own ego and intellectual haughtiness. We've seen struggling churches and we've seen "successful" churches - depending on your definition of success. (There was even a church in Pembroke Pines that called it quits before we had a chance to visit them. Sorry, Liz.)

We've seen pastors who prioritize preaching the Gospel, and we've seen pastors who forget to preach the Gospel.

We've worshipped with congregations that tear the roof down with their zeal, creativity, and volume. We've also worshipped with congregations that don't actually seem to be awake or alive or both. Mostly, this has taught us that corporate worship is between us and God, and if a few hundred people are surrounding us and they're as excited about worship as we are - well then, the more the merrier.

I could go on, but this is one of those occasions where I'll end up with a 12 page paper if I don't just go ahead and stop myself short.

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