Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taking a Shortcut to God?

We live in a culture of experts. Everywhere one turns, there are professionals touting advice on everything from how to repair your car to how to fix your marriage. And, in Christian circles, some have even started to believe that there are “God experts”—people who can pray in just the right way that God hears them or who worship in such a way as to make God listen. We begin to rely on these people as our sole source of information about God, rather than make the effort to encounter Him directly ourselves.

In his new book, Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a Firsthand Faith (David C Cook, June 2009), author and worship pastor of New Life Church Glenn Packiam summons readers upon a passionate quest—a holy pursuit—to truly experience Christ’s power and love for themselves. “God wants us to know Him deeply and personally,” Packiam says. “But there are no shortcuts to God. The Bible tells us that ‘The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.’” (Matthew 7:14, The Message)

God has offered us firsthand knowledge of His love, His grace, and His power. Yet so often, we too easily settle for someone else’s descriptions, the Cliff notes from another’s spiritual journey. We are content for others to do the heavy lifting and then give us the bottom line. And, like any secondhand information, after enough times through the grapevine, the truth about God deteriorates and crumbs of rumor are all that remain.

But when life derails, and things don’t go as we had planned, our thin view of God is challenged. In those critical moments, we can choose to walk away from God, or to let our questions lead us home. When we choose to wrestle with God, to engage Him individually, we—like Jacob and Job and David—will see rumors die and revelation come alive.

Crushing rumors of God that many Christians mistakenly hold, Secondhand Jesus isn’t a five-step formula, but rather a challenge to Christians to own their faith by questioning their preconceived ideas about God. “It’s time to hear the magnificent, Divine Invitation,” says Packiam. “It’s time to take God up on His offer and embrace the mystery and majesty of knowing Him for ourselves.”

Author Bio

Glenn Packiam is an associate worship pastor at New Life Church and the director of New Life School of Worship in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was one of the founding worship leaders and songwriters for the Desperation Band. Glenn’s worship songs, like “Your Name,” “Everyone (Praises),” “My Savior Lives,” and “We Lift You Up,” are being sung in churches all over the world. Glenn is also the author of Butterfly in Brazil. He and his wife, Holly, and their two adorable daughters, Sophia and Norah, live in Colorado Springs.

New Twist for my Blog

For some time now I have been writing pseudo-professionally, and because of that you may start to see some changes to my blog. I do a little writing for the B&B Media Group, and they promote and market a lot of really good books. As a result of my relationship with B&B Media, I'm going to start posting some press releases of some of the books they promote so that you will be aware of what's "out there" that you may want to add to your reading list. I hope this will prove helpful to you and to B&B. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Christmas Quotes

"I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses." - Taylor Caldwell

"Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year." - Victor Borge

"Sing out with joy for the brave little boy who is God, but he made himself nothing." - Andrew Peterson

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Quotes continued....

"There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle –the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture." - Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Quotes

From now until Christmas day I'm going to share some of my favorite Christmas quotes with you. Enjoy!

  • "Today as I read the accounts of Jesus' birth I tremble to think of the fate of the world resting on the responses of two rural teenagers." - Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

5 Awesome Gifts for Men

I'm putting together a list of Christmas goodies that any intelligent man would want this year. I own some of these, but would love to have others. Without further hesitation, I bring you Steve's list of Awesome Guy Christmas Presents:

1. Keurig Single Cup Home Brewing System - I recently acquired this lovely machine as a pastor appreciation gift. It's awesome. I hate brewing a pot of coffee when all I really want is one cup. With this bad boy there are no messy coffee grains, no filters to bother with, and no re-warming of old coffee because you feel bad throwing out half a pot at the end of the day. Plus, it makes a really good cup of joe. This is a must have for the coffee lover.

2. Under Armour Boxerjock - OK, I'm not going to post a picture of these, but trust me when I tell you that this is simply the finest pair of male undergarment ever invented. Also trust me when I say that every man needs to replenish all or some of his underwear each year. Enough said.

3. Kindle - If there's one item on this year's list that I covet most, it's the Kindle. This electronic book reader is like having an entire library of books in a device the size of a thin paperback. Here are only a few of the features the Kindle offers:

  • Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
  • Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback
  • Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered wirelessly in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
  • 3G Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle; no annual contracts, no monthly fees, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Global Coverage: Enjoy 3G wireless coverage at home or abroad in over 100 countries.
  • Paper-Like Display: Reads like real paper without glare, even in bright sunlight
  • Carry Your Library: Holds up to 1,500 books
  • Longer Battery Life: Now read for up to 1 week on a single charge with wireless on, a significant improvement from the previous battery life of 4 days
  • Built-In PDF Reader: Your Kindle can now display PDF documents natively. Native PDF support allows you to carry and read all of your personal and professional documents on the go.
  • Read-to-Me: With the experimental Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books out loud to you, unless the book's rights holder made the feature unavailable
  • Free Book Samples: Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy
  • Large Selection: Over 360,000 books, including 101 of 112 New York Times® Best Sellers, plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs.
  • Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. When traveling abroad, you can download books wirelessly from the Kindle Store or your Archived Items. U.S. customers will be charged a fee of $1.99 for international downloads.
Santa, if you're listening, I'd really love to have a Kindle.

4. DigiMemo Tablet - The unique toy records your notes, ideas, drawings, sketches and flowcharts as you create them, and stores them as image files to flash memory or to an optional CompactFlash card in real time. What could be easier or more natural than handwriting your notes using a pen on ordinary paper? I would use this thing a lot for taking notes at meetings, conferences, etc. Very cool.

5. Powermat Charger - My son likes to chew on my iPhone charger, and it seems like we're always looking for that stupid cord. The Powermat charger is a mat that is roughly the size of two mouse pads that allows you to charge your phone and other devices by simply laying them on the mat. Pretty awesome!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Picture updates of Random Happenings

Here are some pics of things I've seen or taken part in lately that are pretty cool.  Enjoy!!

This was taken at Irving Bible Church, the church that I used to be on staff with.  I went back to IBC this week for a conference, and, as usual, the church facility was full of interesting and fascinating information.  Nobody brings meaning to their facility better than IBC.  This was a great display promoting a ministry called "Water is Basic."  Really cool (This picture doesn't do it justice).

Another of the many interesting displays at Irving Bible Church.  That's a pretty sobering fact.

This is a letter that my son, Cale, wrote to his older brother, Trent.  It was displayed outside of his classroom at school.  I love it that my boys not only get along, but that they openly share their fondness for each other.  That's pretty special.

This is a picture of a ministry that my church has started recently, whereby we go to different parts of our community and serve a free meal from a gigantic BBQ pit on wheels.  Pretty awesome.  At this particular event we fed about 200 people in 40 minutes.  Wow!!

Look at all that free food!  Yummy!!

This is a pic of my little girl, Jillian, while we were riding one of those terrible spinning rides at the Fall Festival.  I love that sweet little girl!

This is my youngest son, Quinn in his Halloween costume.  

Check out all the Hayes kids (and Mom)!  Pierce was a Hamburger, Quinn was a Puppy, Trent was a very tall and skinny Yoda, Cale was a Land Shark, and Jillian was a Dalmatian.  Kim was a Pentamom (Mother of 5).

This is Jet, our new Miniature Schnauzer/Scottish Terrier mixed puppy.  Jet was Jillian's 5th birthday present.  Like we needed any more mouths to feed!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Random Stuff

  • LSU plays Alabama this week. In honor of the game, I landscaped "LSU" into the ivy in my yard. Here's a pic.
  • I've been preaching a series called "What Would God Say to... ?" It's about what God might say to some of our culture's most notorious figures. The first week was "What Would God Say to Oprah Winfrey?" The second week was "What Would God Say to Donald Trump?" Week 3 was "What Would God Say to Britney Spears?" Week 4 was "What Would God Say to Darth Vader?" Last Sunday was the final week, and we finished off with "What Would God Say to John and Kate Goselin?" Each week really dealt with what these certain personalities represent in our culture. Oprah represents religious pluralism; Trump represents arrogance and greed; Britney represents what happens when someone falls apart; Darth Vader represents a lust for power; John and Kate represent divorce. God has a lot to say about all of those things. Interesting stuff.
  • We've been busy at church lately. 4 events in two weeks! Last Saturday we fed about 200 people at the East Side Apartments in Corsicana. That's a lot of BBQ!! It was awesome! This past Friday we gave out over 1,000 bags of candy to the kids who came to the downtown trick or treat. That's a lot of candy! On Halloween we ran a couple of booths at the Fall Festival at First Baptist Corsicana. There were a ton of people there. That's a lot of folks!! On Sunday they threw a pastor appreciation lunch for me. The food was great and people said nice things.
  • More people came to the pastor appreciation lunch than to the other three events combined. That doesn't make me feel appreciated.
  • I found some new bands that I really like, and I may have made the best mix on my ipod that I've ever heard. It's loaded with stuff from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Parlor Mob, The Mumlers, The Black Keys, The Raconteurs, Ray LaMontagne, Spoon, and others. Awesome!

"A Revered Spiritual Powerhouse"

I haven't posted in a while, and I'm really not sure how much longer I'll keep this thing going. I'm torn, really, about whether or not the "Beef" is feasible for me at this stage of my life. Perhaps I just need to buckle down and make it work. Let me know what you think I should do if you have a chance.

To continue with the "Beef" or not, however, is not the intention of this post. I just saw something that will take a while to completely digest. I'll ponder this for a while. You see, the church that I pastor is in the process of making several changes. In our efforts to become more faithful practitioners of what Scot McKnight calls "The Jesus Creed" (Love God, Love Others), we feel that it's necessary to renovate some portions of our facility. In my view, this is really an issue of stewardship and service more than anything else. Our building is unfinished, and, particularly from the outside, it is difficult to know whether or not we're actually viable. One could easily drive or walk past our church and wonder if we're open for business (so to speak).

The Bible calls the man a "sluggard" who lets his grass become overgrown and his wall (fence) fall down (Proverbs 24:30-34). God speaks of being a good manager of what He has given us, and I believe in my heart that Grace Community Church of Corsicana, TX, has tried very hard to do the best with what we've had, but it is time to make a few adjustments that will enhance and complete what is currently the equivalent of an overgrown yard and a broken wall. We have committed to do so without incurring any debt, and we're determined to restore our facility to its humble and transparent roots.

I wrestle with spending money on a facility. It feels dirty sometimes because that money could seemingly be spent on any number of things that might go toward flesh and blood rather than bricks and mortar. I do think, however, that there are times when taking care of your facility means that you give yourself a greater opportunity to help more people and have more impact than you would otherwise. This is the motivation that is driving our church, and I can say with total confidence that this renovation is not a power play or a lust for luxury. That's just not what we're trying to do.

Today I was made aware of First Baptist Church of Dallas' plans to re-create their downtown fortress into "a revered spiritual powerhouse." The project will cost a mere $130,000,000. It's the largest church building program in modern history. I watched the videos on this web site to see more about the project. It's massive and gaudy, and I feel a little sick over the whole thing. It feels like what might happen if Jerry Jones were to become a pastor. Yuck!

My wife taught school at First Baptist Academy in Dallas for years until they lowered her pay last year in an effort to make their private school less of a drain on the church. Now I know what they were up to!! My two oldest boys were no longer eligible for scholarships because FBC Dallas had other plans for that money. Who needs an education when you can look at a whole bunch of shiny new stuff?

So now I'm left with the question, "Are we doing the same thing?" Are we renovating our little facility at the expense of the very people Jesus came to serve and love and save? Are we putting a building ahead of our mission to empower people to know and love Jesus? These are the questions that haunts me.

Now, I don't know how much is too much when it comes to this kind of thing, but I'm prone to think that if I invite people to my house for a party, but haven't bothered to mow the yard, pick up the half eaten pizza on the table or clean up the dog poop in the middle of the area rug, it's not going to be much fun for my special guests. Aesthetics play a direct role in the comfort level and involvement of the people. If things look nice, folks are more likely to have experiences that are good and inviting. If a church seeks to pursue that end, I think that's reasonable and noble.

On the other hand, if I expect people to come to my party just because I have a rock band, a laser light show, several inflatable games, and a few celebrities at a mansion in the Hampton's, that's a different story. I'm sure folks will come by the droves, but are they really the kinds of people I want at my party? And is all that stuff necessary for us to enjoy each other or is it simply extravagant and useless? I think you know the answer.

So, for now, I think we'll move forward with our plans to renovate, and I know that FBC Dallas will move forward with their plans to re-create. I'd like to think there is no difference in the motivation for these two projects... aside from about $129,900,000.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In Memory of Dr. David Edwards

Dr. David Edwards, pastor of First Baptist Church in Corsicana, died in a car accident yesterday.  David was a good friend.  When I got home from the hospital late last night, this is what I wrote about our friendship:

Sometimes pastors need pastors too.  We struggle with life’s ups and downs just like everyone else, and at certain points we need a patient, loving, listening ear.  We don’t have the luxury of whispering the latest gossip in the hallway, or “constructively” criticizing the sermon over Sunday lunch.  Instead, we rely on those rare and wonderful friends who can hear our hearts and handle our hurts with great care and discretion.

My pastor in this town was Dr. David Edwards.  It’s ironic that Dr. Edwards, the pastor at First Baptist Church, and I, the pastor at Grace Community Church, would have built such a friendship.  You see Grace Community Church notoriously broke away from FBC nearly 14 years ago.  Regardless of the irony, David and I enjoyed a real and honest friendship that was challenging, inspiring and forward thinking.  

When we’d meet for coffee on a nearly weekly basis, we’d talk about things that mattered, like our love for our families, our insecurities and weaknesses, and our goals and aspirations for our churches.  The only expectation we had of each other was to tell it straight.  There was no sense of the kinds of petty competition and unbecoming boasting that has unfortunately bled into the church world.  David and I were teammates, and we shared ministry tips and collaborated on ministry efforts in ways that were insightful and unselfish.

David always made me feel like an equal, even though he was 13 years my elder and had achieved much more than I, both academically and professionally.  We shared a common, passionate love for Christ, and we respected each other because we knew what it meant to be leaders who desperately desired to see the great impact of God’s grace in this town.  Our relationship was easy, and that, my friends, is hard to find.

So, as a pastor who needed a pastor, I mourn with the dear people of First Baptist Church (especially the family of Dr. Edwards).  Thanks for sharing your leader with me, and know that the people of Grace Community Church are fervently praying for God’s sustaining grace during this unimaginable time.   David was a friend and mentor, but he was, more than anything else, a pastor, and that’s just about the best thing a person could be to a pastor like me.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

My 10 year old son watched the Fox News 9/11 special report with me tonight. He wanted to know more about what happened. We would pause the program and talk through his many questions. He asked me what I was thinking when the plane hit the Pentagon. I told him that I was just worried about what would happen next. Where was the next explosion going to be? It was such a frightening time.

I talked through tears to my son about what happened on 9/11, but it felt good to know that the memories of that day still stirred up emotion inside of me. I think our country is doing its best to let the emotions of 9/11 fade. The fact that we still don't have a 9/11 memorial/museum, and that the dadgummed site in lower Manhattan still looks the same as it did in 2002 is a crying shame.  The more time goes by, the more I fear that we are forgetting all of the implications of what happened on that horrible day.  

We forget that we are united by something beyond geography, politics and personalities.  We forget that we are bound, at the most basic level, by the fact that we are free.  We forget that what makes us noble is selfless generosity.  We forget that we are vulnerable, and we are never too big, rich, proud and popular to achieve immunity from the attacks of zealous, wicked people.

Tim Keller, speaking in a sermon about observing the Lord's Supper, speaks of the value of remembrance.  He says remembering is much more than simply recalling past events.  The word "re-member", says Keller, is the opposite of the word "dis-member."  When we re-member, we unite around the truth.  Our country could stand to re-member right about now.  Unfortunately, it seems, we have chosen to dis-member.  What a tragic disservice to those who fell on 9/11.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

What do you think of this?

One of my church members came to me with a ticket to an event that he'd heard about that offered a chance to win the choice of 1 of 2 brand new vehicles. All I had to do, according to the ticket, was listen to a 3 minute story. So I looked a the ticket and went to the web site, and here's what I found. Apparently you set up a private viewing area that has these videos available for viewing. People watch the videos and fill out a card that asks them if they want to make a decision to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. The card serves as their registration for the car give-a-way.

I don't know how I feel about this. I love the idea of using people's stories to share the truth of Jesus Christ, but I hate the idea of having to bribe them to do so. Then again, people came to Jesus all the time because they heard that he might perform some kind of miracle , or heal them of their sickness. Isn't that the same thing? At what point, though, does the car give-a-way overshadow the Savior? The idea behind this is that people will be lured in by the prospect of winning a new car, but once they enter the private viewing area, they are introduced to the unexpectedly wonderful story of Jesus. Is this a good idea, or is it just a bait and switch?

If it's ok for us to lure people in with a chance to win a new car, then would it be ok for us to offer free crack to people who will listen to a story for three minutes? At what point is it ok to use this kind of tool, and at what point is it no longer ok? I'll be real honest: I'm uncomfortable with the car give-a-way side of this, but I'm not at all uncomfortable with the fact that everyone who comes to Jesus does so out of selfish motivation. What's the difference between coming because you want a car, and coming because you want heaven instead of hell?

Anyway, check out the site and see what you think. I'd really love to get your insight on this one, so please post a response. I'd especially love to hear from those of you who aren't particularly involved in church, or who wouldn't consider yourselves Christians. How would this kind of thing hit you?

By the way, if you respond, I'll give you a free car!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Michael Phelps of Youth Ministry

My Brother-in-law showed me this video last night, and if it weren't so tragically true to life, it'd be absolutely hilarious. I actually know guys in youth ministry who are carbon copies of this guy! You can't imagine how many times I've wanted to jump on stage and give them the hook. This is painfully funny.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Bishop Castle

Jim Bishop

Kim and I drove all five kids to Horn Creek, Colorado for Family Camp this week.  This was our third year in a row to attend camp at Horn Creek, and, as usual, it was worth every bit of time, money, and effort it took to get there.  This is a wonderful experience, and if you read this and have a family, you should seriously consider making the trip with us next year.  Seriously, it's awesome!

One of the beauties of Horn Creek is that you can pretty much customize your experience.  If you want to climb Horn Peak, you can.  If you want to drive to the Wolf Sanctuary, you can.  If you want to shuttle over to Lake DeWeese, you can.  If you just want to stay in your room and participate in what we like to call "Horn Creek Aerobics" (that's code for taking the best nap of your life), you can.  The options are abundant and awesome!

Each year we plan to participate in certain things that sound fun and interesting.  Last year we drove to Colorado Springs, where we took the kids to "The North Pole", an amusement park that feels like spending a day in Santa's mythological wonderland.  We also took a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park and enjoyed a fascinating adventure atop a mountain of sand.  This year, among other things, we decided to go to a place we had heard about many times before, but had never visited.  It only took us 45 minutes of majestic mountain scenery to get there, and it revealed one of the strangest, most mind-boggling sites I've ever hear of, much less visited.

The Bishop Castle is apparently one man's effort to... uhm... build a castle.  Who hasn't wanted to do that, right?  Well, Jim Bishop has done/is doing it!  Did I mention that it's strange?  It looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie (Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands), and standing in its shadows is a grim yet fascinating undertaking.  

Every year since 1969, Bishop has single-handedly gathered and set over 1000 tons of rock to create this stone and iron fortress in the middle of nowhere. Bishop calls it "a monument to hardworking people" and "America's biggest, one-man, physical project."  I'm not sure whether that can be corroborated, but as weird as this place is, it's certainly impressive.  Bishop, on the other hand, is crazy.  I'm talking Britney Spears shaving her head crazy.  The dude is certifiable, but at least he's productive, right?

He is currently building a mote in front of the castle, and I happened to run into him while he was moving dirt with a Bobcat.  He took off his cowboy hat, wiped his brow, and went on an epic rant about how our government is planning to round people up into concentration camps replete with "human ovens."  After nearly ten minutes of uninterrupted ramblings, Bishop turned to me and my 10 year old son and said, "If b--- s---- was music, I'd be a four piece brass band!  But some of what I say is true, and I've got the God given right to say it!"  You might also need to exercise your God given right to take a high dose of anti-psychotics, Mr. Bishop. Seriously.

The climb to the top of Bishop's castle is an exercise in fear and vertigo.  Each side of the castle offers circular, wrought iron stairways that wind past open windows and up narrow towers.  There is a huge dragon-shaped furnace that protrudes through the front of the place, providing an ominous face to this egregious edifice.  Each step feels like it could be your last, but you feel drawn, inexorably, to continue to climb to the top of every terrible tower.  Words can't really describe this place, and pictures really don't do it justice.  If you're ever in Custer County, Colorado, The Bishop's Castle is definitely worth a look.  Here are some pics:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sea World 2009

My family went to Sea World in San Antonio this week, and it was awesome. Our friends, Jennifer and Mark, were kind enough to host the entire Hayes clan (minus Quinn), and it was a real treat, especially considering the fact that Mark works at Sea World and is in charge of caring for many of the animals. I made a video of our trip, and the coolest part is at the end, when Mark gave us a private visit to the dolphin tank. We got to touch the dolphins and see them do some tricks. It was amazing! Enjoy the video!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Texas is Tiger Bait!

2009 National Championship - CWS Team Photo

The LSU Tigers baseball team defeated the University of Texas 2 games to 1 in a best of three series to win their 6th National Championship.  The Tigers are young, confident, and loaded with talent, and it won't surprise me to see them at the top again next year.  The best part of all is that they beat Texas, and, well, I live in Texas.  Thanks, Tigers, for giving me bragging rights over all these snooty longhorn fans!

Here's a general description of Texas and LSU fans:

Texas Fan:
  • Attire: Burnt orange cap, white golf shirt, khaki shorts, Crocs (Texas colored), Oakley's and a blue tooth device.  
  • Likelihood of face paint: Very Low.
  • Drink of Choice: Shiner Bock or Cognac
  • Demeanor: Composed, almost disinterested, and likely to flash a "hook 'em" sign after a good play.
LSU Fan:
  • Attire: Purple Cap, Championship Gold T-shirt, Purple shorts, flip-flops, Mardi Gras beads, Flask.
  • Likelihood of face paint: Very High.
  • Drink of Choice: Cheap Bourbon or Natural Light
  • Demeanor: Shamefully enthusiastic, slightly inebriated, and likely to chant "LSU! LSU! LSU!" or "Tiger Bait! Tiger Bait! Tiger Bait!" to the top of their lungs after every play.
Give me the LSU fan any day!

Geaux Tigers!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Greatness From Seth!

My new worship leader, as stated before, is awesome!  He's been recording some new stuff lately, and it's really, really good.  Kind of reminds me of Neil Young but with a much better voice.  I love Seth's style of music: acoustic, folksy, and layered.  Listening to his stuff is like lying in a wheat field next to a big tree on a blue sky day.  Nice work, Seth!

You can listen to all of Seth's new stuff here: 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For those who don't understand my obsession with LSU...

LSU's Mikey Mahtook celebrates a three-run HR

There was an article today in an Omaha, Nebraska newspaper that sums up why it's so fun and addictive to be an LSU Tiger sports fan.  The Tigers are in Omaha this week for the College Baseball World Series.  LSU had an incredible run in baseball between 1990 and 2000, winning 5 National Championships in 10 years.  During that time, LSU fans became an annual fixture in Omaha, site of the College World Series.  This article explains the phenomenon that is LSU athletics, and shows that there's nothing quite like the fraternity of LSU sports fanatics.  In short, nobody throws a party like LSU!

By the way, LSU is undefeated in this year's College World Series, and the Tigers beat SEC rival Arkansas 9-1 last night.

New Worship Leader Song

Seth Slay, the new Worship Leader at my church, is wonderful! He's young... Very young (20), but he's delightful. The best thing about Seth is his humble spirit. He's not into the spotlight, which is weird for a public musician. Instead, Seth is quiet, unassuming, and more concerned about what the people in the congregation are singing than what is happening on stage. I love it!!

Anyway, Seth has been recording this week in Rockwall, TX, and here's his first new song. It's really great! You can listen to it by clicking this link: http://twiturm.com/6gcy

Go Seth!!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Funniest Thing I've Seen in a Long Time!

My friend Todd Bragg sent this to me, and I can't stop watching it.  I remember watching this video on Friday Night Videos in the mid-80's.  I was mesmerized by the glowing eyes and all the crazy imagery.  Apparently so were the makers of this new and improved video.  Beware... You will laugh out loud at this.


My family's out of town for the weekend - all except Pierce and me - and that paves the way for some serious time wasting on my part.  When I'm home alone the typical restraints and responsibilities are no longer present, and there's ample space to fill with meaningless activities, or even the random nap (which I thought was extinct, but, as it turns out, is only an endangered species).  Last night I put Pierce to bed and watched Frost/Nixon on pay per view.  Good choice.

Told in documentary style, the film details the final days of President Richard Nixon and tells of David Frost's risky attempt to interview America's most controversial political figure.  The movie is extremely well made, well acted, and... well... fascinating.   There are many layers present in this film that one could explore, but the story line that intrigued me most was Frost's willingness to put his entire financial status, reputation and career behind this project.  He risked everything to interview Nixon, and nobody thought he had the journalistic pedigree or intellectual integrity to pull it off.  For most of the movie, it seemed the critics were right.  Frost was disorganized, distracted and often times disengaged from the reality of his situation.  He was in over his head, and his realization of this fact before his final interview with Nixon was the turning point of the story.

In the end, the Frost/Nixon interviews proved to be some of the most compelling political documentation in American history.  Frost was rewarded and even lauded by the same critics who doubted him, but I couldn't help but think how close the line was between massive success and crushing failure.  This movie was so fascinating because it demonstrated that anything worth doing must straddle the same line.  It made me ask myself if I have done or am doing anything "on the line", and it forced me to realize that, if I want my life to matter, I've got to walk the line (Fade lights; cue Johnny Cash song; roll credits).

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

An Abortion Contradiction

Dr. George Tiller was murdered this weekend at Church. I feel bad for his family and his church, and I hate that this terrible thing happened. Dr. Tiller is best known as one of only a few doctors in the United States who perform late term abortions. He had performed more than 60,000 of these procedures in his career. Here's what Dr. Albert Mohler (President of Southern Seminary) said about Dr. Tiller:

"Violence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause. Now, the premeditated murder of Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of his church is the headline scandal — not the abortions he performed and the cause he represented.

We have no right to take the law into our own hands in an act of criminal violence. We are not given the right to take this power into our own hands, for God has granted this power to governing authorities. The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy. This is not merely a legal technicality — it is a vital test of the morality of the pro-life movement.

Murder is murder. The law rightly affirms that the killing of Dr. George Tiller is murder. In this we must agree. We cannot rest until the law also recognizes the killing of the unborn as murder. The killing of Dr. George Tiller makes that challenge all the more difficult."

I agree with Dr. Mohler's assessment. It's sad to me that this has already become ammunition for certain pro-abortion activists who claim that Dr. Tiller's murder is a sign of the violent and hypocritical nature of the pro-life movement and mentality. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this situation sheds light on a stunning pro-abortion contradiction.

I've heard from many people over the years who think abortion should be legal , and one of their main arguments for abortion is that they claim that making it illegal would cause thousands of pregnant women to rush into back alley's and perform their own abortions. They think this would cause a "black market" abortion industry that would be unhealthy and would eventually cause more harm than good. While I appreciate the compassion that leads to this argument, I think it is completely wrong. Here's why:

What if pro-life activists made this same argument in relation to the murder of Dr. Tiller? What if we said that abortions should be made illegal because, if they're not, the potential exists for people to murder more abortion doctors? We can't continue to allow abortions because a "black market" industry of abortion doctor assassins (ADA's) will flood to dark alley's to hatch murderous plots and purchase weapons to kill those who carry out abortions.

The problem here is that we don't make laws against bad things because the potential of collateral bad things might happen. We don't tell everyone it's ok to speed on the highways because if they don't, they might be late to work and get fired. We say it's not ok to speed because speeding is a threat to society and is therefore immoral. In the same way, we shouldn't legislate for or against abortion because it might make people do illegal and immoral things. We should legislate for or against it because of it's threat or benefit to society.

I find it very difficult (if not impossible) to find an argument that proves that abortion is a benefit to society. On the other hand, it's quite easy for me to find many arguments that prove that abortion is the termination of a viable, LIVING human, and in the society I live in, that is never tolerable.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Interesting Quote of the Day

The latest issue of Christianity Today hit my mailbox recently, and I was intrigued by an interview with Shane Hibbs, the author of the book, "Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith." I haven't read the book yet, but the interview made me want to read it.

Hibbs' answer to one of the questions is extremely insightful. He explains in clear terms why something as wide open and seemingly freeing as the internet can be potentially destructive. Here's the quote of the day. Feel free to discuss...

Shane Hibbs on the internet - 
"And it creates a permanent puberty of the mind. We get locked in so much information, and the inability to sort that information meaningfully limits our capacity to understand. The last stage of knowledge is wisdom. But we are miles from wisdom because the Internet encourages the opposite of what creates wisdom—stillness, time, and inefficient things like suffering. On the Internet, there is no such thing as waiting; there is no such thing as stillness. There is a constant churning."

Phil Jackson puts "Bozo" Seger in his place

So, I'm watching the NBA playoffs the other nights, and the LA Lakers are losing at halftime to the Houston Rockets.  TNT's sideline reporter, Craig Seger, enters the scene wearing a "butterscotch" suit with a ridiculous shiny tie.  Seger is known for this kind of thing.  He's this 50-something white guy who wears these crazy suits and makes a spectacle of himself.  It's annoying.

Apparently Laker's coach, Phil Jackson, agrees with me.  He laid the smack down on Seger the other night, and it was really shocking and funny because I was watching it live, and I totally wasn't expecting it.  It was a pretty awkward scene.  I love awkwardness!


Friday, May 01, 2009

A Peculiar People

I know a lot about peculiar people. Aside from being one myself, I have become a part of a unique network of people who would definitely be labeled "peculiar." When Pierce, our middle child, was diagnosed with Autism more than three years ago, we joined the ranks of many parents and children who have been affected by this odd and cruel disorder. Autism is a world of quirky behaviors, primitive communication and pervasive insecurity. The parents of Autistic children are typically divorced (80% divorce rate among Autistic parents) or struggling with their marriage, and are often times wrestling with wrapping their brains around the "why's" and "how's" of raising what seems to be the world's strangest kid. Like I said, the world of Autism is a peculiar one.

I've found over these last three years that there are many comparisons to be made between Autism and the church. People with Autism have a difficult time relating to the world around them and communicating with others, and so does the church. Folks with Autism are typically self-absorbed and in their own world, and this is certainly a pit into which many churches have fallen. Autistic people are - let's face it - peculiar, and so are Christians.

1 Peter 2:9 says that we are " ...a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people..." We are peculiar in the sense that we have been set apart for God's purposes. We are, as many have noted, in the world, but not of the world. This is a tremendous tension. Perhaps nothing better illustrates Christianity's discomfort with this idea of peculiarity than a quick study of church architecture.

The architecture of the Medieval church is symbolic of its fight for authority with the government. As battles raged between Kings and Catholic authorities (see Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More), the church and the state battled over whose buildings looked the part. Westminster Abbey and The Palace of Westminster were closely linked, not only in proximity, but also in design. They both stand as towering symbols of authority and tradition, the two preeminent epistemological categories of the day.

As history moved west in the wake of the enlightenment, and industry replaced the family farm, the distinction between church and culture grew even more unclear from an architectural standpoint. With the rise of industry came the advent of the worker's union. Union halls became gathering places for motivational support, community events and communal connection. It's no accident, then, that churches began to fashion their buildings after the open spaces and wide walls of the union hall.
Union Hall At Purgatory http://ncbible.org/nwh/Athena1880S.jpg
World War II ushered in a new interest in science and innovation. The celebrities of the day were brainiacs like Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, and they hailed from great halls of learning such as MIT and Harvard. Logic and reason ruled the day, and educational architecture, with its Greek columns, triangular facades, and epic lines became all the rage in church architecture. As science threatened the miraculous nature of the Bible, Christianity responded with a strong commitment to apologetics, and a new look that mirrored its academic rival.

Americans soon became bored with rocket scientists and astrophysicists, and turned to a different and much less intellectual source of interest. The entertainment industry, with its L.A. studios and supermodel personalities, set the trend for culture, and for the church. The church growth movement, cognitive of the power of cool, merged high tech visual aides with casual environments and found a winning combination for relevance in the media age. Suddenly churches went from epic, institutional stone buildings to sweeping, sloping structures, emblematic of the entertainment superplexes found near suburban shopping malls. Both inside and out, the contemporary church looked like what might best be described as a marriage between a rock concert venue and a movie theatre.

Along with an obsession for entertainment came a sharp rise in consumerism. Out were the Mom and Pop stores of old Americana, and in were the Wal-Mart's and strip mall's, which offered one-stop shopping for any possible consumer need or desire. In kind, churches began to offer spiritual programs for every conceivable situation in life. Parenting classes, money management courses, life coaching, Single's groups, Men's groups, Women's groups, Yoga classes, Mother's Day Out programs, etc, became the marks of a vibrant church. The message appeared to be, "Just back up your spiritual truck and receive a customizable church experience, suited to your every need."

Christian bookstores began to pop up in retail heavy areas, and Christian goods and services became a multi-million dollar business. Christian T-shirts were big sellers, along with mass produced Christian art, Christian greeting cards, and Christian music. You could even promote dental hygiene with Christian breath mints! No wonder the new trend in church buildings became the storefront church.

Victor Lebow, a Retailing Analyst, had this to say about the effect of consumerism on spirituality: “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.” The interesting aspect of this is that Lebow said those words in 1942! Lebow's prophetic words are only now being understood properly as the church is becoming something of a spiritual supercenter.

Now, let me state here that I'm not opposed to churches that look like movie theatres or storefronts. I pastor a church that meets in an old department store, and we worship with the aide of a large projection system. My point is not that doing church in buildings that are inspired in some way by cultural trends is wrong. However, I do think it's high time that Christians begin to express our peculiar heritage with some sense of originality and greater purpose than trend following. The message of Christianity is infinitely unique. Why, then, have we continually struggled with our peculiarity? I'm not sure. Perhaps we should.

We are given a distinct and original call in 1 Corinthians 1:23-25, and this call should make it pretty much impossible for us to live in this world without enormous social tension. It tells us that we are wired differently, not unlike an Autistic child, and that social interaction for us peculiar people will be an awkward venture.

"but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
What we find here is that we are to proclaim a counterintuitive message that will cause those who think differently from us to either experience toe-stubbing discomfort or mind boggling annoyance. It doesn't mean that we run to the streets with a chip on our shoulder, seeking to counfound each passerby, but it does mean that the natural outworking of a vibrant faith is a certain amount of social discord.

So, rather than do all we can to placate and mirror the prevailing culture, doesn't it make more sense for us to embrace our peculiar calling and take our cues from Jesus and his painfully original message? How do we do that? Quite simply, we walk according to the "power" and "wisdom of God" regardless of whether it's fully embraced by our culture. We take our cues from Jesus, and we mirror Him. In so doing, we embrace an odd and alien existence which may not be properly packaged for mass consumption.