• The Met
  • The Art Renewal Center
  • William Bouguereau

  • My Favorite Art
  • Jeune Fille se Defendant Contre L'amour
    by William Bouguereau

  • Le_ravissement de Psyche
    by William Bouguereau

  • Flagellation de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ
    by William Bouguereau
My Photo
Location: Liverpool, NY

"In my house, I'm a big deal. That's all that matters."


About The Ultra Rev


Free Hit Counters

Powered by Blogger

Friday, December 30, 2005

Grinders Coffee & Bakery in Watertown, NY

My friend Michelle has her web site up for Grinders, which is a great coffeeshop on Arsenal St. in Watertown, NY —— EXCELLENT coffee and baked goods, and Michelle and her staff are friendly. The New Orleans Dark Roast is one of the finest cups of coffee I've ever had. She might also be the only place in the north country where you can buy a French Press or an old Italian style stove top espresso maker.

Starbucks is coming soon to outer Arsenal and doesn't have anything better than you would get at Grinders. I was in Utica the other day at Domenico's, a coffeeshop on Genesee St. and they had stickers all over the shop saying, "Friends don't let friends drink Starbucks." Cute. BTW, I had the best latte I've had in a very long time at Domenico's and will definitely be back there.

For awhile Grinders was carrying half-moon cookies that were made by Hemstroughts Bakery in Utica, NY where I was born. For a variety of reasons she's not doing that any more. However, through the genius of the internet I have tracked down Hemstrought's recipes. Let's see if Michelle can duplicate them.

I also found recipe's for cannoli's from Florentines Bakery and Canadian butter tarts. I don't know anybody in the states making Canadian butter tarts. They are so good but so bad for you. Eat one of these little morsels and you have you calories for the week.

Visit Grinders now!


I can't put a post about coffee without mentioning my boy Matt and CafeKubal. If you're going to buy fresh roasted beans go to Matt's site and order some. He'll roast and mail your beans the day he receives your order and have them on your door step the next day or two.


I should get paid for these commercials.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hustler store celebrates five years in suburbia

Subtitled: Despite initial concerns, harm to the community not evident

According to the article, arguments against the store were:
"When the Hustler Hollywood adult store opened here five years ago, critics claimed it would taint the town's reputation and chase away other businesses."

And current arguments for the store: In the time the Hustler store has been there the population has increased and the economy has grown. Well praise God for Hustler! (note the oozing sarcasm)

Some days I can't believe that ignorant stuff like this gets printed. And this is supposedly a serious newspaper: The Cincinnati Enquirer.

It's not just Christians any more detailing the dangers of pornography. Almost no one with any professional training says that porn is good or indifferent for relationships. It's destructive on numerous levels.

I'll bet the harm to the community is not evident because the reporter evaluating isn't looking in the right places.
  • Are familial relationships stronger? No community is stronger if it's families are weaker.
  • Are children & youth at a greater or lesser risk to be abused and exploited?
  • Are there more or less people with a sexual addiction or dysfunction since the store arrived?
  • Are there more or less sex crimes committed since the stores arrival?
Those are the type of question that someone needs to ask.

And who will hold Michael D. Clark, Enquirer Staff Writer and his editor accountable? No one. This is really poor journalism.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

FREE Church Planting Resources

Free is good. So is church planting.

I'm really sick of supposedly smart people saying dumb stuff like, "We have enough churches already, why should we plant more?" and say it with a really sneering or annoyed vibe.

Beyond the stats that might suggest that our churches per capita is at a low point in history, the bottom line is: Quality. We really don't have enough healthy, vibrant, orthodox churches.

We have so many churches that should be closed because they are toxic. Not only are they not expanding the Kingdom of God, they are in fact doing damage by turning people off to Jesus because their church belligerant behavior. And a lot of them have these god-awful buildings built in the sixties and seventies that should be razed when the congregation is closed. The landscape could be prettier too with closing these churches.

And we have plenty of churches that are honest to goodness heretics. There are the obvious factions within the mainline offenders but there are evangelical ones also like oneness churches or other self-help or prosperity gospel churches that don't preach repentance from sin and salvation through Jesus Christ.

We need new churches and lots of them. Not just a few but tens of thousands of them. Literally we need to pollute the landscape with them.

Several months back, St. Brad of Abet posted an interesting article about a church planting effort in NYC. The article is listed at the A/G News Site. The A/G Church is part of a group that wants to plant 700 churches in NYC in the next decade. The article calls it an "ambitious plan". I say that's still small thinking. Why do we believe God can do so little?

That's 70 churches a year for a decade. What if those churches averaged 1000 people in attendance and at the end we had 700,000 people in those churches. Sure that's a lot. But as the article states, "While the city's five boroughs claim 8.1 million residents, an estimated 22 million people live within 50 miles of Times Square." That's still only 3% of 22 mil and the population will likely have grown by then. Is that all God can do? Maybe it's all he can do with lazy butts like ours.

On the one hand it's great that we are thinking so "ambitiously" but on the other hand, Barna's prophetic book of the Frog In The Kettle has come true. We've been are boiling to death and don't see it. We really are blind to how ineffective the church has become and how church attendance has plummeted.

What if Dave Olsen's stats are true that only 16-18% of the population is in church on Sunday morning? As Dave quipped, "You don't see any serious traffic problems on Sunday morning do you?" No Dave, we don't. That ought to scare the pants off us right there.

If your denomination's judicatory, or even the current church you attend, doesn't have church planting as one of it's top priorities shame on them! Demand a change in priorities or a change in leadership if that is the case.

We need new quality churches people! I'm not sure how this is going to happen but over the next 5 years I want to be directly supportive of and/or the inspiration or impetus behind 5 churches being born. I'm not suggesting I'm going to pastor any or all of them — of course, there are plenty of people who would suggest I not pastor sheep let alone churches! They may be right. But I feel called to somehow be directly involved in seeing new churches come to life.

One other church planting resource: St. Brad of Abet has a Resource List at his site including
Getting Started: A Church Planting Handbook for Laypeople by Brad Boydston.

DevilDucky - Bendy Woman

From the files of the wierd comes this little video clip of the most bendable human being I have ever seen. Sure, we've all seen gymnasts who do splits or do an arch with their hands and feet on the ground and belly in the air. You ain't seen nuthin' like this. This girl is made of some unhuman substance.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Today is Christmas and if you haven't done so you're late, but let this be a reminder: Give your pastor(s) a Christmas present. You've probably done that already. But even if he or she is the biggest schmuck out there, his/her sermons stink, their bedside manners are lacking, etc. ... get 'em a Christmas prestent. Live out God's grace and bless your pastor with a Christmas present.

I bought my pastors a gift certificate to iTunes. PayPal had a deal where is you bought a gift certificate for a certain amount, you got some free songs yourself. So I blessed my pastors and blessed myself, or more likely, I'll bless my wife and pass them along to her. The deal runs through the end of the year.

When I was pastor of a church in Ohio, they would take a love offering for my family and give it to me at the Christmas eve service. We would leave from the church and drive 5 hours to NY to be with family. I can remember heading east on I90 balling my eyes out when we opened a card with a gift the size of one of my paychecks. Their generosity at Christmas was incredible. I'll never forget that.

If you missed getting your pastor or someone else a gift this Christmas, just give them something on January 6th. Tell them you celebrate Christmas on the eastern rite calendar.

What's a God to do?

I'm thinking of those hot summer days when God is perplexed. A young woman has planned her wedding for over a year and it's going to be outdoors. She's prayed like crazy, begging God for a beautiful summer day. Yet her dad is a farmer and he has seen too many hot summer days. He's also prayed like crazy for rain. What is God to do?

That scenario is not at all unlike Christmas. Churches every where are praying that the world may see Jesus is the true reason for the season. They have extra services and special events all designed to turn people's hearts towards Jesus Christ. They pray. But I also hear them complain. Many Christian people are sick and tired of the over emphasis on the commercialization of Christmas. They want it stopped.

Yet in every congregation, there are business owners who are also praying. For many of the this Christmas season is hectic but also profitable. Some earn half of the year's profits (or more) from the Christmas season. Christmas sales put food on the table and pay employee bonuses. And they pray fervently that this season will be no different. And when sales have been good they praise God for providing for their family, all the while their fellow church members complain.

What's a God to do?

I Want An iPod

In general I hate trendy stuff and am always slow to get the latest gadget. But I'll go on record as saying, "I want an iPod."

In the spirit of Christmas you can send donations to The Ultra Rev's iPod Fund via PayPal. Just click the button below. Thank you.

Merry Christmas from The Ultra Rev!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

iPod Jacking: A True Love Story

I almost thought this was something dirty but it's what friends do when they both have iPods. And apparently it is a way to get a date.

UltraRev.com, The online Performance Shop - We Carry a full line of AEM, Injen, Fidanza, Skunk2, Magnecor, Progress, Invidia, Clutchmasters, ACT, Exed

Just for the record that the UltraRev.com site is not mine but it's very cool nonetheless. However, I do own the domain: theultrarev.be and just as an FYI I also own stevejobs.be. Eventually I'll figure out how to use them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

No Global Warming Here

I'm very happy to report to you there is no global warming at my house. We have had sub zero temps on and off recently. Here on the first day of Winter we already have had about 5 feet of snow fall. Drove home in blizzard conditions from Utica today.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Episcopal Churches in the Diocese of Central New York

This page has pictures of all the parishes in the Diocese. They're pretty. I like old churches and so many of these structures of 100+ years old in small little towns, villages and hamlets through upstate New York. For me these beautiful old buildings are so inviting, but they aren't for many who don't go to church. I see them as majestic.

Unfortunately they cost so much in upkeep and with many of these particular churches in serious decline, the buildings are becoming a hardship on the parish people. They spend more in buildings than on ministry directly to people. Lord have mercy.

VirtueOnline: BARNABAS FUND: Islam Remains Number One Danger to the Christian Church

Smart stuff: Watercone, making sea water drinkable.

What if a church instead of corporate business took this idea and ran with it in their attempts to deliver clean drinking water to the world ... not just any old non-profit with a compassionate heart but the church who proclaims the gospel when delivering the water?

Check out Watercone.

Bugmenot.com - bypass compulsory registration with these free passwords

Bugmenot.com is a site dedicated to sharing passwords for web sites with compulsory registration. Very helpful utility.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Alone in God - The Abbey of Gethsemani

I wonder if or how Cistercians do evangelism. Benedictine life is so appealing, especially when you have a toddler in your home.

Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/The Ultra Rev. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Just for the record I never made it into Wikipedia. I was voted down. Thanks to the gracious soul who proposed an entry about me. I'll have to work on accomplishing something more noteworthy.

Christmas Preaching

I'm out this year. No preaching for me. I've been out of the pulpit now for nearly two months. After 10 years of preaching with one other 5 month hiatus, it's still weird. I still feel antsy on Saturday nights and I still feel tired on Mondays, all for no good reason. But Sunday afternoons have been great. I can watch a whole football game.

During Advent I preach the same sermons every year in some form or another about The Theotokos, that is, the God Bearer, the Mother of God, the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary). And I preach it today on my blog.

It was John Weborg who taught me that the early church considered the BVM to be the first disciple of Jesus. She was the first human to submit her life to Christ.

Did you know that the early church considered Mary to be the first disciple of Christ and prototype of the first believer?

Consider this: just by the very act of obediently accepting her commissioning by God to be pregnant with Jesus, the early church therefore declared that she was the first person to ever put her life in submission to Jesus’. In that way she was and is a perfect model of a disciple.

She submitted her life to Christ. Not just her thoughts. This was not just a mental ascent to say, “OK God I’ll play along.” Mary made a vow and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” meaning she was ready to submit all to her God.

Those of you who know anything about pregnancy know that you submit a lot to the child that is in-utero. A woman’s body is overtaken and all sorts of things begin to happen:

That child for one takes up a lot of space that a woman’s bladder used to enjoy. Besides the frequent trips to the bathroom, there is an morning sickness, an uneasy stomach toward certain foods, cravings for weird food, frequently hungry, etc.

But also expectant moms are frequently tired as the baby saps a lot of nutrients and energy from their body. In case you did not know, mother’s also can have difficulties sleeping because there is really no comfortable way to sleep with an extra 20 pounds protruding from your stomach and having something kicking you in the ribs.

Friends, I want you to stop and think of someone you know that has had a baby. What happened to them? Think of all the changes that happen. We often times just think of the end result -- the baby -- but before any baby comes there is nine months (or more accurately 40 weeks[or more]) of weird changes to ones body chemistry, to one’s bones, one’s hair, finger nails, body shape and weight, personality, ability to sleep, etc.

Mary underwent an enormous life change. Did you ever stop to think that maybe Mary had dreams for her life? Maybe she hoped for a great marriage -- she was betrothed and probably looking forward to her new life with Joseph. Maybe they had talked about what they hoped their future together would entail. Maybe she thought he was a fantastic guy and she was head over heals about him. Maybe she liked children and wanted to have a big family. No doubt she had all sorts of hopes and dreams for her life just like you and I have. But those dreams were abruptly interrupted and put aside. She submitted even her dreams and hopes to God.

Mary also stands out to us as one who submitted her life to the "unseen" Christ. She had not heard his preaching and seen his miracles. But in faith she gave her life over to serving him.

Mary was not a property owner. All she had were her clothes, her body, her will, her dreams, her family -- her being. Most of what she had were intangible things of enormous value. Yet she submitted even these most valuable treasures. She gave literally everything she had and submitted it to God for his Son.

Early Christians are quick to point out that before she was pregnant -- she submitted her life to God’s will. No negotiating with God -- she just gave him all that she had.
Mary’s discipleship, -- when I say say ‘disciple’ I am meaning ‘one who is a fully devoted follower of God’ -- Mary’s discipleship precedes her motherhood. Before she is a mother she is a disciple. Her identity is in God first.

When we introduce yourself to someone that is often the time we begin making a statement about our identity: I’m a father or mother; or I’m related to so-and-so; or I am a student in 10th grade; or I go to or graduated from a certain school; or I’m an engineer, a truck driver, a business owner; or I live in Black River; or I go to the Evangelical Covenant Church.

All of those things we list off are secondary. They ought to be preceded by the fact that we are disciples. As a disciple of Jesus Christ it is where both we and Mary find our primary identity.

Mary was a RISK TAKER all through the life of Jesus:
Consider the enormous risk she took. Angels coming to speak to people just don’t happen every day and this angel had a very difficult, scary message. Would people believe her? Especially her beloved Joseph. Would she disgrace her parents, Joseph and his family?

Mary risked her public opinion poll ratings BIG TIME. She risked the relationships she treasured most. She risked being ridiculed by the community. But she said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

This was also a financial risk. Did the angel mention anything about who was going to pay for this ordeal? Who was going to supply the child with food, clothing and shelter? The Angel made no guarantees and she wasn’t yet sure how Joseph would react. She knew he could divorce her.

Mary risked having her heart be broken by loving this child. Simeon, who was in the temple when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to be dedicated, spoke to Mary and said that her soul would be pierced with a sword.

Mary had a baby but it was only on loan to her. She was its mother. She loved that baby. That baby cooed and made cute noises. She nurtured and cared for that baby all the while knowing that her heart would be pierced. Mary risked loving a child that she knew God had plans for.

Giving birth and raising Jesus were not Mary’s only risks:

Mary was there in tears at the foot of the cross when Jesus was hanging there suffocating, beaten and bloodied, in anguish and suffering, -- dying right before her eyes -- she was there.

Remember, as Jesus hangs on the cross he is a criminal -- charged with treason against the Roman state and heresy against the Jews. He is in essence public enemy #1.

But Mary faithfully risks her own reputation and safety again as she weeps over her son, the criminal before her was the same son that God gave her when she had said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Just as when she was pregnant and facing public shame, she did so again at the cross, facing the public shame of being the mother of a public criminal -- a mother who loved that public criminal.

The risks of her discipleship did not end there:
In Acts chapter one we read of Mary sitting in the upper room with the disciples and other believers. She sat there in the midst of the same people who had once claimed to be followers of Jesus but deserted both him and deserted her while she stood at the foot of the cross, and they scattered and denied being associated with Jesus. The same crew that betrayed Jesus, she now stood in there midst as part of the newly forming work that God was doing.

Again she risked public scrutiny. But even more greatly she risked forgiving and trusting these unfaithful people who had betrayed her Son.

Friends, if you did not know it: Mary was truly a disciple. Mary was an unbelievably strong woman. Mary was truly a model of Christian discipleship.

She gave everything she had and submitted it to God. Literally everything.

She found her identity in God. She was a disciple before she was a mother.

She took enormous risks to follow God. No matter what it would cost her -- she risked it all and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Mary made that statement about 10 months before Jesus was born. In only 7 days from now we celebrate his birth again. But today is no different. The same God that sent his angel to approach Mary, now approaches you today and he says,

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by, “ declares the Lord.” (Jer 29.11-14)

Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eart with him, and he with me.”

What will you say? Have you ever given your life over to God? Have you ever said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Maybe you have been a Christian your whole life and are a member of a church — grew up in church, gone to Sunday School, been to church camp, and done all or most of things that church people do. Even at some point you look back and reflect on a time when you gave your life to following Christ. Remember, Mary was a devout Jew already and now God was approaching her about something new.

I wonder if today you would consider recommitting your life to Christ, just like Mary did. If today you would for the first time or tenth time say to the Lord, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Will you submit all you have? Your reputation? Your job? All your belongings? Every dream, hope and desire? Would you allow God to interrupt your life?

Perhaps you read this message and you know that you have never spoken to God to give him your life. As you can see, Mary’s life was not pain free and your’s would not be either if you chose to follow Christ. But Mary had one thing that almost all of humanity craves -- a reason to live. Mary was on a mission to serve God. He had plans for her and now God has plans for you.

If right now you will decide to say to God, “I am the Lord’s servant.” which is the beginning of the his plans, he will begin a great work in you that will change your life and rock this world.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Corvallis Gazette-Times: Pastors work overtime to cultivate faith

I did this for a while. I worked overtime. A lot. I thought it was part of making a sacrifice for God and the church. Even the people of the church affirmed it with comments like, "Hey, we work 40+ hour work weeks and then volunteer several hours here." That comment was made to tell me I should be working at least 55 hours a week.

I really did believe it was OK. I was ministering in a church that would be considered a "turn around" situation ... if indeed it would ever turn around, but that was debatable. I say "was" because it is no longer debatable — it turned toward death after I left. Anyways ....

I talked with Lyle Schaller and heard him say elsewhere that the hardest job in ministry was that of the turnaround pastor. Those who make it, work really, really, really hard. Schaller said it was more difficult than church planting. Other leaders in my denomination affirmed it too.

I read Barna's book about Turnaround Churches. It said the same thing about hard work. So I worked seemingly endlessly, although my congregation never thought I did. They complained so I kept tedious notes about what I did but it never did stem the flow of negative comments.

I worked to the point of exhaustion. I guarded my "day" off pretty fiercely, although compromised when duty called, and it seemed that all I did that day was try to recover from the other six. I burned out. I already had serious problems with depression and that type of work schedule and ceaseless flow of complaints exacerbated the problem. Eventually we parted ways.

It took me well over a year to recover. I participated in the Arrow Leadership Program and they talked a lot about self care. Some of the reading during that time claimed that those who work 70 hours a week and those that worked 50 accomplished roughly the same amount over a long period of time. The 70+ person was sick more often, did things less well and had to deal with damage control and had to worker longer to achieve the same results as those who didn't, experienced higher degrees of dysfunction that interrupted their performance, led less well because they related to people less well because of the stress that amount of work put on them.

I have one ministerial colleague who I've watched do this over the past year or so with tons of travel, phone calls at home on weekends and "vacation", sometimes a day or two off per month. He feels a little burned out. He can't see it and I don't have the heart to tell him, but I observe him having a difficult time completing a thought and carrying on a conversation. He kind of fades out at the end of a sentence. That's dangerous. It could be a huge scary crash.

Pastors wear that "work overtime" like a badge of honor or some use it like a sickness to garner sympathy for themselves and their sorry performance. Many pastors are like other workaholics — working overtime to medicate their pain and hide from their problems and responsibilities. Some are adrenaline addicts too. Adrenaline is certainly my drug of choice.

Seems some churches expect their pastor to "work overtime" also. To many in the pews, pastors seems like whiners when they talk about working overtime. If that's you, I know I can't change your mind but I'll say it anyway: If you have never been a pastor you don't get it. I know you think you do, but if you haven't done it you really don't get it. The book that has come the closest to explaining it is: It Only Hurts On Monday.

I was in a job interview recently where I was asked how my family was going to handle a high amount of travel. All work has ebb and flow and my family will handle the times of travel OK when done well. I'll probably suffer more than them. Then he asked "what if it was like 3 weeks a month?", to which I replied that would be a problem. I ranted a bit about being a family man and wasn't going to sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry and wasn't going to be having my kids cry themselves to sleep because their daddy was never home. Fortunately my boss (who did not ask the question) gave a hearty "amen" to that which I appreciated.

I felt like saying, "Could you sleep at night if I was gone 3 weeks a month? Do you think that's godly? What family wouldn't suffer under those circumstances and is that what you want for my family or for anybody else's family? Do you care that little about me? Am I just a means to an end for you? Even if I didn't have little kids and was a boomer like you, do you honestly think that would be right? Look deep within your soul for a moment. Can you really feel good about yourself with that expectation? Shame on you!"

I live in a military community with Ft. Drum being my next door neighbor. I see first hand how these soldiers being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan is destroying families. I'm about six weeks away from seeing one of my buddies deployed for about 13 months (or more) and leave his 2 gradeschool daughters and wonderful wife at home. I cry when I think about what they are going through. There is pain all over this community with children and spouses crying themselves to sleep at night missing their daddy or mommy, husband or wife.

Then I think about the quote from Leighton Ford that I posted several days ago. Sometimes great sacrifice is required to serve God. No doubt the apostles did ministry to the point of suffering greatly in their physical beings. Yet, I bet they observed the sabbath. I know of other non-military or non-ministerial jobs that require extended travel like truckers, seafarers, professional baseball players, etc.

Honestly there are two sides to this issue and a strong argument could be made against what I am advocating for. But it's my blog and I'm generally prone to letting my ignorance fly. So here it goes ...
  • If you are one of these "pastors working overtime to cultivate faith", get your butt home to your family before you don't have one. Turn off the cell phone and unplug the land line if need be. Stop deluding yourself into thinking it's right and won't harm anyone. It's not right. It will harm you and might harm others. Take a sabbath and consider it a gift from God.


Too funny! Family get togethers are gonna be awkward for awhile in that family.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Yes, You Can Get a 'Free' Mac mini - but Is It Worth the Hassles?

Here is an article by someone who tried one of those "free" offers and actually received the offer. He got a Mac Mini, valued @ $499 for less than $100, several hours of hassles and about 2 months wait.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Maxis User System - SimCity.com

Play SimCity on line for free. My kids and I love to play SimCity and The Sims together.

My Friends in the US Army

I have 3 friends going to Afghanistan within the next couple weeks. I adore these guys and I'm really having a difficult time with their leaving.

COREY flies Blackhawk helicopters. He and his wife have a girl and a boy and are really godly people whom I admire. We met through our girls being in Brownies together and homeschooling events. He got the homeschooling kids on post recently so they could see the helicopters and my kids loved it. Corey loves to fly.

DAN is a soldier who does whatever his leaders tell him to do. He's a young single guy.
I pick up Dan every Sunday at the Ft. Drum gate and take him to church. His parents are Wycliffe missionaries in Chad. He wants to learn how to fly helicopters while in the army to be able to do mission work when he is out of the service.

JEFF is a Colonel, who left today at 7:30 pm for Afghanistan. He and his wife have become really good friends and my kids love their 2 girls.
I met Jeff & his family when I pastored at the Episcopal Church. We connected as they had attended a Evangelical Covenant Church in Alaska. They came over to the Nazarene Church when we did.

It was an excruciating day in church yesterday. We prayed over Jeff & several soldiers who are being deployed. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

I have to admit that I have been in absolute agony all day yesterday and today in trying to deal with Jeff's leaving. He'll be gone for about 13 or 14 months. There's this terrible helpless feeling knowing that he is in danger and I can't do anything. Pray for me.

There are some things you should know if the only place you get your information about the war on terror is the media ...
  • Many of these guys are excited to go and believe in their mission whole heartedly. They believe, no, they know they are doing good. Contrary to what asinine politicians say, they know they are appreciated by many Iraqis and Afghanis who have received their freedom. I have heard more than one soldier express that they have a sense of calling in their life to serve in the army.
  • These guys weren't forced to join the army and a lot of them love being soldiers. They get tired of the bureaucratic nightmare of the US Army, but in general they love the camaraderie and doing their job.
  • Contrary to the news shows, the soldiers I know have all the equipment they need. I remember watching some late night news show that was doing a story on soldiers not having enough or the right equipment. It interviewed some mother who bought kevlar for her son cause the army supposedly didn't provide it. The guys I know have more equipment than they can keep handle.
  • Again, contrary to news reports of soldiers doing horrible things, as Americans we can be really proud of our soldiers. My experience of them living here right next door to the base is that as a rule they are extremely courteous, honest, hard working and eager to help anybody who needs it. I genuinely admire and like them.
  • And lastly, you should know that many of their marriages are failing and their families are struggling. They really need us to pray for them.
  • No this is really the last thing you should know: Don't believe the news media's portrayal of the war, the US Army or the soldiers. Just don't.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Washington Times: The Marriage of Many

I knew it was coming. I predicted it several years ago when I saw the support rising for homosexual marriage. Polygamy rights are next. If as some civil rights lawyeres have suggested, that marriage ought to be the ability to marry a person of your choice, not just of the opposite sex, then why not multiple persons of your choice?

Now I almost said, and why not frogs, toads, gorillas and stuffed animals of your choice but I suppose that is a little far fetched. Then again, not that long ago we would have said that the current rights fights would have been unthinkable.

One group mentioned in the article is TruthBearer.org, a Christian Polygamy Organization. They're evangelical too, with a gospel presentation using the bridge illustration. But they believe that polygamy is taught in the Scriptures.

And why not? There are at least some seemingly God ordained polygamous stories in the Bible. How about the Levitical law that says that if a man dies, his brother is supposed to marry the widow for her protection? That was the story of Ruth and Boaz. Seems like God endorsed polygamy — compassionate polygamy. I like how that sounds.

What about Jacob who got tricked into marrying the wrong woman, Leah. That Laban sure was sneaky. Leah was homely and whiny, and he knew he'd never be able to get rid of her so he tricked Jacob. Jacob just had to have Rachel, so he married her too. Was Jacob just consumed with lust/love for Rachel and lost all sense of right and wrong so he married her? Was God displeased with Jacob? Should he have just settled for Leah?

OK. Now I know this seems far fetched, but I'll go out on a limb and predict it's coming. I predict, someone out there will want to do a study on the brain chemistry of animals during intercourse with a human. They'll come up with some result that says it isn't harmful, it's pleasurable, it's similar to what happens when they have intercourse with another animal, yada, yada, yada.

Then there will be animal lover groups that will advocate for conjugal rights with their pets. Everyone will think they're wierd. Europe and Canada will move ahead with civil rights for pet owners desiring relations with their animals. The Internet will be deluged with pictures and videos of owners "making love" to their pets. There will be underground online organizations offering sex farm tours. Some "news" show like 20/20 or 60 Minutes will show rare documentary footage of animals and their owners in action but the pet's face will be blurred out to protect the innocent. Paris Hilton will make a new movie with a Chocolate Lab. New Hampshire will ordain a Bishop who has been in a long term monogamous relationship with a Hamster. And Jake Gyllenhall will appear in a new movie about Cowboys who loved their horses starring one of the Clydesdales from the old Budweiser commercials. The horse will be nominated for an Oscar.

I know what you're thinking ... "that'll never happen" ... "you're sick for thinking about it and saying it." Yep. And that's what our grandparents said years ago when someone predicted the same thing would happen with homosexual rights.

The Nutcracker

I'm an extremely proud father. Isn't it a marvelous feeling when your kid accomplishes something you never did or would have at their age? This isn't an attempt to live vicariously through my child type of thing. It's sheer awe for their accomplishments and reflecting on how they live so differently than I did.

My children were in The Nutcracker this weekend. My oldest, Katelyn who is 9, danced as a Candy Flute in the Kingdom of Sweets. She also sang as part of the chorus. She had never danced before. Her only "performances" in front of people were in the church children's choir and Christmas program. She practiced diligently and when show time came, she got up with grace and seemingly very little self consciousness about her ability.

My second oldest, Carter who is 7, was The Nutcracker. He and "Marie" were the lead actors of the show and had numerous lines to memorize and places to be on the stage. He has no more stage experience than Katelyn. He gave a great performance and was so poised. I marveled at how he took direction and correction and paid attention to details. For his audition he sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" with gusto and the director saw some potential.

The play director was Kim Middlestadt, who I really admire. She was so positive with the kids and really low maintenance as the director. She included kids from pre-school age through teens and helped them experience theater without stressing them out about perfection.

Here are two short clips from the show:
Carter, The Nutcracker
Katelyn's Dance

Friday, December 09, 2005

Evangelism Resources: Living Waters

I saw my friend Tony Smith tonight at The Nutcracker, where our kids were in the show together. Tony had recently listened to Hell's Best Kept Secrets from the Living Waters web site and so we were chatting about it.

There are tons of freebies at Living Waters. That is one of the reasons I respect Ray Comfort so much. Ray is so passionate about evangelism that he's willing to provide resources for free. I remember when I received a cassette tape of Hell's Best Kept Secrets from the Arrow Leadership Program and it impressed me so to hear the opening lines to say something about "This message is non-copyright. Duplication is encouraged."

This could be an overstatement, but it seems to me if you are a Christian ministry claiming to have a serious concern for the lost, how much you charge for the resources you provide says something about how serious you are.

Before I go any further, please take a moment to download Hell's Best Kept Secrets and listen. I've listened to over a dozen times myself but I'll do it again. Now those of my friends out there who are not ultra conservative evangelicals like Ray Comfort, I encourage you to look past cultural trappings and listen for his central message because it is one that every Christian needs to take to heart.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Multisite Church Resources

Newthing Network

Multi-Site Conference

Tony Campolo + EAPE / MEDIA

I remember being at Roberts Wesleyan College in the late 80's and heard Tony Campolo preach his famous sermon It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming. It and several other messages are available at his website.

Franklin Graham

It appears the rumors are true, Franklin Graham will be doing an evangelistic crusade in Binghamton, NY — I think that will be in '07. And apparently he will be ministering Sarasota, FL also in the coming months.


Saw this link at Leighton Ford's site. It's a site dedicated to people sharing stories about God in their life.

A quote from Leighton Ford ...

I am rereading Sterling Huston's book Crusade Evangelism and the Local Church (Published originally in 1984, revised & expanded in 1996 by World Wide Publications. Minneapolis, MN). On pages 182-183 there is an extended quote by Leighton Ford. Leighton was a long time Evangelism Associate for the Billy Graham Association and founder of the Arrow Leadership Program where I met his acquaintance.

"Before evangelism is a program, it is a passion — a passion of the heart which issues a saving action. Evangelism is the passion of Moses, 'Oh, this people have sinned ... yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin — if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which thou hast written.' It is the passion of Paul, 'Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.' It is the anguished cry of Jesus as He weeps over a doomed city, 'Oh, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thee.'

"Evangelism is the cry of John Knox, 'Give me Scotland or I die,' and John Wesley, 'The world is my parish.' Evangelism is Henry Martyn landing on the shores of India and crying, 'Here let me burn out for God!' It is David Brainerd coughing up blood from his tubercular lungs as he prays in the snow for the North American Indians. It is George Whitefield crossing the Atlantic thirteen times in a small ship to preach in the American colonies.

"Evangelism is the passion that leads the aristocratic Lady Donnithorne of our own generation to enter the forbidding slums of Hong Kong's 'Walled City' to bring the healing of the Gospel to the pimps and prostitutes, the dope addicts and gamblers. It is Jim Eliot and his young friends staining the sands of a little river in Ecuador with their blood to reach an obscure band of Auca Indians for Christ. It is Paul Carlson leaving his comfortable practice in California for the Congo, there to die with a rebel's bullet through his head."

Monday, December 05, 2005

:::xxxchurch.com::: X3 Radio

In light of the last post, :::xxxchurch.com::: X3 Radio">here is some support for those who are struggling with lust and porn. This particular link takes you to thei page with audio files available but there is some good stuff in the rest of the site.

Der Bibelkalender (nude calendar)

So there's this fascinating article of a German church youth group that is doing a fundraiser by selling calendars depicting erotic scenes from the Bible.

One 21 year old woman, who poses as the prostitute Rahab, says this: "Anyway, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude."

Interesting logic. It doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden from looking at or pandering child pornography but I'm pretty sure that is sinful.

One other interesting perspective on her statement: notice the self centered focus — ".... you are forbidden to show yourself nude." But what about loving your neighbor as yourself? Does showing yourself nude break the law of loving your neighbor? I suppose if you showed yourself nude often enough you might really end up loving your neighbor on a regular basis but that's a little different.

What if showing yourself nude to your neighbor causes them to lust? Of course I wouldn't have that problem. If I showed myself nude to my neighbors it would scare the crap out of them and they would run away traumatized and in fear. Some do that when I have my clothes on!

So certainly you don't want to cause someone to lust. And you don't want to break porn laws. You do want to love your neighbor. When evaluating any of your own behavior it must be measured against the law of loving your neighbor and God. And you must examine your own motives.

But I wonder, can you show yourself nude and not sin? Is there a place in this world for nudity in art that celebrates God's creation of the human body. Can nudity ever be used in video (movies, television, etc.) for artistic purposes.

When I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see my friend who works there and I see the Rodin sculptures or I see paintings by my favorite artist William Bouguereau, I'm enthralled by them but not consumed with lust. The beauty is wonderful, even majestic. But it's really not sexual or at least in my limited perception of myself, I don't feel sexually charged in some way after I have viewed them.

One person told me that the difference between art and porn is whether the nude person in the picture is looking at you or not. An art professor in college said that the difference between nude and naked was this: nude is art but naked is vulnerable to being penetrated.

I'm just not sure that all nudity is bad and must be forbidden.

On the other hand, even if you took a more liberal approach to this topic, wouldn't you be bothered if some youth group kid was masturbating to a calendar that the CHURCH sold him or her? Some how that would bother me. Regardless of your view on masturbation, objectifying the person in the picture and lusting after him/her is neither healthy nor right.

Well, I've put enough scary words in this post that it's probably not making it past most of your porn filters so no one is really reading this. But if you are reading this, I encourage you to think about your own life for a moment. Are you loving your neighbor and God to the best of your ability? I think you will feel better about yourself if you work diligently in doing that in all your actions. God bless you. I'll work on it too.

nakedreligion: Why Church Membership Doesn't Matter

BJ B always writes thought provoking stuff. His recent post on Church Membership was great.

It is true. One can hardly make a Biblical case for church membership. There doesn't seem to be a Biblical inquirer's class, membership certificate, etc. But I think there can be a good case made for it.

Churches do need organizational structures for decision making. In democratically run churches membership is good and necessary and needs to be vigilantly watched over. Membership protects the church from being hijacked by one group's agenda. If just anyone who shows up on a Sunday (or not) could vote at a congregational meeting, then someone with an ax to grind could just go and recruit his/her neighbors to come to church and sway the vote.

Now I have seen that happen anyways. When someone wants to influence a particular vote at a church, all they do is go and recruit their friends who are inactive members to come to a meeting and vote en masse. Which leads to my next point ...

Why do we let people control church membership like they are entitled to it? I think the church should decide who is a member and if they get to keep their membership. I think it's really dumb to send out letters asking inactive members if they want to remain on the membership rolls or "What should would they like to do with their membership?" The church should be telling the member what it is going to do with the person's membership.
Inactive members on church rolls are the fault of the church and should be taken care of to protect the church. Failure to remove inactive members is irresponsible on the part of the church and is a failure to protect the church.

I know. I've heard the excuses too. "If we remove this person from the rolls, it will hurt that person's feelings and maybe they will leave too." Or "They still contribute to the church even though they live in Arizona and the church is in NY. If we remove their names from the rolls they will stop giving."

It should never be allowed that someone who has moved to another city gets to keep their membership, even if they were members for 40 years and retired to Florida. You move away, you lose your membership. Get over it. There's no good reason to be a member of a church you don't attend — even if you give money. You can still give money and not be a member.

Furthermore, if a member has begun attending another church, remove his/her membership. Membership isn't outreach. We don't keep people on the rolls in hopes they will come back. Membership is for the committed.

Now certainly this would lead to some standards being made for what one needs to do to keep their membership. How many weeks does one need to miss before they are considered inactive and what are reasonable excuses for being uninvolved in the life of the church? What about people who are in a coma? What if you are in jail, homebound, hospitilzed or institutionalized? What if you have a Conference Superintendent as a church member and s/he is never there?

I guess you would have to deal with people on a case by case basis. But if you are run congregationally and rely on the members of the church to vote, membership rolls need to be carefully maintained to protect the church.

Now it is interesting how some churches keep their dead on the rolls. Just because they are dead doesn't mean they are no longer part of the body of Christ or a member of the church. I guess voting is still difficult under those circumstances.

Vice President Dick Cheney in the 'hood

Vice President Dick Cheney will be in my neighborhood this week. He'll be at Ft. Drum and my house is just minutes from the gate. I'm supposed to be in Virginia that day so Dick and I probably won't hook up. Alyx will be home if he would like to stop by and help with the potty training of Nicholas and the homeschooling of the other 3 yahooligans.

"Call On Jesus" by Nicole C. Mullen

We sang this song in church today. It deeply stirred my soul and just brought me to tears. I'm expecting big things from my life in the next 5 to 10 years. I hope you are too. This is the most hopeful I have been in a very, very long time.

Call On Jesus - Nicole C. Mullen
I'm so very ordinary
Nothing special on my own
I have never walked on water
I have never calmed a storm
Sometimes I'm hiding away from the madness around me
Like a child who's afraid of the dark

But when I call on Jesus
All things are possible
I can mount on wings like eagles and soar
When I call on Jesus
Mountains are gonna fall
'Cause He'll move heaven and earth to come rescue me when I call

Weary brother
Broken daughter
Widowed, widowed lover
You're not alone
If you're tired and scared of the madness around you
If you can't find the strength to carry on

repeat chorus

Call Him in the mornin'
In the afternoon time
Late in the evenin'
He'll be there
When your heart is broken
And you feel discouraged
You can just remember that He said
He'll be there

(c)2001 Wordspring Music, Inc./Lil' Jas Music/SESAC

Opinion II

I've come to the conclusion that it is the responsibility of the church catholic to eradicate hunger and poverty. Every single Christian person and every church should have as part of their mission statement to do away with hunger and poverty.

We believe a lie when we think we can just pay our taxes and rely on the welfare system to take care of the poor and occasionally churches or other organizations can just fill in the gaps. We further believe a lie when we just throw up our hands and say "It can't be done." Those are lies from the pit of hell. There is enough money in evangelical churches alone that if we downsized our lifestyles we could meet the need.

I wonder what could be the catalyst to get the church to work together and to care enough to give up their comfort. I see it as so scary that the opportunity is right there in front of us but we can't/won't do anything. We can't seem to get united. We won't downsize our own lives. What could possibly unite and motivate us?


I think that all para-church ministries exist because of the failure of the church to be the church.

What do you think about that? Can you cite me an example where that is not true?

Why Are People Leaving?, by john o'keefe

Oh my. Great article on church life. The reality is: people are leaving the church. I think they want to stay but overall they are on their way out. Sometimes they find a new place. Sometimes they go golfing and have brunch with friends, and many times, that is really way more interesting, thought provoking, spiritual and life giving than going to church.

If any of you have seen Dave Olsen's in depth analysis on church attendance, it ought to scare our pants off. Remember that scene in the movie the Titanic: there was a musical quartet on the deck of the sinking ship making beautiful music as chaos swirled around them. At one point they were going to stop and part ways, but it was obvious they had no place to go. So they continued to play. Sometimes I see that as a metaphor for the church.

I wish I wasn't so damn skeptical.

Yet at the same time I so strongly believe in church planting and think and pray about it all the time. I suppose it is true: Jesus doesn't have a Plan B. The church is his deal.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wired News: iPods Top Jukeboxes, DJs

Karaokeing Church

Several weeks ago I wrote about giving church options. Again, I'm not sure it's right and I definitely don't believe the church should reflect the culture. And of course I'm not suggesting we mess with the message.

But here is another article demonstrating the choices people have in culture. Bars are allowing patrons to bring their iPods and play music. Yet people have very few choices in church. Hmmmmm. Why is that? Is it right? Could it change if we wanted it to?

I wonder if or how this strategy could be used in the church.

Church Unity & WALK THIS WAY in Turlock, CA

Walk This Way in Turlock, CA
I just love reading about ministry that happens across denominational lines like this. It is tremendously exciting when everyone works together to build the kingdom of God and not just their own kingdom.

My friend St. Brad of Abet, who is a genius and pastor of Cornerstone Covenant Church in Turlock, CA is participating. Brad's blog is daily read.

Having worked this past year on the North Country Encounter and seen the benefits of churches working together I want to see more and more of it. I've been dreaming about being a part of making more of this happen ...

Imagine Churches Working Together on Publicity ...
What if the churches of every community worked together to create a web site that listed every church in the community with their relevant data: worship service times, pastor names, maps, location, etc. Someone in Utica, NY is working on this at the MV Churches site. But then, what if every church worked together to see every church in the community had their own web site and a link to them at the main site.

Imagine Churches Working Together on Evangelism & Discipleship ...
Imagine a church that worked 9-12 months for a proclamation evangelism event — something like Franklin Graham, Luis Palau or Steve Wingfield might do. As part of their preparations for the event there would be the normal concerts of prayer, sharing your faith courses, etc. But then add in several weeks in the process of what Turlock is doing. And follow it up with a community wide 40 Days of Purpose and/or Alpha course. Imagine dozens of churches all over the city offering the same course at the same time. And what if they worked together on a media campaign inviting people to church.

And imagine churches banding together to make sure there were evangelical chaplains at local prisons and hospitals — someone with good theology and not just CPE training. Imagine they worked together to support campus ministers from Young Life and Campus Crusade for Christ, AND they worked to have chaplains for local work sites through Marketplace Ministries or some other such agency.

I think this type of missional unity could change the life of an entire city. It would cause significant media interest further fueling the excitement of the churches and interest of the unchurched.

What if we really did work together? Not just occasionally but consistently, for years on end, working to eradicate poverty and convert the lost. What if?