Friday, March 30, 2007

The Natural

With Opening Day knocking on the door, my wife and I watched one of the best movies in American movie history, The Natural, starring Robert Redford and a starstudded cast. We even got to watch it for free since it was available for checkout the public library. If you haven't exposed your kids to this classic, do so this weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

living out your God-given desires

Here's a good paragraph from Wild at Heart, where John Eldredge expands on the Gil Bailie quote I shared in my last post:
If you had permission to do what you really want to do, what would you do? Don't ask how, that will cut your desire off at the knees. How is never the right question; how is a faithless question. It means "unless I can see my way clearly I won't believe it, won't venture forth." When the angel told Zechariah that his ancient wife would bear him a son named John, Zechariah asked how and was struck dumb for it. How is God's department. He is asking you what. What is written in your heart? What makes you come alive? If you could do what you've always wanted to do, what would it be? You see, a man's calling is written on his true heart, and he discovers it when he enters the frontier of his deep desires. To paraphraise the Bailie, don't ask yourself what makes you come alive because what the world needs are men who have come alive. (p.206)

what makes you come alive

A quote from Gil Bailie about finding the purpose God has created you for:
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

like men of courage, to stand in battle

I came across this powerful Thomas A' Kempis quote this morning:
If we would endeavor, like men of courage, to stand in the battle, surely we would feel the favorable assistance of God from Heaven. For he who giveth us occasion to fight, to the end we may get the victory, is ready to succor those that fight manfully, and do trust in his grace.
Reminds me of II Chronicles 16:9.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

why blog?

My good friend and role model Brian Bill has been taking a step back and examining the "why" of blogging. He decided to jump back in. I decided that I'd post a few of the reasons I keep blogging (copied from an email I sent to Brian):
Here's a few of things that have kept me blogging:

1) I know that when I left the Methodist Blogosphere last fall, my comments dropped significantly, and I started thinking that no one was reading it. But interestingly, I'm finding through Statcounter that many people are coming across my archived blogs via Google searches. So even if I don't update everyday, its a library of stuff people can pull from.

2) I use my blog as a quote/article library for myself. Instead of storing things on my computer or in a file in my office, I post it on the blog and I can go back to it whenever I want. This has gotten easier with the new Archiving Labels that are available through Blogger.

3) Part of the reason I entered the blogosphere is because the Flat World of cyberministry is moving forward at lightspeed. Pastors may quickly get left behind without intentional engagement. Blogging at least keeps my foot in the door.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

what is the gospel?

If Christians are going to strive for unity, one non-negotiable area of agreement must be the answer to the question, "What is the gospel?"

I did some research yesterday to see how Wesley defined the gospel. I found his explanation in the sermon "The Way of the Kingdom":
8. The gospel, (that is, good tidings, good news for guilty, helpless sinners,) in the largest sense of the word, means, the whole revelation made to men by Jesus Christ; and sometimes the whole account of what our Lord did and suffered while he tabernacled among men. The substance of all is, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners;" or, "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end we might not perish, but have everlasting life;" or, "He was bruised for our transgressions, he was wounded for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Agreement on the substitionary atonement of Christ as being the center of gospel ministry is non-negotiable if The United Methodist Church will reclaim faithfulness to our founder's intent and the good news of Christ.

funnier than i thought we were

My friend Troy sent me this link showing that Pontiac FUMC (where I serve) made a list of humerous church names.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ray Pritchard

One blog that I read frequently is Ray Pritchard's. His book Credo is the most helpful book about the Apostle's Creed I've seen. I'm using it as the primary resource for my Confirmation Class this year. Ray was in Pontiac over the weekend, speaking at Pontiac Bible Church. Yesterday after I ate lunch with my family I stopped by PBC and met him. He is a great guy and doing a lot of traveling and speaking all over the country. I would commend his blog and his ministry to you. Check him out.

ESV revolution

The ESV revolution has begun at Pontiac FUMC! In the past year, I've officially switched to the ESV translation of the Bible from the NRSV. I've been recommending it to people lately. Two people came up to me yesterday and told me they had recently acquired ESV Bibles. This translation which is an update of the RSV came out in 2001. It works well for preaching purposes in our church because we still have the old RSV in our pews. Like the NRSV its a good blend of accuracy and readibility, without the inclusive language of the NRSV. With more and more people switching to the ESV, I anticipate it will be the predominant Bible translation in decades to come. Buy one today!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

what a man desperately desires

I've finally gotten around to reading John Eldridge's manly book Wild at Heart. Someone loaned it to me 3.5 years ago, and the title sounded too much like a Brat Pack romantic comedy, so I never got around to reading it. I'm almost halfway through and so far its good. Eldridge says that in the heart of a man there is a desperate desire for these three things:
1) a battle to fight
2) an adventure to live
3) a beauty to rescue (p.9)

Women, on the other hand, desire:
1) to be fought for
2) an adventure to share
3) a beauty to unveil (p.17)

Joey Dorsey's got diarrhea of the mouth

This is an unbelievable article where Joey Dorsey of Memphis talks smack about Greg Oden of Ohio State. When asked about his coach, John Calipari, Dorsey said,"Coach is very intense," Dorsey said. "He gets in your butt. I was in his doghouse as a freshman, but I think I'm out now."

"He gets in your butt"? - he has quite a way with words!

POST-GAME UPDATE: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Friday, March 23, 2007

a call to all United Methodists to confess Christ as Son, Savior, and Lord

A number of years ago, I became a member of The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church. I encourage you, whether lay person or church member, to visit their website, check out what its about, and join.

maybe the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence

Sometimes I get terribly frustrated with the United Methodist denomination. Steve McCoy is a young Souther Baptist pastor in Woodstock, Illinois, who happens to be from Pontiac (where I serve). He has recently started a series of blog posts called "Reasons Why I Hate Us". Grass may or may not be greener on the other side of the fence.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

UMC on abortion

I spoke with a friend who is in training to become a United Methodist Pastor, and he was telling me the torment he was experiencing over the UMC's stance on abortion, which he saw as condoning it. I decided to look up our statement, which I have included below. I have put in parentheses what I consider to be the least clear part of the statement.

The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.

Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.

We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption. (See ¶ 161.K.)

Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church -
2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.


Two questions I have are:
1) What is considered devastating damage? Could that be having to step down from the cheerleading squad? Or is that talking about the death of the mother?
2) What is considered an unacceptable pregnancy?

I hold the pro-life position. I'm not sure what we're trying to say with this "official statement" of the UMC. How do you other folks out there interpret this statement? (I'm not asking necessarily what your position is, but how you interpret this statement.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

James MacDonald on March Madness

I've really been enjoying (and coming close to having a heart attack because of) March Madness. I just came across this cool reflection about the NCAA Tournament by Dr. James McDonald of Walk in the Word/Harvest Bible Chapel. Here's a blurb:

Here's a few thoughts on why it's so thrilling and what we might learn from that:

1) The players are unselfish and far more humble than professional athletes who often put their own ego needs ahead of the team.
2) The players are in the game for team pride and the pure joy of competing they do not receive any financial incentive to compete.
3) The players have the unspoiled enthusiasm of youth. They each truly believe that they can beat the 'goliath' and go all the way.
4) Most of the players will never compete as professionals so they throw themselves at the objective with no thought for the future.
5) There are no seven games series or 82 game seasons. It's all on the line every time they take the court. They compete with total abandon because losing means going home.

I love March Madness and plan to watch a lot of games, but it's hard not to wonder what would happen if we lived for Christ the way the athletes play the NCAA Tourney.

1) What if we competed with total commitment to the team and zeroed our individual ego needs?
2) What if we ignored financial incentive and lived for the reward of pleasing Christ alone?
3) What if we faced and tackled the giants that tower over us with great faith in God, unspoiled by the failures of the past?
4) What if we lived this day as though it was our last?
5) What if we gave our all to Jesus today, not reserving energy for future battles or maintaining other priorities?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

we cannot save ourselves

Yesterday morning as I was driving to work I heard Charles Osgood commenting on global warming:
Andrew Weaver a climate scientist at the University of Victoria says ideas of tinkering with the earth's air water and sunlight to fight global warming remind him of a children's' book, "The King, The Mice and the Cheese" by Nancy and Eric Gurney. The story goes like this. A king's castle is infested with MICE. So the king brings in cats to kill the mice. When the castle is overrun with cats he calls in dogs to get rid of the cats. To get rid of the dogs he called in Lions. To get rid of he lions he brought in elephants. And finally to get rid of the elephants he brought in mice, until they were back to where they started. Weaver says before we take any of these extreme measures to sward off global ewe should read that book and take its lessons to heart. So many of the problems of the word are the unintended consequences of well meant solutions to other problems.
There's no doubt the human race is in an ongoing predicament. The predicament as I understand it is that the human race cannot save itself. We need a source of salvation that is outside the realm of what we can fabricate. So, Christ is the only option.

Peter admonishes in Acts 3:19-21, "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago."

Monday, March 19, 2007

only 100,000,000 to go (in the USA, that is)

George Barna's latest research shows that there are roughly one hundred million unchurched people in the United States. Here's a blurb from the article:

Life in America has changed greatly since 1994, with massive changes in technology, global politics, lifestyle choices and family dynamics. But one constant has been the proportion of adults in the population who are unchurched. During that period there have been noteworthy shifts in religious behavior, but the percentage of adults who have steered clear of churches for at least the past six months has remained stable since 1994.

A new survey released by The Barna Group, which has been tracking America’s religious behavior and beliefs since 1984, reveals that one out of every three adults (33%) is classified as unchurched - meaning they have not attended a religious service of any type during the past six months. While that figure is considerably higher than the one out of five who qualified as unchurched in the early Nineties, it is statistically unchanged since 36% were recorded as having avoided religious services in the company’s 1994 study.
One line in the article confuses me. It reads: "Within the various faith communities residing in the U.S., Christians are the most consistent church goers."

I'm wondering why one would be a "church goer" at all if he weren't a Christian, let alone a "consistent church goer."

Friday, March 16, 2007

the cost of parenting

At my wife's request, I'm reading Shepherding a Child's Heart, a book about biblical parenting. I'm not quite as into reading parenting books as my wife is. To be honest, when we finally get the kids to bed, I don't want to think about discipline techniques and all that anymore. However, as I've been reading this book by Tedd Tripp, I've been very convicted. Here's a passage I read last night where Tripp talks about the cost of parenting:
Parenting is your primary calling. Parenting will mean that you can't do all the things that you could otherwise do. It will affect your golf handicap. It may mean your home does not look like a picture from Better Homes and Gardens. It will impact your career and ascent on the corporate ladder. It will alter the kind of friendships you will be able to pursue. It will influence the kind of ministry you are able to pursue. It will modify the amount of time you have for bowling, hunting, television, or how many books you can read. It will mean that you can't develop every interest that comes along. The costs are high. (p.97)
To give you an idea of where this book falls along the theological spectrum, here's a quote off the back cover by Pastor John MacArthur:
"With the plethora of material on parenting and the family, it is surprising- and distressing- to see how few books are genuinely biblical. Here is a refreshing exception. Tedd Tripp offers solid, trustworthy, biblical help for parents. If you are looking for the right perspective and preactical help, you won't find a more excellent guide."

GOD BLESS THE FIGHTING ILLINI!

I love this picture of Fighting Illini seniors Warren Carter and Marcus Arnold celebrating after it was announced they'd be playing in the NCAA tournament one last time. Tonight at 6:10pm CDT they will play what I hope will not be the last game of their college basketball careers against Virginia Tech. May my team win!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

sermons online

Dale, Barb, and Troy, three servants of Christ, have done a great job in this new year of making the sermons preached at Pontiac FUMC available on the Internet. If you are having a hard time falling asleep at night and you've already read the phone book cover to cover, you might want to try listening to one of my sermons online. It might just do the trick.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the source of Stonewall's courage

My wife came across this cool quote from Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson. He was once asked about his incredible courage going into battle. He replied:
"Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."

the Word-centered church

I came across this great article by Dr. Jeff VanGoethem at East White Oak Bible Church, where he lays out different models of church. The one that I am the most drawn to is what VanGoethem calls "The Word-centered Church." He writes of the Word-centered Church:
This church begins with biblical truth and seeks to build its ministry through applying foundational scriptural truths to the modern ministry context. This kind of church seeks authentic spiritual experience and calls for committed discipleship. In its best expressions this is not a model merely concerned with careful biblical scholarship and Bible teaching but also with the animation and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It takes its cue from what Jesus said about true worshippers: they “must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). There is often a concern for ministry heritage and a reverence for God’s presence in Christian history but there is also a realization that the church must be driven by its biblical mission. It is not strictly traditional. Therefore these churches are free to explore different methods and programs provided they bring greater effectiveness in accomplishing key biblical objectives. So this kind of church is not indifferent to methods but neither is it as trendy or enamored with the newest fads as are seeker or mega churches. Everything must be weighed in light of accomplishing scriptural objectives.

Monday, March 12, 2007

the gospel according to Holden Caulfield

Last week I checked out J.D. Salinger's classic book The Catcher in the Rye from the public library. I had never read it before. I'd only heard about it. But for some reason I checked it out and read it. The whole book is written in the first person, and is about a young man named Holden Caulfield who has just been kicked out of yet another expensive prep school. Before his parents find out, he decides to take a weekend and enjoy New York City (where his parents and little sister live). There's quite a bit of cussing in the book, something I didn't really know to expect. However, I enjoyed it and recommend it as a worthwhile read because of the impact its had as a piece of literature and because it gives good insight into mind of young people who are wrestling with aimlessness and depression.

Here's a paragraph that I realy enjoyed where Holden addresses the issues of Jesus, Judas, hell, and ministers.
Finally, though, I got undressed and got in bed. I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn't do it. I can't always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I'm sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, If you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was still alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better that the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like the best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was the lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor b*st*rd. I used to get in quite a few arguments about it, when I was at the Whooton School, with this boy that lived down the corridor, Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a very nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, expecially the Disciples. He kept telling me that if I didn't like the Disciples, then I didn't like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked them, but that He picked them at random. I said He didn't have time to go around analyzing everybody. I sad I wasn't blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn't his fault that He didn't have any time. I remember I asked old Childs if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide. Childs said certainly. That's exactly where I disagreed with him. I said I'd bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell. I still would, too, if I had a thousand bucks. I think any one of the Disciples would've sent him to Hell and all - and fast, too - but I'll bet anything Jesus didn't do it. Old Childs said the trouble with me was that I didn't go to church or anything. He was right about that, in a way. I don't. In the first place, my parents are different religions, and all the children in our families are atheists. If you want to know the truth, I can't even stand ministers. The ones they've had at every school I've gone to, they all have these Holy Joe voices when they start giving their sermons. God, I hate that. I don't see why the hell they can't talk in their natural voice. They sound so phony when they talk.
Anyway, when I was in bed, I couldn't pray worth a d*mn.
A bit of trivia I found at Wikipedia : "Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana, was seen carrying The Catcher In The Rye just days prior to his suicide. It is said to have been his favorite book."

Friday, March 09, 2007

a must-read conversation between two high profile evolutionists

I just came across a year-old article by Rick Pearcey describing how evolutionist Michael Ruse was very concerned with what might be the "knee-jerk atheism" of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennet.

This is a must read conversation between two very popular evolutionists who are in sharp disagreement. Dr. Michael Ruse cusses quite a bit in it, just to warn you.

infant baptism

In this article, Dr. Ray Pritchard shares the story of witnessing his first infant baptism recently. Its a very thoughtful article written from the perspective of someone who doesn't believe that infants should be baptized.

In the article, he gives three objections that many folks have toward infant baptism:
1) There is no example of infant baptism in the New Testament.
2) There is no command to baptize babies in the New Testament.
3) Many people who have been baptized as infants believe they are going to heaven because a priest or a pastor sprinkled some water on their forehead when they were a few weeks old.
While I am part of a denomination that practices infant baptism, I can especially relate to his third objection, and think about it nearly every time I perform an infant baptism. I explain that this is not a guarrantee or means of salvation, but I often worry that people believe it is anyway.

hiroshima

This week I read John Hersey's classic book Hiroshima, which details the dropping of the atomic bomb Little Boy on that Japanese city on August 6, 1945, and the suffering that followed. The depiction in this passage stands out in my mind the most vividly:
On his way back with the water, [Father Kleinsorge] got lost on a detour around a fallen tree, and as he looked for his way through the woods, he heard a voice ask from the underbrush, "Have you anything to drink?" He saw a uniform. Thinking there was just one soldier, he approached with the water. When he had penetrated the bushes, he saw there were about twenty men, and they were all in exactly the same nightmarish state: their faces wholly burned, their eyesockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks. (p.51)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

uncommon descent

I came this article at a cool website called Uncommon Descent. In one of the comments the writer says "Transitional forms are alot like beauty; they are in the eye of the beholder."

sermon preparation by John Stott

Here's a great blog post by Joshua Harris where he summarizes John Stott's teachings about sermon preparation. I've included the main points without explanation below.
Preparing a Sermon
1. Choose your text and meditate on it.

2. Ask questions of the text.

3.Combine diligent study with fervent prayer.

4. Isolate the Dominant Thought of the Text.

5. Arrange Your Material to Serve the Dominant Thought

6. Remember the Power of Imagination--Illustrate!

7. Add Your Introduction

8. Add Your Conclusion

9. Write Down Your Sermon

10. Edit it Again

11. Pray over Your Message

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

fossil record discredits darwin

In 1979, world renowned paleontologist David Raup said this:

Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded ... ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information ... ("Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 50 [1], p. 24, 25)


Its seems some paleontologists gave up on Darwin long ago. Sadly, most of the public is not aware of the inadequacy of the fossil record to back up Darwinian evolution.

Monday, March 05, 2007

aggressive atheists

Sam Harris is a hot new aggressive atheist. Folks like him and Richard Dawkins make Christians look so tame.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

evolution - the religion

Michael Ruse, a well-known evolutionist and expert in the field of the philosophy of science says this:
Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion -- a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint -- and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it -- the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
This quote is taken from Ruse's article HOW EVOLUTION BECAME A RELIGION, which appeared Saturday, May 13, 2000 in the National Post. You can read the rest of the article here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

integrity and meaning

In the last week, I've read two really good books.

The first one was integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality, by Henry Cloud. From years of coaching and consulting, he has come to the realization that while competency is definitely important if a person is going to achieve any level of success, that without character, competency won't cut it. He demonstrates how very competent individuals who lack character will eventually sabotage everything that they have worked for. He says that strong character goes far beyond merely "not screwing things up" by being dishonest or sexually unfaithful.

The book is built on an outline of six aspects of strong character. The kind of character he is describing:
1. Creates and maintains trust
2. Is able to see and face reality
3. Works in a way that brings results
4. Embraces negative realities and solves them
5. Causes growth and increase
6. Achieves transcendence and meaning in life (xii).

This book has a lot of good stuff in it. I read it fairly fast, realizing that I could spend a year studying it. I commend it to you as containing vital information, but not necessarily as an easy read. However, even if you read it quickly, the big picture that he paints of character which "meets the demands of reality" (p.24) will be useful for the rest of your life.

The second book that I read was Man's Search for Meaning. I've heard about this classic little book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl for years, and finally got around to reading it yesterday.

This was a tremendously moving retelling of Frankl's concentration camp experience, but went on to describe the realizations about finding meaning in life as a result of those experiences. As a psychiatrist, Frankl describes what he feels was lacking in Freud's psychoanalytical approach, which seemed to mainly focus on dissecting and dealing with the past.

He puts forth a new approach, termed logotherapy, which focuses on helping a person finding a transcendent meaning in his life which is unique to him and which goes beyond self-actualization. I'm still unpacking this book and will be for a long time. A good, powerful, quick read.