Fog machines, motorcycles, mosh pits, Desperate Housewives, free plasma TVs…my 5 most popular posts.

According to the site stats, these are the top 5 most popular posts on this blog.  The stats also show me if someone found the site from search results on Google or Bing.

#1  “My Church has fog machines!”

What’s funny about this is seeing the search terms used.  People are actually wanting to use fog machines in their services and are trying to find out how.  Maybe I have evangelized some folks about gimmicks and showy productions.  If I have saved but one soul…  lol.

#2 Trends: the flavor of the month

This one is about building your faith on Biblical and spiritual principles, not on fads and what is currently popular like The Prayer of Jabez craze or WWJD bracelets.

#3 Gimmicks – if you build it, they will come

The video of a youth pastor crashing a motorcycle into the snack table alone makes this post worth viewing.

#4 Sermons in 20 minutes or less

I’d love to see the stats from Saturdays on Google for all the pastors researching easy sermons they can steal to preach the next day.  This post pops up in search results for pastors looking for quick 20 minute sermons they can preach, so in this sense the post is “preaching to the choir.”  I need to get the word out to the preachers who like to ramble on for 45 minutes or more, repeating the same ideas and boring the congregation to tears.

#5 True Freedom in Worship

In this post I manage to insert references to “the frozen chosen,” mosh pits, and the song “Safety Dance” by Men without Hats.  That song is now in your head and will be stuck there the rest of this day, you’re welcome.

 


Scaring the hell out of the world

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Well-meaning Christians often use terminology that to non-believers sounds like extremism or radical fundamentalism.  You may have heard any of the following words or phrases in your church-going experience:

“Turn the world upside down”

“World-changers, Planet-shakers”

Military metaphors like “Take the world from the enemy” or

“Enlist in God’s army”

“Set the world on fire”

These things sound like chaos, destruction, warfare or religious and can make people actually concerned.  Religion is already associated enough with war, control, greed, the crusades, terrorism and other things that terms like the above can elicit in those we are trying to reach.

I know people mean well when they say things like this.  When they talk about being radical, they mean to be counter-culture with things like love, forgiveness and grace.   Christians may want to “set the world on fire” with the loving message of God’s saving grace.  We may intend to “turn the world upside down” by seeing people turn from sin and live for God.  But that may not be how people hear it.  May I suggest that the world needs to hear the church talk more about hope, healing, encouragement, love and grace.  Perhaps we could talk more about reaching the poor, hurting and lonely people who need some positivity.  Just a thought.

When Jesus spoke in the synagogue for the first time as an adult (Luke 4:16-19) he read from Isaiah 61.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Now let’s look at the words and phrases Jesus used to change the world:

Spirit

good news

freedom

recovery

set the oppressed free

favor

People need to hear a message of positivity, love, encouragement, healing and forgiveness.  They need The Good News.  The world suffers enough from natural disasters, disease, tragedy, wars, terrorism, poverty, social injustice and a host of other problems.  In my opinion, there’s enough chaos.  We could try to change our words and actions to bring healing, love and hope.

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The most AMAZING blog post ever! You don’t want to miss this, it’s going to be EPIC!!!

Ah, Christian superlatives. 

Churches LOVE to hype up and over sell any and every aspect of their church.  At some churches, everything is marketed as being awesome, amazing, epic, off the charts, off the chain, off the hook, and other over the top phrases. 

Awesome face

 

 

 

 

 

 

A church will advertise itself as being unique, edgy or not like any other church you’ve been to.  Then you visit and find out it’s just like every other non-denominational “contemporary” church.

 My favorite is when a church advertises “if you only attend one service this year, you cannot miss this Sunday!” and then say the same thing repeatedly throughout the year about other Sundays.   What message could be so important to that degree that hasn’t already been heard?  THE greatest message a Christian church can preach has been the same for over 2,000 years and is the central tenet of our faith.  Having said that, hopefully every message is rooted in God’s Word and you can simply advertise that the message will be impactful, encouraging, inspiring, thought-provoking, challenging or other descriptors. 

Churches will advertise just about anything as being awesome or amazing, from a Sunday School class to a basic potluck.  It’s natural to want to promote events and attract people to attend but the more you use superlatives, the less effective they become. 

 Let’s try to dial it down and set realistic, yet still enthusiastic expectations.  And using a thesaurus wouldn’t hurt either.


Celebrating the good fathers

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, in short due to busyness at work and enjoying my 7 month-old son.  I used to spend time writing a post and proofreading and editing it too much, and I’ve got a folder of ideas that I procrastinate getting to.  Then there’s the stat sheet, which can either excite you or drain your enthusiasm.  My friend Teri on her blog Grits and Bottle Rockets recently posted an inspiration to just get writing.  Just do it, just write.  There’s nothing to proofread or edit if you don’t start somewhere.

So I’ve decided to try and just write when I get the inspiration and knock it out.  And normally I try to write random ideas not associated with any holiday or current event, but this one’s a coincidence with Father’s Day coming up soon.

Baby stroller - this is how i roll

Recently I was out walking my son in the stroller around my neighborhood.  I saw 3 other dad’s hanging out with their kids either playing on the porch or walking with strollers, too.  The thought struck me how great it is to see so many fathers spending time with their kids.  While there are some bad or absent fathers out there, in general fathers often get a bad rap.  Look no further than your television:  whether in scripted shows or even the commercials where usually the man is a bumbling idiot with no clue and the wife/mother looks on and shakes her head at her stupid oaf of a husband.

I thought it’d be nice to acknowledge and celebrate when we do see good examples of fathers who are spending time with their kids, being good mentors and showing them love and care.  There are more stay-at-home dads these days that do a fantastic job.  There are dads who aren’t afraid to change a diaper or get up and comfort a crying baby back to sleep at 4am.  There are dads who help out around the house and bring relief to tired mommies.  When you see any children’s sports team, you’ll no doubt see fathers who volunteer to coach.  They leave work early to teach fundamentals and wipe snotty noses.  When you drop your kids off at their classes at church, you will find more and more men volunteering to work with children.

Men grow up in competition mode all the time, taught not to show emotion or weakness and are constantly having to prove their masculinity.  When a man becomes a father, you see him no longer care about himself but put his family first.  A good father would sacrifice himself, would embarrass himself in public, attend a tea party or wear a ridiculous costume to make their kids happy.  A father will display failed craft projects and wear horrid clothing items if purchased for him by his children.  There are all sorts of reasons to be thankful for your father, and I invite you to share yours in the comments.

I am blessed to have grown up with a great dad, and had prep from my brothers and friends with kids to learn by their example and advice.  Who would you like to acknowledge?  If not your own father or a father figure in your life, do you know any dads who are a great example and deserve some thanks and recognition?


The simple path to God.

You would think more Christians would be fulfilled and content in their faith now than in the past.

 We have more information, resources, material, access and connectivity than ever and we are well past the point of information overload.  We have great buildings, excellent leaders and large congregations full of talent and commitment.  We have thousands of books, websites, blogs, seminars and conferences.  We have rich tradition and heritage, modern mega church campuses, online streaming services and charismatic pastors and leaders.  And there are also a lot more of us than in the first century.

 Yet in each generation, we still find ourselves searching for God and trying to find fulfillment.  It’s not for lack of the afore-mentioned things that our spiritual lives suffer, nor is there anything wrong with them in and of themselves.  But sometimes we over complicate things.

 Jesus liked to boil things down to some simple points.  Love  God, love others.  Forgive people.  How many times do you forgive them?  Too many to count, you just forgive. 

 Serve others.  If someone is hungry, give them food.  If thirsty, a drink of water.  If they’re cold, offer them your coat.  You don’t need a complex theological model with charts and graphs to tell you how to help someone in need.

 I think sometimes we make approaching God and growing our faith more complex than it needs to be.  What I’ve found is that it’s hard enough to get the simple things right.  We are sinners that fall short every day but we can keep striving for better. 

 Just take time out of your week to pray to God.  And when you pray, try not to make it all about yourself and asking for things.  Crack open the Bible more often than you used to.  Attend church and try to focus and not be distracted.  Sing along with the hymns and songs and try to mean it.  Turn off the media and quiet yourself and get some perspective and think about God, and sense His presence.  Get through your week doing more good than bad and try to be a good example of Christ to others.  Try harder at showing people love and mercy than trying to be right or win the argument.

 If we do better at those simple things, we might catch a glimpse of the Divine.  Our differences in theology and the name on the church sign might not matter so much.  Non-believers might be more open to a faith they see lived out honestly and genuinely.  Remember the acronym KISS:  Keep it simple, stupid.  If you had to apply that spiritually:  pray, read the Bible, go to church, get involved, love others.  And mean it

 That last part could change the world.


“Jesus never said He was the Son of God.”

There is a popular argument made by some skeptics that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God.  They say He was a good teacher and that only generations later did the Church make up that He was divine.

First we have to realize that the earliest available manuscripts of the New Testament have not been edited and changed over time as some claim.  While there have been various translations of those manuscripts, the documents in the ancient languages themselves have not been altered.   But if the only source we have documenting Jesus’ moral teaching are the Gospels, we need to consider the other content of those Gospels.

Jesus declared himself in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The skeptics say this statement by Jesus refers to his example of living a good life; as in following His way, His truth and his sacrificial life as the path to God.

However when Jesus famously asked his disciples who they think He is, Peter spoke up and said that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus didn’t correct him, He affirmed him:  (Matthew 16:17) “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

When put on trial with the threat of death, Jesus did not deny this claim to save himself.  Mark 14:61-62:

“Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Not good enough?  The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote about Jesus and His followers in his “Jewish Antiquities”:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ.  And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.”

When you also consider that Jesus’ followers suffered and died for their belief in Jesus being the Christ, the claim doesn’t make sense:  they made up those facts about Jesus’ divinity so they could be put to death?  That doesn’t hold up.

The message of Jesus has endured generations of attacks, skepticism, controversy and claims that it’s false.  And yet, He endures.

John wrote in his first letter to address early claims of falsehood.  1 John 1:1 states:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”


God’s faithfulness – a personal story

I’m excited to share some great personal news and to celebrate a testament to God’s faithfulness.  In the span of a couple weeks God has added to my life a newborn baby and a new job promotion.  It’s almost surreal but I feel very blessed.  Here’s the story of that journey and how God has had his hand on my life the whole way.

The brief backstory is that my wife and I went through a long period of struggling from layoffs during the recession, unemployment, past due bills and debt collectors to medical problems and surgeries that resulted in a mountain of medical bills.  We struggled to find employment and took various odd jobs and temporary assignments until we were able to get permanent work and start building our lives back up again.  It was an uphill climb that was slow but steady over a few years.  Where I was previously a manager of an HR office, all I could get was a temp filing clerk and worked my way back up by getting hired full-time and then transferring when a new job opened up.

Earlier this year we decided to start a family.  We trusted that God would provide but we knew that my wife would need to take time off from work and didn’t know how we would afford to lose her income for a while.  My prayer was that before my wife had to stop working I would have a new job with a raise.  I knew I was underpaid at my job and would need to be promoted or find something new.

In the summer of 2012 we had a lot of life change.  Our lease was up and we moved to a new house.  At work, I took on the Lead Project Manager for implementing a new HR software with which I had prior experience.  In addition to that plus my regular job, someone left the company and I took on some of her work.  I was essentially doing two and a half jobs and working a lot of overtime, while trying to unpack in a new house and prepare for a baby on the way.

We kept praying that God would provide and we put our trust in Him.  God said to us “Move forward.  Step into what I have for you.”  We saw him come through with provisions for our house and donations and gifts for our baby from family, friends and co-workers.  Still, I knew the day would come that my wife would have to stop working and we’d need to replace her income.

At work, some of my bosses began hinting that the project I was leading might expand and become a full-time job.  It seemed that God was up to something, but they said “if” it happened it might not be until later in 2013 based on budget approval.  Toward the end of September (baby due Oct 12th) my would-be new boss was in  town for a visit on some other business and scheduled a meeting with me.  I figured he wanted to discuss how the project was going and discuss the possibility of the new job next year.

Instead, after some small talk he said “I’m going to cut to the chase.  We’ve got position approval for the System Administrator job and we want to offer it to you.”  Just like that.  No application, no interview, no struggle.

Finally.

We had struggled so long and it was nice to finally have something come to us a little easier.  I was not aware but he and a few other leaders had been talking about this new job for a couple months.  He said every co-worker and manager agreed I was the best person for the job.  He asked about my baby’s due date, how much time I’d be taking off and when I’d be back.  I said I’d be back around the end of October.  He said “great, we’ll start November 1st then.”  I was shocked.  I thought for sure that at best this would be a discussion about what might happen sometime in 2013.  He said he would research salaries in this market and make a fair offer before I left for child bonding leave.  Now remember, my prayer and hope was that before my wife stopped working that God would provide me with a promotion and increase.  My wife’s last day of work was Friday Oct. 5th.

On  Thursday Oct. 4th I was handed an official offer letter.  I did a double take as the salary was more than I expected – it not only covered my wife’s income but more – and the start date was October 1st.  They decided to move it up one month.  There was only one reason to do that:  for my benefit.  Both to get the increase earlier but also because any raises after November 1st disqualify employees from the annual raises in April.  My new boss did this to bless me and told me to take care of my little boy.  He also told me to have a life-work balance – “not the other way around, always make sure life comes first.”  What a blessing!

After struggling through unemployment, debt collectors, trips to the ER, medical bills and other challenges God had come through.  I feel very blessed and it further strengthens my faith that God is in control, His hand guides our lives and that He knows what He’s doing.  I have been thanking and praising Him every day.  Life is tough sometimes, and we know that we will have troubles.  We need to look back on the positives and remember how God brought us through so it can fuel our faith and encourage others.

Here’s a picture of my newborn son, Micah.  I also like to acknowledge and promote talented artists and this photo was taken by a friend Anna Roberson of Anna Roberson Designs.  (Another one of Micah’s photos is currently on her main website page also).  We love him to death and he’s such a blessing.  God is so good!


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