Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Firefox Sage Reader

For those of you who are taking advantage of the “blogging” universe, you should consider the Sage reader add-on to the Firefox web browser. I have been an avid user of the “Google Reader” but have been really enjoying the advantages that come with the Sage reader. I first heard about the reader through a post on Rich Kirkpatrick’s weblog.

So what is the Sage reader? Well, in laymen terms it adds a function to your Firefox web browser that allows you to read all your blogs in one place at the push of a button. The biggest advantage to this add-on is speed and convenience. Since posts are sync’d right into your browser you can access and update them while doing numerous other things.

This is one of the amazing strengths of the Firefox browser. You can customize it however you want. I’ve got the weather temps, itunes controls, and blog posting software all in sight and one click away when I am on the web. You can link to Firefox here and the Sage reader add-on here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Many Me

Hm... there are more of me than I thought there would be.
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Windows Vista Wow!

This is a pretty humorous quip from Seth Godin.

Seth said... I absolutely adore this photo from the Times. Not one smile in the bunch, never mind ebullience, mania or even pleasant anticipation.

Just because a marketer says something is amazing, exciting or just plain wow doesn't mean it is.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Story Behind: The Power of the Cross

Parkview has been enjoying the new modern hymn titled “The Power of the Cross” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Below I have published the “story behind the hymn” from the Getty website. There are so many rich messages within this hymn text, the greatest of which is this idea of the “imputation” of our sin upon Christ. We sing about this with the line in the refrain “Christ became sin for us.”

People are extremely familiar with the physical sufferings Christ endured on the cross, but very seldom do we stop to consider what it was like for Christ “to be sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) and to become “a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). Grudem, in his Bible Doctrine book, points out that Jesus “hated sin with his entire being… Far more than we do, Jesus instinctively rebelled against evil. Yet in obedience to the Father, and out of love for us, Jesus took on himself all the sins of those who would someday be saved.” (P. 252) Could you imagine the utter horror it was for the blameless Christ to endure the imputation of our sins upon himself? To literally become our sin and endure the spiritual wrath that God had been storing up for all the sins of the saints past, present, and future? Mel Gibson could never imagine or even come close to putting this reality on film. In the words of the song “what a life, what a cost, we stand forgiven at the cross!”

- - - - -

"The Power of the Cross" is a meditation on the sufferings of Christ.

Over the past couple of years, we have been working through the Apostles Creed and writing hymns teaching the fundamental beliefs of Christianity.

The Creed teaches that 'He suffered under Pontius Pilate', and in communion we are commanded to 'remember his death 'til he comes'. In the New Testament, Paul and the Apostles often preached and prayed in more detailed and visual ways about the cross, turning all of our senses to Christ's sufferings and their significance.

Stuart and I considered how the reality of His sufferings should penetrate our worship services and were challenged by the need to explain the overwhelming significance and implications these have for our lives. In our congregational worship the sufferings of Christ have often only been given a surface glance and it is hardly surprising that the theological meaning often remains confused:
This the power of the cross
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame, bore the wrath
We stand forgiven at the cross.
Our hope is that the hymn; "The Power of the Cross" will be a resource to the church as a declaration of what we believe; a challenging reflection on Christ's sufferings and a powerful song for Easter or Communion services. It is also our hope that people will be challenged again by the wonder and the power of the cross.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Impossible to Love the Lost

In John Piper’s book “Let the Nations be Glad”, a portion of which I am reading in the Perspectives Reader, he quotes John Dawson, a leader in Youth With a Mission regarding why our passion for people who don’t know Christ (a.k.a. lost people) cannot be detached from our passion for the glory of God.
Many believers search their hearts in condemnation, looking for the arrival of some feeling of benevolence that will propel them into bold evangelism. It will never happen. It is impossible to love “the lost.” You can’t feel deeply for an abstraction or a concept… Don’t wait for a feeling of love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps in evangelism because you love God. It is not primarily out of a compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God. (Taking Our Cities for God, p 208-209)
I wish I had a nickel for every time I prayed “God give me a burden for the lost.” My hopes being that I would become emotionally moved to the point of being more bold in my witness. Of course, this isn’t a bad prayer, but how many of us are trying to find our motivation in the wrong place? Both Piper and Dawson are suggesting that if we (the church) are not “centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God” that we will not be able to find the motivation for evangelism. According to Piper, “The great sin of the world is not that the human race has failed to work for God so as to increase his glory, but that we have failed to delight in God so as to reflect his glory.” (p 51) This idea is very liberating for the Christian who is seeking to participate in God’s mission. A passion for God’s glory sustains in suffering, gives us boldness, and reminds us that our “product” is the hope of the world.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Church Hosts 'Porn and Pancakes' Event

Today ABC news ran a story on "Porn and Pancakes"
It's not your typical church breakfast. An event billed as "Porn and Pancakes" is being hosted by a church in rural upstate New York.

The breakfast discussion on the pornography industry in America is planned next month at the Living Word Assembly of God Church in the town of Ontario, about ten miles east of Rochester.

A billboard advertisement near the church shows the words "Porn and Pancakes" written in syrup on a stack of flapjacks.
It amazed me, as I read through most of the bible this last year, that the bible is packed with stories (or teachings) illustrating the cost of sexual sin. As a former pastor used to say "sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay." This seems especially true with sexual sin, which is an amazing challenge for our culture as we live in such a "sex-crazed" society.

No matter what you think of "Pancakes and Porn" I hope you can join me in thanking God for churches that aren't afraid to takle this issue head on. For free resources on fighting porn you can check out They offer free accountability software and other resources devoted to helping people escape from the grips of sexual sin. They are also the organization helping put on these pancake breakfasts around the nation.

"Rather clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, then to think of how to gratify the desires of sinful nature." (Rom 13:14)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Interesting little quote (so true) from Seth Godin on creativity...
99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn't coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you've thought of.
(HT: Godin)

The Lord's Super Bowl

Many of you are personally stoked for this years Super Bowl between Da' Bears and the Colts. This Super Bowl is historic, because it is the first bowl where both teams are represented by African American coaches. In the "Christian Post" a recent article highlights that this bowl is also significant because both coaches are professing Christians. It reads...
"The Lord set this up in a way that no one would believe it," said Dungy, according to the Baptist Press. "The Lord tested us a lot this year, but He set this up to get all the glory."

Both Dungy and Smith, who are close friends, gave credit to God after defeating their final opponents to head off to the Super Bowl game.

While Dungy has had more opportunity to share his Christian faith during his five years coaching the Colts, this is Smith's first tenure as a head coach. And he has already made his faith in Christ apparent.
To read the whole article go here. I am not one to make a big deal about sports celebrities, but in light of the visibility of these two men, I am thrilled that they have the opportunity to make such a visible stand for the Lord. To God be the glory... and I mean that no matter who wins (sorry John). :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

America's Most Innovative Churches

Outreach magazine has named America's top 25 most innovative churches. Here is a link to the article and here is the link to the actual list. I was interested to see that #6, #7, #9 and #19 will all be helping lead the Multi-Site Church Conference I will be attending with Nevin Suddarth, Parkview's Executive Pastor, in a few weeks (I know, San Diego in February... it's tough but someone's got to do it). If you are curious to learn more about these churches, be sure to check out their website on the top 25 list.

Elder and Pastor Retreat

When I joined the Parkview ministry team in January of 1999, we were a church of 800 worshiping in what is now known as the chapel. It was an exciting time and the following five or six years resulted in an explosion of attendance to a peak of 1,800 attenders a weekend. All throughout this time the staff and elders were aggressively working to update our staffing and strategy to better accommodate this growth and the complexity of managing a church that had grown at such a high rate of speed. Though we have been encouraged by seeing so many lives changed by the gospel and so many people motivated to serve the Lord in ministry, we have also struggled to adapt and communicate a vision that has kept us completely unified and informed as to where God is leading us into the future. This is a challenging place to be, but also a very healthy place to be. We are being forced to really depend upon the Lord and seek him for clear direction and guidance for our future.

All this is why I am very excited about our future Elder and Pastor retreat on February 11th and 12th. We will be spending our time attempting to refine and unify our vision as a leadership and church. I ask that all of you please join the elders and staff in praying that the Lord would guide and direct our upcoming time together. We will be joined by Aubrey Malphurs who is a professor at Dallas Seminary and an experienced advisor in helping churches increase effectiveness in ministry. His presence at our retreat should provide a valuable third party perspective that will help us identify weakness and build upon strengths. Thanks again for your prayers and for being part of the greatest mission on earth, to invite more and more people to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ!

Fellowship Church's Daniel Fast

On January 7th Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX joined his congregation in a 21 day Daniel fast. The Daniel fast comes from Daniel 1:8-14 where Daniel chose to not defile himself with royal food, but instead went on a fast that included eating only fruits and vegetables.

I heard about this fast from my wife through a friend of hers. It is significant because Fellowship Church is a large church and I haven’t really heard of a church like this ever challenging its membership to fast together (though I’m sure it’s happened before). You can read testimonials of how God has worked through the fast here and link here for other information about it.

I haven’t fasted an abundance of times, but appreciate the sacrifice and Ed’s heart for people to “hunger for God” over the 21 days of their fast. The church is expecting amazing “God sized” things to happen as they deny themselves and consequently refocus their affections on God. It’s an inspirational quest.

As I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about church leadership lately, this fast has been an example to me that people want to take risks and live dangerously for the Lord. We simply need to challenge them in their faith and give them a unified vision for the adventure. I wonder if in our tendency to make people comfortable, we forget that everyone in their heart of hearts wants to be part of something far greater than themselves… after all, isn’t that what we were created for?

Monday, January 22, 2007

How to Fix a Scratched DVD

This Christmas we bought our kids a PS2. Within a week my oldest son’s favorite game was damaged (likely by one of his two little brothers). Since it would not work I searched the web for suggestions of how to fix it. In my searching I found a site that compared all sorts of cleaning options with the results from multiple cleanings (sorry I couldn’t find the link again). I was surprised to see that Brasso (the metal polish) was rated as far superior in comparison to professional DVD cleaners and toothpaste. I didn’t have Brasso on hand, so used toothpaste 3-4 times. Each time I could see that the paste was “wearing down” the scratches, but to no avail, the DVD would never work. As a last ditch effort I got Brasso the other day at Walmart and tried it. After the first application, the disk still wouldn’t work. Since there was nothing to loose, I thought I would give it one more try and, low and behold, the game has worked perfectly ever since.

Consequently, I recommend Brasso for any CD or DVD repairs that aren’t fixable with a simple cleaning (sometimes the disks don’t work because of finger prints/grime). So, if a scratch is keeping your disk from working, use a soft cloth and apply Brasso in a circular motion on the disk. The Brasso is literally rubbing off some of the coating on the disk, so don’t push too hard, but also don’t push so light that you aren’t being productive. Once the Brasso coat has dried you can wash it off in the sink with water and dry it with a soft cloth. The study I read said that multiple applications actually improved the quality of the fix, so if it doesn’t fix it the first time don’t be afraid to do it a 1 or 2 more times.

If any of you have any other disk fix testimonials or discoveries I’d love to hear em.

Mighty To Save Drumming Video

We just learned the song "Mighty to Save" this weekend in services. The Jimmy "The Snake Handler" Coates found this instructional drumming video on the song on youtube. It appears to be from a Hillsongs teaching video. If you're not a drummer this may not interest you, but if any of you who read this do music in your own churches, it might be a helpful resource.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Carson on Excellence in Worship

This quote hit me hard from “Worship by the Book” by D.A. Carson.
“Although there are things that can be done to enhance corporate worship, there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship. In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset.” (p.31)
Music is a craft that demands skill. The problem is, highly trained musicians can create excellent musical worship services. I am concerned that too many worship leaders (myself included) underestimate the value of a worshiping heart that is connected intimately with its creator. Music, programming, lights, and transitions are all tangible means within a worship service, so we tend to spend most of our energies planning for, producing, and evaluating services based upon the success or failure of these elements. This is not a bad thing; however, the far less “measurable” and yet far more essential element of worship is our connection with our creator God.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Five Streams of the Emerging Church

Scot McKnight wrote an interesting article in defense of the Emerging Church movement in Christianity Today. It is long, but does a good job at provoking thought and clarifying (at least in his perspective) what the strengths are within this movement. Here are a few excerpts:

The misconceptions...
It is said that emerging Christians confess their faith like mainliners—meaning they say things publicly they don't really believe. They drink like Southern Baptists—meaning, to adapt some words from Mark Twain, they are teetotalers when it is judicious. They talk like Catholics—meaning they cuss and use naughty words. They evangelize and theologize like the Reformed—meaning they rarely evangelize, yet theologize all the time. They worship like charismatics—meaning with their whole bodies, some parts tattooed. They vote like Episcopalians—meaning they eat, drink, and sleep on their left side. And, they deny the truth—meaning they've got a latte-soaked copy of Derrida in their smoke- and beer-stained backpacks.
Emergent and emerging defined...
To prevent confusion, a distinction needs to be made between "emerging" and "Emergent." Emerging is the wider, informal, global, ecclesial (church-centered) focus of the movement, while Emergent is an official organization in the U.S. and the U.K. Emergent Village, the organization, is directed by Tony Jones, a Ph.D. student at Princeton Theological Seminary and a world traveler on behalf of all things both Emergent and emerging. Other names connected with Emergent Village include Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, Tim Keel, Karen Ward, Ivy Beckwith, Brian McLaren, and Mark Oestreicher. Emergent U.K. is directed by Jason Clark. While Emergent is the intellectual and philosophical network of the emerging movement, it is a mistake to narrow all of emerging to the Emergent Village.

Emerging catches into one term the global reshaping of how to "do church" in postmodern culture. It has no central offices, and it is as varied as evangelicalism itself. If I were to point to one centrist expression of the emerging movement in the U.S., it would be Dan Kimball's Vintage Church in Santa Cruz, California. His U.K. counterpart is Andrew Jones, known on the internet as Tall Skinny Kiwi. Jones is a world-traveling speaker, teacher, and activist for simple churches, house churches, and churches without worship services.

His warning to the emerging movement...

So I offer here a warning to the emerging movement: Any movement that is not evangelistic is failing the Lord. We may be humble about what we believe, and we may be careful to make the gospel and its commitments clear, but we must always keep the proper goal in mind: summoning everyone to follow Jesus Christ and to discover the redemptive work of God in Christ through the Spirit of God.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Kind of Church Are You?

A few days ago I heard part of a message by Dr. Tim Keller where he mentioned a familiar quote that I have been thinking about quite a bit the last few days. The quote goes something like this; “Presbyterians are good at their theology, Baptists at their evangelism, charismatics at their worship, and Methodists at their social programs.” We could probably all name churches that would modernize the quote a bit. Bethlehem Baptist (Piper) and Grace Community (McCarthur) are known for their theology, Willow (Hybels) and Mosaic (McManus) are known for their evangelism, charismatic churches are known for their worship and worship leaders (Tomlin, Baloche, Brewster, Walker) and emerging and mainline churches are known for their social influence.

In the talk Keller promotes the idea that a healthy church should actually strive to excel in all of the aforementioned areas. But is it really possible? Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City believes it is possible and may be doing a pretty good job at accomplishing this goal (though I can’t verify this by personal experience). So what do you think? Can a church excel in all these areas? Is a theologically faithful, evangelistically driven, energetically worshiping, and socially impacting church possible?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

They Mystery of Picasso

Have any of you artists out there ever wondered how Picasso went about painting his masterpieces? Here is a step-by-step video that was captured of him doing one of his paintings
edited into a 2 minute time-lapse clip.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

God is a Missionary God

In our first session this week at Perspectives Andy Kampman gave two talks that examined how God’s heart for the nations saturates the entirety of scripture. The following are a few of my reflections regarding this session.

Those of us in the United States tend to be ethno-centric in our perspective.
In other words we tend to limit our vision for evangelism and life to what we know and understand in the United States. Our conversations, attitudes, and personal mission statements should incorporate a vision for worldwide mission. We also must be aware that our wealth makes us venerable to complacency in this regard.
God’s has a cohesive plan for the redemption of all peoples.
The cohesive picture of God’s agenda from Genesis through Revelation is refreshingly simple and clear. Simply put, he desires all peoples to know and follow him. Certainly ethnic Israel has a unique role in the fulfilling of God’s agenda; however, the agenda is still the same.
Our worldwide perspective should affect the way we live.
We should all participate in the cause of world evangelization. Here are a few ways this should/could be done:
  • Pray regularly for missionaries, nations, etc…
  • Give sacrificially to the cause of world evangelization
  • Go on short and/or long term mission projects
  • Teach and openly pray with our children and grand-children, that they would be vitally involved in God’s agenda for the nations
  • Never retire. Of course, one can retire from a profession, but one must never retire from being a minister of the gospel and taking an active role in local and global outreach
I am sure there will be future related posts as I continue to work through this course in the next several months. I am praying that God will work upon my heart through Perspectives. I have much to learn.

Monday, January 15, 2007

First Theology on Offensive Language

Josh posted some thoughts on Philippians 3:8 based on Grudem's letter I posted yesterday. Below is an excerpt and here is his complete post.

- - - -

Now I think Grudem has good sensibilities here. He clarifies that there is no explicit command against foul language - which he is right about. He then points out more subtly (and theologically) that the vulgar talk tends to communicate uncleanness - which is a theme repeated in Scripture (he uses specific NT examples to show it continuing applicability today). This is the route by which he suggests that it does not seem wise for a believer to use this type of language. This seems pretty reasonable to me.

The one question that I think is a bit difficult is if Scripture ever uses at least mildly crude language to communicate strong emotion? Piper seems to think you can find such language (albeit infrequent), Grudem is not so sure. The biggie that many folks quote is from Phil. 3:8 where Paul counts all things "rubbish" (the clean translation - ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJ) or "dung/crap" (the more vulgar translation - NET). Grudem comments that while this word can mean either thing (this is called semantic range), he believes Paul is using the more clean nuance of this word in Phil. 3:8. The nuance of a word is determined first by context, then by looking how the author uses the word elsewhere in the NT, and finally by other NT authors & then other extra-NT literature which uses the word (the importance of each is weighted in that order for most folks - FYI: This word is used nowhere else in the NT). On the other hand, the NET Bible has this note:
The word here translated "dung" was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul's meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces. [my note: which would be seen in contrast to what the Spirit of God produces - so there is a parallel in imagery and maybe some subtle humor... fallen man produces fecal matter literally and in terms of his efforts toward righteousness, but God produces true righteousness thru Christ leading to holiness]
I know this is what my Greek prof. in seminary thought it probably meant (he is the editor of the NET Bible and wrote the "industry standard" grammar for NT Greek). His contention was most translators don't have the stones (to use a more mild euphemism) to translate these kinds of terms with the more edgy/earthy/vulgar connotations he believes they carry in the few instances they are used in Scripture (if that's the case we might say those translators/translations are not as literal as the NET - OK that was a cheap shot on a Bible that prides itself in it's transparent literal translation method... sorry I couldn't resist ESVers).

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wayne Grudem on Offensive Language

I still remember a brief period of time in college when those involved in ministry with me became quite enthralled with using profanities both as a joke and for the sake of adding a little shock-value to the various statements they would make. I remembered being a little perplexed by the whole thing. It felt kind of cool to swear, but I had a hard time understanding how that all fit with being a Christian. Is it appropriate for a Christian to use a profanity to add emphasis to a point being made?

Recently John Piper used an offensive phrase to make a point in a message he delivered at the Passion 07 conference. Here is the apology he later wrote and below is a thought provoking follow-up letter Wayne Grudem wrote to John Piper that was posted publicly by permission on the Desiring God website. It is an interesting discussion that may make me more careful about throwing around the word “cr- -“ all the time. My wife will be pleased. ☺

- - - -


I saw on Justin's blog a link to your comments on your use of "strong language" at Passion07. I'm glad you said that now you regret saying it and thankful that you were willing to say this.

I'm not sure if this will be helpful but I've thought of such language as a question of having a reputation for "cleanness" in our speech, as in the rest of life, out of concern for how that reflects on the gospel and on God whom we represent.

A number of different words can denote the same thing but have different connotations, some of them recognized as "unclean" or "offensive" by the culture.

  • urination: taking a leak, pee, "p---"
  • deification: poop, "cr--", "sh--"
  • sexual intercourse: sleeping with someone, "f---"
  • rear end: backside, "a--"
Speaking of these things and using different words for them is not contrary to any biblical command (and so it is different from taking the Lord's name in vain, which is explicitly forbidden), but we are also commanded to maintain a reputation for cleanliness:
  • ESV Titus 2:10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
  • ESV Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
  • ESV Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
  • ESV Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Using the words commonly thought to be offensive in the culture seems to me to be sort of the verbal equivalent of not wearing deodorant and having body odor, or of going around with spilled food on our shirts all the time. Someone might argue that not wearing deodorant or wearing dirty clothes are not morally wrong things in themselves, but my response is that they do give needless offense and cause others to think of us as somewhat impure or unclean. So, I think, does using words commonly thought to be "obscene" or "offensive" or "vulgar" in the culture generally. Plus it encourages others to act in the same way. So in that way it brings reproach on the church and the gospel.

I remember a long time ago you mentioned to me that when you were in jail for Operation Rescue you listened at night to the talk of prisoners in the cell block, and how their talk was just filled with vulgar bathroom language and sex language. It struck me at the time how a person's purity or impurity of speech is often an indicator of purity or impurity of heart. (ESV Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.)

As for your comment about finding language "as offensive as that" in the Bible, I'm not sure. It's difficult for us to be sure about the connotations of words in an ancient culture. When I was in seminary I remember another student arguing that Paul's use of skubalon in Philippians 3:8 (For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ) was just like using "sh--" today. I thought that sounded right. But later I found that the word has a broader range of meaning and I'm not sure it had the offensive overtones that "sh--" does today in English. (BDAG: useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage [in var. senses, ‘excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps’]). In translating the ESV we rendered that term in Phil. 3:8 as "rubbish," not as a more offensive word. I think that was a good decision.

All this is to say I think you were right to express regret for saying what you said.

Again, out of respect for your time, please don't feel that any response is necessary. I am so thankful for you and for your faithfulness to the Lord.


(HT: JTaylor)

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Tomorrow night Parkview is starting a 16 week course called "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement." I am taking this course for graduate credit as part of my studies toward a Master of Arts in Theology. I am sure it isn't too late for some of you locals to jump into the course. If you are intimidated by studying or writing papers, don't worry, the class can be taken at basic level with minimal assignments to turn in or be graded (though there is quite a bit of reading). It is important for all of us to understand God's agenda for reaching the world with the gospel. This is definitely one excellent way to do it. You can watch the promo video for the course below.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Amazing iPhone

Just a month ago I got my RazrV3 Motorola phone and a new plan with Verizon. I would have held off had I known the new iPhone from Mac was coming out (of course I probably couldn't afford it anyway). At least I'll have something to think about while I cry myself to sleep tonight.

You can get the complete specs and promo information on this tasty new piece of technology here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Effectual Calling

This weekend Pastor Jeff took some time in his overview of Acts to discuss the theological term effectual calling. In response to this, and because we will be singing a new song called “Mighty to Save” in services on the 20th and 21st, I took some time in choir rehearsal this week to examine the idea of effectual calling a bit more deeply.

Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology book defines the term this way…
Effective (or effectual) calling is an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation to the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith.
This definition affirms the idea that God has an active role in the saving of people. If you have been a Christian for a while, you’ve likely wrestled with this concept. Is it God’s calling or man’s choice that leads one to saving faith? If you examine the scriptures, you must affirm that both are in some degree true. Having been raised under the teaching that man’s choice is the only influence in saving faith, as I grew in my faith and studied the bible I was shocked at how frequently the scripture affirms this idea of effectual calling. I felt a bit like I did after learning that Santa wasn’t real! How could the pastor I grew up listening to have promoted an idea that is so contrary to the truths that saturate the scriptures!?!?

In closing, I thought I’d leave you with a few of these scripture references that affirm the active role God takes in saving faith. Hopefully they will give you a greater appreciation for God’s role in our salvation and make you more courageous in sharing your faith, knowing that God chooses to actively work through your faithful witness!
Romans 8:30 - And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

1 Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Corinthians 1:9 - God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Acts 2:38-39 - Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Acts 13:48 - When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Being An Old Worship Pastor

I may only be 34, but on occasion I catch myself wondering how long I will be relevant as a worship leader. I know it's crazy and, believe me, I don't entertain these thoughts often. Unfortunately the "culture driven" church music scene puts a subtle pressure on guys like me when you attend conferences and see young hip guys defining the new wave in church music. In any regard, I really enjoyed Bob Kauflin's recent post that was a reflection on his 52nd birthday. I definitely appreciate how Bob has set an awesome example of how to be a "seasoned and effective" Worship Pastor. He has also used his experience and wisdom to faithfully encourage others in ministry. Thanks Bob! Here's his post...

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Growing older has its drawbacks. We've seen them first hand as our parents have confronted things like Alzheimer's, injuries, and debilitating diseases. But I'm certain that God intends us to think of getting older in a positive way. Or else why would he say things like this:
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31).

“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Prov. 20:29).

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16.)

Glory? Splendor? Being renewed? I have to confess that each time I notice some new pain that seems to hang on for weeks, those aren't the words that first come to mind. What does come to mind is walkers, wheel chairs, and nursing homes.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating it. But a few years ago I had a conversation with a worship pastor in a fairly large church who was concerned he was turning 40. He wasn't sure he'd still have a job in a few years because he wasn't as energetic and musically relevant as some younger guys who were starting to lead.

Now I'm listening to this guy talk, thinking, "If he's old, what am I? Pre-historic?" I think I was able to help him see that leading congregational worship doesn't require you looking like or having the energy of a rock star.

Besides there are real advantages to being an old worship pastor, or an old anything for that matter. In our youth-enamored culture, it's good to be reminded that growing old is a good thing. Here are some thoughts that have encouraged me recently.
  • I know my Savior better and love him more than I used to.
  • I know and love God's Word more than I did when I was younger.
  • I've seen my pride exposed more often, so in some ways, I'm humbler than I used to be (although I still have quite a ways to go).
  • I have more mistakes and experiences to draw from so I'm hopefully wiser in some ways. Definitely more relaxed.
  • I'm less impressed with what I do and more impressed with what God has done in Christ.
  • I can serve future generations by telling them all the stuff I've done wrong and a few things I've done right.
  • God has graciously given me another year on this earth to enjoy my family and church, bear fruit for his glory, and prepare for eternity.
  • Every year, I'm one year closer to seeing the face of my Savior.
I don't know how old you are. But I know this. Growing old is a gift from God. And I'm very grateful for it. I pray you are as well.

Generation Next

A new national survey suggests that the views of young people today on politics, social attitudes and even life goals are far different from those of their parents. Here are a few of the findings...

Compared with 20 years ago today's young adults...
  • Have more casual sex: 75%
  • Resort to violence more: 70%
  • Binge drink more: 69%
  • Use more illegal drugs: 63%
  • Vote less often: %49
For the full report, click here.

Throughout this month on PBS there will be a documentary called "Generation Next: Speak Up and Be Heard" that will deal with these findings and interviews with 16-25 year olds across the country. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rebelution Modesty Survey

On the right column of my blog you may have noticed an advertisement that links to a modesty survey being conducted by the people at The rebelution team has been compiling questions from about 200 women regarding what kinds of dress most cause men to stumble (i.e. struggle with lustful thoughts). They have now opened up the survey and are asking guys to register and take the survey. Though it is not a "scientific" survey, they are looking forward to using the results as a good way to discern how a woman's dress can at times be inappropriately provocative.

Sometimes this kind of thing can appear to be an added scourge to Christian women who are already feeling a lot of pressure about how they look, etc... I don't mean to add to that pressure by promoting something like this. I simply feel it is good to be educated about where the line should be in regard to provocative dress. I am also well aware that some guys who really struggle with lust are more the problem than the women around them. Certainly, no one is calling for women to start dressing in burlap sacks or Muslim burkas. I believe the important point is that we need to do all we can to help one another succeed in being pure in thought and deed. Modest dress is important, but only one part of the equation.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

C.S. Lewis On Sixth-Rate Music

Here's an intriguing quote from Lewis about his experience as a new Christian learning to value corporate worship. Humbling and convicting.

When I first became a Christian . . . I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; . . . I disliked very much their hymns which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.

C.S. Lewis, “Answers to Questions on Christianity,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, 61-62

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Another Kind of Challenge

Here is a challenge for "young people" given by John Piper. In short, the sign of true maturity is having a holy ambition.

The Blasphemy Challenge

Last month an atheist group issued a challenge to people around the world to record themselves on video blaspheming the Holy Spirit and then upload their video to youtube. When this news report (below post) was aired 700 had already voluntarily uploaded their rejection of the Holy Spirit.

Though this is a very sad and troubling thing, it is ironic that their challenge is grounded in a somewhat errant view of the “unforgivable sin” which is spoken of Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:29. Though Jesus does teach that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin, we mustn’t forget that in Mark 3:28 Jesus also said “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.” The reality is that sin that is repented of is sin that is forgiven. So what is this unforgivable sin? John Piper defines it as:
The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.
Another way of looking at it is that the severity of a blasphemy is not for us to decide. It is ultimately between the individual and God. If one makes a statement of rejection and later repents of their statement, they are clearly not guilty of this unpardonable sin.

For an exposition on this issue of the unforgivable sin you can read this message given by John Piper in 1984. In the mean time, we should pray for these individuals who are lashing out in this way. This situation should also remind and motivate us to continue to share the love of Jesus Christ with this lost and hurting world in which we live.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Worshiping Vicariously Through Others?

Greg Roig shares an interesting quote on worship. What do you think?
“A wise friend had told me that when his heart is unable to worship in a given moment or situation, for whatever reason, he looks around the congregation to find a person most engaged in worship and begins to pray, ‘Lord, let that person’s worship be mine.’ At times when the worship seems, to my musical sensibilities, as a diet of cotton candy I remind myself first, that the worship isn’t there for me (so I can ‘be fed’) and second, that there are many in the congregation for whom that musical expression is authentic, even empowering. In turn, this reminds me that I am a small part of a congregation that is so much bigger than me. It has enabled me to transcend the limitations of the styles that I prefer and even to worship, dare I say, ‘vicariously’ through others. It’s a great fix for the ‘me generation.’”

Worship Under the Word: Part 1

I am presently reading the book “Worship by the Book” which is edited by D.A. Carson. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some reflections on and/or summaries of the book. In chapter one Carson is attempting to establish a definition of worship. He starts by addressing the challenges that prevent us from coming to a common understanding of worship, specifically in regard to the corporate worship gathering. He discusses how one popular method in the church attempts to adapt the forms of worship in order to make them more acceptable to every sociological distinguishable cultural subgroup (boomer, buster, etc…). The trouble with us relying entirely upon this model is “sooner or later one is troubled by the sheer lack of stability, of a sense of heritage and substance passed on to another generation, of patterns of corporate worship shared with Christians who have gone before, or any shared vision of what corporate worship should look like.” In his opinion Carson says that this philosophy then creates a “swarm of traditionalists who like things that are old regardless of whether or not they are well founded.” (P. 12)

He explains how those who represent different opinions regarding the current styles and approaches are not doing well at going to the scriptures to correct and guide their ideas regarding worship; rather, they tend to read their ideas and experiences of worship back into scripture. This means a person who loves liturgical forms of worship often begins their arguments in the Old Testament, citing the use of choirs, antiphonal psalms, and other ancient liturgical patterns of worship. Similarly a charismatic will go to 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 to establish their view, etc…. Consequently, the present cultural climate within church worship presents several challenges to us coming to a unified understanding of Biblical worship. There are also some more technical challenges.

One of the challenges involves the fact that the English word “worship” holds numerous meanings when contrasted with the original languages of the scriptures. The Biblical authors often meant different things when they were referring to worship; consequently, the various Greek and Hebrew words that are translated into our single word “worship” often represent entirely different meanings than what we commonly associate when we use the word either in verbal or written form. Carson concludes that a simple word study is an inadequate means for arriving at a common definition of worship. Carson goes on to also point out that biblical theology and systematic theology are also unable to bring full clarity to the meaning of worship in the scriptures (this explanation, though interesting, is a bit too technical and lengthy to unpack in this post).

In conclusion to this section of chapter one, Carson re-caps that due to culturally divergent views, linguistic pressures, and the shortcomings of both the systematic and biblical theology matrix there are some significant challenges the believer faces when attempting to come up with a responsible theology of worship.

For me, this section of chapter one was eye opening because when discussing worship in the church, we tend to be overly simplistic in our use of the word. The lack of proper use and definition keeps us from unlocking the rich meaning and purpose that worship should play in the life of the believer and church.

In upcoming posts we’ll look at how Carson starts to work toward establishing a Biblical definition of worship.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Google Maps Bible Atlas

I am constantly amazed by the new resources that keep popping up online. Here uses googlemaps to give you an instant and precise satellite location of any geographical reference in the bible. All you need to do is enter the bible reference and then click on the highlighted location within the passage. The map then pinpoints that location for you on googlemaps. Pretty cool!

(HT: JTaylor)

Pray for Central Nebraska

Saturday morning an ice storm hit central Nebraska that left a majority of certain regions without power due to downed power lines and snapped power line poles. Of the five families Carrie and I are directly related to in the area, only one has had power since the storm hit. A few are running generators to attempt to keep their homes warm. Those who have generators are hosting additional family members and neighbors who are there also attempting to stay warm. My mother-in-law is working every day at a bank that only has enough power to keep the calculators running, so the employees are working in winter coats and covering their legs with blankets. Rural areas may still be 1-2 weeks out from restored power and there are some who have chosen to not take advantage of Red Cross shelters in order to stay home with pets not allowed in the shelters.

Fortunately, there are many organizations there trying to help people through this crisis and the outdoor temperatures have been high enough to keep those staying in homes from experiencing below freezing temperatures. Please pray that God would preserve the lives of those suffering from this crisis and that he would help those working to restore power to work efficiently and effectively. Also pray that temperatures would stay high enough to prevent pipes from rupturing within the homes. As you can imagine, the wide spread rupturing of pipes could generate additional ongoing crisis. Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Indieheaven Finalist

Hey, our own John Carlson is a finalist for "Jazz Artist of the Year" at Indieheaven (an organization that promotes independent Christian music artists). Please click on this link, scroll down, and vote for John!

Living for the Moment

Colossians 3:23 reminds us to do whatever we do with all our heart as for the Lord and not for men. Passages like this suggest that followers of Christ should have lives that are radically different than those around us. Why is this? For starters, our motivation to do what we do should be rooted in a desire to please and glorify God.

Last weekend David Foster, the Pastor of Family Ministries, delivered a message called “Living for the Moment.” In it he was calling the church to be a city within a city by living as true followers of Jesus. I attended the service twice because I knew God had a message for me within his words. If you’ve got time this week and weren’t able to attend services last weekend, the message is worth listening to. You can access it here. Thanks Dave for challenging us to make the most of every moment! BTW: In the message he implies that very few were in attendance. This is because the service that was recorded was on Saturday during the Alamo bowl (in which our own Iowa Hawkeye’s were playing).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

ACTS: This is Your Mission

A new message series based on the book of Acts will be starting this weekend at Parkview. The book of Acts documents the early days of the church following the ascension of Christ. The following is a brief description of the book by Robert L. Deffinbaugh.
There is no other book like it. It describes the birth of the church, and the transformation of discouraged and fearful followers of Jesus into fearless preachers of the Gospel. Acts provides us with biographical insight into the lives of those men who wrote the New Testament, and an account of the birth of many of the churches to which New Testament epistles were written. Perhaps most of all, the Book of Acts describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church, convicting men of sin, converting men and women to faith in Christ, and giving courage and clarity to the apostles, who had the awesome task of committing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to written form. Here is a book that you can hardly put down, one that has informed and inspired saints down through the ages.
I am hopeful that our time in this book will be very instrumental in helping unite us around the vision of God's mission to reach the world for His glory!

I’m Back

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years break! I will be gearing up with my blogging over the next few days. As most of you are aware, the primary target for this blog has been to communicate to the Parkview Church community regarding ministry-specific schedules/information as well as to pass on thoughts about life and ministry. I am aware that there are many outside of Parkview’s community who check in somewhat regularly. Whoever you all are, I am hopeful that this blog will continue to be a helpful resource to you.

If any of you have ideas of how this blog can be a more helpful and effective, please be sure to email me your thoughts at I am open to receiving specific questions regarding ministry as well as suggested topics for future posts.