Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In the news...

(From FotF Pastor's Weekly Breifing)

I've made my feelings well known on Joel Osteen and his weak (at best) theology. Is praying for this book to flop un-Christian of me? Uggh.

Joel Osteen — pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston and author of Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential — has signed a book deal with Free Press that publishing insiders say is potentially one of the richest for a nonfiction book and could bring the author more than $10 million. Osteen and his agent, Jan Miller of Dupree, Miller & Associates, were seeking a guarantee of close to $13 million for the right to publish his next book, according to The New York Times.

Abortion Declines With Parental Notification

Parental notification laws reduce abortions among minors, suggests a study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Baruch College at City University of New York.

Researchers studied the records of teen abortions and births in Texas for the two years before a parental notification law took effect in January of 2000, and for three years afterward. Texas is the biggest of 35 states that require minors to notify their parents or get their consent before obtaining an abortion, although a judge can usually grant a waiver. The study found that among 15-year-olds, abortions declined by 11 percent; among 16-year-olds, they declined by 20 percent; and among 17-year-olds, they declined by 16 percent.

Texas State Sen. Florence Shapiro, who sponsored the notification law, said the findings show that more parents are becoming involved in their daughters' "life-altering decisions." "That was my intent," she said. Last year, Texas went further and enacted a law requiring parental consent. The Baruch researchers studied Texas because of its large and ethnically diverse population and because more girls there live far from states that do not require parental involvement before an abortion.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Challies on marriage and worship...

Tim Challies has a great post today where he both gushes about his love for his wife, ties it to Piper's Desiring God, and makes it all about worship. You should read it. Really. It's that good.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Utrasound and a new poll on abortion...

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Breifing)

200th Ultrasound Machine Placed

The Option Ultrasound program, a ministry outreach of Focus on the Family, announced last week that more than 200 ultrasound machines have been placed in pregnancy resource centers since the project began in February 2004. As a result, thousands of women have chosen life for their preborn babies.

Option Ultrasound makes ultrasound technology and sonography training available to medical clinics that meet professional requirements. The hope is to place 650 units by 2010.

Kim Conroy, sanctity of human life director for Focus on the Family, said abortion-minded women have been given the chance to receive vital medical services. "Those who are considering abortion need to know the emotional and physical toll this procedure could have on them, and they deserve the chance to see their baby face to face before they make this life-changing decision," she said. "Women have been fed a lie by abortionists and deserve factual information regarding their pregnancies."

Conroy estimated that more than 6,300 babies have been saved after a mother viewed the image of her preborn child on the screen of an ultrasound machine placed by Option Ultrasound. In fact, 84 percent of abortion-minded women who received an ultrasound at a pregnancy resource center made a decision for life.

To learn more about Option Ultrasound, please visit the Heartlink Web site at


The majority of Americans (59%) believe abortion ends a human life, according to a new poll which was commissioned by the Associated Television News and published by Zogby International. The survey was based on responses from over 30,000 people in 48 states who were contacted between March 10-14. The report also revealed that 50 percent of those questioned believe life begins at conception.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'm still here...

The combination of a brutal finals week, and then being sick for a week has put me behind in blogging (and life). So I just wanted to let everyone know I'm still here, and will resume a more regular blogging schedule than the past few weeks. Thanks for your patience.

I had a great meeting on Tuesday with Jeanine Parolini of North Heights Lutheran Church. She and I met to discuss a great ministry called Peacemaker Ministries. I referenced this ministry a few weeks ago and it is an organization whose mission I strongly believe in. Peacemaker Ministries is coming to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area September 21-23. If you are a pastor, someone with a heart for reconcilliation, or just someone who wants to know more about Biblical counseling and dispute resolution, this is a resource without peer. Pastor John Piper will be one of the featured speakers at this conference, and Bethlehem Baptist Church uses the Peacemaker system throughout their church. Ken Sande, author of the book that started this all, "The Peacemaker", will be speaking as well.

Another opportunity before September comes at the end of next month. The Peacemaker Seminar is being offered live by Ken Sande on Friday, April 28th (7-9pm) and Saturday, April 29th (9am-12pm) at Fellowship Missionary Baptist in Minneapolis. Registration information will come available on Cost is $15 per person, or $27 per couple. I highly reccommend bringing your spouse to this event!

If you are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area and would like more information leave me a note here on the blog and we'll connect. I have the registration forms for both the seminar and the conference.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

All Creatures of Our God and King...

Words: Francis of Assisi, cir­ca 1225 (Can­ti­co di frat­re so­le, Song of Bro­ther Sun). He wrote this hymn short­ly be­fore his death, but it was not pub­lished for al­most 400 years. Trans­lat­ed to Eng­lish by Wil­liam H. Drap­er for a child­ren’s Whit­sun­tide fes­ti­val in Leeds, Eng­land; first ap­peared in the Pub­lic School Hymn Book, 1919.

Music: “Lasst Uns Er­freu­en,” Auss­er­le­se­ne Ca­thol­ische Geist­liche Kirch­en­ge­säng (Köln, Ger­ma­ny: Pe­ter von Brach­el, 1623); har­mo­ny by Ralph Vaughan Wil­liams in The Eng­lish Hymn­al (Lon­don: Ox­ford Un­i­ver­si­ty Press, 1906), num­ber 519

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!


O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!


Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.


Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.


And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!


And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.


Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!


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Saturday, March 18, 2006

10 Suggestions by Aaron at

(HT: Joe Carter)

Below is a segment of a post by Aaron at A very good post, thought provoking.


Adherents of any faith should be conscious of how they portray their belief system to the outside world. I am constantly concerned about how Christianity, specifically conservative, evangelical Christianity, is being demonstrated by us, the followers.

I began thinking about the issues that define Christians for nonbelievers and I was saddened by the list that formed in my mind. To address those concerns, I came up with some possible reevaluations for Christianity, the Blogdom-of-God and myself.

This is not intended as a rebuke for posting on certain issues. I post on most, if not all, of the issues I mention. However, sometimes we get caught up and forget the reason why we are here.

Having no authority, not much of a platform and no real desire to do so, "commandments" from me make no real sense. So with an abundance of humility, I offer my 10 suggestions:

10. Stop with the extremes on the environment. It is possible to have a position in between "Rape and pillage the earth" and "Save the animals, screw the humans." One does not have to sell out completely for the theory of global warming in order to view Earth as something to be cared for and to be stewarded by humans. It is also not required for Evangelicals to support drilling for oil on every piece of protected land. There must be a balance here for Christians.

9. Worry more about living the 10 commandments, instead of displaying them. Quick, name all 10 Commandments and give their location in the Bible. If you are like most Christians, you have a hard time passing that simple test. Yet, for people with such ignorance about a topic, we have managed to display some passionate outrage over their removal from public places. In my opinion the displays do not violate the Constitution, but living our lives contrary to Jesus' spirit of the laws is a violation of Christianity. (Click here for the answers to the commandment quiz.)

8. Trust God, not money or slogans. This is very similar to #8. Christians are intensely concerned about keeping "In God We Trust" on our money, but most seem less concerned about actually trusting God instead of money. As a Christians, when was the last time you gave God "the widow's mite." Unfortunately, too many Christians will spend beyond their means to get a bigger house or a nicer car, but find it conveniently difficult to give God much of anything - a tithe at best. Our actions speak much differently than our words. Our actions say we really don't care what's on the money as long as we can spend it however we want.

7. Focus more on teaching your own child about creation. Christian parents are lazy. I know because I am one. We would rather send our child to church and have Sunday School teachers tell them about Jesus. Now we would rather send our child to school and have science teachers tell them about creation. I am actually a supporter of teaching Intelligent Design in schools - advocating the "teach the controversy" approach. However, too many Christian parents are fighting evolution because they do not want to spend the time instructing their own children. It would take a good deal of work to learn about the issues and then teach them to your child. Why not just pass that off to someone else?

For the rest of this post go HERE.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

In the news...

(From FotF Pastor's Weekly Breifing)

I've made my feelings well known on Joel Osteen and his weak (at best) theology. Is praying for this book to flop un-Christian of me? Uggh.

Joel Osteen — pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston and author of Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential — has signed a book deal with Free Press that publishing insiders say is potentially one of the richest for a nonfiction book and could bring the author more than $10 million. Osteen and his agent, Jan Miller of Dupree, Miller & Associates, were seeking a guarantee of close to $13 million for the right to publish his next book, according to The New York Times.

Abortion Declines With Parental Notification

Parental notification laws reduce abortions among minors, suggests a study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Baruch College at City University of New York.

Researchers studied the records of teen abortions and births in Texas for the two years before a parental notification law took effect in January of 2000, and for three years afterward. Texas is the biggest of 35 states that require minors to notify their parents or get their consent before obtaining an abortion, although a judge can usually grant a waiver. The study found that among 15-year-olds, abortions declined by 11 percent; among 16-year-olds, they declined by 20 percent; and among 17-year-olds, they declined by 16 percent.

Texas State Sen. Florence Shapiro, who sponsored the notification law, said the findings show that more parents are becoming involved in their daughters' "life-altering decisions." "That was my intent," she said. Last year, Texas went further and enacted a law requiring parental consent. The Baruch researchers studied Texas because of its large and ethnically diverse population and because more girls there live far from states that do not require parental involvement before an abortion.

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Joe at Evangelical Outpost takes a field trip

I respect a lot of what Joe Carter writes at The Evangelical Outpost, and appreciated the spirit in which he wrote the following after visiting Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL (Suburban Chicago) this past weekend.


I’ve always been a bit skeptical of both megachurches and the seeker-sensitive movement. But after living in the Chicago area for over a year, I finally decided it was time to take a trip out to the epitome of seeker-sensitive megachurches: Willow Creek.

(a) Paradoxically, WC is both gargantuan and intimate. Although the architecture shares more in common with a small college campus than with the great cathedrals, the entire church is remarkably designed. The main auditorium, in particular, is designed to maximize the acoustic effect of the worship service. (b) WC is definitely not for everyone. If you find suburban evangelical culture distasteful, you’ll abhor WC. (c) Over the years I’ve visited literally hundreds of churches. Out of those, I can think of only a handful where I have heard the Gospel preached as clearly as I did at WC. Critics who denigrate WC because it appears to be too big, too loud, and too obnoxious (in other words, the embodiment of American evangelicalism) could probably learn a valuable lesson about how to do church.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Expiration dates...

We are all born with an expiration date, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) we are not stamped like a milk carton warning when it's our time to go.

I got to thinking about this the other day when prepairing a 10 minute message for a class at Bethel Seminary I am taking called "Communicating the Gospel to Teens." I got to thinking back to the people I've known, loved and lost over the years, and how with many of them, there was no warning when they expired. God knows, but we do not, so therefore as Christians we must continually share the Good News of Jesus Christ. For we know not when our time will come, nor when Christ will return.

What will you do today to expand God's Kingdom? Who do you know who doesn't have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Be both salt and light to those around you. Live in such a way that people want what you have. Share the reason you have for hope.

There was a time when if you wanted to reach other cultures, you had to go on a missions trip to somewhere far away. Now we can just go across the street. God has brought the world to our doorsteps, and the question is how are we going to respond?

Share the love of Christ with someone today. Have a Kingdom impact.

Milk is good for the body only, Jesus is good for Eternity!

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Art of Self Leadership

(from Christianity Today's Library)
Your toughest management challenge is always yourself.

Imagine a compass—north, south, east, and west. Almost every time the word leadership is mentioned, in what direction do leaders instinctively think?


Say the word leadership and most leaders' minds migrate to the people who are under their care. At leadership conferences, people generally think, "I'm going to learn how to improve my ability to lead the people God has entrusted to me."

South. It's a leader's first instinct.

But many people don't realize that to lead well, you need to be able to lead in all directions—north, south, east and west.

For example, good leaders have to lead north—those who are over you. You can't just focus on those entrusted to your care. Through relationship and influence good leaders lead the people over them. Much of what I do at Willow Creek, through relationship, prayer, and careful envisioning, is to try to influence those over me—the board and the elders.

Effective leaders also learn how to lead east and west, laterally, in peer group settings. If you don't learn how to lead laterally, if you don't know how to create win-win situations with colleagues, the whole culture can deteriorate.

So a leader must lead down, up, and laterally. But perhaps the most overlooked leadership challenge is the one in the middle. Who is your toughest leadership challenge?


Consider 1 Samuel 30. David, the future king of Israel, is a young emerging leader at the time. He is just learning to lead his troops into battle. He's green. But God is pouring his favor on David, and most of the time the battles go his way. One terrible day though, that pattern changes. After returning home from fighting yet another enemy, David and his men discover soldiers have attacked and destroyed their campsite, dragged off the women and children, and burned all their belongings.

This would define "bad day" for any leader! But it's not over. His soldiers are tired, angry, and worried sick about their families. They're miffed at God. A faction of his men spreads word that they've had it with David's leadership. They figure it's all David's fault, and they decide to stone him to death.

In this crisis David's leadership is severely tested. Suddenly, he has to decide who needs leadership the most. His soldiers? The officers? The faction?

His answer? None of the above.

In this critical moment he realizes a foundational truth: he has to lead himself before he can lead anybody else. Unless he is squared away internally he has nothing to offer his team. So "David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). Only then does he lead his team to rescue their families and what's left of their belongings.

David understood the importance of self-leadership. And although self-leadership isn't talked about much, make no mistake, it is a good part of the ballgame. How effectively can any of us lead others if our spirits are sagging, our courage is wavering, and our vision or commitment is weak?

Last summer I read an article that created some disequilibrium for me. The author, Dee Hock, challenged leaders to calculate how much time and energy they invest in each of these directions—people beneath them, over them, peers, and leading themselves. Since he's been thinking and writing about leadership for over 20 years and is a laureate in the Business Hall of Fame, I wanted his wisdom.

His recommendation: "We should invest 50 percent of our leadership amperage into the task of leading ourselves; and the remaining 50 percent should be divided into leading down, leading up, and leading laterally." His numbers bothered me so much I put the article away. But I let it simmer, which is my normal practice when someone messes with my mind.

While that was simmering, I read an article by Daniel Goleman, the author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence. Since that book was released in 1997, Goleman has been spending his time analyzing why some leaders develop to their fullest potential and why most hit a plateau far from their full potential.

His conclusion? The difference is (you guessed it) self-leadership. He calls it "emotional self-control." What characterizes maximized leadership potential, according to Goleman? Tenaciously staying in leadership despite overwhelming opposition or discouragement. Staying in the leadership game and maintaining sober-mindedness during times of crisis. Keeping ego at bay. Staying focused on the mission instead of being distracted by someone else's agenda. All these indicate high levels of emotional self-control. Goleman says, "Exceptional leaders distinguish themselves because of superior self-leadership."

As I read his corroborating data, I thought, Maybe Dee Hock's percentages aren't all that absurd!

Recall the first five chapters of Mark's Gospel. Remember Jesus' pattern of intense ministry quickly followed by time set aside for reflection, prayer, fasting, and solitude? That pattern is repeated throughout his ministry. Jesus was practicing the art of self-leadership. He would go to a quiet place and recalibrate. He would remind himself who he was and how much the Father loved him. Even Jesus needed to invest regularly in keeping his calling clear, avoiding mission drift, and keeping distraction and temptation at bay.

This is self-leadership. And nobody—I mean nobody—can do this work for you. You have to do this work yourself. Self-leadership is tough work—so tough, Dee Hock says, that most leaders avoid it. Instead, we would rather try to inspire or control our people than to do the rigorous work of reflection.

Some years ago a top Christian leader disqualified himself from ministry. A published article described his demise: "[He] sank like a rock, beat up, burned out, angry and depressed, no good to himself and no good to the people he loved."

When this pastor finally wrote publicly about his experience, he said, "Eventually I couldn't even sleep at night. Another wave of broken lives would come to shore at the church, and I found I didn't have enough compassion for them any more. And inside I became angry, angry, angry. Many people still wonder whatever happened to me. They think I had a crisis of faith. The fact is I simply collapsed on the inside."

He failed the self-leadership test. He should have regrouped, reflected, recalibrated. Maybe taken a sabbatical or received some Christian counseling. Goleman would say that this guy lost his emotional self-control. Now he's out of the game.

A little closer to home, I'll never forget when three wise people came to me on behalf of the church. They said, "Bill, there were two eras during the first 20 years of Willow Creek history when by your own admission you were not at your leadership best—once in the late seventies and again in the early nineties. The data shows Willow Creek paid dearly for your leadership fumble. It cost Willow more than you'll ever know when you were off—not hitting on all 8 cylinders."

Then they said words I'll never forget: "Bill, the best gift you can give the people you lead here at Willow is a healthy, energized, fully surrendered, focused self. And no one can do that for you. You've got to do that for yourself." And while they were talking, the Holy Spirit was saying, "They're right, Bill. They're right."

Because I know what's at stake, I ask myself several self-leadership questions on a regular basis.

Is my calling sure?

On this matter, I'm from the old school. I really believe that if you bear the name of Jesus Christ, you have a calling, whether you're a pastor or a lay person. We all must surrender ourselves fully to make ourselves completely available to God. Ask, "What's my mission, God? Where do you want me to serve? What would you have me do in this grand kingdom drama?"

Remember what Paul said about his calling? "I no longer consider my life as dear unto myself. Only that I fulfill the mission or the calling given to me by God himself" (Acts 20:24).

What happens when you receive a call from the holy God? Your life takes on focus. Energy gets released. You're on a mission.

I have to keep my calling sure. So on a regular basis I ask, God, is your calling on my life still to be the pastor of Willow Creek and to help churches around the world? And when I receive reaffirmation of that, then I say, "Then let's go! Let's forget all the other distractions and the temptations. Burn the bridges!"

If you've been called to be a leader, it's your responsibility to keep your calling sure. Post it on your refrigerator. Frame it and put it on your desk. Keep it foremost in your mind.

Is my vision clear?

How can I lead people into the future if my picture of the future is fuzzy? Every year we have a Vision Night at Willow Creek. You know who started Vision Night? I did. Guess who I mainly do it for? Me. Every year when Vision Night rolls around on the calendar it means that I have to have my vision clear.

Every leader needs a Vision Night on the calendar. On that night you say, "Here's the picture; this is what we're doing; here's why we're doing it; if things go right, here's what the picture will look like a year from now.

We prepare very diligently for Vision Night at Willow Creek. We have countless meetings to discuss the future. We spend many hours in prayer: "God, is this what you would have?" We search the Scriptures. By the time Vision Night rolls around, the vision is clear again. But it takes a lot of work to clarify the vision and to keep it clear. Nobody can do that work for you. It's the leader's job.

Is my passion hot?

Jack Welch, the celebrated leader of General Electric, says, "People in leadership have to have so much energy and passion that they energize and impassion people around them."

I couldn't agree more. When I appoint leaders, I don't look for 25-watt light bulbs. I look for 100-watt bulbs because I want them to light up everything and everyone around them.

Whose responsibility is it to keep a leader's passion fired up? The leader's. That's self-leadership.

Last year, at an elders' meeting, a couple of the elders asked me, "As busy as you are, why do you fly out on Friday nights to speak in some small out-of-the-way church to help them raise money or dedicate a new facility? Why do you do that?"

My answer: Because it keeps my passion hot.

Last year I helped a church in California dedicate their new building. One guy took me to the corner of the auditorium, peeled the carpet back, and showed me how everyone in the core of their church had inscribed the names of lost people in the concrete. Then they covered it over with carpet. In that auditorium they're praying fervently that the lost will be found.

It was a four-hour flight back to Chicago. I was buzzed the whole way. That church fired me up! I just love watching men and women throw themselves into the adventure of ministry. It inspires me. I know that my passion has to be white-hot if Willow is going to catch it. I can't become a 25-watt bulb—nor can you.

We do a lot of conferences through the Willow Creek Association. At times pastors of flourishing churches will pull me aside and say under their breath, "I have to come here once or twice a year just to keep my fires lit." They seem embarrassed about being here so often, as if it's a sign of weakness.

I tell them, "If you're a leader, it's your job to keep your passion hot. Do whatever you have to do, read whatever you have to read, go wherever you have to go. And don't apologize. That's a big part of your job."

Is my character submitted to Christ?

Leadership requires moral authority. Followers have to see enough integrity in the leader's life that high levels of trust can be built. When surveys are taken about what it is that inspires a follower to throw his or her lot in with a particular leader over a long period of time, near the top of every list is integrity.

A leader doesn't have to be the sharpest pencil in the drawer or the one with the most charisma. But teammates will not follow a leader with character incongruities for very long. Every time you compromise character you compromise leadership.

Some time ago we had a staff member who was struggling in his leadership. I started poking around a little bit. "What's going on here?" I asked.

Then the real picture emerged. One person said, "For one thing, he sets meetings and then he doesn't even show. He rarely returns phone calls and often we don't know where he is."

I spoke to that guy and said, "Let's get it straight. When you give your word that you're going to be at a certain place at a certain time and you don't show up, that's a character issue. That erodes trust in followers. You clean that up, or we'll have to move you out." If character issues are compromised, it hurts the whole team and eventually impacts mission achievement.

I don't want to be a leader who demoralizes the troops and hurts the cause either. So on a regular basis, I sing Rory Noland's song in my times alone with God:

Holy Spirit, take control.

Take my body, mind, and soul.

Put a finger on anything

that doesn't please you,

Anything that grieves you.

Holy Spirit, take control.

It's the leader's job to grow in character. No one can do that work except the leader.

(This is only half of the original article. I will post the second half in the coming days)

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Monday, March 13, 2006

A day late...

It snowed. A lot. A whole lot. We lost power in East St. Paul twice early this morning because of the snow. I went out and started shoveling at 6:30 AM so my wife could get her car out of the garage, down the alley and to work. By 7:30 I had cleared from one end to the other, but during that hour another couple of inches fell on what I had just cleaned. I went in and had breakfast, and by the time we came back out to leave at 8:30 there was 5+ inches now covering what had been my clean driveway. The drive to campus that usually takes me 40 minutes on a Monday morning took an hour and 20 minutes. I passed cars, trucks, Semi's and Busses in the ditch.

The funny thing is, we've been planning on buying a snowblower with the money from our wedding. We've been waiting for the Spring sales. I think we were a day late.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

CrossRoads Church

Today we made our way down Hwy. 61 to Cottage Grove and visited CrossRoads Church. I was surprized at how quickly we had gotten there from where we live. It's a straight shot following the river 10 miles, one left turn, go 2 miles and pull into the parking lot.

I had never been to this church before, and as I pulled in, I could see already that they were in need of a new building. Not because anything was wrong with this facility, but because I know how many people they've been packing into this place on a weekly basis, and at first glance, I knew they were constrained by space. Once inside we found a very inviting atmosphere. The people were friendly, the signage was adequate, and there was a cool promotional running in the lobby for Covenant Pines Church Camp. We were greeted at the door with a handshake, and everyone we talked to seemed open and inviting. They also have really good free coffee. And cookies. Chocolate Chip cookies. M&M's Cookies. Did I mention they were free? And quite yummy.

The crowd was late arriving, most pouring into the sanctuary for the 11:00 service in the last 5 minutes. We got in early and got seats near the front where I like to sit, and by 11:00 there were nary a seat to be found empty. I would guess 90% full from what I could see. It was a FULL house. I learned at the end of the service they have started a new building campaign that will be a great improvement for the operations of this church when completed.

The worship was solid. It wasn't at the level of Eagle Brook Church, but few churches are. My wife (Banana) especially like their selection of songs. The stage was surprisingly small, and it felt a bit cramped for the band and singers. I am all to familiar with this from my time in Northridge Baptist Church (the old building) on the worship team where we nearly stood on top of the bass guitarist amp/half stack for lack of space.

Phil Print preached on Joshua 2, the story of Rahab the Harlot. Phil absolutely rocked it, and I expected nothing less quite honestly. Phil is enormously gifted in preaching, and I was blessed to sit in on his message today. In just one message I saw dozens of things I could do better as a communicator of the Gospel. Very humbling. Banana found the fact that Phil had made this message fairly interactive with the congregation very interesting. She said she hadn't experienced a service like this before. Phil's message was longer than I was expecting, and each and every moment of it was good stuff. The main point that he made was that God's mercy and grace is far greater than anything in your past, and that Jesus shed His blood so we can be freed from our past. Phil is right. God is more interested in our future than our past. Phil built up his main points with verses from James 2, Hebrews 11, Matthew 1, Revelation 1, Ephesians 1, and Isaiah 1. All verses were enormously relevant and placed exactly where they needed to be in the sermon. A message crafted at a level I only dream of reaching.

After the service I had the opportunity to speak with Phil for a few minutes before we left, and I was reminded just how great a man he is. CrossRoads Church is very fortunate to have someone who is so gifted, yet remains enormously humble. Phil has assembled a very talented team around himself, and I believe CrossRoads Church is going to be used in big ways by God over the next few years. If you are in the SE Metro of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I highly reccommend you stop by and visit CrossRoads Church and see how God is working in this community and church.

CrossRoads Church
7955 IvyStone Avenue South
Cottage Grove, MN 55016
Phone: 651-459-7111
Fax: 651-459-1561

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Pastor Phil Print is blogging...

I just discovered one of the pastors I have been a Teaching Assistant for at Bethel Seminary has started blogging. Phil Print is one of the best communicators I have ever heard. He is truly gifted in preaching and teaching, and has an intense fire that burns within to see God's Kingdom advanced at a level few others posess.

Phil is the senior pastor of CrossRoads Church in Cottage Grove, MN (a SE suburb of St. Paul). My wife and I will be attending church there this weekend, and I'll post about our experience. CrossRoads is an Evangelical Covenant Church.

Their current series they are preaching is:
Going for the Gold - As Christians we dream of a different reward—receiving God’s blessing and hearing God’s applause. How do we live the kind of life that God rewards? How do we “go for the gold”? As we study the lives of several characters from the Old Testament, we’ll uncover the answer. We’ll find out what it takes to be one of God’s gold medal winners.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Tithing Dispute

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

The majority of Protestant ministers (56%) believe that Christians should tithe 10 percent of their income to their local church while only 36 percent of church members hold that view, according to a new study conducted by Ellison Research and released last week by Facts & Trends. Almost one-in-four churchgoers (23%) believe that the Bible commands them to tithe, but not necessarily to their local church. Only 12 percent of clergy feel the same way. The research, conducted among 811 Protestant ministers and 1,184 adults who attend a Protestant church at least once a month, also revealed that 10 percent of Christians believe that they are under no mandate to give anything.

Similar studies over the years have consistently shown that while 60 percent of churchgoers believe that tithing is a biblical directive, fewer than 10 percent actually tithe of their income. "In other words, at least half of all Protestants are clear on what they're supposed to be giving, but consistently don't give it," said Ron Sellers, president of Ellison research.

Other key findings from the study:

* Disaster relief is the most common type of cause (outside of the local church) that is supported financially.
* The average churchgoer directs 31 percent of their giving to organizations outside of their church.
* In the last year, two-thirds of clergy have given to promote evangelistic causes outside of their own church. Only one-third of laity have done so.

Complete report can be found at

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Homosexuality A Christian Response

The following was published in "FOCUS" a magazine for Bethel Alumni. On April 18 the gay activist group called Soulforce will have their Equality Ride visiting Bethel's University's campus.
(Please ignore formatting issues. I didn't want to manually edit the whole document in html so it's a bit erratic)

The Panelists

James Beilby, M.A.T.S.,
associate professor of biblical and theological studies; a frequent speaker on theology and contemporary culture
Michael Holmes, M.A.,
professor of biblical studies and early Christianity and chair of the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies
James Koch, M.A., Ph.D., professor of psychology; director of counseling
Sherry Mortenson, D.Min., associate dean of campus ministries and pastor of spiritual formation
Jenell Williams Paris, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology, author and researcher in the field of sexuality

We hear a lot of talk today about sexual identity and orientation. Could you
bring your perspective to this emphasis in our culture?

Holmes: The Apostle Paul [in the New Testament] nowhere discusses homosexuality
as an orientation. He discusses behaviors, and he never discusses them in isolation.
When he talks about same-sex behavior it’s in the context of opposite-sex
behavior as well. Paul has a category in which sex is rightfully exercised
and enjoyed—in marriage between a man and a woman—and another category
in which it’s not: for those outside such a marriage. His categories
are not heterosexual and homosexual; they are married or unmarried. We impart
so much of our culture into the way we read the Bible that it keeps us from
hearing the text.

Paris: While same-sex sexual behavior has long been recognized, “heterosexual” and “homosexual” as distinct human identities is a social construct that comes out of 19th century, maybe a little earlier. Sexual identity is not a biblical concept, and I don’t think this concept is true to the way God made us. Not many cultures have said sexuality is so important that, beginning in childhood, you need to explore it and think about it, and you can’t be a healthy adult without expressing and knowing it. That, in my view, is a sign of a culture that has made an idol of sex.

Is it even useful, then, for Christians to talk in terms of sexual identity?

Paris: Because we live in society, we have to engage this construct of orientation and work with it strategically, even though as Christians we don’t have to live by its power.

Koch: As a psychologist, I think it’s a valid concept. There are some
people who have a predisposition from a very early age. For others it’s
an evolving process. But as a society, and even as Christians, we confuse early
feelings of same-sex attraction with permanent orientation. When you flatten
those categories, it creates a tremendous amount of confusion for a young person
in development. Data today show young people are labeling themselves sexually
at age 15. Anyone in the midst of uncertainty is told what label to apply.
For some it feels like liberation, but for others it becomes a prison. I think
of my experience in high school compared to my kids’ experience and the
gay groups that are very mainstream now. It’s all part of an early labeling

Does the scientific community agree on causes, and how should that shape our
thinking as Christians?

Beilby: When we let culture define the categories for us, then we’re
forced into false either/ors. One of the fairly offensive things the Christian
community has done with respect to this issue is to say, “Well the Bible
says it’s wrong, therefore it was a person’s bad choice. People who are homosexuals are suppressing the truth.” It’s not that simple. There might be choices associated with sexual orientation, but it’s not one single choice. On the other hand, neither is it simple determinism either: “I am created to be this way.” Studies have shown there is not one single set of factors that creates homosexuality. Whatever it is—a complex mixture of potentially genetic factors, potential brain biochemistry, early experiences, and responses to those—may be precursors. But they do not remove the person’s moral responsibility any more than a person hard-wired with
a Type A personality does not have to resist their inborn inclination toward
arrogance. Mere desires are not a good indicator of right and wrong.

Koch: The fact that we have appetites and desires is part of who we are and
how we’re constructed. Having said that, if we are searching for a way
to understand those desires, we will draw meaning from our context. And if
that context is ill-defined, we need something to help guide our interpretation.
That’s where Scripture comes in. That’s where Lordship and discipleship
come in, because we are encouraged to bring our desires under the Lordship
of Christ. When we do, we’re growing into the creatures God made us to be.

How would Bethel respond to a student struggling with homosexual desires?

The stance of Bethel University on homosexual expression remains clearly stated in a covenant that students, faculty, and staff agree to honor: “We believe that sexual intercourse
and other forms of intensely interpersonal sexual activity are reserved for monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

Mortenson: Because we are a Christian liberal arts university, we look to the Word as our beginning place. The standard is the same for all relationships. The expectation in our community is that if we are not [heterosexually] married, we are celibate. I would minister to a student feeling same-sex desires in the same way I minister to students who come and say they’re addicted to pornography or are having sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend. I respond with truth, grace, and compassion, but also within the context of who God has called us to be as holy people.

Koch: Bethel’s position is, if you are struggling with same-sex attraction
or believe yourself to be homosexual in primary orientation, that is not a
sin. The issue is how that person or any of us lives our lives morally. If
someone is struggling with questions of sexuality at Bethel, there is room
to talk it through, whether through counseling services, with faculty, student
life, or campus ministries. We want Bethel to be a place where students know
they can work on this issue.

Paris: I would encourage anyone to work out their holiness and morality, with Scripture, in community with other Christians. What I’m afraid of is sounding like that isn’t concrete enough. It’s so sad to me that compassion and acknowledging the complexities of real life, when we’re
talking about sexuality, can sound liberal as though we’re not taking a conservative stance. Do we have to articulate hate or shunning or judgment in order to be proper conservatives? That’s just terrible if that’s the case. I’m taking my cues from John Wesley in Methodism where a healthy model for that student or anyone at all working on their sexuality would be
small groups of people meeting to pursue personal holiness together.

When should a Christian community discipline a homosexual individual by separation or other steps described in 1 Corinthians 6?

Beilby: A community that doesn’t talk about accountability is not a
biblically faithful community. But at the same time we also talk about grace—that
we’re all unfinished products and no sin is worse than any other. My
inclination is probably we’re not going to find one nice, neat principle
that we can apply in every single case. It has to be dealt with on a case-by-case
basis. But whatever we say in any given case, the emphasis on discipline has
to be consistent. It can’t be something we practice with respect to homosexuality

Holmes: Falling short in one area, such as the prevalence of divorce in the
church, does not justify giving up biblical standards in other areas. We are
called to uphold biblical standards with an equal hand. However, the church
also needs to recognize that it’s got to do a much better job of providing
resources for people to deal with the kinds of situations they find themselves
in. The church has tended to say, “Just say no,” and drop it without seeking to
provide the help, the discipleship, the support to find alternatives—particularly
in a culture that says you must be sexually active to be human.

Mortenson: With the issue of sexuality, I hear students who want to
know how far they can go. And I think whether we are struggling with heterosexual
or homosexual desire, we ask the wrong questions. We need to be asking “How
can I be someone who is holy and pure? How can I be someone whose life is a
reflection of my faith and commitment to the Lord?”

Some Christians believe that everyone with a primary homosexual orientation
can change to become heterosexual. What is your response?

David Clark, M.A., Ph.D., lead faculty in the M.A. in Christian Thought at Bethel
Seminary, moderated the first of the two faculty forums that wrestled with
the issue.

Koch: People wrestle with many conditions involving a physiological component
that do not fundamentally change throughout life. For some homosexuals, there
has been a change in orientation. I believe God’s grace works in this
world in many ways. But generally, if someone’s orientation is predominantly
same-sex and reinforced by circumstances, it is more difficult to become primarily
heterosexual. On the other side, if someone’s motivation is strong, if they’ve had successful heterosexual functioning and were not confused about gender identity in early childhood, that increases the likelihood that, yes, a change in orientation could occur more easily. In the field of psychology, we need better research.

Holmes: In this matter, as in many others, God’s grace comes to His
people in different ways. Paul himself prayed for deliverance from a “thorn
in the flesh,” but God’s answer in his case was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Similarly grace comes to some people in the form of deliverance, and to others in the form of a disciplined endurance. In both cases God’s grace is at work, in different ways. To expect that everyone will live in conformity to scriptural standards is biblical; to expect or claim that everyone will experience grace in exactly the same way is to infringe upon God’s sovereignty.

Paris: I’ve been paying attention to this field for about 15 years,
and it’s not a simple answer. If anything, academic and Christian dialogue
about it increasingly recognizes how complex sexuality is. So I think there’s
a practical question: What should we as Christians try to do about friends
or acquaintances who are homosexuals? Jesus was very straightforward about
our responsibility as Christians: we are to love others as ourselves. It’s
that simple. And whatever healing or change might happen for the homosexual
is up to that person and the Lord’s healing in their lives.

How are Christians to regard others dealing with longing or loneliness because
of persistent same-sex desire? Is that what a loving God would want?

Mortenson: I once heard two Christian women talking. One said to the other, “You
must be very proud of your son. He’s so successful.” And the mother replied, “Yes, I’m proud of that son, but I’m also very proud of my other son. He’s a homosexual and he’s living a celibate lifestyle. He brings such joy to my life.” And I thought what grace this mother was giving to her son! Also, I was a single person in the Bethel community until I was 35 and lived a celibate lifestyle. I never once thought that God did not love me or that I had less value.

Paris: It’s not easy to live without sexual fulfillment. But we learn
more about how to live with deep longing from Jesus than we learn how to get
all our needs met. And I think for gay Christians, however they work out their
sexual desire over time, that is part of their discipleship. If that includes suffering, that suffering is part of what they offer to God.

Koch: Even in psychological theory, well-being does not hinge on sexual fulfillment. When we place that in some way center stage, we do a disservice to our development as whole persons and really skew the discussion.

“We want Bethel to be a place where students know they can work on this issue.”

Voices challenging the church say that Scripture, properly read in our culture,
would allow for committed gay relationships.

Holmes: When Paul deals with this issue, he begins not with the particular
mores or ethics or psychology of his culture. Instead he establishes a theological
foundation for his discussion of sexuality. And because his starting point
is theological, it is therefore transcultural—it speaks to every culture,
without being tied to any one culture. Scripture is the arbiter over all cultural
perspectives; and the scriptural model is disciplined fidelity in heterosexual
marriage for those who are married, and disciplined chastity for those who
are not.

Beilby: For any of the eight passages in Scripture that prohibit homosexual
activity, there are five or six possible counter-readings. But none of these
is acceptable when you do careful exegesis. For example, Paul in a very explicit
way takes two key words from a passage in Leviticus, pulls them forward into
the New Testament, and validates the prohibition. In Romans 1 he adds a condemnation
of lesbian behavior as well.

Paris: We need to take Scripture as a whole and ask, “What does it say
about who we are as persons, who is God, and what is the world like that we
live in?” Sexuality is a derivative question from those broader themes, and homosexuality is derivative of that. When we start backwards, it seems as if six verses are for gay people and about five verses are for women, for example, when in fact all of Scripture speaks to all of us.

Summarize Bethel’s stance, then, based on a holistic approach to Scripture.

Beilby: There’s a two-part message. As a Bible-believing Christian community, we cannot just cut out passages that are uncomfortable for us or for the culture in which we find ourselves. When you look at Scripture carefully, the message that emerges is that homosexual activity is a sin. But sadly, so is the response of so many Christians to homosexuals. In our evangelical subculture we make this such an important issue when frankly there are eight verses that talk about it and a lot more that address social justice. Though we want to be clear and unambiguous that homosexual expression is a sin, we’re not elevating it to this level of the super sin. And we also need to be appropriately self-critical about what so many Christians do, and the attitudes they have, with respect to homosexuals.

How do we create at Bethel or in a church an atmosphere that upholds biblical
convictions while being compassionate toward people who struggle or fail?

Mortenson: I always say in chapel, there’s an evil power in the secret,
in holding issues in our lives. Students come to me with a variety of sexual
struggles. Over the years I have worked with many students who were not dismissed
from Bethel. They experienced grace. They experienced people who came alongside
of them offering love, who spoke truth in love. We need to be a community that
reflects who Jesus has called us to be regardless of what the struggle is in
our lives.

“We need to be a community that reflects who Jesus has called us to be regardless of what the struggle is in our lives.”

Holmes: There’s a theology that says you cannot be Christian and a homosexual at the same time. And therefore if you can’t change, you can’t become Christian. That sends a devastating message to those who are celibate, but who are also pretty firmly set in a same-sex orientation. They feel condemned to hell because they are given a theology without hope. The Scriptures don’t call one to change one’s orientation in order to be saved. They call one to come to Jesus in order to be saved.

Paris: I long for a church and a community in which people can say each of
us is on a life journey that includes sexuality, and each of us needs God’s grace.

What response and influence would you like to see Bethel graduates have regarding this issue as they go out into the culture?

Beilby: There is a public agenda out there seeking to label anybody who thinks of homosexuality as a sin as “homophobic.” We shouldn’t let ourselves be labeled just for disagreeing with homosexual advocacy groups. But it’s also crucial as a Christian community to distance ourselves from other voices who frankly respond to homosexuality in mind-numbingly inappropriate ways such as “God hates fags.” The sort of us-versus-them mentality
we see in some Christians is never exemplified by Jesus’ behavior. In the case of the woman caught in adultery, there was a great balance. He said, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The response is one of love and grace. We have to take seriously “What would Jesus do?”

“Homosexual activity is a sin. But sadly, so is the response of so many Christians to homosexuals.”

Holmes: Jim’s right. Evangelical Christians are part of a movement that
has a long history of status by negation: “We’re not like those people; we’re different.” It makes it very useful to construct an “other” out there and avoid the logs in our own eyes. There’s
so much concern about a gay agenda as an attack on the family when the far greater destructive force on the family in the United States is divorce among Christians.

Paris: There are common interests like discrimination or anti-gay violence
we can work on even if we don’t agree on everything [with homosexual advocacy groups]. Also, I would encourage people who want to engage in gay issues, to choose an avenue of service that matters to you. If that’s politics, become politically savvy. If you’re concerned about education or therapy, know the field and engage in it appropriately. I am wary when Christians, though, engage gay issues without ever knowing gay people. As Christians who are often caricatured by the media ourselves, we should not let national politics as filtered through the media be all we know about gay people.

Mortenson: Finally, I would hope we would be people who aren’t afraid
to ask questions. Sex does so much damage—not just the issue of homosexuality,
but sex in general—because it sits in the dark and it’s something we don’t talk about. So I would hope that we as a community, and then as graduates, go out and have the courage to talk about these issues, to try to shed some light on them, and to do that in love.

For further reading:

  • Hays, Richard, “Homosexuality” in
    The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation (New
    York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996), Ch. 17: pp. 379-403

  • Stanley, Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to
    Homosexuality (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998)

  • Webb, William, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics
    of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001)

  • Position papers on human sexuality in the Resource Center of the Council
    for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) at

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Survival of the fakest???

More than 500 scientists signed a statement proclaiming doubt about the accuracy of Darwin's theory of evolution. As signatories of "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism," they stated, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." Scientists holding doctoral degrees in biological sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, computer science and related disciplines are among the signers.

To see the document (pdf) click HERE.

Center for Science and Culture is interesting and related.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Breaking news: Rounds signs SD abortion ban

Associated Press Writer

Article Published: 03/6/06, 1:41 pm
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds on Monday signed into law a bill banning nearly all abortions, setting up a court fight aimed at challenging the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The bill would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman’s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

Planned Parenthood, which operates the state’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, has pledged it will challenge the measure in court. About 800 abortions are done each year in South Dakota.

Rounds allowed a photograph to be taken when he signed the bill, but he said he would decline all media requests for interviews on Monday.

In a written statement, the governor said he expects the law will be tied up in court for years and will not take effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court upholds it.

“In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society.

The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them,” Rounds said in the statement.

The Legislature passed the bill after supporters said the recent appointment of conservative justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito have made the U.S. Supreme Court more likely to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. South Dakota lawmakers believe President Bush may have a chance to appoint a third justice in the years before the legal battle over the South Dakota law reaches the nation’s highest court.

The abortion ban would take effect July 1, but a federal judge is likely to suspend the abortion ban during the legal challenge. That means it would never take effect unless the state gets the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and wins.

Rounds has said abortion opponents have already started offering money to help the state pay legal bills for the anticipated court challenge. Lawmakers also said an anonymous donor has pledged $1 million to defend the ban, and the Legislature set up a special account to accept donations for legal fees.

Under the law signed by Rounds, doctors could get up to five years in prison for performing an illegal abortion. The measure also contains language that the Legislature finds that scientific advances since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 have demonstrated that life begins at conception.

Rounds issued a technical veto of a similar bill passed two years ago because it would have wiped out all existing restrictions on abortion while the bill was tied up for years in a court challenge. The statement he issued Monday noted that this year’s bill was written to make sure existing restrictions will be enforced during the legal battle.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Church Leaders Struggle with Strategy

(From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Nine out of every 10 senior pastors of Protestant churches consider themselves to be effective leaders. However, findings from new research by the Barna group show that few senior pastors believe they are effective in strategic leadership.

Strategic leadera are often mistakenly perceived to be managers because they tend to pay attention to detail, desire for efficiency and insist upon careful organization — all marks of a manager. The attributes often criticized about them include their critical manner (perfectionism), demanding nature (need for truth and integrity), and need to plan everything (analytical drive). They are also viewed to be impersonal.

The strategic leader's and the senior pastor's approaches to leadership are very different. Pastors are directing leaders who major in motivation empowerment, resource acquisition and vision casting. When a directing and strategic leader work together and share a vision, it makes for the best situation.

Signs that a church is lacking in strategic leadership are that it tends to remain numerically small (100 or fewer), are behind the curve in adopting new approaches to ministry and fail to embrace new technological tools for ministry. These churches also seem to be in a constant state of crisis due to failure to anticipate foreseeable problems.

Barna states, "The contribution of the strategic leader is profound. They bring balance, wisdom and well-conceived plans to the process. On their own, strategic leaders are ineffective. But when they are a valued member of a dynamic team, they enhance the leadership of their colleagues and the impact of their organization."

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Friday, March 03, 2006

A 'freedom ride' to anti-gay colleges

(The following article taken from the liberal local newspaper, The Star Tribune. My comments are in RED.)

Four Minnesotans will be among a group of young people who will begin a bus journey to 19 Christian colleges that have anti-gay admission policies.

Pamela Miller, Star Tribune

When Jacob Reitan heard a young man talk about the pain and fear he felt as a gay student at Wheaton (Ill.) College, a school that opposes any expression of homosexuality, he got an idea.

Reitan, 24, of Eden Prairie, was inspired by such stories, as well as by an admiration for the civil rights activists of the 1960s, to organize a "freedom ride" that will travel by bus to 19 U.S. colleges with religion-based policies that exclude gays. The young activists, who are Christians, hope to talk with students and faculty members. This morning, Reitan and four others will fly to Washington, D.C., to join about 30 other "Soulforce Equality Riders" for training before they set out on their seven-week, cross-country crusade.

On Thursday night, hundreds gathered at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis to honor the Minnesota participants -- Reitan; David Durand, 26, and Carolyn Westra, 25, both of Minneapolis; David Coleman, 23, of Delano -- and ride co-organizer Haven Herrin, 23, of Dallas.

I have a friend working toward ordination in the PCUSA, and it's these very things that concern both he and I about his future there. How is it that a church "honors" people who are advocating and intentionally promoting something clearly laid out as sin in the Bible? The answer is a low view of scripture. Who cares what it says, we want it to mean this...

Issues around homosexuality deeply divide U.S. Christians. Some believe the Bible compels them to oppose gay rights, while others say it calls them to advocate for them.

Two Minnesota colleges are among the schools the bus will visit -- North Central University in Minneapolis (April 17) and Bethel University in Arden Hills (April 18). Both denounce homosexuality in their statements of principle, posted on their websites.

Bethel is one of 10 schools that have invited the riders to talk with faculty members and students. North Central is among "a small few" where the riders may be arrested, Reitan said. A third group of colleges will allow them on campus but will not set up conversations.

In a prepared statement, Bethel Provost Jay Barnes said, "We are planning to host the riders for courteous and honest discussions. ... Our students are encouraged to form sound positions on cultural issues relevant to their Christian faith." North Central officials could not be reached for comment.

I was alerted quite some time ago that this group was coming (as the Seminary President). The school informed the whole of the student body over a month ago. I expect the "riders" will be well received and treated with respect inspite of their sin affirming campaign. I think Bethel's approach is the right way in dealing with this, we can't stick our heads in the sand and hope the issue goes away on it's own.

At Thursday's service, Coleman received a standing ovation after he spoke emotionally about being kicked out of North Central after revealing that he is gay.

"God loves you just the way you are," said Coleman, who was a senior when he was asked to leave the college last year. "Nothing can take us away from the love of God."

So let's see, you deliberately LIED to get into the school, and then are now complaining that when you revealed you had violated a fundamental segment of the school's principles they threw you out? Yeah, that sure makes sense. I agree that God still loves you inspite of your sin, but God is also very clear about His views on homosexuality.

Durand said the riders will speak "for those who can't speak for themselves, because they must stay closeted."

Said Westra: "These [anti-gay] folks won't come to us, so we have to go to them."

Errr....we're not anti-gay, we just don't want to be intentionally promoting a life style God has clearly condemned as sinful. Just as I don't promote pre-marital sex, pedophillia, murder, or suicide bombing as a way of life.

Thursday's service, which featured a civil rights theme, included a performance of "We Shall Overcome" by the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir.

The Rev. Don Samuels, a Minneapolis City Council member, described his journey from anti-gay fundamentalist to believer that gay rights are civil rights, saying he was "embarrassed to think of some things I've said" in the past.

He described a seminary debate he won defending slavery using scriptural defenses as an illustration of how the Bible can be misused. "Holy men sometimes make flawed judgments with unholy consequences," he said.

I have no idea of who this "Rev." Don Samuels debated, but clearly his opponent must not have known much about the Bible and Biblical times if he couldn't oppose Samuels' support of slavery. So let's follow this arguement out. Since I once won a "debate" that I am my parent's favorite child, they can't love my brother, and furthermore, I am now justified in this belief. Make sense? Nope.

Reitan said the multiracial group feels a strong affinity with the civil rights movement, and has a common player in the Rev. Phil Lawson, a civil rights pioneer who serves on the board of Soulforce, a national Christian gay rights group.

Equating the gay rights movement with the civil rights movement is such an incredible injustice to the civil rights movement. One was God honoring, the other is SIN honoring, and you can't get farther apart than that. I have no idea where Rev. Lawson got his credentials to be a "Rev" but I'd give it a 95% chance that it was a liberal main-stream denomination school that long ago abandoned a high view of Scripture and thereby sapped the Bible of any real authority. We have two such institutions in the Twin Cities, Luther Seminary, and the bottom of the barrel United Seminary. I don't even think United requires you to profess Christ as Lord to be admitted. I'm not making that up.

Education, as much as protest, is the group's goal, Reitan said. "A lot of people don't know that I would not be allowed to attend Bethel," he said. "These policies are based on religion, but we don't believe that's what Christ came to do. He came to throw off old laws, to expand our understanding of what God meant. Perhaps talking to people, we can get them to see that they need not be so unbending."

Christ came to free us from the eternal ramifications of SIN. Christ KEPT the Law and Christ fulfilled the Law. He did destroy some of the laws created by man in His time, but you would be hard press to construct an argument that holds water with Reitan's views from the Bible. You are on one hand saying the Bible has no authority, or at best only authority that you CHOOSE to give it, but then on the other hand you want to use the Bible to build a defense, to justify, your promotion of SIN. Sorry, the Bible doesn't work that way. There is a thing called Hermeneutics that would be quite helpful if you would ever like to understand how to interpret the Bible.

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