Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I think my wife's a calvinist

I really do have plans to blog again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vote as though not voting

John Piper, as always, has an excellent perspective on voting. So often we become immersed in the world as though it were our home. While we must be involved in the political process, Piper reminds us to keep things in proper perspective. His article can be found here in its entirety: http://www.desiringgod.org/12all/lt/t_go.php?i=345&e=MTUwNjU1&l=-http--www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2008/3347_Let_Christians_Vote_As_Though_They_Were_Not_Voting/

Here are his closing thoughts:

"So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

"By all means vote. But remember: 'The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever' (1 John 2:17)."

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Much of the coverage of the debates focused on who "looked" more presidential.

First, the whole notion of a "presidential" look seems rather silly. Second, the media kept arguing that Obama bested McCain in that rather dubious category.


I thought it was a tie.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tagged by Grandma

Normally, I ignore "tags" or any sort of mass-email that requires effort on my part. BUT, when your Grandmother tags you...that's a different story! So, here are my responses to my grandmother's questions:

1. What were you doing 10 years ago? I was cramming like crazy so that I could finish college the following summer. I was also beginning to work part-time at a church as the youth pastor. That was the beginning of my road to the ministry.

2. What is on my to-do list today? Let's see, it's almost 11:30...not a lot left on it.

3. What if I were a millionaire? Give, pay off the house, set up funds for the kids' college expenses.

4. Places I have lived? Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas.

5. Bad Habits? Trying to multi-task around people

6. Snacks I Like: pretzels


The inventor of the slinky passed away last week. The funeral was delayed for about half an hour. The pallbearers could only get the casket halfway down the stairs of the church before it would just stop...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy Autumnal Equinox

May your day have equal light and darkness today.

Happy Fall!

OK, actually, the dates where there will be equal day and night (equiluxes) will be September 26th and October 15th.

Here's a good link to discuss with the kids today: http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/climate/cli_seasons.html

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Piper & the Health and Wealth Gospel

WARNING: The following is rated PG-13 for mature themes.

I'm posing it in response to Frank's request for my thoughts regarding on the health and wealth gospel. What is amazing to me is that we even need to address this issue. The whole theology of the HWG people is in such blatant odds with Scripture that its hard to imagine how pepole would buy into it.

I think the only explanation is that the theology complements our flesh so well. We want money...here's a theology that promises money. But Piper puts it far better than I can...may we find our complete and total satisfaction in Christ!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

Here are a few videos on the super-duper collider near Geneva. The basic aim of the experiment is to try to create mass from energy. Though I obviously disagree with some of the premises of many of the scientists working on this project, I am excited about this research. Experimental physics seems like a fascinating field to me.

I wonder... will we learn a little more about what happened when God spoke the universe into existence ? Will we learn something about how He continues to hold the universe together?

The first is a 3-minute overview of the LHC.

The second is a very geeky rap song about LHC.

The third video obviously has a very different take on the LHC. It has some cool graphics when the black hole starts to consume our solar system. Note that they don't cite a lot of published scientific material to back up the whole black hole theory. In fact, it was interesting that they decided that the LHC would produce a black hole instead of stranglets, a particle which could be produced and turn the world into a dead lump. I would have liked to see the graphics on that!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Church Satire

The following is from The Sacred Sandwich website. I had thought about using it as an illustration, but thought that some might misinterpret it. It's pretty hillarious.

Summer Blockbusters To Fuel Preachers' Sermon Illustrations

by Horace Pook, June 2005

With the record-breaking opening of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, the 2005 sermon illustration season has officially begun, according to Evangelical Entertainment Weekly. Pastors from all over the country are now anticipating one of the best summers ever for discovering new movie references to enhance their Sunday preaching. Edwin Schnurr, editor of EEW, reports, “Since Joan of Arcadia was canceled by CBS last month, many pastors have been very worried about how they might explain God to their congregations this summer. Thankfully, Hollywood has come through for us once again.”
Besides Revenge of the Sith, the other films that are expected to provide sermon illustrations later this summer include Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, Bewitched, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Fantastic Four.

The initial concern from evangelicals was that the 2005 summer movie season could never match last year’s success, which was buoyed by the huge hit, The Passion of the Christ. “Obviously The Passion was the perfect sermon illustration, considering how it was the best portrayal of Christ since E.T.,” explained Schnurr. “But when we heard that Mel Gibson wasn’t planning to make The Passion of the Christ 2, we were fearful it might be a lean couple of years for movie-related preaching.”

Not so, says Gregory Redenbacher, pastor of Pathway Community Church, who attended the first showing of Revenge of the Sith. “Standing in line for three days was well worth it for me and Josh, our youth pastor. Not only did I get some great sermon material from the movie, but apparently Josh got some tips from all the tech support guys in line on how to clear the Internet cache on our church computers… whatever that is. All I know is, Josh is alone at church on many nights making sure those computers run more smoothly, bless his heart.”

After seeing the film three times, Pastor Redenbacher has already developed a four-part sermon series called “Soul Wars: Choose Your Destiny” which he plans to start in July. “This may well be the most powerful sermon I will ever give,” he conceded with Hanegraaff-like humility. Redenbacher described how he plans to get the congregation’s attention by dimming the lights, filling the pulpit with dry-ice fog, and coming out wearing a Darth Vader costume his wife made for him. “Christians need to see that messing around with the Dark side is no joke. Sure, the Darth Vader outfit is awesome to wear on the outside, but we all need to be a lot nicer on the inside… just like Jesus. I think this message will be very convicting to most people, especially when I get the AV Team to modify my voice to sound like James Earl Jones.”

Later this summer, Redenbacher hopes to bring a more positive, upbeat message to his church after Batman Begins is released. “Batman has a cool costume like Darth Vader, too, but he’s a good guy. Thank goodness Tinsel Town is giving preachers the opportunity to say, let’s be a Caped Crusader for Christ and not a Sith-head like Vader.”

According to Evangelical Entertainment Weekly, many pastors like Redenbacher will be using at least one of the summer blockbusters to help point people to Christ this year. Says Schnurr, “We’ve already heard from one pastor who is so pumped up about the upcoming ‘Fantastic Four’ movie that he’s already planned a sermon called ‘The Fantastic Four: Father, Son, Holy Spirit… and You!’” Added Schnurr with a happy shrug, “Who knew Hollywood was becoming so biblical?”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Just had a quick moment in which I thought I could share two thoughts from our launch on Sunday.

First, I believe God was glorified by His Saints Sunday. All of the comments I have received have been very positive. Praise God that people did not leave talking about "Bethany" but instead were meditating on God and His work in their lives.

Second, Sunday was a testimony to what happens when God's people all commit wholeheartedly to the ministries to which He has called them.

Exciting times! Many questions remain unanswered, such as: Will people respond to the gospel message? Will new people come back? How will we shepherd everyone if they do? How do we build a sense of community? When will we have another Sunday brunch and will there be enough donuts?

May God alone be glorified in the exciting days ahead!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dr. Mohler's Blog

Dr. Mohler discusses adoption and the evangelical church today in his blog: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1504

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heads up to young men who may someday try to date my daughters...

Since my oldest daughter is seven and my youngest is two, I'm hoping the following does not come in handy for many years to come. This is from Dennis Rainey's book "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date." The orginal version can be found here. What do you dads think? How did you or will you handle this?

Guarding Our Daughters' Moral Purity

Dennis Rainey

I was seated at my desk, barely able to concentrate. I shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers … I felt like I was expecting an important phone call and was just trying to do something, anything, productive while waiting. But it wasn't working.

Neither was I.

Finally, my executive assistant informed me that the young man I'd been expecting was waiting for me in the lobby.

Deep breath, Dennis. You're the adult here. You can do this. I was about to interview the first of many young men who wanted a date with one of my daughters.

I stood to my feet and walked across the room, still amazed at how nervous I was as I stepped into the lobby to meet Kevin—the only person in the building more anxious and ill at ease than I.

"Afternoon, Kevin, glad you could make it."

"Hello, Mr. Rainey."

"How about we get something from the Coke machine. I hear you're a Dr. Pepper man."

"Yes, sir."

Riding a very thin wave of forced, uncomfortable chitchat, I deposited enough quarters to dislodge a cold can for him and a Diet Coke for me. Then, not wanting to be the Ultimate Intimidator, I suggested we go outside and chat in the parking lot. That's where he showed me his motorcycle—which wasn't exactly how I wanted Ashley to go out on her first date!

I popped the tab on my soft drink and looked squarely into the same eyes that enjoyed looking at my sixteen-year-old daughter. We began with the basics. I asked him about school, his mom and dad and family, interests—just a general get-to-know-you type of conversation.

"God made men and women different"

"Kevin," I said, hoping I'd also remember the rest of the words I wanted to say, "God did a wonderful thing when he made women."

The color fell from his face. This was going to be worse than he had thought. I wondered if at any moment he might hop on that motorcycle and bolt!

I continued. "And, Kevin, God made men and women different. You've probably noticed some of those differences."

Kevin was getting paler by the minute, but he had the presence of mind to nod.

"Actually, God made us different so that men and women would be attracted to one another. Now, Kevin," I paused for dramatic effect, "you have probably noticed that God made Ashley quite attractive. She's a really cute girl. In fact, you've probably noticed that she has a cute figure."

This was less of a statement and more of a question. If Kevin said no, he and I would both know he was lying. If he said yes, however, he was admitting to the obvious: that he had the audacity to notice my daughter's figure!

After a brief pause, I spared him the agony and continued.

"I mean, you're a young man and Ashley is a young lady, and God made men and women to be attracted to one another. It's good." Kevin seemed to be relieved at my pronouncement. I went on.

"And, Kevin, I just want you to know that I am a man and I understand this attraction. I was once a teenage boy, and I know what teenage boys think about. I've even read some research on this, and the studies show that teenage boys think about sex every seven seconds."

At this point Kevin's eyes darted, wondering where I was going next.

"And, Kevin, you and I both know those teenage boys were lying about the other six seconds."

At this point Kevin's eyes began to dilate! There was no dodging this one. "Yes, sir," he said, with a nervous little laugh.

"Are we communicating?"

"Kevin, I don't know how to put this any plainer: I want you to keep your lips and hands off my daughter. And I'm going to help you with that. Because whether I see you at the door after your first date with Ashley—or after your fiftieth date—you can expect me to ask you, 'Kevin, are you dealing uprightly with my daughter?' And I want you to know what I mean when I ask you that question. Are we communicating, Kevin?"

"Yes, sir." His eyes were fully dilated at this point.

I continued. "Kevin, more than likely Ashley is going to be somebody's wife someday. And I don't want you touching her body. Would you want someone touching your wife's body?"

"No, sir."

"That's what I thought. So you and I, we know what we're talking about when I ask you to be accountable for protecting the emotional and moral purity of my daughter, right?"

He nodded enough to let me know my vocabulary was in his dictionary.

"And, Kevin, I want you also to take this challenge: If God ever gives you the privilege of being a husband and a dad, especially if He gives you girls, I want you to take your role so seriously with them that you'll talk to your daughters' dates the way I've talked with you today. Will you promise me that?"

"Yes, sir."

At that point both Kevin and I were relieved that the conversation was over. I grinned and patted him on the back. I told him I was proud of him for coming to talk to me and allowing me to interact with him around such important issues.

As he was putting his helmet on, he answered one last question by assuring me he'd take Ashley out in a car!

Young Men Need to Be Challenged

That was it. Took maybe twenty minutes.

And I've done a version of this same thing dozens of times now as I've interviewed young men who wanted to date my four daughters.

I've learned a lot as I've gone through this. I've learned that there are some very specific things I need to know about each young man, and I try to tailor each of these little talks to the particular situation and the young man I'm dealing with.

In the process, I've met some fine maturing men and seen some interesting things happen along the way. In one case, another dad who came with his son to sit in on the interview, to observe and be trained. I've also had younger brothers sit in (probably just to see their big brother squirm).

I even had one young man come to me and say, "Mr. Rainey, I'm not interested in asking any of your daughters out on a date, but I was wondering, would you be willing to take me through the interview?" I did. He wanted to go through it so he would know what I said. It reminded me that young men today yearn for older men to enter their worlds, talk straight with them about how to treat a young lady, and call them to a high standard.

Guys, I can't tell you how strongly I feel about this. The statistics don't lie. Despite more than a decade of "Just Say No" and countless sermons on "Love, Sex, and Dating," the sexual conduct of Christian youth growing up in Christian youth groups, worshiping to Christian music, and sitting in Christian Bible studies, is virtually no different than the sexual conduct of any other teenager.

These young men who like what they see in our daughters enough to want to spend time alone with them need us to hold them accountable and call them to restrain their sexual passions. They need older men, dads, to challenge them to protect our daughters and do what it takes to guard their moral purity.

Let's do it.

Taken from Interviewing Your Daughter's Date by Dennis Rainey. Copyright (c) 2007 Dennis Rainey. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fidelity to the Gospel in Dark Times

I know that mentioning Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act is not an earth-shattering revelation. As shocking as it is to me that our country is on the verge of electing a man who opposed a bill in the state senate that passed 99-0 in the U.S. Senate, what is more shocking to me is the defense of his vote that he gave at the time.

Currently, he is claiming that he voted against the bill each time due to the danger it might pose to Roe v. Wade. As we now know, that is a false statement for two reasons.

First, there was language in the bill that would have protected Roe. Whether it did or did not is immaterial except for the fact that it may make his opposition to it all the more revolting.

Second, new audio reveals Obama stated another reason for his opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. At the time, Obama said he opposed the measure because saving a child born alive would interfere with a decision a mother had already made to terminate her pregnancy. He says it with such shocking callousness!

Please think about what he is saying. He is saying that having another doctor assess whether an infant could live interferes with a mother's desire to kill it.

In fact, Obama even defends partial-birth abortion in this statement. He is describing a scenario in which: 1) the life of the mother is not in danger (NOTE: even those who desire to keep the practice legal couch their arguments in terms of saving the life of the mother; 2) she has decided to undergo a partial-birth abortion; 3) the infant has been born and could survive; but 4) the mother has decided the baby should die and that decision should not be interfered with.

What is the proper response to this as a Christian? I think it is a renewed emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel. My hope lies not with the alternative to Barack Obama, but with a renewed emphasis on proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Opposition to abortion is certainly not a uniquely Christian position. People of all religious faiths and no faiths at all oppose abortion. But the Christian, I believe, has a unique reason to oppose abortion, just as he has a unique opposition to theft or murder or lying. He sees these acts as infringements upon mankind's responsibility to magnify the name of God. Abortion especially contradicts that purpose as it devalues human life and exalts the decision of an individual over the revealed will of the creator.

These are dark times. We do not despair in them, nor are we overwhelmed. We simply cling ever more tightly to the precious promises of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What's a Pro-Lifer to Do?

Much is being made of the Democratic Party's decision to include a new phrase in its party platform. The new language is aimed at attracting the pro-life voter who finds Obama personally appealing, but abortion morally repugnant (admit it, he seems like a nice guy). At the same time, the McCain camp is sending out signals that the VP slot on the ticket may go to a pro-choice politician like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman.

On the one hand, I feel a degree of excitement that the Democratic party may be backing off on its radical support of abortion. On the other hand, the new statement is, in my opinion, less than breathtaking. The platform now states: "The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support and caring adoption programs."

You read that right. They "strongly support" the decision to have a child. That begs the question: what was the old position? Bloomberg reports that this new language was the result of negotiations between pro-life and pro-choice forces: "The compromise language is the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations with abortion-rights groups and religious leaders on both sides of the issue."

Is that chilling? How long were the negotiations? How long did it take pro-life forces within the Democratic party to get their pro-choice colleagues to acknowledge that they would support the decision of a woman to keep her baby? What was the starting point for the pro-choicers? "We support the decision of a woman as long as that decision is to terminate her pregnancy?" We live in a sick, sick world.

Lest it appear I'm taking sides, I don't know where John McCain will land on this issue. His campaign is at least sending signals that he will not end up in a place that pleases me. Picking a pro-choice running mate would clearly indicate that McCain doesn't consider it a core issue. Does anyone think he would pick an anti-war running mate? Of course not. McCain's convictions on the war are genuine and deeply felt. Unfortunately, his pro-life convictions may not run as deep.

I feel pretty confident Barack Obama has already staked out his territory on this issue. Pat Buchanan has an interesting article entitled "A Catholic Case Against Barak." Here are a few excerpts.

"Obama says he opposed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act because he feared it might imperil Roe v. Wade. But if Roe v. Wade did allow infanticide or murder, which is what letting a tiny baby die of neglect or killing it outright amounts to, why would he not want that court decision reviewed and amended to outlaw infanticide?

"Is the right to an abortion so sacrosanct to Obama that killing by neglect or snuffing out of the life of tiny babies outside the womb must be protected if necessary to preserve that right?

"Obama is an abortion absolutist. 'I could find no instance in his entire career,' writes Freddoso, 'in which he voted for any regulation or restriction on the practice of abortion.'

"In 2007, Barack pledged that, in his first act as president, he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would cancel every federal, state or local regulation or restriction on abortion. The National Organization for Women says it would abolish all restrictions on government funding of abortion."

It is my belief that as technology improves, it will make arguing the pro-choice position less and less tenable. The Democratic Party's "shift" may already reflect that. But my fear is that Obama and McCain's rush to the "center" on this issue reflects a disturbing undercurrent in our nation. We may find ourselves in a culture in which there is general acknowledgement that an act is reprehensible but simultaneously a widespread refusal to prevent it, either from apathy (McCain?) or lack of moral clarity (Obama?).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lottery Winnings Not Accepted Here

I saw an article this morning about another church refusing to accept lottery winnings. This time, the church was being offered a $600,000 tithe from a man who had won a $6 million jackpot. Here's the article from FirstCoastNews.com:

ORANGE PARK, FL -- After Robert Powell hit the Florida Lottery jackpot last month and took home more than $6 million, he thought of his church.

And he offered to drop his tithe, around $600,000, in the collection plate of First Baptist Orange Park.

But the church and Pastor David Tarkington politely declined and told Powell they will not accept the lottery winnings.

Many churches do not approve of the lottery and gambling but on the other hand Pastor Dr. Lorenzo Hall of the El-Beth-El Divine Holiness Church says $600,000 can do a lot of good.

"I'm against the lottery, but if one of my members won the lottery, I wish and I hope he would give 10% to the church, we could do a lot of things with that money," says Hall.

As a Holiness minister, Dr. Hall says he does not ask where members get the money they decide to donate.

He said he would welcome Powell's donation to his inner city church anytime.

"We are in the process now of building a youth center, and you would be surprised at the people that can be helped with $600,000," says Hall.

Bethel Baptist Church member Lottie Walker says if she won, the first thing she would do is give lottery money to her church.

"Anything extra is bonus so that would be an extra blessing of offering after that, so if I did win lotto, sweepstakes I would tithe to my church," says Walker.

First Baptist Orange Park Pastor David Tarkington would not say exactly why the church refused the money, saying only he didn't want to talk about members' gifts.
I applaud the church for its refusal to accept lottery winnings. We often rightly condemn playing the lottery and gambling because it is incredibly poor stewardship of God's resources. The Puritans rejected all forms of gambling not only because of the problem of squandering ones resources but also because of the problems inherent in WINNING the lottery. They rightly saw that the one who profited from gambling was profiting off the loss of his brother.

Furthermore, since the poor play the lottery is disproportionate numbers, the one who wins the lottery is essentially gaining from the losses of the poor. Supporting such a system is immoral and I believe that a church should remove itself from participation in such a system.

Which makes the response of Dr. Lorenzo Hall all the more disappointing. His concern is very pragmatic: the building of a youth center. He's "against" the lottery, but not above benefiting from it. The article states that he doesn't ask where members money is coming from. I wonder if there are any exceptions to that. Would he accept money from known drug dealers? From those involved in prostitution? From telemarketers?

I also appreciated Pastor Tarkingtons refusal to offer a comment on the story. He doesn't publically chastise a member of the church, opting instead to simply say that he won't discuss individual member's donations. Good for him.

John Piper has an article entitled "Don't Play the Lottery for Me" that I have referenced before in a blog. It was written in response to a West Virginia man who tried to donate some of his winnings to the Red Cross. I highly recommend it to you again for your consideration. Here are the opening paragraphs and closing paragraph to his article:

The West Virginia pastors who accepted Jack Whittaker's tithe on his $170 million Powerball booty should be ashamed of themselves. One of them said, "That's a blessing to have that kind of backing." I don't think so.

Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. The engine that delivers his righteousness in the world is not driven by the desire to get rich. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not advanced by undermining civic virtue. Let the pastors take their silver and throw it back into the temple of greed.

Don't play the Lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide. Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep your life free from the love of money.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pastor Chris becomes correspondent for CNN

The Most Excellent, Holy, Right Reverend C. Ryan Jenkins is now a correspondent for CNN. His latest field report is on the Edwards scandal:

CNN IReport Correspondent Chris Jenkins

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Whitney!

Nine wonderful years! Thank you for your love and friendship!

A citation question...

O.K. Turabian lovers out there. How would you cite the following resource as a footnote or bibliography:

It comes from the website www.link2lead.com. The document you see is a PDF the website produced.

Big prize for any reader who knows Turabian citation well enough to figure out how to cite this report.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Last Day in the Life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn passed away today of heart failure. His story is one that we do well to remember.

In the closing weeks of World War II, while a young commander in the Russian army, Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter to a friend. In the letter, the young man flippantly referred to Stalin as "the man with the moustache." For this act of disrespect, Alexander Solzhenitsyn would spend the next ten years of his life in work camps.

Released following Stalin's death, Solzhenitsyn vividly portrayed the brutality of the Stalin regime. His first work was "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."

The AP describes his early work and its impact this way:

Beginning with the 1962 short novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," Solzhenitsyn...devoted himself to describing what he called the human "meat grinder" that had caught him along with millions of other Soviet citizens: capricious arrests, often for trifling and seemingly absurd reasons, followed by sentences to slave labor camps where cold, starvation and punishing work crushed inmates physically and spiritually.

His "Gulag Archipelago" trilogy of the 1970s shocked readers by describing the savagery of the Soviet state under the dictator Josef Stalin. It helped erase lingering sympathy for the Soviet Union among many leftist intellectuals, especially in Europe.

But his account of that secret system of prison camps was also inspiring in its description of how one person — Solzhenitsyn himself — survived, physically and
spiritually, in a penal system of soul-crushing hardship and injustice.

I read "One Day..." while in high school and it had a dramatic impact on me. I still sometimes think about the closing lines of the novel. Solzhenitsyn describes a day in the life of Denisovich, a carpenter imprisoned at a work camp. At the conclusion of the day, Denisovich reflects that the day wasn't as terrible as it could have been: "they hadn't put him in the cells; they hadn't sent his squad to the settlement; he'd swiped a bowl of kasha at dinner; the squad leader had fixed the rates well; he'd built a wall and enjoyed doing it; he'd smuggled that bit of hacksaw blade through; he'd earned a favor from Tsezar that evening; he'd bought that tobacco. And he hadn't fallen ill. He got over it."

And then the haunting final lines: "A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day. There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his stretch. From the first clang of the rail to the last clang of the rail. Three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days. The three extra days were for leap years."

The inhumanity of this system targeted not just political dissidents and those guilty of dissent but believers as well. God used these work camps to create opportunities for believers to reach those they would never have been allowed to reach on their own. Stalin actually aided the missionary endeavor through his imprisonment of believers!

Yet Stalin and the oppresive regimes that would follow, had no intention of being anything but brutal. Solzhenitsyn offered a scathing look at a government that, as Pushkin put it, forced its citizen to become either tyrant, traitor, or prisoner.

Here is Alexander Solzhenitsyn being searched at the gulag where he spent several of his ten years of imprisonment.

The AP has a summary of his life that you might find helpful here: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hlQlcja5nGziVfcrscU-Yip3QduQD92B4I600

Solzhenitsyn was not a great lover of Western governments as well. He denounced the materialism and decadence of our society as well.

I think it is incumbent upon us as both believers and good citizens to read books like "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." As citizens, we do wsell to remember the tyranny inflicted by an immorral government upon her own people. It keeps us humble, grateful, and watchful.

As believers, reading books like "One Day..." helps steel us for the possibly difficult times God may have in store for us if we decide to be obedient to Him. We live at a unique time in human history in a unique place. Most believers have found themselves having to make hard decisions about how to be obedient in an environment that hates God and the gospel.

Just ask our brothers and sisters in China, who are facing intense persecution as the rest of the world looks on with relative indifference.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beeker enters the worship wars...

When people ask what style of worship we'll have at the church plant, I will now be able to direct them to this video.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ellie's Adoption Story

For those of you who may not have seen this yet....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quote from Sunday

Several people have asked me about the MacArthur quote on how to treat your pastor. It's taken from Rediscovering Expository Preaching and here it is in its entirety. I left out the last paragraph from the message Sunday because it seemed a little presumptuous : ). And remember this is hyperbole...please don't really put water in my gas tank:

Fling him into his office. Tear the 'Office' sign from the door and nail on the sign, 'Study'. Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he's bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every non-essential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.

Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.

Put water in his gas [petrol] tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good compre­hension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day - 'Sir, we would see Jesus.'

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day's superficial pro­blems, and manage the community's weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.

Command him not to come back until he's read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, 'Thus saith the Lord.'

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he's back against the wall of the Word. And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left - God's Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down­-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he's burned out by the flaming Word, when he's consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he's privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Don't Waste Your Pulpit

This Sunday, I'll be talking about "God's Glory in the Pulpit." I am a little overwhlemed as I think about all I could talk about. Here are some great words from John Piper.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blabbin' Grammy

Blabbin' Grammy is not my new nickname for my grandmother...it's the name of her new blog.

Many of you have mentioned that you enjoy reading my grandmother's comments on our blogs. Well...you can now go right to the source: http://rubyndub.blogspot.com.

I can honestly say I don't know of any other great-grandmothers with blogs. We are very blessed to live in an age where we can stay connected with family who live so far away!

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm Back and Talking About Ties

We're back after a long absence from home! We were in Louisville, KY while I took a class on Expository Preaching in the NT. Tonight, I'm working on getting through the massive amount of email that has accumulated in my inbox. If you are one of the unfortunate people who has emailed me recently...my apologies.

The following story was in my inbox and I thought I'd publish it before deleting it. It can be found numerous places online, including here.

I will comment on the story, or at least the phenomenon of the disappearing tie, at this Sunday's Church Plant ABC.

Incidentally, I forwarded the story to a lawyer friend. He wrote back and said that he was "privileged to be in a profession that has become a final bastion of the berated neckwear." I responded: "I was told lawyers were required by law to wear ties in order to save mobs valuable time during a lynching."

The necktie, knot what it used to be, still hangs on

NEW YORK (AP) — They were the best of ties. They were the worst of ties.
Skinny little beatnik ties and mod doublewide ties. Suave and sophisticated Frank Sinatra ties and greedy Gordon Gekko power ties. Bar Mitzvah boy clip-on ties and Jerry Garcia trippin' ties.

And, of course, all those closet doors decked with millions of gifted ties.

But now, with another Father's Day upon us, comes word that the necktie — that elongated swatch of silk or polyester or rayon whose donning has long marked a male rite of passage while serving no discernible utility — may be fading into the fashion sunset.

The recent decision by the Men's Dress Furnishings Association — the trade group for America's neckwear makers — to shut down has some folks tied up in knots. A calendar crammed with casual Fridays (and Mondays and Thursdays ...) has exacted its last, grim toll, some said.

In an age where some people show up for job interviews in flip-flops, the imminent death of the tie seems plausible.

It's been a good, long time, after all, since America was a nation of necktie-wearers.

Look back at pictures from the Great Depression and you'll see men who put on ties before taking their place on soup lines. The stands at baseball games were once filled with men in ties — even on weekends. In the years after World War II, when employers created thousands of new office jobs, the sidewalks of downtowns across the country were thronged by men whose necks were cloaked in soldierly stripes and solids.

But before we deliver the eulogy for the necktie, consider this:
Men have been wrapping and winding pieces of cloth around their necks for hundreds of years. It's clear that the tie, once the very symbol of the male establishment, is far from the icon it used to be.

Still, there's small comfort for neckwear makers: At least they're not selling fedoras.

And, given the fickleness of fashion and the fact that some occasions still demand a tie, it's probably too soon to write its epitaph.

"You almost want to say, 'poor necktie,' so abused and underappreciated," says Candace Corlett, president of the consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail.

Predictions of the necktie's demise have been circulating for years. In the mid-1990s, designer Gianni Versace offered his vision of male fashion in a coffee-table book titled "Men Without Ties," a sure sign of where things were headed. A bronzed Adonis dashed across its cover dressed in nothing but a few ties, lashed loosely around his waist.

The burgeoning popularity of casual Fridays turned khakis and open collar-shirts into suitable wear for workplaces previously better suited to suits. The dot-com boom filled thousands of instant offices with laid-back twentysomethings who saw no point in lashing something tight around their necks.

But rumors of the tie's death are roughly equivalent to the longtime predictions that the computer would soon turn society paperless. There's a lot of truth to the prognostication, but somehow it hasn't quite turned out that way.

Clearly, the tie business is nothing like the old days. In the early 1970s, when sales peaked, manufacturers sold between 200 million and 250 million ties a year in the U.S. Today annual sales have dropped to about 50 million, according to Lee Terrill, president of the neckwear division of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., the nation's largest tie maker.

A Gallup poll last year found just 6% of men wearing neckties to work each day, down from 10% in 2002. More than two-thirds of the men surveyed said they never wear a tie to work, up from 59% five years earlier.

But the necktie still has its defenders and devotees, men who invest the kind of affection in their ties that a golf shirt will probably never know.

"A lot of people call me the Tie Guy," says Bob Smith, the outgoing provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.
Smith has a collection of more than 400 ties in his closets. They are vital accessories in a job requiring him to deliver many speeches and presentations — more than 700 in the past eight years. Every Smith speech is punctuated with a tie themed to the subject.

A tie with a giraffe on it for a speech about the qualities that make a good supervisor, one who is able to raise his head above the fracas to see the landscape clearly. Another featuring a painting by Charles Rennie Mackintosh of a rose inside a teardrop that he saves for delivering eulogies.

"When I walk into a room, they'll look at my necktie, they'll actually pick it up when I walk in, and say 'Oh, what are you going to talk about today? and I'll say, 'Oh, wait and see.' It actually creates a sense of mystery," Smith says.
Smith's collection, though, pales compared to the more than 1,000 ties owned by Richard Arutunian, a retired Southern California neckwear manufacturer.
Arutunian rejects this talk that the tie has come undone. A tie is singularly irreplaceable, he says, uniquely capable of sending a message about its wearer to women and to his fellow men.

"To me it tells more about the person than even the shoe does," says Arutunian, who long served as official tie historian for the neckwear industry association's predecessor. "Is he trying to impress me? Is he wearing a tie because he has to wear that tie? How is he tying that knot?"

Wearing cloth around the neck stretches back a long way. Some trace the modern tie to the early 1600s when Croatian fighters looped fabric around their necks before battle, captivating the public's imagination.

Hard to believe, but for most of history men were the peacocks of the fashion world, and that included draping their necks in all sorts of status symbols, from waterfall cloths to cravats, says Paula Baxter, who curated an exhibit that closed last year at the New York Public Library on the rakish history of men's wear.

"Even the Puritans. They would wear lace collars," she says.

The era of the male dandy ended in the late 19th century, when the uniformity of the tailored suit took over. In the early 1920s, neckwear makers began cutting cloth on the bias — diagonally, at an angle to the weave — and the modern tie was born. It found a welcome home on the necks of the expanding ranks of white-collar workers.
By the 1960s, 600 companies made ties in the U.S., mostly smaller, regional manufacturers. They banded together in a professional association that lobbied on their behalf.

Those days are long past.

"The number you have dialed is not in service at this time," a recording greeted callers to the New York offices of the Dress Furnishings Association this week. "Please check the area code and number and dial your call again."

Don't bother.

Today there are only about two dozen companies making ties in the U.S., and the business is dominated by huge firms. Many of the ties American men wear are made overseas. It didn't seem to make any sense to keep running an association built for an industry so fundamentally different from what it used to be, says Terrill, the neckwear business executive and a member of the association's board.

"We didn't think anybody would notice," he says, of the decision to close.

Instead, the association's closure has been greeted as confirmation that the tie is done.

The suggestion alarms Terrill, who says that sales have steadied and ties are poised to make a modest comeback.

There are still a few islands of tie-wearers. Lawyers and folks in finance and insurance work in offices where suits and tie remain the badges of professionalism.
"When you wear a tie it still says ... you're dressed for the occasion," says Amy Klaris, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates.

Today, with the economy softening, men need to market themselves and a big part of that is the way they dress. That will send the pendulum swinging, albeit subtly, back to the suit and tie, Terrill says.

In the past 10 or 15 years, as dress codes loosened, men who'd always worn ties "were making a statement. I'm not going to wear a tie because I don't have to wear a tie," Terrill says. "But now so many people don't wear a tie, that it's a statement to wear one."

That sounds like wishful thinking to Corlett, the consultant. She agrees that sales of ties have leveled off, but a comeback is unlikely.

"I think it's about as untrue as women returning to hosiery. Once you free the body of the tie and the hose, yeah, you may go back to it occasionally to make a statement or on dress-up day, but nobody willingly goes back to wearing a tie five days a week," she says.

For those waiting to see if men will once again embrace the constriction that comes with ties, she suggests looking to examples in women's fashion.

"You know," she says, "corsets never came back."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is reading this blog making you stupid?

That's the question Leonard Pitts, Jr. asks in his most recent column at Jewish World Review. Actually, he doesn't blame this blog in particular. His point is that the vastness of information available is causing us to be less careful readers. We are being forced to trade depths of information (the old days) for quantity of information (not infinite, but pretty close to it).

This is an important issue for a pastor. If you read sermons from several hundred years ago, you find densely worded paragraphs and logical arguments that follow many twists and turns. Today's audience has difficulty following an oral presentation that has three or four main points. People are used to information being transmitted in a few short sound bytes or headlines on a blog.

How should a pastor respond? My own belief is that the pastor should stretch his audience, but do so in a way that ensures that they can succeed. I personally find PowerPoint distracting, but I think most audiences today are used to some media being utilized to communicate information. I've opted recently to use PowerPoint to communicate main points and sub-points during messages to help people follow the flow of an argument. But at the same time, I never (or at least very rarely) use media for "cutesy" things like movie clips or clever clip art. But maybe I should.

(Rambling ahead) This is just one of the many ways I think our paradigms for communication and thought patterns are changing. In meetings, we're all wired, meaning we're in the room with one another but part of us is on the web. Or think about our spatial orientation. Instead of the 4:3 fullscreen orientation on TV screens and computer screens that we have been used to for decades, suddenly everything is a 16:9 ratio. I wonder when this widescreen orientation will transfer to things like books. Are younger kids, who are growing up in a 16:9 widescreen world going to instictively turn 81/2 x 11 paper sideways because they are used to seeing information communicatted in widescreen?

And, as Leonard Pitts, Jr. might ask, are you more stupid for having read this blog? Am I an enabler? Should you have invested this time reading a book instead?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Double Update: R & R and a New Study

Last night, Whitney and I were able to stay at The Mission Oak Inn. Two families graciously agreed to watch our kids. It was a great time of rest and relaxation. When I woke up this morning I had this odd sensation. I remembered what it was like to get a full night's sleep. We would highly recommend this bed and breakfast and have some coupons if anyone is interested in using them. Denny and Jan are incredibly gracious hosts and Denny is an award-winning chef. I'm not really into food, but even I was blown away by what he was able to do.

Also, my study is now almost put together...I am no longer sitting in a folding chair and working behind a card table. Cindy designed some incredible furniture. The majority of it arrived on Monday and my chairs arrived today. Monday night, Kent hung my shelves and put the top on my desks. The guy is amazing...I enjoy seeing true professionals work. Here are a couple of pics...

The office looks great, I think...

But unpacking the closets is still going to take quite a few weeks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Piper Won't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists...

John Piper has been attacked by ultra-Fundamentalists, but refuses to return the favor. In a recent blog, he lists 20 reasons he won't take potshots at Fundamentalists...

20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists
June 2, 2008
1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I've met).

2. They believe in truth.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.

10. Their "social action" is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn't usually get
written up in the newspaper.

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don't have any better track record than non-Christians.

12. They resist trendiness.

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.

15. They still sing hymns.

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the
“pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.

19. My dad was one.

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Potty Whisperer

The title of the article caught my eye: "Potty Whisperer Toilet-Trains Toddlers in a Day." I have trumpeted my own successes with toilet training in a day with my boys in an earlier blog. I attribute my success to my obsessive compulsive nature and the fact that when I am in the midst of potty-training, I am constantly thinking about it. I think Potty Whisperer adequtely conveys how I feel about my own abilities.

My friend Doug implied on Sunday that he doubts the truthfulness of my blog regarding Noah's potty training. I told him that was fair enough since Doug was working in the nursery and had had to clean up an accident Noah had.

Anyway, I think I have found a back-up career here. Except my potty camp is more terrifying than nurturing.

The article can be found here:
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/25057503/ or below:

An operator of a so-called “Booty Camp” in suburban Chicago has a claim that will astonish parents of droopy-diapered toddlers everywhere. Give her five hours, she says, and she’ll give you a potty-trained toddler.

Impossible? Not according to TODAY’s Al Roker, who offered an unsolicited testimonial. “I actually took my son to this, and it works,” he said. “One day.”

Sweeney, a registered nurse and the mother of six, told TODAY’s Ann Curry that her system actually works about 98 percent of the time. Based on Nathan H. Azrin’s book “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day,” the woman who is called the “Potty Whisperer” trains parents as much as she teaches the toddlers.

Her No. 1 rule for one-day potty training? “Never ask if they have to go,” she said. “If you ask them if they have to go potty, then you are the one who is in charge of their body. We’re trying to transfer that responsibility over to them. So we just tell them if you have to go potty, go in the potty.”

In a prerecorded piece reported from Sweeney’s home by TODAY’s Natalie Morales, Sweeney said that the responsibility extends to cleaning up messes. “If you guys go pee and poo in your pants, you’re going to have to clean it up,” Sweeney tells her class of small fry.

Age requirementToddlers have to be at least 2½ years old to take the training, because that is when they are able to understand simple commands and to control their own bodies. Some get it in 15 minutes, others take the entire session. Sweeney asks parents or caregivers to set three days after the session aside to reinforce the lessons.

Sweeney also trains special-needs children, but says some of them may take up to two weeks to learn to use the potty. Sweeney remains available as a consultant for the two weeks as part of her $250 fee — money that’s quickly recouped in the savings from not having to buy disposable diapers.

Each child arrives with a parent or primary caregiver, but the grown-ups are sent to the sideline to act as a cheering section while Sweeney does the hard work. She’s tough, and when one little girl throws a tantrum when she’s asked to bring her potty chair into the room, Sweeney works through it calmly but firmly.

“In order to set them up to succeed, just make sure that you’re setting aside that time and make sure you remember that it’s not about you,” Sweeney said. “The child needs to be confident themselves, so once they begin to take responsibility for their body, they’ll be proud of themselves and then continue that behavior. So give them all the tools they need to succeed. Tell them exactly what they need to know.”

Sweeney loads the kids up on salty snacks and sugary drinks, but lest parents be appalled at that, she explains that there is a method to the apparent dietary madness.

“It is only for a short duration. It is not a diet that I recommend,” Sweeney told Curry. “The salty snacks make the kids more thirsty, so they drink more. It also draws water into the bowel and that softens the stool, and it helps prevent the constipation when the kids get nervous and want to start holding. The sugary drinks never quench their thirst, so they end up drinking more, and that gives them more opportunities to go to the bathroom in that short period of time.”

Then it’s a matter of waiting for nature to issue its call and for the children to understand how they are supposed to answer it.

“Tell them if you have to go to the bathroom, walk over to the potty, pull your pants down and go potty in the potty,” Sweeney said. “Tell them that they need to listen to their body and when they need to go, it’s their job to go over there.”

To those who would suggest that her firm insistence and enthusiastic high-fives and praise for success might damage a toddler’s delicate psyche, Sweeney says, “It’s a very caring environment. I’m teaching the kids to be responsible for themselves. I’m certainly setting an expectation up for them so that they can rise to it. I don’t expect anything of any child that they can’t accomplish. We give them all the tools that they need so that they can succeed.”

And succeed they do. Sweeney says she’s graduated nearly 500 kids, including the little girl who had thrown a tantrum in the piece reported by Morales. By the end of the session, she was bragging to everyone present, “I went pee in the potty!”

The words were music more beautiful than Mozart to every parent’s ears.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A cheat sheet for the previous post

Lyrics and explanation:


Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

There is a very limited audience for this song. I'm afraid you must be part of a club I am excluded from, but I can still appreciate elements of the humor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ben looks cooler than me...tensions high after just one day on staff...

Ben was gracious enough to say nice things about me on his new profile description, but still had the audacity to put up a staff picture where he looks cooler than the nerdy senior pastor in a suit.

Check out the updated staff page: http://www.bethanycommunitychurch.org/about/staff_directory.asp

Monday, June 2, 2008

Response to Raffi Shainian

I do not know Raffi, but he was kind enough to leave me a comment to my post on the Evangelical Manifesto. I haven't read his blog enough to be completely familiar with his understanding of Christianity and "Post-Evangelicalism", but I've read enough to know that he also finds the manifesto problematic, but for different reasons. I thought since he was thoughtful enough to leave me a post, I would take the time to briefly respond. Here was his comment:

Raffi Shahinian said...
I had to do it.
Andrew’s call at TSK compelled me.A POST-EVANGELICAL MANIFESTO is now up and awaiting comment, criticism, or, more probably, to be blown out of the water.Grace and Peace,Raffi ShahinianParables of a Prodigal World

I read his Post-Evangelical Manifesto and had the following thoughts.

First: While there may be more truth than is contained in an orthodox doctrinal statement, there is not less.

In other words, I agree with his contention that doctrinal statements are "packed shorthand expressions" but I think I mean something different by that statement than he does. The Post-Evangelical, according to Raffi, views doctrinal statements like a suitcase. The shortened statements convey truth and then should be unpacked: "Post-Evangelicals have come to recognize that these doctrinal statements, once packed, tended to remain packed. And the longer they remained packed, the more the rich, complex and varied truths remaining inside were forgotten."

The problem is that many within movements such as the Emergent church refuse to affirm the basic tenants of the Christian faith, or as they "unpack" them, define them in such a way that is in flat contradiction with the plain meaning of the statement.

I also would take issue with the rest of his contention regarding doctrinal statements. He says that they are packed shorthand expressions for "richly complex historical narratives." This is partly true, but they are also gleaned from propositional theological arguments like many of the epistles or O.T. prophetic literature.

All that to say, the danger in saying that there is more truth than is contained in a doctrinal statement is that you often end up affirming something that is less true than a doctrinal statement.

Second: It is important to note that doctrinal statements are not the product of modernism or the modern Evangelical movement.

In my opinion, the Post-Evangelical Manifesto seems to imply that Evangelicals were the first to sum up great truths of Scripture. But Jesus engages in systematic theology when He sums up the entire law in two commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. Paul uses systematic theology to sum up his entire gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15. He summarizes Christology in Colossians 1. He summarizes Orthodoxy in 1 Timothy 3:16, citing a contemporary creed or confession. If systematic theology and doctrinal statements were used by Paul and Jesus to convey truth, I'm comfortable implementing them as well.

Third: It is important to affirm that there are those who fall "outside" the faith.

The danger of the Emergent church is a reluctance to call any branch of Christianity heresy. This is in complete contradiction to Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 and the warning of Jude and 2 Peter that there are those who will be in the church who will not affirm sound teaching. If there are those who would not affirm simple doctrinal statements, it's important to warn our flock that these men are dangerous to their faith and would seek to shipwreck it.

Fourth: I would disagree with the Post-Evangelical Manifesto's understanding of Christian history.

As a history major, I found this statement highly confusing: "There was a time for the martyrs. There was a time for the Contantinian settlement. There was a time for the Great Trinitarian Debates. There was a time for Christendom. There was a time for the Reformation. There was a time for Liberalism. There was a time for Neo-Orthodoxy. And there was a time for Evangelicalism, as popularly construed."

What has happened here is a strange equating of biblical movements and heretical movements and historical events and individual believers and doctrinal disputes. I'm not even sure how to begin critiquing this. I would simply say that the aspects of these movements that were biblical are still legitimate. For instance, the time of martyrdom has not yet ceased. According to Voice of the Martyrs, there are more people in the last several decades who have given their life for naming the name of Jesus Christ than at any other point in Christianity. Furthermore, there was never a "time" for "Liberalism" or "Neo-Orthodoxy." Christianity's expression is certainly shaped by its culture but its message should never be defined by it.

Again, I wanted to thank Raffi for his comment. I appreciate the desire for authenticity in Christianity and agree that Evangelicalism has fallen a long way from what it has been in the past. I think where we would differ is in how we see recovery from that fall taking place.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

First Annual Cherry Festival 5k run.

Tony encouraged several of us to participate in the Cherry Festival's first annual 5k run. Everyone had a great time. Ben had the fastest time, but Christine was the true champion. She watched ten kids (including the one in the oven) during the race and transported them from the start to finish line.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Newsweek and I Agree?

The following is taken from the June 2, 2008 issue of Newsweek. Lisa Miller writes the "Belief Watch" column and actually does an excellent job identifying the weaknesses of the Evangelical Manifesto (see my earlier post). You can find the article online here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/138535

The Milquetoast Manifesto

What if the evangelicals wrote a manifesto and nobody cared? It was supposed to be a decisive document, a credo that unified American evangelicals around the Christian principles that form the foundations of their faith. It would restore to American evangelicals a sense of mission and history—giving them permission to look beyond party politics for their values while at the same time urging them to be orthodox and ethical in their lives and in the world. Instead, "An Evangelical Manifesto" was released three weeks ago to almost no fanfare. Aside from a handful of news stories and some dutiful intervarsity sniping online, the fallout from the "Evangelical Manifesto" was—and continues to be—less than earth-shattering.

The idea for the manifesto was born three years ago in the mind of Os Guinness, a Virginia-based evangelical intellectual. He was inspired to write it, he told NEWSWEEK, after speaking with people who were so disillusioned with the way that evangelicals were conducting themselves in politics—and with the way they were portrayed in the press—that they no longer cared to label themselves "evangelical." So together with people like Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, Guinness drafted his manifesto: seven Christian principles that every evangelical could agree on.

There's an old joke, "Ask two Jews, get three opinions," and the same could be said for evangelicals. In the end, the manifesto was so vetted that, for all its 20 pages, it didn't say much: "Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth." Stop the presses. Then it went on to say that evangelicals believe that "Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human" and that salvation comes through grace, not deeds. Far more revealing was what the document did not tackle head on: the subject of the inerrancy of Scripture, which more than any other issue divides fundamentalists from the rest of the evangelical crowd; the obligation to convert the unconverted to Christ and the appropriateness of doing so in the public square; and, most important in this election season, the kind of civic engagement required of evangelicals beyond the old wedge framework. Michael Cromartie is vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; he was asked to sign the manifesto but declined. "You put this document down and you say, 'OK, I agree with this, but who do we want on the court? Do we want Obama deciding judges?' "

Indeed, suspicion in conservative circles that the manifesto really amounts to a green light for evangelicals to vote for Obama runs high, and it's hard to find a name-brand right-wing Christian among the signers. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has not signed it. Neither has Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson or Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Also missing are the most recognizable evangelical megapastors. Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek, is not on the list. And though Rick Warren helped draft the document and was rumored to be among the signers, he is not. "Dr. Warren felt more input was needed from all segments of evangelicals," says a spokesman. "His role, consistent with his calling and leadership style, is to bridge different groups." Mouw can barely contain his frustration over how little his efforts have yielded. "I do not support gay marriage. I do not support the ordination of gays. I am a right-to-lifer. Does that make me a lefty?" he asks. As Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs rightly observes, the problem with the "Evangelical Manifesto" is that it's not a manifesto at all. It's polite and embracing—a welcome change in religious discourse—but it's porridge. America's evangelicals, especially those struggling with consciences about how to vote in November, deserve better.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Theology of Technology

There is a story in yesterday’s Boston Globe on mainline Protestant’s (i.e., liberal Protestants) use of technology in the church. Fearing that they are falling behind evangelicals, they are training their future leaders in “high-tech evangelization.” The story can be found in its entirety here:


The motivation seems to be the fear that more conservative groups are getting ahead because they know how to use a computer:

Saying evangelicals have gotten too far ahead of mainline Protestants in the use of technology to reach out to the unchurched, a liberal Protestant seminary here is launching a new program to train future clergy in high-tech evangelization.

"The conservative evangelical community has been way ahead, and the progressive community has been lagging behind," said the Rev. Nick Carter, president of Andover Newton. "Initially there was a knee-jerk reaction on the part of mainline and progressive churches - 'That's what they do' - but now there's more of a sense that maybe they've got something there."

Carter said that the slow pace of adopting technology in some mainline churches reflects a lack of outreach. He cited as an example how difficult it is on many church websites to find the time of a worship service, because the sites are aimed at insiders.

Their response has been not just to renovate their websites but to change the structure of their worship services as well:

Andover Newton has just completed construction of a chapel that is fully wired for video and audio projection and recording. In the sacristy, next to the chalices and candelabras, is a NetLinx integrated controller that operates the sanctuary systems. Brass plates on the sanctuary floor cover data and electrical outlets. And everything that takes place in the chapel is fed into a lower-level room that this summer will become the Massachusetts Bible Society media center, with a recording studio and mixing station.

Yet, the new technology is just being used to promote the same, tired spin:

The Bible Society has adopted a new slogan, "one book, many voices," to reflect its view that there are multiple possible interpretations of the Bible, and has launched massbible.org, a website that allows readers to ask a professor a question about the Bible. Robertson said the Bible Society is hoping to use the Andover Newton media enter to record and broadcast lectures and other programs.
And the last several paragraphs struck me as particularly interesting:

A study this year by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, found that 65 percent of Protestant congregations have large-screen projection systems in the
church, but that usage varies by theology: 68 percent of conservative churches
use video projection, compared with only 43 percent of liberal churches.

"In certain corners of the Christian community, using screens and digital imagery and amplified music are very common and familiar and accepted without question, while in other parts there's still a lot of even theological questions about whether it's appropriate," said Mary E. Hess, a specialist in the use of technology in theological education and an associate professor of educational leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

"Within churches that are particularly interested in reaching out . . . you see more use of screens, film clips, recorded music, and a whole host of kinds of innovation," she said. However, technology is used less in churches with deep liturgical traditions, such as Catholic and Lutheran churches and in congregations where there is concern that technology "is disembodying, that somehow these technologies separate

The story interested me for two reasons.

First, it is interesting because of what it reveals about mainline, liberal Protestants (or, as they like to call themselves, “progressives”). They embrace those of other faiths…but evangelicals are their competition. In other words, they might participate in multi-faith services in a mosque, but evangelicals are dangerous and progressives need to work to reach as many people as the crazies (my words, not theirs). It also reveals they believe it is their method and not their message that is ineffective.

The second thing that interested me about this is just the subject of technology in the church. As we have been preparing for the church plant, I’ve been thinking through the proper place of technology and media as we seek to fulfill our mandate to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. For example, as we’ve worked on the website, I’ve been excited as we have thought through how this technology can be used to introduce people to our church before our church even exists. Or, as another example, for awhile I’ve been wondering how to utilize media in the worship service without it becoming distracting.

I think what the church needs is a theology of technology. Here are two of my initial contributions.

First, technology should promote the message and not the method. As in all areas of church life, it should be a means to reveal truth found in Scripture that teaches people about God. Too often, technology becomes a distraction. It can distract in a positive sense in that people are blown away by the “coolness” factor. Or it can distract in a negative way as people are put off by technology being utilized poorly (the speakers squeaking, the PowerPoint freezing up, etc.).

Second, and related, technology should be used so that people’s hearts are responding to truth and not a medium. That is, even if people aren’t distracted consciously by the technology, it can be utilized in such a way that it manipulates a response of the heart. This is one reason why I am personally uncomfortable with projecting images of nature or Jesus on screens while a congregation sings. It is possible that people are responding emotionally to an image instead of to the truths about God as revealed in His word. What is interesting to me is that the use of images in worship is an issue that has been incredibly important in the history of the church, especially in the Protestant tradition, and yet most evangelicals don’t even think about it today.

I have more thoughts on this, but running out of time for today....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

As I was saying...

I was never able to finish my earlier post about the evangelical movement. Earlier this month, a document entitled "The Evangelical Manifesto" was released. It can be found in its entirety here: http://www.evangelicalmanifesto.com/

I think it is an important document for you to read and think through. What struck me about the media coverage of the document's release was the focus on its political slant. They read it, perhaps rightly, as a shot at the "religious right."

I had a few thoughts...

First: It is good to consider the origin of the term evangelical.

Here's what Iain Murray writes in Evangelicalism Divided:

In 1525, Tyndale wrote: “Evangelion…is a Greek word; and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance and leap for joy....”

At the same period all who so thought [like Tyndale] became described as “gospellers” or, less commonly, as “evangelicals”. Over two hundred years
later it was the latter term that was to pass into more permanent usage at the
time of the “Evangelical Revival”. That it did not do so earlier is
largely due to the fact that all the churches of the Reformation were “of the
gospel” in their creeds and confessions. By the eighteenth century,
however, while the profession of the national churches in England and Scotland
remained orthodox there were many pulpits from which no gospel was heard and
when the evangel was recovered a term was necessary to distinguish its preachers
from others: they were the “evangelicals” (1-2).

What a great understanding of the original purpose of the term evangelical! We've certainly strayed from that original understanding!

Second: I think it is good to consider how to define what we believe more precisely.

I like the idea of making our borders sharper...less blurry. I think we should warn the flock that there are some who are outside the bounds of orthodoxy who still would claim to be evangelicals.

Third: Unfortunately, I have some misgivings about this document.

There seems to be a strange desire among many evangelicals to align themselves with what have traditionally been more "left-wing" agenda items, such as radical environmentalism and the war on poverty. Some of those who are responsible for the evangelical manifesto are part of this movement. While the causes they champion are noble (ending AIDS, fighting poverty, racial reconciliation), the passion for those causes is more often pragmatic than theological. In other words, they are not passionate about these things because they love the glory of God and have gone to His word with a desire to be obedient to Him. Instead they have looked to their culture to drive their ministry.

For example, why are evangelicals suddenly so pro-environment? I don't think its because they have been studying the Scriptures and suddenly found that it speaks to this issue. I think they have found that the culture is passionate about the environment so they are co-opting this issue. A truly biblical view of the environment would be trumpeting the need to produce, the need to do so in a responsible manner, and the temporary nature of matter.

Similarly, true, biblical evangelicals should recognize the line between debatable and non-debatable issues and have a greater passion for the non-negotiables. There should be a greater passion for the gospel than for tax policy. Furthermore, even as we consider our involvement in the political realm, we should acknowledge a heirarchy of issues based upon the clarity of biblical revelation on a particular issue.

That is one reason I become weary of hearing some evangelicals say something along the lines of "We are not just about the pro-life movement, we are also passionate about the government providing for the poor." Due to Scripture's clarity of revelation, the pro-life issue is a far different issue than the government's responsibility to the poor through welfare. Certainly we should think about tax-policy and our opinion should be informed by isues such as fairness and justice and protection of the weak and encouraging people to work if they wish to eat. But there is a spectrum of acceptable positions for a beleiver to hold on this issue, whereas only one consciounable position on the issue of the life of the unborn.

A far better critique of the manifesto can be found at Al Mohler's blog here: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1147 and here: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1148

It's Alive!

It's up and going. Check out www.bethanycommunitychurch.org.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This doesn't seem as brilliant this morning...

Whitney's in Texas right now visiting her sister who just had a baby. That means late nights of working for me. It also means falling asleep in weird places. For example, here is the post I was working on last night/early this morning:

The term "evangelical" is a term that means very little right now anddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddas hit ap

Monday, May 19, 2008

One step closer...

As hard as it is to believe, our church plant took one more step toward becoming a reality as we met for the first time as a group this morning. Only 15 weeks until we plant the church! I'll have more details soon.

The new church website is almost up and going. There are just some things I need to get to our web guys so they can put the finishing touches on the site. Shouldn't be long now! Once I get that going, I'll pay attention to my own blog again...probably.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Am I going to get this excited about everything?

I'm not sure why, but I just got excited when I saw the "construction" page for the new church website:

Pretty pathetic to get that excited, eh?

I don't know why, it's just incredible to think about being at this stage. On the one hand, things that I have been dreaming about for years are starting to happen. On the other hand, lots of things still haven't happened. We're kind of on a cusp of the wave and there's no turning back now!