Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Glenn Beck parking prank

Some jokers in Florida pulled a parking prank on Glenn Beck friends who came to hear him speak.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

John Piper's sabbatical

It came across my desk on a Christianity Today email that Dr. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church was taking a sabbatical leave for renewal beginning May 1 and going through December 2010. So I went to his blog Desiring God and read a beautiful account of a soul in need of rest and refocus. While there are a lot of theological points and positions I disagree with John Piper on, he is my brother in Christ and I pray for his full renewal.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Watching a Bella Fleck movie

Tired of Blaming (& blamers)?

I read a book today. I picked it up and could not put it down. It's a short book with large font (115 pages) called QBQ: the question behind the question, what to really ask yourself to eliminate blame, complaining and procrastination. The author is John Miller. It is a book written just for me, helping me re-frame situations by asking better questions. I won't summarize it other than by saying the focus is on me and what I can do about me.

Beach Time with Liz

Liz and I spent lots of beach time today, walking and sitting (below) and then camped out at Butterfly reading, snoozing, swimming and boogey-boarding in some nice waves. She hopes to return to Minneapolis with some sun.

On the beach with Liz

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Palm Sunday Parade

Palm Sunday is a funny Sunday for the church. It's a parade with an execution in the middle of it. We have a hard time celebrating when we know we have to go through Maundy Thursday, the betray and the gruesome events of the arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion of Christ. WE can hardly wait for Sunday.
But the Palm Sunday parade is not a mistake by Jesus. he knew what he was doing and why.

Westmont's new track!

Church Refugees

They were leaving the church. The couple came in to the pastor and told him that they would no longer be attending the church where he served. He told me this with a sense of bewilderment. This had been an active and supporting couple, involved over the years in many significant areas of ministry. Their kids were grown and gone. They seemed happy and positive. Now they were leaving.
When he talked with them, they had no idea where they were going. They were not unhappy with his leadership or preaching. There was no theological, social or political issue the troubled them. Then they said something to him that caught my ear: "We want to just worship and not do anything." That nailed it.
Over many years of ministry in four different churches I know those friends. I've seen them show up at church, often during the first hymn (song-set). They sit near the back and leave during the last song. They have stories; some of them quite painful of being burned out in their former church. Some over the years were former staff persons. One person told me that when staff persons leave mega-churches, they don't go to other churches, they just stop going to church. True? I don't know. But it both telling and painful.
Some of the blame goes to the church system that so overloads people that when they think of church they think of another endless committee, cluttered process and continual demands for more. I can be guilty as a senior pastor of never being satisfied with where we are and who is here and always looking for what's next? But some of the problem is in a Christian culture that sees church and spirituality as a consumable, a product I purchase just for me.
Is it ever possible to just worship and not do anything? Do I ever dare think I can come into the presence of the Holy God and do nothing?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grits n Shrimp!!!

Being married to a Southerner has always had its challenges. All things "Northern" are usually suspect. All US history begins in Jamestown VA. Other places that claim to be "Southern" if they are not within Virginia are also suspect.

But when it comes to food...Oh it's another thing altogether. Tonight Martha cooked a recipe of cheese grits and shrimp and other veggies from the garden that just killed me!! It was too good to believe. I guess I'll put up with the abuse a little longer!

Honest Hymns?

I came across a blog that listed "honest" hymn-titles:

I Surrender, Some

Fill My Spoon, Lord 

Oh, How I Like Jesus 

I Love to Talk About Telling the Story 

Take My Life and Let Me Be 

Where He Leads Me, I Will Consider Following 

Sit Up, Sit Up for Jesus 

A Comfy Mattress Is Our God 

Oh, for a Couple of Tongues to Sing 

Go Tell It on the Speed Bump 

My Faith Looks Around for Thee 

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Somewhere Near Me

Blest Be the Tie that Doesn't Cramp My Style

Observing Grief

This has been a momentous season for me; officiating at and watch all three children get married and launch their own independent lives. Watching my mother-in-law and father die. Experiencing the vulnerability of being in a fire zone and the helplessness as massive fires spread and move through a community.
Now I'm observing my son and daughter-in-law grieve a good friend and peer, Peder Hedberg who died too young. I recall viscerally my first experience of a friend's death, Greg Abelson, at about their age. Death belongs to old people, not vibrant and active young people. Death belongs to strangers in far away places, not to those in active videos and bubbling laughter. Death should be anonymous, not have familiar names attached.
But we know it does and it robs innocence and leaves scars, first in the hearts of his parents and family who never expected to bury a son. Then among his healthy and active friends who will feel pain deeper than they ever had before. And so it must be. Thanks be to God who alone brings us victory over this enemy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Preaching Guidelines

I was asked to bring a devotional message to an area Christian elementary school. I love being able to get into the wider community and preach. So the principal sent me the "speakers' guidelines". At first reading, I was a little put off by the negative and maybe even "condescending" attitude. But then I reflected on who this audience is and the administration's care about worship. And upon further reflection I wished I had received these kind of guidelines in seminary or my early years of preaching. Take a look and translate them into your arena:

Guidelines for Outside Speakers

1. Please remember that the children range in age from 5 to 14. Therefore, please do not discuss topics that are outside of their comprehension.

2. As per our bylaws, we do not expose children to moral issues such as sex education, drug awareness, AIDS prevention, etc.

3. Please do not tell stories about people who died violently or suddenly.

4. Please keep the talk focused on Scripture rather than on stories. We use the New International Version of the Bible.

5. Please do not relate stories of poor choices made by you (e.g., as a teenager or before becoming a Christian). These stories might be interpreted by the students as “fun” and have the opposite effect desired.

6. Students will focus better if you bring an object and do an object lesson. They also tend to stay more focused if you move around while speaking.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

The last of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chain Reaction

Sabbath Rest or New Legalism

In an article in the New York Times on March 17th Austin Considine commented on a new Jewish practice for sabbath keeping: no cell-phoning, texting, face-booking, emailing. Here's what the article said:
The experiment, which lasts from sundown Friday, March 19, to sundown Saturday, is the brainchild of Reboot (rebooters.net), a nonprofit think tank of hip, media-savvy Jewish professionals, based in New York, with staff members in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
What about you? How much rest can you get if your computer and smart-phone (even dumb-phone) are on?

Gnosticism Today!

Thomas Long's book "Preaching from Memory to Hope" describes an atmosphere and trend that is very prevalent in the church today as gnosticism. He labels as "gnostic" four themes that sound out in the church:
1. Humanity is saved by knowledge. We are really not enslaved to sin as much as lacking enough information to know better. "The human problem is not sin but ignorance" and the temptation for us who preach is to dole out the data, tips and suggestions "how to....." better.
2. Antipathy toward incarnation and embodiment. "Contemporary gnostics are allergic to flesh and embodiment, to history and structure." Wow! That hits home with the anti-institutional, anti-organizational sentiment I bump into all the time. These are good people hungry for experiences and moments of illumination, but wary of any external structure, and creed, any historic organization. The "Word" doesn't dwell among us full of grace and truth as much as float above us.
3. A focus on the spiritual inner self and "divine spark" within. Again this is an over-emphasis on the individualism of the spiritual quest and ignoring the community, the body of Christ. The structure of the church becomes a distracting impediment to spiritual growth and all we want to do is get away and be alone with Jesus.
4. An emphasis on the present spiritual reality rather than eschatological hope. Gnosticism has no history and no validation of time. Instead it leans into the eternal now, this present moment. It is impatient with waiting for God to come but expects immediate gratification of communion with God directly.
Long says "God is not seen as the mysterium tremendum, an awesome and holy presence approached in humility with eyes shielded and shoes off; God is viewed as the loquacious next-door neighbor, always in a rocker on the porch, always near, always accessible, always wanting to talk, and always eager to be known."
What Long pushes us who are preachers to do is preach the text, the full text.

Kudos to Gary!

I was excited to read the first column by Gary Walter, the president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, in the monthly magazine "Covenant Companion" under the heading Compass Bearings. Gary is a great communicator and I've been eager to hear more from him more regularly. As a local church pastor I need to know where and what the denominational leadership is going, thinking, pondering and considering doing. Thanks Gary for doing this for us all!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Up-Date from Lisa in Las Vegas

I just received the picture below and attached note from Lisa in Las Vegas after a very exciting day of mission and ministry:

We got into Vegas late last night. Thought we were at the right hotel.... Oh nope. Even wrong Chain!!! Good thing the family that set us up with rooms are wonderful and didn't mind me calling them at home to see where our reservations were at.

Amastad Covenant Church is the new church plant we are partnering with here in Las Vegas. A youth group from Orange, CA also came this weekend. They are a bilingual church also looking to join our denomination. There are about 24 of us total today.

We split into 2 groups. One went to the swapmeet. The group made balloon animals at the swap meet. They gave away balloon animals and shared the gospel and invited people to an outreach dinner. Probably 300 people came through.

The other group helped at a portable food kitchen that has been serving this neighborhood every Saturday for the past 9 years. Calvary Chapel in las Vegas is the supporting church. We fed 200 this morning.

Tonight we are hosting a dinner for 180 - 220 where our church MoCo has sponsored the cost of the meal. Amastad is going to share about their new church plant and share the gospel and worship. Just found out I might be sharing my testimony tonight too. Nothing like last minute planning.

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

How do you get across the idea of "gentleness" visually? A nest. Martha and Jeanne talked with me about the word for Sunday, the fruit of the spirit called "gentleness" and arrived at a nest. Why a nest? Where is an egg or bird safer than in a nest, being brooded over, fed and protected by the mother? And a nest is an image of a fierce and strong "gentleness" that will readily use force to protect the young, to keep the nest safe.
When I am with Jesus, I know both his gentleness with me, his strength and safety.

A New Kind of Mission Trip

Spring break mission trips have been a staple for churches and colleges for years. I have led and participated in many over my years. Last year I joined Lisa Holmlund in an eye-opening high school trip that went south to Los Angeles, San Diego, then north to San Francisco and Sacramento, exploring the multiple ways Christians did mercy and justice locally. We ended up getting a personal tour of San Quentin Prison!!
This year Lisa ramped it up and is focussing on what innovative ministries and missions are going on in Las Vegas; from the drain people to triple-x church. It happens to correspond with Covenant church planting initiatives in Las Vegas as well. So look here for postings of their latest discoveries!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Needing Special Music Sunday?

Fruit of the Spirit: gentleness

Do you remember the days of tele-marketers? The days before caller ID? The days before the “do not call” lists? It was one of those days when all our kids were home and we were struggling for the semblance of a family dinner routine (not easy). When the phone rang, I picked it up. It was a tele-marketer beginning her script. I interrupted her and barked: Our family is just sitting down to a meal. Do you realize what time this is? I’d like your home number so I can call you later tonight when we are done with meals and meetings and then I can interrupt your evening with a phone call about whatever it is that you are saying!

The tele-marketer was silent. I hung up the phone proudly and returned to the table, where our daughter looked up at me with big eyes and said one word “Ouch!” I was mean and she saw her dad’s meanness. “Dad, she was just doing her job.” There was no justifying argument for my behavior. I was anything but gentle and I apologized to the whole family for my outburst .

The 8th Fruit of the Holy Spirit is Gentleness. Where have you experienced compelling gentleness? And where have you struggled with gentleness? In what ways is gentleness something that comes naturally? And how is gentleness something you genuinely dislike? If, between now and Sunday you have a gentleness illustration or story, send it to me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some Good News

My son Isaac shares one of my deeply held practices: coffee consumption. Note that I do not call this either a habit or addiction, but a practice. A practice is an intention action for a purposeful goal. Some make fun of the amount of coffee I drink. My paternal grandfather drank 8-10 cups of coffee up to his death in his upper 80's. Think I'm rationalizing and justifying? Then read this

Stumbling into mystery

It was an ordinary Confirmation class. This is a great group of kids and one parent. Martha and I are enjoying teaching the class together as we go through the Covenant material tracing the life of Jesus.
Last night we examined Pentecost and the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit, which prompted the discussion of the age-old diagram of the Trinity. You know the one that says Jesus, Holy Spirit and Father are all God, but that Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father are not each other. As these 7th and 8th graders looked at the diagram, their faces screwed up into tight knots of intensity. "How exactly does that work?" one asked. In spite of 30 years of teaching confirmation and being a pastor, my words smacked right into this mystery again. I confessed that I did not know all the how's and why's of Trinity, but experience and bear witness to it.
They left somewhat satisfied, while I am still rubbing my head in wonder at this sustaining mystery! Thank you God for 7th & 8th graders!

John Rodkey's Take-Off!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Who Said Good Music Was Dead?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Facebook: pay attention

Randall Stross wrote a piece in Sunday's NYT's about some significant growth within Facebook. Users in 2007 numbered 50 million. Today there are 400 million active users. More than 50% of Facebook users in the USA are 35 and up, with only 26.8% under 24. The average Facebook user has 130 friends. And Facebook's game FarmVille attracts 83 million users per/month! During the month of January 2010, users spent about 7 hours on Facebook (how many Sundays in that month?). Use time is growing at 10% per month, while Google fell by 14.3%, Yahoo by 27% and Microsoft by 26.%

Jesse Rice "gets it" in the book "The Church of Facebook". Rice observes Facebook offering connection in a way the church used to do and calling it "community" and "friends". It's not bad, but it is ...is. I'd love to see an online forum, Midwinter, Covenant Companion address and get up in front of this socio-technological trend.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Picture of the Missional Church

My friend Brad Boydston found this video that eloquently illustrates where we need to (and are) going.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Galatians 5:22,23: Faithfulness

The 7th of the 9 Fruits of the Spirit is Faithfulness. What could be more faithful than the bread and the cup at the table?

Kick-Back Church

"Why Go to Church?" was the title of the panel discussion I was invited to participate in at a dorm at Westmont College. The panel discussion began at 8pm and I was one of four participants. Two were distinguished professors of philosophy and church history, myself and then the leader of a new church called "Kick-Back" at UCSB.
We were invited to share our background (2 PhD's, one MDiv and one Bachelor's degree in process). We were erudite and he was a bit bewildered. The story of the Kick-BAck church was that none of his friends would go to a "regular" church, so he invited them to his apartment on Sunday mornings, opened the Bible and random and kicked back and talked about the Bible.
I felt sorry for him; no degree, no seminary, no sense of church history or theology, no denominational support system, no organizational chart, constitution. It is a melt-down waiting to happen. He did not contribute much to the conversation other than agreeing with the professors and me. He was really nice and I offered him my card in case he aver needed to talk with someone.
But I have not been able to get this "kid" out of my mind. What impresses me is how seriously he takes the Bible and his assumption that he can read and understand it without a trained professional. I am sure he will get into trouble, discover residual heresies, deal with community conflict, etc.
But when I look at his cohort that I see on Sunday mornings, I am impressed. He does not see himself as a consumer target group that is shopping for a church with the best music, preaching and programs (not to mention food!). He's not sleeping in on Sundays and attending church only when he feels like it. He is the church. He's doing church (rough as it appears) and he's full of the Spirit of God.

Martha's Nemesis!

I was walking through campus today and some motion caught my eye. A gopher was poking its head through its hole. I got very close to get this picture. These are the creatures that drive Martha simply crazy!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Wisteria at the gate


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The view from 435 miles up!

Newest shots from NASA

Soup Supper Tonight!!

"Nice Screensaver"

Courtesy of my son Isaac

Loving Bin Laden

Few magazines I read are as spiritual provoking and challenging as is Mission Frontiers, that is published by the U. S Center for World Missions in Pasadena, California. I began reading it in the 1980's after meeting its founder, the late Dr. Ralph Winters. His opening editorials were deeply challenging and scripturally substantial. I grieved his death, not because I knew him well, but because I didn't think anyone could write and provocatively about world missions. His successor, Rick Wood, is consistently hitting home runs, especially in the current issue entitled "Loving Bin Laden: what does Jesus expect us to do?" Here are some quotes from Rick that grabbed my heart and mind:
"Jesus is welcome, but our Christianity is not."
"Muslims like Jesus but not our Christianity."
"It is time for us to stop calling ourselves 'Christians.'" (!)
"Bashing Islam and Muhammad is not an effective strategy."
It's worth taking the time to print out and read, or better yet, subscribe.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Good morning for coffee at the beach

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