Friday, December 28, 2007

A Night At The Movie

Last night Paige, Ellie and I went to a movie. Paige and I used to go to movies all the time, but a child and busier lives have a way of changing that. We went to see "National Treasure: Book Of Secrets." I loved the first National Treasure and, based on some very positive reviews I had read, was anxiously anticipating this one. The movie had a rating of PG so we felt really comfortable taking Ellie with us. It did not disappoint. Yet, again, the very creative plot line and the tie-ins with American history proved to be a very potent combination. I really liked it.

The point I want to make with this post is not a movie review, per se. I want to comment on movie-making- really the whole motion picture industry. Why are there not more movies like National Treasure? It is clearly NOT exclusively a kids movie, but I have seen more objectionable material in the Shrek trilogy than I have seen in the two National Treasure offerings. Whereas in most areas of life, occupying the middle ground is not the preferred, more movies should try. By that I mean you do not have to be all fluff, cartoonish and mind-numbing, nor do you have to have all the violence, language and sexual overtones. You can have thoughtful storylines and good acting in a family-friendly environment.

It was so nice to be able to have Ellie with us. Granted she could not understand every little nuance of the movie, but she could appreciate being with mom and dad, taking in the big screen and enjoying the goodies. Date nights are great and necessary, but, as parents, and if you are one you will understand, sometimes you feel guilty having to leave the little ones at home when you go out to enjoy a movie. Does it have to be that way? If the powers that be understood this, perhaps we would be happier and they would be richer.

Think about some of the top-grossing movies of all time- Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, et al. Some had a little more violence than you would like the kids to see, however, they had a much broader audience appeal than other movies and enjoyed success at the box office that was unparalleled.

Oh well, here's hoping Hollywood reads this.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Your Life Or Your LIFE? Your Choice

Today I came across a video on my home page that caught my attention. It was a CNN news piece on Grant Achatz, a 33-year-old chef at an avant-garde Chicago restaurant called Alinea. Apparently Mr. Achatz is one of the more notable young chefs in the country. Both he and his restaurant have received a great deal of buzz in recent years based on my Google search. The thing that caught my attention, however, had nothing to do with Mr. Achatz prowess in the kitchen or his restaurant.

Mr. Achatz has been diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth, more specifically, the tongue- that is cancer in layman's terms. Imagine for a moment that you are among the elite, young chefs in the nation and you are given the news that you could possibly lose THE most important sense (taste) as it relates to your chosen vocation. Wow!

Many courses of action were bantered about by the different specialists. Most encouraged Mr. Achatz to consider surgically removing the cancerous tissue to give him the best chance of survival. He chose, however, to treat the cancer with radiation and chemotherapy in hopes of reducing the tumors to the point where less invasive surgical procedures could be considered, thus allowing him to possibly salvage his palette and his beloved vocation.

In the interview, the journalist asked Mr. Achatz if he was more concerned for the loss of his career or his life, he did not hesitate to say, "My career, easily. I never thought I was going to die."

As I watched the video and read some subsequent articles, I found myself trying to come up with a correlation to my own life. What sense could I possibly lose that would have that kind of direct effect on my chosen vocation? As a minister of the Gospel / pastor / preacher / clergyman, I am called to basically do one thing- speak a word from God into the lives of others. That takes a variety of forms. I build relationships with students and my volunteers and the extended church family. I am given opportunities to teach and/or preach. On the radio, I am given a microphone and very limited few moments to love people in Jesus name through the air-waves.

After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that the tongue is also my most important element. Not the sense of taste, but my speech. Sure, I could learn sign language, but my audience would be very limited and interpretation quite cumbersome. The next thought I had was the big question- Faced with the prospects of losing my speech or my life, would I be willing to risk it for the sake of the call on my life? What would your answer be?

Think about it. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Santa has come and gone. Packages and paper are scattered about. Hugs and kisses are abounding. Laughter, smiles and warm wishes are the order of the day.

Jesus Is Born.

Hallelujah, Jesus Is Lord!

Merry Christmas to you!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Meanderings

Tis the night before, the night before, the night before Christmas and I really ought to be heading to beddy bye, but my mind is racing so fast I have to get it all out. We had one of our big family get-togethers tonight. I guess you could say it is the big one. It is my mom's side of the family. We have been getting together since before I was born. As we sat around catching up on new business, we also began to reminisce about the days of old (enter Bob Seger segue here.) I have some very fond memories about this most wonderful time of the year.

As I sat and watched all the children opening presents, I began to compile my Top Ten Christmas Memories List. There are certainly many more that could make the list, but they don't call it a Top Ten List for nothing:

10) The Tellico Hills Candlelight Days- When I was a boy growing up in the Tellico Hills/Fairacres area of town, we started the tradition of making and setting out the paper bag candle lights on Christmas Eve. I know there is a name for them, but I can't think of it now. It was a pain hauling sand and setting them out without catching everything on fire, but they were absolutely beautiful at night when it was all said and done. I don't think they do that anymore over there.

9) The 10-Speed Bicycle Christmas- It was the stereotypical Christmas morning mad dash to the living room... and what should my wondering eyes behold, but a bright shiny burnt orange, Schwinn 10-speed bicycle left by Santa himself. I must have been maybe 8-years-old and it was an adult bike. I think the seat hit me about the shoulder, but that was one bad mama jama. I rode that thing for years.

8) The Hunt For The Perfect Tree- When I was a child growing up, my mom did not do Christmas in the conventional sense. If you know my mother you know that she does not do ANYTHING conventionally. We would load up in my dad's Jeep and head out in search of mom's perfect tree. The perfect tree would be totally bare- no needles, no leaves- we're talking sycamore sapling with a nice shape to it. We would scour the roadsides and both public and private property. Come to think of it- we might have broken a few laws.

7) The Perfect Tree Decoration- Mom would get that bare, round tree that had a nice shape to it and totally wrap it in strips of cotton. Then we would wrap it in gold lights and decorate it with all red and gold ornaments. When it was done it was breathtaking. I grew up wondering why everyone else had Fraser Firs.

6) The Log Cabin Playhouse Christmas- This is going back a few. When I was like 6-years-old, Santa brought me a log cabin playhouse. It was nothing more than cardboard shaped into a house with cut outs for windows and doors and painted brown like a log cabin, but to me it was a palace. It also doubled as the Bat Cave and where Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, lived.

5) The Scotch Plaid Boxer Caper- After mom got over her white cotton-wrapped Christmas tree phase, she went into a Fraser Fir and Scotch Plaid phase. The tree and everything in the house and outside the house had to have Scotch Plaid ribbon wrapped or tied all over it. One day as my cousin, Jeff, and I were shopping, we found some Scotch Plaid boxer shorts. During the gift opening stage of our aforementioned big family get-together, we got everyone's attention and did a synchronized dropping of the trousers with a dance added in for good measure. Mom was delighted.

4) The Christmas Dad Cried- It was Christmas 2002. My sister, Mimi, had to have major brain surgery to remove a benign tumor in November. My daughter, Ellie, was born on December 6. By the time Christmas rolled around Mimi was back to normal with absolutely no problems other than a pretty funky haircut and Ellie was a beautiful, healthy baby girl. As we clasped hands to pray before our Christmas dinner, dad was overcome by God's provision with all the above and shed a few tears. I had never seen that before in my life.

3) The First Christmas In Our Own House- When you have your own "crib" and you have to get your own tree and do your own decorating with your own wife- that's pretty special.

2) The First Christmas With Ellie- Those of you with children know that every Christmas with your kids is special and they seem to just get better, but that first one, when they are just tiny, is special. For me, Christmas went to a whole new level. You get a glimpse of what God must have felt like to allow His only Son to slip past Heaven's embrace into a lowly manger.

1) The Christmas Paige Sang "O Holy Night" In The Green Dress- The church sanctuary- the lighting- the fellowship- the sound...whew! There was some kind of harmonic convergence and I knew that I wanted her to be my wife.

These are my memories. You have yours. I also know that for many people Christmas carries with it not-so-good-memories because of abuse, or death, or illness, or some other reason. I pray that the Holy Spirit would give you the mercy, peace and grace necessary to redeem this wonderful time of year for yourself. Ultimately, as cliche as it may seem, it is all about Jesus, the greatest gift ever given. May you feel His love for you all over again this Christmas.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

Last weekend the children's ministry of Calvary Baptist Church had a little Christmas Adventure. We gathered together and enjoyed some Christmas pizza, drinks and cookies. Then we loaded everyone up and went to the Fall Branch Christmas Tree Farm. Kudos to Bobby and Beth Westbrook proprietors of the business. We unloaded the vans and they immediately went into action. First they hitched the hay wagon up to the tractor and took us all on hayrides. They brewed up some hot chocolate and hot apple cider and offered us all a chance to roast marshmallows over their bonfire. All of the above was absolutely free of charge!

While on the hayride through the farm, Mr. Westbrook gave us the lowdown on all the varieties of trees they grow and offer. We found out that Fraser Firs, "the Cadillac of Christmas trees," do not grow well below 3500 feet so they are a real challenge at our altitude. But they had more trees than I can remember.

Our purpose in taking the kids to the farm was also ministry related. This upcoming Christmas week, our church has the opportunity to host the Interfaith Hospitality Network families. These are families who, for whatever reason, find themselves homeless and in need of shelter and a hand for a while. Our church has been part of the network for many years. We went to get a tree to put in our activities building, their Christmas home this year. As you can see in the pictures, we finally got it inside and decorated last night.

Many thanks to Tim and Christi Bass, our Pioneer Club leaders, children's ministry laborers and my great friends. Our church benefits from your service in more ways than you can imagine!

And if you need a tree next year, you would do well to give the Fall Branch Christmas Tree Farm your business. It is hard to find people who go that far out of their way to serve others. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So What's Your Favorite Part Of The Christmas Story?

My friend, Kim Luethke, shared this little anecdote from her experience this past Saturday night as she was helping to lead a children's small group lesson at her church.

She was asking questions of the children regarding the biblical story from Luke 2 and a video that had been shown relating to the nativity scene. When she came to one particular 4th grade boy, she asked, "So what is your favorite part of the Christmas story?"

He looked up after a short pause and said, "The part where the leg lamp breaks."

So if you have been under a rock for many years and do not get this, please take time this Christmas season and watch "A Christmas Story." Then you can laugh at this.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Greatest Gift Of All

One of the perks of being on staff in a church is being invited to all the Christmas parties.  Some would think that is a drag, but I love my church folk and we have great times together. Last Friday night, Paige and I attended one of the Sunday school class parties.  In this particular class, one tradition in particular has surfaced.

Several years ago one of the class members, C.B. Shanks, a master woodworker, began the tradition of making a wooden toy train set for the gift draw.  This quickly became the most prized gift. The game is played in which everyone draws a number and you select a gift in order, stealing gifts that had been previously drawn if so desired.  Needless to say, each year the train went back and forth before finally settling with a lucky family.

This year, however, was different. This year C.B. and his wife, Ina, went above and beyond.  Ina, a fantastic seamstress in her own right, made a beautiful apron for every woman (and staff wife) in the class.  On top of that, C.B. made a wooden object for each family.  There were cutting boards, birdhouses, clocks, coin banks, and many other things.  We brought home a beautiful bubble gum machine.  We were all taken aback by the sacrifice of time and energy to make all those beautiful things.  According to the Shanks', the motivating factor was their love for their church family.

What do you presume was God's motivating factor for sacrificing his Son?  I am not talking about Easter either. Because of God's love for us, all of us, He sent His Son to us that very first Christmas.  From the most humble of beginnings, through trial and temptation, through pain, grief, and struggle, and finally, to the most unspeakable of deaths, God loved us with His Son, Jesus.  Don't forget His great love for you.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened At The Slopes...

So Paige and I are minding our own business, catching some wicked air and carving up the powder at Beech the other day, when Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel comes up to us and says, "Man, I didn't know dudes your size could move like that, and she is incredible! I was asked to host a special episode of 'Epic Conditions' and we sure would like for you guys to do some of those killer tricks for us."

So we obliged. We're in negotiations about some future collaborations now, but you can see some of the raw footage here:

Tiger and Paige's "Epic Conditions" Shoot

Ironically, it is released today, on Paige's Birthday. Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

100% Steroid-Free Blog, Guaranteed!

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown-"Good grief!" The Mitchell Report on steroids in Major League Baseball was released today and is dominating the airwaves on all my favorite talk-radio outlets. I am so tired of hearing about steroids, HGH and other things in sports. Abuse is abuse. You don't hear anyone discussing the prevalent, even excessive use of alcohol in the stadiums, arenas and locker rooms. Yet, more people are injured and killed do to the abuse of that drug than die because of "roid rage." I kind of like seeing a player lay the wood to one for about 550 feet, or some 38-year-old pitcher bringing the heater at about 98 mph to retire the side and secure the victory. Okay, okay, I obviously don't want anyone risking their health for my entertainment, but I often wonder if steroids might be able to give me a competitive edge like it does other athletes.

Now I know I can hit a ball pretty good, but no matter how much "juice" I shoot into this 27-acre body of mine, it would still take me a half hour to make it to first base. Obviously, I am not talking about a sports advantage. I am talking about my ministry. Perhaps I would have to blog in fonts this size if I were to rub on some of "the clear." Maybe my recovery time would be shortened and I could post every day, maybe twice a day! It would be great if I could swallow something that would positively affect my memory and allow me to remember all those 50-cent theological words I learned in seminary so as to spice up my blogs, bible study lessons and sermons.

Then again, maybe not.

Seriously, though, there definitely are some things Christ-followers can do to "juice up" and gain a competitive advantage over the Adversary in our battle for souls, for Kingdom advance and in our efforts to live THE life. First, we have to ADOPT a lifestyle of worship. Striving to do everything with an obedient attitude and awareness of Christ's working in our lives. Second we have to ABIDE. John 15:5-8 describes the process of our abiding in Jesus and His abiding in us and the fruit that springs forth from that relationship. Finally, we have to ABSTAIN from activities, acquaintances, and anemic attitudes that weaken our resolve and draw us off the right path.

With the kind of "Jesus Juice" I have described here, one can really "pump up" their faith life.

God bless and happy juicing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Latte Laodicea

Kingsport joined the ranks of up and coming cities a few weeks ago. The new Target store brought with it a Starbucks. Now die-hard coffee fans know that Meadowview Conference Resort actually opened a Starbucks stand in their lobby a few years back, but I think the moon has to be in a certain phase and barometric pressure has to be above 27 mb before they actually open for business. We get a stand-alone Starbucks in a few weeks which is even closer to my house. I like Starbucks. I got hooked on high-quality, gourmet coffee while attending seminary and enjoying Boiling Springs, North Carolina's famous Broad River Coffee Co. every single day I was there. Starbucks is now my new crack house. Think about it- they really are!

Anyway, today I met a couple of ministry colleagues at Starbucks for coffee and a chat. For this story to make sense you also need to know that today, December 11, 2007 it was 70 degrees in Kingsport (sorry Jason). I broke a sweat walking from my truck to the front door of the place. Crazy. So the real dilemma we faced as we were making our decisions on what to order was whether or not to get our favorite coffee beverage hot or iced. Iced coffee is the new black. It is in vogue. That may come as a shock to most East Tennesseans who only know coffee as being a cup of JFG that is served at a moderate 525 degrees. So we were standing in line, waffling back and forth on hot vs. iced, when a thought came to me. Another one of those stream of consciousness deals again (see previous post from two days ago).

Both hot and iced coffees are pretty tasty, but have you ever slurped up a mouthful of room temperature coffee? Nasty does not quite describe it! I was in my office the other day reading and reached for my coffee without even thinking that it had been sitting there for 2 hours. I literally wanted to spit it out as soon as it reached my tongue. It makes me think of the church at Laodicea. The apostle John addressed his letter (what has become known as the Book of The Revelation) to seven churches in the Asian provinces. In chapters two and three we read what John has dictated from our Lord, Jesus Christ- admonitions, observations, warnings and praise directed toward the seven individual churches. The last of which is directed toward the church in Laodicea and prove to be some of the most scathing remarks of them all. Jesus says in verses 15 and 16, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Wow!

In this context cold would describe those who have not yet been exposed to or made a decision for Christ. Hot would describe those who have been warmed by the Gospel message and fanned into flame by an abiding relationship with Jesus. Laodiceans were neither. This probably means they were aware of Jesus, had been exposed to Him, but had decided to remain noncommittal. Sound like anyone you know? Those on both extremes know where they stand. Those choosing to occupy the middle ground are in dangerous territory.

Perhaps they choose to adopt a Christ-like lifestyle with all the morality and values that go along with that and , yet, remain separate from an abiding relationship with Him and His church. It is easy to get to the point where they think they are "safe" because of good works or because they are, generally-speaking, "nice people." The problem is, that is NOT good enough. We cannot be good enough. That is the whole reason for Christmas. God knew we were not and could not be good enough, so He sent His Son to us.

The good news is that later on in the same chapter Jesus says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." You have never gone too far and it is never too late with Jesus! He will come to you again, and again, just as He came to all of us 2000 years ago. My prayer is that you will open the door.

Now, excuse me while I go get some more coffee.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cantata Crunch Time

The Christmas Cantata.  Say those words to any church choir member in early December and you probably get a reaction anywhere from rolling of eyes to a slightly muffled guttural utterance that no one would ever claim as a curse.  While sitting in one of many Saturday morning choir rehearsals today, I figured out that I have been singing in church choir on a regular basis for 20 years. When you think about it, that is a lot of lost December Saturday productivity.  No wonder I still do most of my shopping on Christmas eve.  Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch. 

Our choir is singing a cantata entitled, "Christmas Is Jesus."  While rehearsing one of the songs today, I had a very interesting stream of consciousness journey.  Do you ever do that?  You are minding your own business, focusing on some task at hand and before you know it, one thought leads to another and you are somewhere in another place and another time.  I will try to retrace my steps .

First, we were singing a song called, "Your Presence For Christmas," with the obvious play on words indicating that we want Christ's presence as a present more so than anything or anyone else.  There is one particular melody line in the song that is nearly identical to "My Way" as done by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.  When I made that realization, my body instinctively went into Elvis mode: lip quiver, hip shake, and leg twist followed by the Kung Fu pose.  Then the journey began.

"How ironic that we are singing about Jesus in a cantata that proclaims that "Christmas Is Jesus" and this song reminds me of "My Way?"   "I did it my way...."  Is that not just like Christmas nowadays?  We do it our way.  Christmas is made to be what we want it to be.  It is no longer about celebrating the birth of the Christ child or contemplating the ramifications of Emmanuel, God with us.  Now people don't even want Christ in their Christmas, er uh... excuse me "Holidays."  Happy Holidays!  Puhlease!"  

"On top of that, Elvis is the one who made "My Way" famous.  Elvis, The King.  Rather than remember and acknowledge God's greatest gift, His Son, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, we ascribe to people and things the place of honor in our lives.  Christmas has become all about what gifts I can receive... and even the constant consideration of what gifts we are going to give other people borders on the idolatrous when we lose sight of the One who should take sole (or is it soul) possession and position on the throne of our lives."

It was midway through the next song before I came back to myself, and the choir loft.  Every year about this time I promise myself that I am going to slow down, stop chasing Christmas and just let it come, naturally.  I challenge you to do the same.  As cliche as it may sound, why don't we make a concerted effort to keep Jesus as the reason for the season.  Enjoy the lights, the sights and the sounds, but keep your eyes on prize, better yet, The Gift... Jesus Christ.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

And A Mighty Wind Was Present

This past weekend my youth group, The Underground Student Ministry Corps., went on an advance. I think retreat sends the wrong message, so we had an advance. We went to The Oaks Retreat Center in Greeneville, TN. I highly recommend the facility to any church or company wishing to hold any kind of event or team building experience.

I began planning this event about two and half months ago and was wanting really badly to get all my kids there. But as the weekend approached, one by one, they began to drop out. There were sporting events, dance rehearsals, work obligations and a plethora of other excuses. Some were grounded for disciplinary problems and others just decided they plain-ol didn't want to go. However, deposits were paid, plans were made and the show must go on. But as I headed down the highway Friday with only 11 folks in tow, I have to admit I was pretty down-hearted.

Upon arrival, I was encouraged by the quality of the facilities and the wonderful spirit exhibited by Rex and Sherri Oster and their family, the directors of The Oaks. I had arranged for my friend and fellow divinity school alum, Steven Staton, to come down from his church in Ohio and teach the sessions so anticipating seeing him again also bolstered my spirit.

The theme for the weekend could best be described as authenticity in our Christian walk- living Christ and all that entails. It was obvious from the first session on Friday night that God had shown up. The kids were listening intently and our fellowship together was enjoyable. Saturday we were able to try out the 400 ft. zip line and do some team building exercises on the low ropes course.

Saturday night things got interesting. Early in the evening the wind picked up dramatically. We were meeting in a large gym and the gusts sounded like a freight train roaring by at times. It went on and on and on. After we all retired to our rooms for the night, the wind still roared outside. When we awoke the next morning the evidence of the windy activity was obvious. There were drifts of leaves piled up on the large porch, overturned rocking chairs and downed limbs and trees. We found out that the geography of the camp greatly increases the force of the wind and that it was a normal occurrence.

Reflecting on the weekend now, I know that the high speed wind gusts experienced Saturday night did not compare with the real mighty Wind that blew through our lives during this three day advance. The Pneuma (Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and literally means "wind") was at work. From my personal observations and testimonies from many of those students and adults in attendance, much was learned and spiritual growth was experienced.

Many thanks to Steven for the wonderful job you did in communicating the Word. Thanks to the Osters for being great hosts and great cooks. Thanks to Paige and Becky Hill for helping me hold down the fort. Thanks also to C.J., Zach, Deuce, Todd, L.B., Amber, Kimberly, Dylan and Joey for stretching yourselves and sharing your lives with me. Finally, thanks be to the Father, Son and Mighty Wind for demonstrating Your power and your sovereignty in our lives

Monday, December 3, 2007

That's My Girl!

A few days ago we brought in some barbecued ribs from 12 Bones, a new restaurant in downtown Kingsport.  We weren't sure just how Ellie would take to them, but as you can see from the photograph, she takes after her Daddy.

I really can't explain the picture to the right other than to say it looks like she has a little Captain in her.

Have a great Monday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Way To Go, Helio!

I have taken some real heat from my buddies about my love of ABC's Dancing With The Stars. Over the past several weeks, my girls (Paige, Ellie, Mama 'Rie) and I have had a pretty rigid Tuesday night schedule. We eat dinner of some description, set the DVR to record DWTS, and head off to Discovery Ice Cream for a little treat. Upon our return home, we plant ourselves in our comfy chairs and watch the show with rapt attention.

We were elated when both the female and male supermodels went home early. Not only were they not that great, America did not know who they were. It made sense. When Sabrina was sent packing, it was the closest I'd come to launching my remote through the TV screen since Mandisa was voted off American Idol. It rivaled Memphis State's 1997 victory over my Peyton Manning-led Volunteers.

On a lighter note, Wayne Newton's lingering on for a few weeks allowed me to develop a pretty solid imitation of his voice. I'm working on "Danke Schoen" (That's Danka Shane for those of you in Minneapolis).

Tonight's finale was great! Celine Dion's solo on "My Heart Will Go On" nearly had me up on my feet proclaiming that "I am the king of the world!"--- Nearly. It was one of the better celebrity performances on the show. A close second to Barry Manilow's lip-syncing train wreck. The only thing that would have made Barry's appearance better would have been to see host, Tom Bergeron, bounce a quarter off of his taut, face-lifted cheeks.

Helio Castroneves was my dark horse favorite from the get go. When Sabrina was sent home too early, I really thought he might have it in the bag. Among the guys, in my opinion, Helio's charisma got the nod over Cameron "Superman" Mathison. However, at mid season I made the statement to Paige that if I could look like another man, it might be Cameron. If I looked like that, I would run for President of the United States in 2012. Paige only nodded, grinned and got a far away, fantasy look on her face. Hmmmmm? I used to want to look like Howie Long. I'm afraid I'm headed toward Huey Long.

Well, it is over. Way to go, Helio! Now I have to find another chic show to fall in love with in order to exploit my feminine side. The beauty of it is when I catch heat from my buddies, they know, deep down, if I wasn't such a sweetheart, I'd just knock them through the wall.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

AIDS: The New Leprosy

Tomorrow, some 2000 people are expected to converge on Saddleback Church for the 3rd annual Global Summit on AIDS. Saddleback is home to "Purpose Driven" Pastor, Rick Warren and his wife, Kay. Rick made the decision years ago to leverage the fame, notoriety and financial resources generated from his best-selling books for the purposes of having a positive impact on some of the world's most difficult problems. The AIDS pandemic is near the top of that list.

A new feature at this year's gathering is the first-annual Youth Summit on AIDS to be held on Saturday, Dec. 1 (World AIDS Day). The youth summit aims to prompt students to care for those with HIV and strengthen their knowledge, engage their abilities, and maximize their potential to assist to end the global pandemic.

First of all, I applaud Rick Warren for having the guts to take the stands he has taken on this and many other issues. In a world where people who achieve the kind of success he has achieved generally sit back and enjoy the kind of lifestyle fame and wealth offer, he chose to funnel that wealth toward ministry and making a difference.

Secondly, the church has to understand that the not-yet-Christ-followers are watching to see if we stand behind the Word of God... you know... the Word that commands us to care for the sick, the oppressed, the orphaned and the widowed. The chapter and verses are too many to mention. We have got to have a global vision for not only the spiritual welfare of mankind, but also the physical welfare as well. How do you witness to someone who is too sick to comprehend what you are talking about, or whose stomach is growling so loudly she can't hear the words you speak?

Finally, I can only imagine what my church and most any other church in our area would do if we rallied students to "care for those with HIV and strengthen their knowledge, engage their abilities, and maximize their potential to assist to end the global pandemic." I can hear it now, "You ain't tak'n my baby near them AIDS places!" AIDS is the new leprosy. We can't remain ignorant or uneducated about the disease. We must recognize the role that Jesus would want us to play in this drama. He went, He looked, He saw and...yes, He even touched. We need to love and learn. Imagine what the church could do if we marshaled our resources and "soldiers" in a focused way to touch the world.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ahh Yes... The Perfect Turkey Sandwich

I just settled into the Big Daddy chair with my favorite post-Thanksgiving indulgence.  You take two slices of your favorite sandwich bread and slather on copious amounts of real mayonnaise (Duke's for me...none of that Miracle Whip or fat-free junk.)  Then layer on several slices of cold, left-over turkey.  Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper to taste and you've got yourself an enjoyable few minutes ahead.

As I sit here and watch what has to be the twenty-something football game of the weekend, I am reflecting on my Thanksgiving holiday.  In a word, it was nice.  We only had one mass family feast, so there was not an excessive amount of travel with which to contend.  I had the opportunity to preach this morning and so I had to set aside a few moments here and there to put in the study time, which was not too difficult with a lighter-than-normal holiday schedule.

I would be remiss if I did not point out the wonderful victory my Vols experienced yesterday.  It was a 4-overtime thriller marking consecutive victory number 23 against the Kentucky Wildcats and sending the Big Orange into the SEC Championship game next week.  I laughed, I cried and I cussed (almost :) ), but it was a game for the ages.

Another thing I can add to my thankful list is the fact that my sermon went well.  I addressed a rather controversial topic and received positive feedback.  I don't want to ruin it for you.  I will try to put up an audio link on this bad boy.

Well, I am rambling and I am through with my sandwich and headed for some pie.  I hope your holiday went well also.  Catch ya later.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On This Thanksgiving, Trypto-light-phan-tastic

"Trip the light fantastic"- words borrowed from a John Milton poem, circa 1645, and used often as a humorous way of speaking of dancing or moving nimbly.

Tryptophan- noun- an essential amino acid, (C8H6N)CH2CH(NH2)COOH, colorless, crystalline, and aromatic, released from proteins by tryptic digestion and a precursor of serotonin.

Tryptophan is found in turkey and you will recall that serotonin is the substance (neurotransmitter) which is involved with and promotes sleep. It IS true! Now you know.

I love Thanksgiving. I love to think about all the things for which I am thankful. I love to eat too. I really love to eat while thinking about things for which I am thankful. Marry that with watching football and you have a little bit of heaven on earth. Okay, being with family ain't bad either.

One of my pet peeves is allowing Christmas to override Thanksgiving. There is plenty of time to celebrate Christmas without having it envelop and overpower Thanksgiving. Paige and I have had to work that out over the years. She has been known to sneak a few decorations around the house before Black Friday. We have come to an agreement, a detente if you will, concerning the proper timing of Thanksgiving and Christmas decor.

So tomorrow, on that worthy occasion, gather with family, if at all possible, and thank your Heavenly Father for the bounty of blessings in your life. Here are a few things for which I am thankful this year:
  • God's provision in my dad's recent bout with ill health and his return to normalcy
  • God's continual call upon my life, and His orchestration of new things to show me
  • My beautiful and talented wife whose love continues to confound me
  • The most awesome daughter a father could have, who constantly spurs me on to a deeper understanding of love
  • A family, whose closeness I do not take for granted, and whose love empowers me
  • Great friends
  • A warm and inviting home
  • The sound of music
Happy Thanksgiving and God's Richest Blessings To You and Your Kin!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Did You Hear The One About The 3 Baptists That Walked...

into a convention meeting?

No, seriously, the Tennessee Baptist Convention was held last week right here in Kingsport, TN at the Meadowview Conference Resort and Convention Center. For some time now there has been an undercurrent of unrest in the convention because of the struggle between the moderate factions of the convention and the more conservative factions of the convention. It is really a carry over from the same struggle that has been afoot in the parent organization of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for decades. Things really began to heat up in the late '90's with the redrafting of the statement of faith (don't call it a creed) of the SBC known as the Baptist Faith and Message. The new one was adopted in 2000. Basically, it boils down to a few sentences in two different portions of the document which deal with the role of women in the church and in the family. I do not intend to speak to that issue in this post.

Let me pause and say at this point that I am a proud Southern Baptist. I became a Southern Baptist and have remained a Southern Baptist because the denomination allows me to live out my life as a Christ-follower in a way that most closely resembles the Biblical model we have been given, as I interpret it. Are we perfect? No, not by a long shot. Have we cornered the market on the faith life? Of course not. Do we (the SBC) say and do some pretty stupid things on occasion? Yes. We are but sinners saved by grace just like anyone else. But when you look at what Southern Baptists have accomplished and continue to work toward, the good far outweighs the bad.

With that said, I shall continue.

On the opening day of the convention Pastor Chris Stephens of Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN was invited to present the theme interpretation for the convention. The theme this year was "Exalting Jesus Through Fellowship." Pastor Chris was given the task of relating what that means to the convention messengers (members of the many thousand Tennessee churches elected to go and vote at the convention.) Now Pastor Chris is the pastor of a very different kind of church. I know because people I know and love are members and have attended his church for several years now. I also subscribe to their podcast which should give you even more insight into their methods. Faith Promise does not promote nor do they market the name Baptist. If you were to attend a service there and you were from a Southern Baptist background, you might not recognize many things. What they do is reach people. In the last 10 years or so they have grown from a few dozen to averaging around 2300 over the course of a weekend. They offer a Saturday night service and two Sunday morning services.

Part of the message Pastor Chris gave included some of his personal testimony and testimony concerning things his church has had to endure from other churches and, you guessed it, Baptists. Although Faith Promise is not formally affiliated with any denominational body, they choose to associate with many SBC organizations for missional purposes. Even though they are Biblically centered and right in line with conventional SBC doctrine, they have been given the cold shoulder on many an occasion because "they are not baptist enough."

Now do you remember our theme? Exalting Jesus Through Fellowship-- how does that jibe with disassociating with other Christ-followers because they don't wear ties, sing from hymnals or they sleep in on Sunday because they went to church the night before? If it truly means that we exalt Jesus through fellowship only with people and churches that look, talk and act just like us, then I must really reevaluate my place. This speaks directly to the things I have posted about ad nauseum. If we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get what we have always gotten. Instead of casting stones at bodies who reach people by "unconventional" means, we need to walk that which we talk and exalt Jesus through our fellowship. There are people all around looking for what we have and they don't even know it. Let's stop the fuss and get them on the bus!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Best and Boldest Political Ad In A Long Time

Okay, so I have been a little out of touch for a week now. Last week I was busy with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. That gave me some fodder for some future posts, but until then, here is a hilarious ad from presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, former Southern Baptist pastor turned Governor of Arkansas. I love it!

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Element: the poll

You will find a new element in the left-hand column. I have decided to start a new poll, which will change weekly. Sometimes it will be light-hearted and at other times it will take a more serious tone. I just like the idea of picking your brain just a bit. My thoughts are here for the world to see. Now I can get a feel for where you stand on issues.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

There Is Something To That Picture, 1000 Words Stuff

I appreciate my good friend and cohort, Randy, for supplying me with this blog fodder. One thing is for sure, this is one way of finding out who is viewing my blog and who is not. This may end my professional broadcasting career, but it is too good to keep.

My radio boss, friend, and Razorback fan, Mike, took his son to the UT game yesterday. By the looks on their faces, you can tell who won.

I used the telestrator to help you out.

Watching the game on High Definition...$28.00

Carry in food during the game...$13.54

Catching your boss in a loss...PRICELESS

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"I Baptize You, My Brother, Maximus, In the Name of ..."

In an article in the December issue of Men's Journal, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe talks about his intention to be baptized along with his son.

“I’d like to do it this year,” says Crowe, 43,“My mom and dad decided to let my brother and me make our own decisions about God when we got to the right age. I started thinking recently, ‘If I believe it is important to baptize my kids, why not me?’”

Crowe says the baptism will take place in the Byzantine chapel he built
at his country ranch in Australia for his wedding to Danielle Spencer in 2003. The couple have two sons, 3-year-old Charlie and 1-year-old Tennyson.

“It is consecrated and everything,” Crowe says in the magazine’s December issue, now on newsstands. “Charlie was baptized there. And when Tennyson gets baptized there, I will, too.”

Crowe — a reformed Aussie bad boy with a reputation for throwing temper tantrums — is more spiritual than people may think. “I do believe there are more important things than what is in the mind of a man,” he says. “There is something much bigger that drives us all. I’m willing to take that leap of faith.”

I appreciate these sentiments and I can only hope and pray that this "leap of faith" is the genuine article. There are a few things, however, that bother me about this story and similar stories. I have read many stories of describing how people with money, power and influence approach spiritual things. Most of the time, it seems that everything is done on their own terms. I often miss the brokenness, the giving up of self, the repentance, and the sacrificial aspects of the conversion. The desire to be baptized is great, but the real power in baptism is in the public profession, the testimony of the Lordship of Christ and the identification in His death, burial and resurrection.

An actor knows the importance of location and, in my opinion, the ideal scene would not take place in a private chapel in the middle of your 1000 acre ranch. Shouldn't it be done in public where others can be motivated and challenged by your testimony and your brothers and sisters in Christ can be on hand to begin to nurture you and accountability relationships can be fostered?

I am not trying to be judgmental for the sake of argument. I want to use this story to make a point. Too many people believe in "something bigger that drives us all," in other words, some ethereal power "up there" that controls us. That realization forces some to perform acts of reverence or oblation, and make public statements which have the appearance of trying to appease an unseen god. The truth is we serve a very personal God who has revealed Himself in general and specific ways, and who wants to have an abiding relationship with us. The sacrifice was made, but He made it on our behalf, not vice versa. We don't have to do good works to appease Him. We do good works in response to Him.

Heavenly Father, help us all to go beyond the mere acknowledgment of Your existence to the place where we abide in You and You in us. Help us also to live lives according to Your will and Your word, demonstrating the faith of which we speak. For Your grace, love and mercy, we are forever grateful.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

This Just In...

MANSON, Wash. (AP) - Charles and Linda Everson were driving back to their hotel when their minivan was struck by a falling object—a 600-pound cow.

The Eversons were unhurt but the cow, which had fallen off a cliff, had to be euthanized.
The year-old cow fell about 200 feet from the cliff and landed on the hood of the couple's minivan, causing heavy damage.

A Chelan County fire chief, Arnold Baker, said the couple missed being killed by a matter of inches in the accident Sunday on a highway near Manson.

The Eversons, visiting the area from their home in Westland, Mich., to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, were checked at Lake Chelan Community Hospital as a precaution.

Everson, 49, said he didn't see the cow falling and didn't know what happened until afterward.
He said he kept repeating: "I don't believe this. I don't believe this."

Tiger's Immediate Thoughts:


-Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow didn't quite make it to the moon.

-"Speaking of moon, would you like a new moon roof in your van, sir?"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Ice Cream Day!

Several weeks ago, the Brooks/Johnson family began a new tradition. On Tuesday evenings we go downtown to Discovery Ice Cream. If you live nearby and have not availed yourself of this little indulgence, you need to. They have great ice cream and the kids will love to be served ice cream by a real robot.

There is something special about having family traditions. If you have not done so already, I urge you to adopt a few that fit your family.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bono: Sounds Like He Found What He Was Looking For

I grew up in the '80's. THE most enduring band, which rose to stardom in the mid '80's and is now still heading on a rising U2. I loved the music, it was powerful, and the names...Bono, The Edge... they were mysterious and engaging. But I came to faith in the mid '80's and was told I ought not listen to THAT kind of music. Then there was the question: Is Bono a Christian or not? He sings about streets with no names, but he does not look or act like a Christian.

Take all the time you need to view this series of videos from an interview that Bono gave to Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Church. It may take a few days. They average about 8 minutes each. This is very thought provoking and challenging stuff. Also let me know what you think. I haven't had a comment in forever. Can you hear me now? Tap, Tap, Is this thing on?

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Church-o-ween: Would Jesus Go To Fall Festival?

Well it is October 30, the day before Halloween. Tomorrow my church and churches all over our great nation will host events such as Fall Festival, Harvest Festival or something closely akin to that. The purpose behind this is to offer an alternative to the "evil celebrations" of Halloween. Millions of dollars will be spent in an effort to draw children and families to our churches so that we can treat them to some wholesome family fun. In years past, I have even been given the responsibility to plan said event for our community.

Let me begin by saying that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with them. However, in light of the dialogue (albeit, one-sided) that we have been having about churches and, more specifically, Christ-followers, adopting more missional approaches to reaching the not-yet Christian, I present to you an opinion that I came across on one of the blogs that I frequent. This may make more sense to you if you take time to read some of my series of blogs on this subject. Go ahead, I will wait right here.

Author: Anthony Bradley
Source: World Magazine On The Web

Every year on October 31st many churches celebrate Halloween alternatives, what some call “Halloween in disguise,” with “Harvest” or “Fall” festivals. I read about this over at Candy, costumes, games, and everything Halloween except for the “evil stuff.” Why do churches do this?

Isn’t Halloween one of the best opportunities Jesus followers have to love their neighbors and build relationships for the Gospel with them? Jesus tended to not escape his context for “the shire” but brought the Kingdom to it. Isn’t following Jesus is a call to mission and live all of life for the Kingdom? A missional church sees itself as a local missionary and takes every opportunity to be incarnational, indigenous, and intentional.

Every Christian is a local missionary and avoiding non-Christians on Halloween seems odd to some of us. Isn’t it an evangelisitic dream come true to have such an easy opportunity to have non-Christians come to your home in your own neighborhood? If we want non-Christian families in our neighborhoods to meet Jesus shouldn’t we at least be home when they come knocking on our doors?

Since most American non-religious observances celebrate evil —Thanksgiving (gluttony), Valentines Day (lust), St. Patrick’s Day (drunkenness) — why create an alternative religious counterfeit on Halloween? ( NOTE: Okay, I'll have to admit I disagree with this particular line of reasoning as Thanksgiving is really not primarily about gluttony- although you probably could construe that from the size of my plate. But I think the author's point is well taken.) After all, what message is the church sending to the world by ‘circling the wagons’ and avoiding our neighborhoods?

Given the fact that Jesus and the apostles did not retreat from evil (Mark 2:13-14; Acts 14:8-20; Acts 17:16-34), I’m not so sure they would go to a church “harvest festival” on Halloween. It seems like Jesus followers, following the Kingdom-oriented mission of Christ, would see October 31st as a strategic missional opportunity to build relationships in their neighborhoods to later reveal where evil comes from and God’s solution for it. Why isn’t Halloween about being “salt and light?” What am I missing?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Things Are Not Always As They Appear

Have you ever formed an opinion or held to a perception of a thing only to have that opinion or perception shattered once you actually experienced or encountered the thing? For example, I used to think there was some mystical or deeply spiritual reason why many Asian cultures remove their shoes before entering a residence. That was until I made friends with a Korean in seminary. One day over lunch, I remembered to ask him why it was that they always removed their shoes prior to going in a house. I asked it with all the reverence and respect that I could muster while eating my chicken and he sensed that I was ready for an answer that delved into ancient traditions and mysticism. He smiled, bowed his head and said, "So we can keep the rugs clean."

As a kid raised in an area and culture that was 96% Caucasian, I had some preconceived notions about what African-American culture was like. Even though I had some black friends and played sports with many others, I really had not been "close enough" to experience black culture. That was until I was a freshman in college at the University of Tennessee. My assigned roommate was a black guy from Memphis. Allen and I could not have hit it off any better. We spent a year and a half together before I transferred back to East Tennessee, but I cannot have imagined spending that time with a better friend or roommate. We spent hours over the course of those sixteen months talking about family, friends, faith, food and many other things. I learned things about black culture from him and his friends and had a deeper appreciation for the things that make us different and the ways in which we are similar. I miss Allen.

See what I mean? There are many things in life that look different on the outside than they are when you finally get inside. Some things have a certain allure. Maybe it is an exclusive club or a really hot company, but when you join that institution you discover that there is really nothing to them. Other times you encounter things that appear to have nothing going for them on the outside, but once you peek inside you are exposed to one of the most enriching and moving experiences of your life.

For many, the outside of faith, or a church, or a relationship with Jesus Christ looks like something completely different than what they really are on the inside. As followers of Christ, we need to recognize that fact. If you are someone with only a passing knowledge or notion of what faith in Christ is all about, please understand that things are not always as they appear. Some things are infinitely better!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"And now for something completely different..."

I'm a football nut. When I saw this last night, I knew I wanted to share it. Call it a lesson in perseverance. I can safely say you have probably never seen this on a football field before...outside a movie theater.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Living The Life...One Story Of Joy (Part 3 in a series)

Getting a haircut should not be a source of stress. Over the years, however, I have found it difficult at times to find just the right person to trust. I can count on one hand the number of people who fall into my Haircut Hall of Fame. Everyone else was just auditioning to be the next ONE.

The young lady I have been going to for about a year and a half is named Crystal. I just happened to amble into the new (at that time) salon that had opened up in the new shopping development. It was new, nice, and they had a coupon in the paper. You know the drill: walk in, sign in, wait for your name to be called, and step forward. Crystal was the luck of the draw. Right off the bat, she had a lot going for her. I call them the 3-C's: Cute, Clean and Cigarette-free (seemingly)- just the qualities you want from someone who stands 4 inches away from you and constantly runs their fingers through your hair.

I got a great haircut at a great price in close proximity to where I live and work and a nice, decent, down-home, fun, yet, talented hair stylist. I was hooked. So every four, five, seven weeks, I would make the call ("Is Crystal in?"), then make the drive and get the haircut. Last November when my youth group kids shaved my head in preparation for my trip to Sudan, I did not show up for a haircut for 2 months. In January, when I showed back up, she wondered where I had been, laughed at my ragged hair and cut away.

During the course of my visits, I made it a point to be intentional about my relationship with Crystal. The first day, I talked about my wife and daughter so that there would be absolutely no question that this was anything other than a haircut. Each time I would try to find out a little more about her in order to gauge her spiritual life. My vocation did not come up until the time when members of my church were there and it just naturally came out in the conversation. When the conversation from surrounding stylists and their clients strayed into PG-13 areas (or worse), I did not judge or jump out of my chair and storm out.

Gradually, Crystal began to share things of a more personal nature. Young cousins who were having children out of wedlock, trouble with boyfriend, trouble with parents and trouble with siblings were among the topics. I just sat, listened and counseled only when she specifically asked me to.

Finally, at the beginning of this month, she informed me that she would be leaving that salon and opening her own. Since she was telling me in hushed tones, I gathered that she did not want to let the cat out of the bag. I gave her my number and told her to call me later on and let me know where she would be. Last Tuesday, I received that call.

Why share this? The last thing I want to do is puff myself up or pat myself on the back. That is NOT what this is about. After all, I had really done nothing other than live the life... the life of a Christ-follower. The reason I share this is because in my conversation about being a Christ-follower, it serves as a decent example of what I am talking about. It is not about trying to bring a person to Christ in church. It is all about taking Christ to them as He lives in you (Colossians 1:27) and you in Him. It could be in the workplace, at your favorite coffeehouse, at school, or wherever life takes you...even the local barber shop.

I once heard sharing your faith described in terms of a flowing river (the river of life???). You do not want to over do it like a river that overflows its banks and boundaries causing an uncontrollable flood, nor do you want to be too subdued like the river that dries up for lack of water flow. You want to maintain a steady faith-flow within the boundaries (banks) of the Holy Spirit, the Counselor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Church Of The 21st Century (Part 2 in a series)

Okay, so that video may have been a little harsh, or over the top, but it gets the conversation started. I have been doing quite a bit of study in recent years about the effectiveness of how we do church and much of what has begun to shape my opinions comes from a few principal books I have read on the subject.

The first and most profound is entitled "The Shaping Of Things To Come: Innovation and Mission For The Church Of The 21st Century," by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. Now some of you, friends, family and colleagues, may not find anything new here. Others of you may be rather challenged. The width and breadth of what is covered in that book is far more than you would want to read in this blog, but I will try to hit the high spots.

Three factors are key to understanding how churches are, and how they should be. Frost and Hirsch say that traditional churches are attractional, dualistic and hierarchical, but that they need to be missional, messianic and apostolic.

Attractional versus Missional

Frost and Hirsch say that traditional churches create sacred spaces that are fundamentally uncomfortable for not-yet-Christians (their term for lost folks). Then they try to draw not-yet-Christians into those spaces. They say that in the attractional church evangelism becomes about inviting people to meetings and this limits our vision for what God can do both in time and in space. But Jesus didn't say, sit in your church and wait for people to come to you.

Even when traditional churches set out to be evangelistic, Frost and Hirsch suggest that church planting generally involves planting Sunday services rather than real Christian communities.

The Missional church, on the other hand does not seek to attract people to it. It seeps into the cracks and crevices of a society in order to be Christ to those who don't know him yet. It does this through proximity spaces, shared projects, and commercial enterprises. Proximity spaces are places or events where Christians and not-yet-Christians can interact meaningfully with each other.

They are definitely not churches. Examples of proximity spaces include art workshops, pubs and cafes where Christians form part of the regular clientele. Shared projects are activities of genuine interest to the wider community, which meet a need and provide an opportunity for Christians and not-yet-Christians to meet in a natural situation. Commercial enterprises are real businesses, run by Christians for the wider community, but which are not overtly evangelistic. Examples included a shoe shop in San Francisco and a pub in Barnsley. The point of all of these activities is to find neutral ground where the Church can intentionally meet with the wider world.

This does not mean that the Church merely becomes a social club. Bible teaching and worship are still very much part of the life of the church (though perhaps not done in traditional ways), as is mutual commitment and accountability.

Dualistic versus Messianic

Frost and Hirsch say that traditional churches are dualistic. That is, they believe that there is a separation between the secular and the sacred. This idea is rooted in Greek philosophy, not the Bible. Most churches and Christians in the West have bought into this idea, so that they do not even question it. This distinction impacts all aspects of life. We have sacred and secular people (clergy and laity), sacred and secular places (church buildings and the rest of the world), and sacred and secular activities (church services and the rest). And don't get me started on our sacred versus secular music! This separation of the sacred and the secular infects our thoughts to a great extent. It allows us to contract out spiritual duties such as evangelism to the professional Christians of the clergy. And it leads us to think that only activities which take place in our church buildings are truly spiritual.

Frost and Hirsch encourage the Church to abandon this distinction between secular and sacred, and to adopt the attitude of Jesus, who saw all activity as part of his ministry. We need to adopt an attitude which sees all of our activity, work, relaxation and specifically Christian service as a sacrament. All of our life must be sacred, and we must take Jesus with us wherever we go.

The church in the West must adopt a missionary stance in relation to its cultural context or die.

Hierarchical versus Apostolic

Frost and Hirsch say that all traditional churches have a hierarchical leadership system, though some are more overtly hierarchical than others. Think of it this way: you have the senior pastor, maybe some staff pastors, then the deacons or elders and then the "laity," or the "regular folks." This can create an atmosphere where the regular folks feel that they are unqualified to do certain aspects of ministry. They argue that this is neither Biblical nor efficient, and the Church needs to adopt the "APEPT" system of leadership taken from Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor Teachers). This plurality of leadership based on spiritual gifting meets all of the needs of the Church, whereas a traditional hierarchical model often leaves gaping holes.

In Summation...

Many times our churches trade members. I refer to these folks as church nomads who roam to and fro in search of the church that "meets their needs" or "feeds them, spiritually." We fight over the same folks and all the while the not-yet-Christian sits back totally disinterested because for all of the reasons mentioned above and many others, she can't make heads or tails of our church speak, our church practices or our church life. It is about being a Christ-follower, not conforming to some Christian-ideal that was established long ago by tradition. We should conform to a Biblical lifestyle and no other.

Are we going to keep doing the same things and expect different results or are we going to meet people where they are? It is a radical and revolutionary idea that Jesus demonstrated 2000 years ago.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Christ-follower, huh? (Part One)

Some have asked why I have adopted the usage of Christ-follower as opposed to saying that I am a Christian. I found a video that can help explain that. Keep coming back to this blog in the days ahead for more explanations.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The B-I-B-L-E, Yes That's The Book For Me...

Most Christ-followers like to have a good, strong dose of Christian in their preferred media. We like our songs to have a few Gods or Jesus' thrown in for good measure. We want our Christian movies or books to have a plenty of Bible. When the artists that create these art forms don't play ball the right way and get the vernacular up to speed, most Christ-followers take their toys and go play in someone else's yard.

Last evening, I had to be in a couple of different places at once. We had a Sunday school teachers banquet at church, while WCQR held a special VIP screening of the new animated motion picture "The 10 Commandments" at Marquee Cinema (props to them). While hastily scarfing down my fried chicken (hey, we are Baptists!) so that we could make it to the screening, someone at our table commented that they heard that the movie supposedly did not mention God. While I found it difficult to believe that could have been pulled off successfully (it wasn't...I stopped counting at about 37), my mind raced to all those conversations I had had regarding artists who "didn't sing about Jesus enough."

The archetype for said conversations in Christian music circles back in the day centered on the one and only, Amy Grant. When "Heart In Motion" hit the shelves in 1991, churches, Christian schools, Christian radio and the frozen food section of Kroger were all abuzz with incredulity at the thought of Amy going from "El Shaddai" to "Baby, Baby."
"She has left her roots."
"Not one 'Jesus' in the whole song."
"She says it is supposed to be about her daughter, but don't you believe it."
"Yada, yada, yada."

I bristle just thinking about those conversations. Now, 16 years later, no one wants to look back to consider how many more millions of people Amy was able to dialogue with through her music because of a few songs that were sung from a larger stage.

This blog entry was inspired by an article I read in The Christian Post with the following lead:

The Gospel Music Association (GMA) and the American Bible Society (ABS) have agreed to a long-term ministry partnership that celebrates songwriters who incorporate the Bible’s life-changing message into their music.

GMA president and CEO, John Styll, goes on to say: “Music has the power to inspire, while the Bible has the power to transform...With the Bible Society’s support as our ministry partner and their guidance as the administrator of the ABS Scripture Song category, the GMA is very excited about the prospect of raising up new generations of biblically-informed songwriters who will create music that both inspires and transforms lives.”

I have absolutely no problem with this. I think that it is wonderful to encourage artists to glean lyrics from the awesome, inspired word of God. It is, without a doubt, transformational. My problem is with those who would disparage other artists who happen to be Christ-followers simply because they write a few songs that don't meet the Holy word count standard, whatever that may be. In so doing they are merely taking cues from Jesus Christ, Himself.

There were times when Jesus chose to communicate using quotations from the law and the prophets. There were other times when Jesus told culturally relevant stories about life in order to make a point. We call these parables. Why can artists of today not do the same thing? In everything He did, Jesus modeled for His disciples (us included) how to best get the message across because He would soon be leaving it up to them to get it done.

Now it is our turn. Thank you to all the artists who continue to follow the path Christ lights.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Classic...

A little levity for you on a Monday afternoon. It just doesn't get much better than Tim Conway in sketch comedy. I grew up on this.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Convenient Lie

I don't won't to get political in this blog. Any time you start to get political, you run the risk of alienating the very people to whom you wish to communicate the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, the real reason for this blog.

However, over the past several years I think we have been saturated with misinformation related to the environment. Al Gore and an army of agenda-driven pseudo-scientists want to go far beyond conservation and preservation to attack the economic structures that have built and maintain the United States of America.

In his documentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore and his ilk try to convince us that the human race is responsible for global warming and that we need to park our cars, unplug from the grid and party like it's 1899. For his efforts, Gore and his posse just hauled in the hardware. They were recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Please don't get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe that we should take care of God's creation. I believe that we should continue research into alternative fuels, but for economic and national security reasons more so than environmental ones. I abhor littering. I recycle occasionally. When we moved into our new house, I replaced every single bulb in the house with environmentally-friendly, compact fluorescent bulbs. I'm all about being "green," even though, as Kermit sang, it ain't easy. Just don't ask me to park my truck and drop untold thousands on a hybrid.

When it comes right down to it, I have a fundamental problem with the hypotheses posited by Gore and Gore-apologists. I simply don't think (and never have thought) mankind has the capacity to have the type of impact on our planet for which we are getting credit.

In my daily perusal of various and sundry websites, I ran across an article that I found to be quite insightful. So for your reading pleasure, here it is in its entirety:

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald in Sydney, Australia
Writer: Steve Lytte
October 14, 2007

Gore Gets Cold Shoulder

ONE of the world's foremost meteorologists has called the theory that helped Al Gore share the Nobel Peace Prize "ridiculous" and the product of "people who don't understand how the atmosphere works".

Dr William Gray, a pioneer in the science of seasonal hurricane forecasts, told a packed lecture hall at the University of North Carolina that humans were not responsible for the warming of the earth.

His comments came on the same day that the Nobel committee honoured Mr Gore for his work in support of the link between humans and global warming. "We're brainwashing our children," said Dr Gray, 78, a long-time professor at Colorado State University. "They're going to the Gore movie [An Inconvenient Truth] and being fed all this. It's ridiculous."

At his first appearance since the award was announced in Oslo, Mr Gore said: "We have to quickly find a way to change the world's consciousness about exactly what we're facing." Mr Gore shared the Nobel prize with the United Nations climate panel for their work in helping to galvanise international action against global warming.

But Dr Gray, whose annual forecasts of the number of tropical storms and hurricanes are widely publicised, said a natural cycle of ocean water temperatures - related to the amount of salt in ocean water - was responsible for the global warming that he acknowledges has taken place.

However, he said, that same cycle meant a period of cooling would begin soon and last for several years.
"We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realise how foolish it was," Dr Gray said.
During his speech to a crowd of about 300 that included meteorology students and a host of professional meteorologists, Dr Gray also said those who had linked global warming to the increased number of hurricanes in recent years were in error.

He cited statistics showing there were 101 hurricanes from 1900 to 1949, in a period of cooler global temperatures, compared to 83 from 1957 to 2006 when the earth warmed. "The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures," Dr Gray said.

He said his beliefs had made him an outsider in popular science. "It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong," he said. "But they also know that they'd never get any grants if they spoke out. I don't care about grants."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wen R U Thru W/ Jss?

As a youth pastor, text messaging (texting) is becoming the bane of my existence. I have nothing against the idea of texting. I do it all the time. It is a cheap, efficient, and often necessary form of communication. But for those same reasons, I also despise it.

Sunday nights are my primary youth ministry nights at my church. This is the night we gather together for ministry team rehearsals, food, fellowship and Bible study. During the food and fellowship times the idea is for the students to build community with one another, get to know each other a little better every week, talk, chat and have fun. BUT NOOOOOOOO! I usually have at least 5 or 6 of the little angels sitting around a table texting with some other kids in some other place with very little interaction among the ones who are physically present. As I was sharing this problem with a friend, he related to me a story he had heard.

A mother and her daughter were sitting in the sanctuary of their church one day in the middle of worship service. The mother noticed that her daughter was doing something funny with her hand under her leg. Upon further investigation, she realized her daughter was texting her cell phone. After impounding the device, the mother saw the latest text on the screen which read, "Wen R U Thru W/ Jss?" -translation- "When are you through with Jesus?" or "When are you going to be done with church?"

In reality, the daughter was through with Jesus when she started texting. You see, while texting may be cheap and efficient, true relationships are quite the opposite. True, meaningful relationships come at a high cost and they are often rather messy. It takes effort and time to build them and it takes great effort, time, and patience to maintain them. But in the end the investment is well worth it. Because in the end , whether your relationship is with a dear earthly friend or with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, you will have obeyed Christ's greatest commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself."

Let's put the cell phones down once in a while and talk with the people right next to us. You may be surprised at the treasure you may find.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Is It With These Temperatures?

Last Friday night, as I prowled the Dobyns-Bennett sidelines, I was struck by the fact that there was, at long last, a nip in the air. It felt like fall for the first time. Now as I write these words, my Weather Bug reports that it is 86 degrees and sunny.

After I got in late Friday night, I called the Atmos Energy 24-hour call center to set up an appointment to have the gas turned on at the house. When we moved into our house in May, we inherited gas logs. It is the first time we have ever had them. We cannot wait to use them. The appointment was set for Monday.

I finally get the call on Tuesday, mid-afternoon, that they are at the house. Now the gas is on, the pilot light is glowing... and it is 86 degrees with an extended forecast of mid to upper 80's through Tuesday.

Maybe we can have a Thanksgiving Luau!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

1, 2, 3, 4...Tell Me That You Love Me More!

Every once in a while there is a commercial that kind of gets a hold of you. The iPod Nano commercial featuring the following video is one of those. When that commercial comes on, Ellie, Paige and I have 30 seconds of comedic bliss no matter what is going on in the world around us. You ought to see Ellie swing her hips like the girl in the video.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is the video in its entirety. I have learned that the song, simply entitled 1234, is written and performed by the group known as Feist and can be found on the album The Reminder. Please do not take this as a ringing endorsement for the album or the group. I know nothing about them other than they wrote at least one catchy song and the video is a lot of fun.

This video reminds me of a production number you might have seen in the late 60's or early 70's.