Archive for March, 2007

Church Redone is looking for a new congregation to worship in.  He’s learning all of the wrong things to do so no one can find you.  It is pretty insightful, particularly in the fact that churches actually do these things.  They actually take courses of action that inhibit healthy growth, keeping people from knowning they exist or how to find them.


He forgot one particularly good way not to be seen.  Put your congregation in a building that sits on a lake surrounded by orange groves that is accessible only by a 1 1/2 lane dirt road hidden between the boundaries of 2 sub-divisions which you will probably not notice even if you are looking for it.

This was where we were worshipping when I started my ministry here.  It truly was a miracle that anyone found us because you really couldn’t explain how to get there.  Life-long residents wouldn’t know.

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I really couldn’t decide what I wanted.  Such a picture of our divided hearts.  Paul drew that picture for us in Galatians 5- the flesh and Spirit at odds with one another.

My anguish was not over a great big sin.  I couldn’t decide if the Celtics should win or lose.  I have only been able to watch a few games this season (they not being on national TV at all, for good reason), and last night’s Magic-Celtics game was about it since I’ve had commitments most other times they played a Florida team.

I wanted to see a victory.  I want to  get Greg Oden in the draft.  Can you see my struggle?  I didn’t want to tank.  BTW: any discussion of the Celtics tanking seems quite absurd to me at this point.  “We’re tanking, but we decided to beat Dallas & the Spurs on the road.  We’re tanking but decided to beat the Raptors and play 2 overtimes to beat Orlando.”  I don’t want to hear about the Charlotte game… I think this is a great time to see what our young guys can and cannot do.  We now know what Big Al can do, and it is what we hoped for.  He’s turning into a double-double machine.

So, I got the thrill of victory, but did I lose the hope of Oden?  Only time will tell.

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Dislike of dogma (doctrine) “is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specificially among young people… .  It produces what I must venture to call … a ‘jelly-fish’ Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without boned, or muscle, or power.  A jelly-fish … is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella.  Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.  Alas!  It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, ‘No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.’  We have hundreds of ‘jelly-fish’ clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity.  They have no definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of ‘extreme views’ that they have no views at all.  We have thousands of ‘jelly-fish’ sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.  We have Legions of ‘jelly-fish’ young men annually turned out from our Universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth.  …. And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of ‘jelly-fish’ worshipers- respectable Church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology.  They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors.  They think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, ….  . They are ‘tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine’; often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement;….”  J.C. Ryle quoted by J.I. Packer in Faithfulness and Holiness.  I can think of some people this would apply to today.

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Apparently Obama’s pastor is upset with the New York Times.  He’s not the only one, to be sure.

I guess I find it odd that he thinks the Times is the Bush administration’s blog.  Every conservative I know thinks it is a bastion of liberal thought.  I think I can spot ‘middle of the road’, and the NY Times is not that.

I thought it sad that this man arrogantly thinks Obama is the only one who would understand the differences between various types of Islam, Jews and Christians. 

“I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.”

Bush does some things I scratch my head at, and some things that make me want to scream into a pillow.  But… he’s not an idiot, nor is he surrounded by idiots.  Both men are foolish if they think being President is easy.  It is one thing to know these differences, and another to work with them and their differences.  This is what concerns me about Obama.  In his political life he has only been a legislator.  The executive branch is fundamentally different, and it would be great to see someone with experience in the executive branch of a government running for President.  Call me crazy, but the best Presidents tend to be former governors (Jimmy Carter, HUGE exception).

But Rev. Wright and I can agree that the NYT seems a bit thin on the truth.

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Here is a lengthy documentary exposing the great global warming swindle.  The various parts of it are also found on YouTube.  Sadly, you found this in our public schools- just Al Gore’s manipulations of data and alarmist hyperbole.

Update: Apparently an improved DVD version will be released, we think.  The producers are being opposed, and persecuted, for not towing the environmentalist line.  So much for freedom of thought.  I thought it was the conservatives that didn’t like free speech?  Oh, well.  The director was on the Glenn Beck show (CNN Headline News).  He had no agenda, but was asked to do the documentary for BBC.  They are trying to discredit him by calling him a Nazi.  He has met many scientists who have received death threats.

I think it may have been removed from You Tube.

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Cannibis.  Mary Jane.  That kind of pot.  Los Angeles pastor, Rev. Craig X. Ruben, was recently arrested for possessing marijuana.  That alone would be an interesting story.  But to make it better, the Temple 420 pastor filed a lawsuit for $30 million.

“Our congregation mandates members study the Bible, have faith in God and regularly burn the herb cannabis (The Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible) as sacrament,” says the lawsuit filed Wednesday in state court.” (from the AP story)

He was ordained by the Universal Life Church in 1990.  I’ve heard of receiving pew rents (the original compensation for Spurgeon), but the article continues:

“The temple has an estimated 400 members who pay a $100 initiation fee and $100 annual dues, enabling them to purchase marijuana for requested donations. Marijuana also is burned during some services. In drug culture, “420” is slang for marijuana.”

I’m thinking the free exercise of religion doesn’t cover this weirdness.

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“Prayer is designed by God to display his fullness and our need.  Prayer glorified God because it puts us in the position of the thirsty and God in the position of the all-supplying fountain.”

“The point (in persistance) is not to finally break God’s resistance but to discover, by patient prayer, God’s wisdom as to the way and time the prayer should be answered.”

“Ending our prayers ‘in Jesus name, Amen’ is not a mere tradition; it is an affirmation of faith in Jesus as the only hope of access to God.”

“Praying in faith does not always mean being sure that the very thing we ask will happen.  But it does always mean that because of Jesus we trust God to hear us and help us in the way that seems best to him.”

“This implies that prayer is not only a duty of man but a gift of God.  Jesus will awaken in his people the spirit of prayer that asks for everything it will take to accomplish God’s purposes in the world.”  John Piper in What Jesus Demands from the World.

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Was I Wrong? Yeah.

My timing may have been off.  At the beginning of Spring Training I thought that Papelbon may move back to the closer role after Jon Lester is ready to come back up.  (insert my daughter exlaiming “Red Sox” here- much to my delight)

Rob Bradford says that rumors are flying around the camp that Tavarez (who would make a HORRIBLE closer in my book because he walks too many guys) will move to the starting rotation and Papelbon will return to the closer role.  Nothing official.  Hopefully this is not a reaction to today’s article in the Herald about Papelbon’s willingness to step into that role.

BTW: CavWife will gladly inform you that this would not be the first time I’ve been wrong.

Update: Yes, I was wrong.  Schilling’s blog (ESPN’s source?) had it hours ago and the team finally announced it.  There are some conditions to protect him.  I suspect that Snyder would be a better 5th starter (until Lester is ready) than Julian Tavarez.  The doubters are out in full force- whining and complaining.  I’ve already read some off the wall stuff.  Bard?  Not ready!  Throwing 100 miles an hour (alone) does not a great pitcher make.  Cordero?  The Nats don’t want what we offered (they want more).  Neither Hansen nor Cox are ready yet (there is an emotional maturity involved) but Cox seems closest at this point.  I suspect that next year we’ll see Pap in the rotation.

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This morning CavWife came in from an early morning walk in the rain.  Unfortunately for her, she had a “wall of hair” look that reminded me of Elaine.  She reminded me of what my hair looked like recently before I finally had it cut.  “What, did I have a face that looked like a horse too?” I asked.

My mind was preoccupied with the episode where they can’t find each other at the movies.  Great fun!  But of course my wife notes- that wasn’t nice.  To which I replied real Jerry’s assessment that “they were not nice people” which is why they all ended up in jail.

I thought more about Seinfeld.  It really is a world without grace, where people reap what they sow and God is not mocked.  People are mean and petty, religion is on the sidelines of life and makes no difference (Putty still fornicates with Elaine but thinks she’s going to hell and he isn’t which offends her pluralistic sensibilities).  This is what America is becoming.  Seinfeld was, afterall, all about popular culture.  They took their pokes at us, revealing that we really aren’t nice people.

But, they had no offer of redemption.  We could laugh at ourselves, but found ourselves unable to change just as they couldn’t.  Jerry remained a relational island, unwilling to allow anyone into his fortress of solitude.  George remained a neutoric loser who can’t keep a job.  Elaine …. well, you get the point.

In a world without grace, people are not able to change.  In a world without grace I’d still be a variously self-medicated, isolated, angry man.  Thankfully that is not the world we really live in.  It is only the world some people create to avoid the fact that we really are responsible for what we do (atheism is essentially the flight from responsibility).  Eventually we’ll end up in a place far worse than a MA prison, unless grace finds us and pulls us from the self-destructive mess we are in.

I love to visit the world of Seinfeld, but I wouldn’t want to live there!

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I’m in Matthew 6:5-8 for Sunday’s sermon.  I came across this:

“Believers do not pray with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant.  On the contrary, they pray in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.”  John Calvin, from his Harmonized Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels

Piper had tons of good stuff, but that is at home and the Geek Squad has the lap top.

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In church history, I’m currently teaching the kids about the Reformation.  I’m supplementing the lectures with the movie Luther.  One of the topics that arose was that of the saints, and the sale of little statues.

Yesterday my brother-in-law and I were in Barnes & Noble’s when I came across a Household Saints kit.  I almost bought it for future object lessons.  In the kit you get:

 “This charming yet practical kit contains everything you need to invoke the protection and guidance of the patron saints who look after us and our homes. Lost your car keys? Say a prayer to St. Anthony of Padua. Trying to sell your corner-lot Victorian? Clasp your hands ad beseech St. Joseph for help. Having trouble with the reception on your television? St. Clare of Assisi is waiting in the wings to give you and your satellite dish a holy, helping hand.
“The wonderful, illustrated book and hand-painted figurines (of St. Jude, St. Clare, and St. Joseph, each selected for his or her crucial area of responsibility in the modern home) provide comforting evidence that there really is someone out there who cares, watching over you and your family in times of domestic need. “

 Really, I couldn’t make this up.  Clare, a Francisian, as the patron saint of television.  I am still stunned by the audacity and ridiculousness of the whole thing.  Who needs Jesus when you’ve got these guys watching over you….

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Like me, Anthony Bradley loves U2’s music and heart for the poor and oppressed.  Like me, he believes Bono needs to study economics.  I’ve mentioned this sort of thing before regarding Bono.  Sadly, he is not alone.  Most Congressmen and Senators would benefit from an actual economics class or two because they seem utterly clueless about basic economic principles.  Yes, I was an Economics major at Boston University.

I haven’t read much in that field recently, though Thomas Sowell’s book Basic Economics intrigues me.  I may have to pick it up.  At the school where I teach church history, they use Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.  My very brief glance at the book got my interest (yes, I’m struggling to stay focused instead of plunging into the obvious fodder for fun).

Stupid rabbit trail: I once worked for a Christian organization in Boston (yes, sounds rather odd).  We were having a meeting and getting ready to pray.  Across the alley was a hotel.  At that precise moment the window shade opened to reveal a topless (at least) woman.  I’ve heard the hotel was often used by prostitutes.  I had to fight with everything within me not to burst out loud with laughter.  I was distracted from prayer, but from laughter, not lust.

Anyway…. Anthony directs us to his friend Ryan’s article on the problem(s) with the One Campaign.  It is sort of like a sin tax, indulgences or carbon offsets.  You and Oprah can feel better about your crass materialism because some of the proceeds go to a good cause.

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I didn’t have to preach on Sunday, so it opened up some free space to think this weekend.  I was thinking about Ed Stetzer’s message on Breaking the Missional Code.

There are aspects in every culture that are in line with the Gospel.  They are reflections of people being in God’s image.  We should affirm them, and generally utilize them as relational in-roads.  For instance, hospitality is still a virtue in many places.  As Christians, we can practice hospitality, particularly with unbelievers, and get to know people better.

There will be cultural aspects, particulary art, that can be transformed to serve the kingdom.  I’m thinking particularly about music.  As a pastor, I have to check my preferences at the door that we can worship in a musical style THAT community responds to.  Alternative music may work in Seattle, but not in Winter Haven, FL.  Country-Western may work in most of Texas, but not so much in Detriot.  Musical styles vary greatly by culture and subculture.  There is nothing wrong with recognizing that and acting accordingly.  Lyrics should continue to be biblical, and meaningful- but the manner in which the music is played will vary greatly.  I don’t know many people who listen to “Southern Gospel”… so that is not a very meaningful worship medium for most people.


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At first glance, The Astronaut Farmer looks like it may be a family movie.  Not so much.  There was just enough crudity/sexuality that I felt uncomfortable with the kids in the theatre.

This is a slow-moving movie that seems a bit conflicted at points.  Charlie Farmer, as we discover as the movie progresses, was in the astronaut program when his father committed suicide.  He left to care for his family on the family ranch.  But he never lets go of his dream to go into space, and builds his own rocket.  He perseveres in the pursuit of his dream despite a number of obstacles including the bank, and the Federal Government.  It is here that I find the movie disturbing.  Certainly his father never should have taken his own life, but pursuing your dream at the expense of your family ( the opposite extreme) is just as dangerous.

1. The family embraces the idolatry of his dream.  The whole life of the family is wrapped around the pursuit of his dream.

2. Protecting his idol leads him to lie to his wife and make his family homeless.

3. He is painted as a good father, despite all these things.

4. Institutions are portrayed as EVIL.  The bank is evil for wanting to foreclose even though he was grossly overdue as he was obsessed with his dream.  Some cheap shots on the gov’t for the Patriot Act.  The guy from the FAA was so one-dimensional it was embarassing.  The FBI men were essentially stupid puppets.

5. A few moments of suspending believability.  The rocket launches would have burned his barn to the ground.  When he lands back on earth, the capsule should be red-hot and light all that dry grass up like tinder.

6. They wasted a great cast: Bruce Willis, Tim Blake Nelson and a verifiable Bruce Dern sighting. 

Do yourself a favor, stay away.  If you think you HAVE to see it, rent it.

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I was listening to Ed Stetzer’s message at the Resurgence Conference.  Sounds like we share similar opinions on Niebuhr’s book, Christ and Culture.  None of the positions fits every circumstance.  There are aspects of culture we can embrace, some we transform, and some we reject (for instance, pornography cannot be transformed for a good purpose).  The people who either only embrace culture (often liberal Christians) or only reject culture (often fundamentalists) are sadly mistaken.

He mentions that there are some things about each person’s culture that make them uncomfortable.  I thought some about the things about my culture here in central Florida that make me uncomfortable.

– Our pursuit of $$$$ and the creature comforts it can buy.  We are obsessed with technological gadgets, bigger homes, bigger cars and so forth.  This would be the love of money- a.k.a. greed which is covetousness which is idolatry.

– Our pursuit of leisure.  This is the land of golf courses and theme parks (the Disney counterfeit Trinity +1, Universal Studios’ 2 parks, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, Wet ‘n’ Wild, Holy Land Experience, Dinosaur World, Fantasy of Flight….). 

– Addictions, otherwise known as idols of pleasure (alcohol, food, sex, drugs, cigarrettes, video games).

What in your local culture makes you uncomfortable?

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The Endtimers

The place is Lake City, FL.  It is on I-75 between Gainesville and the Georgia border.  One of my elders went their on business recently and saw some unusual folks.  A few questions prompted him to learn more about the group people call The Endtimers. 

In 1984 Charles Meade and his followers moved there.  Things … well, changed.  Ordinary citizens fear their town is being taken over, forcibly, by the Endtimers.  One lady found members “claiming her business” in the name of Jesus, and has discovered uninvited real estate agents inspecting her property.  After other acts of harassment, she bought a pistol, just in case.

Over 1,000 people followed the ex-Ball Manufacturing Co. employee in the early 90’s.  He claims “he has visited the evening star, walked with God along the Milky Way, healed the sick, revived the dead and “in the name of Jesus” commanded would-be robbers to drop their weapons.”

The purpose of End Times Ministries, according to sermons gathered by Cult Help and Information is “”God’s going to have a mighty army in this end time. The army that he spoke about in Joel. And you’re some of the people. This generation here is the one that’s going to bring Jesus back.”

“He talks about establishing a Society of “the greatest people that ever walked the face of the Earth.” And he talks of himself, as someone doing something that has never been done.”


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Sadly, this is not a movie but a man’s life.  Singer of the legendary rock band Boston took his own life last week.  The details have slowly been becoming public.  My focus here is not on the how’s but the why’s of his suicide.  And that why is a number of unreconciled relationships that sucked the life out of him.  He was not the one who was in the conflicts directly, but caught in the middle.

He was the only original member to maintain his relationship with Boston-mastermind Tom Scholz.  Brad maintained his friendships with guitarist Barry Goudreau, bassist Fran Sheehan and Sid Hashian.  He would continue to work with them on side projects.  His ex-wife is the sister of Goudreau’s wife.  This conflict was something he could not escape.

Being stuck in the middle is quite draining.  This was a situation that had been going on since the Great Schism in the 80’s.  It slowly took its toll on Brad.  His ex-wife said he was a people pleaser of sorts.  He was trying to keep both sides happy, and be friendly with both.

Delp was engaged to marry Pamela Sullivan, and Boston was scheduled to tour this summer (in the summer of reunions, many of which are collapsing before they begin, such as Van Halen).  It was a new conflict about the tour that some see as the final straw.  One of the singers who has worked with them since the 90’s was not going to join the tour. Again the conflict seems to be with Scholz, and Delp tried to suck it up and please both side.


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“I believe that a very large majority of church goers are merely unthinking, slumbering worshippers of an unknown God.”  Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 11

 Just as true today as when he first preached these words.

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Some of the people purchasing carbon offsets have been doing research into what they money went to.  Some of them were very disappointed with what they discovered

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Women’s Ministry in the Local Church has been in the chute for awhile.  I’ve been reading it here and there.  Part of what that says to me is that the book did not captivate me.  It was solid, but not spectacular.  With so few resources on women’s ministry from a complementarian view, this is an important and helpful book to read.  It is helpful for pastors to know what they should be envisioning for the women’s ministry in the local church.  It is important for women’s ministry leaders becasue it is so easy to get off course, or buy into the tenets of feminism that have captivated our surrounding culture and infiltrate the church in many ways.

“Women discipling women is not just a program- it is the covenant lifestyle of redeemed women.”  I could not agree more whole-heartedly.

This book covers the big picture items with chapters on The Need, The Motive and Foundations.  It moves into the elements of women’s ministry: Submission, Compassion, Community, Discipleship and Scripture.  As a result, it is helpful in training women’s ministry leaders.  And we need more leaders discipling women in solid biblical ministry.

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