Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year!

I know this is premature, but I am leaving town for a few days. It's that time of year to work on our New Year resolutions. For some reason this is the time of year when we join health clubs, take up exercise and make resolutions to change that which do not like about ourselves.

So here is my list.

1. To become more accepting of my Christian brothers and sisters who worship in a different manner than me.

I have yet to make good on my goal of attending an Orthodox church service, though I still intend to do so. God has been speaking to me about finding common ground with other denominations. It's not like the Holiness movement is the ONLY way to worship, build the kingdom, and get to heaven. Richard Foster's "Streams of Living Water" has been a great help for me to understand how the other branches of Christianity function. If you haven't read that book, please do so.

While purchasing my wife's Christmas present from my children and myself, we had an enlightening discussion with an Armenian Orthodox Christian jewelry sales clerk. I was trying to explain the Orthodox church to my children and she overheard us talking. We had a nice discussion of the church and the Armenian genocide in 1915. I am grateful that I had just taken church history and was up on the Orthodox church. And the young lady was encouraged that someone not from her faith understood a little about it and the tragedy that the Armenian people have endured. I say that not to boast, but to thank God for putting me in that place at that time.

I intend to learn more about the other denominations and find areas where my belief system intersects with theirs. There is much to be learned from each other's tradition and practices. This is my year to act on it.

2. To become more intentional about supporting others in need of encouragement.

It is very easy for me to overlook those in need of encouragement when I am over committed, busy and focused on my own needs. This year I resolve to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit more closely to reach out to my brothers and sisters who are hurting.

3. To be completely surrendered to whatever God wants me to do.

I have been struggling a little with my call to ministry. Some of it is probably normal seminary turbulence. Some of it is that I do not like what I think God may be calling me to do. But this year I resolve to say "Yes Lord" to whatever He wants me to do. I say that with some trembling, but with complete faith in the One who calls me.

4. To increase my level of participation in my children's spiritual development.

It is too easy to back off on this because our children attend a parochial school and church. But since going to the Dundee church, we have been convicted that we were allowing our former church, which is much larger, to do what is our job. The sheer amount of activity coupled with the biblical teaching at school made me lax in this area. This year I will continue to teach my children the tenets of the faith.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Let the dead rest

Gerald Ford hadn't been dead more than a day when the Washington Post breathlessly reported that Ford disagreed with the war in Iraq. Whether former president Ford agreed agreed with the Iraq war or not, there is an element of tact that is missing here.

The man accomplished a lot during his brief tenure. He healed the nation after Watergate, gave clemency to draft dodgers, forced New York City to own up to it's financial mess, and kept the country on a fiscally responsible course.

Yet the Post wants to view the world through the lens of Iraq. That is just wrong and tasteless. Shame on them. Let's celebrate the man, his life, and his accomplishments. Iraq will still be there next week.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's a God Thing

Every once in a while God does one of those things that just grabs you. One of them happened to me today.

I've been ruminating on what my call to ministry looks like. It has been an evolutionary process for me, starting with me having God in a tiny box to the present "Whatever you want Lord" attitude. One thing I have been noticing in my life is that I am often in positions of leadership at a moment in time when changes are needed. I've started a thread on The OOZE discussing what I think God might be calling me to do.

Tonight, I suddenly felt the urge to call a former pastor who had a similar ministry. It turns out that God used that call to encourage him at a difficult time in his ministry. I had no idea that would happen. I called for purely selfish motives to gain some insight into what the future may hold for me. And God used that to encourage him.

God is truly an amazing being. And one I still have a hard time getting my head around.


Monday, December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas to all! What a joyous season this is, even without snow here in Michigan I wish you the love and peace of Christ this holiday season.

I've been reflecting on peace all through Advent. Peace is so easy to say, and so hard to understand. What is peace? Is it the absence of war? That is the way many view it. But peace means so much more than that.

When I hear Christmas carols such as Away in a Manger and Silent Night, they evoke a scene in my mind of stillness and calm. I suspect that Jesus' birth wasn't all that quiet and peaceful. After all he was born in a stable. Think about a stable. He was in a feed trough among a bunch of animals. Cows mooing, donkey's braying, horses neighing, Mary going through childbirth. And the smell. Oh my goodness the smell is something that I cannot even fathom. I've been around enough livestock to know that scene was neither peaceful or pleasant.

True lasting peace is usually won, not given. The United States is at peace with Japan, Italy and Germany after horrific loss of life to defeat the evil regimes that ran their countries. We paid an enormous price in the lives of soldiers and treasure of our country, and so did they. The same is true of Christ's peace.

God paid a horrific price in sacrificing Jesus. We have paid an enormous toll in lives lost before Christ and in martyrs. But there is peace between us and God. If we are willing to accept it. Christ is the avenue for the peace we seek. The angels announced his coming with trumpets, yet they were still when he was bearing the wrath of God. But peace is now available to you. Take it. Then share that peace with those around you. And that will begin to bring peace on earth through our goodwill to men.

Merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

There's no envy like snow envy like no envy I know

Life here in Michigan has been A little tough, with the auto downsizing, bad economy and now, bad weather. It is nearly Christmas and we have no snow, and it just keeps raining. I know, give me some cheese for my whine.

Then, to add insult to injury, my friend John sends me these pictures. He just moved to Colorado Springs this summer, and they are getting buried. I am so envious.

Really, what is the point of being cold if you don't have snow?

Just in time for Christmas

Thanks to Bishopman for raining on the holiday parade with this article. It seems that (gasp) many Christians are overweight and churches have developed a culture of social events with high-fat foods. He is treading very lightly since he lives in the heart of the Bible Belt, but he has a point.

My past history of ignoring dietary advice has caught up to me, and my Dr. is strongly encouraging me to change my diet and lighten the load I place on the earth. So this has been a season of Splenda instead of sugar (it works) and more vegetables and fiber, and less simple carbohydrates ( I miss potato chips and Milk Duds). So when I talk about overweight Christians, I know of what I speak. But, I have had an epiphany, and am actively working to change my lifestyle, which isn't easy. But it beats what is coming down the road, if my doctor is correct in his predictions.

I've often wondered how the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit argument only worked for alcohol and tobacco, but gluttony was permissible. But that is another discussion best held after the holidays.

Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good diet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Helping the suffering in Darfur has a post called "Evangelicals for Darfur" that's worth checking out...

Please take the time to read the article and browse the site. God's children are suffering mightily there, and we can make a difference with donations and political action.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Those of you who know me know of my disdain for the sanctified gorge-fest that is known as a church fellowship. Somehow, the concept of bearing each other's burdens in Christian love has been boiled down to green bean casserole served lukewarm in a potluck. I would imagine that more than 90% of the church use of the word fellowship involves food. Which is not what fellowship is about.

According to, here are the definitions for fellowship:

.1. the condition or relation of being a fellow: the fellowship of humankind.
2.friendly relationship; companionship: the fellowship of father and son. of interest, feeling, etc.
4.communion, as between members of the same church.
5.friendliness. association of persons having similar tastes, interests, etc.
7.a company, guild, or corporation.
a.the body of fellows in a college or university.
b.the position or emoluments of a fellow of a college or university, or the sum of money he or she receives.
c.a foundation for the maintenance of a fellow in a college or university.
–verb (used with object) admit to fellowship, esp. religious fellowship.
–verb (used without object) join in fellowship, esp. religious fellowship.

Did you see food mentioned in there? Neither did I.

I was watching The Fellowship of the Ring today and this thought struck me. Frodo was at his most vulnerable when he was separated from the fellowship. When he put the ring on and had to face the Nazgul alone, he was injured and nearly killed. But when he stayed with the fellowship, they were there to guide and protect each other.

That is what saddens me about what our churches have done with fellowship. It has been taken from a concept of community where we guide, protect, love and support each other to a concept of expanding each other's waistlines. It's about food. We sit with the same people at the "fellowship" events anyway. Instead of involving ourselves in each other's lives, we feed our faces. We waste a valuable opportunity to build up the spirital side of the body. Instead, we choose to build the body mass, and let the spirit wither.

For more of my thoughts on this, go here and here.

This is a hard nut to crack, as I have discovered. It is an ingrained practice handed down from the Lord himself, just ask the fellowship diehards. It could be so much more. But alas, it is a celebration of Aunt Edna's Three Bean Salad.

Upon the advice of my doctor, I am swearing off potlucks. At least that is my plan.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand words

So I will save you the words. This cartoon says exactly what I was talking about in a previous post.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Is this just the most vain gift idea you have seen? I hear this ad on the radio frequently, where you can name a star after someone you love. Aside from the sheer folly of giving a gift that is basically a name in a book somewhere, there is an issue with this that struck me today.
Can we really name stars? I see in the Bible where Adam was given the authority to name the animals. We have continued this to name plants and minerals, merely to help classify them. But naming a big ball of gas billions of light years away after your uncle because you can't think of anything else to get him seems a bit pretentious to me.

After all, the heavens for the most part are God's domain. There are very few instances in the Bible where a man exerts some control over the heavens. Elijah made the rain stop for 31/2 years, but typically the heavens are assigned grandeur and majesty. They are not a wall to pick a gift from.

Psalms 19:1 The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Nope, nothing in there about gift giving, or Aunt Edna.

I encourage you to go outside on a clear night, stare at the grandeur of what God created for our viewing pleasure and thank Him for that. It will make you feel pretty small. And it will make you feel very special.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The more they stay the same

22 years ago at Christmas we were graced with the song "Do they know it's Christmas" by Band Aid. Organized by Bob Geldof, it was an admirable effort by British music artists to raise money to help the starving Ethopians enduring a drought and government-engineered famine. It was soon followed by the awful "We are the World" by USA for Africa.

Fast forward to 2006 and a crisis of similar proportion is unfolding in Sudan. A government engineered famine, ethnic cleansing and a feckless United Nations, and you have hundreds of thousands suffering in Darfur. Except this time they don't have a cheerleader raising money for them. But the need is just as great.

If you want to help out the suffering people of Darfur, you can go here to see some organizations that are working in that region. Not every relief organization is willing to send its people into this volatile are. And please don't give any money to the United Nations relief efforts. The graft and corruption in that organization is shameful.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The more things change...

Some things are just so predictable. The sun will rise in the east, and set in the west. Winter is cold, summer is warm. And the Secretary General of the United Nations will blame the United States for whatever is wrong in the world.

In a predictable fashion, Kofi Annan scolded the United States about abandoning its democratic ideals in the war on terror. Is this the same guy who ran the corrupt Oil For Food program with Saddam where billions was siphoned off from humanitarian purposes to feed Saddam loyalists and his army? The UN didn't sanction its members who participated in this, but individual countries have.

Is this the same United Nations that did nothing in the Balkan crisis, and the US and NATO intervened without their blessing to stop a genocide?

Is this the same United Nations whose "peacekeepers" were sytematically raping and torturing young girls in the Congo while they were supposed to be protecting them?

Thanks for the input Kofi. Now take your corrupt team and get off of the world stage. Your time has been a disgrace at an organization seriously in need of a purpose. This is just one more evidence of why we need to put our faith in God, not in man, or institutions created by man. They will always disappoint us and are prone to corruption. Even those started with high ideals.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A good Children's Advent book

If you are looking for a good book to read to your children for Advent, this is an excellent one. Jotham's Journey is a fantastic tale of a shepherd boy who winds up on a spine-tingling tale because of his disobedience. It is broken out in sections to be read each day, and our kids loved it.

It draws you into a strong narrative set at the time of the birth of Christ that will reinforce the message of Advent and keep the kids interested.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another Good Book

Pick up a copy of The Shadow of the Galilean by Gerd Theissen. It is a first-person narrative of a first century Jewish grain merchant who is forced to spy on Jewish groups by Pilate. While he never directly interacts with Jesus, he crosses paths with him many times and talks with people who have met Jesus.

If you are looking for a narrative way of talking about Jesus in easy to understand terms, this is an excellent resource. It is a quick read that will transport you back to the first century. It won't replace the gospel accounts, but it will add to the depth of your understanding without a bunch of big theological terms.

Enjoy it as I did.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Important Things

I know I have been on a bit of a rant about the BCS and how Michigan lost 2 positions in the coaches poll without playing. I'm done with that, I promise. I just hope that OSU andUM put serious beatdowns on their upcoming opponents. Rooting for OSU is hard, but I will do it this year.

I just read a great article on The OOZE about keeping the important things first. As Christians, that means keeping Christ first, in all aspects of our lives. Easy to say, hard to do. Especially when we leave the confines of the church building walls. We as a society take our eyes off the ball very easily. We focus on where Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are going and how they are dressed. Meanwhile we have hundreds of thousands of troops in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan, a madman with nuclear weapons in North Korea, a madman pursuing nuclear weapons and assuring the destruction of our country and Israel in Iran, and a massive humanitarian crisis in Darfur. I don't want to get into the politics of these things other than to say that there are significant threats to our world, both in military and moral terms, staring us in the face. How we react to them is how history will judge us.

I don't know what to make of Darfur. I can't understand the lack of interest in this country or in the United Nations. This is a humanitarian tragedy on a massive scale, and the world is turning a blind eye toward it. This is a cause that churches can get their arms around. It can be preached from the pulpit, money can be raised, and politicians can be called to demand action. Pray for the 600,000 + people suffering there. They need our help.

As for Iran and North Korea, they scare the daylights out of me. Irrational people with Messianic complexes and no fear of death holding nuclear weapons is not a good thing. When these same people support terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, it scare me even more. Pray for our leaders, so that we do not awaken one day to a mushroom-shaped cloud in our country. I don't know how to fix it. But I know we are called to pray for our leaders.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I promise I will stop on the UM/OSU/Florida fiasco. But read this. It seems that the University of Florida trumpets their rematch against FSU that gave them a national championship in 1996. They lost their last regular season game to FSU (Sound familiar) and then beat them in the Sugar Bowl.

Enough, I'm done. But what amazes me is that Urban Meyer can do this with a straight face. He should run for office.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


It looks like Urban Meyer's campaigning has paid off. Florida will play Ohio State in the BCS Championship game while Michigan will face USC in the Rose Bowl. I'd be happier with this if Meyer hadn't been shooting his mouth off for the past few weeks that a rematch of UM and OSU would be a miscarriage of justice. He seems to forget that the only national championship Florida has won was in a rematch against Florida State.

Oh well. Bring on the Trojans.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thank you Bruins

Thanks to the UCLA Bruins for knocking off the USC Trojans. This keeps the University of Michigan hopes for a rematch with Ohio State alive in the BCS championship game. We'll see what comes out of the BCS rankings tomorrow, but hope is still alive.