Monday, December 29, 2008

What are your thoughts on new year's resolutions?

On Sunday, I'll be working in some material on New Year's Resolutions (NYR). So, I am curious. - What are your thoughts on NYR?
-Are you making any this year?
- Have you made them in the past?
- Have you seen any interesting stories or top ten lists on NYR?

Here are some popular NYR, according to (see story):

Looking forward to your thoughts!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 10 Coolest Open Source Products of 2008

I just caught this article tonight off of The 10 Coolest Open Source Products of 2008. Open source is free software, designed, created, and maintained by an online community that is dedicated to the application.

I'm not a programmer, so here are the open source products in the article that I am familiar with:
  • - A free alternative to MS Office suite. Apparently 2008 version is much more compatible with MS Office.
  • IBM Lotus Symphony - IBM's contribution to OpenOffice, seeking to break Microsoft's domination in office suite software
  • Firefox - An alternative browser to Microsoft Internt Exploser
  • Android - Google's new mobile operating system designed to compete with Apple's iphone application.

I have shied away from using a lot of open source applications due to compatibility issues. But if this is changing, I will consider these open source applications more. And so may many others.

Do you use any of these or other open source applications?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dedicated to God

Tomorrow I'm speaking on "A Life Dedicated to God," with Jesus as our model.

I found the following definition of "dedicated" from Webopedia.

"Dedicated - Reserved for a specific use. In communications, a dedicated channel is a line reserved exclusively for one type of communication. This is the same as a leased line or private line.

A dedicated server is a single computer in a network reserved for serving the needs of the network. For example, some networks require that one computer be set aside to manage communications between all the other computers . . . Note, however, that not all servers are dedicated . . .
The opposite of dedicated is general purpose."
This is pretty interesting when applied to the Christian life, isn't it? We are made for a "single type of communication"--to tell of Jesus and the kingdom of God. We have a singular purpose--to take up Christ's mission to the world.
Not everyone is dedicated. But this is our call. And Christ is our model.
How do you think this definition of "dedicated" fits the call that God has upon our lives? What gets in the way of us being dedicated to God?

Man shoots father who talks during a movie

I just saw this story, Man shoots talker at movies, police say. According to the report, a man who was angry at a family that was talking in the theater threw popcorn at a boy and shot the father in the arm. I could not be more sympathetic about being irritated at people talking during movies. But shooting someone? Wow.

Talk about not being in the Christmas spirit. What is wrong with our country? We are so blessed materially--perhaps too blessed. Let's put it this way--someone shoots a gun at someone else because they are messing with their entertainment experience.

Obviously, material blessings are not enough. We need hope and joy in our lives--the kind of peace that comes from knowing why we are here, having a purpose, and having God in our lives.

What does this occurence and others like it say about our country?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Top Technology Breakthroughs of 2008 has a new blog post, the Top Technology Breakthroughs of 2008. This is a pretty interesting list. My favorite, though, is the first one--flexible displays.

Remember those ultra thin, flexible computer displays in the movie Minority Report? Apparently, these displays will be available in 2010. Presumably, this will replace old style newspapers, and we'll be able to customize these newspapers with our favorite blogs, websites and RSS feeds.

The year 2008, however, may be remembered as the year in which several technology breakthroughs in the last few years reached the tipping point. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube--just two years ago, these technologies either came into existence or no one had really heard of them.

It's a pretty exciting time to be alive! Our kids will look back and say, what was it like before ________? Tell us about the olden days.

What new technologies did you start using in 2008? How has it changed your life?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesus' birth was scandalous

We often think of Jesus' birth in terms of a beautiful, glowing nativity scene off of a Christmas card; however, Jesus' birth was actually quite scandalous. It took an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph for him to not divorce Mary when he found out that she was pregnant. If he had a hard time believing that Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit, surely this would have been doubly true of the small towns that Mary and Joseph lived.
There are several hints in the gospel of Jesus' questionable parantage--among other things, Jesus was called "son of Mary" (rather than son of Joseph). See the news article What Jesus Suffered at Christmas. In fact, it may well be that Jesus was excluded from worshipping in the synangogue or temple due to his questionable parentage.
Jesus really was born a lowly birth.
What does Jesus' lowly birth say about God?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Is it really a Wonderful Life?

Today I read the news story Wonderful? Sorry, George, It's a Pitiful, Dreadful Life from the New York Times. A very interesting read. The author points out how terrible life really is really is. Here is a quote:

“'It’s a Wonderful Life' is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up
and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before
his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being
trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so
filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your
oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home
The author draws parallels from the greedy banker (Mr. Potter) to the greedy executives of today. He even points out that though George's friends come up with the money that had been lost by his not so bright uncle, George still would have gone to jail for theft.

But in the end, the author concludes that he still likes watching It's a Wonderful Life. Here is a click from the movie that I think shows us why this is still a well-loved, timeless movie.

What do you think of the article and the movie?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gay Leaders Furious with Obama over Rick Warren

In a move that probably has surprised many conservatives, President-elect Barak Obama has chosen evangelical Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to usher him in at his inauguration. Read the story here. This has drawn sharp criticism from gay rights activists due to Warren's opposition to gay marriage.

This news story quotes Kevin Naff of the Washington Blade, who says this about Obama's choice:

“This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.”

I suppose that I was a bit surprised at this reaction, that Warren would be opposed so strongly because of his views. After all, Billy Graham stood on moral issues and received little criticism.

What do you think of Obama's decision and the reaction to it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christians seeking to evangelize Islamic North Africa

A recent news story, Christian Missionaries Stir unease in North Africa, tells how Christians are seeking to reach out to Islamic strongholds in North Africa. Here is an excerpt:

"Missionary groups say the number of Moroccan Christians has grown to 1,500 from 100 in a decade and that Algerian Christians number several thousand, although no official figures exist.

They say their message is reaching thousands more, thanks partly to satellite TV and the internet.

The Koran states no-one can be forced to follow one religion, but many Muslims believe that to abandon Islam is to shun family, tribe and nation and bring shame upon relatives."

The story goes on to tell how those who converted to Christianity from Islam were shunned by their families.

I was struck by how people around the world are making real sacrifices for their faith. I wonder if this pressure is not a blessing, as people must take their faith seriously, know what they believe and why, and be conscious of this choice every day.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of living as a Christian in an Islamic country like Morocco?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fierce Conversations

I recently read the book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott. Fierce means robus, intense, strong, powerful passionate, eager, unbridled. I was struck by the title, and then the book was assigned in my coaching class.

I particularly liked the author's suggestion on how to confront difficult issues--you know, the conversations that we avoid. Here are here suggestions.
  1. Name the issue.

  2. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change.

  3. Describe your emtions about this issue.

  4. Clarify what is a stake.

  5. Identify your contribution to this problem.

  6. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.

  7. Invite your partner to respond.
Scott counsels against other approaches such as asking someone, "How's it going" when there is a clear other agenda.

This is a direct approach, something I sometimes avoid. I prefer to persuade, bring along, educate, and the like. But sometimes confrontation or directness is necessary, and there are conversations that we ought not avoid. Often, everyone is relieved when such issues are brought out in the open in an honest, up front way. For instance, a struggling employee often knows when he or she is struggling or misplaced, and is relieved to be able to talk about.

Scott's book is a quick read and decently interesting. But I think that this is the best part of the book.

What do you think of the author's advice on fierce conversations?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

News Story - Bikini-clad women make men impatient

Here is a very interesting news report called "Bikini-clad women make men impatient." (Don't worry, there are no pictures.) It seems that sexual stimulus makes men impatient about non-sex related decisions, such as what to spend or buy. No wonder sex is used so much in advertising. Not only does it get men's attention, but it also causes them to buy more impulsively.

I guess we are pretty pathetic.

Why did God make men this way?!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Check it out - Cool video of children saying Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer from Clint Loveness on Vimeo.

Here is a cute video with children saying the Lord's Prayer. Do you like it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Astronomers may have found the "star" of Bethlehem

My friend Debra Arvin sent me this news story from NBC's website, Christmas in June? Stars Say Maybe. This article details how astronomers have looked back at the time of Jesus' birth trying to determine what "star" the wise men might have seen.

Here is a quote from the article: "The most likely candidate for the Christmas Star made its most dramatic appearance not on Dec. 25 in the year 1 A.D., but on June 17 in the year 2 B.C. What's more, that event was not the appearance of a single bright star, but a grand conjunction involving the brightest planets and one of the brightest stars in the sky."

What do you think of this story?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Missionaries in the work office

In the Savannah Morning News, Dana Clark writes an article named Missionaries in the office. The article describes how Danny Falligant, an attorney, sets up Bible study groups in workplaces.

Clarks says that "many people of faith turn to prayer and scripture whenever facing stress or frustration, even when that happens at work." These groups seem to thrive, some joke, when the stock market is down.

Another Savannah resident ,John Crosby runs a ministry called Priority Insight, "a local nonprofit organization and workplace ministry that helps businesses incorporate 'Biblical principles' at work. Crosby has worked with about 90 area businesses and is involved in about 40 local office-based Bible study groups."

Apparently, religious activities are legal in the workplace, so long as they are not mandatory.

So, what workplace rules do you have about religious things, written or unwritten? Could a workplace prayer or study group be started in your office?

Friday, December 05, 2008

90 Percent of Americans pray every day

Much has been made about the religious decline in America. It is true that Americans are increasingly deciding not to attend weekly worship. "Religion" is down in the US. But "spirituality" remains high.

One recent study found that 90% of Americans report that they pray every day. See news article on prayer.
It is interesting what Americans pray for. In a study of prayer journals of John Hopkins' patients, the study found that of prayers "twenty-eight percent were requests of God, 28 percent were prayers to both thank God and ask for help, while another 22 percent were thank yous.
The article also says that "a 2006 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study that analyzed actuarial death rates found that weekly worship service attendance could add up to three years to a person´s life." So prayer is good for us. As if we needed a study to tell us that!
When and how often do you pray? What do you pray about?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Social Networking - How the internet will change how we do outreach

As a lot of you know, I just took my D.Min. class at Fuller on Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix. For my paper for this class, I'm going to be writing about how the internet will change how we do ministry and outreach, particularly through social networking sites.

In just the last two years, how people use the internet has dramatically changed with the rise of sites like Facebook. Today, people have a very public persona on these sites, giving public updates and commenting on each other's walls very personal things. In the blogosphere, we have finally found a way to be transparent. A bit ironic.

The internet also allows people who are introverted to have a very powerful presence, much greater than they would feel comfortable doing in public.People today are meeting first on the internet through sites like eHarmony, Facebook, etc. Two years ago even this would have sounded strange, but today, it is becoming normal. Teens prefer to text one another than call. They will even text each other in the same room.

All of this means that outreach will take place on sites like Facebook and the Missional Outreach Network first. These will be the places where people--both Christians and seekers--will meet one another for the first time. They will openly discuss their faith journeys in very public ways, and will be able to check out the Christian community through these sites. It is already happening here, as we have several who are in Bible studies and part of recovery groups who are interacting on this site.

For instance, I recently posted an article on how our church was helping a man who was homeless by taking him in. Christie, who is on this site and studying with a couple of other people on this site, shared with us her experience of being homeless. I find it amazing and awesome that we can find connections with people whom we have not yet met and share in such open ways. All of this can lead to powerful in person connections.

Those are the issues that I'm exploring. I will be talking with Ryan Bolger, Eddie Gibbs, Keith Matthews, Brian McLaren, Spencer Burke, David Fitch and other contacts that I have through Fuller about how they see these issues.

So, how do you think the internet will change how we do outreach and ministry?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What is Twitter? - A new social networking tool

Twitter is a relatively new social networking and microblogging service. Read the Wikipedia article on Twitter.

There are several uses for Twitter:

  • It is useful for posting short updates that are not the length of a regular blog, such as "Getting off the plane right now."

  • It allows a user to post an update from his or her phone, not requiring a computer- It can help a user make quick updates in, say, an emergency

  • It can be integrated with Facebook, with Twitter updates being used as the "Status" update on Facebook; this allows Facebook friends to get more updates.

  • The Twitter updates can be fed to a website through RSS and HTML code inserts.
Like other social networking tools, Twitter allows its uses to send out invites to their friends from their email address books to "follow" them (receive their Twitter updates) on Twitter. A Twitter user can follow others who use Twitter as well as see who is following them.

If you go to my blog, on the top left hand side you can see my Twitter updates, and you can sign up to receive these updates.Twitter has some great uses, though some post trivial things like what they are eating for dinner. It is another way to communicate and stay in touch with friends. If you are up-on technology, you are on Twitter.

Do you use Twitter? If so, what do you use it for and why? How might Twitter be helpful to outreach and ministry?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Will books become obsolete? - Google's plan to digitize the world

Here is an interesting article from Maureen Dowd of the New York Times on the demise of books. Google has scanned seven million books, taking them from print to digitized forms. She still sees a place for books, but they will become quite different in use.

Libraries will shrink. Out of print works will be revived and gain new "shelf life." Information will become even more ubiquitous. So, the question is, how will this affect the church and Christians, who have been so heavily dependent on books?

Ever since the invention of the printing press, Christianity has been linked to print. Perhaps too dependent. Printed Bibles, commentaries, and newspapers that were made available to the public had a democratizing effect, casting down popes and bishops.

This trend will undoubtedly continue. People no longer look to church leaders for all of their information. Gone are the days where ministers were the disseminators of knowledge. Most everything we say can be googled at a moment's notice.This means that sermons and lessons must become intensively practical for Christians, with the authentic ring of a lived out faith and leaders that give examples from their own lives.

For non-Christians who are biblically illiterate, it may mean directing them to these resources online, and following this up for questions and mentoring. A real live Christian to sort through the overwhelming flood of information.

Perhaps we will recover our value of authority and lessen our worship of knowledge. Not the authority of position; instead, the authority of a lived out life. Moral authority.

How do you think the world will change as it digitizes?