Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Have a safe and happy New Year!  My wife and I are in Hot Springs, Arkansas relaxing this week on some much needed vacation.  Don't worry, I'll be back to preach this coming Sunday though.  You can keep up with the on goings of our vacation in the right side bar of my blog at or if you follow me on Twitter at  I'll be back to blogging and everything else when we get back later this week!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pastors Preaching Seminar featuring Pastor Bob Merrit of Eagle Brook Church

I'll be attending this event with some other local pastors. Thought I'd pass this opportunity on for those who might be interested. For those who might not know, I was Pastor Bob Merritt's teaching assistant for a couple of years at Bethel Seminary, but I would recommend this to you even if I wasn't! My wife and I attended Eagle Brook Church for a while shortly after we got married, and he is an incredibly gifted communicator.

Pastor Preaching Seminar - Bethel University

30-Minute Sermons in a 30-Second Culture
8 Principles to Help Your Sermons

Thursday, January 29
9 a.m.-1 p.m. • Eastlund Room

In today’s rapid-fire culture, many seem to be looking for simple answers to life’s often-complex questions. Communicating God’s relevant truth in ways that will compel us to live a faith of substance has become even more crucial, given this fast-food mentality.

Come hear some practical ideas on deepening your impact from the pulpit at this valuable seminar for pastors, sponsored by Bethel’s Office of Church Ministries.

Cost (includes lunch):

  • $25
  • $20 for Bethel alumni and/or each additional registrant from same church registering as a group

No refunds after January 26. Attendees must pay in advance.


  • Download the form and mail or fax to the Office of Church Ministries.
  • Call the Office of Church Ministries at 651.638.6301 (toll-free: 800.255.8706, ext. 6301);
  • Or email
The registration deadline is Monday, January 26.
Space is limited!

Featuring Bob Merritt

Bob Merritt has been the senior pastor of Eagle Brook Church since 1991, leading the church through a period of explosive growth.

In his messages, he tackles tough topics and answers life-changing questions about faith, family, and much more—while keeping the church’s mission to reach others for Christ at the forefront.

Merritt received an M.Div. from Bethel Seminary and a Ph.D. in Speech Communication from Penn State. He has also served as adjunct faculty in preaching at Bethel Seminary.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yet another reason my wife rocks

She got me an Apple iPod. The 120Gig Classic! And in the dark gray body! 100% perfect, exactly what I've been wanting for 3 years, but never specifically told her about or asked for!!!! It's already loaded and ready for the road. Hundreds of sermons loaded, and 1048 songs, plus some sermon videos as well. I know I am way behind the times in just now getting one of these things, but I still feel like I hit the jackpot!

We are heading to Sioux Falls tomorrow, but ended up with some unintended visitors tonight. My father-in-law and the boyfriend of my wife's aunt had the transmission in the Chrysler Pacifica they are driving (my wife's aunt's vehicle) start to act up really strangely. It won't stay in gear unless you stay on the gas. The transmission light is on, and nothing is open tomorrow. They are hoping they can make it to the Twin Cities tomorrow, but didn't want to risk things in the dark with sub zero temperatures over night. So we have yet to pack, and we are leaving town in 6 hours! We'll make it work.

Monday, December 22, 2008

First Congregational Church of Waseca, MN Christmas Eve Service

Come and celebrate the birth of
Jesus Christ our Lord!

First Congregational Church of Waseca, MN invites you, your friends, your family, your neighbors, and even complete strangers to join us for our Christmas Eve service, 8:00PM December 24th, 2008.

We are located at 503 2nd Ave. NE in Waseca, MN (click here for a map). The church is located just to the North of the Central Intermediate School. Christmas Eve service will begin at 8:00PM and will be followed by an afterglow that everyone is invited to in the church basement where treats and refreshments will be served.

We will NOT have church service Christmas Day, but will join together again for Church December 28th at 10:00AM for our regular service. No Sunday School December 28th.

Catching up with my life

I have a bunch of things I would love to blog, but I've been quite busy the past few weeks. I got taken out for over a week with a miserable cold after Thanksgiving, and since then have been trying to get everything organized and arranged for out Christmas Eve service at 1st Congregational Church of Waseca, MN. This is my first Christmas Eve service as Senior Pastor, and I must confess I am totally AMPED for it! It's still a few days away and I can hardly wait. Imagine how kids get antsy to open presents, well that is how I'm feeling for this service. Weather is supposed to be good, and I'm praying for a HUGE turn out to hear about Jesus!

We traveled to Colorado for Thanksgiving and spent some great time with my in-laws and some of my own aunts and uncles who call the Ft. Collins/Loveland area home. It was a very nice get away, but unfortunately much too short. But life and ministry call! And I was reminded on this trip just how much I hate United Airlines. Horrible planes, goring you for extra money at every opportunity, and bad service. It's no wonder airlines live in bankruptcy!

I have almost all of my Christmas shopping wrapped up which is a relief. Before this past weekend I was at a loss as to when I was going to get around to it, and what even I was going to get people this year. Everything seems to have worked itself out now.

I installed a new (used) phone in my office the other day. It was given to me by my friend Jeff a year ago with the thought I might sell it on Ebay. The battery life on my office phone was nearly zero, so I dug this out and hooked it up. It's a fancy 3-line office phone made by Venture. It is more phone than I really need, but I do really like it. I has a great speaker phone which is a must if you ever get put on hold. It also allows me to tap into our fax line at the church so that when my secretary is on our primary line, I can still call out. Not that it is a frequent problem, but it is nice to have that option.

We'll be traveling to Sioux Falls, SD to visit my family for Christmas for a few days and I am really looking forward to that. After that we will be taking some personal time, but we haven't (yet) figured out exactly where we are going or what we will be doing. We're trying to balance low cost, fun, new, and hopefully somewhere warmer that Minnesota. We'll see what that translates into.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pastor James MacDonald announces he has cancer

Dr. James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in the suburban Chicago area wrote the following on his blog:

Yeah, no doubt about it. PSA rising, sent for a biopsy and then the dreaded diagnosis . . .“I am sorry to confirm you have prostate cancer.” It’s a moment I have imagined through the years as occasional aches and pains led to tests, but always in the past the confirmation “all is well it’s just . . .” Not this time though; I have cancer. This of course confirms what I have taught so many times from God’s word . . . the effects of sin visit themselves randomly upon the creation in varying degrees and at various times (John 9:1-3). God promises only that His grace will be sufficient as His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), and that He has a purpose in the life of His child that will advance our good if we submit to what He has lovingly allowed (Hebrews 12:5-13).

So that’s it! I have cancer and I can diagnose the theology as well as any oncologist can diagnose the pathology. But here’s the great part. I truly believe those things. I am not especially anxious, I am not struggling with God’s goodness or asking a lot of penetrating ‘why’s?’ I am more aware of my pending mortality and the brevity of this life by eternal standards.

Pastor MacDonald has definately been influential in my thinking through my faith, and I would invite you to lift him up in prayer as he and his family go through this together.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trevin Wax is giving away a bunch of books!

Blogger Trevin Wax is giving away his 10 favorite books from the past year. For a chance to win click over to his blog and read the post for requirements. Yes I am entered.

Friday, December 12, 2008

That's my King

From The A-Team Blog.

The preacher at the church I attended today read this, and it struck me as an excellent meditation piece. It's from a sermon by S.M. Lockridge...

He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. That's my King. He's God's Son. He's the sinner's saviour. He's the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He's honest. He's unique. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's supreme. He's pre-eminent. He's the grandest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He's the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That's my King.

He's the miracle of the age. He's the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He's the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He's the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That's my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. He's the master of the mighty. He's the captain of the conquerors. He's the head of the heroes. He's the leader of the legislatures. He's the overseer of the overcomers. He's the governor of governors. He's the prince of princes. He's the King of kings and He's the Lord of lords. That's my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He's indescribable. That's my King. He's incomprehensible, He's invincible, and He is irresistible.

I'm coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can't contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your hands. You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him. The Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn't get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. That's my King.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Eagle Brook Church takes a Sunday off - No Church December 27 or 28

Over the years I have noted many goings on at Eagle Brook Church here on my blog. Eagle Brook is one of my favorite churches on the planet. They are doing great things in the Twin Cities Metro area with campuses in Lino Lakes, White Bear Lake, and Spring Lake Park. I receive their emails they send out to church members, and the most recent one I got was interesting enough I thought I would pass it along (see below). While it sounds strange, I think Eagle Brook Church is making the right choice for their people. Unrelated, but I should also mention, EBC has recently redesigned their web site, and it looks and works great!


Eagle Brook Friends, In case you missed last weekend's service, I wanted to catch you up on a few important things we covered. (As always, you can catch the entire service on our website.)

No Weekend Services December 27/28

"What? No services on December 27/28?" That probably sounds strange at first – to not have church on a weekend. But, as Pastor Bob explained at the top of his message last week, there's a story behind the decision. This year Christmas falls in between two weekends. We have our regular services on Dec. 20/21, and then, after a one day turn-around, we have our 17 Christmas services on Dec. 23/24. In those five days, that equates to 29 services. The next day is Christmas, and then we have one day to turn things around for services on Dec. 27/28. That would be 41 services in nine days.

Add to that, it takes about 625 people to make a weekend happen. Of those 625 people, over 500 of them are volunteers. After looking at the enormity of 41 services in nine days, and the responsibility falling on our core staff and volunteer teams, our Leadership Team & Church Board determined the best decision would be to call on our teams to pour their energies into making our Christmas experience, and the weekend before Christmas, the very best they can be—and then give all of the dedicated staff and volunteers time off on Dec. 27/28 to be with family and friends.

If it still seems strange to not have church, we encourage you to go and be the church—go serve somewhere that weekend. And then we'll be all back together on Jan. 3/4 with a great new message series, "Ask Anything," to kick-off our new year!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Kutless Lyrics - All of the Words

"All Of The Words" by Kutless

How do I speak of the indescribable to You
I will try to explain these feelings that are true
So looking to the sky I will sing and from my heart to You I bring

All of the words in all of my life that could never explain and never describe
All of my love, which is nothing to hide so I lift up my hands and I worship
I worship You

In your presence I forever choose to live
I will praise You for it's all I have to give
So looking to the sky I will sing and from my heart to You I bring

All of the words in all of my life that could never explain and never describe
All of my love, which is nothing to hide so I lift up my hands and I worship

By Your grace You let me come talk to You
It's not that I'm worthy I thank you Jesus
For the love that You have shown

All of the words in all of my life that could never explain and never describe
All of my love, which is nothing to hide so I lift up my hands and I worship

With all of the words in all of my life that could never explain and never describe
All of my love, which is nothing to hide so I lift up my hands and I worship
I worship You

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Breville ikon Hemisphere LCD Blender

We got a new toy for our kitchen. Well, it's really not a toy, but an incredible piece of machinery.

A bit of background first. For our wedding, we received the top of the line Cuisinart Blender. We don't use a blender a whole lot, and in the first 2 years of owning this blender we used it maybe 15 times I'm guessing, and never for prolonged periods, and not to chop ice that I remember. This past July my wife was making a smoothie for herself, and while doing this the Cuisinart unit decided to grenade itself. It shredded the metal gears on both the drive on the base as well as on the jar. It destroyed the bushings in the jar as well. Metal shavings all over our counter! Obviously we weren't pleased, especially considering the light usage.

We brought the unit back into Bloomingdale's (a few weeks ago) where we got it, and they refunded our money. The salesman (my wife tells me) suggested the Breville BBL600XL/A Ikon Hemisphere LCD Blender. He said it was the best he's ever sold. He said they would have to order it, but that it would be worth the wait. So today my father-in-law gave me our new unit (they picked it up for us since we don't live in the Twin Cities any longer). I unboxed it tonight, and am very impressed. The unit weighs a ton and is beautifully constructed. Everything from the seal on the top of the jar to the plug for the outlet is well designed. This is clearly a blender a step above the competition. Of course you pay for that, but thanks to generous friends and family members we did not have to foot the bill for over half of this unit.

BBL600XL Feature 1
The 54 ounce (1.6 L) engineering grade borosilicate glass jar is designed to resist scratching, chipping and fogginess for optimal clarity. The baked enamel measurements in both metric and empirical volumes provide for sharp viewing and accurate measurements.
BBL600XL Feature 2
Control Pad
The pad is designed without crevices for fast cleaning and gives you precise control over the 750 watt motor’s 5 speed settings and pulse function. It also features two special presets for ice crushing and smoothies and a back lit, easy-to-read digital timer.
BBL600XL Feature 3
The jar features easy blade removal for thorough and effortless cleaning of the jar and Hemisphere™ Bowl/Blade System. All jar and blade parts are top-shelf dishwasher safe. The Bowl/Blade System easily locks into place and seals for leak-free performance.

An extra little bonus that comes with this blender is that in the sizable operations manual is a very nice set of recipes that can be made in the blender. I'm looking forward to giving this blender a nice workout some time soon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Do Smoking Bans Save Lives? - Freakonomics Blog

I found the following article very interesting. I have spent 8.5 years working in restaurants as a waiter. For roughly 6.5 of those years I worked where smoking was allowed, and unfortunately for my health, often working directly in the smoking sections. I can tell you from my own personal health that when Ramsey County (think St. Paul, MN) enacted their smoking ban that it dramatically improved my health (specifically my breathing), and dramatically reduced the number of days I had to cover for other co-workers who were out sick.

Do Smoking Bans Save Lives?

According to a new study, a statewide workplace smoking ban in Massachusetts may be responsible for a steep drop in heart-attack deaths since 2004.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which produced the study, says the biggest health gains came among those people the ban saved from regular exposure to second-hand smoke.

The rate of heart-disease-related deaths has been cut nearly in half in Massachusetts since 1999, and the downward trend began years before the workplace ban went into effect.

But there’s reason to believe that the ban accelerated the decline. For one, the cities and towns that saw health improvements earliest were the ones in which local smoking restrictions were enacted before the statewide ban. Now, two years after the statewide ban was put in place, heart-attack death rates have fallen to almost uniform levels across Massachusetts.

Tobacco companies, meanwhile, are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into research on how to create a safe cigarette (likely an impossible goal).

Smoking rates in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest levels since 1920, pushed down by the accumulating weight of medical evidence showing the grave health effects of tobacco use.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Church giving below Great Depression levels

Justin Taylor shared the following on his blog:


This is a sobering statistic:
In fact, fewer than 5 percent of churchgoers actually tithe 10 percent of
their income; the average, according to numbers from Empty Tomb, a
Christian research group that puts out annual reports on church giving,
is now 3.4 percent, or 21 percent less than what dust-bowler counterparts gave during the worst of the Great Depression.
Figures show that churchgoer contributions have been cascading downward
since the 1960s. Religious conservatives do give more. Problem is, they
only give nominally more and other groups give next to nothing.
My emphasis. Read the whole thing.


Indeed many churches, like my very own, are feeling the pinch of today's market. We have an endowment that normally helps our church, but the combination of an over-dependence on this gold egg laying goose, and the downturn in the stock market has dried that well up to us unless we are willing to cash in our future for today. Most churches have the giving capacity within their walls. As a whole, the American church has the giving capacity to change the world, but the unfortunate reality is that we have never leveraged this ability as a whole, and our whole world suffers. My family will be increasing our giving in the year to come, and I challenge you to do the same. Give up a latte a week, or drop down a level of cable TV programming. You'll never know the difference, but the Kingdom impact those dollars can have will amaze you. I dare you. I double dog dare you!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color For Your Eyes by Krisin Andreassen

I heard the following performed on Prairie Home Companion this morning and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!

Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes <-- Click here to preview and purchase song, or for the Album --> Kiss Me Hello

by Kristin Andreassen & Megan Downes / Yellowcar Music, ASCAP

I went to see the doctor. I’d come down with the blues.
She said “No, I can’t cure you, but I know something you can do.
Take out a piece of paper, and sit down for a while,
and draw a pretty picture of something that makes you smile.”
Well, I know what makes me happy. Didn’t have to think for long.
But when I tried to draw it, it always came out wrong.
I had a box of 12, 48 and 64,
but nowhere could I find that one shade I was looking for.
I guess I realized shoulda come as no surprise
Crayola doesn’t make a color for your eyes.
There is no way that I could possibly describe you.
Crayola doesn’t make a color to draw my love.
At first I thought of Green Blue, but then I saw Blue Green.
And then sometimes in bright light, they look Aquamarine.
I think at night they’re darker. I looked again for you.
Saw Grey and Black and went out walkin’ after Midnight Blue
But the hues of the deepest skies would be a compromise...
Spring Green is much too yellow, Sea Green is far too pale.
Cornflower’s way too mellow, so I’ll try again and fail.
There’s no way I can capture the way you make me feel.
One look from you is rapture, whether Blue or Green or Teal.
No color qualifies. That crayon’s telling lies...
Crayola doesn’t make a color…
Hey look, it’s Periwinkle. So sure I got it now.
But you wink and there’s a twinkle in your eye and still, somehow,
I just can’t get that sparkle. Those glitter crayons won’t.
Maybe Glow-In-The-Dark’ll get it right. Aw, no they don’t.
Mr. Crayola tries, but I’m left to fantasize...
Crayola doesn’t make a color...
For your eyes, something darker let’s see what I can find.
Melted mahogany and got the depth not the shine.
Just about gave up and then I peeled the paper off a little end of…
Really thought it coulda been… ahh, not even Burnt Sienna!
Your passport says they’re brown, but I’m gonna keep lookin’ round…

& here’s a BONUS extra verse by Megan Downes. It was written after the recording was made but it is genius and if you are simging this song, you should learn it!!

Raw umber? Sepia? Which one is best for eyes of brown?
Your lashes can't conceal dark eyes so warm, so deep they drown
All my sorrows, pain and heartache;All my sadness is washed away.
Outside the lines, that color shines and makes a brand new day.
(A stick of) brown wax can't emphasize the way your eyes (just) hypnotize

Kristin voice & two hands playing pattycake.
Megan the other two hands playing pattycake.
Mark bass & whistle.
Scott percussion.
Ruth & Aoife harmony.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Unemployment and our churches

Below is a nice tid-bit from Focus on the Family's Pastor's weekly briefing:

Many of our people are being personally impacted by the economy and
some are being laid off from companies that are affected by the
economy. In most cases, people have little chance of returning to their
jobs as companies eliminate positions to try to survive as a business.
What are some of the best things that we can do as pastors to support
these folks?


We need to remind ourselves that unemployment is about more than a
paycheck. It's also about the frustration of not being able to
contribute to the life and welfare of the community. It is an issue of
faith for many of our Christian brothers and sisters. There are
significant psychological issues for many who begin to believe that
they have no value if they no longer have a job. The loss of a job is a
lot like the loss of a loved one, so there's bereavement and grief that
can eventually lead to depression and loss of hope.

As pastors, we can come alongside these people with our e-mails and
phone calls, but also be willing to sit down with them face to face. I
urge you to invite them out for breakfast or lunch or invite their
whole family over for a meal at your home. Work hard at listening and
brainstorming with them. In some churches where there are multiple
people unemployed, it might be helpful to form a support group where
these folks have the opportunity to dialogue with each other and to
pray together. I trust that many of you can persuade your church
leadership to use benevolent funds to provide food stuffs and an
occasional generous cash gift to help these people pay their most
essential bills.

The Apostle John's words must be heeded: "If anyone has material
possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how
can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17).

Friday, November 14, 2008

7 Kinds of Pastors I’d Run From

The following comes from Pastor Dave Foster's blog. Dr. Foster pastors The Gathering Church in Franklin, TN.


I’m a pastor.  I have been all of my adult life.  I love it.  It’s a privilege.  There is no greater honor than when someone says, “Hey, here’s my pastor!”

It’s my firm conviction that everyone in America needs a pastor.  Yeah, I said it.  Everyone in America needs a pastor.  Pastors are good people!  They sacrifice and they are highly trained and highly motivated.  They are constantly learning and growing and giving.  So let me tell you, before I start, that I’m for being a pastor, and I’m for everyone having one.  But, not all pastors are created equal.

Surveys tell us over and over again that one of the issues that ranks highest in people’s choices of churches is, what is the pastor like?  So let me make a contribution to your search for a great church and a great pastor, because great churches have great pastors, like it or not.   There are a whole lot of people who would like for churches to be run by committees. They object to personalities in the pulpit.  They think that those are bad things even though that view flies in the face of everything we’ve learned in the Scriptures about how God leads.  He leads through personalities, through people, through strong leaders.  He gives a church a pastor.

So here are the seven kinds of pastors I’d run from:

1.    I’d run from any pastor who wants to tell me how to vote. 
It’s the pastor’s role to challenge you to seek truth, and to love truth, and to love people.  It’s not his job to tell you how to think or come to conclusions.

2.    I’d run from any pastor who tells me who to marry.
  That’s way too much intrusion to your life.  No good pastor wants to make that decision.  They want to help you to get married well, so you can be married a long, long time and be happy.

3.    I’d run from any pastor who wants to tell me how to spend my money.
  It’s not a pastor’s job to tell you what kind of house to live in and what kind of lifestyle you can afford.  It is, however, a pastor’s job to teach you what the sacred Scriptures, what God says about finances.  And He has an awful lot to say, not the least of which is that we should owe no man anything except to love.

4.    I’d run from any pastor who tells me who to hate.
  I’m sick and tired, during this election period, of demonizing John McCain and Barack Obama.  Neither one deserves it.  Any pastor who tells you who to hate, I would run from.

5.    I’d run from any pastor who tells me what I can and cannot drink.
Now, I know that’s controversial, but the Scriptures teach moderation; not the abstinence from every controversial subject or activity in life. We all make choices.  So the choice is moderation in all things, rather than abstinence.  Unless, of course, you have an addiction to a certain substance or activity.  You should stay away from them.  But your weakness or addiction doesn’t define everyone else’s liberty or freedom.  If you don’t like that, go to the Scriptures and deal with it, because it wasn’t my idea.

6.    I’d run from any pastor who has a new revelation.
There are an awful lot of people out there who will tell you that God speaks to them in ways He doesn’t speak to anyone else.  I wouldn’t believe it.  Whatever God has said and wants you to know, He has said and recorded in the sacred book called The Bible.  It can be believed.  Pastors are to teach it and apply it; not add to it by their own particular spiritual nuance.

7.    I’d run from any pastor who has a long list of dos and don’ts.
  This may be hard for many people to believe but Christianity is not about morals.  It’s about ethics.  It’s about what is right.   It’s about truth and truth seeking.  And truth seekers ultimately, I believe, wind up at The One Who is truth.  Jesus said, “I am the life, truth, and the way.”  I seek truth.  I find Christ.

No amount of moralistic ranting and raving makes a person a Christian or changes the heart.  As a matter of fact, what we do doesn’t change until who we are changes.  And that’s a matter of the heart, and that’s where the gospel is pointed.  So if you are around someone who is condemning you for a long list of things that they prohibit that you’re doing, I’d keep looking to another place.

Now I don’t mean for this Dave Rave to be negative, but sometimes we just have to get real and say what we’re all thinking.  So what kind of pastor would I be looking for?  One who leads the way with humility and wisdom; one who takes the sacred Scriptures and lifts me up and sets me free; one who can inspire me; one who makes the truth of God compelling and real, and gives me the ability to apply it to my everyday life.

You need a pastor.  There are a lot of great ones out there.  Go find one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The aging of America

Older Adults Growing U.S. Market
  • 41% of American adults are over 50, the highest percentage in U.S. history.
  • People over 55 own 77% of all financial assets in the United States.
  • 50+ adults account for 45% of U.S. consumer spending, $2.1 trillion per year.
  • By 2011 the American 50+ population will surpass the 100 million mark.

Taken from September & October 2008 AARP Magazine (HT Leadership Network)

So how does this impact the way we do ministry in our churches in America?

The map below shows the concentration of those 65 and older in our country:

What affect will this have on jobs in your community? Transitions in the service industry are already occurring, but there will also be a shift as jobs begin to open up. Who will fill those jobs? How will this impact giving in your church? We are in the midst of the greatest transference of generational wealth ever.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sermon - Acts 17 - Do all paths lead to Heaven?

My sermon from this morning is posted at our church's website - A lot of positive feedback on it, my wife especially liked it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pastor and politics

Count me among those who are glad this election cycle is over. There really needs to be a limit put on the lengths and expenses of campaigns. I certainly have opinions on politics, and on specific candidates, but as a pastor I am inclined to steer clear of those sorts of things in public forums. With that said, I do not shy away from specific issues.

Marriage, Family Prevail at the Polls

Marriage and family were the big winners Tuesday, as three states voted to protect marriage in their constitutions and Arkansas voted to provide children with both an adopted mom and dad. Florida, Arizona and California became the 28th, 29th and 30th states to amend their constitutions to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Despite tens of millions of dollars spent by gay activists to defeat the marriage initiatives, pro-family leaders in the three states led heroic campaigns to protect marriage from activist judges and lawmakers.

In California, Proposition 8 reverses the state's Supreme Court decision in May that legalized same-sex "marriage." Arizona voters, who narrowly rejected a marriage-protection amendment two years ago, supported Proposition 102 on Tuesday. In Arkansas, voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 1, which requires couples to be married before they can become foster parents or adopt.

Florida's Amendment 2 received the 60 percent support it needed to pass — and a few extra percentage points. "This is a victory for children and for the future of Florida," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel. "Amendment 2 will prevent activist judges from redefining marriage by the stroke of a pen." []

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Gospel Coalition - Entrusted with the Gospel

The stuff below was posted today by Justin Taylor on Between Two Worlds blog. It is my plan to attend this conference as my one "big" conference next year to challenge me to grow as a pastor. There are other great conferences, but this one is calling my name. I know Ovidiu is going, is anyone else who reads this blog going?


The Gospel Coalition recently relaunched their website, and it looks excellent. Here's more information about the upcoming conference, April 21-23, 2009, in Chicago.
The theme of this Conference gets to the heart of the book of Second Timothy. As Paul is mentoring a young Timothy, he is communicating the great privilege of proclaiming the gospel to the world. In an age bereft of courageous leadership, declining biblical literacy, and rising cultural accommodation, a prophetic voice from the center is needed, a voice that faithfully speaks the ancient text to our contemporary context. This Conference seeks a renewal of faithful preaching that is rooted in the Scriptures and centered on the gospel.

The best of gospel-faithful ministry is not only taught, it is also caught. This was the practice of the Apostle Paul -- the great missionary of the early church -- who not only had much to say regarding what constitutes gospel-faithful ministry, but also had much to show of what it looked like in an individual life and in the life of the church. We see these two foci coming together harmoniously in Paul's letter to the church in Corinth:
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; cf. 11:1; Philippians 3:17).
On 21-23 April 2009, The Gospel Coalition will hold its second National Conference on the theme, "Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy." During these meetings we will seek to imitate Paul's dual practice of show and tell.

The Plenary Sessions -- led by John Piper, Phil Ryken, Mark Driscoll, K. Edward Copeland, Bryan Chapell, and Ligon Duncan -- will expound the book of Second Timothy. It is through these expositions that we hope to model the sort of preaching through Scripture of which the church is in need, while teaching the glories of this gospel of the blessed God that has been entrusted to the care of the church. Tim Keller and Don Carson will each give addresses that seek to situate gospel-faithful ministry in the currents of the twenty-first century, and Ajith Fernando will discuss the global challenges and priorities of gospel-faithful mission for the next Christendom. There will also be several workshops devoted to the faithful appropriation of text (Scripture) to context (contemporary issues).
Register here. Each attendee will also receive a free copy of the ESV Study Bible.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hey you! Get to bed!!

Reasons Not to Skimp on Sleep

Getting a good night's sleep could be one of the smartest health
priorities you schedule for your day. Some possible health consequences
of getting too little or poor sleep can involve cardiovascular,
endocrine, immune and nervous systems. Between 50 to 70 million
Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder, such as insomnia or
sleep apnea, which affects daily functioning.

Research has shown:

  1. Insufficient sleep appears to tip hunger hormones out of whack.
    Leptin, which suppresses appetite, is lowered; and ghrelin, which
    stimulates appetite, gets a boost.
  2. You're more apt to make bad food choices that would entail a diet
    higher in cholesterol, protein, total fat and total saturated fat.
    Women were especially affected.
  3. Those getting five or fewer hours of sleep each night were 2.5 times more likely to be diabetic.
  4. Women who sleep five or fewer hours per night were 45 percent more likely to have heart attacks.
  5. Blood pressure may increase. Obesity plays a role here, so losing weight can ease this.
  6. Auto accidents rise. Nearly 20 percent of serious car-crash
    injuries involve a sleepy driver, and that's independent of alcohol use.
  7. Older folks who wake up at night and are drowsy during the day are more likely to fall due to being off balance.
  8. Adults, adolescents and middle schoolers report more symptoms of depression and lower self esteem.
  9. More behavior problems are seen in kids who are plagued by lack of sleep.
  10. There is approximately a 15 percent greater risk of dying for those who get five hours or less of sleep per night. []

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yet another reason I'll have nothing to do with the ELCA

From today's Star Tribune:

"Jodi Barry is not the first lesbian to be ordained into a Lutheran ministry. But her ordination Saturday was a new step toward what supporters hope will be greater acceptance of gays and lesbian pastors by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The ceremony was hosted by Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, where Barry has been a youth minister intern for a year, but it was conducted by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), a national network committed to full acceptance of gay and lesbian pastors in the Lutheran church.

The ceremony marked one of the first ordinations since the ELCA adopted a "refrain and restraint" policy in August 2007. Intended to ease a divisive issue without changing the ELCA's position against gay clergy, the policy instructs church leaders not to respond harshly when individual congregations or other groups choose a gay or lesbian minister."

Train wreck, thy name is ELCA.

Sermon - Acts 9:1-9 - Saul's conversion to Paul

(Image created at

My sermon on Acts 9:1-9 from this morning is posted on our church's web site - Check it out. I think it is a pretty good sermon. I challenged my church last week to pray for our church. Inward focused prayer. This week was focused on outreach prayer and praying that God would transform us and those in our lives.

TP and TV

Does your church use 1-ply or 2-ply toilet paper? The soft stuff, or the "John Wayne" toilet paper - the stuff that is rough, tough, and doesn't take crap from anyone? While it seems like something small, I think things like toilet paper make a difference when somebody new visits your church. The cost difference for most churches between the soft as sandpaper TP and the good stuff is very small. And keep your women's bathrooms amazingly clean. It will make a difference.

Another thought is that if you operate a store that caters mainly to women who spend more than 5 minutes in your store, then you need a seating area for men, and possibly a play area for kids. It doesn't have to be something big, just something functional. Every minute that a man can sit allows a woman to shop longer. Every minute a mom can shop without distraction with kids playing nearby allows that woman to shop longer. Studies show that the longer a person is in a store, the more likely they are to buy something, and the more money will spend on average. If you aren't doing these things, you are letting money walk out the door. And if you want to really make the shopping experience great for men, put a nice flat screen TV in the seating area, and tune it to ESPN or whatever game may be on. Most (not all) men will gladly "shop" in a woman's store where they can catch up on the scores.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dallas Willard at Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Edina on 10/24/08

DALLAS WILLARD, University of Southern California (Professor of Philosophy), presents "Faith Without Knowledge: Why Christians Court Disaster When Belief Is Not Intelligent"

October 24, 2008 - 7:30 PM

Calvary Christian Reformed Church (5300 France Ave S, Edina, 55410). Free and open to the public.

For at least a century or more, evangelical Christians have accepted the secular judgment that religion is not only private, but that it is also little more than blind irrationality. Under this arrangement, universities have assumed leadership as the guardians of what counts as true knowledge. With a profound sense of urgency, Dr. Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of the Heart, offers a bracing and bold challenge to Christians to recover the centrality of knowledge as not only an essential for Christian witness in the broader world, but also for the very essence of Christian living.

Follow up on "Fire and Nice"

Just one more thought on the article "Fire and Nice" from Christianity today that I recommended in my previous posting.

"Woodland Hills lost 1,000 people paying the price to become a more multiethnic church," says Efrem Smith, a friend of Boyd's and pastor of the new Sanctuary Covenant Church in north Minneapolis. "Greg preached a sermon series called 'The Cross or the Sword' that purposely downsized his church so they could become what they truly want to be."

I want to point out that this is a misleading statement, and if Efrem Smith is buying Boyd's sales job on this, then that lowers my previously high view of Efrem Smith. Simply stated the 1000+ people who walked out on Greg Boyd (many while he was preaching) was over his very soft stance on abortion. It wasn't over his refusal to preach the "Republican" gospel or anything else. I suspect if you dig through Boyd's and Woodland Hill's web sites (Boyd admits it here), the letters he/they wrote following that week are still likely online. It is disappointing that Boyd has chosen to frame this in a political way, and is apparently doing a good sales job of that to his friends. Abortion transcends politics. It is aberrant and abhorrent. It is not God's plan.

What I am not saying is that Boyd (or any pastor) needs to buy in hook-line-sinker with a political party. I can honestly say I've been both a registered Democrat and Republican. And I don't like either option. I am not a one issue voter, but on this issue it comes pretty close. And Boyd is unwilling to say that, irregardless of party affiliation. And that is why he lost the better part of a megachurch's worth of attendance. So they could "purposely downsize" their church? That's abusurd.

Now you may ask, why do I care? I care because before that Sunday my wife attended Woodland Hills for 7 years.

Fire and Nice - the wide views of regional churches

There is an interesting article over at Christianity Today called Fire and Nice that looks at some churches in the Twin Cities. This is a phenomenon that I have often thought about - that there are such divergent views within the Metro area. I was first exposed to this as I entered seminary on the tail end of the "debate" between John Piper and Greg Boyd over open-theism. It was a polarizing time, but an interesting one. Below is just a snippet from the article. I suggest you go HERE and read it all if you are interested.

"Together, Minneapolis and St. Paul are big enough to sustain diverse expressions of Christian theology, but small enough to bring those expressions into contact. In many ways, the Twin Cities are a microcosm of the current tensions in American evangelicalism.

Smorgasbord of Churches

With a little more than 3.5 million residents, Minneapolis/St. Paul is the 15th-largest metropolitan area in the United States. That makes the Twin Cities big enough to host major corporations, including headquarters for Best Buy, General Mills, Dairy Queen, and 3M. But the area is small enough that you wouldn't be surprised to bump into a local television news anchor at Target.

You have to really work to avoid bumping into megachurch pastors. The Twin Cities are home to the most Protestant megachurches per capita in the United States, according to John Mayer, executive director of City Vision, a Minneapolis ministry that researches demographic trends. Only the Atlanta and Dallas metro areas boast more megachurches. Maybe the Twin Cities' ranking should not be surprising, given their penchant for "big." The nation's first mall, Southdale Center, opened in 1956 in Edina. Nearby Bloomington boasts the 4.2-million-square-foot Mall of America."

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Call and Response - The Movie

Sunday evening my wife and I join some friends in the Twin Cities for a viewing of a movie called "Call & Response". For a full-on review from a professional I recommend the review at

From the Call and Response website:
The Call and Response film is a catalyst to engage the public in fighting human trafficking. In it, we graphically portray the state of modern-day slavery, and call our audience to respond to it. Our goal is to inspire the public to support high impact efforts by effective organizations.
After the movie we all stood outside the theater (in the cold!) talking about what we thought of the movie. Overall, it was fantastic, in a very sad and painful way. Human trafficking is not often talked about, but it goes on, even here in Minnesota. Just last year 8 brothels in Minnesota were shut down. So it goes on here. And it extends beyond the sex trade industry. The movie did a good job of pointing out that there are many industries where slavery is used. The mining of minerals used in cell phones is a good example.

So my suggestion is to seek this movie out. Watch it, talk about it, tell others about it. This is a HUGE problem that is off most people's radar, and it shouldn't be. Make a difference. This is not a movie for young children, the issues and situations in the movie are very serious and heartbreaking. I'd say 14 & up, and I'd suggest previewing it before showing to your 14-17 year old (Rated PG-13). The production level was high, I was impressed considering it is a low budget film. The format of the film was very different than any other I have seen. It would hit you hard for a period, and then a musical performer would sing a song, breaking up this otherwise very heavy subject. They maintained a good balance throughout, never getting preachy, but yet pushing you to think about what is going on, often right in our own back yards.

Some of the artist who donated their are: Cornel West, Madeleine Albright, Daryl Hannah, Julia Ormond, Ashley Judd, Nicholas Kristof, and many other prominent political and cultural figures offer first hand account of this 21st century trade. Performances from Grammy-winning and critically acclaimed artists including Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, Cold War Kids, Matisyahu, Imogen Heap, Talib Kweli, Five For Fighting, Switchfoot, members of Nickel Creek and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Rocco Deluca move this chilling information into inspiration for stopping it.

Here's a trailer for the movie:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sermon - Acts 4:23-31 – When the church prays

(the above was created at

My sermon from today is now posted over on First Congregational Church's web site - I cut a section out of the middle of the sermon on the fly because the service was running long. We followed the worship service with a baptism - my first!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A cool pastor appreciation video by Steven Furtick

I don't mention him much, but I've been following Pastor Steven Furtick and Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC for 18 months or so. A lot of good things happening there. Steven is amazingly young, fantastically gifted, enormously talented, and surprisingly wise - wise beyond his years. And if you watch the video, you should know he's not joking about being a white guy who preaches like a black guy. He really does - he can bring it!

I'll never be as cool as Steven, I wouldn't even waste my time trying. Rather I'll point you to the video he made in his cool orange office where he thanks some of the men who have been influential in his ministry. A very nice way to say thanks. Someday, if we ever buy a digital video camera, I might do something similar. Until then you'll just have to settle for reading my posts on Pastor Appreciation Month.

Elevation Church's staff have been incredibly open in helping other churches. I've contacted them a couple of times and received well thought out and prompt responses. Additionally, they've done other things like mail me a DVD to just be a blessing to myself (as well as a whole host of other pastors). If Elevation Church isn't on your radar and you are looking for fresh ideas on how to do church, I suggest giving them a long hard look!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Acts 2 Sermon Wordle

(Click above for a larger version - created @

New sermon posted at our church's web site on Acts 2. You'll see a simple black and white Wordle version there with the other difference being I used the Scripture from Acts in the above version and not on the church web page version.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October Is Pastor Appreciation Month

Yesterday was National Clergy Appreciation Day, and this month is the overall Pastor Appreciation Month, so I want to recognize some pastors who have shaped and influenced me. You'll find permanent links to their churches on my side bar under "My Favorite Churches".

First in that line would have to come Pastor Jon Tolly. I had the joy of sitting under Jon's teaching for all the years I lived in Mitchell, South Dakota. Jon pastors Northridge Baptist Church which is part of the Baptist General Conference. Northridge is where I first got the taste for ministry, and it is from Northridge that I entered into Seminary. Pastor Jon baptized me in September of 2002. Jon has a great vision, and really led the church well through some major transitions. If you are ever in the Mitchell area, don't hesitate to check this church out. Jon preaches Christ and Him crucified with a personal application. It is engaging and challenging and made a huge impression on the formation of my theology.

Phil Print would be the next name that comes to my mind. Pastor Phil leads Crossroads Church of Cottage Grove, MN and now with a new campus in Eagan, MN! Within a few months Crossroads will be transitioning to a new campus in Woodbury, MN and will close down the original Cottage Grove site. Crossroads Church is part of the Evangelical Covenant Churches "movement". Pastor Phil has a blog, but in the busyness in this season of his ministry it has gone dormant since late June. I first got to know Phil when I was the teaching assistant for the preaching department of Bethel Seminary. Phil reviewed and graded the first sermon I ever gave publically. He was one of the instructors I recruited to review sermons for subsequent Intro to Preaching classes. I then became his teaching assistant as he moved into a more primary role in teaching at Bethel. A few years after making this initial connection we began to attend Crossroads Church. In Phil's time at Crossroads the church has grown more than 10-fold. Phil is one of the most gifted preachers I know. He has an almost magical way of crafting a message. He has also built up a great group of men around him on his staff and has without question taken all their preaching to places they probably wouldn't have reached otherwise. Being able to sit in on Phil's preaching on a weekly basis, added to a couple of years of listen to him teach preaching classes was wonderful in developing how I approach writing a sermon. There is nothing I would hesitate ask Phil, and any answer he gives I would would trust second only to my Bible. I'm not saying he is perfect, but he is wise and experienced and Christ-focused which gets you a long way in giving good counsel. It has been exciting to watch God bless his ministry the last 4+ years!

For the past 3 years, the pastor I have listened to more than any other is Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Mark regularly rocks my world with his teaching and preaching. I haven't met Mark, though I did stand 2 feet from him a couple of weekends ago at the Desiring God National Conference. Driscoll has enjoyed fantastic success by any measure, in one of the most difficult cities in the USA to do so. And he has done it with a sledgehammer - screaming Jesus at people for 50-80 minutes a week. Well more than that, but if you boil it down that's what he is about. If you cut him, he'll bleed Jesus. If he writes it, I read it. If he preaches it, I listen and watch it.

The last name on this list is by no means the last pastor who has influenced me greatly, but he ranks right there near the top. That man would be Dr. John Piper. Dr. Piper leads Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, MN. Bethlehem is also part of the Baptist General Conference. In Pastor John's time at Bethlehem the influence of that church has gone from a small neighborhood church on the edge of downtown to one of the most influential churches in the world. Never is it about Pastor John. It is solely because of, and to the glory of Jesus Christ. Dr. Piper's writing blew my mind early in my time at seminary. I spent many a late night enraptured by reading one of his sermons. The clarity and passion are as good as it gets. I have over a dozen of his books, and look forward to many more to come.

I pray that God would continue to bless these men's ministries as they have blessed me! May their passion for Christ and His bride (the church) grow, and may their may their ministry be guided, and led by the Holy Spirit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blogging Anniversary - 10/10/04 to 10/10/08

In October of 2004 I was really just getting my feet under me at Bethel Seminary. As I mentioned in my first post ever, I had been thinking about becoming a blogger for quite some time, and finally had taken the plunge. My writing has changed (and hopefully improved!) over the 816 posts I have made here (this being #817), but at the core it is still the same. I write first and foremost for myself, and then secondarily as a form of ministry (when the posts are applicable) to whoever might stumble upon my corner of the web.

Since I began writing here at Because I said so, I have gotten married, and became a pastor. I have watched friends leave church ministry, and had my truck towed in Minneapolis. I graduated from Seminary, and got a new BBQ grill from Sears.

The post that has brought the most visits to my blog over the years was about Tony Campolo and Eagle Brook Church. Probably the second most visited post, and now the most common reason for the last year or two for people to randomly arrive at this blog is this post about Mark Driscoll (and all my subsequent posts covering his ministry at Mars Hill Church). I posted more in 2005 than any other year. I used to get more comments on my blog than I do now, but I have a lot more traffic now than ever before. I average 120-140 visitors on any given day. Of those, something like 85% are new visitors, and the other 15% are mostly friends, family, church members and stalkers. Just kidding about the stalkers. I think. Whichever category you fall into though, I appreciate you stopping by!

I haven't avoided covering controversial subjects addressing things like Abortion and Homosexual Activism. While they are not the focus of my blog, when these sort of subjects intersected with my life I chose to lean into it rather than ignore or avoid it. For the most part, I have told the story of my life in little bite sized chunks, along with archiving a lot of good ideas/information/articles so I will always be able to refer to them.

It will be interesting to see what occurs in my life in the next four years! I pray they will be as good as these past four were.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

10 Questions to consider before voting Republican or Democrat

Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is professor of theology at
George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco,
Texas and he offered these questions on the Koinonia Blog.  I'm not advocating one side or the other, both sets of questions beg to be answered.

5 Questions to consider before voting Republican:

1) What will happen to the poor in a Republican administration?

2) Will a Republican administration pursue world peace?

3) How will a Republican administration promote mercy, compassion and justice for all?

4) Is a Republican administration likely to be unduly influenced by large corporations?

5) Can a Republican administration show respect for every human person's dignity and rights?

5 Questions to consider before voting Democratic:

1) What will happen to the not-yet-born in a Democratic administration?

2) Will a Democratic administration keep America and others safe from terrorism?

3) How will a Democratic administration promote security and safety for Americans and others?

4) Is a Democratic administration likely to be unduly influenced by liberal special interest groups?

5) Can a Democratic administration show respect for traditional family values?

For Young Men Only - Book Review

From time to time I am sent a book by a publisher to review. Multnomah Press sent me my most recent book, a book titled: For Young Men Only (subtitled: A guy's guide to the alien gender). is the site that accompanies this book.

On the front cover is a quote from Jeff Foxworthy - you know, the "You might be a red neck..." guy. So I was a bit curious what direction this was going to take, and thankfully it went in a good direction. The book was an enjoyable light read, with a lot of good information. It isn't a religious book, but is solid in most of what it says. It is written clearly, but in a language that today's teen guys will totally get. It connects well.

Instead of being a religious book looking at dating, this book sets out to be more informal, and more informational, providing a good look at what young women are looking for in young men. I couldn't' help but think that this book would have been useful to me when I was in its target market teenage range. It is wise without being condescending, educational without being preachy. It serves as a light for young men into the dark mystery that is women. While women will continue to confound young men after reading this book, it is a good first step to better understanding.

The areas the book covers are:
1. Why do girls pick the fancy boys over the average ones?
2. Why are good girls attracted to bad guys?
3. Why do girls seem so crazy sometimes?
4. Why do girls like you one day, and then want to break up the next?
5. What can guys do to better listen to girls?
6. What go girls really think about sex?

I found sections three and four to be the most interesting to me, but all were well thought out, well researched, well documented and clearly presented.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Blocking Text messages and my cell phone company

I want a cell phone provider who allows me to block people from sending me text messages.  A simple online interface that could control it.  I would like to be able to say that only people in my address book can text me without my approval.  A simple approval system that can be managed via phone or on the net.

Is that too much to ask?  No more spam texts.  No more stoners I don't know texting me at 3:00AM looking to score.  The guy who had my phone number before me must've been a total pot head tool.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sermon - Jonah 4 - Jonah's Anger and God's Compassion

Today's sermon is posted over on our church site at I think it was the best of my sermons from the book of Jonah.

A great article on the effects of porn

If you are a man, or if you know a man, you need to read this article. If you are a lady, or you know a woman, you need to read this article. Read this article. This article comes from the Husbands and Dads Blog.

Written by Chris Diggins, professional counselor (LMHC). You can check out his practice and blog by visiting Relationship Counseling Seattle.

Pornography is sometimes viewed as “normal” or an “art form.” A person might say, “What’s wrong with it?…I am not hurting anybody….everybody does it.” Those who promote, want to use, or can’t stop using porn, often have this perspective.

Here are some of the harmful consequences:

1. Porn often leads to more harmful sexually addictive behavior; e.g., compulsive masturbation, fantasy, promiscuity, exhibitionism, soliciting prostitutes, pedophilia, and rape. The user tends to gravitate toward the type of porn most being observed.

2. Porn by its very nature isolates an individual-making him more intent on satisfying selfish needs even at the expense of his marriage, family, financial stability, and career.

3. Porn stimulates a very powerful sexual desire followed by sexual release, most often through masturbation. Unfortunately, the release provides only momentary satisfaction, then an escalation of the behavior is required in an attempt to maintain a high level of sexual arousal.

4. Porn has the ability to control the user where he cannot stop. The fantasies occur more frequently as the addiction progresses.

Of the two pleasure centers in the brain, one is high impact, thrilling pleasure stimulated by pornography, erotic fantasies, or new sexual encounters. The other is a steady, less intense pleasure realized by walking on a beach, making love with a long term partner, helping a child with homework, experiencing deep feelings (painful or pleasant) and sharing them in a significant relationship.

A man doesn’t have to act out in dramatic ways to create harm in his life. Satisfaction can be achieved in small ways and still be detrimental. A beginner gets tastes of the high impact pleasure and slowly starts to integrate fantasies, images, and desires into everyday thoughts and behaviors. Even if he does not graduate to more involvement, this infiltration will still have a negative impact.

Supermodel Christy Brinkley’s family was destroyed by pornography. She and her husband, Peter Cook, had viewed porn together and considered it harmless. Then she discovered he had been masturbating via a web cam over the internet and had an affair with his 18 year old secretary whom he had groomed for sex since she was 15. She then pursued a public divorce trial to openly display his shameful behavior. In the settlement she was awarded full custody of the children. These severe consequences are just one example of what can happen to people.

People who stimulate the high impact pleasure center too often rarely get enough satisfaction. Porn can generate this type of pleasure with little effort. Once a man is hooked, he will have an extremely difficult time transitioning to healthy, more stable pleasure.

In my psychotherapy practice, couples enter therapy where the man has been caught using porn or acting out sexually. His wife is shocked, dismayed, and extremely angry about the betrayal. More often than not, they both believe it is about willpower and if he could only stay away from the computer, the prostitutes, or the porn, everything would be okay. They fail to realize that the sexual behavior is the symptom not the problem.

This is not like a substance addiction where a user can avoid a drink, a pusher or a drug. This compulsive behavior is lethal, since a man cannot simply avoid erotic thoughts. Especially in our culture, provocative images are everywhere. The underlying problem is that he is addicted to high intensity pleasure and does not know how to experience pleasure from everyday, ordinary life situations; such as, spending quality time with his family or having intimate talks and sharing with his wife. Frequently, neither partner knows how to enjoy these simple pleasures, therefore, it is not just the man who needs therapy. The marriage needs an overhaul where both have to address emotional issues.

I inform the couple, “this unfortunate, painful event can be used to open your eyes and turn your marriage around…you can end up with a wonderful marriage, one you never knew was possible. Yes, your husband betrayed you and he is responsible to repair the damage done to you…and his behavior is indicative of a person who is unhappy, bored, anxious, even depressed in his marriage. He did not know what to do to address his unhappiness. If he is so unhappy that he is willing to endanger his marriage, then more than likely you also are in an unsatisfying marriage….at some point you both will look back on this and the porn will no longer be an issue…in fact you will even be grateful that he got caught.”

The couple needs to learn to replace the depression, loneliness, anxiety and the high intensity pleasure with the everyday pleasures of delight and wonder for their marriage and their family life.

With the clinical evidence rapidly mounting against pornography use, the question remains: how can couples explore intimacy and their sexuality with suffering the negative effects of pornography?

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Logos Bible Software

This past weekend, Logos Bible Software had a booth at the Desiring God Ministries 2008 National Convention. I don't know that I have ever mentioned it here before, but I am a big fan of Logos and their products. I love print books, see my church office if you have any questions to that end, but having electronic books is infinitely useful when on the move.

I purchased a copy of their Scholar's Library Edition a couple of years ago when I was in Seminary. I wish I had the money at the time for the Silver or Gold edition, as they both contain a lot more items. I also added the BDAG Greek Lexicon while in seminary. The cost for the BDAG was the same, and it saved me from carrying a 20lb book every day to Greek classes! Shortly after seminary I added to my collection again buy getting Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I have been using a print copy of Grudem's Systematic Theology since my first year at Bethel Seminary. Having an electronic version gives me faster searching capabilities, and again saves me from lugging a big honkin' book around.

The next thing I will be adding to my software collection will be from Dr. John Piper's books ( that are available in Logos. Long term I would like to add the full collection of Dr. Piper's books, but for the short term I'll add just a few. I'd also eventually like to add Dr. Piper's sermon library as well. Thankfully, for the short term, Desiring God makes all of Piper's sermons available online for reading.

And if it makes you feel any better, Mark Driscoll uses Logos too. Logos loaded a copy of pretty much everything they have onto Mark's laptop. Driscoll spoke of it recently, but I don't remember where I heard him talking about it.

Reference Tagger
Another Logos program that I use is their Reference Tagger. RefTagger is a great program for bloggers that I added right when Logos made it available. Mine is linked to the ESV version, but you can pick other translations of the Bible if you prefer.
RefTagger is a free web tool that automatically turns all of your Bible references into hyperlinks to the passages at RefTagger can also add an icon that is hyperlinked to the passage in Libronix and a tooltip window that displays the passage when you hover over the reference. So if your website says, "My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28," RefTagger will instantly turn it into this: "My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28."
Readers are able to have immediate access to any of the Bible passages that I mention.

From Logos:
All you need to do is copy the customizable code that we provide for you below and paste it into your website's template file(s), and it will instantly be applied to your whole site—all past and future content! Because RefTagger uses JavaScript, it doesn't make any changes to your site's files. If you decide to remove RefTagger from your site, it's as simple as deleting the code from your template file(s).This page explains how to add the program for a Blogger blog.

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Desiring God National Conference 2008 - Thoughts

This past weekend I was in Minneapolis for the 2008 Desiring God National Conference. As I mentioned previously, I met a reader of this blog (Ovidiu) for the first time at this conference. It was cool connecting with him, and I expect that friendship to grow. Plus, he made a great impression by breaking bread (and paying!) for our food at Buca di Beppo!

Friday Afternoon
We had the opportunity to attend a pre-conference meeting sponsored by the Fidelis Foundation at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Our speaker was Dr. Don (D.A.) Carson. Dr. Carson spoke on "Five Trends in the Church Today". For a great summary see Scott Thomas' write up on the Acts29 blog. We got to sit at the same table during lunch with Dr. Carson, but was unable to speak with him outside of thanking him for his great presentation. We also met the national director for The Gospel Coalition. I'm planning on attending the 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago (pending church and wife approval).

Friday Evening
Sinclair Ferguson kicked things off with a talk titled "The Tongue, the Bridle, and the Blessing". The night was capped off with a speaker forum with Justin Taylor (my doppelganger) as host, and Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Sinclair Ferguson all giving thier best thoughts on Justin's questions. Mark Driscoll presented Dr. Piper a cool tweed skateboarding jacket with the Desiring God logo sewed into the pocket. Driscoll has joked previously about Dr. Piper only owning one jacket he preaches in. Piper claims he owns more than one, but I'm siding with Driscoll on this having seen John Piper preach dozens of times, all with the same jacket on!

After the Friday evening sessions, I made my way out to my in-laws rather than commuting back to Waseca. This allowed me to work on a funeral message I gave Sunday for a few hours before going to bed. Saturday morning came early.

Saturday Morning
I arrived early so I could get good up front seats for the second session of the morning - Mark Driscoll. I purchased Driscoll's newest book Death By Love and was hoping to get his signature. I stood next to him for a few minutes Friday evening before the speaker forum, but he was engaged with someone else and I didn't want to interrupt. Driscoll signed my copy of Vintage Jesus previously, but I never got my new book signed unfortunately

I arrived and parked in the ramp East of the Minneapolis Convention Center (by the Lutheran Church). Upon attempting to enter the conference when the doors opened, I realized my admittance badge was still in my truck. I simultaneously realized that my keys were also in my truck, and the doors were locked and the alarm was armed. So rather than scoring sweet morning session seats for Ovidiu and myself, I had to call AAA, renew my membership ($60), wait for the tow truck (Bobby & Steve's) and help the operator break into my truck. I've been driving for something like 19 years, and haven't locked myself out of a vehicle like this. Ugh.

Bob Kauflin spoke in the first morning session on "Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing?" Kauflin was entertaining, but I didn't draw a whole lot out of it unfortunately.

Mark Driscoll followed Bob Kauflin with a message called "How Sharp the Edge: Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words." Driscoll was excellent as always, and got by far the most verbal feedback from the crowd throughout his presentation. I fully expected this to be the best presentation of the conference, and he didn't disappoint. Driscoll brought it, nearly blowing our eardrums at a couple of points as he yelled at us. I love Driscoll!

Saturday Afternoon
Daniel Taylor, a professor at Bethel University, had the tough task of speaking to us after lunch. Dr. Taylor spoke on "The Life-Shaping Power of Story: God's and Ours". Following this was the final panel discussion with Kauflin, Piper, Taylor and Tripp all again guided by Justin Taylor. We went to a Desiring God International Ministries meeting following the afternoon sessions (skipping going out for dinner). This was an interesting peek into the window of what DGM is doing world wide.

Saturday Evening
Paul Tripp spoke on "War of Words: Getting to the Heart for God's Sake." Honestly, Tripp stole the show in my opinion. I fully expected Driscoll to be the best session, and while Driscoll was amazing, Tripp was a level above that. If I had to recommend a single session for people to download and listen or watch it would be Tripp's. Powerful, passionate, and incredibly convicting. I'll be returning to this message for personal challenge in the months to come.

Following Tripp's session, there was a gathering of bloggers called together by Abraham Piper (yes of THAT Piper family). I got to meet a couple of readers of this blog (hi David!), and got to speak to Justin Taylor for the first time. I also got a couple of free books, to go along with the great haul of freebies we got signing in at registration Friday.

I was unable to attend the Sunday morning session where Dr. John Piper spoke on "Is There Christian Eloquence?", due to the fact I had to preach at First Congregational Church of Waseca, and then had a funeral to perform that afternoon. I have downloaded Piper's session (see below) and will be watching it soon.

It was a fantastic conference, well run and well organized. I expect I will attend this conference again someday.

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