Thursday, December 06, 2012

stop by my new place!

Hello old "blogspot" friends!

You may have noticed a bit of silence over here in blogspot land.  That's because a while back, I moved my writing over to a new website.

I'd love to have you come and join me, if you haven't already.  Some very exciting things have happened, and are happening even now!

We're in the process of adopting our daughter from the DRC in Africa, and would love to have you join us in prayer.

So grab a few friends, give the kids a pail of chalk (or a shovel, or an umbrella, or a pillow, depending on the weather & time of day) and join me over at:

You'll be glad you did.

(I sure will be.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

From the Dust: DVD Review

In our beginnings of home-schooling our children, we've already been presented with an issue that will grow as our children do. How do science and faith go together, and do we have to ignore modern scientific discovery, in favor of assumed biblical truths? Children's books that demand humans were friends with carnivorous dinosaurs, and curriculum that guarantees to teach students the evils of evolution....and we're only in 1st grade, folks.

Several years ago, a book came out by a professor at ONU (my alma mater) that described the scientific truths he'd already been teaching for years. The fact is, with the amount of discoveries we've made in recent history, we are more privileged than any generation before us to understand the amazing complexities of the world GOD CREATED. Dr. Colling watched many students struggle with a science that was telling them many things were large, complex, amazingly and freely creative - yet a religion that was telling them God created all of this specific order in 6 24-hour periods. A faith that insisted our world is only several thousand years old, and evolution is a lie from satan to test us. Students had to reject one or the other, and it left many students leaving the faith (as one professor from the movie experienced herself). Because of this, he wanted to reveal to students in his book "Random Designer", how it's possible for the truths discovered in science to not actually conflict with the Truth's revealed in scripture.

I read this book a few years ago, and as someone who doesn't have much background in science - I was amazed to read the many complex ways God may have purposefully and wonderfully created our world. Not chapters on monkeys becoming people...but a book completely filled with microscopic levels of understanding God's amazing creation, and the natural laws that God gave to govern this universe. I highly recommend reading it, no matter what your stance on how God created...or even if you've walked away from God altogether. Perhaps it will open doors to the possibility of something "otherly" at work in our midst.

The movie "From the Dust" seeks to go in that same direction, to "Be a starting point for dialogue and conversation." With interviews from some top theologians, professors (Dr. Colling included), historians, and interpreters (hurray, NT Wright!) - the movie highlights some important conversation points that may open up to a fuller understanding of the creative God we serve. Unfortunately, as a conversation-starter, the film falls a little short on the side of input from the 6-Day Creation camp. Simply looking at the "Bios" section of the website, you can see they interview 2 primary sources on this "side" of the issue (Answers in Genesis, and Canopy Ministries, 5 people). These are definitely all leaders in their field, and they are given plenty of screen-time to speak their opinion. But on the "side" of old earth and possible complex processes used by God in creation, they have 20 different experts they've invited to speak.

 Maybe they invited 15 other experts from the first camp, and they all declined.

In any case, one of the primary goals is to unite these assumed "sides/camps" to recognize we are all on the same side - of pursuing Truth, and an understanding of God and all that He's created. As Dr. Colling says on page 3 of his book, "The questions of ultimate import do not center around creation mechanisms, but rather creation purposes."

The DVD comes with a list of great questions to ask as we seek to be in Awe of our creator, and honor Him, His Word, and all that He has created. These are ways for us to dialogue, no matter what beliefs we bring to the table, about the things that truly matter. To say we have the Truth of Genesis figured out, and not spend time meditating/growing towards the mystery of our creator-God, could be to miss out on quite a bit of God attempting to reach out to us as we understand His creation.

Certainly there are faults. They needed better representation and words spoken from the young-earth folks. They come across as hyper-conservative, full-blinders on, unwilling-to-dialogue- type-people who blame the worlds evil on anyone who accepts evolutionary thought. There are also moments where it feels like a commercial for Dr. Colling's book, or bringing shame on the close-mindedness of the community that caused him to leave ONU.

But overall, I would definitely recommend it as a dialogue starter. Both the DVD, and Dr. Colling's book can be used by God in great ways to heal the divide that some imagine should exist between God and Science (the study of God's creation). The Truth is, the more we understand about our world and it's mysteries - the more we are guided toward a God that is larger than anything we can are His purposes for us...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Leaving Facebook...

This past week I taught a brief session on “Technology & Wisdom”. There was a LOT of great material, albeit poorly presented. (fellow youth pastors, if you're interested I can e-mail it to you) But researching the use of technology continued to prick me in the interest of how my personal use could be changed to better honor God.

I'm a Type A personality. I like to be the center of attention, and have a major voice in conversations. Of course, I love a website dedicated to me, and allowing thousands of other people to “thumbs up” what I post. Each time I logged onto Facebook, I watched for the little red alerts at the top, feeding off their “high-five-like” affirmations. I liked thinking that anyone, at any moment in time, might think that I'm important enough to connect with via the interweb. Not much about facebook was helping me learn or grow in my desire to be humble...quite the opposite. The amount of time I've spent on this one website alone over the past several years is unhealthy.

The amount of personal validation and affirmation I've looked for it to provide, knowingly or subconsciously, is unhealthy. Time I should have given to family, work, marriage, actual friendships, or just breathing slowly in God's presence.....was stolen (or given away) by my addiction to the site.

So why was this addiction allowed? Because it's a great website. Seriously.

The ability to share pictures with family and friends who care, is great. The ability to quickly send and receive prayer requests on a large scale, and connect to photo/video updates on what God is doing in the lives of those we care for???? It's incredible. The amazing support and love that has been given and received many times has been awesome.

And so...I'm only slightly leaving Facebook.

If we're personal friends/family, please add my wife's profile. She's not an addict, and we'll share the important things/communications of life still.

 If we're connected through the church/ministry/Free Methodist activities, please add Moundford Youth's Site. It will be updated with ministry statuses, messages, photos, videos, etc.

If you enjoyed me posting updates from my blog, and want to follow either my writing or our adoption journey, go to:, and enter your e-mail address on the right to receive updates!!

Do I think everyone should leave Facebook? Nope. But I'm gonna. Kinda. Thanks for understanding. My profile will be active for about a week to make sure people get the message. May God be with you, as each of us learns and grows in our ability to honor Him with every aspect of our lives...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Italy arrives in Decatur...

This past Monday, a restaurant in Decatur quietly opened it's doors, seeming to rely most heavily on the best form of advertising around - word of mouth.  So here goes my mouth (err...typing?).

1423 E. Mound Rd. (Wood-Mound Plaza, next to Subway)
Decatur, IL 62526

Seriously.  I haven't heard any radio, seen any paper ads (but we don't get the paper), or any TV or Facebook buzz about them.  A hand-drawn marker sign posted by the road announced they were open, and so last night we decided to give it a try.

The sign outside told us it was a place to get some brick-oven pizza.  "IL FORNO" means "the oven" in Italian, and sure enough we were greeted by a giant brick oven as we walked in.  We expected a "hole in the wall" bar atmosphere that served pizza based on the outside, but were pleasantly surprised as we walked in.  This place would be a great choice for both a family pizza night in t-shirt/shorts, but with candle-lit tables and Tuscan decor - it's a great date-night option as well.

The range continues with the menu!  We were drawn in by their gluten-free choices, but distracted by the TONS of other options as well.  Appetizers even more creative than the garden where I guess they grow the olives.  Plenty of salad options that could be entire meals, chicken dishes, seafoods, sandwiches/paninis, steaks, many veal dishes, pastas/sauces/meats, a whole page of gourmet pizzas, and even a couple "dessert pizza" options.

My wife ordered the "Romano Chicken", which was a chicken breast served on a bed of three-cheese mashed potatoes, covered in a home-made Romano cheese sauce, and topped with several pieces of tender asparagus.  I went with a "Chicken (cant remember this word) Panini"...and holy cow it was awesome.  It was a chicken breast topped with several slices of prosciutto, served on a fresh ciabatta roll spread with garlic pesto sauce.  Mine also came with mashed potatoes that tasted ah. maze. ing.

I stopped eating after the first half of my sandwich. Usually this is because I'm so full, I don't want to become stuffed.  As full as I was, the reason I stopped was to that I could extend my sandwich experience over another day.  Heated up for lunch today was equally as awesome.

Our bill was about $25, because once in a while we eat like rich people.  The wait staff are very new, which means new jobs for Decatur - always a good thing.  The little old Italian couple and what I assume is their son in the kitchen - seem to have captured something awesome here.  I encourage you to check it out, and support the local economy while you do it.  You'll be very glad you did!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

shameless plug.

My daughters wanted to tell you about an exciting new book...

Monday, March 12, 2012

12 days is fast.

On the way to Vegas last month, I read an interesting article on fasting that stirred a desire in me to try a long-term fast. It seemed appropriate that my goal be 40 days, given the season of Lent, and so I would eat my last meal Feb. 27th, and fast until Easter. I’ll confess, it wasn’t a remarkably “spiritual” article, but a health and human body type focus. My fast began partially as an experiment to see what would happen to my body, and what God could do if I offered Him this exercise in self-control.

I ate nothing, drinking only water, and boy was I thirsty. :) As many say, the first 3-4 days were tough, as my “hunger” faded. What most don’t say after that, however, is the amazing amount of appetite that remains. I didn’t want to give up routines, or being a good father/husband. So I would still help prepare/clean up meals, and being close to food was increasingly tough. The hardest times were when I attended a youth pizza party, catered meal, or went out to a sit-down restaurant….which seemed to happen more in these days than the previous year combined. :)

My energy levels remained fairly consistent. I still did pretty much everything the same, minus heading to bed early the first few nights. On day 6, I did allow myself to take communion at church. The small piece of bread tasted amazing, and the juice was sweeter than ever! I felt cleaned out and healthy, and after a week even felt a bit more alert than usual. But as time went on, the impact became more and more pronounced.

Toward the end of my 12th day, I made the decision to move toward food again. I say “move toward”, because after 12 days of not eating, the stomach isn’t ready for a bacon-cheeseburger. I ate a little spinach and carrots, and because it was my wife’s b-day party, a few crackers with cheese-ball, and couple bites of her cake. (I paid for eating that cheese-ball a bit. :) )

I had lost 22 pounds in 12 days, which seemed a bit unhealthy, thanks to my high metabolism. My pants were sliding off, and people were asking me what I was doing to lose weight. It was hard to sit with my family, and still feel like I wasn’t quite “with them”, since as my 5 year old was saying, “Daddy doesn’t eat anymore.” My wife found out she was allergic to gluten, and was baking all sorts of new dishes – I could tell it was hard for her to not get any of my thoughts on this new menu for our home. I’d begun wearing socks at night, due to my feet being bricks of ice. The blood-flow had slowed to the point that even in the afternoon, my hands felt like cold fish. I could go on with more reasons, but don’t need to. The point is, I decided to stop. :)

I definitely recommend a fast of 1, 3, 5, or even 10 days. It’s right there with prayer in the Bible, but somehow we’ve let it go as something beneficial and God-given – not just for our spiritual, but our physical lives.

During this time, I gained a lot (except weight). I was reminded to have control of my appetites, since we live in a culture that goes way beyond satisfying hunger. We often “eat until we are full”, both literally and figuratively. I discovered fasting is not a magic spell to force God’s hand, but it does make it easier to get through the wall of “me” in my prayer life. I was even taught that perhaps the humility of choosing to stop, even though I’d told those who asked I was going to try 40 days – was good for my soul. Fasting is, after all, about letting go of self, not asserting self’s desire to succeed.

On a side note: This is best darned Naked Juice I’ve ever had. :)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

now what?

Anytime a book has promises of "Prosperity, True Love, Miracles, Peace, Ministry, Destiny, Family" along with the phrase "Activating His Ancient Secrets for Success", you have to know it's going to be incredibly entertaining.

This book was no exception.

Remember that show "Mystery Science Theater 3000", where the puppets sat in front of the theater, discussing the finer points of amazing older pieces of cinema?  This is the literary equivalent of many of those fine film classics.

We will skip straight to chapter 3, entitled "Understanding Christian Biology".  With a title like that, I was a little worried that he might actually talk about how we honor God with our physical bodies.  That he might discuss how we are literally beings who depend upon breathing, and the Spirit of God can literally be involved in becoming a source just like that even now.  Thankfully, he skipped all that theological mumbo-jumbo, and goes right for encouraging statements like:

"Modern science is now proving what God has always said: evil fear is the source of all death in our lives." p. 46

Amazing.  So glad I've read this book, and now understand why people get sick and die is rooted simply in the fact that they are afraid of getting sick and dying.  How foolish of us not to see it before!!

Just in case anyone would not believe the amazing case built up in this chapter, he includes the references and full text of over 103 passages of scripture (in THIS 16-page chapter alone!!).  When you quote that many passages, there's no denying your knowledge of scripture.

Unfortunately, because quoting 103 passages in one chapter takes up so much space, there is very little he's able to say from his own wisdom.  That's probably because he's read his own chapter 10 entitled, "Understanding the Need for Persistence".

The final hundred pages or so of the book are called "Affirmations", which basically stands for "Magic phrases adapted from Bible verses that will make everything in your life better - which is what Jesus wants".  Mann points out also on page 167...

"The Affirmations take two and a half to four hours to make, depending on how fast you speak and how much you meditate on them as you say them.  The more you can repeat them each day, the better."

Perhaps as you spend 4 hours a day seeking God's best prosperity for your life, you'll be challenged to write a book where most of the content is proof-texting entire Bible passages, and charging people $20 per copy for it...

 (There may be a small amount of sarcasm in this post. I really love the Bible, and believe Jesus has an amazing amount of hope to offer us as New Creations.  I just don't believe God has locked up ancient secrets and is snickering just beyond the door while most of us ring the bell...and authors like this try to pick the lock.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

spoken word > religion?

Yesterday I posted the status "seems everyone and their mother has discovered the Jesus>Religion video today. I understand what he's saying, and agree with some of what he says...but something doesn't feel right..."

If you haven't seen the video, check it out here.

But what followed was quite a few comments, and I think there are some good words here. I'm posting them straight up, and have removed the names to keep their privacy:

"#1 - I totally agree with the video.

#2 - I think that it is missing the fact that God came to us while we were yet that we wouldn't stay that way

#3 - I think it is right, but it words things in a way that could be misleading at times. For instance, when it says "Religion says Do...Jesus says Done." yes, Jesus did accomplish/conquer sin and death - he has done all we need for salvation. But Jesus ALSO says DO. Go out and make disciples of all nations - spread my name....So for this particular piece in the video, it is misleading. It should say "Religion says Do....Jesus said it's Done, but still DO!" I'm glad at least more people will hear His name!

#4 - how can I like this status a few more times?!?!?! (He's "throwing the baby [AKA The Church] out with the bathwater)

#3 - Actually, I think he is trying to wake the church up with this video. The church is one of his intended audiences, if I'm guessing right. He does say that he loves the church. But I get some of that same vibe as you do for sure. I think he is a little disgruntled with the church.

#2 - It seems to be trendy to put down the church... We have to remember that the church is the vehicle God chose to bring the news of Jesus into the world. Also, I disagree when he says that religion causes wars... The fact is, sin bring about conflict and fighting...we are Christs bride after all

#3 - When Christ chose the "church" to spread His word, he was referring to his followers - not a building with walls, so I think this guy is unhappy with what we humans have done with the "organization" part of the church. I may be wrong though.

#5 - It doesn't feel right, I think, because it's chock full of generalizations, and yes, tosses the baby out with the bathwater.

"If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?"

--We're talking about the same God who gave governments and nations the responsibility to wield the sword, right? Serving the same God who prepared and sent his own people to war, which annihilated entire people groups? War, while never pleasant and often unjustified, isn't always so.

"Why does it build huge churches, but fail to feed the poor?"

So, the millions of dollars raised by organizations like WorldVision and denominational mission programs like we have in the Church of the Nazarene are a failure, then, because hunger and poverty aren't eliminated? "You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." --Matthew 26:13

"Tells single moms God doesn't love them if they've ever had a divorce..."

I don't know what churches this fellow's been in, but around here, our churches are chock full of single moms who have found God's grace, His love, and an awesome support system within the church. Again, generalization.

Ultimately, he seems to be focusing on the church as an institution in need of reform. In that respect, he's correct, and there are people who take on the name of "Christianity" while either living the opposite of Christlike or attempting to be so through behavior modification rather than Christ's saving grace. However, the church as the true gathering of Christ's body is another story.

He's right on about some things and just off about others, which is why it doesn't feel right to me. It follows the trend of using "religion" as a buzzword and assuming that God hates it, and that it's the opposite of Christianity in all aspects--which, by the way, is another generalization. If we take scripture seriously, then everything the video talks about being the opposite of religion--feeding the poor and loving the widow--is exactly what religion is.

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." --James 1:27
16 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1

#2 - I'll say one more thing and I am done. I think when many say that God did not intend for the church to become institutionalized...they don't always know what they are saying. Perhaps they read it in some book or heard someone say it and they agree in principle.

An institution is merely a group in relationship to further a purpose or cause. As humans we naturally begin to organize these groups because this is our nature to do so. Granted... It's the political aspect that is the sin here but if we are throwing out the concept of an institution then we are also throwing out marriage and the gifts and talents that God gave humans to reason and implement.

If we are called to further the Gospel then we as humans, taking Him seriously, would then find the most efficient way to do so...

Of course the church needs reform...but let's not just reform to a trendy version of current societies definition.

#6 - Thank You Wick! I appreciate you calling attention this.

#7 - Wick, I too appreciate your status here. Totally agree with previous comments that it has become trendy to point out faults of the church and overgeneralize them. Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her, so I should as well. Also, why have so many pitted Jesus against religion? Jesus didn't come to destroy religion, he came to destroy sin, evil and death. Another thought, Jesus accepts us as the broken sinners we are, but he does fix things...he wants to renew and restore us. I'm becoming less and less comfortable with the whole, "oh we're all just a bunch of jacked up sinners" stuff.

#8 - This is a great conversation and I'm just butting in (i haven't seen the video but will look it up)... Jesus died a Jew- there was no Church!

#9 - love this conversation. After all, I believe we all have been frustrated at one time or another at "church", but you still have to love her. That's why I love the quote from St. Augustine, "the church is a whore, but she's my mother."

#10 - Wick- I'm anxiously awaiting your thoughts...just sayin'....

Wick Anderson - Wow...just got on and read through this. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts. Good stuff. This is me high-fiving many of your statements. I think along the lines of receiving the gift and style of "spoken word" he's given, it's an intimate portrait of his experience. As such, even though it rubs me the wrong way, I think it's an honest expression of where he is in his journey - and glad he shared it.

It's obviously connecting with's being shared all over the place...which should break our hearts. What this man speaks of, should not be anyone's experience of the bride of Christ. There are many places she is beautiful...may we seek to celebrate, and be ready for... our bridegroom.

#11 - Agreed. This is where he is and how he feels. It would be wrong to hear his beautiful rhyming and say "yea, down with religion." Yes we are the body..the church, but we also meet in a building that people refer to the church...where different religions are housed. Through those houses, many people have come to Christ. If you view religion as different sects, yes it can get ugly and uncomfortable, but when viewed as a way of telling others about Christ, it works. By the way, great quote #9. I never heard that before.