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The Higher the Hair, the Closer to God

In the most recent issue of  Rockabilly Magazine there was a cartoon called "The Higher the Hair, the Closer To God". This is the cartoon. I would credit the artist, but his signature at the bottom was too messy to make out the name. Hair_1

In light of some of the more serious and lengthy discussions we have been having lately on the T-Shirt post, and lack of friendships most Christians have with non-Christians in the "The Longer We are Christians" post - I thought this would be a more light and fun post as I share this newly learned theological insight.

It also may explain the spiritual reasons why I am uncontrollably drawn to having a pompadour hair cut. Although, mine is a rockabilly pompadour it does also have a slight twist of Vanilla Ice circa 1990 and shades of Johnny Bravo in it. Seeing this cartoon, I now can justify with spiritual reasons for why I have my hair the way I do.

The implications of learning  about this hair and God relationships are fairly important. Perhaps if you shave your head or have short hair, you need to seriously reconsider your hair cut.  If you truly want to be getting closer to God as this cartoonist suggests, you may need to change your style to a nice rockabilly high pompadour.  If you are feeling distant from God lately, it might be because of your short haircut or shaved head. Or if you are currently confused about His will for your life or you are in the middle of making a big decision about a career change or possibly even asking someone to marry you, you may want to wait until you grow out your hair into a nice and tall pompadour. When your hair is taller, you then will have special extended prayer antennas and you will be more in tune to God's voice than ever before. You may have such incredible spiritual breakthroughs, all from a hair cut.

How this high hair theological theory to being closer to God impacts females and female hair cuts, I don't know. Perhaps it is time for a beehive hairstyle revival. Or the classic hair in a bun on top will suffice. Or it could be female hair styles are of an entirely different covenantal agreement and worship approach with God. I don't know. But, that is something someone else will have to research and find out. Rockabilly Magazine didn't explain that one. Maybe in a future issue they will.

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The Longer We Are Christians

This chart/timeline is from the book I just finished called "They Like Jesus but not the Church" (Zondervan) coming out next year. But in light of the t-shirt discussion, it seems to be fitting in asking - if the below chart/timeline is true for Christians who become more separated from non-Christians the longer they are Christian, how does this lessen the impact we have as salt and light in our communities?

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The irony is that we are on a mission for Jesus, but the more older and mature we become as Christians (and hopefully wiser), the less non-Christians then get to see and experience Jesus in us. I am talking about actual relationships and friendships where trust and dialogue are built with people who get to know us personally, not just street witnessing type of a thing to strangers.

Instead of only circling in closer with all Christians as we get older and more mature in our faith, shouldn't it almost be the opposite as we grow older? Of course, provided we maintain Christian community in the midst of being on a mission for Jesus, as we all need Christian community. But it seems ironic that when we mature and know Scripture better, and Jesus better and are transformed all the more by the Spirit - that less and less non-Christians get to really experience that through relationships with us since we are more and more entrenched in the Christian sub-culture.

 

What I said to the fellow with the T-Shirt

It certainly has been interesting seeing the response from the t-shirt story blog entry. I think it shows the way the Christian sub-culture and more extreme thinking of how to express faith and belief is clashing with most of us in our passion for Jesus, but not expressing it in the way the t-shirt did.

Jesus_loves_trying04black_1Here's what my response was. As I saw the fellow in the airport my whole body felt flushed. It might have been adrenalin as I couldn't believe what I was reading on his shirt (see previous post for what the shirt was). My reaction first was at the way the t-shirt seemed to manipulate the text on the front making it look like it was saying "Jesus said.... INTOLERANT". I felt that was very inappropriate to do that and for those don't know what Jesus said, they may not know any different. So that was my initial feeling of frustration with the shirt. I wanted to tell the guy that I felt it was wrong to misrepresent the words of Jesus like that for a reaction. The shirt I posted here "Jesus loves you (and I'm trying)" is basically how I felt when I was there in the airport and saw him wearing his t-shirt. If I was to respond to his t-shirt with another t-shirt when I saw him and went over to talk with him, it probably would have been this one (although I don't own that one and I rarely ever wear any t-shirts that are "Christian").

I watched the guy wearing the shirt make his way into the line to get on the plane. It was a packed plane so the line went really slow. As we entered into the corridor going into the plane, I could see virtually everyone looking at the shirt as it was so obvious. About three or four times I began moving toward the guy, and rehearsing in my head what I would say. But I kept blanking out on what to say and stopped. Should I confront him? But that would most likely only fuel his feeling that he is right and he is being a soldier for Jesus with these causes and I was the enemy. I felt that he would only be more affirmed if I confronted him about it. Do I gently ask him if he thinks the shirt is effective? But that would be obvious I was only feeding him my opinion through a question.

When we got on the plane, he sat down on an aisle seat and I stopped there and said hello. I then said "I can't help but notice your shirt. Are you a Christian?" and he smiled really big and said "I am sure am!". He said he was just at an event that he got the shirt at. He said the conference was something about abortion but didn't say the name. I later looked it up on-line and found the shirt was from the "Operation America" organization that was also the "Operation Rescue" organization. It looks like they have extended their mission from abortion to those other things by adding the "America" part. to their name. Now I am very pro-life, so this is not anything about not being pro-life, but I find it odd and wrong that the abortion issue is now being thrown in with Islam and homosexuality for this shirt.

I asked him what kind of church he was from. He said "a Bible preaching Bible church" (I think those were his exact words). He was very friendly, he was smiling as he talked. He then said "Are you a Christian?" and I said, yes I am. He said "Praise God!" And then I said very gently  "I wouldn't be wearing that shirt though - I think it repels people from the message rather than draws people to Jesus." He then kept smiling and said "Well, we can't hide the truth and if one person repents as a result of this shirt it is worth it." My adrenalin began flowing again and I said "Have you ever known someone to repent as a result of the shirt?" He said "No, but that's the Holy Spirit's job. Our job is to get the message out there."

At this time, I was now blocking people behind me in the plane from going past in the aisle, so I had to end the conversation. I just said "Thanks for talking" and moved on to my seat.

When I sat down, I was wondering if I should go back to him and talk again after the plane took off. But I ended up thinking me standing in the aisle talking to him, with other people listening wouldn't be too great and also I doubt in this situation I was going to change his mind about the shirt.

His words of "we can't hide the truth" were interesting to think about. We shouldn't hide the truth. I think more than ever we need to be making truth known, but I see that truth as Jesus. Jesus is the truth. We are His body. We are supposed to be His light, shining out Him to others, not wearing t-shirts pointing out sins. But this brings up a bigger issue than that.

How many people outside the church, only experience t-shirts like this about Christianity and never experience the truth of Jesus embodied in us and in our lives? Not that we don't live it, but where do those outside the church experience the truth in us? I think that in our evangelical sub-culture we pretty much all wear "shirts" of one kind or another to express truth to others and feel then our job is done. ONe way we wear a "shirt" and I hear of often is "Well, they will see something different in me as a Christian and then ask why I am different and then hear about Jesus" . I can say every time I hear that, I ask the person if anyone ever has actually ever asked them "Why are you different?" and then we answer "Because of Jesus". I have never heard someone say that has actually happened. I think that is somewhat of a cop-out (in my opinion) as the examples I see in the BIble, they did win the respect of people by their lives but they were in relationships, working with others, and told others about Jesus, not just assume one day they might ask.

I am amazed and even numb now, of when I ask Christians what they are doing to share Jesus with others or how they are being Jesus to others. I am guessing around 95% of the Christians I ask, especially church leaders, are not in any true friendship with a non-Christian. I ask when was the last time you went to dinner with someone outside of the faith? Or when have you gone to a movie with someone not already part of your church? The answer almost 95% of the time is "I haven't". All of the time is spent with Christians in the church. Have we so turned the need for "community" into a selfish thing to where we now don't ever make effort to be salt and light to others? Or do so only by giving money to the poor or go on mission trips elsewhere - but not being in real relationships and friendships with those outside the church where we live? How else will they not think Christians are all like the guy wearing the t-shirt?

We need Christian community, but I even see community as being refreshed from being with others who love Jesus and to be prayed for etc. - and that ultimately is so that as believers we continue on the mission that Jesus sent us on - not so that we just feel peaceful and in a tranquil state of peace and calm and feel loved and needed by other Christians. The New Testament is filled with a lot of travel, action, and Christians who were not passive in building community and hope others get the message of Jesus somewhere. They weren't wearing those t-shirts though. They were out among people, talking, working with and making their faith known so that of course Jesus would come up in conversation undoubtedly. I read a book about the spread of Christianity in the first few hundred years of the early church, and they were stating it most lkely was because of the networks with non-believers Christians had that they didn't cut off when they became Christians.

When I do ask Christians, do you even have a non-Christian you know enough to even go out to movie with right now? And sadly  most might say "my brother" or a relative, but not an actual friend. We seem to cut all ties with those outside the faith socially. Thus, those outside the faith don't get to know real Christians and what we believe - they only experience the extremists like te t-shirt guy, or a street preacher or someone handing out tracts.

I am realizing more and more that most (not all but most) church leaders, don't spend time with non-Christians. I know some do of course, but as I said when I actually ask people "what did you do this weekend?" it is always going out with Christians, or hanging out with Christians. I understand the need for fellowship, but where will people know we are not all like the guy wearing the shirt if we only spend all our time socializing exclusively with all Christians? I think we somehow put on our own version of a "shirt" for evangelism or for sharing Jesus by thinking it is the missionaries job we support going to China. Or someone who goes to YWAM we know, they do that for us somewhere else. Or a special Christian concert or event that somehow non-Christians are supposed to go to. I think we wear our own shirts without realizing it, and somehow think the world around us will be exposed to the truth of Jesus. But we aren't doing it. We preach in our churches, but what about how Jesus was also spending time outside of the Temple and synagogue hanging out with sinners and the non-religious?

To some degree, at least I have to respect the guy in the plane that he was trying to do something in his own detrimental way about sharing light (but in his case it was blinding burning non-loving light). But at least he was doing something in his own twisted way. What are we doing?

Some questions that I ask myself and I would wonder in your life maybe ask yourself the same thing:

- Who are non-Christians that right now you pray for by name on a regular basis?

- Who are non-Christians that you have been building friendships with and hanging out with socially? When is the last time you went to dinner, or a movie with a non-Christian? 

- Do you even think about those outside the faith, or just your friends who are already Christians?

- How will others know that the guy on the plane is not a normal Christian, if we are spending our time all consumed with Christian-things and Christian community rather than also building relationships with those outside the faith?

So when they see the shirt on that guy, they know it isn't the norm as they have a friend (us) who isn't like that. Who are we are friend to right now, so when the see that guy in the shirt they think of us and know we aren't all like that?

We may not wear offensive shirts (and I hope we never do), but what are we individually doing - so that people don't just think that all Christians are like the one wearing the shirt? How will people know or experience "salt and light" if we are all just focusing inward to have our social needs met and our Christian sub-culture grow stronger?

I guess my personal conviction is that I was angry at the guy for wearing the shirt and totally disagree with what he was doing. But then I ask myself, what am I doing? And how will others know that the guy in the shirt is not a typical Christian, if we are all only hanging out with Christians? If we in church leadership are only focusing on making Christians more comfortable than training them for the mission Jesus sent us on? I am not talking about evangelism in the classic way here - I am talking about being ourselves and allowing people we are in relationships with and spending time with and discussing what we believe with as they gain trust in us? I have found it is quite easy and everyone outside the faith I have become friends with actually love talking about "religion", but it is after trust is built and relationships are there.

I am rambling... long post. (sorry Marko!) But as much as I hated the shirt and detested the manner of which he chose to project what he believed Jesus would, at least he was doing something. I hated how he did it, believe me. I wish he was not wearing that shirt and it makes me angry even thinking about it again. But at least he was trying to do something.

True Story - What would you do?

Intolerant_shirt_front I am recently in an airport and I am sitting in the waiting area for boarding. From the corner of my eye I see a young fellow wearing a black t-shirt with letters on it that says "INTOLERANT" and I saw the name Jesus on there too. I walked up to take a closer look and the shirt had the verse John 14:6 about Jesus being the way, the truth and the life on it. I see it and I agree that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life - but I wasn't comfortable with the large INTOLERANT letters used as it kind of looked like it was putting that word in the verse itself. I sort of was indicating that Jesus would be shouting out "INTOLERANT" by the way it looked. (you can click on the shirt image for a larger look at it).

Intolerant_shirt_back Then I saw the back of the shirt. It had the large all caps words "HOMOSEXUALITY IS SIN"  "ISLAM IS A LIE"  "ABORTION IS MURDER" and in smaller letters it said "some issues are just black and white". I was taken back when I first saw the back of the shirt and how large the words it used were. I sat down looking at the young guy wearing the shirt. He was probably around 25 years old. Athletic looking type. He eventually stood up to get in the line as they called everyone to get on board. The shirt was blatantly obvious and everyone was looking at it who was in the line behind him. I saw a little kid looking at it. Men, women, of different races looking at it. Jesus' name on the front, and these large statements on the back clearly designed for people to read and easily see it.

As we stood and slowly moved in the corridor getting into the plane, I was wondering if someone who was Islam was in the line reading it. Or someone gay. Or a woman who had an abortion.

I was wondering what messages this would say to people reading it about Christians to the two dozen or so people I saw looking at it in the line.

I wondered where the guy got the shirt (since then I did a search and found the organization who makes them). People in a neutral airport minding their own business now having this shirt in front of them having to read it. I understand the underlying motive in what he believed about what the shirt said. But even if he believes that, I wondered how effective the method in what he was doing by wearing the shirt was.

I wondered what Jesus (whose name was on the front of the shirt) thinks of this?

I wondered how we would feel if we saw a t-shirt in an aiport saying CHRISTIANITY IS A LIE. It is a free country. I kept going back and forth in my mind about wanting to say something and ask him something. I finally did go say something to him and had a brief conversation.

I am curious however, before I say what I asked him - what would you think about this shirt? What do you think Jesus would think of this? Approval? Disapproval? Is this effective in representing a voice of Jesus, as shown on the front of the shirt, to the people in the airport?

What would you have said to this person? Or not say anything at all?

I am not asking this for maybe what seems an obvious answer. But what are the serious reasons and even biblical principles for whatever we may think of this shirt? Not just an emotional reaction, but what would the argument be to wear or not wear this shirt as a follower of Jesus. And if you could ask or say something to the guy wearing it, what would that be?

Christmas Eve made me a Bell Choir fan

We held two Christmas Eve gatherings over at the First Presbyterian Church building where Vintage Faith Church combined with First Presbyterian Church for the first time. So we had a new church who was birthed a year and 10 months ago in 2004 (VFC) and a church who was birthed I believe close to 100 years ago (First Presb) come together. Overall, the whole thing was wonderful and fun seeing two churches join together like this to worship Jesus and focus on His birth. First Presbyterian Church has a Bell Choir and they played one song during the gathering. I had never before seen a bell choir in my life. However, I instantly became a great bell choir fan. It was fascinating watching them (all wearing white gloves too) and was very beautiful and angelic sounding. Perhaps it is time for a national bell choir revival.

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The sanctuary there is beautiful and very "vintage". The pews actually are still are something I am struggling with as they set up such a "face the stage" forced feeling rather than a more communal feeling. So longer term, I'm not sure what we shall do.....  but I will say I wish we were moving over there now sooner. The people of First Presbyterian are so incredibly generous and mission focused. It is great getting to know them more. We won't be worshiping over there again until Easter when we move everything we are doing over there. There is a lot of work to do yet in the facilities, soundDsc_0128edit, lighting, tech and the whole coffee shop renovation etc. - but it is exciting looking ahead at what will happen next. So many people put such great effort into these first worship gatherings, from parking, to children's ministry, the Mellos and the choir, Eric and the tech team...as well as Cheryl and the Advent Art Gallery that was opened two weeks before and open during the Christmas Eve gatherings. I was amazed at how so many people created such as eclectic Christmas expression of worship in so many ways.

Maybe next year I will be in the bell choir. But I am not sure I want to wear the white gloves. I kept thinking of Michael Jackson with the white gloves. Perhaps if I join the bell choir, they would let me wear black ones. Thanks to LIz for the photos......

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Christmas Lyrics and a Prayer

1220052232a_2 Two nights ago, my friend Matt and I went to go see the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas concert. It was in the Fox Theater in Redwood City. This is the third year in a row we have gone to see the Brian Setzer Christmas show he does. It is always fun, he has a full band, the whole stage is fully decorated in Christmas trees, lights, snowman etc. Matt and I were trying to count how many times we each have seen Brian Setzer over the years and for me, this was my tenth time seeing either Brian Setzer or the Stray Cats.

Setzer_7 SetzLast year amidst general fun songs of Christmas songs, Brian sang the song “O Holy Night”. He did it a little fifties-style in how the song was sang, but the words to that song are stunning and extremely powerful about the birth of Jesus. So there was Brian Setzer singing:

"O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining."

and:

"Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born"

The other night, he again had one song with really powerful lyrics where he sang “Angels We Have Heard on High” with the words:

"Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King."

I was looking at him singing these powerful lyrics and wondering “I wonder if he believes what he is singing?” (I have no idea what Brian believes. I know he has Catholic roots). But watching him sing the chorus of "Gloria, in excelsis Deo!  was really fascinating and moving.

I scanned the room of around 1,200 people while he was singing this very Jesus-centered song and people were smiling, some were mouthing the words and singing a lot a little. My mind is just whirling “What are they thinking about what they are singing?” “Do they understand the significance of the words?” “Do people sing this more as a nice trivial thing and they see Jesus more as a fable or myth?” But even if they do, the lyrics of these songs are not at all like the Rudolf or Santa Claus type of songs. These lyrics focus on Jesus being the Son of God coming to earth as a King. Lyrics about people bowing their knees. Lyrics about singing out glory to God for the Savior is born.

Bowiebing I don’t know…. This time of year is always such a paradox. Even amidst the consumerism, there still seeps in a lot of the true Christmas story - especially in songs. I saw an old clip on television last week of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing the Little Drummer Boy together. It was so fascinating watching David Bowie sing the lyrics:

"Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum"

When he sings about a newborn King, and honoring the King, I wonder what is his interpretation of these words? I have no idea what David Bowie believes, but it was fascinating hearing him sing those lyrics.

I don’t know.

I do know that tomorrow night, Christmas Eve – we are having two Christmas Eve services with Vintage Faith Church.So, our church and millions of other churches across the globe will be focusing on Jesus and His birth Christmas Eve. I look forward to being with the church focusing on Jesus, singing songs and hearing the Scriptures about His birth.

But in our culture as Brian Setzer, David Bowie and others sing about Jesus - I wonder what they think as they sing the words.... I wonder what the people at the Brian Setzer concert I was at think of the words as he sung them? I am haunted thinking about this. I pray for Brian Setzer as I type this. I love his music and although I don’t know him, I certainly would be joyful if He knows Jesus as Savior. I pray for David Bowie. I don’t what he believes , but I would be joyful if he knew Jesus as savior. Oh Lord… so many people whom I listen to their music, I do pray and hope that they will know the Jesus of Christmas as their Savior. They are such a part of my life even through the years, though I don’t know them personally, yet their music is part of me. Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Lee Rocker, Jim Phantom, Chris Martin, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Bob Dylan, Mike Ness, Bruce Springsteen, Morrissey, Lemon Jelly (I don't know the names of Lemon Jelly), Billie Joe, Mike, Tre, Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Dave and Phil Alvin and the Blasters, Jane Siberry, Marky and Tommy Ramone, Conor Oberst, Tom Waits, Pete Townshend, Paul Westerberg.…and so many others.......

I don't know what they all believe, perhaps some have faith.... perhaps some will be in a church gathering this Christmas Eve...... I don't know.....  But - Oh God, if they don’t have faith already, Lord, please have them know and sense Jesus amidst all the Christmas songs they either sing or listen to and please somehow have them (if they don't already) know Jesus and what it means that He is King and Savior. May Jesus become real to those who may not understand yet who He really is....

Mick_jones Paul_simonon Lee_rocker Slim_jim_phantom

David_gilmour Roger_waters Bob_dylan Bruce_springsteen Morrissey Mike_ness Exene_cervenka John_doe  Lemon_jelly_1 Jane_siberry Chris_martin Marky_ramone Tommy_ramone Green_day Conor_oberst Tom_waits Paul_westerberg Pete_townshend

Blasters_5                                                                                                                                                              Oh...this really sounds so corny, as I reread it. But I can say as corny as it sounds, it really, really is a very sincere Christmas prayer....

Why I am looking forward to the Da Vinci Code movie more than Narnia

I imagine that some may disagree with me on this.......

Narnia_poster There is a lot of excitement on church web sites about the Disney release of the Chronicles of Narnia movie. Like with the Mel Gibson Passion movie, a lot of churches are buying blocks of seats and saying it is one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities we have. I am seeing all types of Christian evangelism paraphernalia and evangelistic flyers, doorknob hanger invites etc. being produced for the Narnia movie. However, after the Passion movie, I wonder why we didn't learn our lesson. George Barna ended up discovering that virtually nothing changed after the movie hype was over and the "greatest evangelistic opportunity we have had in 2,000 years" (as one company was advertising the Passion movie to be), really didn't happen the way we had hoped. I am sure some came to faith in Jesus as a result, and for that I am joyful ( I haven't heard of any personally, even knowing a church that made a huge effort in trying to use the film that way).

Now we are again seeing some of the same hype about the CS Lewis story which has some great metaphors about a savior-figure dying and coming back to life etc. I personally look forward to the film and am glad they made it. But, I guess I just don't see it as a great evangelistic opportunity. I imagine that millions of people will see it, and marvel at the wonderful story and get emotional as Aslan, the lion God of Narnia comes back to life. For those that know the inside story, we know the CS Lewis used the metaphor of Aslan being like Christ is there in the story. But you need to know that metaphor. To most people, I wonder if it will simply be like Gandalf coming back from the dead going from Gandalf the Gray to Gandalf the White sort of a thing. A wonderful story, but not life changing to the movie attendee.

Mere_christ_1 Seeing all the growing hype, I also just wonder why the church gets so excited about movies to do the job of evangelism, especially in a film that will be a stretch for someone to directly associate it with the resurrection of Jesus. My bigger hope from the Narnia movie itself in terms of evangelism, would be that people get interested in other writings of C.S. Lewis and the read the book Mere Christianity . That to me, would have more direct impact than the actual movie.

I sort of find it kind of sad that the church has to get so excited about films to do evangelism, rather than being excited about the ongoing relationships we have with those outside the faith for evangelism. It feels weird that I would invite someone to a movie to explain what I believe in rather than letting my life and what I can be talking them about personally would be.

Davincicode The movie I actually look forward to in terms of evangelistic opportunity is the Da Vinci Code movie coming out in May 2006. The reason is that although it directly will raise the issues about the church, the resurrection, the origin of the Bible and origins of Christianity that will make us very uncomfortable (and are false) - the good part is people will see this film by the millions and questions will be directly asked about what Christians believe. Questions like what in the movie was true and was a lie? etc. I think there will be great opportunity if the church is ready to respond to these questions. This is the movie I would want to go to with non-Christian friends and then have it as a springboard of discussion for. I would schedule to have some open forum discussions afterwards at church or some preaching to the church about the questions it raises to prepare them how to answer when discussion about movie comes up in the workplace or in friendships. I hope that the church is ready. I hope we we teach our churches how to be ready to respond to these questions.

So, that is the film I personally think has more post-movie evangelistic opportunity than the Passion or Narnia movies. It shouldn't scare us, as the truth of Jesus is the truth. It should make us go "Hey, that's not what really happened! But here is what we believe..." But this all means Christians have to take effort to do their homework to have intelligent answers and not rely on a movie to do it. Millions will see this movie. Tom Hanks as the star and Ron Howard directing, it is certain to be a good quality film. There will be millions of teenagers seeing this film and it strikes at the heart of Christian belief at a popular level and that should disturb us with the claims it will teach. Breaking_da_vinci_code So we better be ready for it and I hope even excited about it. Because isn't when these direct questions come up about our faith is now when we will have great times of actually discussing and intelligently explaining to others what we really believe? I hope we will be ready. There are good book out there already with lots of answers to what the Da Vinci Code raises - such as Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrel Bock etc. So, I would recommend making sure we are ready to address the issues this movie raises.

Please understand, I am going to the Narnia film and do hope God uses it. But I guess I don't think we should get so hyped like for Narnia to be the evangelistic tool of the century like we did for the Passion film, when evangelism really occurs through the Spirit in relationships not a movie for the most part (again, I know God can use anything). But I think the potential for evangelism will be greater with the Da Vinci Code than perhaps any other movie released yet. That is why I am excited about its release. That truth will then have to be discussed as a result and Christians will really be ready to discuss what we believe to our non-Christian friends who may ask now that they have some direct questions that will arise from the film. I hope so.......

Snoopy's Insight to Theology

Theology_2 Originally published August 9, 1976 by Charles Shultz

Link Wray - the 76 year old leather jacket guitar player

Young_link I just read that Link Wray died this month. He was 76 years old. Most people don't know who he is, but Link Wray was one of the more innovative guitarists in music history. He is credited as being the father of the "power chord" and it supposedly happened by him intentionally poking a hole in the cone of his amplifier to get a fuzz and crackly sound .

In 1958 he recorded his most famous song "Rumble". It is a song that most people today probably would recognize if they heard it, but couldn't tell you it was Link Wray. What was interesting about him being innovative - is that initially he was banned from radio stations because his music was different, and ironically the song Rumble had no words and it was still banned. Innovation causes controversy.

Link_older I had the privilege of meeting Link once when he played here in Santa Cruz. I knew the manager of the club and got to go to the sound check and hang out in the afternoon as Link arrived and set up. When I first saw him I was so surprised as he seemed like a tiny sweet elderly man. They served dinner and I remember as we talked his hands were shaking as he held his plate. He was soft spoken and we chatted about Robert Gordon, a singer I also liked he once played with, and other musicians and bands.

What was amazing to me however, was when it was time for the actual show. He went and changed his clothes backstage and I didn't see him again until he started the show. All of a sudden the lights went out and the opening chords of the song "Rumble" started off the show. Out on the stage was Link Wray - but now he had a black leather motorcycle jacket on. He had sunglasses on. And he was strutting the stage with energy, fast pacing back and forth, walking up the edge of the stage and playing an amazing guitar. It seriously felt like an entirely different person, as he was walking around and looked more like a 25 year old rock star than the rather elderly man I had talked with an hour earlier. I'll never forget that difference. It was freaky actually seeing the change.

Mitchell It reminded me of Dr. John Mitchell of Multnomah Bible College. He was elderly in his 90's when I knew him. Quite often I would actually walk him to class and he was weak and he would link up to my arm with his arm as we walked to class. But then when he would teach the Bible, he would come alive and have such passion he seemed half his age. But as soon as he was done teaching the Bible, he would need someone to help him walk again.

Rambling here.... but just thinking if Link Wray and Dr. Mitchell now and how passion brings energy to someone, even at an old age.

Nashville Youth Specialties Convention

It was a pretty amazi1119051117ng thing walking into the arena and never seeing around 8,000 youth workers singing  worship to God all together. This convention is pretty nutty with so many people here, and I keep thinking of the impact all this will have on the youth leaders and as a result then impact the youth in their churches.

Some highlights:

- The conversations with youth leaders - always learning what God is doing across the country. Meeting new people and being refreshed by hearing so much passion for youth. This gives me hope for the future of the church.

- The musical worship times in the main sessions and the very Jesus focused theme of all that happened.

- My friend Ryan Ingram drove from Atlanta here and stayed in my room with me and it was great to catch up with him and hang out. He is a youth pastor at a church in Atlanta.

- Hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones.... Lilly, Denise, Marko, Doug, Tony, Chuck, Alex, Jay, Jen, Les, Chap, other bloggers I ran into etc. 1119051731 It is weird meeting people that you have been getting to know them through their blogs, but never met in person.

- Late night theology discussion with Doug and Lilly.

- Hearing Mark introduce Doug Pagitt on the main stage and telling everyone he has four nipples. Doug really does have four. I have seen them.

- The seminars I was part of were very fun. We did the Tony and Duffy "Postmodernism: Good or bad" one where I moderated and they discussed/debated the impact of postmodernism on youth ministry. The "Super Seminar" on Emerging Worship with Lilly was fun and lots of people formed clay to represent a Scripture passage. 1119051656 I think there were well over 600 people at this workshop, so it made it rather interesting trying to be interactive. Lilly and I are working on a book for Youth Specialties about Sacred Spaces and prayer stations. Lilly is a joy to know and creativity oozes from every inch of her.

- I was surprised in one seminar I did where I unexpectedly got very nervous when speaking. It was one which raised the criticism and questions people in their twenties are having about church and Christianity. I was talking about some rather sensitive issues about how we must be understanding not only the world youth live in today - but what they face when they leave home and go to college. I was talking about the strange Christian sub-culture we have created with all the Christian music, Christian T-shirts etc. and I suddenly realized that I was in the heart of Christian music and a zillion churches here in Nashville. I didn't know how people would respond as I spoke about how people outside the church see us in regards to our attitudes about homosexuality, how we are seen as being an organized religion, how we are known to bring politics into religion and how during the youth years we lay out examples in our attitudes and what we teach them. I was challenging people to see if they have created or exist in a Christian sub-culture and thus lose effectiveness on the mission Jesus sent us on. But, I had more positive feedback from people afterwards than normal throughout the time here, so it may be a topic needed to be talked about more. So I was encouraged after being somewhat nervous. Here is a blogger talking about his experience of that seminar.

I am leaving in an hour, but I always leave Youth Specialties conventions so refreshed and hopeful. These events are so well run, the hearts are so evident and I really think these conferences are being used by God in a major way in shaping the future church of America and encouraging youth leaders to keep pressing ahead.

1120050140 Last time I was in Nashville I bought Katie and Claire these red and pink cowboy boots and they wear them all the time. So yesterday I walked down to the main strip here and bought them matching cowgirl western outfits.I look forward to seeing them and since I arrive early enough home, Becky is bringing them with her to the airport to get me later. So I now must pack and get a taxi to the airport and then back to Santa Cruz.

May God use all that happened here at this convention in the lives of the youth workers and youth of all who were part of this. I know God uses this convention in my life tremendously and I am grateful to have been able to be here.

In honor of Marko

This will be my shortest ever blog entry in honor of 1119050029a Marko who is doing a fine and wondrous job here at the Youth Specialties Convention in Nashville. (This photo is from his room last night around 1 AM). I tend to be long and ramble in blog entries which Mark does notice. So, I will blog about the convention later, and keep this one to be my shortest entry ever.

Why I am embarrased to be a Christian

I go on Renee's blog quite often. She is someone I highly respect and who I am honored to call a friend - and she posted a link to an article which she called "the most hate-filled, evil thing I’ve read in a long while." It is an article called "God's Shocking Message to the Emerging Church".

I rarely ever get angry, but as I read this article I could feel my blood pressure rise. I have no idea who this author is, but what he has written is sickening and repulsive.  This is exactly why I am sometimes embarrassed to be called a Christian, because this person writes as a "Christian" and quotes Bible verses, generally out of context, in the article.

His email is at the bottom of his article, and I am emailing him letting him know I posted this.

I know that the Internet is a place of free speech and people will write all types of opinions on things. But as I read this article and then looked at the home page for the web site - exactly what the author is criticizing, is what they do. I could not find the name of Jesus once on their home page, yet the whole theme of their web site is being Christians out to protect America. Even the usage of the American flag on the home page cheapens the flag, and throwing in the usage of Christian rhetoric and agendas they are targeting is shameful. There are certain web sites that criticize the emerging church that are quite honestly rather crazy and most people reading them easily realize that - but overall they are harmless and somewhat humorous. But this guy is attacking someone he didn't know, who recently died, and is basically saying... i don't even want to get into it (you can read it).

This is why Christianity gets a bad name. This is why when I say I am a "Christian" I am embarrassed. Because of people like this. Not because of Jesus, nor even the hard words of judgment Jesus says etc. - but because of unloving, attack mode, finger pointing Christians who don't even use the Bible correctly. I guess you could say I am being unloving in my response, but sometimes enough is enough with this stuff. And I did take the time to read through several articles from the author to see if this a one time thing, or if is thematic and it was easy to see it is thematic.

At first I wasn't even going to link to the article, as not to bring further attention to it - but I want to because I hope it awakens Christians to motivate us to be out in the world, as Jesus said we should be, being salt and light and love to others. Articles like this motivate me all the more not be afraid to say I am a "Christian" or have to come up with some other way of saying it, like "Christ follower" (which sounds weird to me). I just want to say "I am a Christian". But we need to be out there with people, showing the world that Christians aren't like the person who wrote this article. We need to be breaking out of our Christian sub-culture and stop just walking around with our Ipod headsets on listening to Christian music while the world around us keeps getting more and more taught that Christians are all finger-pointing, judgmental, right-winged fanatics who are cold and callous and even hateful in their words. I recently did many interviews with people outside the church, and this guy's article is how most described their impressions of Christians. We have got to change this. People have got to see normal Christians, not just the nutty ones.

Please - quit listening to the latest Christian CD and go meet someone outside of the church. Befriend them and let them know you are not a lunatic as they think most Christians are. Please - instead of going to the yet another church activity with fellow Christians, go out with some of the people you work with and go see a movie and hang out so they see you are not insane. Please - instead of selfishly praying for sometime petty things (I know God cares about everything, but I think you see my point) pray for names of those outside of the church who have had bad experiences with Christians and aren't interested because of meeting someone like this guy or reading something like his article.

Please - don't be afraid to say you are a "Christian", but be a Jesus-like one. And be out in the world. He sent us there. Salt and light are meant to be experienced and seen. What is sad is that most people only see or read things like in the article and make conclusions that all Christians are like that. Please, we cannot let the abnormal, sad, insenstive, self-righteous Christians represent the rest of us to a world that needs Jesus. Please...

Kyle Lake's Last Sermon

An excerpt from Kyle Lake's last sermon read at his funeral. I hope I can live my life more like this:

"Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift."

Cannot concentrate on October 30

Halloween has been an odd and difficult holiday ever since a wonderful young girl named Nicole died totally unexpected from a sudden medical complication the week before Halloween eight years ago. Nicole was a major part of the high school ministry I was leading, her parents and sister were (and still are) a very major part of my life and the church's life. Ever since then, when Halloween rolls in with all the glamorization of the macabre, gruesome things for "fun" and death - it is now much more an unpleasant and sobering reality of the sting of death and the reality of this life being short. I was reeling with emotion on that Halloween and it had a whole different feeling that year. Nicole knew Jesus and is with Him now, but Halloween has never been the same since.

Two years ago todayYaconellim , the day before Halloween, Mike Yaconelli died tragically in an auto accident. Mike was the founder of Youth Specialties and someone that I was getting to know as I had been speaking for several years in a row at Youth Specialties events - and I was also in various meetings with him and late night hang outs. I remember one time staying up in Mike's hotel room after everyone else left, until around 1 AM or later. He was so kind and giving me advise about the publishing world and books - which I ended up taking his advice and it turned out for the best. But, this tragedy with Mike happened the day before Halloween and my heart ached (and still does) horribly for his loss to his wife Karla and his family, and to my friend Mark and others at the YS staff. Halloween again felt funky as it rolled in. But, I know Mike is with Jesus and his writings and heart lives on and on....

Kyle_lake_2Now today, the day before Halloween - I got an email from Mark who told me about the tragic loss of Kyle Lake that happened this morning. Kyle is the pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas which is the home church of David Crowder and band.

Kyle is really young, yet God has gifted him tremendously as a pastor and writer. He has written two great books, and I wrote the foreword in his brand new one      (Re)understanding Prayer that just came out about 2 weeks ago on Relevant Books. It is probably the most honest and realistic book on prayer I have ever read.

The details are not all in yet, but somehow during this mornings worship gathering at his church, he was electrocuted in the baptistery. At least that is the initial report. He died leaving a young wife, and three kids. I cannot imagine the church's emotions as it happened during a worship service, nor the loss nor the grief that is happening now and will be happening ahead.

I am supposed to be preparing a sermon tonight for our church which meets in 3 hours from now. But I can't concentrate. I am emotionally just wondering "why" and although I know all the usual Christian answers and even the mystery of it all - it still just makes no sense. I don't feel like doing anything but just feel like going outside and thinking and praying and stopping. But I can't right now. I am not even sure why I am blogging this, but I think writing these feelings and thoughts out on this are helping me process this news and what I am feeling...I don't know. But this is what I am thinking as I sit here preparing to teach later in less than 3 hours.

I have absolutely no thoughts of any tie-in to Halloween with all this, it is just a date and a season that these things have happened (in case there is any speculation in what I was saying about Halloween).

Please do pray for Kyle's wife Jen, and their three children. And for his church......

Kyle's first book "Understanding God’s Will" seems very appropriately needed right now in thinking about such things that we don't understand nor like when God allows the things He does.

Pillows on my mind - Emerging Church Theology

I just finished a chapter I am writing for a book Zondervan is releasing next year about five views on theology in the emerging church. I am really glad it is being written, as when people say "emerging church" so many different things come to mind theologically. This book has five different people in church leadership with somewhat varying theological viewpoints - myself, Doug Pagitt, Mark Driscoll, Karen Ward and John Burke all give our personal viewpoints of theology and what we believe in our local church context. Robert Webber is the general editor of the book and writing a set up and conclusion for it. I can imagine that there will be some spectrum of diversity in this book - and that is the point. To show the diversity of beliefs. We then will do some sort of critique and response to each others chapters in the book.

Lightweights However, it is odd writing a "counter-point" book (that's the name of the series), because the point of the book is to counter the other people's opinions. We are friends in this book, we know each other and some are even close friends. So, with that in mind, I ended up writing a paragraph in the chapter I wrote, which I think represents what I hope this book will demonstrate in terms of our interaction even though we may disagree on things.

Anyway - this is what I wrote (I don't know why it is underlined below, I tried to remove the underline but for some reason I can't):

You are reading viewpoints of different church leaders in emerging churches. You will see differences, as that is the point of this book as we discuss each others differences. So I assume we will discuss and even challenge one another in our responses. But this is not fisticuffs fighting. This is more like a fun pillow fight, you could say. I’m not sure grown men have pillow fights and I think Doug Pagitt with his long arms would wipe most of us out with a swing of his pillow, but I think you understand what I mean. I have seen and read ugly, bitter cut down ranting on blogs and in other books. This book will not have that. Something for the reader to know, is that we are all friends in this book. I have spent time with each person writing in this book. I have been to two of their homes, and stayed overnight a few times at one. I respect tremendously each person contributing in this book and writing opinions in this format is difficult, because it is only words, not facial expressions, no cup of coffee or a pint of Guinness is on the table as we chat theology here. So, it is hard to write and then do counter-points, as we do have different beliefs. But I approach this with great humility and wish this was more of a roundtable discussion. I am certain if I was to ask the other writers, they too would prefer that – as we are not in combat here, we are expressing our own theological journeys and ideas. That is important to know, as some people like to see fights and some people are so opinionated that their hearts come across as puffy and arrogant as we are talking about holy, mysterious things here and we should tread lightly and prayerfully.

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I guess I get very weary of reading blogs and some books, where Christians slam one another, people criticize and condemn one another and from the outside it must simply reinforce how silly Christians come across. I hope this book shows diversity, yet love and grace. We can disagree, but why do people go hyper-angry slamming and even paint inaccurate portraits of others that are usually are so far from the truth. I believe many will be ashamed one day looking back at how we condemned and publicly slammed fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't want to do the same here and be hypocritical by slamming those who slam others - so I best end this blog post now and focus on pillow love.