Friday, October 30, 2009

A Roman Halloween

I was reading in Romans 14 and 15 this week and found it apropos for Halloween. The book of Romans deals with what God requires to be in a right relationship with Him (faith in Christ alone), as well as how to live in a right relationship with others in the church (faith in Christ alone results in charity and graciousness). There were Jews and Gentiles in the same church, each carrying their own cultural and religious baggage. Instead of giving the "right" answer, he instructs both parties to not look down on each other. He reminds both parties that whether they eat/don't eat food sacrificed to idols or whether church is/isn't to be held on Saturday or Sunday, everything is to be done in faith. If an action is not done in faith, THEN it is sin. So whether you feel God's pleasure on you while trick or treat with neighbors, wait for them to come to your home to meet some new faces, or simply turn out the lights and read a book, do so with faith. Don't look down on others who by faith partake or by faith choose not to partake! The church will always be filled with people of different convictions; it has since God decided to include we Gentiles. Let us love one another in our differences, free to dialog, but never dogmatically looking down on one another.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Zorny situation

Few teams are as bad as the Bucs this year. Few teams are in as much disarray as the Bucs this year. Few teams have as poor management skills as the Bucs this year. Enter the Washington Redskins. Of course the Redskins do have 2 more wins than Tampa does this year; but then again if Tampa could play itself, and the winless St. Louis Rams, I'd imagine they'd have the same record.
To make matters worse, the owner wouldn't allow Zorn to call plays, but instead brought in Sherman Lewis, who was as recently as a few weeks ago, calling Bingo. The head coach has been relieved of his play calling duties in favor of a retiree/bingo caller. So he's there almost as a puppet, simply to decide whether or not to go for it on 4th down.

Now I don't feel sorry for the coach in the sense that he has a job for now. But as a leader, it is kind of sad. He is a leader who cannot lead. He is a leader who does not have the support of the management, so how can he rally the players around a vision?

Now fortunately for pastors, there is no one who owns the church and can tell us what and how to preach-I guess that would be similar to play calling. But I wonder how many pastors in a very real way feel like Jim Zorn. Many can't lead for fear of losing people to another church or denomination. Many probably feel as though they don't have the support of the "players" (congregation). Many probably don't feel like they have the support of "management" (whatever governing leadership the church has.) In a sad way, they have now have some fellowship with Zorn.

Now there is no solution for Coach Zorn. He will be getting fired at the end of the season; in fact the management seems to actually be trying to make him quit. But just as Seinfeld's George Costanza remained with the company that tried to make him quit, Zorn isn't giving them the satisfaction.
What's the solution for pastors? Support from management is crucial. Pastors can lead best when management is on the same page, and thus can feel freedom to lead-even when leading is outside the box. If the management and the head coach are on the same page, we can expect to see turn-around's such as Miami Dolphins a few years ago: from 1-15 to 11-5 the next year. The same things can happen in churches.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Connar's Amen

I'm anxious for Connar to talk. Why? I guess so that we can communicate. But when he does talk, he'll be able to express himself verbally and not simply run around in circles acting excited and making talk-like noises. He'll be speaking and not expressing himself like we're accustomed to seeing him express himself. I'll definitely miss that.

But one of the "words" he spoke last night really got my attention and is to this day the coolest word I've heard him speak since "Da." He had a hard time going down to sleep, so I volunteered to go survey the situation: usually it simply involves picking up his blanket which he regularly throws out of the crib. So I gave him back his "comfort item" (why he throws out his "comfort item" when it does in fact provide him comfort-he can't sleep without it-I'll never know), and found out that he simply wanted me to hold him. Definitely a rarity at night. So I did and said some prayers with him.

When I finished and said "Amen" (which is roughly the equivalent of "truly" or "I believe that," not simply an "I'm done" as we usually mean it), Connar echoed the "Amen" right back. Now it was something like "Mo." But he's been doing this immediately following our prayers, so much so, that I think he's beginning to say "Amen." That was way cool for me to hear.

How cool of an opportunity parents and all those in the church have (the local church is a cov't community without "god-parents" b/c we all play a role in raising kids) to teach kids about Jesus.....I hope we all can see it as such.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mascot apology

Every now and then mascots for sports teams cross the line. When they cross the line by making fun of athletes in prayer, should they apologize? The University of Minnesota might have set the precedent for what to do in the future when this happens. Hopefully Goldy the Gopher will exercise "appropriate religious sensitivity in the future." Check this story out here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What good will it do?

I've been reflecting on my article on Favre and pragmatism lately. Since I'm super practical, I wonder how much I've incorporated this philosophy into my ministry and life. There have been occasions where I've wanted to tell someone ___________, but I've often been hindered by the "What good will it do" thought. Now I'm not saying there's wisdom in considering possible responses, or in considering the motivation behind telling someone something hard. More often than not my motivation is not based out of love and truth but anger. So then I need to shut up.

But I wonder if the "what good will it do" philosophy should always reign supreme. And is it really the right way to think in regards to relationships within the body of Christ. The OT prophets probably felt like saying this to God on a number of occasions. But at Ezekiel's call in chapter 2-almost as in anticipation of this "what good will it do question,"-he says that whether they listen or fail to listen, "they will know that a prophet has been among them."

Ezekiel probably wanted to say throughout his ministry, "What good is this doing?" But at the very beginning God clearly explained the answer to this fair question. The good was that folks knew God cared about His people through the presence of His prophets, regardless of whether or not they turned and trusted in Him.

Sometimes the "good it will do" in lovingly and graciously delivering a hard message, is to make people aware that God does care about them and their situation. Now they may not like the message, like you, or like Jesus. Nevertheless, God's people are always to speak truth in love to those in His church, not being hindered by the philosophy of "what good will it do?"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Magna Doodle Dandy Devotions

I don't really know who this dude Doug is-I found him on one of the Acts 29 church planter blogs I foll0w-but he sure offers a nifty and creative way to do family devotions. The Magna Doodle appears to be some sort of "tricked out" Etch-a-Sketch (not sure if those are still around). Looks like the kids are drawing some of the bible stories and then discussing them with a parent. It seems like a really cool idea for family devotions.

Connar isn't quite ready for this yet-we're fortunate when he can finish a meal without wanting to run around-but when he is, I'm going to try this out for sure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Herald Article

Here's my most recent Bradenton Herald article called, "Was Brett Favre the Right Decision?" In it I discuss the role of pragmatism in big decision making.

If you read the comment section, you'll see someone misunderstood my point completely and wondered why I can't just "enjoy Favre." Perhaps the title misled him, and if so, that's my fault. Unfortunately I'm not registered so I can't comment back. I'll do so here.

My point of this article is that while most-some would argue all-football decisions should be based strictly upon productivity, I don't believe strict pragmatism morally suffices for life's decisions. Enjoy Favre if you want to, but you won't find me rooting for him!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bad Bouginvillea but good neighbors

Whenever it comes time to actually sell our house, I'm going to make the neighbors a major selling point. Two days ago I was trying to trim, with hopes to destroy, the devil's bush: the bouginvillea. This beast of preposterous proportions has simply been growing and growing and has taken over a large portion of my backyard.

So I decided to put my foot down and get physical with this feared and thorny monster/bush. While walking his dog past my yard, my neighbor saw my feeble efforts and asked me if I needed any help. He's probably seen many young folks lost to the dreaded Boginvillea bush over the years, and didn't want to see another young whipper-snapper go down fighting alone. I took him up on the offer as he promised to bring his trimmer the next day.

The next day came, and in order to stop the bees from swarming on me (they were just buzzing by my head at first so as to drop hints), I asked to borrow some real bug spray from another neighbor. This young man also volunteered to tackle the beast with me, bringing a trimmer, machete, and chainsaw.

By dark, with all three instruments working-I took the machete and unfortunately wasn't wearing long sleeves-the once fearful beast lay slain. Now to get rid of it...

Can't beat neighbors like that. If only I were as neighborly as to volunteer for such a task!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Even the Losers, Only the Losers: A New Kind of Sports Talk Show

While listening to Jim Rome's radio show today, I had an interesting (well at least to me) thought for a radio show.

Every time Rome interviews someone, he will precede the interview by saying, "Ranked in the top 10 in the coach's poll, or coming off their series sweep of the Rays, or first place in the NFC East, here is........" Rome only interviews winners, or at least people who are winning at the time. He once interviewed Kurt Warner when he played with the N. Y. Giants. They were 5-2 at that moment, and then pretty much lost the rest of the games and Warner was benched. He obviously didn't come on again that season. That would have been an interesting interview.

So I won't hold my breath on having any Buccaneers players on the Jim Rome show this season. But these are exactly the kind of guys I'd be looking for if I were to have a show. So are the Tennessee Titans, and the Cleveland Browns. Even the hated Panthers would be welcome. All are currently losers at 0-4. "Even the losers," as Tom Petty sang, would be welcome.

But even more than that. If I were a sports talk host, I would only interview the losers. Of course the show probably wouldn't last long, and I'd have losing sponsors like Circuit City and Boater's World. Winning is easy. I don't want to ask them how they feel at the top of the division. I already can figure out that one pretty easy.

I want to hear how someone is dealing with losing. Is it easy to follow the coach's leadership when decisions, or plays, or schemes or their ideas aren't working? Do you expect to win? What are your goals when you realize you can't make the play-offs? What motivates you?

Those are the kind of questions I'd ask. I want to hear from the losers. Because when we lose, we leave ourselves wide open for the gospel to do a great work. I think this would be the kind of sports talk show Jesus would have, because he seems to do his best work under those conditions.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Helpful model

When you look at the evangelical church as a whole, it is important to learn from this diverse body of believers. That's one of the reasons why I subscribe to Outreach Magazine. At the same time, it is also necessary to critique-though in critiquing, you are also learning. If you simply choose to follow the newest and biggest out there, you will err on the side of naivete, and simply copy what others are doing. And you may be copying something that is sub-culture/geography specific, perhaps not all that beneficial, or simply leave with an incomplete perspective.

On the flip side, if you only look at what your particular denomination or "camp" (mega-church, Reformed, non-denom, etc...), you will become myopic and not learn from the wisdom God has granted to others outside your camp. Different camps have different strengths and provide great value when we interact with them.

Tim Keller provides a model (borrowed from John Frame) to help us see exactly where one or one's church fits in the stream of evangelicalism, and how we can learn/critique others and ourselves.