Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This would be funny if there wasn't truth in it

Granted it is hyperbole, but there is enough truth there to make it hurt. Many churches have fallen into an insular world where it is all about them. One thing I have been hearing clearly from the Lord is that the "fields are white for harvest." We live in an intensely spiritual age. Unfortunately much of the spiritual seeking is chasing false gods. But people are yearning for something larger than them. We need to be like Paul in Acts 17 and point them to the God they seek but do not know.

Pray for Holy Boldness for all Christians to share Christ with those we know who are seeking.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The newest enemy of the planet

I don't watch the news any more simply because they cover stuff like this.

I am still trying to figure out when the moment celebrities became experts on anything other than their celebrity. We have actors testifying in front of Congress, telling us how to live our lives and save the planet.

Will someone please remind me to stay upwind of Sheryl Crow? Just in case I forget.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Churches are to airports...

No, this isn't an SAT question. But if you take a listen to Reggie McNeal's presentation to the M7 Conference I attended in February, you will gain some understanding of where I am going with this. He is addressing the Church of the Nazarene on evangelism. His point is that our goal is not to make people into church people. The church is like an airport. We are the conveyance device for people into life. Jesus didn't say that "I come so that you might have church, and have it more abundantly." Many churches have lost sight of the fact that like the airport, we are not the destination. No one wants to go to the airport for the sake of going to the airport. And they get awfully restless and grumpy when they spend too much time in the airport (church) and don't reach their destination.

He powerfully argues that too often the church is asking people to accept a culture, rather than accept a savior. That we are so preoccupied with the things of the church that we neglect the things of the kingdom. We are so focused on us, that we forget the work of the Father. He pokes a great deal of fun at the church, but there is a serious message to what he says.

It is a powerful presentation that is worth listening to. My advice is to download it and fast forward to his presentation. He is the guy in a black shirt wearing a beret. If you stream the video, you can't fast forward nearly as easily. You can also subscribe to the Itunes Podcast if you want .

Listen and let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Every Parent's Nightmare

The massacre at Virginia Tech this week is every parent's nightmare. You send your child off to college knowing that the world is a scary place. But you never expect a massacre of students in the classroom and dormitory. I cannot even imagine the grief those parents are feeling.

I also cannot imagine the pain that Cho Seung-Hui's parents are feeling. Not only have they lost their son, they live with the knowledge that he was a deeply disturbed individual who killed 32 people in his final spasm of violence.

Pray for all the families including Cho's parents. What their son did is unimaginable and evil. But they need God's love right now, just like the families of Cho's victims. God can heal the hurt and wrap his arms around them. I pray that the Church of Jesus Christ will embrace these folks and let them know they are loved. They certainly need it.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How long must we sing this song?

That is the plaintive cry of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2. It is a cry born in the pain of the IRA/Britain struggle, but it resonates on so many levels, especially in the wake of another disturbed young man who has killed a group of people for no apparent reason.

The world is hurting, and we, as Christians, have a message of hope to bring to the hurting. We have a God who understands hurt. We have a God of compassion. And we have a God who will ultimately be victorious.

How we bring that hope to the world is up for debate. But there is no debate that the world needs to hear the hope that is in Jesus Christ. As the words to the hymn go:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.


On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.


His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.


When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

We are in a period of darkness right now, and His face seems to be hidden. We need to rest in the grace of Jesus and use the holy boldness to proclaim his message of love, reconciliation and holiness to a hurting and desperate world.

Watch U2 sing their cry. I wish the church could speak with a voice that loud and passionate.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Unimaginable Horror

By now most of you have seen the stories about the carnage at Virginia Tech University on Monday. I cannot imagine the horror of what happened to those students and faculty on an overcast ordinary Monday morning.

As the stories continue to roll in, there is great confusion and some contradiction of information. But there are also stories of individuals who acted selflessly and some who died for their actions. Read this story about an Israeli engineering professor who was shot to death barricading the door while his students jumped out the windows. There are glimpses of God acting in the lives of people in the midst of unimaginable, evil acts by people. Such is the world since the fall of man.

I don't have any words of wisdom to offer. Only heartfelt prayers to those who were injured and their families and the families of the deceased. Virginia Tech will never be the same and all who have been touched by this will carry memories of this horrible day with them for the rest of their lives. But God can heal their wounds because he knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it is like to see a child die unjustly. And Jesus knows what the pain of torture and execution feels like. It may seem trite to say that, but God does understand. And I am sure that he is saddened on this day as well.

Join me in praying for those who have been affected by the evil actions of this young man.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hateful Boys

My former pastor used to playfully accuse me of being a hateful boy because of some of the things I said. This week I was able to see what hateful boys can really look like. Just look at Mike NiFong and Don Imus.

I'm sure you heard the incredibly stupid remarks that Imus made on his show about the Rutger's University Women's Basketball team. I don't know if he deserved to be fired for them, but there was nothing redeeming about those remarks. They were racist, sexist and just despicable. But comments like that have been a part of Imus' show for some time. I find it odd that CBS and MSNBC suddenly found religion with him.

NiFong is a despicable human being for what he did to the young men on the Duke Lacrosse Team. He knew early on that the rape allegations against them were without merit, and he allowed them to be branded as racists and rapists for an entire year so that he could curry favor with African-American voters and win reelection. The abuse of power here is breath-taking.

Imus said something stupid on the radio. NiFong charged them with a crime he knew they didn't commit. Yet all our attention is on the words of Imus. To paraphrase Ray Donovan, former Secretary of Labor in the Reagan Administration "Which office do these young men go to to get their reputations back?"

Both of these men deserve to be sanctioned. I just think we are stringing up the lesser of two evils with Imus. NiFong abused the public trust as a prosecutor and branded these young men as criminals for crass political purposes. That is just hateful and wrong.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Perish the thought

The idiot lawmakers who proposed buying IPods for Michigan students were recently back from a junket to California funded in part by Apple. Imagine that. Lawmakers, corporations, cash influence. That could never happen. Not with the paragons of virtue running Michigan. Read the Detroit Free Press story below.

Using their logic, we should buy every kid going through driver's training a car. That would stimulate the local economy and give them real world skills. This reinforces the need for a part-time legislature. We pay full price for this?

Detroit Free Press

Lawmakers pushing iPods flew on Apple's dime

Democrats: Trip had other business


LANSING -- Two state lawmakers backing a controversial plan to buy iPods for every schoolchild in Michigan were among a group of politicians who made a trip to California that was paid for at least in part by Apple, the maker of iPods.

The 2 1/2 -day trip earlier this year covered a range of issues and interaction on topics related to Michigan. It included a visit to Apple in northern California, where the politicians discussed classroom technology and educational uses for the popular audio and video players, said Rep. Matt Gillard, D-Alpena, one of the legislators who made the trip.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, also made the trip to San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County.

The $36-million iPod proposal was unveiled last week at a news conference called by Dillon to discuss the state's budget crisis and House Democrats' plans to address it.

Dillon's office did not provide details on the trip or say whether Apple paid for all or part of it. Gillard said he thought Apple covered a portion of the costs.

Dillon defended the trip in a statement issued by his office Tuesday night. He said he was "one of several lawmakers to take this trip, and I am more convinced than ever that the future for our children lies in education. As we move to the technology age and the knowledge-based economy, it would be irresponsible to separate technology from our K-12 system.

"I have four children, and I see how powerful technology is in their learning experience. While I believe that moving our classrooms into the 21st Century is critical to the future of our children and this state, I fully understand that unless and until we solve the state's fiscal crisis we cannot pursue this initiative. As I have said all along, we are focused on the state's fiscal crisis first."

Dillon and Gillard have been vocal supporters of the iPod idea. They did not identify the other lawmakers who went on the trip.

Critics of the proposal have said it indicates that Lansing policymakers are out of touch with Michiganders' anxiety over the state's $600-million budget shortfall and the state's depressed economic conditions.

Susan Lundgren, an Apple spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the company's Lansing lobbyist was not available for comment Tuesday.

Gillard also defended the iPod proposal and the trip. He said the lawmakers spent more time on non-Apple business during the trip, discussing such issues as wine distribution and Michigan business taxes. He said he didn't know how much the flight and accommodations cost, or whether Apple paid the entire sum.

"This is about technology in the classroom," he said. "I don't know that it has to be iPod-specific technology."

Gillard said news media reports about the proposal have focused too narrowly on the iPod, which critics view as less of an educational tool than a form of entertainment. The iPods could be used to download lectures and materials.

The trip taken by Dillon and Gillard is similar to those taken in past years by other lawmakers, including many Republicans, Dillon spokesman Dan Farough said.

Matt Resch, spokesman for the Republican leader in the House, Rep. Craig DeRoche of Novi, said he believed that statement is correct but said he didn't have details about such trips immediately available. Resch said, however, those trips were never followed by the kind of proposal unveiled by the Democratic leadership to buy $36 million worth of Apple products.

Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a political watchdog group, said he hadn't heard about the trip and had no idea whether it was connected to the iPod proposal. But Michigan lobbyist disclosure laws are so anemic that it may never be possible to know, he said.

"There are legitimate reasons for doing such a trip," Robinson said, "but I want to know about it when it happens."

Contact DAWSON BELL at 313-222-6604 or

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Using your noggin

I know all of you have heard the recent hysteria over global warming and how we are all going to die in hell-like fireball here on earth. OK, maybe I exaggerate a little there. But I just want to encourage you to use the brains God gave you before you start radically altering your lifestyle.

Consider this bit of news. It seems that icecaps are melting and the temperature is rising very rapidly on JUPITER. Last time I checked, there were no SUV's on Jupiter or coal-fired power plants. NASA now reports that the icecap on Mars is melting. Somehow, that doesn't seem to be our fault either. But logic does dictate that if the 4th rock from the sun, and the giant ball of gas beyond the asteroid belt are warming, then we might be getting warmer since we are closer to the sun than those two planets.

It appears the sun is in a period of increased output. My friends, that is how averages are made. It is cooler, it is warmer and we come up with an average over a great period of time. Our problem here is one of perspective. We only have about 200 or so years of reasonably accurate weather data. It seems that the past 200 years were one of cooler cycles in Ol' Sol's output cycle.

So, buy more sunscreen, get a fan, and live your life. There is nothing we can do to change the sun's behavior. And the heavens were created by God. He didn't say the world will end in a clambake. He did tell us Jesus will return to the earth. And the way I read the story, someone will still be here when he returns.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Will the last one out please turn off the lights?

Here is a Detroit News editorial from April 6, 2007. Read it and shake your head. This is a state where you can't sell a house right now because there are so few buyers. People are leaving, jobs are disappearing, and the legislature wants to buy kids Ipods. It just makes you shake your head.


An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?

The Detroit News

We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.

No cost estimate was attached to their hare-brained idea to "invest" in education. Details, we are promised, will follow.

The Democrats, led by their increasingly erratic speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township, also pledge $100 million to make better downtowns.

Their plan goes beyond cluelessness. Democrats are either entirely indifferent to the idea that extreme hard times demand extreme belt tightening, or they are bone stupid. We lean toward the latter.

We say that because the House plan also keeps alive, again without specifics, the promise of tax hikes.

The range of options, according to Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, includes raising the income tax, levying a 6 percent tax on some services, and taxing junk food and soda.

We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod.

That they would include such frivolity in a crisis budget plan indicates how tough it will be to bring real spending reform to Michigan.

Senate Republicans issued a plan a week ago that eliminates the deficit with hard spending cuts. Now their leader, Mike Bishop of Rochester Hills, is sounding wobbly, suggesting he might compromise on a tax hike.

We hope Bishop is reading the polls that say three-quarters of Michigan residents oppose higher taxes.

There are few things in the House budget outline from which to forge a compromise.

For example, Dillon says he would shift the burden of business taxes to companies that operate in Michigan, but don't have a facility here. The certain outcome of that plan is to drive even more businesses out of Michigan.

About all we see of merit is a call for government consolidation and a demand that state employees contribute more to their retirement benefits -- which is no more than House Democrats suggested for future state lawmakers a few weeks ago.

We find it ironic that the Democrats are proposing floating $5 billion in revenue bonds to pay for retiree health care, when Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a nearly identical plan by Oakland County because it would cost the state money.

Instead of advocating cost-saving changes in public school teacher pension and health plans, Dillon suggests more study. There have been plenty of studies of the issue, with the conclusion being that hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved through reforms. Michigan needs action, not more study committees.

Dillon also proposes that the state cover 50 percent of the cost of catastrophic health insurance for everyone in the place, but once again doesn't specify a funding source.

Stop the stupidity. Michigan can't tax or spend its way out of this economic catastrophe.

The only responsible option is to bring spending in line with current revenues. The mission must be to expand the tax base, rather than to expand taxes, by crafting a budget that encourages growth.

We won't get there by wasting money on early Christmas presents for Michigan kids.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I have to confess that this stings a little. I too have gotten caught up in the "what's in it for me" church shopping mentality. Watch the clip and comment. It is a sad indictment of what we as Americans are looking for in a place and body of worship.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wreck the Roof

This recent article in Leadership Journal really struck a chord with me. It is about being willing to be like the friends in Mark 2, and I'll excerpt the article here:

"Jesus is speaking inside a house, and "some men" bring a paralyzed man to the place, carried by four of them. They're trying to get their friend to Jesus. But a crowd knots the door, creates a barricade of backs. There's no getting past them to reach Jesus. So the men take the building apart. They rip open the roof and lower their friend through the hole. Jesus, seeing their faith (these are some men), forgives the paralyzed man, and then heals him.

And, of course, controversy breaks out among the religious folk."

Imagine that. The religious folk don't like the friends interrupting their service to bring the paralyzed man to Jesus. I can't even imagine such a scene in today's world. *sarcasm alert*
I mean our churches all bend over backwards to help those unlike us get to the fount of healing that is Jesus Christ. We structure our programs, services and activities to maximize the opportunity for people to come in off the street an join us in worshiping the God of Creation. Really, it is all about them and getting them to the Lord. Our needs, wants and preferences are all secondary and have no bearing on how we do church. *end sarcasm alert*

The author calls this "Roof Tile Syndrome." Picking up again in the article :
"Roof-tile Syndrome is when we are so caught up in the preaching of Jesus, we turn our backs to the needs of those still outside the building. We become barriers and not gateways. It's when we care more about keeping things intact than about restoring lives that are shattered. It's when we're more upset when stuff gets broken than excited when the broken are mended. It's when church gets reduced to the preaching of Jesus so that we fail to notice that we're seeing very little of the forgiveness and healing of Jesus. It is when we are so fearful about upsetting the religious folk (or homeowners) in our midst that we stop taking risks to get people to Jesus.

It's when my program, my office, my title, my privilege, my influence, my comfort takes precedence over others' needs.

It's when the church exists for itself; to hell with the rest of you."

It's easy for me to criticize. I am not a pastor. I don't run a church. The church I attend doesn't own its own building or roof tiles. But that still doesn't stop those words from cutting right into my soul and showing me how my actions hinder others from knowing the Lord. And as my move into ministry continues, I pray that I never lose that sensitivity to making church as accessible as possible to the lost and hurting. God help me.