Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Name

I think that I can summarize my life and my work very simply. In fact, it is one word, one name that tells the story of who I am and what I do: Jesus.
  • Jesus is my message. Everything that I do, live for, teach and believe is summarized in the life and ministry of Jesus. The gospels are my text book and Jesus is my message.
  • Jesus is my mission. My purpose in life is to tell as many people as I can about Jesus. My goal is to get as many people to know about Jesus- and to follow Jesus- as I can before I die. Jesus is my mission.
  • Jesus is my ministry. It is very easy for us 'ministry-types' to get consumed with our ministries. We know all the needs that we have to meet and every day there are more. There is never a shortage of things to do in religious work. But I try to be careful to never lose sight of the most important thing I am to do. I am to love, worship and serve Jesus. My primary ministry is Jesus.
  • Jesus is my model. The classic question, "What would Jesus do?" is very appropriate. Everything that I do should be found acceptable when compared to the work, the ministry, the teachings of Jesus. I need to pattern my life after him.
  • Jesus is my method. That state may be a little misleading. It would be better to say, "Whatever gets people to consider and know Jesus is my method." Plainly stated, I try to become all things to all men so that I can win some. Jesus is my method.

How is that for simplicity? One name is the answer to all the problems and concerns in my life. You could say that Jesus is my life. Shouldn't he be yours as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to Think Like a Christian About HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is the greatest health and humanitarian crisis of my lifetime. It is not just a problem in the USA. In fact, here it is much less severe than in other parts of the world, especially Africa. There are many aspects to this problem, but one of the biggest has been the failure of the Christian church to minister to, care about or love those afflicted with AIDS. Here are some thoughts.

Many of those who are infected with HIV contracted it from illegal drug use and/or illicit sexual relationships. This means that education should be a big part of any HIV program. All people, regardless of where they live, should have access to information concerning the dangers of sharing needles and unprotected sex. It is incumbent on Christians to take the lead in this process. Jesus called us to care for all people. Jesus himself was interested in every part of life. He healed dozens of people with physical problems. The obvious implication is that Jesus wants us to care about those with HIV. Share information.

But what of those already infected? What about those who have engaged in sinful behavior and are now sick? What would Jesus do? The church has too often stood back in judgement of those who have this illness. We enjoy pointing toward the sin and offering words of condemnation and judgment. Never mind that Jesus went around forgiving people of their sins. In fact, he forgave people who did not even ask to be forgiven. What a revolutionary idea. We should be offering grace and forgiveness to those who have sinned. We should be showing love and demonstrating the goodness of Jesus.

And then there are those men and women (and children) who are completely innocent. They have not used drugs. They have not had unsafe sex. They exhibit none of the so-called "risky behaviors." These victims are the ones who contracted HIV when a husband or wife brought it home to them. These are the children who were born with HIV.

We must not abandon them. We must show them the love of Jesus. We should help them to find the medical care that they need. We should follow the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 25 to visit the sick. We should be ministering to these who need our ministry the most.

Finally, we need to consider the orphans. In parts of Africa, AIDS orphans are a huge part of the population. They are a burden on extended family members. They drain the resources of their families, villages and communities. These children, through no fault of their own, are completely unwanted in their world.

Again, it is imperative that church solve this problem. It is the command of Jesus that we care for everyone. It is the commission of Jesus that we take the gospel to the whole world. That includes taking the message to those places that are hard, sad and uncomfortable. The church, you and I, must care for all people.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Prayer of the Week

"What do you want me to do for you?" Luke 18.14

I have often been asked something like the following, "If God knows everything, then he should know what I want or need. Why should I have to pray?" Here are a few answers.
  • You should pray because prayer is the thing that builds your relationship with God.
  • You should pray because it is good for you to realize that you have needs. You can't do it all on your own, after all.
  • You should pray because your prayer demonstrates your faith in and dependence on God's ability to answer your prayers.
  • You should pray because it helps you to realize what your needs are.
  • Prayer is also important because prayer will help you realize the extent of God's power.

Two more things about prayer: Be definite. Do not waste your time with bland generalities. Tell God exactly what your needs are. Be persistent. Don't give up just because you did not get the answer you wanted on the first day.

Lord, you are good and your mercy endures forever. We are your children and today we claim your goodness. Keep us in your care. Build us up as your sons and daughters. Make us the men and women that you want us to be. And most of all, teach us to pray. Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Is There Sanctuary in Church?

Throughout history the church has stood as place of safety and sanctuary. Those oppressed by the powerful of society have been able to turn to the church for help. In response, the church has been at the forefront of helping people who are on the margins of society. Homeless shelters, job training, orphanages and hospitals are all examples of the Christian church responding to the needs of those seeking sanctuary.

It was Jesus who encouraged those who followed him to feed the hungry, provide drinks to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit prisoners (see Matthew 25.31-46). Throughout the centuries those who follow Jesus, and attempt to live out his teachings have sought to do those things. We are trying to live out the Great Commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Recently there have been three developments that jeopardize, or at the very least, call into question the ancient tradition of sanctuary. Although these developments are unrelated, they both could have severe implications for the church and those who call themselves Christ-followers.
  • Illegal immigration is an issue that is too big for me to deal with in this context. Whether or not it is appropriate for people to come into the USA without the proper permissions or documentation is beyond the scope of this blog. (Nevertheless, people should not break the law to get into the USA.) However, once people are in this country, no matter their situation or circumstance, it is incumbent upon the church to assist them. The church should be providing English language skills, job training, legal advice and citizenship assistance to these immigrants. However, too often we find that the church is leading the charge to marginalize these men and women who are already among the poorest in our country.
  • Church violence has escalated to new levels. Whether it is because of domestic issues in families, communities or within the church body, many people have chosen the church as the place to take out their anger and frustration. Recent attacks in Colorado are only the latest in a series of events that leads many to question whether or not they are safe at church.
  • Dishonest ministers and ministries are causing problems for many people. Whether it is the extravagant lifestyle of famous (or infamous) preachers, or a leader that cannot be trusted with the temptation of sexually abusing church members, there are men and women in every community who do not feel safe in church.

We have big problems in the church. They cannot be solved quickly, and in many cases we seem reluctant to solve them at all. But we must. If we are ever to fulfill the command of Jesus, if we are ever to provide sanctuary for those who need it, we must begin now to do God's work and to clean up our mess.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Pro-Life Movies?

An interesting article recently appeared in Christianity Today. In it Mark Moring asks the provocative question as to whether or not Hollywood is becoming pro-life. After all, 2008 was the year of positive messages from life-affirming perspectives. Movies of every sort were dealing with unwanted pregnancies and complicated relationships. And in every instance that I can think of the answer was always, choose life. (The article can be found at

All of these movies that I have seen prove to be excellent films as well. (Although released in 2007, I did not see Juno or Waitress until 2008. I am sure that they will both end up on my year end favorites list.) You will probably not be wasting your time with any of them.

Juno- Juno is the wise-cracking, wise beyond- her- years, teen who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy and a very complicated adoption situation. The main message here: honesty.

Waitress- Waitress is about the woman who gets pregnant by her unloved and unloving husband. She makes some mistakes, but ultimately learns about love. The message here: hope.

August Rush- Two young musicians from different worlds meet and become pregnant from a one night stand. The son who is born is placed in an orphanage, but believes that his parents want him still. The message here: persistence.

Bella- In Bella, a struggling single woman learns that she is pregnant and plans to abort her child. However, friends and circumstances make her reconsider. The message here: friendship.

Knocked Up- In this adolescent comedy genre-film, we get this story about a mis-matched couple who get pregnant after a drunken one-time encounter. The message here: responsibility.

It is really too soon to tell if this is a trend in Hollywood movies, but it is certainly an encouraging sign. There are more sides to any issue than the traditional Hollywood party-line.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What I Believe About the Bible

Many of you are aware of the high view I have of Scripture. I read it, study it, and meditate on it on a regular basis. I have made a commitment to read the Bible through every year for the rest of my life. I am committed to teaching others the Bible and helping to nurture in them the same love for God’s word that I have. It is with that in mind that I offer the following thoughts about the Bible.
  • The Bible is inspired by God. It was written, copied, translated, carried, distributed and read by humans, but God was behind the whole thing from the very beginning.
  • The Bible is encouraging to readers. If you allow yourself to spend even the shortest amount of time with the Bible, you will find that you can be inspired, challenged and comforted by its words.
  • The Bible is consistent with itself. It took hundreds of years for the Bible to be written. Dozens of authors were used in its composition, and yet the Bible is consistent from front to back in doctrine, history and theology as well as lifestyle guidelines and commands.
  • The Bible speaks to all who will listen. Although God still speaks to individuals, he continues to use the Bible to get his message across. If you want to hear from God, read his word.
  • The Bible is a significant historical document. To get a full view of ancient history, as well as a context for modern life, be sure to read the Bible.
  • The Bible shows us how to live. Rules for conduct, worship, relationships, morality and more are all contained in the Bible. It is not only an historical document, it also is a guidebook.
  • The Bible has changed our world and shaped our culture. Hospitals, universities, children’s homes, governments and more were all created in response to God’s word. The Bible has had more impact than any other book, ever.
  • The Bible teaches us about God. To know what God thinks, who he is, what he wants, or where he is from, read the Bible.
  • The Bible is the biggest selling book of all time. New translations and versions come out every year. And every year more Bibles are sold than any other book.

I could go on, but I think that you get the gist of it. Read the Bible! Do it now!

The What? of God

There is a lot of confusion in the world about God. And confusion about God is necessarily a bad thing. I recognize that fact, and yet I am afraid that I often add to the confusion. I make pronouncements about God in writing, on line, while teaching and even in conversation, and as clear as I believe that I am in my mind, I am sure that what I communicate is not as understood.

For one thing, there is nothing confusing about God. He is completely consistent in every way. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no shadow of turning in him. That means that what was true about God is true about God. What is confusing about that?

We get confused, I believe, when we begin to listen to what people say about God, rather than what God says about himself. With the end of eliminating some misconceptions and easing confusion, I propose the following thoughts.
  • The will of God is to make the world a better place. Jesus came to do his Father's will and also said that he was on earth to seek and save the lost. He encouraged his followers to treat everyone fairly and the same. He emphasized the Great Commandment, also known as the Golden Rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
  • The work of God is to fulfill the will of God. This means that even as Jesus was about doing 'his Father's business,' we should be participating in it as well. It would do us all well to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly before God.
  • The word of God is contained in the Bible, but that does not mean that he no longer speaks. God speaks on a daily basis to those who are willing to hear him. We violate God's word when we do not listen to or for his voice at all, or when we listen only to what he has said in the past. (Please note: I do not believe that God ever speaks against what is revealed in the Bible. If you hear from God, be sure to compare that message for consistency with the Bible.)
  • The way of God is a conscious lifestyle, not a once-a-week meeting. Living God's way should have an effect on everything that you do every moment of every day. The way of God is a constant, regular decision to do what Jesus would do no matter what the consequences.

Monday, January 21, 2008

2 Timothy 2.1-2: Prayer of the Week

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
2 Timothy 2.1-2

The first thing, which is also the most important thing, is to pray. Prayer is more important than anything else we can do in life.

And the object of our prayers seems to be pretty universal. We are to prayer for all men (or women), especially those who have authority in government or civic and community affairs.

The subject of our prayers should at least include that everyone could lead a quiet life. So pray; pray for everyone you know and especially those who have authority over you. Pray that God would bless them, lead them and help them to more faithfully serve him.

Good God, this week we ask that you would care not only for us and our families, but also for those who we know, work with and work for. Give our leaders, in government and business, grace to know your will and courage to do it. We pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Movies I Still Want to See

Here is a list of current and recent movies that are on my 'to watch' list.
  • Atonement
  • I'm Not There
  • Sweeney Todd
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will be Blood
  • Charlie Wilson's War
  • Dan in Real Life
  • The Kite Runner
  • 3:10 to Yuma
  • Eastern Promises
  • Rescue Dawn
  • Apocalypto
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Letters from Iwo Jimo
  • The Queen
  • One Night With the King
  • The Painted Veil
  • Freedom Writers
  • Flags of Our Fathers
  • A Mighty Heart
  • Jindabyne
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
  • The Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep
  • American Gangster
  • The Great Debaters

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Honestly Uncomfortable- Juno

One of the most popular movies in America right now is a little film called Juno. The popularity of Juno seems unusual to me. There are no big stars. The story is not your typical teen fare. The main character, Juno, is a sixteen year old girl that becomes pregnant. The father of her child is her best friend, a geek that you would not expect to be the father of any one's baby. Paulie Bleeker, the father, is wonderful in his nerdiness. He is consumed with Juno and his high school cross country team. Paulie knows that he is in love, but Juno does not.

Juno's first inclination is to get an abortion. She decides against it, however, when she runs into a classmate protesting outside the abortion clinic and the receptionist inside turns out to be a self-absorbed, insensitive idiot. When Juno finds adoptive parents for her unborn child we get the idea that everything is going to be fine. But it is not. It turns out that the parents chosen for Juno's child have big problems of their own.

Jennifer Garner, the adoptive mother, is too perfect. Jason Bateman, her husband, is not committed to fatherhood, adoption, or even marriage for that matter. One thing leads to another and we have a disaster on our hands.

This is a really good film. I would not be surprised if it turns out to be one of my favorites for the year. But it did make me very uncomfortable. I was consistently squirming in my seat. I was not bothered by the topic. Teen promiscuity, pregnancy, abortion are all topics that I can handle emotionally. What bothered me the most was that Juno was so honest. I'm just not used to honesty in fictional film characters.

Juno has a disconcerting, matter-of-fact attitude about everything in her life. She seems oblivious to the crisis that she is in, but maintains her sense of humor. And all the time she tells it like it is. And at least initially, I didn't like it. But I didn't like it because she spoke the truth. She is young and optimistic, but also wise and realistic. Her language is authentic and somewhat base. Juno shocked me with the way she flippantly discussed sex, pregnancy, condoms, anatomy and more.

After a period of acclimation, I got used to Juno's earthiness. She grew on me. She was funny, one of the wittiest movies characters in a long time. Once I got around being shocked by her, I found Juno refreshingly honest.

In retrospect, it is interesting that I would be bothered by a character that tells the truth. After all, aren't we all supposed to be honest? Shouldn't we value truthfulness and honesty? It is a sad state of affairs when I find the most honest movie of seen in a long time to be the most uncomfortable. Oh well, maybe it's a good sign.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5.16-18

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5.16-18

Although this short passage is filled with declarative statements- be joyful... pray... give thanks...- we would miss the point if we took them like commandments. We are to do these things, but they are not orders for us to slavishly follow. They are guidelines for our personal fulfillment and spiritual growth. As we learn to follow these admonitions, we will grow in our faith, be more like Christ and be more content.

Lord God, as we commit this week, our lives and our churches to you, may we learn the value of joy and thanks in our prayer. Remind us that joy comes from you and that our thanks goes to you, today and continually. Amen.

Evangelical and Liberal??

Politics and elections have become very uncomfortable for me. It hasn't always been so, but it definitely is now. I started my adult life intensely interested in politics. I began college as a political science major. My desire, my goal in life was to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. Ultimately, I wanted to become the Speaker of the House. They were big dreams, but certainly indicative of my concern for politics.

But somewhere in the last 25 years things have changed, and changed dramatically. I have a hard time having a conversation with many people about political matters without having to worry about tempers getting out of control. I like to think that I have not changed (in reality I know better than that), but certainly the political environment is different.

I am sure that a great deal of this has to do with the political views and biases of the specific demographic that I am a part of. I am an evangelical Christian. First of all, let's be clear in our understanding that before the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, evangelical was a theological designation. It had nothing to do with politics. And before the advent of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority in the 1980's, evangelical was not identified with particularly right-wing (read Republican) issues.

We have now moved into a time in which the term evangelical is equated with conservative politics. In some churches if you do not vote for a Republican candidate, your fidelity to God is called into question. My problem with this is that God is not a Republican. In fact, I believe that if Jesus were on earth teaching and performing miracles and healings today, he would more likely affiliate with the Democratic party.

So, what is the big deal? Why is there such a machine in the right that moves all evangelicals to their camp? Does it make sense? What are the issues that the Evangelical-Republican party focus on?
  • First of all, the evangelical wing of the Republican party tries to focus on so-called 'moral issues.' They advocate for amendments to ban same-sex marriages or civil unions. They believe that homosexuals somehow hurt the USA. However, I wish these same Christians would expend half that much energy caring for orphans or fighting divorce. Both of these are 'moral issues' as well.
  • These 'evangelicals' also speak out strongly against abortion rights. They are completely pro-life. (A note of explanation: I have yet to meet anyone more pro-life than I.) Their candidates always campaign on a pro-life platform, yet when elected they never do anything about abortion. From 1999-2006 we had a Republican Congress. From 2001-2007 we had a Republican Congress and Republican White House. Now the Supreme Court is even favorable to pro-life issues. And yet, nothing has been done. The Republicans have never had any intention of challenging Roe v. Wade.
  • Evangelicals have also become strong supporters of the war in Iraq. I am not sure why this has become an evangelical issue. The USA has lost over 4000 of our own troops and by some estimates as many as 400,000 Iraqi civilians have died. All of this is for no reason. There is no Iraqi link to terrorism, Al Qaida or weapons of mass destruction. And yet, evangelicals want to keep going.

There are many other issues that I could point up. However, suffice it to say that the truth of my heart is that I am theologically evangelical. That means that I believe in the Bible and I practice what it teaches to the best of my ability. I am what has become known as a 'born again Christian.' But where the political world is concerned, I am still a liberal. I believe that when Jesus said that we should care for others, he meant it.

Monday, January 14, 2008


It has been said, and it is true, that change is the only thing that is inevitable. I believe that. You can protest, kick and scream, drag your feet, get angry or lock yourself in your room, but change will happen.

In my lifetime, which is not very long, the changes have been amazing.
  • VCR
  • DVD
  • Microwave ovens
  • Personal Computers
  • The Internet
  • Cordless phones
  • Cell phones
  • cable television
  • satellite television
  • Satellite radio
  • drive-through windows
  • Photocopying
  • Steroid abuse
  • China as an economic power
  • The collapse of communism
  • Celebrity culture
  • WalMart
  • iPod/Mp3
  • Starbucks
  • Star Wars
  • Indiana Jones
  • Oprah

There are a lot more that could be added to that list. The world is changing, like it or not. Although I am not always excited about the direction of things in the world, I have decided to embrace change. In fact, I am going to experience change, encourage change and try to bring change. Instead of resisting. I am going to do everything in my power to change the world. Everything I plan, pursue and propose will have change as its purpose.

It's time for a change. Let's change the world.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In and Out

It has been said that what goes in comes out. No truer thing has ever been said. The things that you put into your life are the things that your life will become. The items that take your energy and attention are what will form your priorities.

Since this is the case, why not make yourself better? Why not focus on things that will come out of your life in a positive way? Put things into your head that will make you, and the people around you, better.
  • Focus on thoughts that will be beneficial to yourself and others. Be positive in your attitudes. Surround yourself with positive people and think on positive topics. Choose to be an optimist.
  • Focus. Do not wander hopelessly from issue to the next. Do not get caught in the trap of putting out fires all the time. Focus your energy and attention on what is important.
  • Surround yourself with 'good' art of all kinds. Do not settle for what is popular, or easily accessible. Fill your mind and heart with the books, music, films, etc., that are meaningful on an emotional and intellectual level.
  • Our culture tends toward the base and the profane. You do not have to go along. Look for and focus on those things that lift you up. Gravitate toward the aspects of our world that make people better.

These things make us what we are. It is true that whatever we put into our lives, is what we will become. Wherever we invest our time and energy is where our priorities will be. To be a content and fulfilled person realize that you need to fill yourself with good things.

If it is true that garbage in will produce garbage out, then be sure to put good stuff in.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Books I Want to Read this Year

Each year I read about 50 books (sometimes more, sometimes less). I always have a shelf filled with books that I want to read. Right now I know that I cannot realistically read all the books that are on my shelf (not this year anyway). And besides that, who knows what titles, authors or subjects will catch my fancy in 2008?

But, it is good to start with something. So here are the books that I am planning to read this year.
  • Garrison Keillor. Lake Wobegon Days.
  • Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins. Glorious Appearing.
  • David Kinnaman. Unchristian.
  • GP Taylor. Shadowmancer.
  • Anne Lamott. Traveling Mercies.
  • Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner.
  • Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities.
  • CS Lewis. Perelandra.
  • CS Lewis. That Hideous Strength.
  • Calvin Miller. Jesus Loves Me.
  • Leonard Sweet. A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Cafe.
  • AJ Jacobs. The Year of Living Biblically.
  • Shane Claiborne. The Irresistible Revolution.
  • Bill Hybels. Just Walk Across the Room.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Willingness vs. Ability

People live with too many regrets. Everyone I know is sorry about something from their past. Almost always that something is a thing that they did not do or try. A man regrets that he never went sky-diving. An elderly lady is sorry that she never told her neighbor of her true love for him. I understand the power of the regret because I have them too.
  • I wish when I was younger that I would have worked more seriously on my music.
  • I regret that I did not take school (college and seminary especially) more seriously.
  • I am sorry that I have not always made the best financial decisions for myself and my family.

Two of three of those regrets are things that I did not do. I would guess that the average probably holds for most humans- Americans at the very least.

We seem to have an aversion to taking chances. We like the safety and security of 'life as we know it.' We are comfortable, so don't rock the boat. The problem is that our caution causes us to miss out on a lot in life. We miss opportunities and adventures. We miss reunions and celebrations. We miss life because we are stuck with our 'safe' world.

This sometimes causes us trouble in our relationship to God as well. You see, God asks us to do things that we may not be happy about. (He asked me to do what I am doing three times before I said yes.) He wants us to do things out of realm of comfort. He wants us to quit doing the things that we think we love and to start doing boring things. Consequently, we hesitate and sometimes decline.

Here's the problem with this, though. When we do what God asks of us, we put ourselves in position to be blessed by God. He is able to work in our lives when we are obedient to him. When God has free rein in us, when he reigns over us, the possibilities are unlimited. The King of the world, the Ruler of the universe can do what he wants in us. However, when we disobey, we limit God's ability to do his work. That may be the most terrible regret of all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is There a Christian Influence?

When I recently watched the film I Am Legend, I first thought that I would be bored. As likable as Will Smith is, it was beyond my comprehension that I could enjoy just him for an entire feature. After all, Tom Hanks is one of our great American Actors and Cast Away was almost too much.

I then thought that the seemingly infinite commercial appeal of the movie would do me in. I am becoming a cinema snob. If it is too popular, I know I will not like it. If there are too many advertisements for the film on television, it is a sure sign that it cannot be worth watching. But I went, kicking and screaming, to see this little post-apocalyptic, science fiction thriller.

Finally, I almost came undone at the sight of the first 'dark-seekers.' The dark-seekers are mutant-zombie creatures who were once humans. They exist in Will Smith's world only to hunt, capture and eat flesh and blood. I do not, I repeat, I do not like computer-generated, mutant zombie movies. I want to see a film that will move me. Zombies tend to bore me.

But I kept watching. I watched because the story intrigued me. Smith plays an army scientist who is charged with solving a problem. Three years in the past a virus was developed that would defeat cancer. However, there were drastic and devastating consequences. The virus got out of control and killed everyone. Everyone was killed except for the zombies who were damaged and changed by the virus and Smith, who is somehow immune to the killing properties of the virus.

That brings us to Smith's current dark situation. He is the only human left, so far as he knows, yet he still feels responsible to solve the riddle of the virus. He hunts, traps and experiments on all sorts of animal, including zombies. He has a regimented lifestyle and lives in a bunker mentality to protect himself from the zombies, who only come out at night.

But there is one telling scene (or two) near the end of the movie. I will do my best to give you the gist of this without spoiling the finale. There is a scene in which more survivors are discovered. One asks Smith as to why God would punish humanity this way. Smith replies in a way that is typical of the current secular mindset in our world and society. "God didn't do this. We did this."

This is not an atheistic ideal. This is a widespread, widely-held humanistic doctrine. It holds that although there may be a God, that God is uninterested in humanity and human problems. And even if he was interested, humans do not really care about God.

As I witnessed this scene, I was struck by the futility of it all. Why bother? Why would Smith's character, the only human in the world, so far as he knew, care if there was ever a cure for the virus? After all, it was too late. There was nothing to live for.

Finally, be on the lookout for a brief image at the very end of this movie that will renew your hope in humanity. The filmmakers left a clue that the Smith character's attitude is not necessarily the one that we are to leave the theater with. There is hope. There is God. There is a future, and apparently God cares about how we experience that future.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How to Share Your Faith

There are many people in the world who0 have great stories to tell. There are recountings of dramatic events, rescue from disaster or wonderful family memories. Many individuals, including Christians, believe that they have nothing to contribute. They believe that their personal story is uninteresting or uninspiring. Or perhaps, they believe that no one cares about them. It could be that you are simply too nervous or shy to share your faith or life with anyone.

That is where this article comes in. Whether your story is dramatic or not, you should be able to share it. Whether people are clambering to hear it or not, you should look for opportunities to share. Here are four reasons why.
  1. People like stories. Television, movies, books, life are all filled with stories that people want to know about. You and I are moved by stories.
  2. Stories are window into the soul. When you want to know the truth about a person or an issue, you listen to stories. And when you hear stories, you get to learn the truth.
  3. Stories create a bond between people rather than a wall. Whether we have had the same experiences or not, sharing our lives draws us together.
  4. Stories are encouraging to everyone. Both listener and teller get the exhilarating experience of re-living a story. Everyone is lifted up because of it.

Tell some stories. Tell some stories about your life and your faith.

More on this topic is available at This article is adapted from Impact Your World: Tell Your Story at

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My 10 Favorite Albums of the Year

I am late. This list, this entry was due two weeks ago. But here it is now. It is better late than never, I hope.

It's the end of the year (sort of), and time for me to reflect on what has been good and bad about it. Over the next several weeks I will be posting some of my favorites of the year. Each of my favorites of the year have several qualifications, though.
  • My favorites of 2007 do not necessarily have to be from 2007. It just means that I have experienced them for the first time in 2007.
  • My favorites do not mean that they are the best of the year. I am not a critic. I am a fan. Therefore, the entries that make my favorites list move me somehow.
  • To the best of my ability, I do not allow my favorites to be influenced by anyone else. Critical acclaim and popular status mean nothing to me if I do not enjoy the product.

So, without further adieu, here are my 10 Favorite Albums of 2007 (in no particular order).

  • Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
  • David Crowder Band, Remedy
  • Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas (box set)
  • Frontline, The Combination
  • Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Burn to Shine
  • Percussion Discussion Africa, Omubala
  • Los Straightjackets, Rock en Espanol
  • Hillsong United, All of the Above
  • Bob Dylan, Modern Times
  • Leeland, Sound of Melodies

Monday, January 7, 2008

Church Goals 2008

Here are some church and ministry goals that I have for 2008.
  • To make 2008 a Year of Prayer.
  • To increase the spiritual sensitivity of our churches and members.
  • To reach 10 new, unchurched people.
  • To create and maintain stability and peace in our congregations.
  • To increase the Biblical literacy of the members of our congregations.
  • To establish new groups and develop new leaders.
  • To become "That" church in our area.
  • To complete the elevator/ramp/bell project at Pretty Prairie.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The entertainment world continues to go crazy. There is no other way to describe what is going on. Britney Spears married an idiot back-up dancer and it turns out he is the better parent. She has lost custody of her children and made headlines for substance abuse problems once again. Having violated a court order, Britney's children seem to have no hope for a positive future at all. But she is not the most screwed up person in her family.

Although she has publicly stated that teen pregnancy is not a good idea, Britney's 16 year old sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, has announced that she is pregnant. Everyone seems surprised about this event. How could it happen? Jamie Lynn's boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, lives in Jamie Lynn's home. What are they thinking? What are her parents thinking?

There is one more news item that bears mentioning in this context. Amy Winehouse is a mess. There have been canceled concerts and tours. There have been arrests and public debacles including intoxication from various drinks, plants and pharmaceuticals. And yet we learn that she is still hoping to perform at the Grammy Awards this year (that is, if she can get a visa to get into the US).

All three of these young ladies- the oldest is Britney at 26- have had success in entertainment. They are hailed as great entertainers and personalities who shape the opinions of our younger generations. And there is the problem. A stint or two in rehab, an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, run-ins with the law are all dismissed as incidental to the all-important value of pop-culture.

Let's not kid ourselves. When we allow Britney and Jamie Lynn and Amy set our values for us, we are in big trouble. It is not acceptable to screw up your life. There are consequences when you make mistakes, so do not make mistakes. An unplanned pregnancy for an independently wealthy teen is less problematic from an economic standpoint than it would be for the average student at Eastside High School. But socially it is at least as devastating for that unborn child. If you have enough money, or friends in the right places, you may get out of legal jams, but it does not mean that it is alright.