Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Angels vs. Super Heros

Reading some of the Christmas passages in the Bible this season (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2) I was reminded how awesome angels are. God created these beautiful and powerful creatures to be his messengers (angel means messenger) among other things. 
Thinking about how awesome angels are, I thought, "Hey, they're kind of like super heroes." My girls enjoy super hero movies and we often have conversations about what makes someone a super hero. 

So, with this in mind, I decided to list many of the things angels can do and then note any super hero that can do that as well. This was just a fun little exercise to make the point: *Smack!* Angels are amazing, powerful and beautiful. Don't mess with them. *Bam!* They are holy super heroes who serve God. *Pow!*

So some of these attributes of angels don't match up with a super hero. Perhaps you can add some to the list as well. Let me hear from you!


...Are super-intelligent (like Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic 4)
...Exercise moral judgment and therefore are able to sin
...Are warriors (like Thing, Hulk, & Captain America)
...Are worshippers 
...Are spiritual beings and therefore able to be invisible (like Violet Incredible)
...Are created beings
...Can appear in bodily form
...Are protectors / guardians for people
...Can fly (like Superman)
...Are messengers
...Are extremely fast (like Flash, Dash)
...Serve God and people
...Are holy 
...Fight for good over evil
...Have authority and rank
...Some are on fire (ex. Isaiah 6, Seraphs = burning ones) (like Human Torch)
...Stand in the presence of god
...Appear god-like to people who see them (Thor)
...Have evil enemies they fight
...Don't marry

Note: I got this list from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

Saturday, December 03, 2011

"The Silent Years" Not Sinless Years (book review)

The Silent Years, by Alan W. C. Green, is a novel where he imagines what the early years of Jesus Christ (called Yeshua in the book) were like. They are called the silent years because there is very little written in scripture about Jesus in these years. So he takes what there is and fills in the gaps with a story that gives some possible explanations for what we do read in the Bible.

Overall, I enjoyed this creative story. I felt like he stretched my perspective and increased my knowledge of the holy land and several characters in the New Testament during that time period.

I chose to review this book (it was given to me for this purpose) because I hoped it would help me see the Christmas story anew this December. As a pastor, I am always looking for new perspectives on the old story. Mission accomplished!

I have one reservation, however, and I'm afraid it is significant. I may have misunderstood the author's intent here but it seemed pretty clear to me that he had Yeshua sin in his story.

For example, on page 82 of 154 (ebook), Yeshua confesses his sin to his uncle of wanting to murder Roman soldiers raping a woman in front of him. Clearly, if you believe that Jesus was the sinless Son of God, this would be problematic. Therefore, I cannot recommend this book without a warning label regarding this. I don't suggest banning this book. However, this should be considered before recommending it to young readers (physically or spiritually) as it's heretical if I've read it correctly. I realize that this is a strong charge, but I do not know how else to respond.

So while I can tell you that I enjoyed most of the other parts of the book (there were what appeared to me other minor deviations from scripture), I strongly caution the reader to read with great discernment.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Embrace Christ-mess

Christmas is a big deal! Why? Because it's the beginning of God's earthly story of putting on flesh and rescuing us. No Good Friday--No Easter. No Easter--No Christmas. Simple as that. So how should that affect my Christmas season? It should make it messy.

Remember the first Christmas was a mess for Jesus. He didn't come in a squeaky clean palace nursery. Instead, he came in a dirty, smelly horse stable with no hospital staff--just Joseph. Far away from home, too. No family or friends to add support (that we know of). Oh, and by the way, now with a social sigma that basically makes you an outcast in your own home. Remember, Mary was claiming to be a virgin even though she was pregnant. Riiiiiight. No hanky-panky. Wink Wink. She made people talk like Lady Gaga had just worn her unrefrigerated beef outfit--again! Now that's messy!

Life is messy. Especially if you're living for Christ. Just try talking about Jesus at your next CHRISTmas party. Yeah, say the J-word out loud and the party-like atmosphere will go silent quicker than Cracker Barrell after you say "pregnant" a little too loudly. Want to keep things nice and neat? Talk about anyone else but Jesus.

Does that make disciples? Does that grow the kingdom? No. In fact, we shrink as we try to ride the fence. How ironic it is that we do this during the Christmas season. 

Here's what I'm doing about it. I'm praying for boldness. I'm asking people to pray for me to be bold. I'm asking my Home Group to ask me who I've talked to about Christ the past week. I'm going public about my lack of boldness and stepping out in faith to do something about it. Will it be messy? Yep. But if messy food is some of the best tasting food, just imagine what a messy life will taste life. Dig in and Embrace Christ-mess.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Information About American's Chapter 11 Reorganization

It's time to buy tickets to go to Curacao this summer. Prices will likely only go up from here.

Trip cost = Your Plane ticket + $200

In other news...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Please Don't Call Me Pastor

Matthew 23:10

New Living Translation (NLT)
10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.

Please don't call me pastor (or preacher or reverend or bishop or elder etc.). This verse is why I prefer that you call me by my first name.  I appreciate the sentiment. You want to show me respect. I really do get this. I taught my kids to call their pastor "Pastor Eddie" years ago. (no, that wasn't me;-)) 

Now that I'm a pastor, I see it differently in light of this verse. Here's the thing: We're all on level ground at the foot of the cross. Yes, show elders and pastors double-honor (1Timothy 5:17) but remember that we aren't superior to you in any way in God's eyes. So let's not create a pecking order that God didn't create. In fact, He speaks against that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prayercast - Activating world changing prayer

What a great way to pray for unfamiliar nations. Watch and pray along with person from that country while watching video of that country's people. < 5 min and you've impacted the world. #radicalexperiment #prayer #missions #untilHecomesagain

Prayercast - Activating world changing prayer:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Compassion that Works

As I wrote earlier, I'm leading our church family to take the radical experiment. I've also started already myself. In fact, I've been doing some of these for quite a while now. So I know the potential they have for personal impact. I'm who I am today because I practice many of these as a Christ-follower. It's why I encourage you to do so as well...

Last week I spoke about the importance of praying for the "Harvest." (Matt 9:35-38) A compassion that works does more than jump in impulsively. It leverages our greatest source of power (God, the Lord of the Harvest) to show the greatest compassion possible.

Jesus looked over the crowds and had compassion on them. But what he didn't do is just roll up his sleeves and dive in. Nor did he send his disciples in. He told them to ask the Father to send workers into the great harvest. That's maximum compassion!

What's interesting is that Jesus didn't stop there. In the very next verse (Matt 10:1) Jesus sends the disciples out in twos to as the answer to that prayer. Not to the exact same people but to people in many towns throughout the region. 

We must move past impulsive serving to remove our guilt and past paralyzing apathy to thoughtful and prayerful compassion that truly makes a lasting difference (physically and spiritually).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Radical Experiment

I've been leading our church to read David Platt's book Radical the past two months. It's a great critique of the church and our culture from a pastor who's trying to turn his ship, so to speak, in a more Jesus-like direction. It's a fantastic read.

Fortunately, it's not just a critique. He offers great suggestions and examples for us to consider as Christ-followers.

As we near the end of this series I am challenging each person to engage the Radical Experiment for the next year. It includes the following (from the website):

The Radical Experiment is a year-long commitment to five specific challenges:
  • To pray for the entire world
  • To read through the entire Word
  • To commit our lives to multiplying community
  • To sacrifice our money for a specific purpose
  • To give our time in another context

I believe, along with Platt, that engaging these five parts of the experiment will change lives--both ours and others. So I've already begun every one. 

I want to encourage you to read David's book and then begin the experiment too. Or maybe just begin. After all, all he does in his book is point you to the teachings and commands of Jesus. So if you read your Bible, you already know what you should do and why. 

While I've already started, I encourage you to make plans to begin sometime between now and the end of the year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kazakhstan | Operation World

We're praying toward a summer trip in 2013. Join us in praying for people of central asia (especially the unreached people groups there).

A great place to quickly learn a lot about this country:

Kazakhstan | Operation World:

'via Blog this'

What's In A Name? by Randy Bohlender

If you get a chance to read anything about Shackleton, I highly recommend it. It's an incredible story of perseverance, leadership, and faith. I read the biography by Lansing. DG

What’s In A Name? by Randy Bohlender

shackletons men 300x202 What’s In A Name? by Randy BohlenderHistory does not tell us if Earnest Shackleton was a particularly religious man, but surely he was prophesying when he christened his ship The Endurance.  Even though he understood the overwhelming challenge he face in attempting the first march across Antartica, so much happened that he could not possibly have anticipated.
How would he have known…
  • That the ice would be early in the fall of 1914, leaving them trapped in the ice, far from their goal by January of 1915?
  • That the spring melt of 1915 would not free their ship, but that it would remain fast until October?
  • That once the ice did begin to shift, rather than breaking free, his ship would be crushed, leaving his men to abandon the craft, only to stand on the ice staring down through the hole where the ship used to be?
How would he have known…
  • That he and his men would spend 497 days either on the ship or on ice floes before they set foot on land once again?
  • That once they found their way to land, it would be Elephant Island, one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
  • That he would be forced to split the party, and a portion of them would have to once again take to their open boats for a fifteen day sail through a storm that sunk a 500 ton steamer?
  • That his portion of the party would include McNish, a carpenter that he threatened to shoot for insubordination, but recognized that he would need his skills later.
How would he have known…
  • That on their second landing, they would put ashore on an island that was inhabited, but find themselves on the opposite side of the whaling camp, separated by a glacier never before crossed by man?
  • That after climbing the glacier with little or no climbing equipment, they would need to slide down the other side through thick fog, sitting in shovels for sleds?  When his men objected, Shackleton is credited with saying “Well, we very well can’t go back…”.
In the end, Shackleton worked to collect each of his men and returned to England having not lost a life in the journey.  How could he possibly have known that when he named his ship The Endurance?
As leaders, we chart the course for our initiatives early with a hundred finite decisions that work together to establish the culture for our ministry.
  • Do you cancel an outreach because it rains?  You’ll cancel it for other reasons.
  • Do you boldly approach strangers or hang back, waiting for them to make the first move?  You’ll hang back your entire life.
  • Do you lead by example, knowing it’s going to be harder – and more rewarding – than you expected?
Ministry – as much as Shackleton’s odyssey – requires an uncommon endurance. The same goes for those of you on the adoption journey.  Going in, you know there’s a lot to it.
You can’t pre-imagine every struggle that will materialize.  At the end of the journey, you innately know it was worth it all, even if it required every bit of your endurance.
You might as well get used to the idea and call it what it is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

FaceTime: Do you have it?

This past Christmas, my brother and his wife decided to head back home instead of coming to our house to open presents due to weather concerns. As a result, we had a stack of presents from them (and them from us) but not them to enjoy opening them together with. 

So we decided to try something we've never done before. We video chatted them into our den where we opened their presents "in front of them" via computer. I think we actually used Skype that day. It was pretty amazing.

Apple created an app for it's computers, phones and tablets called FaceTime. FaceTime allows you to have a video telephone conversation or chat. 

In a day when texting seems to be the mode of the future, FaceTime really shines. While personal, face-to-face conversation is usually the best way to go, it isn't always feasible. FaceTime allows us to see the person's facial expressions along with hearing their voice giving us some body language. 

Studies show that 90% of communication happens through body language as opposed to only 10% through just verbal. There is some debate about these actual numbers but even if it's close, it makes my point. Our communication is much more effective when we can see the person in part or full. As a result, our conversation is more honest.

God wants to spend 'face time' with us each day. Moses did this serving as a great example. (Exodus 33)  Jesus' example is found in Mark 1:35

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (NIV)

God wants to communicate with us effectively and honestly. 

Find a good place. Set a time and guard it tenaciously. Go in with a plan but hold it loosely. Meet with God face-to-face. You'll end up with a more effective and honest conversation with the One who created you to know and be known by Him.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living Bread

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." - Jesus

John 6:35, NIV84

Jesus is speaking to a crowd that included people from the feeding of the 5,000 men the day before. They'd pursued Christ around the lake to Capernaum to find Jesus. 

Jesus understands why most of them are pursuing him. And it's not because they want him--they want what he can give them. And even that is pretty base. They want his food and miracles more than they want him. He gets this. And he addresses it. 

What we hunger and thirst for are food and drink. That's not all but that's a pretty base desire we all have. It's why we eat and drink. Because God has hard-wired us to need this and graciously made it potentially pleasurable in the process. But it's also instructive. And Jesus uses it here to teach about himself.

Jesus uses their hungering and thirsting to illustrate a greater truth. Just like their hunger and thirst shows that they were made to consume tangible food to sustain their lives, their spiritual hunger and thirst shows that they were made to consume a spiritual food that sustains their lives--The Bread of Life aka. Jesus.

Our desire for significance, acceptance, unconditional love, joy, peace, etc. are ultimately and eternally met in a faith-relationship with Jesus Christ. However, we tend to pursue these desires in inferior ways. And we're left unsatisfied. That's why we should pursue him above all else in life. Nothing else truly satisfies.

So what do I do? 

I pursue Jesus Christ.

I "seek first His kingdom and his righteousness". I "abide in him", the True Vine. I "keep in step" with his Holy Spirit. 


By practicing the spiritual disciplines that help me most consistently abide in Christ. And I do these believing that God will sustain me as a result. 

Feasting on the Word (Bible)
Practicing silence and solitude
Serve out of my spiritual gifts
Sing/create/write for His glory

Lord, I truly need you more than food and drink. Without you I am forever lost and dead. Cleanse me from my self-sufficiency and fill me with your Spirit that I will live out of your infinite provision and sustaining life--abundant and eternal. I'm alive because of you!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Nationwide Emergency Alert System Nov 9

I share this to alert you that we all need to be alert and prepared for national scale emergencies and disasters so that we can be part of the solution instead of making things worse. Please scan this article and make any necessary preparations you think you need to at home and at your church. Darien

Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test Scheduled


Phoenix, AZ – On November 9, 2011 FEMA along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be conducting a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. This system is most commonly known for its weekly or monthly “test of the emergency broadcasting system.” There has, however, never been a nationwide test of this communication system. That will change on November 9, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST.

The test will reach all fifty states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The test will be conducted across all radio and tv broadcasts. The test will allow FEMA, the FCC and NOAA to determine a baseline of the emergency alert system that will enable better communication during times of disaster and potential areas for improved communications.

In the instance of a national emergency, such as large regional earthquakes, tsunamis, etc., this system will be used to communicate important next steps to best respond to the situation.

As Christians, the most important response to any given situation or crisis is to be ready. Ready to respond and ready to share the hope of Christ within us. You can get more information about what it means to be a ReadyChristian and how to begin the process by visiting our website.

About the drill

Here are some important things to know about the drill:
  • The nationwide test will begin at 2:00 PM (1:00 Central, 12:00 Mountain and 11:00 Pacific) and will last up to 3 minutes
  • Some local areas will also use the drill to test sirens and other communication avenues depending on the scenario. For instance, Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant will test their warning sirens in a 10 mile radius of the plant.
  • Because this is a national drill and varying communication codes are being used, the alert may not be identified as a drill.
  • Visit the FEMA blog for more information

In case of actual event

Here are some things to do to prepare in case of an actual event:
  • Take the FREE ReadyChristian training that will walk you through how to be prepared
  • Put together a "grab and go" kit
  • Discuss emergency plans with each member of your family
  • Set up meeting places outside of your home in case you are at work/school when an incident occurs
  • Research potential threats in your area and find out what to do
  • Sign up for local notification systems through your local emergency management department
Copyright © 2011 Christian Emergency Network, All rights reserved.
CEN is a network of Christian volunteers, community leaders and emergency professionals uniting to equip the church to be aware, ready and there to respond to crisis and disaster. For interviews with CEN please contact Misti McHatton at (800) 260-5637 or misti.mchatton@christianemergencynetwork.org
Our mailing address is:
Christian Emergency Network
39506 N. Daisy Moutain Dr. STE 122-614
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Monday, November 07, 2011

What's Your Faith In?

"It is not the
strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you." 

-Tim Keller aka @DailyKeller on Twitter.com

...the object of my faith is a person. He's Jesus Christ. DG

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Compassionate Bread

"Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Mark 6:34 NLT

Jesus and his disciples were exhausted and needed some serious "R & R". They needed to getaway and debrief together.

The disciples had just returned from a short missionary stint. Jesus sent them to teach, heal and cast out demons. He sent them out in pairs and without him. As a result, they had stories share and they had questions to ask. Lots to talk about! 

The disciples were indeed exhausted. Not just physically but emotionally. They'd experienced the highs and lows of miraculous ministry in Jesus' name. This is both exhilarating and draining.

Jesus was extremely tired as well. Not just from healings and exorcisms but from ministering to so many people he'd eaten nothing in who knows how long. (v. 31)

In addition to this, Jesus was grieving. He was grieving because he had just learned that his dear cousin and friend, John the Baptist, had just been beheaded by Herod. As a result, Jesus is trying to get his disciples away from the crowds to rest, debrief and grieve. Good shepherd.

But it didn't work out quite that way.

The crowds, of course, didn't realize their situation. They just knew that this may be their best opportunity to hear, touch and be blessed by Jesus. So they pursued Jesus.

...pursued Jesus...

Hmmm...that's good. But I digress...

It's at this point that most of us would be at our breaking point with people. I'd probably be so irritable at this point that I'd be blowing up with any and everyone around me--friend and stranger. 

And yet, while Jesus may have been tempted as we are, he did not sin. In fact, the verse says, "He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."

"He had compassion on them..." That blows me away. 

Instead of thinking about himself (and even his disciples) he decides to step into yet another opportunity to display the Kingdom of God. 

He begins giving them himself--the Bread of Life! But he doesn't stop there. 

He and the disciples--way out in the wilderness and grieving--serve over 10,000 men, women and children fish nuggets and rolls like waiters in an un-airconditioned warehouse soup kitchen. Makes me hot and tired just thinking about it.

So What?

I have a couple of take-aways here...

First, Jesus responded compassionately to the masses of people pursuing him. He could easily have justified pulling away. Easily. He didn't. 

Am I willing to serve when I'm tired and hungry and have a choice?

Second, when Jesus did serve them, he gave them both the Bread of Life as well as physical bread

Notice, too, that he gave them himself first (bread of life)-then he fed them. We usually do it the other way around (if we give them the Word at all).

Do I see the Word of God as truly more valuable than physical food? (Test: What do you spend more time consuming each day?)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

25 Books Everyone Should Read

I'm a reader. I love to read. But I'll admit that I'm an undisciplined reader. I read what I feel like reading a lot. 

I heard or read a CEO of a major publisher say once that the "dirty little secret of publishing" is that not every good book is worth reading. His rationale sheds wisdom on selecting what we should read. There are just too many good and better books out there. Perhaps we should focus on reading the best and get better value out of our time spent reading.

I've heard others talk about the importance of reading both contemporaries as well as dead authors. Dead authors usually aren't read unless what they wrote continues to be valued. But living authors often haven't lived enough of life yet for us to conclude whether or not they are worth reading or their works will stand the test of time.

In addition, always reading fiction (or non-fiction) isn't wise either. There is great value in reading a great work of fiction as it can illustrate great truths and move us emotionally in a way that a theological treatise struggles to do.

All that to say, read but read purposefully. Here are some suggestions:

* Consider reading more biographies. Someone said that 25% of what we read should be biographies.

* Consider reading at least a fourth of your books by dead authors. 

* Consider reading at least 2 novels a year. Choose fiction that has a reputation for being well-written perhaps with historic accuracy (ex. Francine Rivers, A Voice in the Wind). Stay away from more sensual for the sake of sensual type books. Consider classics such as Pilgrim's Progress as well.

* Consider reading the paper and blogs less. I like to keep up, but our time is precious. How much of what we read to keep up is really helpful? I'd argue at times it's unhelpful. When reading news perhaps you should steer toward more thoughtful articles on current events (such as is found in World Magazine) versus USA Today.

* Don't skip the classics. This is easy to do. They are often harder to read and not as cool. But they are often free or very cheap on ebook websites like Amazon and Google books. Start downloading today!

My purpose in posting this today was to include this good article below by James Emery White. However, I apparently had the above in me screaming to get out. At  the end of the day, I hope you will read and think more and with more discernment and purpose than you have been. Why? Here's one more reason:

"Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." -King Solomon, Proverbs 4:23

What you read and take into your mind matters. (Phil 4:8)

25 Books Every Christian Should Read  (by James Emery White)

HarperOne has recently published 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics, selected by...
...Having compiled a few reading lists myself, most notably in A Mind for God(InterVarsity Press), I found the list interesting:
On the Incarnation - St. Athanasius
Confessions - St. Augustine
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers - Various
The Rule of St. Benedict - St. Benedict
The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
The Cloud of Unknowing - Anonymous
Revelations of Divine Love (Showings) - Julian of Norwich
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
The Philokalia - Various
Institutes of the Christian Religion - John Calvin
The Interior Castle - St. Teresa of Avila
Dark Night of the Soul - St. John of the Cross
Pensees - Blaise Pascal
The Pilgrim’s Progress - John Bunyan
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life - William Law
The Way of a Pilgrim - Unknown Author
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Testament of Devotion - Thomas R. Kelly
The Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Return of the Prodigal Son - Henri J.M. Nouwen
The list is obviously tilted toward devotional and spiritual classics, as opposed to theological works, and is a weakness...

...But I welcome any and all such listings, if for no other reason than the ensuing conversation about which books deserve to be on the list.
For a sampling, would any of the following deserve inclusion?
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church; The Small Catechism
John Milton, Paradise Lost
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience
John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua
Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets; Murder in the Cathedral
Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find
Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait
Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; The Gulag Archipelago
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Of course they would.  And more.  But then again, it wouldn’t be a list of 25.
And perhaps that’s the problem.
Twenty-five books could never begin to reflect what every Christian should read.
But giving credit where credit is due, you could have worse starts.
James Emery White
25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics, edited by Julia L. Roller (HarperOne).
James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).

Editor’s Note
To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.