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