Blog Archives: January 2010 — December 2010

From the mouth of a child

December 26, 2010
It's December 26.  I'm at my parent's house.  We have 9" of snow here.  It's beautiful.  And it's good to be with family at Christmas.  We don't get to see them much.  Lots of us in the Bay Area don't get to see our families much.  I hope you are encouraged this season by God's goodness, and you feel the blessings of the season, perhaps even amidst loneliness, isolation, sadness, loss, or grief.  Below I have pasted the very familiar Christmas story...but maybe a little different.  It was typed by my 7 year old daughter.  She worked on it ...

You’re Inviting Me To Church?

November 29, 2010
“You’re inviting me to church? No one has done that in 20 years! Of course. I’d love to come.” And she did, three years ago, to our very first “Lessons and Carols--Advent Service.” People stay away from church for many reasons, but I have been surprised to learn over the years here in the Bay Area that one of the main reasons that people do not darken the door is that they have never been invited! Most of your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues are not Christian, and probably do not spend much time talking about Christianity, but many ...

Christmas time is here...well, not quite

November 24, 2010
Between 1887 and 1890, French composer Gabriel Fauré scored his Requiem in D minor, a choral-orchestral setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead.  The opening movement (“Introit”) reads as follows:  Requiem aeternam, dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat, luceat eis. (Grant them eternal rest, grant them rest, Lord, and perpetual light shine on them, down upon them.) *loose translation to modern English* Now this has nothing to do with Christmas or Advent whatsoever, except that I have chosen it to begin our Lessons & Carols service ...

Nike Shox Shoes and Christianity by Scotty Smith

November 02, 2010
  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2 Lord Jesus, it’s the day after Halloween and on the ancient church calendar, this is the day many refer to as “All Saints Day”—a time for remembering extraordinary brothers and sisters in Christ—those who have gone on before us into heaven, ...

Imagine There's No Heaven--It's Easy If You Try

November 01, 2010
My first and fourth grader will be serenading us with John Lennon’s words at their Oakland Youth Chorus Recital in December. They began learning this song the other day, and subsequently, we had a conversation about it over dinner. “Dad, what if there were no heaven?” “What if there were no religion, too?” “Would we still live together as a brotherhood of man?” (Okay, I threw the last one in of my own volition.) What do you do as a parent who knows that his kids will be singing this song with two hundred other kids, each with smiles plastered ...

The Singing Savior

October 25, 2010
The title is not mine.  I borrowed it from a phrase belonging to Reggie Kidd, who will be with us this weekend.  It's from his book entitled, "With One Voice."  Most of of this blog post won't be mine, either.  I'm going to include a few paragraphs here from his book - I don't think he'll mind.  Some from the opening of the book, and some from the close.  They actually tie together quite nicely, although there's a lot in between that's not to be missed!  I'm sure Reggie would appreciate the small amount of change he'd receive from your ...

How I Predict Divorce (and Church Breakups!)

October 13, 2010
  One of my basic assumptions is that healthy cities require healthy churches and healthy churches require healthy pastors and parishioners.  Thus, on the second Tuesday of the month the pastoral staff of Christ Church, along with a few other Bay Area pastors, gathers for pastoral care and development.  This year we are working through Preventing Ministry Failure, a workbook designed to help pastors develop sustainable lifestyle and ministry patterns - spiritually, relationally, emotionally, physically, and organizationally. Yesterday we ...

How do you spend your money?

October 05, 2010
This is a very interesting chart of Unit Expenditures put out by the US Department of Labor and Statistics (2009). The Average American, with a take-home income of $50,000 spends 5.4% of that on entertainment, 5.4% on food at restaurants, and 3.8% on services and apparel (14.6% all together). This same Average American only gives 3.7% as charitable contribution! I find this to be quite tragic. As a minister, it is often easy to talk about the Spiritual Practice of the Tithe (the giving of the 10% of one's first fruits) without taking into ...

Some Rules to Live By

September 29, 2010
Since I was a kid, I have always had a slight urge to flip through hymnals, wherever I was.  Mostly this took place at my home church, and I began to pride myself on knowing much of the 1975 Baptist Hymnal by heart (meaning lyrics, as well as hymn numbers...though I’ve forgotten most of that, there are still a few I can recall, and if someone quizzed me on them today, I could answer right away...”what’s hymn #65 in the 1975 Baptist Hymnal?”  “Amazing Grace”, I would say).  And of course as I grew older I got a kick out of seeing how many ...

The Truth About Happy Marriages (and Churches!)

September 14, 2010
  Since I began writing last month, seeking to apply to the church the insights of John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, several counselor friends have also highly recommend Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight. Johnson helps us with “seven conversations for a lifetime of love,” which she uses in the Emotionally Focused Therapy she has developed. Catherine and I have just begun reading Johnson’s book, so I look forward to learning more about love in marriage (and of course love in the church community) from another ...

I Love God, not my neighbors.

September 07, 2010
Some of us go to church to love God instead of our neighbors. I wonder if Jesus would have found this to be a possibility? Actually, I don't wonder about this, as he made his thoughts on the matter pretty clear. His Cliff's Notes version of his Jewish Bible (the Law and the Prophets) read like this, "The Greatest Commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second one is just like it, Love your neighbor as yourself." For Jesus, these two commandments were a photo finish. An alien ...

A Helpful Way to Answer Questions

August 24, 2010
“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first — rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.”  (John Lennon) “Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world.”  (Voltaire) “In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at ...

Money, Money, Money

August 03, 2010
“The offering is the giving of the first fruits of your time, talent, and treasure as a tribute to the King, furthering his worship and work.” As I mentioned Sunday, modern Christians in my generation and of my culture have these sexy impressions of the early church. If we can simply discard the tradition, ritual, or general “churchiness” of today’s church, well, then we can get back to the genuine, authentic ways of simply following Jesus. I was recently made aware of a church billboard in a large city that boasted, “We take the church out ...

Music Transforms

July 08, 2010
Jose Antonio Abreu is the charismatic founder of a youth orchestra system that has transformed thousands of kids' lives in Venezuela. Here he shares his amazing story and unveils a TED Prize wish that could have a big impact in the US and beyond. The gulf between the rich and the poor in Venezuela is one of the worst in the world. Dr. José Antonio Abreu, a retired economist, trained musician, and social reformer founded El Sistema (“the system”) in 1975 based on the conviction that all Venezuelan kids can benefit from participating in ...

To Change the World

June 08, 2010
I recently had the privilege of attending a two-day symposium at the University of Virginia where several pastors had the wonderful gift of dialogue with sociologist, Dr. James Davison Hunter, regarding his newest work, To Change the World. In it, Hunter remarks, “The potential for world-changing is greatest when networks of elites in overlapping fields of culture and overlapping spheres of social life come together with their varied resources and act in common purpose.” Yet, the book eschews elitism and further, much of it is premised upon ...

Worship and a Community of Believers

June 02, 2010
"How can you cope with the end of a world and the beginning of another one?  How can you put an earthquake into a test-tube, or the sea into a bottle?  How can you live with the terrifying thought that the hurricane has become human, that the fire has become flesh, that life itself came to life and walked in our midst?  Christianity either means that, or it means nothing.  It is either the most devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world, or it's a sham, a nonsense, a bit of deceitful play-acting.  Most of us, unable to cope ...

The Gospel According to the New Yorker

May 26, 2010
I have been asked by friends at Christ Church to comment on Adam Gopnik’s essay, What Did Jesus Do?, published in the May 24, 2010 edition of The New Yorker.  This week is Pentecost so I will rely on the Holy Spirit (!) to keep it simple, separating what I consider to be the wheat from the chaff. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/05/24/100524crat_atlarge_gopnik I live under the conviction that serious study of Jesus and the Gospels is best done within the context of a worshiping community, so I invite your interaction. ...

Women in Early Christianity

May 12, 2010
  On this eve of Ascension Day, I am looking forward to the Women in Early Church History class, which begins at our house this Sunday night at 7pm.  So far, 19 people have expressed interest, 3 of which are men, including myself.  What should we make of that?  I will let you decide.   At any rate, I am looking forward to the discussions and hearing from the women in the group. Using Ben Witherington’s book Women and the Genesis of Christianity, we will be exploring the first 70 years of Christianity, from the ministry of Jesus around AD 30 ...

Easter Monday and Beyond

April 05, 2010
N. T. Wright is a leading New Testament scholar whose books The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003) and Surprised By Hope (2008) have helped me wrestle with the resurrection of Jesus and its implications for the Church and the world.  I find his sentiment about the Easter season to be most helpful: “My biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a ...

Here Was a Man

March 30, 2010
Who better to re-contextualize our minds and hearts for Holy Week than the Man in Black?  Listen to the Gospel According to St. Johnny Cash:   Here was a man a man who was born in a small village the son of a peasant woman. He grew up in another small village. Until he reached the age of thirty he worked as a carpenter. Then for three years he was a traveling minister. But he never traveled more than two hundred miles from where he was born, And where he did go he usually walked. He never held political office, he never wrote a book, never ...

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