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Monday, March 30, 2009

Ed Stetzer: Pitfalls in Planting


In this audio church planting guru Ed Stetzer gives several tips for avoiding some common pitfalls in church planting.

Here's a quote:
"Too many conferences and chapel services are like ministry pornography. They're an unrealistic depiction of an experience you are never going to have that distracts you from the real thing. .... Normal is that you plant a church in America and 4 years later it's a 100. That's normal."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Listening to NT Wright in Bed

I love this quote from Bishop NT Wright,
In Wilde's play Salome, which is the stage play from which Strauss' opera play Salome was taken. King Herod, Herod Antipas, has messengers come to his court telling him about Jesus, who is going around doing extraordinary things and healing the sick and feeding people and even raising the dead.

And Herod is not too disturbed about Jesus healing the sick, but when he hears about Jesus raising the dead he says, "He raises the dead?" And the messenger says, "Yes sir, he raises the dead." And Herod bursts out and says, "I don't want him to do that. He must not do that. He must be forbidden to do that. This man must be found and told I forbid him to raise the dead."

You see the tyrrant knows that death is the final weapon that the tyrrant has got. And if God raises the dead, then the most awful weapon the tyrrant has got is a secondary thing and God can trump it. Then the tyrrant's power is called, it's defeated, it's named and shamed.

.... a quote from the last line from that little scene with Herod. Herod says to the messenger, "Where is this man now?" And the messenger says, "He is in every place sir, but it is hard to find him."

Friday, March 27, 2009

The New Calvinism

One of Time Magazine's 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now is a religious one: The New Calvinism. Other's include: Jobs are the new assets, Recycling the suburbs, Reinstating the interstate, Amorality, Africa-Business Destination, The Rent-a-Country, Biobanks, Survival Store, and Ecological Intelligence.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

President Obama's Pastoral Advisory Team

Without a Pastor of His Own, Obama Turns to Five - NYTimes.com

The NYT is reporting The POTUS has Pastoral Advisory Team:
He didn't ask me but just in case the POTUS is reading, I am available serve with these other distinguished gentlemen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation


Today is the day in the church year that we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. We celebrate God sending the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary, announcing that she was miraculously pregnant. The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated every year on March 25 as it is 9 months prior to the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas.

Birth of Jesus Foretold

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Taking In A Murderer

N.H. pastor's decision to take in paroled killer roils town - The Boston Globe

A New Hampshire pastor has taken grace to new heights. He has welcomed into his home a paroled child killer. His town is decidedly NOT happy with him.

Newspaper articles never tell the whole story. I suppose blogs don't either. Apparently the killer became a Christian in jail and was profoundly changed. The NH pastor learned of the killer's change and need for a home through a prison minister who vouched for him. That much we do know.

There are obviously some who are incarcerated and have less than authentic conversion experiences for the sake of convenience. That makes many people very skeptical of anyone who claims that Christ has changed them.

But the truth is that Jesus is still doing reclamation projects with people's lives. The power of God is still changing people. They aren't myths and fables or only people who lived during Bible times that had their lives changed. To this very day, really horrible, violent, grotesquely vicious people have their lives interrupted by the grace and love of God and transformed by the power of His Spirit.

There is no power stronger. There is no one too far gone, no one too distant, no one too unholy, no Satan worshiper, no one that has sinned so horribly, no one that is so extremely mentally ill that God cannot reach and transform them. No one. God is able to transform a life beyond all our comprehension and belief.

Now this killer living in a pastor's home could have a relapse tomorrow and kill again in this family's home or town. Yet I will still believe the power of God's love and grace is stronger and more potent than the power of sin and death. God is great.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Religion is Good For You

Religious people less anxious, brain activity shows - life - 17 March 2009 - New Scientist

University of Toronto researchers found that those with fervently held religious beliefs experienced less anxiety than those without religious belief, even those with less fervent religious beliefs.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On the Horizon For Christian Apologetics

Scientists See God on the Brain | LiveScience

Many Christians are still involved in the Creation v. Evolution debate. A new frontier for apologetics is developing out of that is the argument, that the idea of God is created in part of the brain as a part of the evolution of humanity. In other words, some researchers want to suggest there is no God per se, only thoughts, ideas and beliefs about God as they have evolved in the brain of humanity. Essentially, some researchers are exploring reasons why belief in God exists in light of the fact -- in their belief -- that God does not exist and humanity, the earth and all that is in it has been explained through evolutionary science. In summary, the new attack on God is that he doesn't really exist and religious belief is just a product of evolution.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Essenes Fabricated?

Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls 'Authors' Never Existed - TIME

An Israeli scholar suggests that the Dead Sea Scroll were not written by the Essenes, who it was believed lived in Qumran where the scrolls were found. She believes that ancient historian Flavius Josephus fabricated their existence. Her premise is that no where in the 900 scrolls are any mention of the Essenes.

DSS scholar from Princeton, James Charlesworth, isn't buying it.

Want More Caffeine in Your Coffee? Pick The Correct Bean

Appreciating Coffee Like Wine - The Atlantic Food Channel

A little info for you: how your bean is roasted has negligible impact on the amount of caffeine in your coffee. However, the species of bean that is roasted and ground has a significant impact. The Atlantic Food article lists 2 cultivar (species) of beans: Arabica and Robusta and says that Arabica beans have 1/2 as much caffeine as Robusta.

This is particularly important for you pastors out there with bad and/or long sermons that cause drowsiness. Serve beans of the Robusta variety. I'm wondering if this could be a substitute for Ritalin as well.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Patrick of Ireland 17 March ca.461: From Mission St. Clare


Almighty God, who in your providence chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Call Your Friends in NYC

Famed pastor predicts imminent catastrophe

I'm sure most of you have heard about, David Wilkinson, of Nicky and the Switchblade fame, is predicting an imminent catastrophe to hit NYC and other major US cities. Judgement from God on America. Oh, and it's going to spill over into CT and NJ too.

Do you know anyone who has come out and made a public major prophetic judgment and been correct? Anyone? Bueller? How many of these kinds of preditions have we heard previously and none have come to pass. I cringe every time I hear someone do this.

I remember in seminary when the local Korean churches got caught up about the predictions of imminent rapture. F. Burton Nelson even appeared close to being raptured at coffee one day but it was later found he just had too much caffeine. One seminary student asked for their van since they wouldn't be needing it but they wouldn't part with it.

Well, I've done my part and warned all of you. Imminent destruction is coming. Move out of NYC, CT and NJ and other major cities. Try out something less metropolitan, like, Liverpool.

Friday, March 13, 2009

God is Dutch? Who Knew?

Leave God a message at his Dutch answering service | Reuters

A Dutch artist has set-up a voicemail service for God and is encouraging people to leave messages. Here's God's phone number from the article:
"Callers dialing 06-4424-4901 (or +316-4424-4901 if calling from outside the Netherlands) from March 7 will hear."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tony Campolo at North Park on the Economy

Campolo Questions If Economic Woes Can Be Solved - Evangelical Covenant Church

Tony Campolo was at North Park University speaking in their chapel service recently and addressed the economic tribulations. He questioned whether the woes could be solved. As always, he as provocative as he is entertaining.

Click here to listen to an audio version of Wednesday’s sermon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My esteemed friend Scott Emery is writing his M.A. thesis. I read this paragraph and found it particularly poignant, especially after reading The InternetMonk's posts on the Collapse of Evangelicalism.
One reason Christianity has not been able to persuade its surrounding culture to its public relevance is the (American evangelical) Church’s lack of theological depth. The Church has lost its intellectual acuteness and has suffered the consequences. The days of loving the Lord with all one’s mind have vanished. Replacing them has been the ambiguity and apathy that has demonized the Church for decades. This is not to say that there has not been important pertinent theological discussion. This is to say that when the world began to become skeptical of religious claims in light of autonomous reason, Christianity escaped into the world of exegetical study. Philological studies and movements bent inwards toward the Church left society bereft of any Christian theological foundations. As such, the plurality and relativism marked by postmodernism diluted the Christian truth for both the pious and impious alike. Rather than knowing the truth of Scripture, the Church has sought after the life hereafter, mainly in heaven. Not did the Church seek refuge in its intellectual escapism, but also in its spiritual escapism. The earth and its defiant inhabitants are to be destroyed regardless, so the rightful attitude is to seek comfort in heaven. However, the biblical theological truth is found in the new heaven and new earth, not in the common afterlife of heaven alone. Thus, theological ignorance has led to missiological ignorance. The Church does not know how to act and live because it does not have the proper theological truth to live out of. There must be a rekindling of theological study if the Church is ever to have a voice in the public realm.

The InternetMonk Predicts the end of Evangelicalism

The Coming Evangelical Collapse | csmonitor.com

Michael Spencer, The InternetMonk, is predicting the collapse of Evangelicalism. In fact he calls it a "major collapse" within 10 years. Ten years seems quick but I'm not sure I would disagree that it's coming.

Spencer lays a major indictment of our failure to pass on our faith to our youth and predicts that Catholic and Orthodox churches will be the major beneficiaries.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

St. Andrew's AMiA Church in Arkansas

St. Andrew's Anglican Church made a video about the story of their church's life and mission. A great way to tell their story. I love the special effects fading in and out of the graphics to movie.

I Want You To Grow Spiritually 14: Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself and provide yourself a lot of grace.

I see so many people who are mulling over their previous mistakes. Mistakes. Some of them are sins. Some of them are just shortcomings or simple failures. But they live with great regret and anger towards themselves. It's time to let go.

Jesus said, it's mandatory to forgive. Mostly we think about it in terms of forgiving other people who have wronged us. Rarely do we think about how crucial it is to forgive ourselves. Many of us will remember 10 of our screw-ups to 1 of our more noble moments. And especially if we are evangelicals (particularly of the Calvinist persuasion), we have the theology of total depravity and these scriptures drilled into our heads:
Romans 3.10 "There is no one righteous not even one."

Isaiah 64.6 "... our righteous acts are like filthy rags; ..."
Yes, the scriptures are true. You are a sinner whose righteousness comes only from God. Yet the scriptures are also clear,
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
I heard a story even today of a man who is an artist who feels that his art ministry will never blossom to anything great because a secret sin he committed years ago. He had confessed his sin and received forgiveness but 20 years later is still holding it against himself. He's still thinking about it. It's still a pestering thought deep in his soul that affects his self-view, self worth and view of the destiny of his life. He's living a lie because God is not holding that against him any longer.

There are a number of us who live with a hidden guilt, a deep shame, a desperate secret. We think, "If you only knew the truth you would reject me and find me hideous, deplorable and unforgivable." That may be true about the people you know, but it isn't about the God of the Bible. The Bible describes God as,
"The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."
It says,
"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
If you have confessed your sins to God, you have not committed some sin that is unforgivable. You are forgiven. It is now time to forgive yourself and not hold it against yourself any more. Receive God's forgiveness and set yourself free.

Close your eyes and quiet yourself before God right now. Ask Him to show you where you need to forgive yourself. Say the words right out loud to yourself, "I forgive me. I am forgiven."

This is part 15 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
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 10: Observe The Daily Office & Church Year
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 11: Get Tough on Sin
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 12: Start Journaling
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 13: Time For Fasting

Note: Part 9 isn't published yet. I'll get to it eventually.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Does Your Church Need Security?

JournalStar.com - Lincoln, Nebraska - News - Local

There are a growing number of articles about churches using security to handle their offering. However, one church in Lincoln, NE, who has a security was robbed recently of $145k. Someone impersonated the guard.

Desperate times indeed.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lent Taken Seriously

OMG! Italian Catholics asked not to text during Lent - USATODAY.com

I grew up Roman Catholic. The Christian season of Lent was always about giving up chocolate. Nothing else. Oh, and we ate fish and no meat on Fridays. That's all Lent was. It was kind of devoid of spiritual meaning for me.

I have known many with similar Lenten practices. They have felt obligated, more than anything, to give something up for some nebulous reason. It's what you're supposed to do.

But as I have grown older, Lent has really become a place for me to give up something that is taking God's space, or to take up something that gives God His rightful place in my life. Lent is my favorite season of the Christian year and my observations have become extremely meaningful to me.

In the past I have given up the Internet, reading Mac news, video games and this year, I am reading the New Testament through.

I am seeing a trend in other people's lives taking Lent to a new level for them. Above is a USA Today article about Italian Catholics being encouraged by the Vatican to give up texting during Lent. I have several of my 200+ Facebook who have given up FB for Lent, specifically because it was taking up so much of their time -- time they believed was rightly God's.

There's still time to observe Lent. Try observing Holy Week -- the days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday -- to be holy days or a week dedicated to God. Consider fasting a couple of those days or a meal every day. Give up FB or TV or reading the news. Plan for extra time in worship on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Touring Israel

Biblical Tours to Israel

Plenty of people are still taking tours of Israel despite the violence that has happened there in recent months. It's still a thriving industry. My friend Rev. Dr. John Delancey will lead three tours in 2009. He says people love taking the trips and getting acquainted with the Holy Land.

I toured the Middle East for two weeks in 1994, visiting Jordan, Egypt and Israel. It was a life changing trip in many ways. I floated in the Dead Sea, climbed Mt. Sinai and visited St. Catherine's Monastery at it's base, visited Qumran where the Dead Scrolls were found, snorkeled with colorful fish in the Red Sea near Eilat, found potsherds in an archaeological dig in Madaba, and toured a variety of places from the life of Jesus and other biblical figures. I remember how wonderfully friendly the Arabs in Jordan were, especially in Petra, which is both a great historical site and Hollywood site with famous scenes from an Indiana Jones movie.

For me, reading the Bible was changed dramatically once I had a visual memory of the locations mentioned there. I hope you can go.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I Believe in Miracles

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lenten Movie Watching?

I stumbled up someone's Lenten movie watching list. Something I hadn't encountered before. Cool list.

Gladdest Hours: Lenten Reading Plan: