Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A life worth living

Poor Anna Nicole Smith. I really mean that. It seems that she rose from an extremely low socio-economic state to the height of wealth in a very short time, mostly on her physical attributes. Now that she is dead, the vultures are hovering over her body and the millions of dollars that her infant child will inherit. It is a sad and disgusting situation.

She died several weeks ago and several men have come forward claiming to be the father of her little girl. I'll use charitable judgment here and think that they have the best interest of the child in mind. But what is sad to me is that when one lives a life like hers, when you are no longer beautiful, sexy or alive, the same people who sang your praises turn on you like wolves. Now we are witnessing a fight over where her body will be laid to rest, and who, if anyone, can collect a DNA sample for the paternity tests.

Ms. Smith would been better served to follow the wisdom of Proverbs 30:8 "Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion" or Proverbs 31:30: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, {But} a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."

I'm not here to judge the ungodly actions of Ms. Smith. I just find caution in knowing that if we pursue the things of earth, when we are no longer useful, we will be chewed up and spit out. Sadly, her little girl will someday read these news clips. And those will be her memories of her mother.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Seeing God Move

Today in church we had a speaker from the Jesus Film Harvest Partners, which works with the Church of the Nazarene to bring the gospel to the world. What God has been able to do through that ministry is simply amazing. Just try to get your head around this. The church set decade goals for the 2000-2010 decade, and they are in bold. The numbers in green are the actual progress.

100 million
evangelistic contacts*
42,968,757 contacts

10 million
decisions for Christ
7,529,670 decisions
(17.5% of contacts)

3 million
initial discipleship follow-ups
2,333,924 follow-ups
(31.0% of decisions)

new mission churches
10,991 missions

new pastors trained
14,230 pastors in training

190 JESUS Film language translations used

99 countries where the JESUS Film is used

*JESUS Film and other tools

I had the great privilege to be on a Jesus Film trip in Guatemala in 2005 and saw hundreds of people come into the kingdom and 2 new churches be planted. If you are looking for an opportunity for a mission trip of a different sort, contact them. You can also financially support them for $1/day. Just follow the link above to the donate section. God is clearly using this.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Oh My God

I've been wondering lately about what the Kingdom really looks like. Seminary will do that to you, as I have discovered. My view for many years was that the Kingdom was a "in the future" thing. Yeah, we talked about building the kingdom, but that was all about putting bodies in seats and getting fire insurance for them.

Jurgen Moltmann, N.T. Wright and others have begun to change my thoughts on this. What exactly are we supposed to accomplish on this earth, as we anticipate the new earth? How much can we expect to accomplish on this earth? I'm not one of those Christians who"got theirs" and are awaiting the rapture. But I'm a little unsure of what to expect.

Take a look at this and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentines Day

This Valentine's Day I pray that you have someone to share your love with. And do not forget to thank the Author of Love for the most magnificent gift ever.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Authentic Church

This information is taken from the Church of the Nazarene Iron Sharpens Iron newsletter:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community lists seven expressions of ministry by which a Christian community may judge itself. Are these expressions understood values within your fellowship? The list looks like a seven week series of sermons . . .

1. The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue --We can combat evil thoughts effectively if we refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.
2. The Ministry of Meekness --(Romans 12:3) Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.
3. The Ministry of Listening --The first service we owe to others in the fellowship is listening to them.
4. The Ministry of Active Helpfulness --No one is too good for the meanest labor. By helping one another do menial chores together, we cement our fellowship.
5. The Ministry of Bearing (Supporting) --Your brother or sister may be a burden to you. We are called to forbear--to put up with one another. Non-Christians sidestep irritants. We embrace even difficult people.
6. The Ministry of Proclaiming --Within the fellowship, we proclaim God’s word to one another. Proclamation isn’t just an ordained function; we all speak His word.
7. The Ministry of Authority (Leadership) --Genuine spiritual authority is to be found only when the ministry of hearing, helping, bearing and proclaiming is carried out. Leadership without these expressions poisons the Christian community.
Look for these marks in your own life, and consider offering them to your small groups leaders for discussions that center around ways to develop unity and community within your church body.
Life Together , Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 91

I've been thinking lately about what kind of church body would be ideal for me. I know it sounds narcissistic, but the question of "fit" has been on my mind for the last couple of years. That, coupled with my Vocation of Ministry class at Asbury Theological Seminary, has me looking inward, which is not something I enjoy. I do it often, in an odd sort of self-flagellation like the monks of old, but I do not enjoy it.

My mind took me back to one of my favorite childhood books - Horton Hatches the Egg. In that story, Horton the Elephant gets roped into hatching an egg. And despite being misled, he refuses to give up on the task. The quote that stuck with me is this:I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent

What if we all lived by the first line of that statement? Imagine a church where we only say things that we mean. No platitudes just to get people to go away. No " I'll pray for you" when we have no intention of remembering the conversation. It would be refreshing for sure. A church where promises are not easily made but always kept. I know I am being idealistic here, but dream with me a little.

Now look at the second statement in the first line. Image a body of believers who communicate genuinely. Not one where we say one thing and do another. Instead of a body where we say "That will be fine" but inside seethe with resentment because we didn't get what we wanted, we have a group that says "I'd rather not" in gentle love and works toward a common solution. A world where our dreams, hopes hurts and fears are communicated truthfully and in love.

That is where I hope God sends me. If not, I'm OK. It's always a goal to work toward.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I'm not prone, or qualified, to do much exegesis yet. But this struck me today. The Greek word for transformed is the same as the English metamorphosis. Basically it means to go from one state of being to another.

So what Paul is saying is for us to go from here:

Where we are extremely limited, homely, and unable to fulfill the purpose that God designed us to for. Caterpillars are slow, vulnerable, voracious eaters (self centered) creatures that can move very little in their lifetime.

But during the amazing process of metamorphosis, they go from this unattractive state to that of a butterfly.

Butterflies are beautiful, mobile creatures that bring joy to many people and migrate thousands of miles during their lifetimes.

Paul's imagery here is a powerful message of how different the Christian life should be from our life apart from Christ. Our appearance may not change, but in the eyes of God we are a new creation, one that brings joy and honor to him.

Dwell on what that transformation means to you. I am.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sometimes a picture says it all

Let's have a caption contest for this picture. Send your best captions in the comments section.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who am I? Why am I here?

Those are the (in)famous opening lines used by James Stockdale, vice-presidential candidate for Ross Perot in the 1992 VP debate. While Admiral Stockdale was using them as a rhetorical device, the questions are ones that all Christians should be asking of themselves as we move through the Christian life.

This week marks the beginning of a new semester for me at Asbury Theological Seminary. One of my classes requires that we read "The Call" by Os Guiness. My friend Kurt has been recommending that to me for some time, and I never got around to reading it. But now I am reading and enjoying the challenge it lays out.

It encourages one to think that all of us have a call, not just the holy, the ministers, the missionaries or the monastics. And the call centers not around what we do, but who is calling us. That is a great thought for me this week. Focus not on what I think God wants me to do. Rather, focus on God, the one who is calling. The rest will become evident in the light of his glory and grace.

Pray for me that I will always view my calling as one Called by God, not one called to do something. The caller makes all the difference.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ode to Joe Biden

I think this says it all. Although they may not be mainstream, clean and articulate enough for him.


Go here to look at each state's regs on payday lending.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Here's to looking out for the little guy!

In November 2005, new legislation was passed that was designed to regulate the payday loan industry in Michigan. The law goes into effect in June 2006, and requires all payday lending businesses to be licensed. Before this legislation was passed, there were no laws that declared the industry legal or illegal, and there were no laws that regulated how the industry operated. Under the new law, payday lending is declared legal, but regulations are placed on the business. Borrowers may borrow up to $600 in a one month period, but may not have more than one loan out at a time. Borrowers will have to pay interest rates at $15 per every hundred loaned in a two-week period. When annualized, this interest rate comes to 390%.

This is something that needs to be stopped. This is how the legislature steps in to protect people? You read that correctly. An eye-popping 390% interest is where the legislature capped it. This is abusive. And these things are everywhere. This is an issue for the church to take up for something to protest.

Go here to see the Governor's news release trumpeting this great accomplishment. Here is a little bit about this scourge's effect nationwide.

What would Jesus Protest?

Protesting is something that really doesn't trip my trigger. Maybe because I just don't get into the group clapping, chanting thing. Maybe I associate it too much with the 1960s. Who knows. But protesting does have its place. So let's play along with the question of what would Jesus protest in today's world?

The Iraq War?
The disaster in Darfur?
Sexual exploitation of Children?
Check cashing places that victimize the poor by charging usurious interest rates?
Sweatshop labor in this country or anywhere in the world?
Unequal distribution of wealth?
Enormous church buildings consuming massive amounts of tithes and offerings?
Christians who do not show love to others?

Feel free to chime in with what you think Jesus would protest. Or if you think he would protest at all. The closest thing I can come to a protest in the gospels is his reaction to the money changers in the Temple courts. And that was all about victimizing people with ridiculous charges for sacrificial animals.

Clearly Christians are to stand up for the poor, the vulnerable, and those being mistreated. And we have a somewhat checkered history of doing that in this country. But what are the issues of our day that would grab our Lord's ire?

Please, I'd like to hear your comments.

Digesting your foot

In case you haven't heard, Joe Biden tends to bloviate. This week, he violated one of the immutable laws of politics which is "When you reach the bottom of the hole, stop digging."

I don't think Biden is a racist. I do think he is someone who likes to hear himself talk. After all he is a Senator.

But what he said was incredibly stupid. He should be extremely grateful that he is a Democrat. Imagine if Trent Lott or another Republican had said that.

At least with Joe in the race, we will be treated to an unending series of interesting quotes.