Friday, September 30, 2005

Blog vacation

This blog will be going down for a week to 10 days starting today. I'm still trying to figure out how to maneuver through deadlines at my new job and just learned I need a new pram battery for my laptop. I also have to resolve a web space issue. It's too complicated to solve all of this and write original material.

I'll still be posting over at my college football blog since it's a reproduction of "work" I'm already doing elsewhere.

If you don't know what to do with yourself without me, check out the big list of blogs to your right.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Reinventing Jesus in our own image

In case you missed it, Phillip Johnson the Pyro fires a shot at an e-mailer who trumpets the cause of fringe evangelists.

I like what PJ has to say, but I think it can be said in more simple terms:

Jesus doesn't need an extreme makeover, because He has always transcended time, space, and culture. Where the Father sends His spirit, no concession need be made. Those whom the Father has called need nothing less and nothing more than the unconditional Gospel.

If Jesus the man was ordinary looking, made no effort to distinguish his characteristics, and required an angel for his own cousin to identify him as the Messiah, I take that to mean fashion statements were not big on his agenda. I don't really care if your into pinstripes or piercings, but if it's how you define your faith, I'd like to send you back to the historical Jesus that needed only to distinguish himself by his words and his actions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Something worth investigation

At every junior high school and high school in Greater Phoenix's East Valley (Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert) there is a Mormon seminary adjacent to each. This has been the general practice for years.

My old junior high is an urban island, a property to itself surrounded by paved streets and houses. Somehow, the Mormon church there carved out their own privately owned acreage. If I didn't already know better, I'd say the Mormon seminary on the campus is owned and operated by the public school system.

As far as I know the Mormons don't use this as a prosletyzing center. At least, I was never invited to the building (not that I would have attended). They have an agreement with the public schools here to allow for an hour each day for Mormon students to attend class in their buildings, typically I believe before or after a regular school day. I've never seen a Catholic seminary or a Baptist seminary -- or any other seminary -- built. I suppose, legally, the school systems would be required to oblige. Perhaps no other religious organization has thought of this. I doubt many churches would have the public means. Most churches are more focused on taking their kids out of public schools for private schools or home school. Mormons are the only organization I know of who are wholly supportive of public schools.

I'm curious if this is a common practice outside of the American southwest. Obviously, Utah practices this, and the East Valley was originally founded by Mormons, so the church's influence here is much greater than I would imagine it would be in other areas. I'd be interested in hearing from folks he have either witnessed this in other parts of the country, and especially if they are just now seeing this as new schools are built.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Long overdue kudos

Brad at Broken Messenger did a complete redesign of my site for me about three weeks ago. He put a LOT of work into it and I think a few dollars. It's been sitting on my desktop ever since because I don't have any web space to house it.

Look for a redesign soon. And tell Brad how much of a great guy he is.

Friday, September 23, 2005

College football: A Christian fellowship challenge

This Saturday, my Arizona State Sun Devils invade Corvallis for a show down with the Oregon State Beavers. Brad at Broken Messenger and Jim Verger -- two otherwise perfectly sane people -- happen to root for the orange and black team.

I've been a little harsh on OSU on my Sun Devil football blog. Nothing personal, fellas. Just a minor case of myopia. Just be thankful I'm not an insufferable USC fan.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Finding a new role

I've performed many duties in my church since 1989. I started as the worship band drummer -- the only drummer for for the first eight years, playing every service Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Before we had our own building about three years into our existence, I helped set up and tear down in the hotels we rented. I twice served as the college/career pastor, and spent off/on status on a variety of ministry teams. A couple of times I flirted with finishing some kind of bible school certification program and planting a church, but work always got in the way.

After two years in the wilderness, I've returned and the landscape of my church is very different. They are no longer looking to fill gaps. They have four drummers, all of them very capable. The ministries hum with efficiency, with redundant leadership in most roles. These days there are usually more members of the ministry team than their are people who are seeking ministry. Planting a church seems far down the road as long as maintaining medical benefits remains so essential.

I don't really know how to fit in right now, so I'm going to do what I was taught: I'm going to find places to serve. Assuming I can get out of the office at a reasonable time, I'm going to help pack bags for Saturday's mission outreach. I'll probably go with the team on the outreach, too.

It's an interesting time. I'm used to leading here. I can't wait to find out what role God has for me in this new circumstance.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Enjoying 'The Message'

I'm pretty easy to influence, I suppose. Like most Christians, if you speak of something in the Christian world in a negative tone that I know nothing about, your words are going to be given much credence. Sometimes, undue credence.

It's with understanding that I confess I've been wrongly influenced about dynamic translations. While I would never advise using them solely, and especially if one is performing some kind of exegetical work. However, when the Scripture is familiar, a dynamic translation can really open up in the text in modern -- sometimes powerful -- language.

Here's is a Galations 2:19-21 in the ESV:
19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Here is Galations 2:19-21 in The Message:
19What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. 20Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Now, I've read the verse, this passage, this book hundreds of times. I've even gone through commentaries on the book, including Martin Luther's seminal work. If I had ever learned any Greek, I'd study that, too.

What impresses me about the message is it's greater ability to impart the forcefullness of Paul's language where the literal translation does not. It closes the gap on 2,000 years of missing connotation.

The Message is not a scholar's Bible, but it's probably not the best for a new Christian, either. It's best used, I think, in the hands of a mature Christian who recognizes the traps of a dynamic translation, but also recognizes the benefits. Translations like this can bring new life to the text (and I readily offer they can do damage, particularly when no more accurate version is used in comparison).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The reality of the post-modern world

It's intimidating driving through my parents' neighborhood where I've taken up long-term temporary residence.

Driving home from church today in the most eastern hills of Greater Phoenix, opulence was in my face from door step to door step. These are not your ordinary tract homes. These are custom homes built on large acreages, all designed to maximize the Valley views and the ego. Some of these neighborhoods don't have paved roads -- because they can afford not to have them paved. The residents here like communing with the coyotes from the safe perspective of their fenced hot tubs.

So I live here, but I am not a local. All of this is quite foreign to me.

I hit the stop light before the short hill climb up to my parents' house, and I was parked behind a nice domestic car. The only thing that struck me about it was they had the nerve to put bumper stickers on the back. New money? Probably.

There were two bumper stickers. The one on the right was something out of the 90s, a Nike-type slogan about living life to the fullest. You know, just do it. The one on the left was a perfect compliment to this very post-modern neo-nihilism:
"Since I've given up on my search for the truth, I'm now looking for the perfect fantasy."
I can attest this is a popular sentiment in this neighborhood. It's all about cloistering one self in big houses filled with technology, surrounded by pristine desert and God's kingdom of desert critters. These houses have windows to the fifth largest city in the country, but I wonder if they ever have time to look out them while they're fiddling with their multiple home cinemas and top flight gadgets.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not judging them. A part of me wishes I could afford this lifestyle, even if I don't care for this particular version. There are plenty of good Christians up here, all of them blessed with great bounty, and the majority of them more than willing to sacrifice for the cause of the kingdom. At least as far as I can tell with my limited contact. It's not like they're about to have a block party around here. Most people are satisfied with a smile and a wave as you drive by on the way to work.

What catches me off guard are those who have willingly stopped looking for truth. People no longer want to be associated with anything. You'd be hard pressed to get someone who doesn't believe in God to ponder whether they are an atheist. In their minds, the search for truth isn't important. Reality is only what you can make of it, and in America, money is the greatest opiate and best way to skew reality to your liking. You can't control the outside world, but you can do a great job hiding from it.

These fortress of solitudes do more than keep socializing down. They are Son blockers. What role could God possibly play in these people's lives? At least until something shakes them, like a hurricane, or personal tragedy or illness. That is what saddens me most. For those who do not know God, they have made themselves impenetrable, immovable forces. They willingly create the illusion of being in control while freely admitting it's a temporal thing. Truth cannot be attained in this perspective, so let's eat, drink, and be merry while we can.

Eternity is a long time to ponder the importance of this life's search for truth.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What will newspapers look like in 20 years?

The BBC asks the above question here. (HT: Blogotional)

I've never understood people who call for the demise of newspapers. The paper it's printed on may indeed become something else, but I can't envision a world that loses its hunger for news. In fact, newspapers' biggest critics are actually news junkies. Some of them read newspapers because they enjoy being aggravated.

One change I'm not afraid to predict in 20 years is the demise of corporate journalism. Here's why: Large corporate newspapers demand anything from 25 to 35 percent profits from their outfits. It's an outrageous number that has the Gannett's of the world slashing newsroom bodies, adding more sales people, and putting out a lot more specialty product. So you have a lot of unhappy journalists who aren't exactly going to put in OT to make the paper better.

Family newspapers generally approve of a growth rate that increases at the rate of the cost of money, or about 11 to 13 percent a year. Fifteen percent growth for a large family newspaper is exciting news. Why is this? Family newspapers often have bloated newsrooms with redundant positions, generally pay a little better, offer better benefits, and are much less afraid to go after an advertiser in a news story. At least that used to be the MO on family newspapers. It's difficult to determine how that works these days because there are so few remaining.

What I see happening is large corporate newspapers wiping their hands of print and selling them off piece by piece, perhaps even selling their own presses and leasing press runs from smaller companies. I can see smaller weeklies digging into real corporate journalism and eventually becoming important again after about a 50 year lag behind McPapers. Let's call it a groundswell of old-fashioned journalism taking the day when the stuffed shirts get tired of wringing blood from a turnip and figure out a newspaper is never going to return the best profits on an investment.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Chillin' with my homey

All said, I'm more or less recovered from moving and had an outstanding time visiting with my old (and now current) pastor, the man who mentored me for over a decade. I had forgotten how stimulating it is just to sit and talk with him.

My church has grown by over 200 people since I left in 2003, and many of them are new converts. The church has an active Alpha program, but it's used primarily as a primer for those who have already (or recently) accepted Christ through other means. It was actually thrilling to hear about all the new baby Christians. It's really energized this church and created a newness again. It's fun to be around people who aren't churched and don't know better. All they know is they need to "do the stuff," the work of the Kingdom. They haven't learned how to make excuses yet. When I joined the church plant in 1989, there were 14 people. Now they're thinking it could hit 1,000 in five years, again, much of it from the success of its evangelistic agenda. It's exciting. I'm all about church growth when it comes through new converts. They're also thinking about new church plants, so it's a very exciting time to be returning.

I thought our conversation would devolve into more personal stuff, but we never got that far. We spent over an hour discussing the current state of Calvinism and how it deals with the problem of evil. We spent a great deal of time discussing the Open Theists, Gregory A. Boyd in particular, and their response to the same issue. Jack is a fairly conservative, traditional believer in relation to our denomination (the Vineyard), but I've always been impressed how he remains up-to-date and open to discussion on this stuff. He's always been about balance (and charity among believers).

Our discussion made me realize why I've come to hedge my bets on swallowing TULIP whole. The problem of evil -- and God's influence on it -- has always been one of my hot buttons. Without either of us being aware of it, I suppose Jack has encased me with his own theology. Realize, this is a guy who used to cut up in Hebrew with James White at GCU (a Baptist college in Phoenix). I guess this is a good demonstration for me that there's room for all kinds of thought in Christianity as long as the Gospel goes untainted. Maybe that's a statement that would make Dr. White or his buddy Phil Johnson uncomfortable, but I can appreciate them from afar. =)

It's weird how you can grow so close to somebody, but they're still just passing through, not a permanent fixture in your life. That's not the case with Jack. He's not just a preacher, he's my friend, my brother, and when you've served beside someone doing Kingdom work, there's a kinship that transcends all things. I am so thankful to have a friend like this. God is good.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Still sifting through my own personal mess

Moving sucks. Of course, when I move, it's a superhuman hassle. A 14-hour trip from Sacramento to Phoenix became a 26-hour story of misery I will probably regale all of you with someday soon. Furthermore, I may not have connectivity to my computer for some time, so I'm using my parents' computer to post this quick note:


Thank you and God bless. That's it for now!