Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick or Treat

This afternoon I ran to Safeway to pick up a few bags of candy. You just don't want to be caught without candy on Halloween. We had two groups of kids come around 5:00, then nothing else. Just now we had two teenagers and an adult come wanting my candy. No costumes, no kids in tow, just people who love candy. I guess that's ok, too.

Very tragic news

I heard about this from a friend today. Very sad.

Kyle Lake, the pastor at University Baptist Church in Waco, TX, was killed after being electrocuted during during a baptism. He was only 33 years old and had three kids. I can't imagine what the congregation (especially the children) is going through.

Dan Kimball shares about this on his blog.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Memories of another life

Tonight I watched a movie called Changing Lanes. It stars Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, and is the story of two men allowing their anger and need for vengeance to pretty much wreck their lives. There's a scene at the end of the movie that reminded me once again of how backwards the Kingdom of God really is.

These two men finally come together after coming to the end of their ropes and seeing that their need for vengeance really did not fix their problems. It's taken this terrible day for both men to realize that they have been wrong for quite some time. Actually, they're pretty rotten to the core. Jackson's character (Doyle) realizes that his anger and drinking has driven his wife and kids away, while Affleck's character (Gavin) sees for the first time that his climb up the corporate ladder has been at the expense of others. He has fallen for the lie that it's ok to cheat because that's the way the world operates.

You could say that these men have both been humbled by their depravity by the end of this movie.

So at the end of the movie, Gavin tells Doyle a story. He says that there's a guy on a beach, and he finds himself standing next to a pretty girl. If he asked her her name, he'd leave everything to be with her. But he doesn't. So she becomes a memory to him, something that he thinks about every day. It's a life that he could have had.

Gavin says, "Today is that girl."

He's come to see that his life is not all that it's cracked up to be. He's got money, a beautiful wife, prestige, success, toys, etc. But he's corrupt. He wishes he could leave it all. This day has shown him that he can. It of course means that he'll lose everything...but he'll gain so much more. It kind of reminds me of something Jesus once said:

The Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field (Matt 13:44).

Earlier today I was rereading an article called "The Church as Subversive Community." I was thinking about this while I was watching the movie.

The Subversive Community understands that the world and its ways are false. It is constantly interacting with people at work, in the grocery store, or at home who are all in the prison of this world's system. These prisoners are quite happy in their assumed reality (especially the ones who have amassed quite a kingdom of wealth). But some secretly ask the question, "Is this really all there is to life?" The Subversive Community’s answer is not merely to inform them about the Kingdom, but to invite them to become participants in a whole new reality. The training program will be unique and cannot be rushed or broken down into a few 'principles' that are easy to swallow. Remember, the kingdom of God deals with every aspect of our lives. This training might just take a lifetime.

This is why we pray for God's Kingdom to come. "This remarkable new opportunity" comes at a price. It means leaving behind the world and its ways. The "good life" is called "good" for a reason. But perhaps it's not as good as we think. The treasure in the field is so much better.

God, open our eyes to see the treasure before us, and give us the courage and grace to do whatever it takes to attain it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

An Upside-Down Kingdom

Tomorrow morning I'll be meeting with three guys to begin studying the life of Christ together. We're going through the NIV Daily Bible, which is in chronological order. Tonight I've been reading and am struck by how God chose to do things. Everything is backwards, or upside-down. What we think will happen doesn't happen. Jesus comes as a baby. His parents aren't important people. He's born in less-than-desirable circumstances. God chooses lowly shepherds as the first recipients of this good news. Finally he chooses two nobodies (Simeon and Anna) to be among the first to see this baby. I'm struck that Simeon totally got it. What a relationship he must have had with God. He had been promised by God that he would see the Messiah before he died. He also understood the role that the Gentiles would play in God's plan.

This upside-down Kingdom will be the theme throughout Jesus' life.

God, may we see things as You see them.
May we see people as You see them.
And may we not be surprised by Your way of doing things.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mozilla Firefox and Blogger

While most web browsers are supported, Mozilla Firefox is used internally by all Blogger staff. Blogger advises its users, especially AOL users, to switch to Mozilla Firefox in order to have the best possible experience using Blogger.

Read more.

Adam at 4 months

Mandy has begun developing a real talent for photography. Granted, she's had a beautiful model. No, not me - Adam.

Mozilla vs. Internet Explorer

Over the past two months I've absolutely fallen for Mozilla Firefox. It is soooo much better than Internet Explorer. The tab feature is wonderful. blog sometimes comes up funky, depending on which browser I use. I think I'm going to stick with Mozilla, though. So if you want to read this blog, and you want it to be pleasing on the eyes, download Mozilla. You won't be sorry. I guarantee it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 3

Once again, Mark Driscoll's The Radical Reformission. These are excerpts from chapter 4.

Biblical Principles for Cultural Decision-Making (104)
· Is it beneficial to me personally and to the gospel generally (1 Cor. 6:12)?
· Will I lose self-control and be mastered by what I participate in (1 Cor. 6:12)
· Will I be doing this in the presence of someone who I know will fall into sin as a result (1 Cor. 8:9-10)?
· Is it a violation of the laws of my city, state, or nation (Rom. 13:1-7)?
· If I fail to do this, will I lose opportunities to share the gospel (1 Cor. 10:27-30)?
· Can I do this with a clear conscience (Acts 24:16)?
· Will this cause me to sin by feeding sinful desires (Rom. 13:13-14)?
· Am I convinced that this is what God desires for me to do (Rom 13:5)?
· Does my participation proceed from my faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:23)?
· Am I doing this to help other people, or am I just being selfish (1 Cor. 10:24)?
· Can I do this in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor. 10:31-33)?
· Am I following the example of Jesus Christ to help save sinners (1 Cor. 10:33-11:1)?

First, to change a culture, we must change the people in that culture. The question that arises is whether people do what they are, or if they are what they do. The answer to this is imperative because if we are what we do, then all we need to do is train people to act differently, and they will change themselves. But if we do what we are, then we do bad because we are bad, and we cannot do good until we become good, the very thing which bad people cannot do, no matter how many dollars are spent and organizations are founded to help them (109).

The Bible clearly teaches that we do what we are. It also repeatedly teaches (particularly in Proverbs and in the teachings of Jesus) that our sin comes from our hearts, the center of who we are (109).

Second, if we aspire to straighten out crooked people, we must define what a “good person” is. This too has been the source of much conflict because there is little agreement as to what constitutes this good person we aspire to become. The Bible teaches that Jesus of Nazareth, who lived on the earth some two thousand years ago, was God in human flesh. And though Jesus was tempted as we are, he remained without sin. Because of this, he was the perfect person and is our perfect example of what a person is supposed to be. People must compare themselves with Jesus to see their sin. Only by seeing Jesus can anyone be aware of the sin they need to repent of so that Jesus can redeem them to be like him (109-110).

If we aspire to seek any change in our culture, we must resist the temptation to first change the culture. Instead, we must begin by bringing the gospel to people so that they can be given a new heart out of which a Christian life flows (110).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Barna's new book

I just got this article in the mail today from Prince, my pastor at Hillside Church. It's about George Barna's new book, "Revolution." I then found a pdf of chapter 1. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book. I can already tell I'm going to like it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Repent

Tonight I've been listening to Derek Webb's album, I See Things Upside Down. One song is called "I Repent." I don't find a lot of writers that write like this. Here are the lyrics.

i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america's dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we're safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent, i repent of parading my liberty
i repent. i repent of paying for what i get for free
and for the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes

i repent, i repent of trading truth for false unity
i repent, i repent of confusing peace and idolatry
by caring more of what they think than what i know of what we need
by domesticating you until you look just like me
i am wrong and of these things i

A Good Place to Live

I've been doing a lot of reading on community lately, and stumbled upon this book at the library a few weeks ago. It's called A Good Place to Live: America's Last Migration, by Terry Pindell (written in 1995). Here's a quote from the book.

What were they (the participants in the last migration) looking for that led them to their shortlist of good places?

First was…the lack of community gathering places where you can walk in at almost any time and be assured of either encountering old friends or making new ones. Such places are the balm of life to the social being, the third piece of human wholeness after the realms of family and work. Thus Ray Oldenburg in The Great Good Place calls them “third places” (after the first, home, and the second, the workplace). Other societies with more functional communities than ours are built around them: the pubs of England, the bistros of France, the biergartens of Germany, the coffeehouses of Vienna, the piazzas of Italy, and the plazas of Spain.

Unfortunately, American social history has not bee kind to the third place, from Puritan strictures against revelry to the misevolution of the American bar as a place of disrepute to the modern constriction of social life to the individual home. The convivial taverns that once spawned a democratic revolution are now tourist attractions and the small-town Main Streets that perpetuated it are deserted for malls built on the outskirts. In America the scarcity of the third place is more than an obstacle to good community, it is a threat to the democratic pluralism that we cherish, since it is in third places that people rub shoulders regularly with folks they don’t work with or invite to dinner (3-4).

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 2

Here are notes from chapter 3 of The Radical Reformission.

As our people function as missionaries, evangelism is done by the whole church instead of through the dated evangelistic routine of relying on the ministries of professionals, programs, or large formal events.

In the routine model, there are two options. In the first, a notable speaker is brought in to present the gospel to a large audience and to call them to make a decision for Jesus. In the second, Christians are sent out to ask non-Christian leading questions in a effort to compel them to receive Jesus. In both options, the emphasis is on eliciting a swift decision for Christ without taking the time to build a friendship. In both versions, those who walk forward, stand up, raise their hand, pray a prayer, sign a card, or indicate by some other means their decisions are deemed converts and told to assimilate into churches.

While Scripture gives examples of the routine model, the mission model of Jesus may prove to be more faithful to God, more fruitful to lost people, and more appealing to Christians who are otherwise fearful of using drive-by evangelism techniques such as knocking on doors and street witnessing (66-67).

In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God’s people before they are called to repent of sin and to trust in God. Reformission evangelism understands that the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples. In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries and participate in them before they possess saving faith (68-69).

One of the most fascinating aspects of reformission evangelism is that lost people actually function as missionaries themselves before their conversion (70).

Routine Presentation Evangelism

(Believe in Jesus, then belong to the church)

Reformission Participation Evangelism

(Belong to the church, then believe in Jesus)

Gospel information is presented

A genuine, spiritual friendship between a Christian and a non-Christian is built

Hearers are called to make a decision about Jesus

The non-Christian sees authentic faith and ministry lived openly and participates in it.

If an affirmative decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church

The gospel is naturally present in word and deed within the friendship

Then friendship is extended to the person

The non-Christian’s conversion to Jesus follows his or her conversion to Christian friendship and the church

The convert is trained for service in ministry by being separated from the culture

The church celebrates the conversion of their friend

See George Hunter’s The Celtic Way of Evangelism

Since our first parents (Adam and Eve), we have all been born into a world in which we long for gracious, joyous, and endless friendship and community but find this longing unsatisfied because of the sin that separates us from friendship with God and one another (79).

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard professor Robert Putnam explains this phenomenon by showing that our world is arranged by various sorts of capital. Physical capital includes the objects that we possess and use. Human capital includes the skills, talents, and abilities that God has given people. Social capital includes the friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family members, and other relationships that form a web of trust and reciprocity.

Traditionally, people have lived their lives in these social capital networks by formally and informally bartering goods, services, information, favors and the like. Basically, this means that I do something nice to help you because we have some type of relationship, with the understanding, that, later on, you will help me when I need it, because I’ve made a deposit into our invisible social-capital account.

Traditionally, the largest repository of social capital has been the church. Roughly half of all membership in organizations, charitable giving, and community service is connected to religious organizations, making them the number-one repository of social friendships and connecting opportunities in our nation. But as spirituality has become more of a private affair, the percentage of the population that attends Protestant churches has declined from 15 percent to 12 percent in just the last quarter-century. Correspondingly, in the past twenty-five years, there has been a decline in both the number of friendships and the number of organizations that people typically join to build friendships – everything from labor unions to professional associations and civic groups. In addition, between 1970 and 1999, the divorce rate has tripled, the teen suicide rate has tripled, and depression has become more prevalent, which has contributed to a disconnected culture of loneliness (80).

In the past twenty-five years:

  • Playing cards as a social activity is down 25 percent
  • Frequenting bars, nightclubs, and taverns is down 40 percent
  • The number of full-service restaurants has decreased 25 percent, and the number of bars (including coffee bars) and luncheonettes has decreased 50 percent, but the number of fast-food outlets has increased 100 percent, as more people eat alone and eat more meals in their cars.
  • Having a social evening with someone from one’s neighborhood is down 33 percent.
  • Attending social clubs and meetings is down 58 percent
  • Family dinners are down 33 percent
  • Having friends over to one’s home is down 45 percent
  • From 1980 to 1993, participation in America’s number-one participant sport, bowling, was up 10 percent, but the number of bowling leagues decreased 40 percent, as more people bowled alone.
  • From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of the average American to make new friends declined by nearly 33 percent (80-81).

People are increasingly busy, isolated, lonely, disconnected, and without any helpful solutions in the culture. The isolation is now so entrenched that many people don’t know how to practice hospitality. This trend is even reflected in new architecture, which replaces large dining and living rooms designed for human contact with walk-in closets, home offices, and personal entertainment rooms. Here lonely people can watch sitcoms about friendship and reality-based shows in which characters pretend to interact with human beings, a thing apparently fascinating and foreign to many lonely, isolated individuals (81).

  • From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent caring for a pet increased 15 percent.
  • From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent for personal grooming increased 5-7 percent.

Isn’t it odd that we are apparently becoming a nation of attractive people who sit at home alone at night with our pets, watching television shows about relationships and taking medication for the depression brought on by our loneliness? Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way (82).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 1

Here are some notes from Mark Driscoll's The Radical Reformission.

These are from chapters 1 and 2 of the book.

This “reformission” is a radical call to reform the church’s traditionally flawed view of missions as something carried out only in foreign lands and to focus instead on the urgent need in our own neighborhoods, which are filled with diverse cultures of Americans who desperately need the gospel of Jesus and life in his church. Most significantly, they need a gospel and a church that are faithful both to the scriptural texts and to the cultural contexts of America (18).

George Barna – The first and most important statistic is that there are a lot of Americans who don’t go to church – and their numbers are increasing. The figure has jumped from just 21 percent of the population in 1991 to 33 percent today. In fact, if all the unchurched people in the U.S. were to establish their own country, they would form the eleventh most populated nation on the planet (18).

One of the underlying keys to reformission is knowing that neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people of God has found from those he is still seeking. To be a Christian, literally, is to be a “little Christ.” It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place (40).

So reformission requires that God’s people understand their mission with razor-sharp clarity. The mission is to be close to Jesus. This transforms our hearts to love what he loves, hate what he hates, and to pursue relationships with lost people in hopes of connecting with them and, subsequently, connecting them with him. The actually protects us from sin, because the way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus (40).

The result of traditionalism is a Christianity that has all of the right answers to all of the wrong questions, because the questions that were once pressing are no longer being asked (51).

Gospel Signposts (58-60)
1. The gospel connects to this life
While previous generations worried about what would happen to them after they died, and were compelled by the idea of belonging to Jesus for the benefits in the life to come, many people today plan on living long but miserable lives and are likely to be more compelled by the idea of belonging to Jesus for the benefits in this life.

2. The gospel infuses daily activities with meaning
Our culture is filled with “successful” people who are mired in anxiety and confusion because they do not know the point of all their toil.

3. The gospel names sin and points the way to forgiveness
No matter how strenuously people fight them, their consciences prevail in revealing the filthiness of what they have done to others and of what others have done to them. Only the gospel can show people not only how bad sin truly is but also the justice of God through Jesus’ death in our place to forgive sin. Once forgiven, we can leave sin behind and move on in newness of life.

4. The gospel transforms life
What people long for most is not just a way to cope with who they are and how to manage their sins. They also yearn for new lives as new people, hence the popularity of television makeover shows.

5. The gospel builds a spiritual family
In our day of devastated families and generational fracturing, churches that operate like loving spiritual families, caring for and correcting one another in love, can be the most convincing proof of the power and benefits of the gospel.

6. The gospel is about participation with God
The gospel is not simply about getting my sins forgiven and then sitting around until I get to heaven or until Jesus returns. The gospel compels us to participate with God in the culture we live in. Any gospel that does not compel us into mission overlooks both the duties and delights of being a Christian.

7. The gospel is about Jesus as the means and end of our salvation
Simply, Jesus is not a means to things such as wealth, health, heaven, happiness, wisdom, and success in marriage, church, ministry, theology or politics. To remain on task with reformission, we must continually be about Jesus as the means and end of God’s will, and we must both proclaim his truth and live his lifestyle.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No internet

On Saturday my internet went out. Because our phone (vonage) is connected through the internet, our phone was also out. At first I was very frustrated. However, that evening Mandy and I both agreed that perhaps this would be good for us. It would in a way be like we were on vacation (Mandy believes that vacation is only vacation when computers are not part of the picture. I’m beginning to believe that). The hiatus from the internet has been good for us. It’s given us more time to talk, and it’s also given me more time to read.

I enjoy reading, but much of the time I get interrupted by the internet. I confess that I’m quite an information junkie, and I love research. I’ll be reading a book, when I come across something in the book that makes me want to know more. I’ll then go to the internet and begin researching that topic/author/idea. Before long, the book I was reading is no longer being thought about. Often, while I am watching a movie, I see an actor and cannot for the life of me remember where I’ve seen him before. So I go to the computer, log on to, and find my answer. A bit more of my confession: last night I went to the library to send two emails. I returned with six books. I realize that’s a bit much.

However, one of those books is Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert Putnam. About a month ago I finished Mark Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission. He quotes from Putnam’s book. Last night after returning from the library, I read a little over half of Bowling Alone. My pastor, “the artist formerly known as” Prince Altom, taught me his method of reading books. You read the first and last chapter of a book, as well as the first and last paragraph of each chapter. That’s what I did last night. I’ll be including some notes from this book, along with Driscoll’s, in this blog over the next few days.

I think I failed to mention that I’m typing this in Word right now, since I still don’t have internet access. The Comcast tech is coming by this afternoon, so I should have access tonight.