Friday, December 23, 2011

My Own Personal Top Ten

As the year draws to an end, I share my personal favorite Facebook posts for 2011. And when I say they are my personal favorites, I mean my favorites of my posts.  I share these now since the major media outlets will likely ignore my contributions to the entertainment of dozens.

Drum roll please.....

10. Shared December 21 with the comment "can't stop laughing at this one."

9. Shared December 23 with the comment, "Some days you just have to watch this."

8. Shared December 6 with the comment, "for those of you looking for a heart warming story for the holidays.",0,4752706.story

7. From November 29, "OK important thing to note. Never ask your dog if she want to go out while the weather report is on TV. She just kinda looks at you like, "umm, are you seeing what I'm seeing??"

6. From November 17, "I see the Cubs have a new manager. It's always exciting when the Titanic changes Captains."

5. From November 11, "so 900 years ago today, it was 11/11/1111. I wonder how big a deal they made of THAT on TV that day."

4. From July 17, "Fixed the toilet this afternoon. When finished told the wife "we're good to go!" Still chuckling at that one lol"

3. From November 9, "If you don't have time to teach a young person about Johnny Cash, someone with more time will teach them about Barry Manilow."

2. Shared November 30 with the comment, "for those of you who long for old days.."

And my #1 favorite Facebook post, shared October 25....

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine”
- Abraham Lincoln

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Google and a Gift from God

Funny how God cares even for the little things.

My weekly "to do" list tells me that I must blog on Fridays.  OK, maybe a little anal, but it works to instill some discipline into my writing.

Problem.  I don't know what to write about.

Correction.  I didn't know what to write about.

I thought maybe I would write something in which I could refer to the below video, mostly because I am still laughing at it.  But as I tried to figure out what to write, nothing came.

Then I tried to sign in.  And God gave me a topic.

Passwords.  Need I say more?

No doubt the Google black helicopters will double their patrols over my house (why do you think street view exists?), but I hate the problems I have signing into my Google account.

As I tried to sign in today to write the piece that I hadn't figured out how to write yet, the password stored on my computer wouldn't work.  Then I remembered; last week I wanted to comment on a friend's blog, Google demanded that I sign in (even though I was already signed in), gave me some nonsensical error message, and made me change my password.  And since my feeble mind can't remember the hundreds of passwords that the Sheldon's of the world demand, I had to reset it yet again.

Problem.  Google is very picky about how you choose a password.

I tried changing my password to my current password that I use for just about everything else.  Nope, can't use a password I've used previously.

I tried something else that would be easy to remember.  Nope, I've used that one too.

In frustration I try changing my password to "ihategoogle."  Nope, this one is rejected because it's too easy.  OK, that made me laugh.  I'm guessing that it's easy because that's everyone's default reaction to the process.

Finally I am allowed by the Google gods to change my password to..... (betcha thought I was gonna finish that sentence, didn't you)?

Seriously, I never thought I'd have to put more thought into choosing a password to write a blog than into the blog itself!

Thank you for reading,
signed keilw71100!!kshn3

p.s. here's the funny video I made reference to above.  Though I am generally not disposed to favoring a playoff for college football, this video's producer makes an interesting case.  Now if I could just understand why the English have a role in this....

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tim Tebow, Lady Gaga, and a Sign of the End Times

Q: If people use the term "Tebowing" to refer to Tim Tebow, why don't they use the term "gagging" to refer to Lady Gaga??

Q2: How many of you, when you woke up this morning, thought of these two in the same sentence??

The idea for this blog popped into my head a few days ago, when I saw that the Gagster (as I shall henceforth refer to her) visited the White House.  Now I don't for a moment minimize the cause that brought her there.  The more I work with young people, the more sense I get that bullying in 2011 is not at all like bullying was in 1985.  While painful then, the addition of text messaging, Facebook, and other media amplify the opportunities to be hurtful in ways that could not be imagined then.

What did strike me as interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "huh???") is how such a visit legitimizes her as a role model.  Her choice to engage in offensive and sinful behavior, whether in public or private, has become a cause to celebrate rather than lament, giving validity to the idea of being "born this way."

Once again for the record, I am not endorsing bullying, no matter what the reason might be.

What I am saying, or rather asking, is when exactly did it start making sense to celebrate Lady Gaga and denigrate Tim Tebow, who by all accounts is a sincere young man who is honorable in the life he lives and loves his God the way God has instructed us all to in His word?

Then it hits me.  It actually hits me twice.

"...scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires." 2 Peter 3:3


"...the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." John 3:19

Lady Gaga is a hero and Tim Tebow is a villain because mankind loves darkness more than light, and does so increasingly as we approach the end.  Just as some people will eat themselves to death because the pleasure of food blinds them to the consequences, some people will embrace sin and sinful behavior because its pleasure blinds them to its consequences.

But Matt, to each their own.  I mean, if it doesn't affect me, why should I care?

Ezekiel 9 tells an interesting story.  Ezekiel the prophet has a vision from the Lord, in which he is instructed to send for the executioners and one other man, a mysterious man in linen who carries a writing case.  This man then goes throughout the city marking all who mourn over the sin they see (verse 4).  And in an interesting twist, the executioners do not only slaughter the sinners, but those without the marks, i.e. those who do NOT mourn over sin.

That's why I care.  Because sin is not ok. While our nature may be to sin, our choice to sin is just that, a choice.  Because being "born that way" is no more true of sexual preference than it is for any other sin.  Because sin is neither personal nor innocent.

I confess that I really did intend to write a happier piece today.  But what started in my mind as a funny comparison quickly became a source for deep concern and regret.  

See, the tolerance, nay the endorsement of sin has brought down nation upon nation in the history of the world.  And yet we want to think that somehow we'll slip by?

"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap." Galatians 6:7

But let's be clear.  In this Christmas season we read that the angel instructed Joseph to name the baby "Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).  Christ came not to stay as a sweet baby in a manger, but to die as a bloody man on a cross.  And he did so to save us from the very sins we embrace, if we will accept His gift of grace and love in a spirit of humility and repentance.

Among all the gifts of the season, may God grant us all a spirit of repentance this year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lazy Pastors

DISCLAIMER: When we read something or hear something said, we are always tempted to think that the object of the article or discussion is someone immediately close to the writer/speaker, kind of like when we hear someone talk about "a friend of mine" we always believe that person to be the speaker him or herself.  Trust me that this is not the case with the below.  The pastors I describe, though sadly not fictional, are not anyone I have ever worked with, whether in the present or in the past.  Phew!

No doubt the title of today's ramblings piqued your interest, at least until the above disclaimer took your interest, shot it in the head, and buried it in a shallow grave somewhere.  Perhaps some of you even think you know where I'm going with this.

You probably don't.

For some of you, a "lazy" pastor is the man (and yes, I said man) who doesn't make as many house visits as you'd like.  Or he's the one who let you sit two whole days before visiting you in the hospital.  Or he lets someone else teach that bible study you're in.  Or he expects you to do the work of ministry too.

Some of those pastors may indeed be lazy.  In truth, they are probably overworked and can't get to everything they'd like to do.

When I write of the lazy pastor, I refer to the pastor who believes he can omit the Old Testament from his preaching and teaching, self-righteously determining that it no longer matters.

If you are reading this and have never heard of such a thing, in the spirit of the season let me just say "Hallelujah!"

Today's blog springs from a Facebook post by a friend of mine who writes of a friend of his (and I believe that this "friend" is truly a different person :) ) who was taught that the OT no longer applies, and thus we should only be taught from the NT.  When challenged, apparently friend #2 "de-friended" friend #1, which of course pales only to the dreaded triple-dog dare in seriousness.

Note to Jesus: the Old Testament no longer matters.  Please stop referring to it.

Note to Paul: the Old Testament no longer matters.  Please stop referring to it.

Note to Peter, James, Luke... well, you get the picture.

I could be kind and chalk up such thought to poor teaching of the teacher, but despite the holiday mandate, I shall not be so charitable.  The Old Testament is hard work.  Much of it is narrative, so discovering God's "point" takes thought and sometimes research.  The prophetic books are mysterious and often scary, and besides that always refer to some "ite" or another who no longer exists.  Proverbs reads like theological bumper stickers.  The Psalms are poetry, and who ever learned anything from poetry??

The apostle Paul, a man well acquainted with the Law and the OT, told the Ephesians, "I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27, emphasis added) and elsewhere added, "whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction" (Romans 15:4).  And lest you declare Paul a heretic for teaching such foolishness, Jesus (yes, that Jesus) said, "until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18).  Interesting to note is the ESV words I quoted- iota and dot- are derived from the Greek letter iota, (the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet), and dot (which comes from the Hebrew letter yod; the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet).  Might it be that Jesus thought that even the smallest portions of the Law must continue??

The Old Testament is important, but no one ever said it was easy.  In my first preaching class in seminary, our sermons had to come from the NT epistles, because the author's points are generally laid out clearly.  Yes, research is required to do the text justice, but application from an epistle is generally easier than trying to determine application from Amos.  And because of the relative ease of crafting a sermon from the NT, too many preachers take the easy route and skip the OT altogether.

In truth, many of these pastors likely have the hands full with other valid tasks, such as managing their church or caring for its members.  Labeling such pastors as "lazy" would be an overstatement that is totally unwarranted.  To those pastors who are so busy ministering that their preaching suffers, I applaud you and apologize for any disrespect you may have felt reading this.

For any pastors who have allowed themselves to believe that they can skip the OT, I challenge you to challenge yourself and ask yourself how you came to that conclusion.  Was it because something in the bible led you to that conclusion (good luck!) or is it because it's just easier to skip the first 2/3 of Scripture.

For those of you who are not pastors and are reading this, should you attend a church where the pastor faithfully proclaims "the whole counsel of God," tell him thanks.  Trust me, he will appreciate the encouragement.  You have no idea how important hearing all of God's word is!

In closing, don't risk the day when you meet Zephaniah in heaven and hear him ask, "so, how did you like my book?"

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Devil and My Desk

It's interesting how the most trivial things can sometimes get you thinking. 

Earlier this week, I straightened out my desk at work.  OK, this accomplishment doesn't rank up there with microwave popcorn, but for me this has been a life-altering least for the past few days.

Admittedly, I've always meant to tidy up and keep it tidy.  In fact, it's probably listed several times in my "easier said than done" list of things to do.  But I finally did.

I sort of had to for a few reasons.  One, like an office version of Jenga, Sunday morning I pulled a book out of its pile and everything came crashing down, sort of like a librarian had vomited all over my desk.  And two, when your desk becomes a sermon illustration for the Senior Pastor, you know it's time to do something.

As I reflect on the experience, I can't help but wonder how if cleanliness is next to godliness, my mess was downright Satanic!  But even still, I want to justify it with Proverbs 14:4:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,               but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
I.e., nothing profitable comes from being tidy.

But I think in our heart of hearts we all know that's not true. Amazingly, I've felt more productive all week, what with knowing where things are and all.  And to some extent it's sorta become a perverse little game, remembering to put my pens back in the coffee cup that now stores them and putting books back on the shelf as soon as I'm through with them.  If my inner voice didn't sound so much like Tooter the Turtle, I would swear it was my mother haunting me from the grave.

So in conclusion, I would highly recommend cleaning your desk.

Now, if I could only find my stapler.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Little By Little

"Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land." Exodus 23:30

I've been reading through Exodus lately, spending time each morning reading two or three chapters.  Usually, nothing "new" pops up; a burning bush here, a parting Red Sea there.  Been there, done that, right?

But this morning the little nugget above really stood out to me.

"Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land."

Little by little.

Was God unable to give them the whole land, all at once?  As the Israelites left Egypt in one mass exodus (hence the name of the book), couldn't the Hittites, Canaanites, and all the other "ites" be tossed out all at once??

No.  God says He will drive them out "little by little."

Then it dawns on me that this is how He sanctifies us.  Little by little.

I'm not sure how to directly connect the analogy, but God explains His "little by little" plan in verse 29.  If He were to drive out the inhabitants quickly the land would be desolate and filled with wild animals.

Uh oh.  If God were to act quickly, things would be even worse.  Therefore perhaps we can assume that if God were to change us quickly, our circumstances might be worse than if we learned to wait.

If I were instantly pure, I wouldn't want to be around some of my friends and family.

If I were instantly pure, I might miss tomorrow's sunrise or sunset because my eyes would be closed in prayer.

If I were instantly pure, I might lose any grace that might grow in me as I related to other "sinners."

If I were instantly pure, I might forget about my need for Jesus.

And suddenly "little by little" seems like a pretty good deal.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When You Have Nothing to Write

OK, I'm new to this blogging thing, so here's a question to you veterans:

What do you write about when you have nothing to write about?

This is odd for me.  I'm not exactly new to writing.  I created and wrote for two newsletters in college.  I wrote tons of papers (some even interesting) in business school and seminary.  I've done commentary level theological research for pastors of megachurches.  I've even written a song or two.

And each time, though I may have started out staring at a blank page (or blank computer screen) eventually something would click and my little fingers would just start clicking away at the keyboard, joyously emptying my cluttered mind of its most important thoughts and leaving only cartoons and the words to "Underdog" behind.

But today I'm blank.  Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

And even worse, last week I was out of town and never got around to writing.

So how do I stay disciplined to share my thoughts with a waiting and devoted audience (does 2-3 people make an "audience"?) when I have nothing worth sharing??

PLEASE comment.  Maybe it will inspire me to write something of note (pun intended).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Our Sin Nature and the Common Cold


You'll have to pardon me if I'm a little difficult to understand today, but I have my first cold of the season.

I hate colds.

As I sneeze, sniffle, and generally wait for my head to implode, I wonder if it wouldn't somehow be easier to lose a limb.  Seriously, I admit I'm a big baby when it comes to colds, but couldn't I just offer an arm for a little less congestion.

I think what I hate most about being sick (choose your illness) is how it limits my ability to do the things I want to do. 

Wait, check that.

Illness limits my ability to do the things I sort of want to do, but in general leaves me able to do the things I really want to do.

Watch a ball game? Nothing better when you're sick then laying on the couch, and if there's a game on all the better.

Go for a run?  Maybe I'll have to slow things down a little, but hey, how better to rid yourself of rhinitis acuta catarrhalis then to sweat it out.  Plus, when I'm done I'll be able to brag (at least to myself) that I toughed it out.


Pray?  As it is, it's so hard to stay awake with all this medication.  If I close my eyes I'll be out like a light!

Read my bible?  God, my head's so congested.  I couldn't possibly concentrate right now.

Go to work?  It's so warm beneath this blanket, and besides I would just spread my germs if I went in.

And then it hits me.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)

Isn't this what my cold does?  Isn't this what sin does too?

I find all sorts of reasons to not do the things that are right or best, and all sorts of reasons to do the worthless things that may bring pleasure but little else.  I see this in others too, so I hear things like this:

"I'm too tired from work to serve in that ministry."  But I have plenty of energy to go out with the guys after work.

"I don't have time to read my bible."  But I have all the time in the world for Desperate Housewives, Jersey Shore, The X-Factor, American Idol, and ________."

"I don't need Jesus and all those hypocrite Christians."  But I LOVE hanging out with my friends who either bask in their sin publicly or hide their immorality even from those closest to them.

Just consider this a random observation from one near death.

Now can someone pass me a tissue?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What if Robert Were an Apostle??

You know him, you love him. 

If you've spent any time in almost any organization or club, you have no doubt met Robert.  His "Rules of Order" have been stimying and confounding people since 1876, and reviewing the history, I was saddened but not surprised that the rules were originally created for use at a church meeting.

I recently read the minutes from our church's first business meeting, dated October, 1944.  And yes, you guessed it!  Robert was there.

NOTE: for inclusion in our church newsletter, a request was made for a title for these minutes.  My suggestion of "Motion Made and Seconded" was rejected after it failed to get out of committee when I was ruled "out of order" for failing to make the proper motion and securing a valid second.  This is still under review by the newsletter parlamentarian.

Anyway, as my "out of order" mind works, I immediately wondered what would have happened had Robert been one of Christ's apostles.  I can imagine Matthew 16 being amended to look something like this:

Jesus: Who do people say that I am?

Judas: Point of order.  For a proposed agenda to become the official agenda for a meeting, it must be adopted by the assembly at the outset of the meeting. At the time that an agenda is presented for adoption, it is in order for any member to move to amend the proposed agenda by adding any item that the member desires to add, or by proposing any other change.  As the Lord did not request his question to be on today's agenda at the outset, I move we table the question until such time as He can correctly present it for adoption.

Robert: Do we have a second? No?  Jesus, you may proceed.

Jesus: Thank you Robert.  All, who do people say that I am?

Peter: I move that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Robert: Does Peter's motion have a second?

John: I second.

Jesus: Call to question.

Robert: All in favor of agreeing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, say "aye."

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaes, Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot: Aye!

Robert: All opposed say "no."

Judas: No!

Robert: Motion carries.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Kinda makes you wonder if Robert was what the Lord had in mind, doesn't it??

I move to close this edition of "The Dagger."  Feel free to second my motion below, make any substantive points of order, or move to adjourn.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook, Restaurants, and the Church

Example 1- I woke up earlier this week, turned on my computer, and was immediately confronted with the most alarming thing to hit this world since we discovered that Milli Vanilli was lip-syncing.  What was it you ask? Did the stock market crash? Was the government overthrown in a violent coup?  Did Congress officially recognize New York pizza as better than Chicago pizza (further proof that we need term limits!)??

NO!  Egads, Facebook changed its appearance again!

(Side note: any time you can work "egads" into a conversation or blog post is time well spent).

For the record, I really don't care what Facebook wants to change.  I'll roll with it.  But the crisis of the situation was, predictably, the world-wide outrage that a provider of a free service (i.e. costs us nothing) would have the gall to attempt to improve the free product that they provide.

Is it really worth the little layers of dead skin that come off of your fingertips when you type to voice your protest- over and over and over again?

Example 2- Yesterday over lunch, I saw a really interesting segment on the news.  It was an interview with Ted Brunson, who hosts a TV show where he travels around America reviewing local restaurants.  The segment can be accessed here.

What I found most interesting (other than the food of course) was his answer to one question- that about whether he has received negative criticism or comments for drawing more customers into these restaurants.

If you watch(ed) the clip, his answer starts out in a sort of "duh, of course the owners like more customers" way.  But as he continues, he points out that the real criticism comes from the long-time customers of those restaurants.  They don't like the fact that their little secret has gotten out, making the restaurant more popular.

Example 1- provider of free service attempts to make improvements, and it upsets people.

Example 2- owner of a business sees his/her business grow, and it upsets people.

My theory is that the complaints about both have less to do with the quality of the products in question and more to do with how the changes inconvenienced ME.

I like the way Facebook looks, so don't change it!  I like knowing my little corner booth in my secret little restaurant is always available, so I don't want more customers to come in.  I, I, I!

Which brings us to the Church.

Disclaimer: the following only applies to you if you feel a certain "ouch" when you read it.  My comments and observations are by no means universal, which means that they do not apply to every single person.

If you ask people in churches, to a person I'm sure every one will say things like "we need to do 'more' to reach people" or "we need to be 'better' at ____."  People will say that they want to see God glorified in worship; they want to see more people attend their church; they want deeper sermons; they want better music.  Each of these statements implies a change of some sort.  But making changes to see these types of results too often upsets the very people who want to see those results!  Deeper sermons may mean longer sermons.  Better music may mean different musicians or songs.  More people means more crowded pews.

Yes, people want major changes, at least to the extent that we can still preserve the status quo.

The moral?  Once we all realize that Facebook is a fun toy, with some nice benefits, but created for a world-wide community and not for the individual, changes will be easier to handle.  Once we understand that business owners open businesses to see a return on their investment (i.e. make money) and not as a vehicle to meet my every want or whimsy, I'll be more understanding when I'm inconvenienced.  And once we all acknowledge that the church is the earthly assembly that God ordained to bring glory to Himself and His Son, we will see real change- real life-giving, world-rocking change!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gospel Polemics, Part 1

Wow, exactly!

FYI- polemics is
1a: an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another   
b: the art or practice of disputation or controversy —usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction

I had to look it up too :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jesus Wept

Jesus wept.  (John 11:35 ESV)

The shortest verse in the Bible, yet perhaps the most poignant.

To think that the God who made the universe, rules over it, and has complete control over every aspect of it would still feel such emotion is mind-blowing.  Of the many counter-intuitive things in the Bible, this has to be in the top 5.

Such a statement bears repeating.  Jesus wept.

Is it because this verse is so short that we overlook it (and thus overlook the fact that the Lord does take a personal, emotional interest in what we do and what happens to us)?  Is this why we ignore the fact that Jesus really does care about even the mundane things that happen?

Jesus wept.

Have you considered how your actions or inactions might still cause the Savior to weep?  Has it ever crossed your mind that every impure thought, every evil deed, and every unrighteous attitude can cause our greatest Friend to either weep or smile?

Jesus wept.

Do you understand that actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are a hindered relationship with the only One who truly matters?

Jesus wept.

Do you realize yet that every unnecessary argument, every unwarranted attack, and every impulse you have that does not align squarely with the entire counsel of the Almighty, as revealed in His written word, grieves the Joygiver and hurts the Healer?

Jesus wept.

Oh that we would weep at the things that make Him weep.

But wait, it doesn't end there. 

Do you know that rather than pain, you can cause our Friend joy??

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  (Luke 15:7 ESV)

Did you know that by repenting, literally by changing your mind about things and turning your life's direction to follow Christ you too can know this joy?

How does this work, you ask??  The Apostle Paul wrote:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Wanna know what makes Jesus happy? Renewing your mind, walking away from the things of this world, and working to understand God's will, i.e. what is "good and acceptable and perfect."

Have you repented? Have you given your life to Jesus?

If not, Jesus weeps.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Technology and Theology; More than Just Words that Sort of Rhyme

OK, I'm an anomaly.  An enigma.  A mystery wrapped up in a riddle.

I think I'm discovering technology.

Not in the "I'm Al Gore and I invented the internet" sense.  And not that my wife and I read Dickens by candlelight.  I just mean I've been learning about all sorts of cool toys lately.

Why didn't anyone tell me about these things???

My latest obsession is the Nook.  For those of you even less savvy than I, the Nook is Barnes and Noble's e-reader.  Think Amazon Kindle, but more democratic.

NOTE: Amazon is an online book seller.  To be online means to be accessible over the internet.  For more on the internet, see the above paragraph re: Al Gore.

I've already asked my wife to get me a Nook for Christmas, and I'm holding back with all my might from buying one beforehand.

Why this new obsession?  I just discovered that a) with a Nook I could actually check a book out of my local library without actually going there, meaning no little old librarians could "shh" me;b) that with a Nook I could carry a bible (yes, there are e-bibles!) at significantly less weight (plus lots of other books, commentaries, etc.); and c) it would be fun to shock people in church who saw me reading a Nook instead of a "real" bible.

Other new technology?  Well, truth be told not new to me, but at yesterday's Worship Cohort meeting, some of the other Worship Leaders learned about Planning Center and Service Builder, two online worship planning tools.

Also discussed was the increasing use of tablets on the platform during worship, and a floor button that allows the musician to turn pages with his/her foot.

What does all this have to do with technology you ask?  Well, it makes me wonder sometimes how much is too much.  Where is that line between using useful tools that God has provided to facilitate our worship of Him and worshiping the tools themselves?  How easy it is to slip into a sense of inadequacy because I pray, but do not iPray or e-vangelize.

If you have been made aware of the internet, how about commenting below with your thoughts???

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wierd Stuff About Me

OK, time for a little mental garage sale.  Lucky for you I'm giving away all of this mental clutter for free!

Here are some wierd things that for some wierd reason I feel compelled to share:

  • I found myself singing, "Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don't Care" as I opened up this page to write.  Perhaps it's prophetic of the interest level among my readers.
  • I am incredibly decisive about some things, yet incredibly indecisive about others.  I've negotiated contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, but I've changed the name of this blog 3 times!
  • As my wife will tell you, I have freakishly strong thumbs.
  • I am a conservative that drives a Hybrid.  That means I drive it because I'm cheap, not because I'm green.
  • I am never quite satisfied with my hats.
  • I can still sing both the theme song for Underdog and the theme song for Cuddly Duddly.  Maybe that's why I tend to create songs for my dogs.
  • I have seven toes on my right foot.
  • I tend to joke about imaginary physical abnormalitities.
  • I'm afraid of geese, as you should be.
  • I kinda like the "Little People" you see at weddings and Christmas parties, and believe they should be in the Finals of America's Got Talent.
  • Speaking of AGT, I still find it amusing that none of the judges are American.
  • I would list more wierd things, but what you might call "wierd," I call "special."

Friday, August 26, 2011

I'm Done!

This week I inadvertently found myself in the midst of an online battle, where one Pastor found it necessary to pound (via blog, but probably physically too if he was able) another Pastor for supposed doctrinal issues.  I say "supposed" because as I read his assault (and his defense from others) I really found very little to object to vis-a-vis doctrine.  What was called doctrine seemed to me really more of a difference in style.

Though I engaged some of my online friends, none got my point, that Christian leaders are showing neither Christianity or leadership by engaging in such online warfare, I now proclaim that I am done!
  • I am done with assailing someone's character without ever knowing them.
  • I am done jumping on the bandwagon of criticism when, if I was honest, I know nothing of the target and only slightly more about the sniper.
  • I am done being a self-appointed judge of doctrinal purity.  Some things in Scripture are major enough to fight and die over, but many issues can and are disagreed about by solid, dedicated followers of Christ.
  • I'm done trying to persuade you that you should also like the same preachers that I like.  Unless your guy is a BLATANT false teacher, you can listen to whomever you like.  I doesn't affect me anyway.
  • I'm done thinking I understand the gospel completely.  If the Apostle Paul considered it a mystery, who am I to think I can nail down exactly how God works, outside of what He has revealed in His word?
  • and finally, I'm done with using the internet as a battlefield.  I find myself repenting of this sin frequently, but by God's grace this time I really am done with engaging in online debates.  As I often tell others, there really is a reason it's called "Yahoo."
As for this week's blog, I'm done.  Any thoughts???

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Value of Discipline(s)

Contrary to common perceptions, discipline is not a four letter word! Though culture does it's very best to convince us otherwise, we truly are better off living disciplined lives, wouldn't you agree?  While the disciplined dieter may miss overindulgence, he/she is no doubt healthier and more energetic.  The disciplined student may miss out on the party lifestyle of the undisciplined, but will certainly enjoy a more fulfilling education and likely a more prosperous career.  Likewise, the disciplined Christian will grow in ways that the hit-and-miss churchgoer never will.

I've been trying to live a more disciplined life lately.  I posted last week about my running regimen.  I've been more conscious of my diet.  And Spiritually, though I'm journaling less, I find myself meditating on Scripture more, if only to find things to write on this blog.  I've also rediscovered a book I've read once or twice.

If you're looking for good, rich, and readable book on Spiritual disciplines, let me recommend Don Whitney's "Simplify Your Spiritual Life."  Dr. Whitney led a men's retreat at a prior church of mine several years ago, and his lessons on prayer still affect me greatly.  It was at this retreat that I bought my copy of this book, and it's quick 1-2 page chapters on various disciplines has proven very helpful.

Early in the book is a great line, which some of you may have seen me post recently on Facebook and Twitter:

"Our experiences do not determine whether the Bible is true; rather the Bible determines whether our experiences are true."

Is this a verifiable, objectively true statement? Or is it just a cute but figurative way to show the value of the Bible?
Dr. Whitney writes this sentence in the context of viewing a beautiful sunset or really any other of those wonderfully pleasant experiences we find from time to time.  Watching children play, feeling the sand and water squish between our toes at the beach, or being warmed by the sun or cooled by a breeze all sometimes cause us to exclaim "God is so good" or words to that effect.  And He is!  But we need to be wary that we believe that because of the witness of Scripture and not solely due to emotional or physical pleasures.  In other words, God is good because we see His goodness throughout the Bible, and the happy times we experience are gifts that He gives us to remind us of His goodness.  These happy times are not causes or evidences of His goodness.

In a similar way, our feelings toward God at any given moment do not define Him in any way.  Today I feel in close fellowship with Him- does that mean that He loves me?  What if I don't feel so close to Him tomorrow?  Does that mean that He has stopped loving me?  I love emotions, and I love emotional worship, but such reliance on emotions to define our relationship with Him only leads to crushing defeats after falsely stimulated "mountain top" experiences.  God loves us because He says He loves us.   In fact, God loved us even when we didn't love Him.  "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  I know when I sin that I don't feel close to God (nor should I), and I often question whether He could/should still love me.  But as the children's song goes, "the Bible tells me so!"  Therefore, letting Scripture judge the truthfulness of my experience leads me to truth.

How did I get here after starting today's blog on discipline?  Getting into the discipline of reading/studying/meditating on Scripture teaches you real truth, truth that can and will change your life.

How's that going for you?  Write a comment below and let me know!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Running the Race with Endurance

I've begun running recently.  Or more precisely, I've RE-begun running recently.  The combination of being out of shape and brutally hot temperatures have kept me from enjoying a nice run in the early morning coolness, but this week I finally was able to get outside and get moving!

As any runner will attest, thoughts race through your mind while your feet hit the pavement.  Sometimes these are silly thoughts, like "I wonder why there's a winter boot, ONE winter boot, laying on the side of the road when it's been so warm?".  Sometimes though they turn more serious, like if the heart attack comes am I better off falling into the tall grass on the side away from traffic but making it harder to find my body, or am I better off falling down on the shoulder where I might get hit by a car but where someone might find me before the flies do.  And sometimes the thoughts are in-between, like this morning.

It dawned on me this morning that the Apostle Paul must have been a runner.  Look at all the athletic imagery he used when writing.  In Philippians 3:14 he said he pressed, "on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   In 2 Timothy 4 he "fought the good fight" and "finished the course" and looked forward to receiving his "crown of righteousness."  1 Corinthians 9:27 says he "disciplined his body" so that he would not be "disqualified."  Sounds like an athlete to me!

Yet he poured himself into his ministry.  Depending on the source, he traveled more than 6000 miles on his missionary journeys, not counting day to day travel.  And remember, he didn't lace up the latest model of Nikes.  Worn out sandals were all the support his aching feet could expect.

The thought came to me how important physical fitness is in ministry.  As I've lost weight recently, I find that I can count on my body responding in better ways than probably ever before.  As I walk around youth camps in 100 degree heat, I don't want to die as much as I may have a year ago.  When my days start early and end late, I find I have energy in reserve.  When I lead worship on Sundays, I feel myself able to give it a little bit more and hopefully encourage others to do the same.

Building the temple God gave us.  Who'd have thought??