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Monday, November 24, 2008

What if Happiness is Inherited?

The Happiness Gene - Is it Inherited?

What if happiness is inherited? A study of over a thousand sets of twins -- identical and fraternal -- seems to indicate that happiness is composed of a genetic component and other items such as relationships, health and career. Potentially this could have cultural implications for how euthanasia is viewed, the legalization of certain drugs, genetic research and for care givers such as counselors, pastors, social workers, etc.

The message of hope in Christian Gospel becomes that much more important. Having hope is different than happiness and quite possibly much more important. Christ never promises us happiness but he gives us hope. With God all things are possible. The empty tomb stands as a testament to His power, greatness and that He alone has the final word in life and death.

'Terror Texts' From The Bible

FOXNews.com - Iowa College Bases Musical on Bible's 'Terror' Stories

Northwestern College in Orange City, IA is having a musical production of six stories from the Old Testament that they call 'Terror Texts'.

Northwestern College | News | Bloody musical to take stage at NWC: "The script for Terror Texts was taken verbatim from the King James version of the Old Testament. Audience members who want a preview of the action can read II Kings 6:24-7:20, II Kings 2:23-25, II Samuel 6:1-23, Judges 3:12-30, Joshua 7:2-26, and Judges chapters 19 to 21."
You can read all the texts here.

Not all of the Bible is pretty and witty. I remember the great Dr. Paul Livermore saying in class one day, "You know those parts of the Bible you underline? The rest of it is the Bible too you know!"

Tony Jones

Emergent church leader says 'gay' can be biblical lifestyle

Emergent church leader Tony Jones apparently has come to the position that the homosexual lifestyle can be biblical.

Despite recounting his earlier days of arguing that "biblical prohibitions to homosexual sex should be taken seriously," Jones admits his experiences and feelings led him toward a different conclusion.

"And yet," Jones writes, "all the time I could feel myself drifting toward acceptance that gay persons are fully human persons and should be afforded all of the cultural and ecclesial benefits that I am."

Well that's one way to do ethics. Not really the best though.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Screen Literacy

A great NYT article (Idea Lab - Becoming Screen Literate - NYTimes.com) about the important cultural shift from spoken word to printed word to video. Very relevant implications for how the church thinks about communicating the Gospel.

This Should Help Church Attendance

Attending religious services ‘cuts death risk by almost 20 percent’ - Health – Lifestyle – MSN

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ministry to Muslims

David Virtue posts an interesting essay regarding John 4 and culturally sensitive ministry to Muslims: VirtueOnline: JESUS AND MUSLIMS: LESSONS FROM JOHN 4

Vatican 'forgives' Lennon for 'more popular than Jesus' remark - Telegraph

Updating a previous Land of the Ultra Rev post (The Land of The Ultra Rev: John Lennon Sounds Like A Worship Leader): The Pope has now forgiven John Lennon: Vatican 'forgives' Lennon for 'more popular than Jesus' remark - Telegraph.

Pope pondering change to Mass liturgy - Boston.com

Apparently the Pope is considering changing the location of the sign of the peace in the mass. Currently it is just prior to receiving communion and he is considering moving it to early in the service to make the moment at communion more solemn.

I like the exchanging of the peace. It's meant to be more than just a 'greet your neighbor' kind of thing. In my limited experience in the Episcopal Church it was a joyous thing and made for a celebrative atmosphere as we transitioned into a celebration of the Eucharist.

When you say, "Peace be with you." you're saying more than just, "Hi, I'm glad you're here. What's your name?" or "Welcome." It's an act of blessing and grace, calling down God's peace to be upon them and it's a statement of Christian charity and unity.

Maybe it's just semantics.

Peace be with you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

National Bible Week: Nov 23-30 and Reading Your Bible

Monday next week begins National Bible Week (Nov 23-30) sponsored by the National Bible Association. It was founded in 1940 for the nation to find hope through the Bible during a time of war. The goal of National Bible Week is just to encourage people to read the Bible.

Do you have a Bible? Let me know if you do not and I'll see what I can do to get you one. email me.

If you want to read the Bible next week and aren't sure where to start I'll be helping you right here on the Land of the Ultra Rev. Come back in the next couple days for some suggestions. Here's some basic starter places:
  • The Birth of Jesus: Luke 1-2
  • The Death and Resurrection of Jesus: Luke 22-24
  • Proverbs 1-9
  • Psalm 119
  • The books of First Peter, James and First John
As you read and then reflect, ask yourself, "What do these passages teach me about God?".

Here is how I got my first Bible: I was in high school -- 10th or 11th grade. The school day ended and I boarded the bus as usual in the school driveway. As the buses filed out of Liverpool High School's parking lot, there were some folks standing just off school property. As the buses stopped at the stop sign, they handed orange Gideon's New Testaments to the students through the windows. Of course that started a Bible war on the bus with Bibles being thrown everywhere. I got one through the window and kept it. It became a treasured possession and was a source of hope for me.

I became committed to giving away the Bible. In college I ran an American Bible Society Scripture Courtesy Center out of my dorm room and got other students to participate with me in Bibles For Russia, which was a ministry of sending Bibles to Russia.

My college internship was working for Bible Clubs of Syracuse where I taught backyard summer Bible Clubs and gave away Scriptures there. If I remember correctly, my good friend Dennis pilfered a case of Gideon's New Testaments from his father for me to give away.

The churches I have served became my next outlets for giving away the Bible, making sure they were available for free.

I read less of the Bible now that I am not preaching every week and I miss it. I love being part of a denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, that holds the Bible in such high esteem. I hope you will commit to reading the Bible every day next week.

Sweden Bestows High Honor on Phil Anderson - Evangelical Covenant Church

Congratulations to my esteemed seminary professor, Dr. Phil Anderson on his recent award for his work as a historian and promoting Swedish relations. Phil is a great example of North Park's faculty: an outstanding scholar and servant of the church.
Anderson was presented with the insignia of the Royal Order of the Polar Star from the King of Sweden during the Swedish-American Historical Society’s 60th Anniversary gala on November 8 in Chicago. He was made “Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star.”

Untraditional Adoption: Adopt An Embryo

Local Church Starts “Embryo Adoption” Service - News - Seattle Weekly

Cedar Park Church in the Seattle area has established a ministry to help couples adopt an embryo. There are hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos and for those who believe that life begins at conception believes these are lives. So they are attempting to find parents for these children.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Bible: For Every Person On The Globe

Translating Best-Selling Book of All Time - The Bible - Into World's Remaining Languages
"ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- On the eve of National Bible Week -- established in 1942 by the Roosevelt administration -- Wycliffe Bible Translators, the world's largest Bible translation organization, is launching the Last Languages Campaign. This historic, high-speed, high-tech effort to start a language development and Bible translation program in the remaining one-third of the world's language groups that still need one by 2025, represents a time savings of 125 years from the 1990s translation pace."
This is truly very exciting news. More than the internet. More than a new president with new ideas. More than anything else in the world. This project has the possibility of changing the course of humanity and bringing peace and comfort to a hurting globe.

Wycliffe anticipates needing 3000 more staff. I'm sending my resume today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Public Folder & My Preaching

I added a few mp3's to my Public Folder today. They include a couple of Bill Hyblels' chapters from his book Axiom, a Roger Olson interview on Arminian theology, and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Enjoy.

And for those of you who are really bored, you can listen to my recent sermon on John 3 preached at Catalyst Church in Syracuse, NY. Thank you to Pastor Mike Mazzye for the privilege of preaching.

And for those who are fans, devotees, stalkers and otherwise I am scheduled to speak on February 8, 2009 at Stoneridge Covenant Church in Allison Park, PA. I'll be preaching Sunday morning and leading an outreach seminar. I look forward to seeing my good friend Pastor John Delancey, who is still beaming over the Phillies winning the World Series.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Church Marketing Sucks: Tony Morgan Thinks Churches Should Stop Marketing

Kevin Hendricks has a great post at Church Marketing Sucks: Church Marketing Sucks: Tony Morgan Thinks Churches Should Stop Marketing

There are several authors and experts recommending that churches stop marketing the church. I've heard a number of unconvincing (to me) reasons why.

Let's have a moment of truth here:

You cannot not market your church.

That double negative was intentional. Those who suggest that we stop marketing simply do not understand what it is. As Kevin Hendricks says, "marketing happens". That ought to be the title of his next book.

You could choose to not have a web site, not have a logo, no signage, no entry in the phone book, no mailings, etc. And you still will market your church.

What kind of music do you sing? Marketing. Hymnals, song sheets or video projection? Marketing. Version of the Bible you preach from? Marketing. How does your clergy dress? Marketing. What kind of paper, font and colors do you use for your bulletin? Do you even have a bulletin? Marketing.

All of those choices and a myriad more have marketing implications. Simply, they communicate information about your church -- whether it be beliefs, tastes and preferences or culture -- to an audience.

Your existence and how you exist communicates information about your organization. Marketing happens.

Bill Hybels Downloads: Axiom

I've been reading Bill Hybels' book, axiom, loaned to me by my friend Jeremy Mastrangelo. It's a good leadership book, expounding on a number of leadership proverbs from Bill. You can download a couple audio and pdf files here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

'Marriage checkup' aims to prevent problems - USATODAY.com

The National Institute of Health is funding a clinical trial giving couples a marraige check-up. It's not therapy but an information source to identify what is working and what issues need attention.

One World Religion Core Principle

BREITBART.COM: World asked to help craft online charter for religious harmony

There is a new movement sponsored by Hollywood elite and other global dignitaries and influencers, to craft a charter for worldwide religious harmony: Charter For Compassion :: home
"The Charter for Compassion is a collaborative effort to build a peaceful and harmonious global community. Bringing together the voices of people from all religions, the Charter seeks to remind the world that while all faiths are not the same, they all share the core principle of compassion and the Golden Rule. The Charter will change the tenor of the conversation around religion. It will be a clarion call to the world."
On the one hand seems noble to get the world religions to be nice to each other. We really should not be killing and maiming each other.

But if the Charter group then thinks that we should believe that all religions are equal and one should not evangelize the other, that is just completely disrespectful, disingenuous and condescending to those religions of the world that believe that evangelism is essential.

The main premise behind this is the belief that every religion has as a core component: the golden rule. But is that really true? Do all religions have that as a premise or only the versions of the ones they are familiar with? This seems like a nice idea but somehow I don't think these people are really all that familiar with the actual details and beliefs of many religions.

A Call to Action. Yep. That Kind of Action. Rawr

Call to action: Pastor issuing 7-day sex challenge - 11/12/08 - Raleigh News - abc11.com

Ed Young, pastor of the non-denominational, 20,000 strong mega church Fellowship Church of Texas has issued a call to action -- yep, that kind of action. He's challenged his married parishioners with a 7 day sex challenge -- as in, have relations for 7 days. This is reminiscent of the Relevant Church 30 day challenge. Ed's message is: "Don’t miss this challenge as Ed reveals how a magnet of stability in the marriage bed is one of the keys to turning our backs on the pull of lust. And when we do sex God’s way, we can finally break the bondage of lust for good."

$100 Laptop

BBC NEWS | Technology | European debut for '$100 laptop'

Even though it's not a Mac I still think it looks like a cool gadget. I want one. I love gadgets. They're only for sale in Europe apparently so I am wondering my military friends stationed in Germany to get me one.

It's Easier Than Ever To Leave The PC World

Belkin Switch-to-Mac Cable automatically switches you to Mac, gives you a high-five - Engadget

It's easier than ever to leave the PC world and switch to Mac. Belkin's cable comes with software that will transfer make the transfer simple.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Care To Rethink Your Position on Contraception?

I learned something today from The National Post article: Sex And The Church.
"At the beginning of the 20th century, all Christians were agreed with the ancient and constant teaching that making conjugal acts deliberately infertile was immoral."
Apparently, both Protestants and Catholics were anti-contraception. In 1930 Anglicans, and subsequently Protestants, changed their position. Pope Pius XI and the Roman Catholic Church stood their ground. I did not know any of that.

During Vatican II, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the teaching and faced mocking and scorn from the wider culture.
"Paul VI predicted that a culture of contraception would lead specifically to (a) widespread infidelity and lowering of moral standards, (b) men losing respect for women in their "totality" and treating them as objects for pleasure, (c) the imposition of involuntary contraceptive and sterilization campaigns on the poor of the world and (d) an attitude of technological domination of the body that would lead to an erosion of human dignity."
The reasoning:
"Once the principle is embraced that it is morally licit to deliberately separate sex from the possibility of procreation, then it follows inevitably that conjugal life need not be ordered to any inherent purpose, but can be directed toward other, or any, ends."
It would seem that the Roman Catholic Church was correct.

Interestingly enough, I read an article just yesterday that was linked on Newzjunky. Apparently there is a dating web site that is using the advertisement: "Life is Short. Have an Affair." The words appear over the background of a sensual picture of a man and woman's upper torso. This wasn't a spoof or play on words. It was a bona fide ad luring people to their site that is dedicated to promoting adultery. They have plans for advertising on TV and radio also.

Some theologians would suggest we live a culture that would tolerate the promoting of infidelity precisely because we have embraced contraception.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New York City Prayer


Congratulations New LIfe Church in Watertown

New Life Christian Church: 1st Service is History

The fantastic people at New Life Church in Watertown, NY recently celebrated God's greatness by worshiping in their new facility. They bought the old theater in the Stateway shopping complex and it has become their new base of operations. Pastor Kirk Gilchrist is a godly leader and it will be very exciting to see their ministry flourish in this new location. Congratulations to Kirk and all the folks at New Life.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Day of Exciting Anglican News

VirtueOnline: PITTSBURGH: Bishop Robert Duncan Re-Elected Diocesan Bishop
When future church history text books are written, Bishop Robert Duncan will be written in as a hero. Bishop Duncan had served as the bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Several weeks back he was deposed by The Episcopal Church and removed as bishop. However, he was immediately received into the Anglican Province of the South Cone by Archbishop Gregory Venables. The Episcopal Diocese Pittsburgh then voted to leave the Episcopal Church and also come under the Southern Cone. Today, Bishop Duncan was reunited with his Diocese.

The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of America is the ecclesiastical province of the Anglican Communion that covers the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

VirtueOnline: Diocese of Quincy Votes to Leave TEC for Southern Cone
The Episcopal Diocese of Qunicy (Illinois) has also voted to leave the Episcopal Church and also come under the Southern Cone. Their former bishop, Keith Ackerman, was not deposed as Robert Duncan was. He instead retired due to health reasons.

This makes three entire dioceses who have left the Episcopal Church: San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and Quincy. Later this month the Diocese of Ft. Worth will vote on a similar transition and will likely also leave. The Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic saints of the Episcopal Church feel marginalized and are leaving in mass.

Welcome to Christ Awakening
The Anglican Mission in America is hosting another Awakening event in Boston.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What are you full of?

What are you full of? Dan Miller’s Blog

Dan Miller of 48Days.com has a recent blog post that is moving. I am going to copy it here but please make a visit his blog.
"As a Russian priest (1829 - 1908), Father John Sergiev first thought he wanted to be a monk in the remote areas of Siberia - but after a vision, he realized God wanted him to be a missionary right where he was - in the hustle and bustle of the big urban city of St. Petersburg. While most priests remained in the safe confines of their cathedrals, Father John would go out into the noisy, dirty, crime-ridden slums and back alleys of the city.

He would find someone down and out in the gutter, sleeping off the effects of the previous night’s drink and activities. Father John would cup his chin; look him in the eyes and say, “This is beneath your dignity. You were created to house the fullness of God.” Wherever he went, people found new hope and optimism because they discovered, or were reminded, of who they were. Seeing ourselves in the light of who God made us to be is both exciting and contagious."

Dan Miller rocks.

Theopedia. Who Knew?

I didn't even know there was a Theopedia. It uses the same interface technology of Wikipedia but is "an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity".

I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly

Start taking communion weekly if you don't already.

Obviously there are many different theologies regarding the Eucharist or taking communion: Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Real Presence, Sacramental Union, Memorial, others?. Regardless, for most Christians who take communion it is a refocusing event. It is like calling a "time out" from life. It draws attention away from ourselves, from this world and it's cares and points to something greater -- Jesus.

Communion is life giving. It is hope inspiring. It reminds us that there is any empty tomb. The grave does not have the final say in this life. The problems we face will not consume us and own us. We have been purchased at a costly price.

Communion is majestic display of God's power, righteousness and goodness. It reminds us of God's graciousness to us before we even set foot on this planet, sending His Son for us and calling us to be His children through no merit or work of our own.

Communion reminds us of the price that has been paid for our souls and the generous forgiveness that has been lavished upon us. It reminds us to forgive others just as generously. It helps us to be set free from holding a grudge.

The Eucharist calls our attention to being one in Christ. Though we are many people partaking of the one bread and one cup reminds us our unity in the body of Christ.

Communion makes crystal clear our utter dependence on God to feed our souls and body. We do not provide for ourselves but when we come to the table, to the Lord's Supper, we celebrate the risen Christ -- His all sufficient provision for our every need.

So how will taking communion weekly help you to grow spiritually?

Often what we need for growth is not some magic bullet that cures our ills but a reframing -- a renewed understanding -- of our place in this world and the role of Jesus as King of the universe. Communion can do that.

For some who do not take a memorialist position (and maybe some who do), communion is a way to mystically connect with Christ. Many of my Anglican friends find that weekly connection with Christ in the Eucharist to be personally empowering them to "delight in His will and walk in His way to the glory of His name."

Finding a place to take communion weekly can be tricky, especially if you are an evangelical and your current church does not practice it. Many times you will find an Anglican or Lutheran church with a weekly Eucharist during the week or very early on Sunday morning.

If you come from a Christian tradition that does communion monthly or less often, experiencing it weekly might be catalytic to your spiritual growth.

Weekly communion. Try it.

For your enjoyment here is an Anglican Eucharist from the famed Truro Church in Virginia:

This is part 7 in a 20 part series on spiritual growth. If you feel like you are not growing deeper in your faith or relationship to God, if you are not loving and serving others more, if you have a sense of 'stuckness' in your spiritual journey, and you really want to grow ——— the answer might not be to try harder. All too often I have heard the same solutions offered over and over — 'All you have to do is have daily devotions, pray more, read more of the Bible, be in worship every week and get more involved in the church.' In other words try harder.

Sometimes that doesn't work and I'm going to offer some suggestions that might help you move forward.

Previous Installments:
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 1: Give Up Daily Devotions
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 2: See A Counselor
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 3: Spiritual Direction
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 4: Get A New Church
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 5: Go On Retreat
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 6: Fight A Spiritual Battle & Win
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 7: Take A Seminary or College Class

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Evangelical Teen Promiscuity

Dept. of Disputation: Red Sex, Blue Sex: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

Fascinating article in the New Yorker talking about the promiscuity of evangelical teens and the responses of people toward their behavior.
"Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion."
The research in this article coupled with recent publications noting the exodus of evangelical teens from the church when they are off to college and into their early twenties suggests there is some wrong with current modes of youth ministry and the discipleship of children and teens.

What To Do With Old Church Buildings?

Andy Burnham: 'Churches should be turned into gyms' - Telegraph
"Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, has suggested churches with low attendance could be turned into gyms, restaurants and multi-faith centres."
With a growing number of UK churches becoming empty 'museum pieces', communities are choosing to use them for more secular purposes.

Evangelistic Festivals Outmoded? Portland Doesn't Think So.

Servant Evangelism | Christianity Today "How Luis Palau, thousands of volunteers, and a gay mayor are trying to transform Portland."

Luis Palau held an evangelistic festival in his home office's community of Portland, OR. Uniquely, he had the support of the homosexual mayor of Portland and other desperate groups that would normally not be linked with an evangelistic event of this kind.

Of particular interest, this festival was wedded to servant evangelism and meeting the needs of the community. According to the CT article the response was overwhelming. I have been suggesting this for a couple years now.

Festival evangelism uses an attractional model: create an interesting event that attracts a crowd, i.e. a music festival with other celebrities, and properly place a gospel presentation as a part of it. What I find interesting about this Portland event was the attraction was the opportunity to serve and make a tangible impact in the community. That's unique.

I'm not sure how much longer this festival model of evangelism will work but wedding it to the opportunity for mass service to the community may breathe some new life into it.

How To Videos

From the WonderHowTo.com web site:
"WonderHowTo.com is a community-fueled, search engine and directory for Free How-To Video. With an index of more than 225,000 videos (October 2008), we provide the largest, most contemporary, and most diverse resource in this increasingly vibrant space."
WonderHowTo is essentially just a library of videos about a myriad of topics that explain something or give a 'how to'. You could waste hours here but also learn some stuff.

There is a strange list of How-To videos relating to Christianity:
Christianity - How To Videos | Wonder How To

There's Pentecostal stuff like How To Use Praise and Worship Flags or Understand Global Pentecostalism, or Catholic stuff like How To Make An Act or Contrition or How To Go To Confession. There's also weirder stuff like How To Become A Saint, Teach Kids Bad Christian Theology or Fit In At Most Any Church. You can also learn How To Minister At An Abortion Clinic or To the Homeless.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The JewBerry


Orthodox Jews are required to say certain prayers and certain times of the time and in some cases with a certain number of people. A couple of techies from Yeshiva University have created a prayerbook program called "JewBerry" -- software for the BlackBerry. It will eventually be set up to utilize GPS for meet-ups so they can pray together. Very cool.

Ought to be an easy port for Anglicans, Catholics and others who utilize prayer books.