Thursday, December 29, 2011

Black & Decker 18V Firestorm Drill Charger revisited

A commenter asked about this in my post comments from two years ago, so I thought I'd update it for them and anyone else interested.

Back in September 2009 I wrote about my charger for my Black & Decker 18V Firestorm Drill dieing (mine was the older post style battery).  When I inquired about getting a new charger, I discovered that Black and Decker had changed battery styles for their 18V drill and no longer made or serviced the long post style battery that I had.  After doing some research I discovered that Dewalt still used that exact battery in their tools, and that they made a charger that would still work for those batteries.  I got on and ordered one and a few days later it arrived.

My experience:

This charger is the solution to your problems if you like me find yourself needing a new charger for the old style batteries (or a charger for your Dewalt 18V tools).  I popped my first battery in and it quickly conditioned and recharged that battery to full.  Popped the second one in, and again it worked its magic.  The first couple of charges on the batteries seemed to run short, but after a handful of charges I noticed a distinct improvement in run time, as well as time they'd sit between charges.  Two years later I am still using these two batteries, and in the interim I added an 18V Dewalt Impact Wrench that uses these same batteries.  While I'm not claiming the batteries were as good as new, they were and are a LOT better than they were toward the end of the previous charger's life.  I've had my drill and batteries for quite a long time - I think I got the drill in 2003 for Christmas.  So 9ish years later they're still working hard.  That's impressive if you ask me.  And the cost of the charger was so much less than replacing the drill that it was a risk worth taking.

Needless to say, I'm pleased with the charger.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Readings

Christmas is a great time to preach the gospel to your family–and to yourself! Reflecting on who Jesus is and why He had to come can keep Christmas from being only about presents and Black Fridays and baking more cookies than we could possibly eat (or more than we should eat!).

Here are 25 daily readings for December 1 through Christmas Day. The first three are introductory, explaining the original need for a Savior (the fall of Adam) and then the final result of Christ’s work (the people of God glorified). The Acts reading gives a great overview of Jesus’ life, ministry, and redeeming work. Some of the readings provide Old Testament prophecies and then their fulfillment in Jesus. Some of them give clear descriptions of Jesus and His work of redemption.

May these readings provoke fresh gratefulness and understanding of the good news we have in Jesus Christ.
  1. Genesis 3:1-25 – Why was it necessary for Jesus to come? Because of the sin of Adam.
  2. Revelation 21:1-8; 22:1-5 – What is the ultimate result of Jesus coming? The new heavens and the new earth.
  3. Acts 2:22-36 – Jesus coming to earth as a man was about more than being born in a manger. It was about His teachings, His miracles, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension. This passage sums up His great story.
  4. John 1:1-13
  5. John 1:14-18
  6. John 1:19-34
  7. John 1:35-51
  8. John 3:1-15
  9. John 3:16-21
  10. Mark 1:1-15
  11. Genesis 22:15-182 Samuel 7:12-15, and Matthew 1:1 – prophecies and their fulfillment in Jesus
  12. Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:1-25
  13. Micah 5:22 Samuel 5:2, and Matthew 2:1-12
  14. Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:13-15
  15. Isaiah 53:1-3 and Matthew 2:16-23 (most commentators think that “he shall be called a Nazarene” (v. 23) relates to Jesus being from obscure and even scornful origins, something fulfilled by being from a small village like Nazareth and not a famed city like Jerusalem–or even Bethlehem)
  16. Isaiah 61:1-3 and Matthew 3:13-17
  17. Isaiah 9:1-7 and Matthew 4:12-16
  18. Philippians 2:5-11
  19. Luke 1:1-25
  20. Luke 1:26-38
  21. Luke 1:39-56
  22. Luke 1:57-80
  23. Luke 2:1-7
  24. Luke 2:8-21
  25. Luke 2:22-38

The above comes from Sovereign Grace Church.  Next year I'll post them earlier.

The “Gospel” of Consumerism

The fact that consumerism and materialism continue to overshadow the true meaning of Christmas is not news to any of us who attempt to share the real gospel with those God has asked us to lead. Financial advisor Dave Ramsey points out that “more than $70 billion, over half of what was charged last year, ended up as revolving debt and the interest on last year’s gifts is still being paid today.” In his recent blog “ $pending This Christmas or Spending It Well,” Michael Craven asks us to remember the obvious truths that more things will not make us happy, and Christmas is about God’s gracious gifts of life, family, peace, and the greatest gift of all: His Son, Jesus. To read his blog go to $pending This Christmas or Spending It Well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 11 posts in 2011

Yes, this is a bit early, but I probably won't get to it later.  Plus, it's my blog so I can do it whenever I want to anyhow... :-)

These were the top 11 read posts of mine in 2011 with the year written in parenthesis:

1 )  A great article on the effects of porn (2008)

2)  Matt Chandler and Steven Furtick at Elephant Room (2011)

3)  Grace Driscoll on the role of women from the book of Ruth (2006)

4)  Elephant Room Conference March 2011 (2011)

5)  That's My King by Dr. S.M. Lockridge (2009)

6)  Black & Decker 18V Firestorm Drill Charger (2009)

7)  Leadership and Vision (2008)

8)  Mark and Grace Driscoll taking their kids to Australia (2008)

9)  Changing to ESV with Mark Driscoll (2007)

10)  Replaced the radiator in our 2001 Dodge Caravan today (2010) - featured on Car Lust blog as well.

11) Sermon - Acts 9:1-9 - Saul's conversion to Paul (2008)

A few other 2011 favorites:

The Gospel in five minutes by Propaganda

 Eagle Brook Church - Woodbury campus opening Fall 2011

 Marriage trends in blue-collar America

 Best Buy's Geek Squad - a review

 Fastest Growing and Largest Churches in America

Thanks for reading my blog!  In my top fifteen posts the longest average reading time is over 10 minutes on that page, and the lowest is a still solid 1:04 for Leadership and Vision.  That means people are actually reading the content!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Real Marriage - by Mark and Grace Driscoll

I recently was given a copy of Mark and Grace Driscoll's new book titled "Real Marriage".  I'm not paid for my review, though the book was free from BookSneeze on the condition that I write an unbiased review (like I'd write any other kind...).

First, it must be stated that I am a fan of Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll - having read most of his books and listened to most of his sermons the past 8 years.  I state that so you know that I have high expectations for his work at this point.

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, And Life Together 
By: Mark and Grace Driscoll
Length (Hardcover): 272 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Whenever you're reading/listening/watching Mark Driscoll, you expect a lot of Jesus, Scripture, humor, and no beating around the bush.  He and Grace manage to allow his strong character to come through in the book while not drowning out the voice of Grace.  I'm inclined to say that while both men and women will benefit greatly from this book, it is still more of a guy's book with the strength of influence Mark has in the book.  Ladies, don't let that keep you away though, this is an outstanding book.

Weakness - there are places where I think Mark Driscoll pushes beyond the biblical text in his exegesis.  I think he's worked too hard to find scripture to support his ideas rather than working from the other way around on this one.  I think he'd have been better off in some places just being open & honest without trying to force scripture to match with what he was saying.  Additionally - there are a few places where the book is disjointed making reading not flow as you might like (mismatched headings, problems with footnotes & things like that).  I suspect they'll get cleaned up if/when a second printing happens.

Who is it best for?  I think this is probably best for people on the fringe of Christianity, who at some level would submit to the teaching of scripture, but who are deeply in the world.  Especially if they are having a rough go of it in their marriage and need someone to relate to.

Would I use this with a group of mixed college singles?  No.  Some of the specifics and explicitness is more than I think we should address in that context.

Could it be used as a discipleship tool?  I think it could.  The book has its flaws, but overall I think it is addressing some important things in ways few within Christianity are willing to talk about things.  I can see this being particularly relevant in ministry opportunities like those that are frequently presented to Mars Hill Church where Driscoll pastors. I my small town small church it is of less usefulness, though still a tool to have or at least be aware of.

The Driscoll's do a solid job of dealing with the question of "Can we ________?" within a marriage - with my above concerns still in play.  Speaking frankly about subjects many in the church, especially in older generations, are hesitant to tackle.  They don't shy away from talking about masturbation, oral sex or anal sex.  This isn't your grandpa's Biblical sex manual.  The discussion is frank, yet generally aims to be biblically balanced in my opinion.  In a culture that is so pornified, this is a voice that needs to be heard.  That said, if you go to a church that insists on the KJV only and most everyone is related to everyone else, I'm guessing this book - especially Chapter 10 - might be a "bit" over the top for you and offensive.

While their tackling of hot topics is greatly helpful, the best part of the book in my opinion is how married people need to relate to one another and build their relationship upon Christ.  The need for friendship within marriage and the idea that we have to continue to pursue our spouse in the marriage relationship is wisdom that bears continually being repeated.  The raw transparency that Mark and Grace Driscoll use to tell their own story within the context of teaching what to do/not to do makes for very interesting reading and really helps set some of the ideas home in a deep and personal way.

When Joy and Grief Clash

During this time of year when we are constantly reminded of joy and happiness and being merry, we must remember as pastors that there may be those in our churches who are grieving the loss of a spouse or maybe a child, and the Holiday season only reminds them of those who are gone. Nancy Guthrie, who along with her husband David, co-hosts the GriefShare video series, brings encouragement to those who are feeling anything but joyful. “So it is possible to have a happy Thanksgiving, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year---even when that joy is mixed with sorrow. Hope and joy at Christmas come from knowing that Christ's life that began in a cradle ended on a cross. His death-conquering death was followed by resurrection, the first-fruits of all who will one day rise from their graves,” writes Guthrie. To read her article, “Joy to This Cursed World,” go to

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sometimes We Need to Forget

In a recent article, Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, reminds us that the focus of the Christian faith should not be on ourselves and our needs, but on Christ and what he has accomplished for us. “I’ve said this before but let me say it again: there is nothing in the gospel or about the gospel that encourages me to focus on me. Nothing! It’s never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ and center our eyes on ourselves. Never! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to ‘fix our eyes on Christ,’” writes Tchividjian. To read, “The Gift of Self-Forgetfulness,” go to .

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Atheists Want Religion For Their Children?

A recent study conducted by Rice University, found that 17 percent of scientists who describe themselves as atheists or agnostics – actually go to church, and not for themselves, but for their children. The research, which was based on “in-depth” interviews with 275 scientists from 21 research universities, discovered that many atheists want their children exposed to religion so they can make up their own minds on what to believe. For more information about the study go to

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mark and Grace Driscoll - Real Marriage

Looking forward to getting a review copy of Mark and Grace Driscoll's new book Real Marriage. Below is a promo featuring Mark Driscoll (Pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, WA) giving a bit of background on the book and the tour they'll be doing related to the book.
Real Marriage & The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together by Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace will be an event that will encourage, enlighten, and equip you in your romantic relationship whether you are married or single. Learn how Pastor Mark and Grace have navigated their marital journey through biblical teaching and humor.

Marriage is a wonderful gift, but it takes work, growth in Christ and patience to love the other more than ourselves. Single individuals will be ahead of the curve after hearing these truths that will transform their dating life and shape their future marriage.

Pastor Mark will be addressing key issues like these:
  • Tough and good lessons learned from Mark and Grace’s story.
  • Dating – keys to success and failure.
  • Married people, guess what, you are supposed to ‘date your spouse’.
  • Friendship in marriage – it is a simple idea, but often difficult to maintain.
  • Taking out the Trash – You will have to attend to learn how.
  • Sex as god, gross or gift?
  • Can We __________?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

New Study Sheds Light on Church Dropouts

A new study released two weeks ago by the Barna Group shows that the loss of faith or rejection of church that many young people experience, is not taking place for the reasons that we often assume. The research, which coincides with the release of You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith, uncovered what the author describes as five myths and realities about today’s young dropouts. For example, the first myth that is highlighted is that “Most people lose their faith when they leave high school.” But according to the researchers, “there are three distinct patterns of loss: prodigals, nomads, and exiles.” They explain that:
  • One out of nine young people (prodigals) who grow up in Christian homes lose their faith in Christianity.
  • Four out of ten young Christians (nomads) wander away from the institutional church, but still call themselves Christians. They have become “lost” to church participation.
  • Two out of ten young Christians (exiles) feel lost between the "church culture" and the society they feel called to influence.
  • About three out of ten young people who grow up with a Christian background stay faithful to church and to faith throughout their transitions from the teen years through their twenties.
  • For the full report go to

    Saturday, December 03, 2011

    The Gospel According to Peanuts

    How A Charlie Brown Christmas almost didn’t happen

     Few headlines about network television make me giddy. Fewer still make me hopeful that all is good in the world. But back in August of 2010, I read the following headline from the media pages with great excitement: “Charlie Brown Is Here to Stay: ABC Picks Up ‘Peanuts’ Specials Through 2015.” The first of these to be made, the famous Christmas special, was an instant classic when it was created by Charles Schulz on a shoestring budget back in 1965, and thanks to some smart television executives, it will be around for at least another five years for all of us to see and enjoy.

    What people don’t know is that the Christmas special almost didn’t happen, because some not-so-smart television executives almost didn’t let it air. You see, Charles Schulz had some ideas that challenged the way of thinking of those executives 46 years ago, and one of them had to do with the inclusion in his Christmas cartoon of a reading from the King James Bible’s version of the Gospel of Luke.

    Click through for the full article.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Negative Effects of Porn - by BJ Stockman

     This was posted on The Resurgence blog today.  Originally created by BJ Stockman.

     This is a rather frank post on porn, so proceed, or not, with that in mind.
    Porn is a problem. It's a personal problem for many and a cultural problem for all. You may think you have not been affected by porn, but you have because it's embedded in the surrounding culture. The staggering size of the pornography industry, its influence upon the media and the acceleration of technology, paired with the accessibility, anonymity, and affordability of porn all contribute to its increasing impact upon the culture.
    Pornography affects you whether you’ve ever viewed it or not, and it is helpful to understand some of its negative effects, whether you are a man or woman, struggling with watching it, or simply a mom or dad with a son or daughter. There is a plethora of research on the detrimental effects of pornography (and I do not think that what follows are necessarily the worst of them), but here are seven negative effects of porn upon men and women:

    1. Porn Contributes to Social and Psychological Problems Within Men 

    Anti-pornography activist, Gail Dines, notes that young men who become addicted to porn, “neglect their schoolwork, spend huge amounts of money they don’t have, become isolated from others, and often suffer depression.” (Pornland, 93). Dr. William Struthers, who has a PhD in biopsychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, confirms some of these and adds more, finding that men who use porn become controlling, highly introverted, have high anxiety, narcissistic, curious, have low self-esteem, depressed, dissociative, distractible (Wired for Intimacy, 64-65). Ironically, while viewing porn creates momentary intensely pleasurable experiences, it ends up leading to several negative lingering psychological experiences.

    2. Porn Rewires the Male Brain 

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Great time at Chuch Planting Leaders Fellowship

    One of the roles I serve is as a committee member for the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) Congregational Church Development (CCD) committee.  Our job is to help the local church, church planters, and new church core groups in the establishment of new Congregational Christian churches.  

    With that as our charge, I get the opportunity to represent our association at the Church Planting Leaders Fellowship (CPLF).  CPLF is a pet project of Ed Stetzer's that is held in Nashville, TN at the Lifeway office where Ed works.  This is a gathering of like minded evangelical denominations and networks where we share and learn best practices and network for church planting to advance the Gospel.  The idea is we can learn from each other without collaborating or competing.  Ed is pretty big on the idea that churches aren't planted cross-denominationally, and I'm inclined to trust his expert opinion on this.

    So early (3:45AM!) on Wednesday I got up made it to the airport and on to Nashville.  We spent the next two days learning from Bob Logan, Hugh Halter, Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch and Ed Stetzer.  Bob's focus was on leadership and Hugh and Alan were more focused on the future of church planting in incarnational and missional ways.  And Alan Hirsch touched on things from all over the map and was largely pushing us to re-think church planting in new and creative ways including but not limited to what Neil & Hugh were advocating.

    Truly mentally stimulating, even if you didn't always agree with everything being said.

    My flight into Nashville ran a bit late due to rain en route, so I was unable to eat at one of my all time favorite places - Monell's.  Probably for the best because it is a diet killer kind of meal, but oh-so-worth the calories.  We did make it to Jack's Bar-B-Que last night for supper at least.  I had pork shoulder (shredded), brisket, and smoked chicken.  The brisket was by far the best of the three, and the chicken and pork we quite good as well.  Mac & cheese wasn't all that good, corn was really good, and the corn bread was some of the worst I've had.  But I'd definitely go back for the brisket.  A couple other guys I was with got some St. Louis style ribs that looked outstanding and they said the ribs were the best of the meats they tried.  Next time. St. Louis style is my favorite, but I didn't want to tease my mouth with just a few bones.  Definitely next time.  And I must say I really like Jack's Kansas City Style BBQ sauce!

    I will certainly sleep well tonight though.  It's been a long and busy week already! 

    Update - Ed Stetzer's thoughts on the CPLF.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    New Values Survey Released

    The results of a survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute show that two-thirds of Americans believe it is important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are different than their own. The research, based on interviews with 1,505 adults between September 22 and October 2 of this year, also reveals that only one in five Americans would object to a candidate whose beliefs were different to their own, and that 67 percent would be uncomfortable with an atheist as president. To read the full report go to the Public Religion Research Institute.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    Nearness to God

    I don't think we can measure our nearness to God by our feelings.  Honestly, our feelings are idiots sometimes!  And by that I mean that our feelings aren't always right because of many reasons.  With that in mind though, I think there are things we can do to feel closer to God.  I don't know what that is for you though, so you'll have to give it some thought.  For some people it can be music - God created music and gave us the ability to enjoy it, and some people really connect with God by listening to, singing or playing music.  Others it is nature - a walk in the woods or watching birds and thinking about the beauty of God's creation.  And there are many other things that we can do that make us feel closer to God. 

    As I mentioned in my previous post, the truth is we aren't any closer to God at that point, we just feel that way.  One thing that I do personally when I feel distant from God is I spend extra time in prayer and reading my Bible - and while I do that I ask God to show Himself to me and to teach me in that time what I need to hear.  It often doesn't happen in a moment, but over time I start to draw back near to God.  The other thing I do is set aside time to pray - quiet time all by myself - and I just spend time thanking God.  I thank Him for everything that comes to mind.  Thanks for fingers and toes and snow and a lawn to mow and beautiful spiders and the chance to serve my son by changing his diapers.  Sounds weird, but I think we often times take a lot of our lives for granted, even the bad things in life, and they are all opportunities to praise God. 

    A pastor I know got brain cancer, but used it to praise God.  Sounds strange, but when you see that kind of love for God in others, it draws you nearer to God as well. When I write my prayers down it is a huge blessing to me later.  I'll come back to those prayers months and years later and be amazed at how God responded to my prayers.  Sometimes they are answered, and other times I see God's wisdom in not giving me what I was praying for.  And of course, some of the prayers are unanswered as far as I know, but even those weren't wasted, God knows what's going on even if I don't.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011

    Is God in your life?

    Is God in your life?  First, you should know there are ebbs and flows to our feelings, but God is constantly there.  The changing thing is us not Him.  One way to feel closer to God is to spend more time in prayer - do this regularly for a while.  Do it just like you're having a conversation with a friend.  Some people (myself included) find it very helpful to write these prayers out in a prayer journal. 

    Spending time reading the Bible is also helpful.  When I regularly read my Bible I always feel pulled toward God - even when He is pointing out my sins.  Read the book of John if you are looking for a place to start. 

    Spending time with other Christians, especially those who are more spiritually mature than you are is another good way to feel God's presence in your life.  Keep in mind that often times our perspective is warped in our view of God, and we miss a LOT of places He is working in our lives and is close to us because we can't see it in the moment.  Years later we can look back and clearly see God's fingerprints all over our life, but in the moment while we are living it, it can often seem like we're not closely connecting with God at that time. 

    Another place we need to look at is all the blessings in our lives and we'll clearly see that God is there.  While life can sometimes be tough and we can be frustrated, the reality is that God deeply loves us and provides for us in amazing ways.  We have food to eat where many in the world went to bed hungry.  We have clean and safe drinking water where many people died today because of diseases they picked up from drinking bad water.  While our relationships aren't perfect, there are people in our lives that God placed there who love us very much.  We have clothes to wear.  We have a roof over our head.  We have so many other wonderful and amazing things we take for granted - both big and small - that are clear evidences of God in our lives. 

    Sometimes He isn't in our lives like we want or expect, but He is always there nonetheless.  And often times when God seems most distant is when He is actually closest to us.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    The Cost of Halloween

    According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are expected to spend $6.86 billion this year on Halloween candy, costumes, decorations and cards, which is an increase of 18 percent from last year. Their research also discovered that:
    • 69 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween, (up from 64 percent last year).
    • The average person will spend a record $72.31 on candy, decorations and costumes, (up from $66.28 last year).
    • 15 percent of those responding to the survey plan to dress their pets in costume, with a total cost of $310 million).
    For more information about the survey go to

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    More on Tim Tebow's Faith

    The following comes from

    Tim Tebow starts for the Denver Broncos today. Here’s some insight into his Christian beliefs (from July 7, 2010).

    CUMMING, Ga. (BP)--With dozens of kids toting Florida Gator signable footballs or miniature orange football helmets, or decked out in blue jerseys with "15" on the back -- and grown-ups wearing their game-day Gator shirts -- it could have been October in Gainesville, Fla.   

    Instead, the site was First Redeemer Church, a sprawling, 4,000-member SBC church in Cumming, Ga., right in the middle of Georgia Bulldog and Georgia Tech country. The draw was Tim Tebow.

    The 6-foot-3, 250-pound former University of Florida Gator, Heisman Trophy winner and new Denver Bronco quarterback spoke to 4,800 in two packed worship services and at a breakfast on Sunday, July 4 [2010] as part of the church's annual "God and Country Day."

    Tebow, who turns 23 in August [2010], was nattily dressed in a pink tie and gray pin-striped suit that failed to hide the bulging left arm that helped lead Florida to two national championships and two SEC championships. But Tebow, a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., didn't come to talk about football.

    "I was recently doing an interview with a nationally known sports reporter," Tebow said. "She said, 'Now that you've graduated from college, are going to the NFL, will make a lot of money, everybody will know your name and want your autograph ... because of all that, do you count your life as a success?'  

    "I told her, yes, I count my life as successful," Tebow said. "But not because I'm famous or won two national championships or the Heisman or going to the NFL, it's because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Victory for World Vision Hiring Policy

    According to, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that World Vision has the right to hire only Christian staff. The case resulted from a lawsuit filed by three employees who were terminated in 2006 when it was discovered that they did not believe in the deity of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity. The three had previously agreed to the World Vision statement of faith when they were hired. For the full story go to

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Making Faith Stick During College

    Youth pastors and parents alike are well aware that when their kids graduate from high school and go off to college, their faith comes under assault — in and out of the classroom. But a three-year longitudinal study conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute, called the College Transition Project, shows that when it comes to keeping their Christian faith on campus, some factors are more critical than others.

    “One of the most interesting findings from the pilot project was the importance of doubt in a student’s faith maturity,” noted Powell Kubiak, a graduate of the Marriage and Family Program at Fuller, who coauthored the study. “The more college students felt that they had the opportunity to express their doubt while they were in high school, the higher levels of faith maturity and spiritual maturity (they had in college).” For more information about the research go to The Fuller Youth Institute.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Christian Film Has Impressive Opening Weekend

    Last weekend, thanks to sold-out theaters, “Courageous,” the film produced by Sherwood Pictures, the production company of Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia, finished number four in total gross ticket sales, and number one in new movies and number one in per theater average. Only “Dolphin Tale,” “Moneyball” and “The Lion King 3D” had higher sales. Sherwood Baptist also produced the highly successful “Fireproof.” For the complete story go to ChurchExecutive.

    Pastors Feel Privileged But Discouraged

    The results of a new survey released last week by LifeWay Research show that almost all pastors (98%) feel privileged to be in ministry, and a majority also experience loneliness and discouragement. The research was based on interviews with 1,000 Protestant pastors in August of this year. For the complete report go to

    Monday, October 03, 2011

    NPR's top 100 Sci-Fi books

    NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction Books. 

    Going through the list I have read: 1, 2, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16,17, 20, 23, 24, 25, 31, 34, 46, 48, 58, 76, 94.  Most of which I read by the time I finished college with the exception of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (which is still on-going).

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Mark Driscoll on TD Jakes and the Trinity

    Elephant Room 2 is coming up in January (I went to #1 with my friend Brenton Balvin) and it appears that there might be a face-to-face throw down between Mark Driscoll & TD Jakes regarding the Trinity.

    Driscoll shares some of his thoughts as well as an insightful teaching on the Trinity on his new blog.

    This could get interesting!

    Courageous - Movie Debuts tomorrow!

    I think everyone should go see this movie! Take your family and friends with you too!!

    Honor Begins at Home

    Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, David Thomson, and Shane Fuller are confident and focused. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.
    While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they're quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.
    When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God ... and to their children?
    Filled with action-packed police drama, COURAGEOUS is the fourth film from Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Riveted moviegoers will once again find themselves laughing, crying, and cheering as they are challenged and inspired by everyday heroes who long to be the kinds of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children.
    Protecting the streets is second nature to these men. Raising their children in a God-honoring way? That's courageous.

    In Theaters September 30

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Fastest Growing and Largest Churches in America

    For the fifth consecutive year, Outreach Magazine partnered with LifeWay Research to compile a list of the 100 largest, and the 100 fastest growing churches in America. Researchers contacted more than 25,000 churches for the report, which is based on attendance records, not membership, from February and March of this year. The list of the fastest-growing churches includes churches with attendance greater than 1,000, a numerical gain of 249 or more, and a percentage gain of at least 6.5 percent. Rankings were determined by factoring both numerical gain and percentage growth.
    Top Five Largest Churches

    1. Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas, 43,500
    2. North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Ga., 27,429
    3. Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill., 24,377
    4. Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Ky., 20,801
    5. Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif., 19,742
    Top Five Fastest-Growing Churches

    1. Richmond Outreach Center, Richmond, Va., +2,530 (83%)
    2. Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C., +2,744 (48%)
    3. Real Life Church, Valencia, Calif., +1,763 (111%)
    4. The Potter's House of Denver, Denver, Colo., +1,800 (51%)
    5. Christ's Church of the Valley, Peoria, Ariz., +4,049 (29%)
    Analysis of the data also revealed that:
    • Seventeen of the largest churches are in Texas, the most of any state.
    • Texas is also the state with the most fastest-growing churches on the list with eleven.
    • Almost half (47%) of the largest churches are “nondenominational.”
    • Common to many churches on the two lists were such factors as leadership development, the use of multiple sites, a small groups emphasis, and a desire to minister to their local communities.
    For more information about the lists, or to order a copy of the special issue, Outreach 100, go to

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    New Book Outlines Decline of American Religion

    The majority of Americans say they believe in God and almost 40 percent claim they attend religious services every week, but a new book that is based on almost 40 years of research shows that actual church attendance is not that high, and what people mean when they tell pollsters that they pray or believe in God is not always clear.

    The book, American Religion: Contemporary Trends by Dr. Mark Chaves of Duke University, presents an overview of religious trends in the United States, and is based on the National Congregations Study, and the General Social Survey, research which goes back to 1972. In his book and in a recent article posted on the Association of Religion data Archives Web site, Dr. Chaves concludes that in some ways religious expression in America has been very stable over the years, but in other ways there are significant signs of decline. For example:
    • The percentages of Americans who know that God exists (64%), say they've had a born-again experience (36%), and who pray several times a week (69%) have remained steady since the 1980s.
    • The percentages of individuals who read the Bible at least weekly (31%), watch religious television (28%), feel extremely close to God (31%), consider themselves very or extremely religious (26%), or believe in heaven (86%) or hell (73%) haven't changed much during the 17-year period over which they were measured .
    • In 1957, three percent of Americans said they had no religious affiliation. By 2008, the percentage increased to 17 percent.
    • The weekly church attendance rate is closer to 25 percent than the 35 or 40 percent often reported.
    • The percentage of people who never attend religious services increased from 13 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2008.
    • The percentage of people who report growing up with religiously active fathers declined from nearly 70 percent for those born before 1900 to about 45 percent for those born after 1970.
    • Over the last 30 years, the percentage of people who say they believe that the Bible should be taken literally declined from approximately 40 percent to just over 30 percent.
    • The percentage of people who say that they have a great deal of confidence in leaders of religious institutions has declined from about 35 percent in the 1970s to about 25 percent today.
    Dr. Mark Chaves, who is a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University, directs the National Congregations Study and specializes in the sociology of religion. His newest book is, American Religion: Contemporary Trends, and his article mentioned above, “The Decline of American Religion” can be found at

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Eagle Brook Church does "Don't Stop Believing

    I love creative churches and I love Eagle Brook Church, so the following absolutely ROCKS! EBC covering "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey to introduce their newest (5th!) campus in Woodbury, MN.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Evangelical Millennials and Homosexual Issues

    A recent Public Religion Research Institute telephone survey of 3,000 Millennials, conducted between July 14 and 30, indicates that people between the ages of 18 and 29 have more liberal views on same-sex issues than their parents and grandparents — regardless of political affiliations or Christian faith. The survey found that 44 percent of white evangelical Millennials favor same-sex marriage, compared to only 12 percent of evangelical seniors and 19 percent of evangelicals overall.

    Dawn McBane, director for Rising Voice for Citizen Link — a year-old outreach to Millennials — said, “It’s important to make sure Christian Millennials understand the importance of a biblical worldview so they can think well about issues of marriage and sexuality,” she said. “Our desire is to encourage Millennials to think deeply about issues from a biblical worldview and then challenge them to live out their beliefs in every-day life.” []

    Thursday, September 08, 2011

    Being married fights abortions

     Full article here.

    "Studies have consistently shown that stable families built upon life-long, committed marriages between a man and a woman are by far the best for protecting life."

    That there is a difference is no surprise to me, but the size of difference is astonishing.  I'm obviously pro-marriage.

    Saturday, September 03, 2011

    National Anthem “Too Violent”

    Goshen College, a small Mennonite school in Indiana banned the “The Star Spangled Banner” at all sporting events because Jim Brenneman, the school’s president, considers the National Anthem’s words to be too violent. Last year, the 1,000-student body school banned the words, but the band could still play the music. Brenneman said, “I am committed to retaining the best of what it means to be a Mennonite college, while opening the doors wider to all who share our core values. And, I invite others to join us at Goshen College as we make peace in all of its forms, even with the National Anthem.”  (From The Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    My thoughts:
    It strikes me as quite ironic that this is a protest of the very violence that affords them the freedom to ban the National Anthem.  But along with that, I'd fight for their very right to do so.  Fully living out their Mennonite views would (at least to me) logically put them at odds with the language in "The Star Spangled Banner" and I appreciate their willingness to stand for what they believe while not sharing this component of their faith.

    Thursday, September 01, 2011

    Preaching Magazine's 25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years

    Because the primary focus and audience of Preaching magazine has been the American pulpit, that is the context in which these preachers are recognized. Many gifted and influential preachers have served faithfully around the world and in terms of Kingdom impact may have touched far more than many of those listed below. We may not know them, but God does.
    Here, then, are the 25 most influential preachers of the past 25 years:
    1.  Billy Graham
    2. Chuck Swindoll
    3.  Rick Warren
    4.  Gardner C. Taylor
    5.  John MacArthur
    6.  Adrian Rogers
    7.  Haddon Robinson
    8.  Andy Stanley
    9.  John R.W. Stott
    10.  W.A. Criswell
    11.  John Piper
    12.  Charles Stanley

    Involved Fathers Produce Better Kids

    A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science confirms what many in the Christian community have been saying: Children whose fathers live with them and are actively engaged in their lives have higher IQs and fewer behavioral problems than those in single-parent homes headed by moms.

    “This new study supports a wealth of existing data published over the last 30 years, showing that dads bring things that are essential to healthy child-development, and primarily because of the particular ways they tend to play with their children, being more physical and unpredictable,” noted Glenn T. Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family. Mr. Stanton examines the topic in detail in his book Secure Daughters, Confident Sons.

    “Father play provides kids with a range of important experiences — many of them building things like a greater sense of confidence as well as empathy toward others — that mom’s way of play is just not as likely to stimulate.” []

    (from The Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Bethel Fantasy Football Team

    The last few years I've been part of a Fantasy Football League made up of various Bethel Seminary professors and alumni.  Our draft was tonight and since my 2 year average was pretty strong it meant I got slotted to draft #11 in a 12-team league.  We're a 1 QB 2RB 2 WR 1 TE 1 D/ST 1 K 1 Flex league, having only added the flex this season.  Flex = either RB or WR

    I drafted:
    Aaron Rogers - QB
    Rashard Mendenhall - RB
    Javid Best - RB
    Austin Collie - WR (flex)
    Miles Austin - WR
    Jeremy Maclin - WR
    Jason Witten - TE
    Packers - D/ST
    Alex Henery - K

    Brandon Jacobs - RB
    Donovan McNabb - QB
    Robert Meachem - WR
    Michael Bush - RB
    Lions - D/ST
    Davone Bess - WR
    Tashard Choice - RB

    I debated with my final pick on whether to take Choice or another TE.  None of the TE's looked that appealing, so I went with an extra RB & will have to scramble on Jason Witten's bye-week.

    Interestingly - all but 2 of my starters are NFC players, and all but 2 of my bench are NFC players.  I'm pretty heavily weighted in the NFC North and East with Rogers, Best, Packer's D, McNabb & Lion's D from the North and from the East I have Austin, Maclin, Witten, Henery, Jacobs, and Choice.

    I can envision a week where all my starters outside of my K & TE are injured, but if they all stay healthy I think that is a pretty strong team.

    Overview of the Bible in 2 weeks

    This from Dane Ortland:

    The Sweep of the Bible in Two Weeks

    If a freshman in college or stay-at-home mom or aspiring deacon or friend from work or anyone else asked me how they might get a rough grasp of the macro-storyline of the Bible in a few weeks, I'd send them not to any secondary resource but to the Bible itself for a reading plan that might look something like this.

    Week 1
    Sunday - Genesis 1-3
    Monday - Genesis 12-17
    Tuesday - Exodus 1-3, 12
    Wednesday - Exodus 14, 19-20
    Thursday - Joshua 23-24; Judges 1-2
    Friday - 1 Samuel 8, 16; 2 Samuel 7, 11; Psalm 105
    Saturday - Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 35, 52-53, 65
    Week 2
    Sunday - Jeremiah 30-33; Ezekiel 36-37, Zechariah 9; Malachi 3-4
    Monday - Matt. 1:1; Mark 1:1-15; John 1:1-18; 5:39-46; Luke 24
    Tuesday - Mark 14:1-16:8
    Wednesday - Acts 1-2; 13:13-49
    Thursday - Rom. 1:1-6; 16-17; 3:9-31; 5:12-21; 8:18-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-23
    Friday - Heb. 1:1-4; 10:19-12:2
    Saturday - Revelation 1; 20-22

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Could Christians End Extreme Poverty?

    Several Christ-centered organizations are partnering to eradicate extreme poverty by 2035. The project, called “58”, is led by Scott Todd, a senior adviser at Compassion International, one of the organizations sponsoring the project. Some of the other groups involved are: HOPE International; Christian Reformed World Relief Committee; Living Water International; and Food for the Hungry. The group designed a website to highlight hundreds of organizations that are working to fight poverty.

    The project is rooted in the biblical passage of Isaiah 58 where the prophet Isaiah tells the Jews that their fasts are meaningless because they are rooted in greed and desire for personal gain. If they really want the world around them to improve, the prophet tells them, they need to fast for the right reasons — to help those around them and to cleanse themselves of wickedness. []

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Fewer Doctors Performing Abortions

    According to the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, a new study finds that only 14 percent of doctors are currently willing to do abortions compared to 22 percent in 2008. The research, which was based on a mail survey of 1,800 OBGYNs, also revealed that:
    • Female physicians were more likely to provide abortions than were male (18.6% compared with 10.6%).
    • Jewish doctors were the most likely to say they perform abortions (40.2 percent) and Evangelical Protestant doctors were the least likely (1.2 percent).
    • Among OBGYNs, 97 percent encountered patients seeking abortions.
    See to read the full article.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Marriage trends in blue-collar America

    There is a growing marginalization of marriage in blue-collar America while it’s doing better among the more educated classes. This has important consequences for the greater cementing of class divides.

    And it affects church life. Princeton sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow, explains in his book After the Baby Boomers that the connection between marital status and church attendance is remarkably parallel. People who marry are more likely to attend church. If they don’t marry, they are not likely to attend. So this social shift is significant in many ways.

    A unique and important report has just been released by the Brookings Institute, co-authored by two of the world’s leading marriage scholars: The more socially conservative W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and associate professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and the socially liberal Andrew J. Cherlin, professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University.
    Both scholars are concerned about the marked decline of marriage among those who have graduated from high school, but have no college degree. This encompasses a full 58 percent of the adult U.S. population.1
    The Evidence
    • “Although marriage is still held in high regard across social classes in America, in recent years, moderately educated Americans have become less likely to form stable, high-quality marriages, while college-educated Americans (who make up 30 percent of the adult population) have become more likely to do so.”2 (emphasis added)
    A distinct marriage divide is developing in the following ways among these two social classes:
    • High school-only grads are markedly more likely than college grads to have three or more sex partners in a lifetime.
    • Although many college graduates cohabit before marriage (markedly fewer, however, than non-college grads) nearly all of them (94 percent) marry before having their first child. This is not true for high school-only grads, with just 56 percent marrying before the birth of their first child.
    • And not only are high school-only grads more likely to have their children in cohabiting homes, but to also to raise them in this environment. This is of significant concern, given the profoundly higher levels of general volatility and instability in cohabiting homes.
    • Divorce rates among college grads have fallen to early-1970 levels in the last few years. Divorce has risen slightly for high-school grads.
    • Reports of college graduates being “very happy” in their marriages have remained stable at 69 percent since the 1970s. It has slipped a bit over this time frame for the moderately educated and dropped nearly 10 percent for those who’ve never graduated from high school.
    • A teen with a college-educated mother is just as likely to be living with both mother and father today as in 1970s (80 percent). This is not true for a teen living with a high school-only educated mother. While 74 percent of such teens lived with both mom and dad in the 1970s, now only 58 percent do.
    Given how out-of-wedlock child-bearing, cohabitation and divorce are more likely to prevent adults and their children from advancing socio-economically - while intact marriages boost such advancement - this trend of declining marriage among the working-class should be of great concern to all who care about improving social mobility and living status.

    Causes of the Blue-Collar Marriage Decline
    While being blue-collar is an economic status, it is not merely economics driving this decline. Professors Wilcox and Cherlin remind us that “there was no dramatic increase in non-marital childbearing or cohabitation during the Great Depression, when millions of Americans experienced unemployment or underemployment.”

    They explain that other factors are contributing to this working-class retreat from marriage:
    1. Dramatic changes in social norms surrounding sex and unmarried parenting.
    2. Non-college educated Americans tend to be less involved in religious participation, which is not so true for the college-educated.
    3. Changes in laws and attitudes that favor individual autonomy over social responsibility, as well as parenthood itself over marriage.
    Wilcox and Cherlin show how all of these developments have happened more dynamically among the non-college educated than the college educated.
    They conclude:
    • “Taken together, these economic and cultural shifts have made Middle Americans less likely to get and stay married. Indeed, one sign that moderately educated Americans’ faith in marriage is waning is that fully 43 percent of (them) … report that ‘marriage has not worked out for most people they know,’ compared to just 17 percent of highly-educated young adults.”4
    When any class of citizens turns away from marriage, it is not liberating nor empowering.

    1 W. Bradford Wilcox and Andrew J. Cherlin, “The Marginalization of Marriage in Middle America,” Center on Children and Families at Brookings, CCF Brief #46, August 2011, p. 2.
    2 W. Bradford Wilcox, “When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America,” a report from the National Marriage Project , University of Virginia, December 2010, p. ix.
    3 Wilcox and Cherlin, 2011, p. 3.
    4 Wilcox and Cherlin, 2011, p. 4. 

    (from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    So you wanna be a church planter???

    Ed Stetzer is at the top of the list of great minds in church planting (among many other things he's incredibly knowledgeable and well spoken on).  He recently gave a talk detailing what it takes to be a church planter & you can find that video below.
    The Exchange June 2011 - Are You a Church Planter? from Ed Stetzer on Vimeo.

    Guys I know who have planted churches in the last year or two:
    Tony Rambo - The River Church
    Dave Tilma - Ezra Church
    Michael Behm - Real Life Church
    Brad Kindall - Gallery Covenant Church
    Ryan Lunceford - Advance Church
    David Sorn - Renovation Church
    Chris Wachter - Hiawatha Church
    Michael Binder - Mill City Church

    There's about 5 more, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment who else should be on this list.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Pastors Divided on Performing Weddings

    A new survey of 1,000 randomly selected American Protestant pastors by LifeWay Research, conducted in October 2010, shows pastors have widely differing standards for when they will and will not perform wedding ceremonies. Views were varied depending on those who classified themselves as mainline or evangelical.
    In response to the questions:
    “When asked to do so, will you perform a marriage ceremony for a couple whom you know is living together?”
    • 68 percent of mainline pastors and 57 percent of evangelicals say “yes.”
    • 24 percent of mainline pastors and 34 percent of evangelicals say “no.”
    “When asked to do so, will you perform a marriage ceremony if the man or woman has been divorced?”
    • 41 percent of mainline pastors and 29 percent of evangelicals say, “Yes, regardless of the reason.”
    • 55 percent of mainline and 65 percent of evangelical pastors answered, “Yes, depending on the reason.”
    • Only two percent of mainline pastors and five percent of evangelical pastors answered, “No.”
    A minister’s level of education also reveals differences in a pastor's willingness to perform marriage ceremonies for couples who are living together or divorced.
    To view the article, go to

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    New Bible App

    A month ago, the world’s largest Audio Bible ministry, Faith Comes By Hearing, announced that their free app,, contained 218 languages. Now, a month later, it stands at an astonishing 542 languages, which are accessible on the app and website — many with text and audio. The app lets you read and listen to God’s Word through your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. The ministry currently offers word-for-word Audio New Testaments in 565 languages, with a goal of having 2,000 such recordings by 2016. Current estimates show this will represent a potential outreach to 97% of the world’s population.

    “The Scripture is crisp and clear for easy reading with simple audio controls,” said Troy Carl, Faith Comes By Hearing’s national director. “There’s also a 40-day listening program that guides you through the entire New Testament in just 28 minutes a day.”

    The app also allows users to share a verse on Facebook, and bookmark, highlight and add notes — just as they might in the margins of their hard-copy Bibles. [,]

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Twenty-Year Study of Religious Trends

    The Barna Group released over the past two weeks, a six-part study dealing with the state of the church in the United States. The report, which is based on 20 years of research, covers topics such as generational trends, gender differences, racial/ethnic differences and regional differences in expressions of faith.
    Some of the more interesting findings in the study include:
    • The percentage of Baby Busters (born from 1965 through 1983) who are unchurched, rose to 39 percent (an increase of eight percentage points) since 1991.
    • The percentage of Busters who describe themselves as Christians increased by nine points to 80 percent.
    • A majority of women (56 percent) do not attend church services during a typical week, and 64 percent of men do not attend.
    • The Midwest is the region with the greatest degree of religious change since 1991, including a drop in church attendance from 55 percent to 40 percent.
    • Most Americans (about four out of five), consider themselves to be Christians, but only 47 percent of this group attend church services during a typical week.
    To read all six parts of the State of the Church Series, 2011, go to

    (from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    Friday, August 05, 2011

    Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

    Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
    Initially, I think I missed some of the big picture from this book the first time through.  I had the chance to see David Platt speak a few months after reading it, which caused me to go back & give it a second look.  What I found there really resonated with me deeply the second time through.  So my first read would've given it a weak 4 of 5 star, it is now a solid 5 of 5 stars.

    In short, Platt is calling us back to a biblical Christianity - living out our faith as it is instructed in the Bible, rather than based on our traditions and/or feelings.  A bit different than how Francis Chan has been doing this, but with a very similar spirit and common end goal I think.  Platt's is probably a bit more narrowly focused than Chan's vision in my opinion.  Both are needed.

    Upon my first reading, I honestly chaffed a bit at what appeared to be Platt pushing some guilt on "America" for being prosperous.  My second time through, and after hearing him speak, it is clear that I was mistaken.  Platt's passion for the spread of the Gospel is challenging, inspirational, and infectious.  To live as Platt (and the Bible) calls us is indeed to be Radical.  That might mean some sacrifice on our part - but to God be the glory if we may be blessed with that opportunity.

    Platt challenges the reader in Radical to step up in a big way in living out your faith.  He calls us to step forward boldly in partnering with the work of God to spread His Good News throughout the world.

    God continues to open my eyes and heart to the needs of the world around me, and Radical is another challenging blessing to help me move forward.  I appreciate the holy discontent this book fosters in me.  I further appreciate how he resists creating a cookie cutter process of applying this to our own lives.  He stirs up the discontent creating the need, but then lets you find how to best meet that need in your own life/ministry.  Some might want it spelled out step by step for them, but I think it would've been a mistake for him to do so.

    The final thing I want to mention that is worth noting is at the very least in reading this book, David Platt's passion for this subject is unmistakable.  His heart comes through on every page, and for me that makes it ever more so readable.  Passion is a highly underrated thing in writing a book, and in Radical he's managed to put it into words so that it might ignite something in everyone who reads it.  Well done!

    I was given a free review copy of this book from Water Brook Multnomah Publishing Group, but am not paid to do the review in any way.

    Thursday, August 04, 2011

    A view of fatherhood today

    A new analysis from Pew using data from the stellar National Survey of Family Growth brings a small bit of good news on the fatherhood front, but also some very bad news.

    The bad news: More children are living without the tremendous advantage of having daily access to their fathers in the home.

    The good news: Of those who do have a father in their home, their dads are 2.5 times more likely to be closely involved in their children’s care than live-in fathers were in the 1960s.

    But this is little consolation against the very dark cloud of fatherlessness — 21 percent of white fathers, 44 percent of black fathers, and 35 percent of Hispanic fathers live apart from their children. Twenty-seven percent of absent fathers say they have not seen their children even once in the past year.

    And fatherlessness marks a distinct class divide, as 40 percent of fathers who never completed high school live apart from their children, while only 7 percent of fathers who graduated from college do.

    While it is well known how important a father’s involvement is to healthy child development, a very interesting and lesser known finding comes from a 26-year longitudinal study which says that the strongest factor indicating whether children practiced high levels of empathic concern for others in their adult years was whether they had an involved father in their life. In fact, father care was a stronger indicator here than the three strongest maternal factors combined! The study explained, “These results appear to fit with previous findings indicating that pro-social behaviors such as altruism and generosity in children were related to active involvement in child care by fathers.”

    Fathers matter in many unlikely ways. And when fewer children have less access to their fathers, that matters for the children, and it matters for all of us.

    Go to A Tale of Two Fathers to view the study from Pew Research.

    (from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Religious Trends Since 1991

    This week, The Barna Group released the first two installments in a series of briefs dealing with the state of the church and how religion in America has shifted over the past 20 years. In Part 1, Barna looks at 14 religious variables (six behaviors and eight beliefs), and examines how expressions of faith have changed over the past two decades. His research revealed that:
    • Weekly Bible reading among adults dropped by five percent to its current level of 40 percent.
    • Sunday School attendance is currently at 15 percent of adults – a drop of eight percent.
    • Church attendance dropped from 49 percent in 1991 to 40 percent in 2011.
    • The number of unchurched adults grew from 37 percent to 50 percent over the past 20 years.
    • The number of adults who can be classified as born again rose from 35 percent to 40 percent.
    • In 1991, 46 percent of adults strongly affirmed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” Just 38 percent hold the same belief today.
    For the complete report go to

    (from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Best Buy's Geek Squad - a review

    My hard drive on my laptop (18 months old) died earlier this week.  Headache.  I did what I could to identify the problem(s) and quickly came to the conclusion it was beyond my ability to fix.  I suspected it was a bad boot sector since it was running when I went to bed and wouldn't run in the morning.  Diagnostics showed the memory & hard disk were in working shape.  So off to Mankato's Best Buy I went to see if the Geek Squad could bail me out.

    When I arrived, I was greeted, but then had to wait 25 minutes before I even got the paperwork to start filling out to inform them of my problem.  15 minutes later a tech came out of the back, asked a few questions, made a few notes, took $200+ of my money & said they'd call in 2-3 days.  As part of their services they include a "free" anti-virus software package that you chose from the 4-5 they have sitting behind their counter.  They said it was included in the price, so I asked for them to send home a copy of Webroot when I pick up my laptop.  I specifically asked that they NOT install it, as I use AVG on all my rigs (and my family members too!).

    2 days later they called & said their diagnostics concludes book sector failure.  Umm...yeah...I told you that when I brought it in.

    I need a new hard drive.  Ok, well what do you have that is comparable or better than what I had?  They say they have a 500Gb Western Digital.  I ask if it is 7200RPM?  No - we don't have one for a laptop with that speed.  My previous Toshiba drive (the one that died) was 500Gb & 7200RPM and whisper silent.  But I guess I'll settle for 5400RPM.

    What self respecting computer shop the size of Best Buy's Geek Squad doesn't have a better hard drive to offer me?  Ridiculous.

    So we talk about what it will cost for the drive and I inform them I'd like to pay to have them move what data they can rescue from the old drive onto the new drive.  There's about 8 months worth of video and photos, plus ALL my music on that drive.  About 250Gig worth.

    We can do that sir.  It'll be $$$.

    Ouch.  But I want that data, so go ahead and do it. 

    A day later I get the call that my computer is done.  I drive to Mankato (60 mile round trip) & to pick up my rig.  When I arrive it is about 15 minutes before close.  I walk up to the Geek Squad desk & nobody is there.  So I stand there, thinking someone will come out shortly.  Nope.  10 minutes later I call the store from my cell phone, work my way through the phone tree & talk with the Geek Squad guy who is in reality only 15 feet from me in their work area.  I mention that I've been standing at their desk for 10+ minutes and how I'd like to pick up my laptop and go home.  I pay, and it is considerably less than I was expecting.  But since they already charged me $200+ to tell me what I already knew, I thought maybe that covered part of this.  I paid, took my laptop, Webroot & old hard drive and went home.

    When I got home and fired it up I discovered that they had NOT recovered any data from the old drive & put it on the new one.  And they HAD installed the Webroot.  And the Windows & they loaded on the new drive come with bonus bloatware.

    I'm a pretty patient and understanding person, but I refrained from calling them because I didn't want to say something that would be construed as not particularly pastoral.

    So today I downloaded software off the web & am in the process of digging out my old files from the bad hard drive.  And it looks like it is finding everything, though it takes a long time to run, so we'll see.  But I really shouldn't have to be doing this.  So unless it is dire circumstances, I'm unlikely to be using the Geek Squad any time soon.

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2 review

    Needed an evening off last night after a frustrating week, so I headed east to O-town and took in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (pt. 2) to relax and cool off.

    So I'm clear, I didn't dislike the movie.  But of all the Harry Potter movies, this one is definitely my least favorite.  Throughout the movie the thought kept coming to mind "Lord of the Rings did this so much better."  Better characters, better acting, better effects, better score, better fight scenes, better good verses evil plot.

    And I really feel like they mailed it on on the ending (most everything following the destruction of Voldemort).

    I did like that it was fairly dark and gritty throughout, with a noticeable scene brightening (with sunlight!) to both start and end the movie.

    Have you seen it?  What did you think?

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Is the value in having a church in your community?

    The results of a study released by the Barna Group last week, show that a majority of Americans believe that the presence of a church is “very” (53%) or “somewhat” (25%) positive for their community. By contrast, only 5 percent of Americans believe that the church has either a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impact on their community.

    Along with finding out general feelings about the value of the church, the research also attempted to discover the ways that individuals believed that churches could be meeting needs, and contributing in a positive way in their local communities. Those interviewed were asked, “Many churches and faith leaders want to contribute positively to the common good of their community. What does your community need, if anything, that you feel churches could provide?”
    • Twenty-one percent were not able to give a single response as to how churches could contribute positively to their communities.
    • Among those who had not attended a church for at least six months, one-third were not certain how a local church could be beneficial.
    • Twenty-nine percent said churches can positively influence their communities by addressing poverty and helping the poor.
    • Ten percent believe churches should assist those in recovery by providing counseling and support groups.
    • Seven percent said churches can assist in terms of financial, career-related or other educational ways—such as helping the unemployed get jobs, giving financial assistance, providing financial counseling, and offering literacy classes.
    • Ministry activities such as teaching the Bible, giving spiritual direction, serving youth and the elderly, and cultivating Biblical values were also mentioned as ways the church can have a positive impact on a community.
    David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, made four observations about the results of the study:
    1. Even the unchurched believe churches are an important element of a community.
    2. Most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches. They are basically indifferent to the church.
    3. Other than addressing poverty, most Americans do not connect the role of the church to civic affairs such as public education, adoption or foster care.
    4. Helping individuals find their way to God through Christ is seldom seen as a way to serve the local community.
    The research, which was conducted in February of this year, was based on online interviews with 1,021 adults. For the complete report go to

    Where to eat in St. Paul? - Lots of great recommendations here.


    1. The Strip Club Meat & Fish
    2. W.A. Frost & Co.
    3. The Nook
    4. The Blue Door Pub
    5. Heartland Restaurant
    6. Meritage
    7. The Happy Gnome
    8. Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
    9. Punch Pizza
    10. Shish

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Where to eat in Minneapolis? - Lots of great recommendations here.

    Best restaurants in Minneapolis

    1. 112 Eatery
    2. Brasa
    3. Bar La Grassa
    4. Manny's Steakhouse
    5. Hell's Kitchen
    6. Barbette
    7. Pizza Lucé
    8. Chino Latino
    9. Fuji Ya
    10. Victor's 1959 Cafe

    The Gospel - Mark Driscoll

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Most Americans Say: Bible is the Inspired Word of God

    A poll conducted by The Gallup Organization in May of this year reveals that three in 10 Americans (30%) believe that the Bible is to be taken literally and that it is the actual Word of God, and another 49 percent said they see the Bible as inspired by God, but not to be taken literally in every way.
    Those who took part in the survey were asked, “Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible? (1) The Bible is the actual Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. (2) The Bible is the inspired Word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally. (3) The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man.” The second option was the most popular choice with 49 percent saying that they believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word but should not be taken literally. The statement regarding viewing the Bible as legends and fables was chosen by 17 percent of those who were polled.
    The research relating to the Bible, which has been conducted since 1977, also revealed that:
    • Belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible declines as educational attainment increases.
    • Those who attend church more often are more likely to hold a literal view of the Bible.
    • Republicans and Conservatives are more likely to take the Bible literally than Democrats and Liberals.
    • A higher percentage of low-income Americans believe the Bible to be literally true.
    In 1977, 45 percent of Americans viewed the Bible as God’s inspired Word, but not to be taken literally, while 38 percent said they believed that the Bible was the actual Word of God and should be taken literally. Only 13 percent saw the Bible as just history, legends and fables.
    The study was based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,018 adults. For the complete report go to

    (from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

    Bible Lectures by Dr. Marva Dawn

    The following videos are the Bible Lectures at the 57th Annual Meeting in 2011 of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches in Scottsdale, AZ by Reverend Dr. Marva Dawn.

    Internationally renowned theologian, author, and educator Dr. Marva J. Dawn serves as Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Under Christians Equipped for Ministry (CEM), she has preached and taught at seminaries, clergy conferences, churches, assemblies, and universities throughout the United States and Canada and in Australia, China and Hong Kong, England, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Singapore, and Scotland.

    A scholar with four masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and the Scriptures from the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Dawn is also a popular preacher and speaker for people of all ages.

    She is the author of numerous articles and over 20 books, several of which have won awards and\or been translated into Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and other languages.

    The series of lectures she presented were titled "Three Sentences for the Revelation".

    Lecture One: "Jesus Christ is Lord".  (BTW - my favorite of the three presentations)

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Getting to know Planned Parenthood

    Saw this on Vitamin Z:

    The Witherspoon Institute:

    An in-depth investigation of Planned Parenthood by Americans United for Life, the nation’s first pro-life public-interest law and policy organization (where I serve as Senior Vice President and Senior Council), demonstrates that abortion is central to Planned Parenthood’s business. The AUL Report, however, uncovers much, much more than just the importance of abortion to Planned Parenthood operations. It reveals Planned Parenthood practices that are irresponsible, dangerous, and fly in the face of the organization’s claims of dedication to women in need of medical services.

    AUL’s Report pulls together in one place, for the first time, a litany of scandals associated with Planned Parenthood, demonstrating the breadth and persistence of the organization’s abuses. The Report shows that the “fuss” about Planned Parenthood is currently, if anything, about far too little. What follows in this article are just a few examples of the many reasons, all documented by the Report, why state—and federal—legislatures are (and all Americans should be) rethinking their dedication to Planned Parenthood.

    Planned Parenthood claims to be a “trusted health care provider,” but the AUL Report clearly shows that there is little to trust about Planned Parenthood. Even so, the Report only scratches the surface. Congress should use its power to investigate Planned Parenthood further and determine, once and for all, if it deserves our support, our loyalty, and our money. Until Planned Parenthood answers for its behavior, the surprise is not that the people of Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas want to take away their funding, but that Planned Parenthood has not already been stripped of taxpayer dollars throughout the nation. Slowly but surely, Americans will become aware of how little Planned Parenthood deserves our trust, our respect, and our tax dollars. It is time to consider if you really know about Planned Parenthood.

    If you would like to learn more and read the complete report published by AUL, please visit

    (bold emphasis mine)