Archive for January, 2007

Alright – this may be more information than anyone wants to know…and I hope people don’t avoid eye contact with me later because of it.  If you don’t want to know anymore, feel free to exit out of this blog and come back tomorrow for a new post…

[YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!]

Went to the Urologist yesterday with Kelly to talk about the possibility of getting a vasectomy.  When we walked into the office – it was packed, and I was the only one under the age of 60 present in the room.  I couldn’t help but wonder what the other men were thinking.  Part of me wanted to hide in the corner and the other part wanted to say…”no, I’m not here for those little blue pills!!”  Anyhow – when we were finally called into the doctor’s office he showed us a graphic video about the procedure (didn’t want to eat for quite sometime after) and then we talked with the doctor. 

 I have some concerns:

  • I love my three children and in spite of wanting six when I first got married, am now very content with this being my family.  Kelly and I don’t want anymore children.  But there is something very sobering about thinking in terms of permanence.  That’s it dude.  You do this and you CANNOT have any more children!
  • What about my next younger wife and what she might want in terms of children (just kidding – I wrote that to test if my own wife reads this blog).
  • Let me put this as delicately as I know how…all the parts are working going into the procedure, I need all the parts to work coming out.
  • I have heard great differences in terms of vasectomy experiences from other guys.  Some were out golfing that day…others claimed to be throwing up for two weeks!  (feel free to comment positive experiences)
  • Just hearing about the procedure makes my palms sweat, my eyebrows furl, and my face grimace – what if gets stuck like that permanently?
  • I don’t have a real deep voice now, what will it be like after the procedure?

Anyhow – we’ll see.  Did you know, albeit rare, the vas deferens (the part of the male anatomy that gets severed to prevent sperm flowage) can grow back!!!  The doctor said if that happened, God wanted us to have another baby.  If so, so be it

Just finished a Discovery ClassMan I love it!!!  I get so fired up talking about the Living Stones Church and what God is both doing, and has called us to do.  It is like once a month I get to retell the story (powerful to me) of what God has called us, as a church to do in the neighborhoods, schools, and community around us

And the people who attend the Discovery ClassI love it!  They ask great questions, they have great insights, and the experiences they share, both of what they have already experienced at Living Stones Church, or have experienced elsewhere are priceless.  I have grown to really cherish the Discovery Class.

I think we have already found our missionary to Romania for Living Stones Church Romania – just kidding (…or am I).  That one is for Andras

Anyhow – great night.  I should be tired after talking so much but these things just get me excited again about the Living Stones Church.  I think all of our members should go through the Discovery Class again!!!!

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll share about my impending vasectomy.  Got to watch a video about it at the Urologist’s office.  God help me.

Have you ever known a preacher who when having a normal conversation sounded one way, but when delivering their sermon took on an entirely different voice?  Their inflection, their tone, even the way they pronounce some words (especially “G-O-D” that all of a sudden gets two additional syllables when said from the pulpit), change.  They may have a high squeaky voice in conversation, but from the pulpit they try to sound like Tom Brokaw delivering the evening news.  It is sort of a weird phenomenon.  While some may appreciate it, it comes across, at least to me – a little inauthentic.

I heard Fred Craddock (retired Emory Divinity school professor of preaching) one time talk about the importance of knowing your God-given voice,and using it.  Fred Craddock, the last I heard him (about two years ago) is around 85 (I’m guessing).  He is a very short man and has a very weak voice.  He said early on in his ministry he would hear the great oratorswho in his estimation sounded like the “trumpet” and “timpani” of the band.  They had booming voices that commanded attention the moment a word was uttered.  They were preachers who had some miraculous reverb going on in their delivery that shook the pews as thunder as they read the Word of God.  Craddock early on in his preaching tried to imitate these “trumpets” and “timpanies.”  The problem was that Craddock was more like…a piccolo.  Everything changed when he embraced that reality and preached as “the piccolo.”

Fred Craddock is something to behold.  When he preaches, you hang on every word.  Not because of its thundering sound, or its impressive reverb, but because it couldn’t be more genuine, more authentic, and more true.  He held an entire conference of pastors in utter silence  (no easy feat) and each one listened to every last word spoken by this little old man.  Simply because he knew his voice and he used what God gave him for God’s sake.

The worst of my preaching is when I have fallen into the temptation to want to either imitate someone else, or adopt a style that I perceived others wanted me to have because it is what they would have.  But it is goofy!  It isn’t me.  I have a personality, a style, a tone, a quality of voice, a manner that is me.  It is my voice.  It is what God gave me (for good or bad).  If it is a “piccolo” I would rather it be the best “piccolo” it can be.

You have a voice as well.  Find itUse what God gave you and ignore the advice of others who are trying to make you into their image.  You’ve already been made into someone’s image.  And it is exactly as it should be!!

Blue Chairs at Church

Posted: January 21, 2007 in Living Stones Church, vision

blue-chair.jpgWe had a lot of blue chairs out this morning at church.  The only problem is – our chairs are supposed to be tan!  We’ve run out of the tan!  Another 110 chairs are on order and are supposed to be shipped the week of February 7-15th (we’ll see – I’m not holding my breath).  I’m about to petition other churches to let us borrow 50 chairs or so until our order comes in.  We’ve run out of chairs and need more.  Thus we had to bring in the blue chairs.  They are smaller and not near as comfortable as the tan chairs.  While I don’t like them, it is a good sign to see them.  It means there is continued growth.  That is always a good thing.  It means, as a church, you are doing what God has called you to do.

 Bigger is better.  I heard Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan say that once.  They weren’t saying that a big church is better than a small church.  They were making the point that a church that is getting “bigger” is always better than one that isn’t because it is reaching people and fulfilling a commission that Jesus gave them.  It isn’t about size, but about direction.  A church of 1000 that is stagnate or declining isn’t as exciting as a church of 50 but is getting bigger because it is being faithful to Jesus’ calling. 

Therefore, growth is inevitableSmall will be replaced with bigger.  The numbers may vary from place to place, but there is only one alternative to consistent growth – to stop growing.  To say to those who need to know about Jesus, “We’re sorry, you’re not welcome here – nothing personal – but we just like that ‘small’ feeling.”  The moment a church circles wagons to preserve a preferred and comfortable size – it no longer becomes a church interested in reaching out in the name of Jesus.  It may say it does.  But it really doesn’t.  It is really interested in preserving a particular comfort level.  Actions speak far more than words.  It is nothing more than a “family-sized” church with a cute story of what they “would like to do” but isn’t really serious about doing it. 

As uncomfortable as it might be; as many blue chairs that need to come out; as many faces in whom you no longer know their name – in the end – it means we are doing what God has called us to.  And that ought to be celebrated!  For there is only one other alternative…and that, at least in regards to faithfulness, is not an option!

P.S.  The early bird to church gets the “tan” chair!!!

It has been three weeks now since I’ve gone back to the old “eating right and exercising” routine.  It usually takes me three weeks to get 77876129_8901970f8d.jpgover the “I hate this and want to throw up” stage.  I think I’m close.  Although right now my wife is in the kitchen making an Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo recipe with garlic bread!!!  Blasted woman…temptress of diet intentions!

Tonight I will be eating a chicken breast with broccoli.  My mouth is watering even as I type.  Yummy chicken…green broccoli… that when cooked in the microwave seems to emit a foul odor all over the house.  It serves the rest of my family right.  Gag on the foul broccoli odor you fettuccine alfredo/garlic bread eating tempters…

Detecting the Counterfeit

Posted: January 19, 2007 in faith

ist2_345351_counterfeit.jpgI got to witness some drama at the Speedway on Ireland Rd. yesterday at noon (yes – the Speedway that supplies Jim Counts with all of his 345 ounce soft drinks!).  I walked in at the same time a police officer was responding to a call about a woman who was trying to pass off a counterfeit $20.  Of course the woman claimed she had “no idea” and would never have tried to pass off a counterfeit.  I don’t think anyone at the counter – the police officer, the attendant…and honestly even myself believed her (although – maybe she didn’t know – what do I know).  What was interesting was that it wasn’t even a good counterfeit.  From what I could see it had the right patterns and colors – but it was on normal typing paper!

It reminded me of what I heard one time about criminal investigators who are involved in counterfeit schemes.  It is my understanding that they train, not by learning all of the techniques or secrets of counterfeiting, but rather by immersing themselves in real money.  They become so familiar with real money – its texture, feel, look, pattern, color, distinguishing marks, etc. that they would be able to spot a fake in a second; not by having to know about the fakes, but only because they know the real that well.

I couldn’t help but wonder if that same principle couldn’t apply to faith in Jesus.  There seems to be so many counterfeits of the real Jesus out there – from culture, secular scholars, T.V. evangelists, different religious groups, cults, etc. that “different” Jesus’ abound!  They are counterfeit Jesus’.  In response, to combat these fakes, some have immersed themselves in knowing all of the fakes, the cults, the frauds, the scandals, etc.  There might be some value in that, but I’m wondering if, like the criminal investigators, the better way wouldn’t be to so immerse ourselves in the real Jesus, to know everything about him – his personality, his heart, his values, his purpose, his voice, his tone, his expectations, etc. that we would never be fooled by a counterfeit.  In a second we would spot a counterfeit Jesus as a fake; not because we were experts in all that was fraudulent, but because we knew Jesus and truth that well!  I think it is time for me to recommit to knowing the real Jesus better than I have in the past.

Faith vs. Atheism

Posted: January 17, 2007 in faith

argument.jpgI had a conversation the other day with one of my good friends, Curt Lynn, about a new book published by Richards Dawkins entitled The God Delusion.  I mentioned it in my message Sunday morning.  I haven’t read the book, so I have no idea what all it entails but Curt was wondering about reading it.  I thought it would be a good idea to read the book, after all, Christianity ought not be afraid of intellectual scrutiny (nor should any faith that is worth its salt).  What I have heard is that much of Dawkins’ arguments are based on the historical record of wars and killings done in the name of “Christianity” (e.g., the crusades, inquisition, etc.).

The church throughout history has acted in ways that are utterly indefensible.  The church should acknowledge her failings, apologize, and make restitution when she can.  Having said that, I do know that sometimes the “killings in the name of Christianity” argument against Christianity can take on a life of its own and become either exaggerated, or not countered by another truth – “good in the name of Christianity” (e.g., look at the names of hospitals, charities, and orphanages, etc.).  Maybe that evil exists isn’t necessarily because of “Christians” or “Atheists” but simply because of the condition of the human heart.  If that were true, out of the two – Christianity or atheism, it seems Christianity has the most to offer.  The following is an article I found on PreachingNow online that addressed this very issue and seemed to be a feasible counter-weight to the arguments I understand Dawkins (as well as others) to be making.  This piece is authored, I believe by Dinesh D’Souza.

Atheism, not religion, is real source of conflict

Author Dinesh D’Souza wrote in a recent commentary: A spate of atheist books have argued that religion represents, as End of Faithauthor Sam Harris puts it, “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.” Columnist Robert Kuttner gives the familiar litany: “The Crusades slaughtered millions in the name of Jesus. The Inquisition brought the torture and murder of millions more. After Martin Luther, Christians did bloody battle with other Christians for another three centuries.” In his bestseller The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins contends that most of the world’s recent conflicts — in the Middle East, in the Balkans, in Northern Ireland, in Kashmir, and in Sri Lanka — show the vitality of religion’s murderous impulse.

The problem with this critique is that it exaggerates the crimes attributed to religion, while ignoring the greater crimes of secular fanaticism. The best example of religious persecution in America is the Salem witch trials. How many people were killed in those trials? Thousands? Hundreds? Actually, fewer than 25. Yet the event still haunts the liberal imagination.

It is strange to witness the passion with which some secular figures rail against the misdeeds of the Crusaders and Inquisitors more than 500 years ago. The number sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition appears to be about 10,000. Some historians contend that an additional 100,000 died in jail due to malnutrition or illness.

These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.

Moreover, many of the conflicts that are counted as “religious wars” were not fought over religion. They were mainly fought over rival claims to territory and power. Can the wars between England and France be called religious wars because the English were Protestants and the French were Catholics? Hardly.

The same is true today. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not, at its core, a religious one. It arises out of a dispute over self-determination and land. Hamas and the extreme orthodox parties in Israel may advance theological claims — “God gave us this land” and so forth — but the conflict would remain essentially the same even without these religious motives. Ethnic rivalry, not religion, is the source of the tension in Northern Ireland and the Balkans.

Yet today’s atheists insist on making religion the culprit. Consider Mr. Harris’s analysis of the conflict in Sri Lanka. “While the motivations of the Tamil Tigers are not explicitly religious,” he informs us, “they are Hindus who undoubtedly believe many improbable things about the nature of life and death.” In other words, while the Tigers see themselves as combatants in a secular political struggle, Harris detects a religious motive because these people happen to be Hindu and surely there must be some underlying religious craziness that explains their fanaticism.

Harris can go on forever in this vein. Seeking to exonerate secularism and atheism from the horrors perpetrated in their name, he argues that Stalinism and Maoism were in reality “little more than a political religion.” As for Nazism, “while the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, it was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.” Indeed, “The holocaust marked the culmination of . . . two thousand years of Christian fulminating against the Jews.”

One finds the same inanities in Mr. Dawkins’s work. Don’t be fooled by this rhetorical legerdemain. Dawkins and Harris cannot explain why, if Nazism was directly descended from medieval Christianity, medieval Christianity did not produce a Hitler. How can a self-proclaimed atheist ideology, advanced by Hitler as a repudiation of Christianity, be a “culmination” of 2,000 years of Christianity? Dawkins and Harris are employing a transparent sleight of hand that holds Christianity responsible for the crimes committed in its name, while exonerating secularism and atheism for the greater crimes committed in their name.

Religious fanatics have done things that are impossible to defend, and some of them, mostly in the Muslim world, are still performing horrors in the name of their creed. But if religion sometimes disposes people to self-righteousness and absolutism, it also provides a moral code that condemns the slaughter of innocents. In particular, the moral teachings of Jesus provide no support for — indeed they stand as a stern rebuke to — the historical injustices perpetrated in the name of Christianity.

The crimes of atheism have generally been perpetrated through a hubristic ideology that sees man, not God, as the creator of values. Using the latest techniques of science and technology, man seeks to displace God and create a secular utopia here on earth. Of course if some people — the Jews, the landowners, the unfit, or the handicapped — have to be eliminated in order to achieve this utopia, this is a price the atheist tyrants and their apologists have shown themselves quite willing to pay. Thus they confirm the truth of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s dictum, “If God is not, everything is permitted.”

Whatever the motives for atheist bloodthirstiness, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades. It’s time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the greatest source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.