Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review of "Why Men Hate Going to Church"

There are days that I hate going to church, may be days you hate going to church. Reading though this book, as I thought about a lot of these issues, it made great sense to me. We have alienated men, feminized the church and pushed men to the sides and they have gone out the door. It seems just about every church is experiencing some gender gap, some of them much larger than others. This book points out the issues and then covers many of the steps that we need to fix the issue. This was a great book. Read it! Seriously, read it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Has God Spoken by Hank Hanegraff, a review.

I have to be honest, I am not the world's biggest fan of Hank Hanegraff. I agree with some of the things he says, but the way he says them sometimes on the radio leaves me frustrated. I was hesitant to read one of his books, but I have to say I enjoyed this book a great deal.

This book focuses on the historical, archaeological and scientific evidence of the validity of Biblical manuscripts. Hanegraff hits on some of the most important aspects of scriptural accountability when it comes to the validity of the scripture. It's a great book that offers counterpoints to those who would try to discredit the Bible.

I enjoy apologetics for supporting and encouraging those who are young in their faith, and I think that is a great piece of material for that reason.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've Had It!

Why exactly are we beating one another over theology? Let me explain where I am coming from before I fly off the handle. I have seen blogs and posts and ideas about how these different systems are destroying church and people and don't read the Bible. Most of the blame seems to be directed towards "Calvinists" (which is the system I hold too the closest). It seems that the other camp, the Armenian camp is in control of the SBC, at least for the most part. They want to blame the Calvinists for the decline and destruction of the SBC. Seems to me that maybe the infighting is destroying the SBC.

I don't like the Armenian position, I don't agree with it, but Calvinism has become such a diverse category that is no longer means anything. There are positions within the camp that are as extreme as the differences between Armenians and Calvinists. It's a system, it's not the gospel, but we fight and fight about it.

My number one issue is that people debate without thinking. Someone says something you don't like, you either call them a heretic or a liberal, tell them they are eisogeting a passage and not exogeting it. It has come into vogue to just say "where did you get that interpretation". We are fighting over passages and their meanings and no one is really doing real study. We are just saying "well I think it's means. . . ". I've had it.

The true study of theology is dead. Theology has become note taking to win an argument. It's become the Christian version of High School Debate. Theology has been buried under the loads of garbage spewed by those who wish to do nothing more than argue. No one thinks anymore, they just "know". No one wrestles with the issues anymore, they are much too busy being right.

I have proposed a new idea I called 'Woven Theology'. I was told "it will never catch on, the lingo isn't right". Very few wanted to actually deal with the ideas that I presented, they just wanted to argue the existing structures. I was told that it was just an existing theology in a new package. The reality is I went back to the scripture to create all my theological treatise. I am no Luther or Calvin, but I view myself as a theologian, but it seems like very few are actually interested in theology, most people are involved in system, and the argument for that system. I've had it, and I don't want to play anymore.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

God's Love Letters to You by Dr. Larry Crabb

I am always looking for things that help overview the Books of the Bible, and this 40 Day devotional does that, for at least most of the bible, and is greatly encouraging. The scripture is God's message to us, and Dr. Crabb take a great look at it, and present it as it should be, God's message of love to us. Each of the 40 days is easy to read, has some questions to help you think and process and it really worth picking up. I have never been disappointed with anything by Dr. Crabb. Check the book out, read it and share your thoughts with me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Dream

I have a dream, and I am praying that God blesses it and helps me. I feel passionate about helping people who have been called to make a difference. I want them to have training, support and resources to do what they feel called to do. I have created "The Revolution Inversion" an organization dedicated to helping people create an environment which brings Glory to God and creates opportunity for sharing the gospel, bible study, worship, fellowship and prayer. You can see more at the Revolution Inversion blog, the entry called The RI Manifesto.

It began with wanting to help High School students have Christian Organizations on their campuses. I have encouraged High School students to pray and have Bible Study on campuses. It has grown to a desire to help College Students and I spent time as a Campus Ministry Director. I have now seen the need goes beyond school, but many want to start a Bible Study at work, at home, in their community, with friends and neighbors.

The Purpose to the Revolution Inversion is help Believers to establish an environment for ministry, outreach, discipleship and prayer in any and every aspect of their lives, where ever God has called them. To create Bible Studies, prayer times and ministry opportunities to live out their faith in real ways in their communities and in their daily lives.

My dream starts with materials, publications and resources for people to use and ignite their passions. To help them identify their ministry and mission field and to begin the hard work. My dream includes having leaders who work with me to do training and support for those who want to do amazing work. My dream includes a resort and retreat area for camps, conferences and trainings to mobilize the army of Revolutionaries to go out and change the world. It's a big dream, it's going to take time, work and money.

The idea of a Revolution Inversion is to push back the other way, against the cultural movement toward destruction. To Revolt against the flesh and against the power of Satan's forces. We will take light into the darkness and light up the darkness with the truth. My dream is students sharing with students, praying and reading the Bible in public school and creating a push back, an inversion against the deterioration of morals and ethics. My dream is young couples who are living in apartment buildings starting Bible Study and prayer meeting. My dream is labors and professionals alike starting Bible Studies and prayer groups at work. I dream of a movement that the atheists, humanists and communists can't stop.

For my dream to happen, God must work. This is totally a work of God. It will require money, time, resources, help and God's power to bring out men and women, students and leaders to make my dream a reality. I am praying that God will bless this dream, that He will open doors for people to take the mantle of Revolutionaries, to work to start Christian Organizations, who will be trained, who will offer training and will work with me to make this dream a reality. I am praying for God's power, for His provision and for His mighty hand at work. You can pray with me and for me. If you are interested in becoming a Revolutionary, let me know. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why you should do VBS

So there seems to be a trend of churches not participating in Vacation Bible School. The single biggest evangelistic program in the SBC, the one that brings so many kids to Christ, but we have stopped doing it. Here are my top reasons I don't think churches do VBS, and why they are wrong.

1. We can't get anyone to do it. Well congrats, we now have churches full of people who care about themselves and don't want to do anything for anyone else. We have become lazy and uncaring. Sounds like we would be better off with a huge stone around our necks and flung into the sea. Let's challenge our people to stop being lazy and complacent and actually DO something.

2. It costs too much. Well, children's ministry is pricey. Deal with it. Cut the budget somewhere. Stop getting things that are nice and pleasant and invest that money into ministry. Maybe the decorations will be slimmed down and you have to buy cheaper coffee. DO VBS.

3.Kids don't come. Know why the kids don't wanna come? Cause your attitude stinks, they know you don't like them, you don't have any teachers and the ones you have grumble all the time. You don't do the VBS the way it's programmed, your outreach and promotion stink. Actually go out and engage kids and their parents, they'll show up.

4. Kids don't bring in any money. Sadly, our motivation is often $$$$. Well, if you want to reach young adults, reach kids. They will add to your church, build your church and may contribute some money along the way. Don't let that be your motivation, but it can be a perk.

5. We don't want kids in our building. Yes, kids are loud and messy, smelly and can be a nuisance. They require teachers, leaders, helpers and space. They take time and money. They require resources, but if you don't want to reach kids, you won't reach young families. If you don't reach young families, your median age will be 67. Just the way it's gonna work.

Most people come to Christ between 4 and 14. If you want to have water in your Baptistry and new life in your church, start with VBS. It's the greatest week of work you'll have all year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's in a Name?

I want to tackle the “B” word with you today. It's often a stumbling block for people, some have a hard time defining it, some just want to ignore it, but it has significance. If you haven't guessed, It's the word “Baptist”. What does it mean? Why is it there? Why not just call ourselves Christians, why do we have to have the title attached? I want to answer some of those questions briefly so you know why I choose to be Baptist.

The movement we are affiliated can be traced back to the Reformation. During the Protestant Reformation, a group emerged in England called the Separatists. They wanted purity of doctrine and wanted to separate from the Anglican church. Those associated with this movement were generally known as the Puritans, many of who came to America in search of religious freedom. One of these Separatists was a man named John Smyth. Smyth believed that infants should not be Baptized and that only those who believe and have accepted Christ as Savior should be Baptized, and done so my full immersion. A layman named Thomas Helwys continued the leadership from Smyth and the Baptist movement began.

In the United States it was Roger Williams and John Clarke who worked to establish the Baptist Movement. These men worked for religious freedom in the United States, which was largely Congregational. The First Great Awakening in the United States established the movement firmly and grew the churches in the colonies very rapidly. It was the Baptist leaders in early America that fought for religious freedom and the ability for churches to meet in this country without government influence or control.

In many countries today, the term “Baptist” is a general term, not referring to a denomination or affiliation. It is a term used to identify those Protestant Evangelicals who baptize believers by full immersion. In many countries in Eastern Europe and in Asia, the term “Baptist” is often how we would use the term “Evangelicals”. During the Iron Curtain, the Communists identified those who were willing and eager to share their faith and be tortured for the work of Christ as either Orthodox or Baptist.

In the United States, the term “Baptist” has come to refer to a group of denominational traditions that all hold a common belief. They are all Evangelical in nature, hold to believer's baptism by full immersion and have an inerrant view of Scripture. In the United States, there is a variety of Baptist groups, such as the American Baptists, The Baptist General Conference, Landmark Baptists, and of course The Southern Baptist Convention.

So this leads me back to the original question. What difference does it make, it won't change our church any if we are not “SBC”, why do we have all this Baptist stuff? Denominations are in the Bible, so why do we do it? I have 4 reasons that I am, have chosen to be and will continue to be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

  1. Doctrinal purity. The Southern Baptists believe in the inerrant Word of God. In an age where many denominations seem to be straying from the truth of God's Word, this convention, this state and local association and this church will stand firm on the authority of the Bible.

  2. Accountability. If a leader in this church begins to stray from our mission and purpose, we can show them the covenants and we can show them our mission and purpose. As a Church, we agree with the Baptist Faith and Message and if we stray, we have other churches who will hold us accountable. Each member is part of the body, each body is part of a community, and the community provides us with accountability.

  3. Impact. It's hard for one church to reach a community because of the number of people. Multiply that by how many communities are in one city, how many cities are in one state, the states in a nation, the nations in a continent. You get the idea. As part of a cooperation of churches, we do our part in reaching the whole world. We give, we share resources and man power. We come together to do Disaster Relief, World Changers, Baptist Builders. We support together through the Cooperative Program to fund North American and International Missionaries.

  4. Opportunity to be involved. There is no reason that a member of a Southern Baptist Church couldn't be involved in mission work. You can help with World Changers, Disaster Relief, Baptist Builders, Gods Plan for Sharing. You can give to the Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Bill Hyde Mission Offerings. You can go on short term trips in the United States, Canada and all over the world. You can travel to different places to serve with Campers on Mission. The opportunities to get involved starts young, kids can be involved in work we do around the church and here at Heartland. Youth can work on short term trips, get involved in World Changers and other mission projects. College kids can begin international trips, as well as Summer and Semester Missions. After graduation, there are opportunities such as Mission Service Corps, USC2 missionaries, International Missionaries and so on. There area also the other missions I have mentioned, the list is long, much more than we can do just as an independent church.

I hope that helps you see “Baptist” in a little better light. Our devotion and our allegiance is to Jesus Christ, His Word is our source of truth and The Holy Spirit is our guide. Baptists follows Jesus as head, and chooses to work with other churches we know have that same conviction. Together, we form a group that is known as the Southern Baptist Convention.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Sacred Journey - a review.

Recently I read The Sacred Journey from the Ancient Practices series by Charles Foster.

I enjoyed reading The Sacred Journey, but is many aspect, it read more like a spiritual diatribe that often led in circles and then back on itself. The material has compelled me to think differently about how I see a pilgrimage, but often seems to try to make a point at expense of other points. Foster tells us that we need to get out on the road, to take an actual physical journey and leave everything else behind. He seems to switch gears and the tell us that anywhere we are or go is a pilgrimage and we don't really need to go far. He goes back to the thesis that we need to leave everything and be on the road, and then seems to double back over himself again. He does use scripture, but also seems to make a lot of assumptions. His assumes that Cain was sedentary and Abel was a nomad because he was a Shepherd. That seems to be a bold assumption, combined with the idea that God preferred Abel for that reason.

I would recommend this book if you want to challenge your ideas and thinking, but I am not convinced I need to travel to Canterbury or Rome or Jerusalem. I do agree that we need to travel each place with a sense or wonder and expectation for God to move. Some of the material seemed very un-spiritual and some seemed hyper-spiritual and some seemed to be more balanced. Overall, it was worth reading, can become redundant in some places, but once you get through it, you feel like you have taken quite the journey yourself.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shut Up and Work

There are times in my life that I am reminded that all the stuff I say, all the stuff I know, unless there are hands and feet behind it doesn’t mean anything. Here in the part of Iowa I live in, there is a surge of water being released from an overfilled and overstressed dam. This surge in an already bloated river will flood many basements and destroy some homes. Our church has organized to send people to help our family who is in the path of the water. We have been packing and moving quickly before the date of the release.

As I was packing, I was joking with some guys. We were talking about how if you plan how to pack, it never works but sometimes you just have to shut up and work. One of the guys made a joke about how that seems to be what Pastors tell people, to shut up and work. We laughed and continued to haul boxes.

I love to teach, and I enjoy preaching some (which is why I’m an associate, not a lead). To put it simply, I enjoy talking. I like to talk about God’s word, about how we apply it, how it changes us and the world we live in. I like to work with leaders, talk about how we make disciples, how we teach them. I like to discuss theology, history and society. I like talking, but weeks like this are a good reminder to me. Sometimes we need to shut up and work.

You all have heard it from St. Francis. “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” I believe it’s always necessary to use words, because faith comes from hearing, but doing sometimes needs to happen before speaking. Sometimes we need to share the gospel in deed and then in words. It has been a great opportunity to show what the Church is about by getting to work. Let me encourage you, when the opportunity comes to shut up and work.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Christian Education

So I want to jump on the band wagon and talk Christian Education. I don’t want to talk venue (home school, Christian School, Military School, Boarding School, Public School), I want to talk some principles. The nuts and bolts of Christian Education that parents and teachers can use. Let me give you a little background, I’m an education guy. I studied education in my undergrad, have a Masters in Ed. leadership and most of my work, passion and heart revolves around the area of Education. I plan to pursue my EdD or PhD in this area, and have already worked through some of my ideas of a thesis. Against my better judgment, I have decided to post them here. No stealing my idea. . . but you can use it!

In Education, there is a principle called scaffolding. It’s pretty simple, just like the scaffolding you use to paint a house. You start with the base, then build up one level at a time until you make it to the top, where you want to be. We see this principle applied in math. You first learn to count, then add, then subtract, next multiply and then division. Until you learn those, you can’t do algebra and geometry. We teach all sorts of things this way, we teach science, reading and spelling, even most sports are taught by teaching the foundational principle and building upon it.

In Christian Education, we have a sloppy version of this. We teach kids Bible Stories and from there, we teach them some principles and repeat the pattern. I am suggesting we take a new approach. Now I know this is difficult, because kids come into the church at all different ages and grade levels. We have to work to make this work, and it’s not easy, but it seems to be the most effective.

In many missions oversees, they use a strategy of telling the Bible Stories beginning with creation, and work their way through the history of the nation of Israel. Do your students by the time they are youth know the history of the nation of Israel? Most of our adults don’t know the history of Israel. It’s important, or it wouldn’t be scripture. We learn from Israel about sin, about God’s holiness and His standard for his people. We need to teach kids about God’s character that we learn from the OT. So often, people who don’t know the Old Testament become either too liberal and reject God’s holiness, or too legalistic, and try to do everything they can to earn salvation, and try to apply the Jewish laws to American Christians, which is hard with no temple.

We need to teach the foundations of faith, the Holiness of God, the sinfulness of man and the need for Salvation. Those are the foundational principles of the Old Testament. There are some great tools for this, missionaries have been doing it for years. Once we lay all this information out, we have taught through the Old Testament history, we begin with the life of Jesus. The life of Christ fits right into the OT because Jesus lived with Old Testament Jews. They lived the sacrificial system and Jesus interacted with the law and introduced grace and a new standard. Jesus provides the perfect sacrifice, which we have built a context on from the OT sacrificial system. Things continue to build into Acts and the beginning of the Church, and onto the epistles. By the time we get to Revelation, the students have a complete Biblical context.

I know that this is idea, and it’s harder to do, but I am working hard to do it in our church and with my family. It’s so important to get a complete Biblical picture. We can’t expect our kids to have a Biblical Worldview without a knowledge of the Bible itself. Those are my thoughts on educating our kids, what do you think?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why the Brick and Mortar church is doomed!

I spent a week at the Exponential Conference, a church planting conference in Orlando FL. It pushed me and challenged me in ways I had never considered. One of the things I came away with is a quote from Alan Hirsch, he said “the church doesn’t innovate”. The more I think about that, the more i think it’s true.

Think about it, we have only had one part of the service change much, that’s the music and it’s caused huge divisions. We call it the “worship wars” over organs vs guitars. One change and we take sides, arm ourselves and begin the warfare. While the rest of the world speeds to destruction, we still fight over hymns and power point.

We spend time arguing about the building, I don’t know how we have time to invite anyone in the building. We design spaces that we like and we enjoy and then unlock the doors and wait for the people to stream in. Then we act shocked when they don’t.

We still put all of our eggs in one basket, the Sunday morning Worship Service. We haven’t changed, we haven’t innovated. I can see why, you change one part of it and it almost divides the denomination. Makes you stop and wonder what is wrong with us.

Until we figure out that the priority is making disciples, and not growing our Sunday Morning service in our brick and mortar building, we are doomed.

Why the Brick and Mortar church is doomed!

I spent a week at the Exponential Conference, a church planting conference in Orlando FL. It pushed me and challenged me in ways I had never considered. One of the things I came away with is a quote from Alan Hirsch, he said “the church doesn’t innovate”. The more I think about that, the more i think it’s true.

Think about it, we have only had one part of the service change much, that’s the music and it’s caused huge divisions. We call it the “worship wars” over organs vs guitars. One change and we take sides, arm ourselves and begin the warfare. While the rest of the world speeds to destruction, we still fight over hymns and power point.

We spend time arguing about the building, I don’t know how we have time to invite anyone in the building. We design spaces that we like and we enjoy and then unlock the doors and wait for the people to stream in. Then we act shocked when they don’t.

We still put all of our eggs in one basket, the Sunday morning Worship Service. We haven’t changed, we haven’t innovated. I can see why, you change one part of it and it almost divides the denomination. Makes you stop and wonder what is wrong with us.

Until we figure out that the priority is making disciples, and not growing our Sunday Morning service in our brick and mortar building, we are doomed.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Mercy of Hell

If it's ok with everyone (hope so, cause I didn't ask), I want to jump on the bandwagon of talking about Hell. Now I know Rob Bell ruined it for us, but I want to take a different spin if I could. You see, aside from theology, I have some things in common with Rob. We are both from the same generation, we are both Gen Xers, he is slightly older than I am. We both ask many questions, and we both question the established system. That is where we depart, I headed more towards Driscoll, he went towards McLaren.

That being said, I see the meta-narrative approach, and I understand where Bell misses it. You see, the scripture can't be cut and parcelled into chunks, so the question comes up, how can a loving and merciful God send people to hell? Bell says He doesn't. I say, there is mercy with Hell. Are you scratching your head a little? Think maybe I am as crazy as Rob Bell? Let me unpack it just a bit.

If you remember Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet is suddenly in the presence of God, and his reaction was overwhelming guilt and shame. He exclaimed "woe is me". It was then when an angel came with a coal and cleansed his lips and only then was Isaiah able to hear the words of the Lord.

Once judgement comes to pass, there is no more cleansing of sin. It was done once and for all through the blood of Christ. Jesus made the atonement and we are saved through that power. Those who are not covered in the blood of Christ still carry their own sin. There is no atonement, there is no cleansing power.

I submit to you, for your discussion and input that the only thing worse that being separated from God for eternity in hell would be eternity before God bearing the weight of your sin with no hope of forgiveness. The reality of hell is knowing you are being punished and eternally atoning for your sin. Heaven with sin would be guilt and shame heaped upon remorse and unworthiness for all of eternity. Being in the presence of the Glory of God, but never able to look upon it. To look upon the face of God with sin is to bring death, so in a sense, it would be eternal death worse than the eternal punishment in hell.

If this is true, then casting the sinner into the flames of hell where they face punishment is loving and merciful, and having them suffer the crushing weight of sin for eternity in God's presence would show no mercy. This is where I believe Rob Bell missed it, Universalism for the unsaved would be worse than hell. What do you think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

I read "The Sacred Meal" by Nora Gallagher, and I really enjoyed it. I am from an Evangelical background, and Nora Gallagher writes from her view point of the Episcopal Church, and it was really great to get her view point. I agree with so much of what she wrote, and it helped give me a deeper and greater appreciation of Communion. I really recommend this book to those who want a view of communion that is more powerful and well rounded. I really appreciate her view of community based communion that brings people together and levels the playing field. This is something that I have been thinking about myself, that communion requires community. It was very thought provoking to read the point of view from someone who celebrates a more formal view of communion through consubstantiation. It was a really powerful and influential message for me. Great book, quick read and I recommend it highly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Importance of an Appretice

If you have spent any amount of time with me, you know that I am a Star Wars fan. I grew up with the Star Wars movies – I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the theaters for the first time. I had lot of Star Wars toys and, to be honest, I still have a few.

There are a few lessons we can learn from Star Wars. In the movies, the Jedi and the Sith hold to two sides of the same ideology, and they both teach that ideology to others. When a Jedi becomes a Master, they acquire an apprentice. They teach what they have learned to the next generation; taking them along on assignments, mentoring them, answering questions. All Jedi Masters were once apprentices and it's the hope that each apprentice will someday be a Master.

Unfortunately we have lost the master/apprentice relationship in this country. Many of the trades are no longer handed down from a master tradesman to an apprentice. Carpenters, electricians, masons, and many building trades are now learned in tech schools instead of being taught one-to-one by a Master Builders. The church is beginning to follow suit . . . many young men and women who go to Bible schools and seminaries are not being mentored. There is nothing wrong with Bible schools or seminaries, or with technical schools. There are some really great teaching institutions, but we learn practical application most easily and effectively when we have the opportunity and allow ourselves to be mentored by a master in whatever the field of study may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in seminary, but I learned much more from four men that God put in my life. They mentored me. As a young man, both the Pastor and the Director of Missions at our church were very influential in my life. They gave me opportunities to serve and to work alongside them in a variety of ministries; I was only 15 when I preached in a Sunday morning service, and God used that experience to change me forever. In college, the Pastor at my church really took me under his wing; he gave me opportunities to be active in that ministry, even while I was ‘interim pastor’ at another church. He helped me in so many ways; I will always be grateful to him. Finally, a pastor I served with in Arizona walked with me during a very difficult part of my life. I am not sure I would have survived those years in ministry if not for his guidance.

In addition to these four men, there have been countless others who have taught me, helped me, encouraged me, supported me. School was great, and I enjoyed Seminary; but there is no substitute for being mentored. I have tried to ‘pay it forward’ as much as I can, giving helps and opportunities to others to fulfill their calling. Much of my goals and work here at Heartland isn't to do ministry as much as it is to aid and equip you to be involved in ministry – thereby expanding effective ministry hundreds of times beyond what one person can do. It’s the law of multiplication – If I do ministry alone, I can only do as much as one person can do. If I help you do it, we’ll get more done. If I help you and you help someone else, then even more gets done. It goes on and on, until the whole world is impacted.

Today I want to encourage you to find a mentor and to find a student; find someone who is teaching you, and find someone to teach. It will make a lasting impact for the Kingdom.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review- The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

I recently received the Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible. I really enjoy Max Lucado, and I have read many of his books and writings. I was excited to pick up this Bible, and I like that it's NKJV, which I enjoy. It's a good looking Bible, both inside and out, the print is a good size and it's easy to read. The review is mostly of the notes, the text is just the NKJV which is a great translation.

The note section is broken into 5 pieces, situation, which is a brief explination of the text exegetically. Then is the observation, inspiration which is a writing from Max Lucado from one of his works. Next is the application and finally exploration, which is cross references. The notes are not real theological, and if you have ever read any of Max Lucado's books, you know they are practical, applicable and usually uplifting, but not real deep.

This is not a scholarly study bible, and just as the name implies, it's real life stuff. It's a little fluffy but sometimes we need fluffy. It's inspirational and uplifting, the notes are good and are helpful. There are also numerous inserts called "Christ Through The Bible" which ties the text back to Jesus. This is a great feature and very helpful for many people as they read through the Old Testament. Over all, I would recommend this Bible for people to have in their library and to read it during their quiet and devotional time. It's a great devotional Bible, and will help people enjoy their Bible reading time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Update on my status

Thank you all for praying for me over this winter season. I think most of you know that my doctor has diagnosed me with dystemic disorder, an emotional disorder that induces chronic depression. Apparently it doesn't take a whole lot of stress to cause a laps of endorphines and neurotransmitters to cause me depression. I have had some stress, being an Associate Pastor with three small children in this economy and the condition of our nation is stressful.
This winter has been hard on me. I find myself in the cycle of depression, anger and incapacity. I find myself unable to do something, and I get so angry at myself for not being able to do it. I tell myself I need to just get over it, to just push through it. The more pressure I put on myself, the more incapacitated I become and I get more and more angry. I push myself harder just to feel more and more defeated.
My doctor has recently upped my anti-depressant to help me kick this cycle. I am thinking about asking him to change me from the one I am on to the one I was on in Arizona that helped me recover from the depression that hit me so hard there. I am not sure why God has chosen to give me this burdon, I pray often that He will take it from me, but it doesn't seem to be going away. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement during this time in my life. I love my family, my church and my friends, and I want you to know that my desire is to be more supportive and active. I know many of you have had to deal with my meloncholy. I have been reading some works of Charles Spurgeon that he wrote about his struggles. This season won't last forever, thank you all for your love and compassion.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I Learned from Microsoft

I'm a Linux guy. I run Ubuntu on my home computer and I dual boot my work computer with XP and Ubuntu. I like Linux much better, but I have learned some important things from Windows. Let me share with you what I have learned.

Sometimes, doing things the hard way is the only way, because the easy was doesn't get you anywhere.

Just because something says it does something, doesn't mean it does.

There is always a back door, and it's usually unlocked.

Computer windows and old house windows, sometimes you can't get them open, and once you do, sometimes you can't get them closed.

You never know who is looking through your Windows.

Death comes when you least expect it, and it's not a bright light, it's a blue screen.

Just because it's called Works doesn't mean it does.

In life and Spider Solitaire, sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you try, there is no way to win.

I am sure there are lots of other little things that Microsoft has taught me, but that is the list that comes to mind. Hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Does the GCR stand a ghost of a chance?

Before I begin, let me say I am in support of the Great Commission Resurgence, I think it’s a great thing, and we need to focus our ideas, resources and tool on reaching out. I have already posted on the things I think will hinder the SBC from really seeing a movement of God from the GCR, and I don’t want to hash that out again. What I want to look at is simple. Does the Great Commission Resurgence has a chance to really move the SBC forward in outreach, or is it just great propaganda? Here are some things I would like to discuss and toss around.

If the SBC is a bottom up entity (everything goes through the local church), then why are we moving programs from the top down. Now I realize that it’s necessary, we have to restructure the CP from the top down, we need to change NAMB and the IMB from the top down, we have to change the way we use dollars from the top down. Don’t miss my point, shouldn’t this movement have come up from the church, from the people in the pews? I love and respect Dr. Akin, but he really started this movement by an address in chapel at a seminary campus. It didn’t come from the local churches, and my number 1 concern is that it won’t impact the people sitting every Sunday in many of our churches. In the end, my concern will be the GCR is a big nebulous idea, but won’t touch the people. The people in the pew are where our missionary force begins. It’s where the CP dollars start, it’s where those who attend our seminaries come from. We can do lots of great things at the National and even state level, but are we touching people in the churches?

Now before you say “yes, of course we are” I want to ask something. If the GCR is touching churches, my question is, which churches? What does the average SBC church look like in this country? I don’t want to get into statistics and charts and graphs, numbers can be skewed and research is biased. The issue is, I have been to lots of churches in many states and seen what they look like. If you never get out of Florida, Georgia and Alabama, I’ll help you out. Most of the churches outside the south are small, less that 200 people. Many are less that 100 people. These are faithful churches, doing their best, reaching out to a community that is less and less interested. Even in the south, there are many small, faithful churches. You can argue with me on this point, but I am going to say the majority of Southern Baptist Churches are smaller, less that 500 people, with modest budgets, modest buildings, and hardworking pastors. How will the GCR affect them and their congregations? Many of the churches I have been involved with are teaching Biblical truth, are committed to missions, outreach and evangelism. How is this going to help them?

Further more, and what I have heard others saying, why in this middle of this resurgence are we looking to mega-churches for leadership? If the majority of the SBC is made of small churches, why are the churches that are composed of an entirely different structure leading off? I believe that the pastors work hard to keep a church alive and vibrant in a stagnant community, devastated economy and apathetic society are overlooked so we can celebrate the victory of the mega church. Have we gone insane? At what point did we decide that our measure of success was how big your church grows? I know a pastor serving faithfully in a small town in Iowa, the town and surrounding farming communities don’t have enough people to even make a mega-church. These guys fight every day, they know how to make use of the resources to the best of their abilities, why are we not taking the wisdom of years in the trenches? Let’s be honest, if the “mega church” strategy is fool proof, every church would use it. We have all read the books, gone to the courses, have the charts, graphs and diagrams. I am concerned that the GCR, the Convention, NAMB and our other agencies have bought the American lie that if it’s bigger, it’s better and if someone can build a mega-church, he is the right guy. Its American idolatry, and I think it’s a huge mistake.

If the GCR wants to reach America, it better start focusing on America, not Georgia. Where is NAMB, the IMB, Lifeway, where are they located? You want to be the North American Mission Board, close the office in Georgia and open 4 regional offices. Stick one in New York, one in Chicago, one in LA, one in Dallas. You want to reach Americans, go to America. I have served in the Midwest, in the Rocky Mountains and in the Southwest, and in many of those places Southern Baptist is a bad word. More than that, there is a feeling in many of those places that the leaders at our agencies don’t care. You want to reach these people go to where they are. Stick some offices there, make your presence known, show American that we may have Southern in our name, but the people are in our hearts.

Hear my heart for a second, I love the SBC, I think we do great things, I believe we have a great corporate heart and sense of community. I don’t want to leave the SBC, I want to see it reach out to the lost and to grow. Along with that, I have fears for our Convention. I’ll be honest, I have fears of corruption, favors, backroom deals and decisions and selfish ambitions. As a young minister, it concerns me how many are convinced that we exist in a denotation controlled by the “good ol boys”. What are we willing to do at the National level to change that image? It’s easy to write a GCR Declaration, but what are you going DO about it? Are we going to be a Convention that is willing to take radical steps to see resurgence or are we just going to talk a good game? What do you think?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How does this all work?

Have you ever noticed how many ideas in the Christian faith seem more hypothetical than concrete? Things like “fall into the arms of grace” or “just give it to God”. What do those look like really, are they things that have meat too them, or are they just things we say and have no idea what they really mean? How do you fall into grace, or give something in-material to a spiritual being? There are lots of things that we say that are hard to define and pin down, but I think it’s symptomatic of a larger issue. We have tried for two thousand years to define Salvation, but I am not sure we are any closer. Something so foundational to the Christian doctrine, but we can’t agree on what it looks like, how we get it and how we know we have it.

I want to pose some questions today, things to think about. I am sure for every question there are hundreds of opinions, so here is a chance to share yours. What is Salvation? Pin it down, are we talking substitution atonement, penal substitution, ransom theory. Is the nature of salvation illumination, restoration, satisfaction, victory, justification, something else entirely or a combination?

What happens when we are saved? Does it happen in a split second, or does it happen over time? Is it a one time thing, or does it reoccur? Are we saved once and for all time, or does it happen daily? I have heard, seen or read theories off all and more, different ideas. I have seen verses thrown at verses and arguments made for every side, when and how does it happen?

How do you know you are saved? Do you do something to get saved? Is there a work involved, do you just go “get” it, do you “accept” it and if so, how is that not a work. Is not the action of reaching out and taking something an action that constitutes a work, albeit a small work, is it still not something I can boast it? How much “accepting” do I have to do, if it’s like accepting a gift, is it a heavy gift? Do I have to unwrap it, take it out of the box, does it require assembly? I am a father of 3, and I know how much work accepting a present can be, kids toys have more moving parts than the space shuttle. Are we saved with works, through works, do we have works because we are saved, can we be saved without works, and if we have no works, are we saved? If we believe in works theology, can we still be saved? If we can’t be saved because of works theology, but accepting is a work, where does that leave most SBC churches?

How do we know we are saved? Can we have faith apart from works, and can we have works apart from faith? If we prophecy in His name and cast out demons in His name, if we preach and teach in His name, does that mean we are saved? Can we think we are saved and not really be saved? Can we be saved and not really know it? Who decides who is to be saved, do I make the choice or was it made for me? When was it made, when I made it, or before the foundations of the world? Does God know who is going to be saved? If He does, when does He know? How limited is God’s view of human action? Can we surprise God? If God knows what I am going to do before I do it, can I make the choice to do something else?

I asked a whole lot more questions that I am going to attempt to answer. I know what I think and what I believe, but to be honest, I have no idea what we as a denomination believe. We seem to be divided over the foundational issue more than any other issue, from both extremes to some place in the middle, to those who don’t even want to discuss it. This is the most important doctrine in the life of a Christian, it is what makes us a Christian, yet we can’t even come together in agreement on what it means, what it looks like or how it happens. Come, let’s reason together and see if maybe we can come to an understanding. Let’s try to be civil and disagree like Christian adults, even if there is a possibility that none of us are either.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Has Blogging Ruined the Church?

I know it’s interesting to have a topic like this on a blog, but I wonder about our online relationships and how the impact the Universal Body of Christ. I have developed some great relationships online with people I would have never met otherwise. I have learned a great deal from blogging, reading, writing and sharing online idea. I think blogging has a lot of validity, but what I want to ask about is community. Is online community authentic? Can we have true fellowship online? Has the invention of the internet created a whole is community?

The most popular social network out there of course is Facebook. I have and use a Facebook page, I have great friends on Facebook, we use it to interact and communicate, keep updated and share pictures. The biggest destroyer of community, in my opinion, is the Facebook status line. We have created the equivalent of the drive by shooting online with the Facebook status. You have seen them, things like “some people need to act like Christians” or “I can’t believe they just did that, they are so bad”. These posts don’t name anyone specifically, they just through out ideas and create suspicion. It’s on-line gossip at its best. On Facebook, we can create superficial relationships and then destroy them with the click of the mouse. If we are not slandering people in our status, we can write notes about them, we can even click the dreaded “unfriend” button.

Facebook also gives us the chance to address problems without addressing the problem. We have done this for years, but Facebook has make is faster and easier. If someone does something you don’t like, simply post a verse on Facebook addressing the issue, then you are done. Write a note, post a blog, we tweet or update our status to address the problem. If it’s really serious, we might post to someone’s wall or send a message too them and take care of the problem. Some how when Jesus said to “go to the person”, He wasn’t referring to their Facebook page.

All of these online forum has also created an atmosphere in which it’s easy to speak without thinking. We can post things in a safe situation, not face to face interaction. Many of the posts and comments I have seen at SBC Impact I am pretty sure wouldn’t happen in face to face conversation. We have become crass and careless with our words, not focusing on words that build up and edify, but taking cuts, slinging mud and being cruel.

The online relationships we have build are so fragile that it doesn’t take much to break them. If the Facebook and blogging community can really been seen as the Church, we have taken the body of Christ and made it so fragile that it will never be able to stand up in the world. We have created fragile connections, and so often we are not encouraging or supporting each other. We are not iron sharpening iron, we are simply stone chipping away at stone. This should not be so.

So what is the solution? I think much of the issue when we are on blogs, Facebook or other online communities, we begin to address the person as the problem and not the issue. Instead of saying “I don’t agree with this statement, because”, we just reply with “you’re an idiot”. This is a less than helpful statement when working to build community. We should also take time to get to know our fellow bloggers, after all, aren’t we all here for the same reason? Is not the goal to expand the Kingdom, to Glorify God and to grow in our faith? If we all have that common goal, if we are working together towards the same end, why do we continue to devour each other? I believe because it’s easy to do online, and we have such a fragile structure, that we break it because we can. Never do people become so carnal as they do online. Perhaps the internet has created an outlet for the flesh, can we reform it to be used as a place to bring glory to God? I sure hope so, because I would hate to see the blogs destroy the church.