Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

In his speech last night, President Obama hit a few nerves while describing our state of the union. I actually almost found myself misty-eyed as he basically described our situation almost to a tee. I suppose I should be comforted that this at least shows that I'm in good company with so many other people.

Here are a few quick excerpts that President Obama mentioned in his opening remarks:

"You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights."

"One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder. "

"This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades -- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college. "

"I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -- asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work. "

"For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems."

"The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" might be my favorite song. Or at least the song that has the deepest emotional effect on me.

Early this morning, while rocking my son to sleep, I found myself worshipping and praying to God - and listening to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The song is on a CD of lullaby songs that we play for my infant son while he sleeps in his nursery.

Its easy to worship God while listening to music that was made for that purpose - songs about God's character, his Son, and what He's done for us through His sacrifice. But for some reason, I find it almost more geniune, when I find myself worshipping Him through means that might otherwise not have been meant for that purpose.

I liken it to the difference between "going to a church service" in order to worship God, as opposed to worshipping Him on a daily basis no matter the circumstances. A great many people never realize that this is not only possible, but preferable, as far as God is concerned. This is how Paul was able to stay positive, even joyful, in the face of trial and tribulation. This is why we've seen people pulled from the rubble in Haiti this week singing songs about faith.

I'm not exactly sure why "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" affects me so deeply - perhaps for a number of reasons. One - The Wizard of Oz definitely held some wistful meaning for me as a child. It was only on television once a year, which made it somewhat of a delicacy. Two - two of the most romantic movies that I know both end with this song during their climactic coupling - You've Got Mail and 50 First Dates.

But still, listening to the song while rocking my son to sleep this morning made me think of an even more probable reason. The song evokes a feeling that dreams are possible. That things will get better just around the next corner. That God has better things in store. That a wonderful world of color is beyond this world of black and white drabness and ugliness.

Or my wife's pregnancy hormones are getting to me and I just need to go back to sleep.

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around,
Heaven opens a magic lane
When all the clouds darken up the skyway,
There's a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your window pane
To a place behind the sun,
Just a step beyond the rain

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stop going to church

Here is a good post that I found over at

Stop Going to Church

by Jonathan Dodson

For years I went to church. Religiously. I actually went to church for about 25 years. Then I stopped. I'm so glad I did. Instead of going to church, I started being the church. It's radically changed me. They have changed me. My family has gotten bigger.

The church is supposed to be a family. But there's a problem. The church in America is too often very un-church. As a result, a lot of people say that they like Jesus, but they just don't like the church.

Unbelievable Churches

Some churches are fortresses. Groups of combative soldiers that enforce their doctrine, hide behind their high and holy walls, and launch grenades of judgment into the culture. The mission is doctrinal conformity, not grace. The community is in-grown not inviting.

Other churches have more in common with shopping malls. They are filled with salesmen and consumers. The salesman market the church to the world. They dress her up like the culture, dress down the message of Jesus, and sell the consumers short on the gospel, community and mission. Unlike fortress churches, the shopping mall mission is not to keep people out but to get people in. At quite a high cost, people pile into the building and out of the building wondering if this is all there is to church.

Then there are the cemeteries — lifeless, irrelevant, stodgy churches. These churches are trapped in time, disconnected from contemporary issues. Somehow they've lost the joy of the Lord. Calcified by religion, they offer virtually no community or mission.

When our churches have more in common with fortresses, shopping malls and cemeteries, who can blame America for not liking the church, for not receiving in her, for not joining the movement?

Family Church

Church is not an event, a place or a plant. It is a family of brothers and sisters united in the Spirit and the Son. The church is a community, people in relationships under grace. So the church is supposed to be a family, but we act more like acquaintances.

Instead of sharing life and truth, joy and pain, meals and mission, we share one, maybe two events a week. Church has been reduced to a spiritual event that happens for an hour or two on weekends, and if you are spiritual, occurs another couple hours during the week in a small group meeting. We spend just enough time "at church" to be religious, but nowhere near enough time to be family.

The dominant metaphor of the church in the New Testament is the metaphor of family. Every one of Paul's letters opens by addressing the church in familial terms — sisters, brothers, son, and our Father. The use of "brother" is, by far, the most frequent. This sibling emphasis reflects the familial nature of the church. What would happen if we started acting like family?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Falwell is gone..... when can we get rid of Robertson too?

The Rev. Pat Robertson is offering his own absurd explanation for why a quake hit Haiti: Many years ago, the island's people "swore a pact to the devil."

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," the controversial televangelist said during an interview Wednesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"They were under the heel of the French...and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'"

Robertson continued: "True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Robertson went on to note that though Haiti shares the same island with the Dominican Republic, it remains desperately poor while its neighbor is "prosperous, healthy and full of resorts."

"[Haitians] need to have a great turning to God, and out of this tragedy, I'm optimistic something good may come," Robertson said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Murder Trial and Abortion Debate

Jury selection begins this week in the murder trial of a man who admits he fatally shot Dr. George Tiller, one of four abortion providers in the country who performed late-term abortions.

But if defendant Scott Roeder has his way, abortion also will be on trial when testimony begins.

Roeder, 51, has never denied shooting Tiller. In statements to the news media and in pretrial memos, he has asserted that he was justified under the theory that he was trying to save the lives of unborn children when he gunned down Tiller at Sunday church services on May 20, 2009.

Tiller, who had been performing late-term abortions in his Wichita clinic since 1973, was serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church when Roeder shot him in the head at point-blank range.

Read the criminal complaint

Sedgwick County prosecutors have fought to keep the issue of abortion out of the trial, and even the presiding judge has said he does not want the case to become a venue for a debate on the legality of abortion.

With Roeder's beliefs expected to be the focal point of the defense case, the trial could become the next forum in the fierce debate over one of the nation's most emotionally charged and divisive issues.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Religion Saves by Mark Driscoll

Way back when, Mark Driscoll decided that he was going to base a sermon series on the questions put forth by thousands of internet denizens. He called the series, Religion Saves: and 9 other Myths. I mentioned it in my Ask Anything Post. He claimed that much of Paul's Epistles were done in the same vein - answering questions that the Church was struggling with - like, "If I sleep with my stepmom, is that bad?" (I Corinthians)

It was during this preaching series that Driscoll began taking questions from the audience during the sermon (Oral Sex Virgins, Masturbation, and Pregnant Rape Victims) . They would text in their question and he would respond to some of them after the conclusion of the sermon. He has since continued this practice.

In the book, Driscoll devotes a chapter to each of the questions that were highlighted in the series.

1.Birth Control

2. Humor

3. Predestination

4. Grace

5. Sexual Sin

6. Faith and Works

7. Dating

8. The Emerging Church

9. The Regulative Principle

I'm not a huge fan of reading a book that is based on a sermon series I've already heard, but the truth is, I'd rather read a rehash books of Driscoll's than most of the other books out there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dad's Big Book of Pathetic Childhood Stories

My wife says that she is going to start compiling for this book in the near future. She says that my book of Pathetic Childhood Stories is going to be a multi-volume tome.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna

The cover art and title of this book would make you think that it is somewhat of a sequel to his book, Revolution. But it isn't. It is actually more of a sequel to his book, Think Like Jesus. I think that he just used the titling and cover art (as he did with Pagan Christianity) because the book, Revolution, was groundbreaking and controversial and therefore, popular.

If you'll remember, Think Like Jesus (which I reviewed way back when) used short tests amidst his polls to measure whether people were actual Christians or not - not just whether they gave lip-service to the label of "Christian". Obviously, such a test is practically impossible to give credence to, but it still enables one to sift a bit of the garbage away, so to speak.

Barna, then went further and gave people a slightly longer test to determine whether they had a Biblical worldview or not. He went on to say that those people with a solid Biblical worldview lived lives that were vastly different from those who did not have a Biblical worldview - despite whether or not they claimed to be a Christian.

In Revolutionary Parenting, Barna takes this idea a step further and polls children, teenagers and young adults (20 somethings). He determines which of these children/teens/young adults has a Biblical worldview and then tries to find common threads among the familial culture in which they were raised.

Once again, using his research, Barna is quick to point out that he is only the messenger, and that some of his findings are counter-cultural. This would be where this book ties in with Revolution - as he finds that "parenting that produces spiritual champions is often with little or no help from the Church."

Some of his findings:

  • The lion share of responsibility for raising children falls upon parents, not churches, schools, or daycare workers - no matter how much time children spend in these institutions. The more time parents spend with their children, the more success they have in spiritually shaping them.

  • Parents who put the emphasis on character development rather than academics, sports, arts, or other distractions have the most success.

  • Single parent homes are screwed. Seriously. As he puts it, the research simply shows that if you are a single parent, you are screwed.

  • One-income families are profoundly more successful at raising spiritual champions, despite its counter-cultural position. He says that families that bite the bullet and figure out how to leave one parent at home have a huge statistical advantage - like it or not.

  • Parents who use strong disciplinary measures - strict adherence to threatened punishments, curfews, etc. - have a big advantage despite the counter cultural trends.

  • Parents who pray together (outside of mealtime grace), study the Bible together, and engage in Spiritual discussion together have the major advantage over parents who rely on the Church and Youth Groups to cover this ground.

  • For the 20 odd-years that you are a parent to a child, this responsibility should be your primary responsibility. Not second or third to anything or anyone else.

Basically, the wishy-washy mediocre so-called "Christians" that were outed in Think Like Jesus are breeding and raising wishy-washy mediocre so-called Christians in the next generation.

Friday, January 1, 2010

All I Want for Xmas is........ Books.

My wife asked me back in November for any Xmas requests. I gave her my wish list. I've been adding to it for a couple years now. I haven't bought any books lately because of a lack of time and a lack of funds. So the list has grown to almost a dozen books.

To be honest, I haven't done much extra-Biblical reading lately. That is probably a good thing, as most of the books out there are probably drivel - especially the books written for those in ecclesiastical leadership. Even if I'm no longer in the role of a pastor, those are probably the books I'd read anyways.

With a lack of new books to read, I've recently revisited those few books which have been most influential on me. Three to be exact.

Radical Reformission - by Mark Driscoll
Revolution - by George Barna
Confessions of a Reformission Rev. - by Mark Driscoll

Radical Reformission showed me the kind of Christian that I wanted to be - or was meant to be.
Confessions showed me the type of Pastor I'd most likely be were I given the chance to lead others spiritually.
And Revolution showed me that there is indeed life outside of the church bubble, a life of faith and Christian Living. I've been lax to mention this book too much for fear that its namesake might misconstrue certain motivations behind the namesake of this blog. NO, THIS BLOG ISN'T ABOUT LEAVING THE CHURCH BEHIND AND STARTING OUT ON A MISSIONAL HOUSE CHURCH LIFESTYLE FORSAKING ORGANIZED RELIGION.

Nonetheless, the book did indeed have a profound impact on me and still does to this day. Barna has a unique way of using his "research" (he is the premier pollster of religious matters in the U.S.) to necessitate the writing of his books. In other words, he argues that the statistics speak for themselves - and he is just the messenger of the story that those statistics tell. In the case of Revolution, the story (and the statistics) tell of a sub culture of Christians who have left and are leaving the Church in order to pursue a vibrant, active, healthy Christian lifestyle on their own.

Because of this, two Barna books were on my list - Pagan Christianity and Revolutionary Parenting. Pagan Christianity is a book he authored with Frank Viola about the Pagan roots of what we call the "modern church" Pagan roots of: preaching, worship, buildings, pastors, ordered worship, church business practices and models, etc. It is an incendiary book that goes a little too far into the rabbit hole of "the Organized Church is putting a stranglehold on the modern Christian which makes a healthy relationship with Jesus almost an impossibility." Nonetheless, I'd like to read Pagan Christianity, and I have read parts of it while sitting in Borders.

Revolutionary Parenting is a book that I actually received from my wife (thank you very much) and I will devote a subsequent post to it's review. Being a new parent, and a fan of the book, Revolution, I thought it would be an appropriate read at this juncture.

Driscoll's first two books were groundbreaking for me. Radical influenced me as a Christian, and Confessions influenced me as a pastor. Having been out of a leadership role, spiritually, for some time, Confessions doesn't hold the same grip on me as it did - neither does any other ecclesiastical book for that matter. When you're not in the thick of it, what's the point in reading about it?

I think I've read Radical Reformission at least half a dozen times by now. Surely a record for me. I've reread favorite books from time to time, but none of them that many times for sure. This book is what turned me on to Driscoll in the first place. He thinks like I think. He talks like I talk. Just about everything he says connects with me in some way - even when I disagree with him, or especially when he is convicting me of sin and making me feel bad about it - which Driscoll does quite often, especially in his preaching. Let's face it, as a man, a father, and a husband - I AM A PATHETIC FAILURE. And Driscoll specializes in showing men when they are Pathetic Failures. So this hits home with me quite often.

I've neglected to purchase any of Driscoll's subsequent books for a few reasons:

  1. He's become an internationally popular preacher/pastor. He could write a book about pooping, get it published, and sell thousands. Just because he starts putting out a bunch of books, doesn't mean that they'll have the impact of those first two.
  2. He has basically been publishing book versions of his Sermon Series - admittedly. I've already listened to the sermons, do I really need to read the book too? Is this just a ploy to capitalize on his popularity?
  3. Most authors, like musicians, proceed to push out more of the same, never offering something new or worthwhile. This is one of the reasons I like Rick Warren. Having written Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life, he really hasn't written anything since. I like that about him. He could have easily made millions by writing subsequent books like Purpose Driven Potato Salad, Purpose Driven Parenting, and Purpose Driven Ping Pong. But he didn't.

Driscoll's language, interpretation, and way of thinking appeal to me so much, though, that I couldn't stay away from his books forever. So I added them to my wish list.

And my wife got me one for Xmas - Religion Saves. I will also post my review of that book as well.

I know that I haven't written much lately - too busy, too distracted, too whatever. Maybe that will change. Maybe not. Either way, I'm making up for it this New Year's Eve. Unloading on my trusty blog all that is weighing me down.

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