Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is a Christian Video Game a Good idea?

I came across the following news story today about a "Christian" video game -see In this game, which is based upon the Left Behind books, players try to kill or convert those non-Christians who are left behind after the Rapture. For the record, the rapture and left behind concept does not seem to match up with Scripture. But I was just wondering whether a Christian video game was a good idea or not.

On the one hand, it is good to bring God into every aspect of our lives. For those who spend hours playing video games, it would be good to reminded of Christian things. However, killing non-Christians is not a Christian concept. I guess I would have to play the game myself to better understand it. What do you guys think?

By the way, there is a new format for this blogger program, so you will have to re-register your name under the google format (see where you post). It just takes a half a second. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Recommended book--Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul

I wanted to recommend a great book on Christian Spirituality--Death by Suburb by Dave L. Goetz. Have you ever:
- Found yourself feeling smug because your neighbor's 13 year old kid says, "Cool car" when you got your new SUV?
- Signed up to help with the youth, only when your kid hit the youth group and never before?
- Found yourself afraid to enter Dollar General?
- Stayed up all night to finish your 6th graders' science project, while he was in the other room playing Nintendo?
- Lived vicariously through your kids?
- Given your eight year old a $2000 birthday party?
- Shopped around for a church that had the best programs for your kids, rather than asking, what church needs me most?

If any of these hit you, you will want to read this book. It has had a big impact upon my wife Becki and I. I grew up in the suburbs and minister in a suburban church. The struggles of suburban Christians are superficiality, materialism, self-centeredness, shallow relationships, worship of children, and lack of service. Goetz writes in a funny, caustic style with brutal self-disclosure and honesty. You will love this book.

What struggles do you see in suburban Christians?

Here is the link to amazon for this book.

New sign-In for comments, with better features!

Hello faithful readers/participants. I switched to the new blogger version which has better features. You will need to re-do your sign-in, this time with google. (I think that google bought or something.) When you comment, it will give instructions on doing this. Takes about a half a second. Let me know if you have any trouble. Thanks!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Nativity Story is banned in Chicago

On Dec. 16, at 2:00 PM at the Liberty 12 Cinema, we were rent out a movie and go see "The Nativity Story" for an outreach event. Last year we did this with the Narnia film, and we had 100 members and 80 visitors go. Several came to worship with us that next Sunday, and some are still with us today. Praise God!

This ia a great opportunity to come and invite a friend. Tickets are $6 for members and $2 for guests. Let us know how many tickets you want.
This outreach will include a three week follow-up preaching series on Christ's birth. Interestingly, this series will actually meld will into the Exiles preaching series we have been doing.
Fox News had a recent headline that said: "Chicago Christmas Festival Nixes 'Nativity Story' Ads Over Fears of Offending Non-Christians" Part of the story is below.

CHICAGO — A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says. Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians.

New Line Cinema, which said it was dropped, had planned to play a loop of the new film on televisions at the event. The decision had both the studio and a prominent Christian group shaking their heads. Read the full story at,2933,232239,00.html.
Unbelievable, huh? The Christ story is offensive to America. Just another piece of evidence that we are a people "living in exile." What do you think this ban says about our nation?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We have much to be thankful for in Christ

Well, it is about Thanksgiving time. Normally, it would be our turn to go to Becki's mother's for Thanksgiving, but she just moved to Colorado. So we are going to two friends' houses for Thanksgiving, and then getting together with some neighbors on Friday. Two Thanksgiving meals--I know, it is quite a sacrifice!

Thanksgiving is always a good time to reflect on how blessed we are. Very, very few people in the world have a car, something we take for granted. Or even food--we struggle with too much food. Or clothing--we feel generous when we give away our "extra" clothing each year. Or religious freedom. Or an intact, loving family.

We are most blessed, however, because of Christ. Let us not forget him!

Pass the sweet potatoes, please . . .

Thursday, November 16, 2006

OJ Simpson's "Confession"--Should he find forgiveness?

O.J. Simpson has written a book explaining how if he had killed Nicole Brown Simpson, this is how he did it. There is also an upcoming television interview of Simpson on this.

Can you imagine Simpson's children reading a book in which their father describes in detail how he killed their mother? Either Simpson is a totally insane, sick individual, or he is so wracked with guilt, that he is finding a way to confess. That he got a $3 million book deal out of this seems to point towards the former.

But as twisted as this is, commentators have been calling Simpson "sub-human" or less than human. His actions are abhorrent, but he is still made in the image of God. And that means that he does have value and worth in God's eyes. And forgiveness can be found even for people Simpson. That is the hard to believe truth of the gospel.

What do you think about Simpson and forgiveness?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Fall of Evangelical Leader Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard, the president of a huge evangelical association and the pastor of a 14,000 member church, resigned last week amid allegations of sexual misconduct. This has led to the already rising chorus of thsoe who reject Chrisitians as hypocrites. On a side note, it turns out that Haggard also had written a diet book, and some interesting "reviews" have shown up on amazon. You have to check these "reviews" out. See

Dr. Archibald Hart at Fuller has some insights into why so many high profile figures, both religious leaders and CEO types, are involved in radical acts of immorality. The adrenaline high and stress that is caused from these positions is numbing and addictive, causing normal pleasure to have no effect. It takes more and more stimulus for the brain to feel any pleasure, and only this risky behavior qualifies. This is not an excuse, but an explanation. I’m sure that these are good men and women who did not go into ministry intending to be duplicitous.

For me, this is yet another reason to move away from the idolization of megachurches. These churches do great good, but the pressure is simply too high for most of us mortal leaders to handle. The more we are lauded, the greater the pressure, and the more likely we will act out. Satan is at work too, and loves scandals like these. We should pray for Ted Haggard and his family.

Monday, November 06, 2006

How do you create close friendships?

Americans are starving for close friendships. This is particularly true with men, as 90% of American males say that they have no close friends. So in churches, the concept of "community"--which is a biblical concept--has a great ring to it. We hunger for community.

But how do we create these close feelings and close friends? Friendships come through shared experiences. And for men, close friendships are usually developed through doing things together. Witness the number of men who show up at a church "work day." Men need a mission, and when they do things together, they draw closer together. C.S. Lewis said that men bond better by doing things side by side, rather than face to face.

This has great implications for how we do life groups. Many churches have life groups that meet and try to create close friendships by "sharing." There is a definitely a place for this, but a constant dose of this is off-putting for many introverts and many men. By serving together, doing community projects and the like, many will draw together in ways that are even more memorable. You can view this distinction as the difference between a family meeting time and a family vacation. The latter will usually draw a family together more.

What are some experiences that have drawn you closer to others? Road trips? Short term missions? Vacations together? Other?

New missional book by Alan Hirsch - The Forgotten Ways

I would like to recommend an excellent forthcoming book by Alan Hirsch, author of The Shaping of Things to Come. Alan's new book, The Forgoteen Ways, will be available in January 2007. It is available for pre-order at amazon -

I took a D.Min. class under Alan at Fuller this fall, and much of the class' material was taken from this book. I can testify that this work is outstanding. Alan looks at the explosive growth in the early church and the church in China and concludes that this growth potential is inherent amongst God's people for all time. He also gives a practical framework for how this growth might be re-activated in churches today. I will give a fuller analysis and summary of this book in a later post.

Check out Alan's new blog and website at More later. James

Friday, October 27, 2006

Starbucks discussion group/book talk is off the "ground"

Hey. Sorry for the delay. I have been battling a sinus infection. But enough about that.

Just wanted to give you an update on the Starbucks discussion group/book talk. Last Monday we met for the first time. While there, a great young man was sitting next to us. Overhearing our discussion, he expressed his interest in our group and will probably join us next week.

I also happened to mention the discussion group/book talk to the local OC alumni group. One of the members said that she had been looking for something like this, and plans to join us. We hope to welcome them both.

Isn't God amazing? When we go out, as we are called to do, he starts to open doors. If you would like to join us, we will meet again at 7:00 PM at the Starbucks this Monday, Oct. 30. If you are going to Monday Night for the Master, you can eat a meal up at the building at 6:00 PM, and then go over with us after this. This is a great opportunity to invite a friend to a natural, non-threatening setting for some good drink and discussion.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Christianity is about a lifestyle, not one hour a week

Do you feel sometime that something is missing in our "Christian" lives? So many times we divide Sunday morning from the rest of the week. One hour a week is sacred, and the rest is secular. Is this how Jesus saw life? No, he saw his whole life as a mission of God.

Michael Frost has developed a set of missional practices for their community to help them live the Christian life 24/7. They join together with one or two other Christian friends and seek to do the following together:

B-Bless the lives of 3 people each week (1 a Christian, 1 a non-Christian, 1 either);
E-Eat together with 3 others each week (1 Cbristian, 1 a non-Christian, 1 either);
L-Learn about Jesus’ life style by reading a gospel or reading about Jesus each week;
L-Listen to God’s voice each week;
S-Send—spend time in a “third place” each week (cafĂ©, coffeeshop, common interest group, etc.) to get to know non-Christians. Again, do this together with 1 or 2 Christian friends.

What kind of impact would this make upon the world and our own lives if we consistently adopted this lifestyle?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Discipleship comes through doing, not thinking

Greetings from California! i'm taking a Doctor of Ministry class with Alan Hirsch, author of The Shaping of Things to Come. It is an excellent work on the missional church.

Here is a thought on discipleship. How did Jesus create disciples? He didn't have them sit around and study concepts. He said, "Come, follow me." We think that information and study leads to transformation. It rarely does. Think about how many sermons we have heard. Then think about how many times this actually changed our behavior. Ouch.

We need to disciple not by saying, study this. We need to disciple by saying, Come alongside me and serve. Then, as we are "on the road," teaching moments come up. This behavior leads to a change of thinking. The problem is that most of us have never actually been discipled.

What percentage of things that we hear do you think that we actually put into practice?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Dark Side of Technology

It might be ironic that you are reading about "the dark side of technology" on the web. And I am like most other guys, fascinated by tech gadgets. But I wonder sometimes about how technology is affecting us. Some negative effects:

1) We are constantly on call.
With email and cell phones, work is always with us. This lack of boundaries is dangerous. We all need mental rest from work.

2) We take shortcuts in relationships.
Email is great for information and easy chatting. However, it stinks for intimacy or heated discussion. If 85% of communication is non-verbal, email leaves way too much room for misunderstanding. And there is a temptation to send an email--get out what we want to say--and not have to face the person with whom we are corresponding.

3) Time. TV watching per person per day is over 4 hours for the average viewer in the US. This has actually gone up, even while web surfing is going up dramatically. This means that we are spending less and less physical time with one another.

What are good and poor uses of technology in relationships and ministry today?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Starbucks bucks trend and gives generous benefits to workers

Last night on the "Big Idea with Donny Deutsch" (or whatever that guy's name is), the Chairman of Starbucks was on. He talked about how the company tried to really take care of their employees, offering full health benefits for part-time workers and stock buying. He said that he was shaped by the experience of his father being injured on the job and receiving no compensation.

Certainly companies are now offering much fewer benefits. Part of this is necessary to stay in business, but much of this seems driven by quarterly earnings reports and compensation at the top.

I usually have been "pro-growth" and the like, but shouldn't companies think about people as well as profits? As we talk about living missionally, how does this affect how Christians act in the workplace? Should we be driven by the bottom line or by people? What if this means risking our own job because we are not meeting numbers?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Exiles - Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture

Sorry for the posting delay! Blogger was apparently having problems last week. Upwards and onward!

Once Christians felt at home in the United States. Laws favored morality. Prayer was practiced in schools. Our civic leaders were expected to be Christian, and they always were. Churches were at the center of the town square, symbolizing their central place in society.Now, however, things have changed.

Laws are being overturned. Other faiths and moralities are not only tolerated, but promoted. Employers band Christian talk but celebrate alternative lifestyles. And many look everywhere but the church for Spirituality and are hostile towards Christians. We are in exile.

In an upcoming sermon series, I'll address these issues. I would love to hear from you on this. What challenges do you face as a Christian at work or at home? How can we best respond to these challenges?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What will people say at your funeral?

Last Monday night I went to Marysville to attend the funeral of Jim Wiggins. Jim was a long time member of the church and an incredible man. In fact, I have never been to a funeral where it was clear that someone was so universally loved--and I've been to a lot of funerals.

It got me thinking--wouldn't it be great to have the kind of legacy that Jim has? Kind of makes you think about your life, doesn't it? In the end, the only thing people will remember fondly are, did you love God, and, did you love people?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Impulsive Shopping

I read recently an online article named "5 Sneaky Mall Tricks." It detailed ways that shopping malls work to get us to spend more money than we originally planned.

One of those ways was putting escalators far apart so that you have to walk past more shops and items in order to get to the next escalator. In doing this, we will pass by items we didn't come to buy and buy them anyway.

Boy, we sure are easily manipulated! But we really shouldn't blame them--it is the materialism in us. Why do you think we are so impulsive in buying?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Bully" video game brings up issue of violence and media

Sorry for the publishing delay--I've spent the last five days dealing with a nasty bug. Anyway.

A news article today about a new video game coming out in October named "Bully" that is the subject of some controversy. At first, I thought perhaps that the player would be a bully, which would certainly promote bad behavior.

Instead, "the game's main character is 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, who must defend himself against school bullies at a fictional U.S. boarding school called Bullworth Academy, while dealing with characters ranging from nerds and jocks to authoritarian prefects."

I suppose that is not so bad, though this video game maker is also the maker of Grand Theft Auto--a violent and sexually graphic video game.

I grew up playing fantasy computer games, but they had no sexual content, were always good guys vs. bad guys, and were not so graphic in their violence. Do today's games cross the line? Do video games create violent tendencies in kids? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How can we use technology in church (in and out of worship)?

An artcle just released by Reuters said that diamonds are no longer a girl's best friend,. According to a new U.S. study, three of four women would prefer a new plasma TV to a diamond necklace. The study also found that women were found on average to own 6.6 technology devices while men own 6.9--a virtual tie, and a surprising reversal.

When women are preferring tech gadgets to diamonds, we know that we have reached a paradigm shift in our culture. Technology is becoming ubiquitous.

Which brings up issue of the church and technology. While we now have powerpoint displays, we are still pretty low-tech in most all of our churches. How could we use things such as the web, text messaging, imagery, etc. more effectively both inside and outside of our worship? (Matt, any ideas?)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Comparing Ourselves to Others

Hello, loyal readers. Sorry for the posting delay. Last week I was at the Biltmore Church of Christ in Asheville, North Carolina. I gave a "Missional Church" seminar there, which was very well received. Just so you know, I usually try to post a new thought by each Tuesday, with follow-up comments throughout the week.

I just read how Avery Johnson, the first-year head coach of the Dallas Mavericks is seeking reworking of his coaching contract. He is scheduled to make $2.5 MILLION dollars this year and the next two years. However, he took the Mavs to the NBA finals in only his first year as coach, and his coaching salary is in the bottom third of the league.

One sports writer said it well. This is not about money--$2.5 million is enough there--but about respect. And if someone else makes more, even if we are doing fine, and we feel that we are doing a better job, it bothers us. It's easy to pick on Avery, but we probably would feel the same thing in the same type of situation, right or wrong. Human nature.

Is it ever appropriate to compare ourselves to others?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reason or Experience--How do we know truth?

The dismissal of experience in discovering truth comes from our Enlightenment & Restoration Heritage. Is this, however, correct? I would say no on three levels.

1. In our everyday lives, we come to belief and truth primarily through experience.
When I was dating my wife, I did not merely accept a reasonable proposition that she would make a good mate for me. I experienced her--her presence, her laugh, her holding of my hand. In teaching Gina (our 5 year old daughter) to pray, I didn't teach her a proposition about God. I taught her to say prayers, and through that process she came to accept God as Father.

2. Scripture places a high value on experience.
Note these words from John:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.

The earliest Christians believed in Christ not because it was merely "reasonable," but primarily because they experienced Christ.

3. People today especially value experience in coming to know truth. Part of this is because "reasonable" people have committed horrible atrocities (i.e., Nazis), and reason has not prevented continued wars, hate crimes, etc. Part of this is because we get so many advertizements that the only way to know if something really works is to try it--or to listen to someone else who has tried it.

So, in order to convince people of the truth of Christianity, we must be able to point towards our experience. What positive experiences can we share with others that demonstrate the truth of our faith?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Are we "Clicking" Our Lives Away?

On Monday night, Becki and I went with some friends to see a movie. We had intended to see "Superman Returns," but there was not a showing at the time we needed. So we went to see "Click" with Adam Sandler

While billed as a comedy--and the film did have some funny moments--it turns sharply serious in the second half. In the film, Sandler's character receives a universal remote that controls the universe. With it he can pause or fast forward life. He ends up fast forwarding all the unpleasant parts of his life (arguments, showering, drugery at work, etc.), and in so doing, realizes that he has missed life itself.

About a month ago I caught myself actually wanting to fast forward my life two weeks, I had so much to get done. What does this say about us? Are we just too busy, or do we simply not value life enough? Aren't bad times better than a life unlived?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Churches in coffee shops & homes a growing trend

A recent article in the Christian Chronicle highlights the growing trend of churches meeting in non-traditional locales. For the full article, see The article states:

Prominent evangelical Christian researcher George Barna predicts that within 20 years, one-third of American church members will explore alternative forms of worship, such as home churches, workplace ministries or online faith communities. He suggests many Americans are leaving regular churches “precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church.”“They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience,” Barna said last year. “Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the church."

My thoughts--it seems that our normal, formal assemblies do not connect with younger generations. They miss the relational aspect of the church, and coffee shops and homes promote a relational atmosphere. The physicality of the worship assembly subconsciously communicates to us what is appropriate, and sitting in rows of pews communicates formality and an audience atmosphere. If we do not somehow address this, we risk losing the younger generations.

What do you think about coffee shop and house churches? And how can we make traditional church settings more relational?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Baptism-Saying "I Do"

Making the decision to trust God with our lives and become a follower of Jesus is hugely important. In the world we live in today, there are so many other options of whom to trust and follow.

There are the traditional siren calls of work, sex, money, and power, seeking to wreak havoc upon our lives and families. We live in a pluralistic world in which other religions are readily accessible. And then there is always the temptation to simply follow our own inner voice and compass, the advice given by “New Age” experts and self-help books. It is easy for our commitment to wane or disappear.

So how can we know that we have made the decision to follow Christ, particularly when we struggle with our commitment? The answer? Baptism.

Here, an analogy to marriage is helpful. Any two people who come together know that there are other fish in the sea. How do they know that each is committed to the other? Because there is a wedding ceremony, an exchange of rings, and an exchange of vows. And if the husband or wife wants to know if they have ever made a commitment to the other person, all he or she has to do is look at the wedding ring on his or her finger.

In the same way, baptism is our assurance that we have committed to Christ and that he has committed to us. Peter says, “. . . 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).

What has your baptism meant to you? Do you remember it when you encounter difficulty? Have you viewed it as a commitment?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gay Marriage Amendment-Part 2

With The Da Vinci Code, there has been a lot of talk about what the emperor Constantine did. I can tell you that, contrary to the book's claims, he did not collate the Bible (see my Sunday morning class). However, he did: legalize Christianity, give tax breaks to clergy, and make Sunday a day off. In short, he began the whole Christendom era, where Christians enjoy benefits from the government, such as favorable laws that support our faith and sense of morality.

Now, the Christendom era is being to disappear. And we don't like it. This is what is so upsetting about the gay marriage issue. We are not used to government being against us. I suppose I somewhat buy the idea that the courts are bucking the will of the people, and that an amendment is needed to ensure that this does not happen.

However, I am disturbed that this seems to be Christians' only response. Jesus did not pass a single law. He did not lobby a senator. He didn't try to change the Roman constitution, as if they had any. And he didn't give his disciples instructions to do so either (though I don't think it is wrong to vote). Instead, he sent his disciples out into the world to be salt and light. To change people's hearts through love and service. The problem isn't that there is a law allowing gay marriage, but that people want this type of lifestyle. This will never be changed through a law, but only through seeing Christ in us.

What do you think the primary response to gay marriage should be?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gay Marriage Amendment-Part 1

The Republicans are beating the drum of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. This is an issue that they dropped like a hot potato after the 2004 election, but now suspiciously is being taken back up 5 months before the 2006 elections and when President Bush's approval rating is at 30%. I'll leave the sincerity of these events to other bloggers. However, I do want to take up the issue of law and morality.

At one time, adultery was against the law. Also banned--all kinds of bedroom issues between married couples that today we would consider normal behavior. No one, however, is clamoring to go back to these times. I, of course, am not for gay marriage. I just wonder why we pick and choose our moral issues that we want encoded in law. I suspect that we want outlawed things which we know are not temptations for us, but do not want outlawed things which we might be tempted to do. Who, for instance, wants a law making it a crime to lie in everyday life?

What are your thoughts? What is the role of law and morality?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Illegal Immigration--What is a Christian position?

This past week I was reading an article on illegal immigration--a hot political topic--and something caught my attention. The author said that evangelicals (conservative Christians) were divided on illegal immigration, and this created uncertainty in the upcoming fall elections.

At first this struck me as strange that evangelicals would have an opinion on a non-moral issue like illegal immigration. I mean, do evangelicals have positions on the deficit, highway bills, or other non-moral issues? But I quickly reconsidered. Why wouldn't how we treat other human beings be considered a moral issue?

So, what then is a Christian position on illegal immigration. Should illegal immigrants be shipped back to their native country immediately, given temporary work permits, or given amnesty? What should Christians and churches do when they find an illegal immigrant?


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Feeling Forsaken by God

In Mark 15:34, Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I will be preaching on this text on Sunday. I would like to hear your thoughts on the following questions:
1. Why does Jesus feel forsaken? Is he actually forsaken on the cross, or is this just how he feels?

2. What causes people to feel forsaken by God today? How should we respond?


Monday, May 15, 2006

Do pretty people get more attention in the church?

A recent article stated this:
"Studies show attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts. But how much do looks matter at work ?The ugly truth, according to economics professors Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Jeff Biddle of Michigan State University, is that plain people earn 5 to 10 percent less than people of average looks, who in turn earn 3 to 8 percent less than those deemed good-looking."

Even babies are known to respond more positively to those with pretty faces.

My question is, if there is that strong of a cultural bias towards pretty people, do "pretty people" then get preferential attention in the church? Do they get prayed more for, visited more, more friends? If so, how do we overcome this?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Da Vinci Code: Good or Bad for Christianity?

I just finished reading Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." I had heard two seminars on it, and finally got around to reading it. From a literary standpoint, the characters are thinly developed and the action improbable. However, it is definitely a page turner, and what it lacks in character development it makes up for in plot.

Now to the historical/biblical standpoint. Dan Brown's work is riddled with obvious historical errors. For good documentation of these errors, see A few of his more outrageous claims:
  • Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child. (The Gospel of Mary and Gospel of Peter, which Brown draws from to support his claim, were written hundreds of years after the accepted gospels. It would be like someone today claiming to know intimate details of George Washington's life, conversations that he had, etc.--and that, by the way, he was not really our first president. Who would believe such a "gospel" of George Washington?)
  • Jesus was not divine, and the church covered up this fact and created the myth of his divinity. (In fact, the church readily accepted Christ's divinity; the earliest questions were whether or not Christ was also fully human). He also claims that the Council of Nicea had an extremely close vote on whether or not Jesus was divine. No such thing happened. See
  • Ancient Judaism worshiped both a male and a female deity with sex rites in the temple, and all worship of the "sacred feminine" was suppressed by the church and eliminated fom history (there is no evidence of this, and immorality in the temple was condemned in 2 Kings).
  • The Catholic Church murdered 5 million women in the Spanish inquisition (actual estimates are 50,000--a gross exaggeration).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. His supposed exegesis of biblical and non-biblical texts is simply horrendous, and he rewrites history at every turn.

On the other hand, as one author put it, Who knew that church history could be so hot? Christ is being talked about, and this is a good thing. Many who never would even think about Christ are now reading about him, hearing about him. Christians are being called to reexamine their faith, and they will soon discover that while it is based on faith, there is overwhelming evidence that supports the claims of Christianity.

The Da Vinci Code is a #1 bestseller, and it will be a huge movie with Tom Hanks. We can't just bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn't exist. So, how can we use this to talk with others about Christ? How should we address this with our members? What did you think of the book? Do you plan to see the movie? On the whole, do you think that the result of the book will be positive or negative for reaching people with the gospel?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Addiction and Denial: John Daly

In his forthcoming book, "John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough," John Daly confesses how he has lost between $50 million and $60 million during 12 years of gambling. After going through and talking about how his life has been out of control, and admitting his addiction, he talks about the changes he is making. It would seem that he is on the road to recovery. Then he unbelievably says this:

I plan to go to the $25 slots in the casinos and "set a walkout loss number," which would tell him that it's time to leave. "If I make it a little bit then maybe I move up to the $100 slots or the $500 slots, or maybe I take it to the blackjack table," he wrote. "It's their money. Why not give it a shot, try to double it? And if I make a lot, I can ...
"Well, that's my plan."

Great plan, John. How about--STOP GAMBLING! (See the full story at:

Why is it that we live in such denial about sin and addiction?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sunday's Sermon-Loneliness

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Sunday I'll be speaking on "Christ understands our loneliness." Christ suffered loneliness and abandonment when all of his friends deserted him when he was arrested. It is a condition which we all have felt at one or another.

According to Rob Lloyd in, "About one in five Americans is lonely, a gnawing emotional state that is a patchwork of feeling unhappy, stressed out, friendless and hostile."

Why do you think we are so lonely today? How does it affect us? Also, I am looking for a good song or quote to illustrate the loneliness in our society. Post any thoughts here.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Stress and Addiction

Hello! Last Thursday-Saturday, Becki and I went on a minister/spouse retreat. We went to the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa. (see It is a hotel with 80,000 linear feet of mahogany wood. Each room is unique. We stayed in the "African room." (I barely resisted doing my tribal dance each night.)

One of the speakers at the retreat was Dr. Archibald Hart, a psychologist. He gave us insight into stress and its effects on on us (for a visual, see the picture of the stressed out man on the right).
1. Stress causes a lack of sleep.
2. Stress and sensory overload from constant input/pressure leads to the inability to experience joy, a chemical disturbance.
3. Since no pleasure can be found in normal experience (good food, family, recreation, etc.), those under prolonged stress resort to extreme behaviors--affairs, sexual and substance addictions, etc.--because these are the only behaviors that break through the chemical imbalance.

This progression explains why so many high-powered executives and ministers fall into immoral behavior, even if they have good hearts. Of course, all who live under constant stress are in danger of this. There are other side effects of stress too, such as a breakdown in the immune system.

How does stress affect you?

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Lord's Supper & the Resurrection

Thanks to all who responded last time. I will seek to write a new blog each week, so mark this page in your favorites and check back regularly!

As I indicated in my Easter sermon, the cross has no meaning without the resurrection. And yet, I heard precious little about the resurrection as I grew up. (Perhaps I was too busy playing lines and boxes in church!)

Without the resurrection, the cross can become a symbol of guilt. The Lord's Supper can become a time in which we beat ourselves up each week. The predominant prayer at the LS is that we remember and visualize the pain and agony of the cross. You almost get the idea that the more we visualize blood flying (the gore), the more spiritual we are. That the point of communion is to beat ourselves up and feel guilty for all that we have done in the week.

However, Jesus didn't say, take the LS to remember the blood and gore. He said, do this in remembrance of me. Through the LS meal, we are to remember Christ. And the gospels make abundantly clear that Christ is alive and well. Both Luke and John record accounts of Jesus eating meals with his disciples after he has been raised--and they are filled with joy at these meals. Luke makes clear that Jesus is taking the Lord's Supper at this time with them (compare Lk. 22:19 with 24:30). In the book of Acts, the early church broke bread (took LS) with glad and sincere hearts (2:46).

Resurrection only makes sense in light of the cross, so we have to go through the cross to get to resurrection. But we do not take the LS on Friday. It is not a funeral meal (which, by the way, most funeral meals seem more joyous than our LS meals--people laugh and talk and smile). We take the LS on Sunday--the most awesome, joyous day in history of the world. The Lord's Supper on the Lord's day. It is not a time of private meditation and guilt. Christ has taken all the guilt away. It is a joyous time of fellowship with our risen Savior and one another. If we leave the LS at the cross, we have missed both the Lord's Day & the Lord's Supper.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Emotion in Worship

Hey all you guys and gals out there. I'm starting a blog. Yes, that's right. This is the moment you all have been waiting for. Finally--all of my random, stimulating, spiritual thoughts at your fingertips!

Here is my first thought. The more I observe and learn, the more it seems to me that decisions about worship are driven by personality. People who are extroverted and fellowship-oriented believe that clapping, swaying, lifting hands, singing during the Lord's Supper, etc. is great--and biblical. People who are introverted and who are not fellowship-oriented believe that silence is golden and that outward expressions are suspect at best or should be forbidden--and they believe their position is biblical. It would seem that personality drives the exegesis.

Do you think personality drives opinions and exegesis on worship?