Friday, July 28, 2006

Stuff kids say.

While we were driving today, Levi, our 5 year old, was telling us how God gives us new teeth when our old ones come out. He then asked if Jesus got new teeth when he was little. This began a conversation between Gina and I about whether or not Jesus ever did little anoying kid things that aren't really sin.

A few minutes later he informed his mom that since he didn't have a kleenex he was eating his boogers.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Are Satanic and Relevant synonyms?

I would like to begin to review books and magazine articles from time to time.
I will begin with an article that really caught me off gaurd. I began the article in an office a few weeks ago and today decided to buy a copy so I could read the whole thing.

Article Review
Christianity Today
Why Jesus used the 'S' Word: Apparently 'Satanic" can be a synonym for relevant.
Mark Galliu - Managing editor of CT. The article is an excerpt from his book Jesus Mean and Wild.

The article seems to be an attack on very large churches with exciting, dynamic ministries, published pastors, and recorded praise and worship albums. He relates a story of how he attended one of these churches and it became impossible for him to attend there for some reason. He then went to a small church where he found the 'people of God'. He said that there were "no studied attempts to be authentic or relevant or cool." He said "it was a more godly expereience to go to that little fellowship, because for all the good megachurches do, this little fellowship manifested the presence of Jesus in a way that is unique and absolutley necessary in our age.

He then relates the story of Peter's rebuke of Jesus in Matt 8:31-33. He says that Chrisitians have always been tempted to "confuse success with faith." He says that, like Peter, we still "thirst for glory and power." He says that growing churches have an unspoken assumption that growth signals God's blessing. He goes on to minimize church growth (not the principles but growth itself). He points out how church planters will study a target group in order to be relevant. He even points out that it works because these churches are bursting at the seems.

Next he relates his first church position out of seminary and the dreams of how one day in his church he would make worship really relevant. Shortly after he began to understand that most of the parishoners in this congregation found the services moving and meaningful. He talks about his desire to form a church in his own image when he was young.

He says that the typical church is often boring and irrelevant, full of bickering and gossip and hypocisy, but this is the institution, he says - not our dream institution - that Christ identifies with.

He then talks about the reformation and great awakenings as if they were products of the staus quo.

He closes by saying that "like Peter we have to die to our notions of relevance and success."

I don't understand the correlation between Peter's rebuking Jesus and intentionally creating a relevant atmosphere in the church. This is the premise by which he ties 'relevant' and 'satanic' together. If one of these relevant pastors sensed God saying "replace the keyboard with a pipe organ" and refused because he didn't think it would work, then Galliu might have an argument. I tend to assume that both relevant and irrelevant (I guess that is the only other option) pastors believe that they are doing God's will.

I would argue that his first church out of seminary was a relevant church. It was at least relevant to those to whom they intended to communicate God's message. A quick search on gives the meaning of relevant as "having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand." So when the people are connecting with the message I assume that we are being relevant. When pastors say they want to plant a relevant church they usually mean that they want to start a church that will be relevant to its community as opposed to one that is relevant to its membership.

That brings me to my final comment. Churches that place a high priority on relevance are usually missional churches. They do what they do in order to fulfill the great commission, not to be successful. Being relevant does not have to do with a personal image of an ideal church. That would not be relevant. A relevant church will continue to adapt and change the way they communicate the unchanging message of the Gospel.

As my family prepares to plant a church in Paris, I am passionate about being a missional church; a relavant church; a life giving church. The average church in France has between 25 and 40 members and is not growing. There are about 400,000 believers in Christ in a population of about 60 million. We will do everything we can to be relevant to the emerging generation in France because my heart is broken over the thought of 59,600,000 people spending a Christless eternity in Hell. When our heart is broken over the lost and we become passionate in prayer for God to transform a generation and a nation I believe that God will lead us to be relevant. Imagine what an unchurched person thinks when they go to church, get singled out as a visitor, hear a message on justification or sanctifucation from a preacher in a sancuary behind a pulpit while reading a bulletin during the tithes and offerings. Sometimes I think that unchurched people going to church for the first time will experience what I experience when I go to France without an interpreter. I recognize some words but it is often difficult to put it all together to understand what people are really trying to say. When lost people get it and accept it, God changes their lives. Seeing life change changes the churched and the unchurched.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

If you pray and have a heart for the less fortunate children in the world, especially AIDS orphans, I encourage you to consider joining in 40 days of prayer for the children in Africa.

Dan Ohlerking is part of the Children's Cup Ministry and a pastor at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA (a great church with a heart for missions and the less fortunate at home). If you would join Dan and Children's Cup in Prayer during this time, follow the link above and let em know.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Study Abroad in Lebanon? Setting Boundaries

If I can't think of something great to write I can read something great to copy. Enjoy.

Excerpt from:
Raleigh News and Oberserver - Opinion Page
Study abroad - in the peaceful Mideast?
Rick Martinez, Correspondent

OK, I'm a man of the times, so here are my suggested "boundaries" for parents whose children have their hearts set on studying and spending someone else's money overseas. These boundaries -- not all of which apply to Lebanon -- are workable. And once Hezbollah is eradicated, even Lebanon would qualify and return to being a jewel of the Middle East.

Boundary 1 -- Select a country that's not the subject of a State Department travel advisory or considered a terrorist safe haven.
Boundary 2 -- Pick a nation that hasn't banned direct flights to and from the United States.
Boundary 3 -- Avoid any country that refers to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave as the Great Satan.
Boundary 4 -- Choose a country whose leader doesn't wear fatigues to the office.
Boundary 5 -- Don't go to nation where concealed weapons are a must, instead of a privilege.
Boundary 6 -- Avoid countries that don't allow your gender to vote or choose a spouse.
Boundary 7 -- Pick a country with a central government. Warlords don't count.
Boundary 8 -- Make sure any prospective nation has a standing army that's stronger than any rival militia. Better yet, if rival militias exist, pick another country.
Boundary 9 -- Avoid any country that could join the Axis of Evil.
Boundary 10 -- Select a country whose people don't blame all of their problems on George W. Bush. Never mind, that would eliminate the United States.

If none of these fail to rid your children of their desire for a four-year, all- expense-paid, transportation-included, full-ride education in a country that's a future war zone, there's still one more viable option.
Tell your bundles of joy to join the Army. They'll get an education they'll never forget and a free helmet to boot. (full story)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lead Head

In a effort to understand why my favorite soccer player head butted Materazzi in the final minutes of the World Cup final I found a great story that really calls it straight.

Zidane goes down in sports infamy
Michael Rosenberg / Special to

So when they gave Zinedine Zidane the Golden Ball as the top player in the World Cup, did he eat it?

If so, that would still only be the second-dumbest thing he did this week.

If you haven't seen Zidane's headbutt to Marco Materazzi's chest by now, you're missing out. The more you watch it, the harder it is to understand. Zidane appeared to be minutes away from leading France to the World Cup title for the second time. (Though the game was tied, France had Italy on its heels, and Italy had a notoriously miserable history in shootouts.) People just don't lead their country to two World Cups like that. (more)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sad Day for France

Gina and I decided to really follow the World Cup this year to get more accustomed to the sport that pervades our future country of residence, France (and the rest of the known world). We absolutely loved it. We watched many of the matches.

Today's championship match was a huge disappointment to French sports fans for more reasons than one. The most obvious disappointment was that France lost the game in penalty kicks after 2 15-minute overtime periods. The bigger disappointment, however, was that one of the best players to ever play the game (Zinedine Zidane) was given a red card (kicked out of the game) in the second over-time period for leveling Italy's Marco Materazzi's with a head-butt after words were exchanged. The 34 year old Zidane was to retire after this World Cup. France was an unlikely candidate to even make it to this game after ties in there first two matches of this year's Cup. They later turned it around to upset the World Cup favorite Brazilians and Portugal to make it to todays final match. Each unlikely win gave team captain, Zidane one more match before retirement. He had a chance to go out as the man that led the French to another World Cup championship. Now he will go out as a man retiring who lost his head and was not present at the medal ceremonies.

What happened? What did the Italian player say that triggered the anger (reportedly a racial slur)? Why would a player in such a public game (World Cup championship, retiring after game) do something so stupid? The commentators said he was one of the best players to play the game along with players like Pele and Beckenbauer. He absolutely humiliated himself in front of approximately 5 billion worldwide viewers (more than 5 times that of the 2006 Superbowl ).

I am reminded of how many times I have lost my head in anger with my wife or my kids or maybe a co-worker when I knew better; when I knew the consequences; when I knew how stupid I would feel later. But I still did it. Why? With so much to lose, why do we feel we feel the need to release our anger toward others?

Satan knows how to push our buttons. He knows what it takes to get us to feel an uncontrollable urge to make bad decisions that really cost us. He knows how to get us to give in to momentary satisfaction at the cost of long term consequences. The Holy Spirit, however, gives us restraint. Without the HS living in us we don't have a chance.

Why did Zidane do what he did? I don't know. I'm sure in the coming days we will see a lot of speculation, but we may never know for sure. One thing that I do know is that there is a life illustration in this somewhere.

Pray for France. Pray for Zinedine Zidane.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

France 1 Potugal 0

Sunday, July 02, 2006

French Blue Laws

Listening to NPR this morning (yes NPR, another story for later), I heard about something in France that I did not learn on more than 30 days of survey work there last year (you gotta ask the right questions). France has legislation that prevents most stores from opening on Sundays (read it here). The law says Sunday should remain a day of rest, worship and leisurely family lunches. It makes exceptions, though, for stores in a touristy area, having a cultural, recreational or sports dimension. It is amayzing to see a law like this on the books in a country that actaully has real legislation establishing "separation of church and state." The ACLU would have a cow in this country.

I guess it goes to show that religious rules don't make people follow God. I am not saying that moral laws are wrong, but in the absense of time with the creator they are empty. We are influenced more by the people we spend time with than we are by rules.