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 - WasecaChurch.org. 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." [citizenlink.com]

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.