Monday, July 27, 2009

Creation, Adam and Eve, and my 8 year old

Tonight, the girls and I just had Bible stories, not "songs, prayers, and Bible stories." We started late, and frankly, my back is killing me (from someone pulling out in front of our car last Friday, in case you had not heard).

The Bible story that we read was about Genesis 3, which looks at the "fall" of humanity. I could not get through this, however, without Gina, my eight year old, asking all kinds of questions about this story and creation.

She asked questions like, how did dinosaurs and people and the ice age all fit together? And, did the serpent really talk?

Even, Emily our five year old, wondered about the talking serpent. Gina reminded us all of Balaam and the talking donkey, and that it was possible. But she said maybe that was just a way of saying it . . .

I tried to explain that the creation account was not an exact chronology. While true, it was poetic in its explanation and did not give exact timelines. And lo and behold, Gina said, if a day to God is like a thousand years, maybe the days in Genesis are like that.

Wow. That girl is too sharp! She thinks like a theologian and a biblical scholar. Since this discussion was not over her head, as I thought it would be, I went on and pointed out that the creation "days" were not to be taken literally because the sun and the moon were not created until "day" four--and 24 hour days only exist from the rotation of the earth around the sun (Gina completed my sentence about the rotation of the earth around the sun being what made 24 hours). In a literal reading, the sun was not even created until "day" four, so no regular days prior to this were even possible.

Besides being amazed at how sharp my girls are, here is the thought that came to mind. If an eight year old can see the problems with an overly literal reading of Genesis, so can adults--particularly non-Christians.

So let's not try to convert people to a literal 7 days of creation, the age of the earth, or anything other than Christ. He is the one whom we ought to seek to convert people to!

What questions have your kids had about the creation account?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This Sunday I am speaking on the subject of forgiveness. There are many, many texts on this, including the "Lord's Prayer" from Matthew 6:9f.

This, then, is how you should pray:
”‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Here are some additional passages on forgiveness:

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mk. 11:25).
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him" (Lk. 17:3-4).
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).
10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake (2 cor. 2:10).
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Col. 3:13).
What are your thoughts on forgiveness? What do these verses and others tell you? What makes forgiveness so difficult?

Do you dread checking your email?

Email started as a great idea. In a click of a button, you can send a message around the world. Keep up with friends, share ideas--what a great tool!

Now, however, email is out of control. I don't know about you, but I often dread checking my email. Email is a bad way to send or receive bad news. Many use it to hide from conflicts, be passive aggressive, or avoid personal interactions. Then there are the sheer number of forwards that we both have inflicted on us and inflict on others. And, the whole world is spamming us!

So, when I want to enjoy a day, I may delay checking my email for a few hours. Like last night, when Becki and I went to the Coldplay concert. But then I begin to dread what may await.

Of course there are many positive uses of email. I get wonderful notes of encouragement and support through email, and these brighten my life and my day. But sometimes, you wonder if your life might be better without all of this impersonal contact. If we all lived in the mountains and read French poetry to one another at high altitudes. Or we all lived on the beach without a plug-in.

Sigh. We live in an electronic world. We need to use it for good. But sometimes, I wonder if all of this technology is really good for us. What do you think?

What thoughts do you have about email? Do you ever dread checking your email?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Angel Summoner & BMX Bandit Video

It has been awhile, so I thought that I would bring back one of my favorite humorous YouTube videos. Feeling overshadowed? Not sure if you need the help of angels? Watch this hilarious video!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using the Government to Enforce Morality

What is, and what should be, the role of government in regards to morality?

It seems that both the right and the left want to use the government to enforce different moral positions. The right wants the government to outlaw abortions and defend traditional marriage. The left wants the government to take care of the poor and offer healthcare to all. And of course, both sides want the government to enforce laws against murder, theft, and other universally recognized moral laws.

So, on what basis do we use the government and laws to enforce a particular moral position? If the government should outlaw abortions and defend traditional marriage, why not have the government take care of the poor and offer healthcare? Usually the answer that is given is that it does not work. Capitalism works. Socialism does not.

But this is a pragmatic argument, not a moral argument. Would we argue against laws that outlaw abortion based upon pragmatism? Even if these laws did not work all the time (say, women who who wanted an abortion went to Canada), they would undoubtedly work some of the time. The moral basis for these laws would be upheld, even if they were not 100% efficient.

And we at one time had laws against things such as adultery. Would we be for these laws now? How about laws against pride? Lying? Gossip? Where do we draw the line?

I do believe that some moral issues ought to be upheld by laws. But it seems that we do not have a consistent rational for why we use the law to uphold some moral issues and exclude others. I would be interested in someone providing a good rationale.

What moral issues do you want the government to enforce? Which do you not want them to involved in? Why?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rev! - A Ministry Magazine Worth Looking At

I get a lot of ministry magazines just sent to me. I let them stay in my mailbox at work until Teresa, one of my trusty administrative assistants, forces me to go through them. Much of the time, they are quickly skimmed and go in the trash.

However, recently a magazine called "Rev!: Revving Up Ministry Together" caught my attention. The articles were current, insightful, and covered many different areas of ministry, including missional outreach, leadership, and spiritual formation.

Here are some of the articles in the july/august issue:
- Leading On Empty
- Twitter THIS!
- Who's Your Leper?
- Your Sons and Daughters Will Prophesy
- The Browning of Our Churches
- Rethinking and Re-engaging Missions
- The Top Five Church Growth Principles
- Growing Fruitful Ministries
- A Framework for Tracking Spiritual Formation

I have a hard copy of the magazine; however, here is the website link. Let me know what you think!

Do you read Rev!? What ministry magazines/sites do you like?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Would you have been for the Patriots or the Torries in 1776?

I am a proud American. I love many of the things that America has stood for. We are not a perfect country, but we have been a country that has probably done more good than any other country throughout history.

But what was the basis of our country's founding? We were being taxed without representation. Hey, I'm sympathetic. I don't even like taxation with representation! But would Jesus have been for a violent overthrow of a government for this reason and others like it (such as violation of individual rights)?

Think about it. The British government did believe in God and Christ. The Roman government was thoroughly pagan and polytheistic, and it of course did not believe in Christ. And yet, Jesus counseled "turning the other cheek," "going the extra mile." and "giving to Caesar what belonged to Caesar." He never counselled violent overthrow of this corrupt, pagan empire.

So--whose side would you have been on in 1776--the patriots or the torries? Let's stir it up!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Saying goodbye to a good friend, Steve Cunningham

As many of you know, last Saturday Becki and I traveled to Liberty, MO--home of the previous church where I served as a minister--to attend the funeral of a dear friend, Steve Cunningham.

When I first moved to Liberty, we really needed a youth deacon who could love and help mentor our youth. At the time there seemed to be no suitable candidates, and I can remember us saying, "God may just have to send someone to us." And that he did!

Steve, his wife Anna-Marie, and their two boys, Jeff and Danny, arrived to us via Chicago and the Cardinal Dr. congregation. With his loving and willing heart, he soon became our youth deacon, and he and Anna-Marie did an outstanding job. They took the kids on youth retreats, hung out with them, taught Bible classes, and helped them reached out to their non-Christian friends through their "Fun in the Son" gatherings. Later, he would help start a young adults ministry at Liberty to try to help this group find a place. He became a voice for them too, and he regularly came to our Starbucks outreaches--a popular hangout place for young adults.

Two or so years later, we were looking to install new elders. I can remember my long time elder friend John Miller and I going out to lunch with Steve. There we told him that we thought that he would make an excellent elder (he was already shepherding the youth), and that we needed him in the group to help us confirm our direction. Steve smiled, leaning forward, and said that he was onboard. He was soon recognized publicly for the outstanding shepherd that he already was.
In our meetings, Steve helped bring out the perspective of younger people, which helped the church go forward in our direction of reaching out. Some leaders bring about change by their ability to persuade or force of personality. Steve, however, was a calming influence, and you got the sense that if he was behind something, it must be pretty reasonable.

Steve was an incredible guitar player, and he, Roger Dingus (guitar; now also an elder), and John Hess (drums) started having a few jam sessions together. They were all a bit older (late 40s), so they started calling themselves the "Assisted Living." I came in for two rehearsals right before our first "Fourth of July" party at the Hess' house and played the whole set that they had worked up, adding keyboard and some youth to this bunch of over the hill Baby Boomers! :) Later, Robert Ritter would be added, playing bass and allowing Steve to concentrate almost totally upon guitar (he sometimes covered bass, and he was excellent with it as well).

Our band played mostly classic rock. It was the genre we played best. I grew up on Billy Joel and 80s music, all very keyboard centered. In this band I learned Boomer classics like "Simple Man," "Smoke on the Water," and "China Grove." I have to say that playing classic rock is a lot of fun. I helped stretch the band by introducing them to some younger sets with U2 and Coldplay. I also love Christmas and Christmas music, and so each year we had a huge Christmas party in our basement, inviting the whole church and our neighborhood. When trying to decide whether or not to leave Liberty for High Pointe--among many other things!--the band kept coming to mind. I didn't want to lose all of those great times we played together. I still miss it. The band represented good times.

Steve, John Miller, and I were also in a "BELLS" discipleship group together for a couple of years. We came together each week, meeting in Starbucks, and talked about who we tried to bless each week, who we ate with, what we studied, what we heard God saying to us, and who we tried to spend time with. These "missional lifestyles" sought to imitate the lifestyle of Jesus. We need these kind of intimate groups for encouragement and accountability. I am a minister, and yet, I found that when we did not meet, I often would fail in these practices. Again, it was difficult leaving behind this group.

I got a call from Judy Dingus, another great friend and co-worker from Liberty about 7 weeks ago. She told me the shocking news that Steve had lung cancer and that he had been given 1-4 years to live. We were stunned. I immediately thought about going up to Liberty right then to see him. But I had meetings . . . and I thought that I would see him for the 4th of July. I thought I had more time. But I did not. I wish now that I had gone.

Last week, Steve's lungs began to fill up. They tried to get the fluid out, but they could not. He had a blockage in one of his lungs, and his heart just gave out. They were able to revive him briefly, allowing him the opportunity to say goodbye to Anna-Marie and his oldest son, Jeff. Danny was at camp. Judy called me on this day, telling me the sad news and that she was going to pick Danny up from camp. I prayed for her and the whole family.

The funeral was on Sunday, and it was packed. Between the viewing and the funeral, there were probably 500 people represented who came out to remember and honor Steve. He had church members from not only Liberty, but Cardinal Dr. in Chicago. There were neighbors there, as well as the friends and parents of his son and their sports teams. His co-workers came--he even had business associates from China attend. Wow! What an impact.

John Miller, who had been with Steve through his ordeal, officiated the funeral. I said a prayer, and there was an "open mic" section in which people shared their thoughts and memories of Steve. Many people took the opportunity to share during the open mic section. There were many great stories about Steve here that made us laugh and cry.

John is also 52, the age that Steve was when he died. We talked, as did others, and we all thought about how short life is. We need to live for today, and make sure that we concentrate on what is most important, as Steve did. What is most important? Loving God and people. Nothing else really matters. It has made me impatient for seeing the things God calls us to do to happen. Both individually and as a church, we need to make sure that we live everyday--starting today--for God.

Thank you, Steve, for teaching us how to love God and people. Thank you laughing with me, praying with me, encouraging me--for showing up at Starbucks, for playing those great guitar leads, for patiently listening, for speaking up for those who had no voice, for being willing to try new things, for truly caring for my life and the life of so many others. We will miss you Steve. I still can hardly believe that you are gone. But thank you for showing us how to live--love God, love people. Nothing else really matters. I hope to be able to impact as many people for Christ as you did with your life. May your love and the love of the Father shine down upon us. We will see you in heaven!

Your friend, co-worker, band member, and brother in Christ.


Steve with his boys, Jeff and Danny

Steve with his wife, Anna-Marie

Steve with our Band, Assisted Living

Steve playing the guitar
What thoughts and memories do you have of Steve? What did you learn from him? How did he bless your life?