Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Free: Advanced Pro-Life Apologetics Course by Scott Klusendorf

Originally posted here.

From the link above:

The complete lecture notes for my sessions are here and the links to the videos are below. (Dr. Scott Rae taught the other half of the course. His sessions, dealing with reproductive technologies and end of life issues, are found here.)

Content Overview: Successful pro-life apologists pursue four essential tasks. First, they clarify the debate by focusing public attention on one key question: What is the unborn? Second, they establish a foundation for the debate, demonstrating to critics that metaphysical neutrality is impossible. Third, they answer objections persuasively. Fourth, they teach and equip.


Session #1: What is the Issue--The Nature of Moral Reasoning (52 Min.)

Session #2: What is the Unborn? (1:08)

Session #3: What Makes Humans Valuable? Part 1: The Substance View of Human Persons (52 min.)

Session #4: What Makes Humans Valuable? Part 2: The Religion Objection (15 Min.)

Session #5: Who Makes the Rules? Abortion: Law, Metaphysics, and Alleged Moral Neutrality (38 Min.)

Session #6: What is my Duty? The Bodily Autonomy Arguments of Thomson, Boonin, and McDonaugh (54 Min.)

Session #7: Catholic Social Justice Teaching and Other Objections (46 Min.)

Session #8: Equipping Yourself to Engage at Your Church (46 Min.)

1. Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primmer for Christians (Eerdmans, 2005)

2. Agnetta Sutton, Christian Bioethics: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2008)

3. Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Zondervan, 2009)
4. Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway, 2009)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning from the wise men at Christmas

An article I wrote was published in our local paper today.

Learning from wise men at Christmas – by Pastor Chris Meirose

At Christmas we give attention to the cradle in the manger, but the cradle is meaningless without a cross that followed.  So each time we see the cradle, we should remember that Jesus’ birth would soon be given its full meaning by His death and resurrection.

Matthew 2:1-12 tells the story of some wise men who paid Jesus and His family a visit some time after that first Christmas.  They were following a star with an understanding of some of the Jewish prophecies that foretold of a Messiah who was to come.  Did the Wise Men know all the details and how all these prophecies would unfold?  Doubtful.  They were merely allowing the Lord to lead them in what they did, where they came, and what they gave.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this passage.  Perhaps the best thing these wise men did in this story was that THEY CAME TO JESUS.  Matthew 2:11 – “11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary”.  They left the palaces of whatever kings they were serving at the time, and made their way to meet the newborn king.  They knew the proper way to show respect for a king was to come in person and present themselves to Him.  Likewise, the gift that God deserves from us, and wants from us, is US.   He wants us to present OURSELVES to Him this Christmas season.  That hasn’t changed in 2000ish years.

Then once they came to Jesus, notice what they did in verse 11, THEY BOWED BEFORE HIM.  Matthew 2:11- “and they bowed down,”.  They showed the kind of respect due a king, they acknowledged His authority and importance.  They humbled themselves before Him, even though He was just a young child.  When God comes to you in whatever form or size we should bow before Him.

And the wise men didn’t just stop & bow down, but they also WORSHIPED HIM.  Matthew 2:11 - “and worshiped Him,”.  Humbling themselves, bowing down before kings was the usual way of showing respect.  However, this time they went beyond the normal, they didn’t just kneel down, they worshiped Him.  They recognized He wasn’t merely a human being.  They were worshiping Jesus as He really is, GOD in the flesh.  This Christmas we all need to do likewise and heed the invitation of the Christmas carol: “O come, let us adore Him.”

One final thing I’d love for us to learn today from the wise men in the Christmas story is - THEY WENT AWAY DIFFERENTLY THAN HOW THEY ARRIVED.  Matthew 2:12 – “12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”  The “practical” explanation is that they went back in a way they would not be killed by Herod.  But the “spiritual” explanation of this is found in the Jewish tradition of going home through a different gate in Jerusalem than whichever one a person came through when arriving to worship at the Temple.  So if you came through the East gate, you might leave through the South gate.  It was to signify that they had truly worshiped that day, they had been in the presence of God.  The fact that Matthew records the fact that the Magi went home a different way was not lost on the Jewish readers of the Gospel he was writing to.  These well educated, important and distinguished men were transformed by their encounter with the Immanuel – God with us.  Let us also be changed in this season as these men of long ago were by Christ.

This year let us all keep in mind that the true way to celebrate Christmas, to worship Christ, is to let Him bring change in your life, a fresh awareness of His love for you, and to allow Him to work His perfect will within you and through you.  It’s all about Jesus.

If you would like to know more about First Congregational Church you can visit us on the web at or join us for worship at 10:00AM each Sunday and 8:45AM for Sunday School (starting again in January), visitors are always welcome!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

MN Vikings - Exceeding expectations?

I'm a fan of the NFL.  Specifically of the Minnesota Vikings.  Having grown up in South Dakota, and now living in Minnesota, it came by proximity if nothing else.  My favorite NFL team for many years was the Detroit Lions due to my fandom of Barry Sanders.  Those years of many disappointing teams prepared me well to become a Vikings fan.  Disappointment is familiar to both organizations.

In August during the NFL training camps, I sat down and looked at the Vikings 2012-13 schedule to project out my own expectations of this team.  Down the list I went, adding up wins and losses.  Considering which teams projected to be good, where we might eek out a road win, and whether any of our divisional foes were vulnerable.  I even tried to factor in that Percy Harvin might have migraine issues again.

When I tallied it all up, gave weight to a still developing quarterback and Adrian Peterson coming off a major ACL/knee injury, considered that the defense was looking vulnerable at the end of last season, I came to the conclusion that the Vikings would finish 6-10.  And I was happy with that record.  I thought it was progress for this team, and it would be a platform from which to build upon.

Then we got into the season this year, and Adrian Peterson proved yet again he is a superior physical specimen.  Ponder's first game of the year he went 20 for 27 and 270 yards to 7 different receivers.  Percy Harvin showed he cold be a change of pace from the backfield and a dangerous threat even on a bubble screen.  Three games into the season we shocked the San Francisco 49'ers which further raised expectations - not a win that I foresaw (though I also expected to beat the Colts in week 2).

It could have been easy at that point to get really excited.  To adjust up my expectations.  But I resisted.  Barely.

From there it has been up and down, especially for Christian Ponder.  Ponder has had 3 games where he failed to reach triple digits in yards passed.  5 games with less than 120 yards passing (3 of which have come since Percy Harvin was injured).

The defense has been frustrating. I went to the Tampa Bay game in the Metrodome, and it was nothing but frustration as Doug Martin was a one man wrecking crew.  Didn't help that punter Chris Kluwe stunk the place up that night as well.  But they have struggled to get pressure on the QB like they have in the past few years.  Jared Allen is dinged up (shoulder) but it is more than that.  To the credit of the DB's though, I think they have improved significantly with Harrison Smith being a very big key to that improvement. 

My other observation from the Bucs game was that Ponder has zero time to throw the ball.  He was is self preservation mode all night, and by the end of the game looked a little shell shocked.  While some of the issues this season have been him being inaccurate, I think an equal part has been spotty protection and receivers (outside of Harvin) who just aren't top shelf material, or at least they haven't shown it yet.

So as of today, the Vikings are in the playoffs hunt sitting at 7-6 on the heels of a HUGE win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday.  The Vikings have been good at home and not so much on the road, and they travel to a beatable St. Louis Rams team this weekend.  The Rams have been playing well of late, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes.  It is an indoor stadium which tends to help the Vikings somewhat, though the advantage is probably neutralized since the Rams are accustomed to it as well.  I'm going to pencil in a narrow win by the Vikings, bringing us to an astonishing 8-6 which will further raise the bar for many people's expectations.

The following week brings the Houston Texans - in Houston.  While I think the Texans may limit the number of snaps for some of their key players, I still think they play hard enough and long enough to defend their home field.  Vikings drop to 8-7.

The final game is the much hated Green Bay Packers in the Dome.  This far out it is difficult to say if Green Bay will have anything to be playing for in this game.  I imagine they'll rest their key players some, and possible quite a bit if the game doesn't matter to their positioning in the playoffs.  The Vikings have a shot at winning this game, probably moreso than the Houston game.  I'd still put it at 50/50 at best, but for the time being I'm putting it down as a win with how well the Vikings played the Packers at Green Bay two weeks ago.

That would put the Vikings at 9-7.  Had you suggested that when I predicted 6-10 at the beginning of the season, I'd probably have laughed at you.  And while it may be 8-8, or even 7-9 when the season closes, I can't help but remark that the Vikings have exceeded my expectations for this season.  Sure I've been frustrated with Ponder, pondering whether he's the QB of the future.  But at the close of the season, I know I'll look back and think that there was little to be disappointed in overall.  Sure I'd like a different coaching style.  Sure there were games I'd rather not have a QB in the game and just direct snap to Adrian Peterson 50 times.  But really, they've done well in my book.  Everything from here on is gravy in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

3 Rules to follow by Dhati Lewis

Learning from Dhati Lewis today.  One of the things he said that was really good was:

“…We believe the Gospel changes people, and people change the world. You see I really believe the reason why we don’t see more transformation is because we haven’t really been transformed and changed by the Gospel. We can speak it in theory. We can speak it in word, but we don’t really understand how to incarnate that thing in our heart. So the reality is that there’s this tension that we live in…You see I talk to my people and I tell them we have three rules in this church:

1. Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength
2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself
3. Do whatever else you want to do.

You see the reality is this, the restriction is in the first two. If we can show and model and teach people how to incarnate God’s love and embody it by loving other people then we don’t have to talk all the time. We don’t have to talk about the dos and the methods in which we spend most of our time. I really believe the apologetic of our day is authenticity. People really just want to see something that’s real, that’s genuine. They’re not looking for the polished person anymore. They want to see something that’s genuine and they can say “I want that! What you have is what I’m missing, what I need!”

Friday, November 09, 2012

My Faith Story

I spent the first portion of my life knowing there was a God, without having much knowledge about that God, or having a personal relationship with that God. I always knew that Jesus was something that should be important to me; I just did not understand that it was of greatest importance. I had been living what I thought was a good moral life, and thought that paired with my years in church and Sunday school had me covered.

The theme of my faith journey is that God works in unexpected ways, and one of the ways in which he was working in my life was I was placed with a strong Christian as my roommate in college my freshman year. Through him and some of our close friends, I began to understand that I did not have the relationship with Jesus that I needed to have. Their faith and support brought me into a relationship with Jesus and fostered in me an interest that has not since been quelled. I began to ask questions of them. I dusted off my Bible and began to read. For the first time in my life I was excited to learn about the Bible and Jesus Christ. I went on my first mission trip just a month after coming to Christ, and followed this with a month long missions trip to the same location in Mexico the following school year.

I spent the next six years learning and growing in faith. Early on in those years I was not as focused on my faith as I wish I had been, but I was going to church regularly, and usually was part of a Bible study or small group, though I wasn’t serving with any regularity. When I moved to Mitchell, S.D., and began to attend Northridge Baptist Church, I entered into a period of fantastic growth in my personal faith. I was challenged by the teaching in sermons. I joined the praise and worship team, something I would never have imagined previously (my parents didn’t believe it until they saw me sing). I joined a Men’s Bible study that taught me volumes on being a Christian, friend, and leader of a family.  I was also a member of a small group Bible study while at Northridge. I could not find enough time in the day to learn and grow in my personal faith. It was during this period that I began to listen to God's call on my life towards ministry. I also worked with the High School youth group for a couple of years while at Northridge Baptist, filling in in-between youth pastors. This gave me my first real taste of teaching about and through the Bible.

I left Northridge Baptist and this season of ministry to enter full time into Seminary at Bethel Theological Seminary, Arden Hills, MN. I have completed a Master’s of Divinity in the Greek Track with a focus on Transformational Leadership. While in seminary I grew enormously spiritually. I was regularly challenged to re-evaluate what I believed, and forced to think through many areas of theology I had never approached before. It was a greatly challenging and enlightening time. Some who go to seminary find their enthusiasm for spiritual things waning by the conclusion of their education, but not me. My faith is far stronger, and deeper because of my experiences in seminary.

Seminary was also a great training ground for ministry for me. I had the opportunity to be the teaching assistant for the Preaching department for 2.5 years (serving under Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church, Phil Print of Crossroads Church, and Dan Rotach), and then spent another year as the teaching assistant in the Transformational Leadership department (serving under Justin Irving). The leaders in these departments were greatly influential in my personal development. I also served on the Student Senate for three years, and was the President of the Student Senate for school year 2005-06.

Following completion of Seminary I began to serve at Crossroads Church and had again the wonderful opportunity to learn under some incredible men of God. Having served as the teaching assistant to Pastor Phil Print while I was in seminary gave me the opportunity to see the inter-working of this large church first as an outsider, then as an insider. I had the opportunity to write bible study lessons and daily devotionals for some church wide projects. I continued to grow in faith and leadership as a small-group coach as well as a small group leader. I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the team that transitioned the church from being a church with small groups to a church of small groups. In May we had something like 150 members in small groups, and when we re-launched the following September we were just shy of 700! This was a great opportunity to see God’s blessing first hand.

We were “blessed” in March 2008 to be called to a small church in Southern, MN. I say that a bit tongue in cheek because coming out of seminary I knew that I wanted to be on staff at a multi-staff church in a large city and that I did not want to be a Senior Pastor, and my long term goal was to be an executive pastor. Thankfully God knows best, and indeed He blessed me with an opportunity to do everything I didn’t want to do – I’m a solo pastor in a small church in a small town that I had never heard of before applying for the position! And indeed God has blessed me and my family in mighty ways through this experience. I have experienced tremendous personal spiritual growth through my having to preach roughly 55 times a year the past 3 years (that includes holidays, special services, weddings & funerals). Additionally, I’ve been leading & teaching (and team teaching) Jr. High and Sr. High youth groups and Bible studies for adults, so my time in the Word is greater than ever before! Thankfully God is God and I am not, He knows best.

I continue to grow through personal study, study related to ministry, and through various church conferences. I regularly listen to other preachers’ sermons to allow them to feed me, teach me and challenge me. I read regularly to continue to add to my knowledge base. I also read from a wide range of blogs and online resources to keep current with trends in our churches and our culture. I practice personal devotions from the Bible, and am growing spiritually with my wife as well. I am still being formed, am not where I would like to be, but am amazed at where I have come from. God is indeed gracious.

If I were to sum my faith up in one sentence it would be:
I am a Christ follower who is seeking to serve God, hoping to bring Him glory, desiring to be used by God, and thankful God is great enough to use me in spite of me.

My Bedrock Beliefs:
That Christ is my personal Lord and Savior and is the only solution to my (and the world's) sin problem.
That we need to honor God in everything we do.
That people matter to God.
The Bible is God’s Word.
That the local church is the hope of the world.
That the truths of Scripture should be communicated in meaningful and relevant ways.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Baldy's BBQ - A Review

If you know me, you know that my love languages are football, wings, and BBQ.  :-)  So when my wife suggested we visit a new BBQ place, you know I was game.  We had to run to the Twin Cities for some school supplies, and stopped in Lakeville, MN for dinner.  The review follows...starting NOW!

Baldy's BBQ
11276 210th St W
Suite 103
Lakeville, MN 55044
PH: 952.469.3343
(it's in a strip mall just behind the truck stop/McDonald's East of I-35 on the Southern most Lakeville exit)

What we ate:
Appetizer - Trio with Corn Poppers, Fried Green Beans, Cheese Curds
Entrees - The Beast (wife) and Mixed Grill (me) with Brisket, Pulled Pork & Baldy's Sausage.
Sides  - Cornbread, Fries, Coleslaw, Five-Cheese Corn with Ham
Sauces - tried all they had.

I'd call it "hole-in-the-wall-strip-mall" with a bit of sports bar thrown in.  It was a slow night I suspect with it being Halloween.  Room was dark, a few TV's, a handful of booths along one wall, and tables seating 4 or 8 taking up most of the floor space.  Dining room was clean, bathrooms were clean.  Nothing special, but on par for most BBQ joints.  No concerns on cleanliness anywhere - most of the food prep areas are within view.

We dined in, though take-out is available.  Our server was pleasant and knowledgeable.  With this being our first visit, that is important.  Answered all our questions well, and weathered a fidgety 3-year-old.  Kept our glasses full and paced our app and entrees well.

Corn Poppers are always incredible.  The Fried Green Beans tasted like Onion Rings, which was a minus for me, a plus for my wife.  The Cheese Curds were a bit over cooked resulting in some loss of cheese.  Our son loved the Fried Green Beans, eating about 80% of them.  I'd do it again, though I'll personally pass on the green beans next time.

Brisket - they use a very thin sliced brisket.  Flavor was pleasant, though not nearly as flavorful as I like.  A hint of smoke, so if you don't like a strong flavor, you'll like this.  I found it lacking.  I also don't like the think slice nearly as much as a thick slice, or my preferred of chopped.  Meat wasn't dry, but I wouldn't call it juicy.  I chalk that up to the thin slicing. Beef was tender, but again, this might be a result of the thin slicing since there was little to offer resistance.  My benchmark for Brisket in the Twin Cities is Dickey's, and this isn't up to that standard.  I'd eat it again, but I've had better.

Pulled Pork - Great flavor, a bit chewy.  The pork had the flavor I was hoping the brisket would have.  I'd order it again, with the hope it was a bit more tender next time.  One of the better pulled porks I've had.

Baldy's Sausage - first bite was surprisingly mild with great texture.  And then about 20 seconds later a gentle heat started to build.  Nice.  Didn't see that coming.  The overall flavor is mild with a noticeable but not overpowering hint of fennel seed (which is important, because I generally don't like fennel seed) and then a slowly building bit of heat that is about 20% less that I like, but probably about right for most customers.  Juicy while not being greasy.  The surprising highlight of my meats.  If pushed, I'd still take Famous Dave's Hot Links or Dickey's Spicy Cheddar Sausage, but only by the slimmest of margins.  You can't go wrong with this sausage!

The Beast - Smoked Brisket sauced in their original sauce,coleslaw,bacon and two onion rings. On a 5inch Kaiser Bun.  First impression - holy cow!  Can a single person eat this beast?!?  It is huge.  You definitely get your money's worth on this.  My wife said the coleslaw was exceptional.  She doesn't eat coleslaw often, but almost always on a sandwich when we eat BBQ.  She was definitely pleased and would order it again.  And she only ate 1/4 of the sandwich and was stuffed (with app earlier).  She'll get at least 1 more lunch out of this plus my leftover pulled pork.

Cornbread - best cornbread I've had North of Nashville.  Outstanding.  Crunchy outside, moist and dense inside, with awesome flavor.  Pan cooked like it should be.  Easily the best cornbread I've had in a LONG time.  I'd stop here just to eat that alone.

Fries - best fries I've ever eaten.  While I don't eat a lot of fries, and nearly never order fries (never at fast food places), these were awesome!  Special seasoning, and batter fried = pure potato deliciousness.  I got them on the recommendation of our server, and he didn't lead me astray.

Five-Cheese Corn with Ham - think of a really rich creamy/cheesy sauce poured over sweet corn with a few thin slices of ham thrown in.  Really good.  Thankfully no onion in the mix.  The creamy texture was nice, the corn was sweet, though I think it could've benefited from a bit of heat and salt.  A dash of white pepper or cayenne pepper would've really pushed this over the top.  If they added a breadcrumb topping for texture you'd have fights breaking out at tables for who gets the last spoonful.  Really tasty and a no-brainer to order again.

Sauces - I tried all that were on the table.  My favorite by far is the Original.  While I didn't sit and think about the flavor profiles a whole lot, this was a very nicely balanced sauce with nothing too strong in any direction.  The Spicy was probably my least favorite, and definitely not as well liked as Devil's Spit from Famous Dave's.  The Gold was a honey-bbq sauce that was really tasty and is good with the pork and would pair well with chicken too I'm guessing.  The Sweet was too sweet and fruity for my liking, though not bad, just not what I was looking for, and certainly not as good as the Original.  There may have been a fifth sauce, but if so I'm forgetting what it was.

Would I do it again?  Yep.  If Dickey's was next door I'd stop there first and grab my brisket there though and then finish at Baldy's.  Very good value for the money, and next time I'm trying ribs and/or turkey!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

This is the salad recipe we used for our portion of First Congregational Church’s Progressive Dinner 10/14/2012.  Serves 4 adults as listed.

Salad Ingredients:
1 Pomegranate
1 Bunch of watercress, rinsed and dried, large stems removed, roughly chopped
2 Heads bibb or Boston lettuce, rinsed and dried, torn into pieces
2 Endives, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 Asian pear, cored and cut into very thin slices
1 Jazz apple, cored and  thinly sliced (if not available use a sweet apple)
½ cup walnuts, toasted and  roughly chopped
4 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese (we forgot to add this to our salad)

Raspberry Vinaigrette Ingredients:
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice with high pulp
6-10 crushed raspberries
1 teaspoon  real maple syrup (can sub honey)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

In a large bowl, combine the watercress, lettuce and endives.  Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the ingredients, add salt & pepper to taste.

Just before serving, add just enough dressing to coat the greens and toss well.  Place salad on a large shallow serving platter.  Top the greens with sliced pears, apples, pomegranate seeds, walnuts and cheese.  Drizzle a little more dressing over all and serve remaining dressing on the side.

This is a beautiful and tasty salad that can be altered according to seasons to sub in seasonal fruits in the recipe.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Startling Statistics about Pastors

Jeff Gauss who wrote the following was one of my seminary classmates and is a church planter of Epiphany Station in Thief River Falls, MN.

While preparing for a workshop I’m leading at our denomination’s annual meeting, I discovered some startling statistics about pastors (really, they are only startling to those who aren’t pastors).
(Below are just a few of the statistics compiled by the Schaeffer Institute in an 18 year long study from 1989-2007. Read the full report HERE.)
Hours and Pay
  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Training and Preparedness
  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Health and Well-Being
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis.
  • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • 71% of pastors are burned out (beyond normal fatigue).
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, in their church, and in their home.
  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • 26% of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
Marriage and Family
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% of spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
Church Relationships
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within 5 years.
  • Only 10% of pastors will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • Over 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month.
  • Over 1,300 pastors are terminated by the local church each month.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Click through to read the rest of Jeff's thoughts.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why does God allow suffering?

Justin Taylor shared this on his blog & I'm posting it here because it is worth repeating.

Jared Wilson, in Gospel Deeps, writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are laboring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.”
Here’s an outline of ten reasons he identifies in God’s Word:
  1. To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23].
  2. To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin.
  3. To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin.
  4. To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7].
  5. So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world.
  6. To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:11].
  7. To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:67, 71].
  8. To make the bliss of heaven more sweet [Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 4:13; Ps. 126:5; Isa. 61:3].
  9. So that Christ will get the glory in being our strength [John 9:3; 2 Cor. 4:7].
  10. And so that, thereby, others see that he is our treasure, and not ourselves [2 Cor. 4:8-9].
See Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pp. 114-120 for an elaboration of each point.

Monday, October 08, 2012

So you think you can multitask?

I've always known this was true for me.  Focus has always been a issue for...what was it I was saying?  I've never been able to study (well) in public places.  I don't read books in coffee shops etc.  I don't even like studying in most libraries because I'm too easily distracted!

Students Think They Can Multitask. Here’s Proof They Can’t.

With easy access to all sorts of technology, students multitask. So do lots of us for that matter. But students are way too convinced that multitasking is a great way to work. They think they can do two or three tasks simultaneously and not compromise the quality of what they produce. Research says that about 5% of us multitask effectively. Proof of the negative effects of multitasking in learning environments is now coming from a variety of studies.

The question is, how do we get students to stop? We can tell them they shouldn’t. We can include policies that aim to prevent it and devote time and energy trying to implement them. I wonder if it isn’t smarter to confront students with the facts. Not admonitions, but concrete evidence that multitasking compromises their efforts to learn. The specifics are persuasive and here are some examples to share with students.
  • In an experiment involving 62 undergraduate students taking a principles of accounting course, half of the cohort was allowed to text during a lecture and half had their phones turned off. After the lecture both groups took the same quiz and the students who did not text scored significantly higher on the quiz.
    Ellis, Y., Daniels, W. and Jauregui, A. (2010). The effect of multitasking on the grade performance of business students. Research in Higher Education Journal, 8
  • This research focused on the use of laptops in a 15-week management information systems class enrolling 97 upper division students. With student consent, researchers used a spyware program that tracked the windows and page names for each software application run during class time. Students were encouraged to run “productive windows”—those that related to course content. Spyware also tracked the number of “distractive windows” students ran, including games, pictures, email, instant messaging and web surfing. Students had these distractive windows open 42% of the class time. Students who tried to listen to the lecture while using these distractive windows had significantly lower scores on homework, projects, quizzes, final exams and final course averages than students who looked at mostly productive windows. Researchers also found that this population under reported the extent of their multitasking.
    Kraushaar, J. M. and Novak, D. C. (2010). Examining the affects of student multitasking with laptops during lecture. Journal of Information Systems Education, 21 (2), 241-251.
  • Students taking a general psychology course were asked to read on a computer a 3,828 word passage. One group used instant messaging before they started reading, another group used instant messaging while they were reading and a third group read without instant messaging. The group that used instant messaging while they read took between 22 and 59% longer to read the passage than students in the other two groups and that was after the time spent instant messaging was subtracted from the reading times.
    Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M. and Dendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers & Education, 54, 927-931.
  • A cross-disciplinary cohort of 774 students responded to a survey which documented that the majority of them engaged in classroom multitasking. Their multitasking was significantly related to lower GPA and to an increase in risk behaviors including use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
    Barak, L. (2012). Multitasking in the university classroom. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6 (2)
  • Students in a general psychology course completed weekly surveys on various aspects of the class. They reported their attendance, and if they used laptops during class for things other than note taking (like checking email, instant messaging, surfing the Web, playing games). They also rated how closely they paid attention to the lectures, how clear they found the lectures and how confident they were they understood the lecture material. The level of laptop use negatively correlated with how much attention students paid to the lectures, the clarity of the lectures and how well they understood the lecture material. “The level of laptop use was significantly and negatively related to student learning. The more students used their laptops in class, the lower their class performance.” (p. 910)
    Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers and Education, 50 (3), 906-914.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Unleash! - by Perry Noble - a book review

A few weeks back I got a copy of Perry Noble's new book Unleash!  Breaking Free From Normalcy (in a pre-release .pdf format).

I agreed to do a review of it - no strings attached. Say whatever I want.  Not paid for the review in any way.

Perry Noble does what he does well. As a Midwestern pastor I wondered if his book would connect well with me. I've listened to a handful of his sermons, and got to hear him speak on a couple of occasions now. He's always genuine and passionate when speaking, and that continues to come through in the written form. I didn't know if his Southerness would land for me - but it does quite well in a down-homey kinda way. Perry Noble is easy to connect to and relate to as he doesn't present false pretenses of being extra holy in any way because he pastors a large church. I appreciate that.

As for the book, it is a very interesting read. While I can't be quite as fanboy-esque in my review as many of the earlier ones are, I would not hesitate to recommend this book, and may well re-read it again myself.

It connect very well on a real life - day-to-day - kind of way. I appreciate the intentionality to write from a Christ exulting position rather than a man exulting one. The greatest strength in the book is that everything Pastor Noble speaks about seems to come from real life/ministry experience so it connects to my life and spiritual journey. While it is generally endearing, some may find the largely unfiltered mind dump style a bit grating after time. I find it moreso in his speaking than in his writing in this book, though it has never reached the level where I'd not listen to him again. Just an endearing idiosyncrasy to me.

The book is filled with quotable lines and thought provoking sections. And Noble doesn't leave it there, he challenges you to take it personally and apply his wisdom (and passion + sense of adventure) to your own walk.

I believe that most people would enjoy this book, and that it would serve as a spiritual 5-hour energy shot to most people's spiritual lives.  If you are spiritually in a rut, give this a try!

Purchase here on

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Converge Idenity Video

I love my brothers and sisters in Converge, and this video they've created tells their story well.  A little bit of history, a lot of vision casting and story telling, and excellent connecting.  Very well done!!

Converge Identity from Converge MidAmerica on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Red Ink": A frank conversation on the federal debt

This comes from Vanguard:

August 28, 2012
If the United States of America came to you asking for a loan, would you say yes?
We recently spoke with David Wessel, economics editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of a new book, Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. Mr. Wessel explained how the U.S. went from record budget surpluses to enormous deficits, and whether the country is likely to get its fiscal house in order any time soon.

In the late 1990s, some analysts were concerned about what would happen to the bond market once the federal debt was paid off—in, say, 2010 or 2015. What happened? How did we get where we are today?

David Wessel: It's a really good point. I was there when Alan Greenspan warned Congress that we had to think about what was going to happen when we paid off the entire federal debt. That was in the early 2000s. Well, as it turned out, we solved that problem!
At that time, the Congressional Budget Office was predicting we'd have $6 trillion worth of surpluses over the 2000s. Instead, we had $6 trillion worth of deficits. They were off by $12 trillion. So what happened? Well, four things.
First, the economy did a lot worse than anybody expected; the housing bubble burst; we had the financial crisis; we had a big recession. That cut the income to the government and made them spend more on various benefits like unemployment. Second, Congress cut taxes repeatedly, and so there was less revenue than we had anticipated at the beginning of the 2000s. Third, the government spent more—a lot more. A couple wars, expansion of Medicare, the bank bailouts. And so, when you have less revenue coming in, you cut taxes, and you spend more than you had projected, you end up with a deficit. If you have a deficit, you have to pay more interest, so the fourth leg was more interest payments.

Just how deep is this "sea" of "red ink" today?

David Wessel: Well, the deficit today is running at roughly $1 trillion a year. That means that the government spends a trillion dollars more than it takes in. That's a lot of money, and it's big measured against the size of the economy. Some of that reflects the fact that we have a lousy economy. But the problem isn't today's deficit, it's that if you look into the future and you see where government policy is headed and figure out what the deficit would be in a strong economy, well, then you discover that we have a big problem in the future that we haven't really solved, despite all the talk about it.
People get sometimes confused between the words debt and deficit, I've discovered. The debt, of course, is the total amount of money that the government has borrowed over the years. It's the accumulation of deficits year by year that give us the total federal debt. That's also a big number, and when we measure it against the size of the economy, we're approaching 70% of GDP [gross domestic product]—that's not in the danger zone yet, but we're headed there.

In your book, you paint a vivid picture of the way the federal government spends money. Does the typical taxpayer really understand the federal budget?

David Wessel: No. I don't think the typical taxpayer understands the federal budget for two reasons. One is, it's really enormous. Four hundred million dollars every hour is a lot of money. Dave Barry, the humor columnist for The Miami Herald, once wrote that the reason people don't understand the deficit is that the words millions, billions, and trillions sound so much alike. He said we'd be better off if we talked about golf balls, watermelons, and hot-air balloons!
The second reason they don't understand it is because a lot of the political rhetoric is designed to make it less clear rather than more clear. And so, what I tried to do in the book is to lay out for people—there are some things that are choices, and there are some things that are facts. And I think sometimes they get a little confused in the political debate.
When you look at the surveys of the public, you find out that they think we spend way more on foreign aid and food stamps than we really do. A lot of people who are on Medicare and Social Security don't think they're on a government program. One Cornell poll found that 40% of the people on those programs said they weren't receiving any government benefits. So people are pretty misinformed, and I think that may influence the way they vote.

Do Americans understand just how little of the federal budget is actually under policymakers' control?

David Wessel: I think that's a great point. About 63% of all the money we spent last year was money that was promised by past Congresses to pay various benefits. That is, in the past, Congress said, if you're eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, farm subsidies, whatever—plus interest on the federal debt—that money would be paid.
And then they spend the rest of the year arguing about the stuff that comes up for annual review—the one-third of the federal budget that people kind of think of as "the government"—the salaries of government workers, the bullets they buy for guns for soldiers, and so forth. And the fraction of the budget that's on "autopilot" has been growing over time—and it's that part of the budget, particularly spending on health care benefits, that we're going to have to find a way to restrain.

A common concern is that if the U.S. doesn't get its fiscal house in order soon, we will no longer be seen as a good investment. Are you worried that investors here and around the world will stop buying Treasuries?

David Wessel: One reason the deficit isn't a problem today is that the U.S. government has been able to borrow almost unlimited amounts of money at extraordinarily low interest rates. I don't think it's because the rest of the world has decided we have a great fiscal policy.
It's just that when you compare us to other people—say, the Japanese, who have a shrinking economy and even more debt relative to the size of their economy, or the Europeans, who can't even decide if they want to continue to have a common currency—we look relatively better. But I think that can't go on forever. I think very few people, thoughtful people, think that can go on forever. But anybody who knows exactly when it's going to end is making it up, because we don't really know whether it's six months away or six years away or 12 years away. But it seems to me a good principle of government policy should be, if something can't go on forever, you shouldn't build policy assuming it'll go on forever.

You write about the significant share of the federal debt that's in foreign hands. What are the policy implications of that?

David Wessel: About half of the federal debt is now held by foreigners. About half of that is held by the Chinese, which is pretty extraordinary when you think about it—a country that doesn't have a lot of rich people; still a lot of people living in poverty—saving a lot of money and lending it to us so we can get cheap mortgages. I think it has already affected government policy, and I think it will affect it more in the future if we don't make some changes.
During the financial crisis, when the federal government essentially nationalized Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson essentially wiped out the shareholders and preferred shareholders of Fannie and Freddie. The shareholders were a lot of different kinds of investors; many of the preferred shareholders were U.S. banks. He didn't take a nickel from the bond holders of Fannie and Freddie, and in part that was because so many of them were the Chinese.
I think in the future we are going to find it difficult to do things that anger the Chinese as long as we are so dependent on them. It doesn't mean that they're going to cut us off one day, because they have a lot at stake in our economy, but I do think it's a problem.
The second thing is that we're paying a lot of interest on the federal debt, and that's money we give to other people. Used to be we paid it to other Americans; now we're paying it to other people and the rest of the world. And as more and more of the federal budget goes to interest, that means less and less of the money can be spent here at home.

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Being a Pastor and Speaking Out in Today’s Culture - Dr. Michael Milton

Great article by Dr. Michael Milton from RTS.

Being a Pastor and Speaking Out in Today’s Culture: 
Should pastors remain silent about matters debated in the public square? 
(WNS)–A pastor I know recently told me that he was criticized for being “too political.” He has heard such an indictment throughout his ministry, he said. Today he leads a major ministry in the U.S. battling daily for the rights of pastors to speak so that believers can speak. His prophetic word upsets the establishment. His voice is prophetic. His heart is pastoral. Can the two coexist?

I have heard similar charges in my ministry through the years. I accept the critique. However, if the matter is important, I am compelled to address it in preaching or writing, and I believe that is just being pastoral to God’s people. I cannot compartmentalize the Lordship of Christ to only one area of life. He is Lord of all.

Is it right that pastors should remain silent about important matters in society that are being debated in the public square because someone is trying to establish in our culture that there is no place in politics for religious beliefs or moral convictions that have been born out of a faith commitment? Because people squirm when sin is exposed in politics or culture, does it mean we should refrain from preaching? No. It may mean just the opposite.

Is a pastor solely limited to sharing the gospel to his flock on Sunday mornings? Or was the late Dr. John Stott right that one of our identities as gospel preachers, in a faithful biblical portrait of a pastor, is a “herald”? The pastor is not a prophet, yet he most certainly does carry a prophetic voice and speaks with biblical authority to other Beast-like powers when there are souls at risk or the honor of Christ and His Church is under siege.
I have an intuitive concern that the liberal professor who won’t let the young believer raise her hand in a state university and speak from her conviction is now trying to govern public discourse. Well, I am not governed by political correctness that has been born out of a liberal educational system or by the pressure of a liberal press but by the one and only true God. The public square is not the university professor’s classroom nor is it the TV news studio. This is my Father’s world. Therefore, I speak, and I speak publicly, as the Lord gives an open door, through media, because I am compelled by compassion for souls that may be victims of systems that will ultimately enslave them.

I believe that pastors must speak to our declining culture. I am pastorally concerned that that there are dangerous idols masquerading under the banner of politics in this increasingly secularized culture. These heaven-rejected powers prefer that we keep quiet. But when the powers move beyond the Machiavellian machinations of politics to the advocacy of principles at odds with God’s Word we must call them out.

The prophets and church fathers of old spoke forth concerning the actions of governments, individuals yielding power, and the idols of culture. Our Lord Jesus did when he said of Herod “Go tell that Fox” (Luke 13:32), St. Paul did, the church fathers did, and the Reformers did. In the 20th Century I thank God that J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was not afraid to speak to the ungodliness in his culture (read Stephen Nichols’ fine biography). And what of Bonhoeffer? Solzhenitsyn? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Today pastors like Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi preach against the powers of darkness, expose evil in government, and even in churches in our own nation as missionaries to America, and warn people while compassionately inviting them to Christ. Why? Because pastors are like watchmen on the wall (Ezekiel 33) required by God to sometimes warn of coming danger, even if others cry “Off limits!” To do otherwise is to be disobedient to our calling. God says if there is harm to his people because the watchmen were silent they will have the blood of the people on their hands. This is a sobering warning to pastors and trumps any criticism of being “too political.”

Yet the challenge of discernment is acknowledged. What must we do?

(1) Pastors must represent no man but God and no party but His Kingdom. We therefore refuse to be used as pawns by any political party. We are aware of Psalms 2 that the rulers of this world conspire against God and His Son. We study. We pray. We speak, therefore, when we must, on behalf of the truths of God’s Word to help people.

(2) Pastors must diagnose the presenting ill to discover the real issue beneath it. Only then do we speak. Diagnosis requires prayer, wisdom, courage, and the leading of the Lord. Speaking requires courage and counting the cost. If it is a real or potential spiritual harm coming from the presenting issues of culture or politics, then we must deliver the diagnosis and offer the cure in the Person of Jesus Christ and His Word. If I happen to yell “Warning!” and the demon under the cloak of culture is a straw-man then I have expended my pastoral capitol, perhaps compromising my ability to preach into real or more critical situations. But if it is not a straw-man, and instead an instrument of the “devil, the flesh or the world” that would further mar the image of God in man or further distance us from God, then woe to me if I speak not.

So we must preach, even when the culture labels our message “off limits.” We will live with that criticism because we are pastors and we follow Christ and His disciples who also were criticized (and crucified) for assuming an authority that challenged theirs.

(3) Pastors must pray for each situation that startles our shepherding instincts, and weigh whether a given issue is an assault on our conscience worth exposing. It is understood that some matters are just politics or a reflection of a sick culture, and a pathology more ably addressed by other men and women.

(4) Pastors must ground their preaching in God’s Word, the Bible. We have no authority apart from His Word. We must also always offer the way out through the gospel of Jesus Christ. To do less is to be embroiled in the political debate. But preaching with a conclusion that leads to freedom in Christ is above the storm, where it should be.

My pulpit and my writings are not for sale to any political party. I care not a whit for using my position to promote a political agenda. I do care for souls. That is my job. And I will preach. That is my calling.

Dangers exist on all sides for the pastor. But, who said the job would be easy? Yet to silence the pastor in any realm is to cause the Church to retreat into a secluded ghetto where we can no longer be salt and light in the world. And that cannot be. We comfort the afflicted and on occasion may afflict the comfortable, as it is sometimes put. The ground of our ministry is love from a pure conscience. Let us not abandon our post as long as God gives us the strength to stand. Let us be silent no more.

Dr. Michael Milton is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I haven't stopped blogging here.  It's a combination of a season of life and ministry conspiring to keep me from giving a whole lot of thought to original content.  One things I have been doing is keeping track of my workouts at

I do also keep regular updates to my Twitter account - and I use Foursquare as well -

And Facebook is always a good way to see what is going on in my life -

Rarely, but occasionally I post to Google+ as well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Subversive Kingdom - by Ed Stetzer - Book Review

Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer is available at

This past winter I purchased the Bible study called Subversive Kingdom that was created by Ed Stetzer to use in my church.  This was one of those odd instances where the Bible study hit the streets before the book of the same title did.  I knew from the study that I'd be very interested to read all of the book, so when the chance came along to review it, I jumped on it.  I'm not paid for my review, though I did get my copy for free.  Ed is a big influence on me, but I think that is because what he brings to the table with experience, knowledge, networking and resources puts him in a very unique position to speak clearly into many important areas of Christianity.  This book falls well within that realm of Ed's vast expertise.

In short, the book is about taking the Word of God seriously, and living it out in our every day life.  Not a ground breaking topic, but Ed does a great job of bringing clarity and his own perspective to it.  The book finds a very enjoyable yet challenging place by being both readable yet stretching of my faith to keep growing and going beyond my own personal comfort zone spiritually.

I asked an older lady of great spiritual depth in my church to review the curriculum for the bible study of Subversive Kingdom.  After going through it, she said it was very good, but that she didn't like the idea and terminology of subversion.  She wasn't quite offended, but she wasn't quite comfortable with it.  When I got my hands on the book, I felt somewhat similar, but not because of the terminology but rather because it managed to get the claws of conviction into my hide.  Upon reading the book it became clear to me that the concept of subversion was apt and well worth exploring in the life application of what Ed is talking about in living out our faith in a culture/world where we are spiritually speaking aliens.

Stetzer illustrates how many Christ followers find themselves in a holding pattern in their faith.  A middle ground between what Christ has done on the Cross for us, and Christ's return.  Living in this place of tension should propel us into action as Christians Stetzer believes (and I agree!) rather than find ourselves waiting for whatever happens next.  And as we begin to move forward authentically living out our faith in a culture that has rebelled against God and His ways, we are in a sense ourselves rebelling - "rebelling against rebellion" is how Stetzer phrases it.

While we rebel against the world's rebellion, we are agents of Christian subversion (thus the title) building God's kingdom to the best of our abilities in the here and now with the realization that our work won't be complete until the return of Christ.

The book calls on Christ's parables heavily to make Stetzer's point(s).  Pretty good source material from which to draw from!  The first section of the book (chapters 1-3) are about "A Subversive Way of Thinking."  Matthew 13 plays an important role in this section.  The second section of the book moves us from thinking and Ed building his argument to "A Subversive Way of Life" (chapters 4-7 with some key sections focusing on Matthew 25 & Matthew 5).  This gets to some of the real concrete examples of what Christian subversion might look like in our world today.  The final section caps the book well as we progressed from more of a intellectual/conceptual beginning, to a clear example driven middle, with a get in the game and go out there and do it conclusion section called "A Subversive Plan of Action" (chapters 8-10).

One of the strengths of the book is that Ed addresses this subversive kingdom living from both a personal level as well as a corporate (church) level.  Both are needed, and both are necessary if we are to be about God's kingdom work. 

While there are not a lot of parallels, I was nonetheless constantly reminded of the book "The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey.  Rather than destroying things and creating havoc and pushing for anarchy though, Stetzer's call is for us to move forward disturbing and disrupting people's lives for something far greater than what is in the here and now.  Rather than being destructive, Stetzer's goal is that we are reconstructive.  We don't just want to tear things down, we want to build people back up, restoring their vision of how they are created in God's image, and that to serve Him, and others in Christ's name and for His glory is our highest calling while we breath on this side of the cross.  The world is more broken than we think, but as Christian we cannot pull back and abandon it and hunker down in our spiritual fox holes.  Rather we have to get in the world and meet it where it has need and bring our most powerful weapon wherever we go - Christ.

I think of of the most helpful portions of the book is Stetzer's framing of mission and the Church.  His point is that the church doesn't have a mission, but that God's mission has a church.  I think that order is important, especially in some enclaves of Christianity that are somewhat isolationist in nature.  The Church serves God's mission, not the other way around.  It is a tool God has created for His glory.  Keeping that in mind should help us prioritize what we do individually and corporately as followers of Christ.

I think the book is well worth your time to read and fully recommend it!

A few quotes from the book that resonated with me (there were many more):

The kingdom of God is a radical rejection of every value or point of view that keeps people in bondage to untruth, blinded to Christ's mercy.  -pg. 8

Something is wrong when churches are filled with people who seemingly haven't changed their loyalties.  People who have a religious veneer but live like everyone else.  -pg. 20

The kingdom of God...
  - is informed and initiated by the Word of God
  - is designed to take place in the midst of the world.
  - uses small things to grow big things and impact lives.
  - offers a joy that's otherwise unavailable to the human heart.
      -pg. 47

Every believer has been designed by God to bring Him glory by serving His kingdom agenda.  Each one of us has been given a part in His grand scheme to subvert the broken systems of the world.  - pg. 86

Jesus is unapologetic to connect who you are in Christ with how you live for Christ.  Those things matter.  -pg. 101

Here is reality at ground level:  People who have been deceived into thinking they can successfully map the course of their own destiny, people who are wearing themselves out trying to cobble together a life that's too big to be figured out on their own, people whose greatest need isn't for more money or better job prospects or a couple of lucky breaks - they need Jesus.  -pg. 165

If we are not on this mission (living supremely for the glory of God and what He is doing through His Son in our world), then we must ask ourselves what we're doing here.  Are we just working to make the church a more acceptable place to our friends and neighbors?  Are we looking for a nice place to socialize on Wednesday nights?  Are we turning the spiritual cranks and pulleys because we think the church is supposed to do those things, because we feel better about ourselves when we do them?  -pg. 177

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Make your own Pho

My wife loves Pho (pronounced "fa").  Below is a video describing the prep to make it.  Not hard, but lengthy prep.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Countryside Ministry

Pastors go to great lengths to connect with their communities. How about pitching in at a milking parlor at 4 a.m., or turning an old grain mill into a teen and tween hangout? Those are exactly the types of efforts you will read about in Rhonda Sholar’s article, “Rural Outreach From the Inside Out.” Sholar states that “part of being a church in any setting is identifying the marginalized in the community and responding to their needs.” That is why rural pastors are reaching out by rolling up their sleeves to help on the farm, hosting a backyard carnival at the church, and finding ways to be the community’s support center in an economic downturn. These types of environments draw people in to want to know Christ and experience the love of the church.

(from Thriving Pastor)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ed Stetzer speaking to the NACCC Annual Meeting 2012

This past June I had the blessing of spending parts of three days with Ed Stetzer. I had been lobbying the NACCC for a couple of years on our need to bring Ed in as a guest speaker for our annual meeting. Needless to say, Ed did NOT disappoint. Within minutes you could hear a pin drop in the room, and he kept on bringing exactly what we needed to hear - beginning to end.

CCD Presentation with Ed Stetzer 2012 from Rebecca Moore on Vimeo.

If you are reading this and considering bringing Ed Stetzer in to speak at your event, I'd gladly share with you our experience (which was fantastic!) - shoot me an email or call me & we'll connect.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Churches to watch in Minnesota

Below is a list of some of the fastest growing and largest churches in Minnesota with Eagle Brook Church leading the way for Minnesota.

  1. Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN) :: John Piper >> 10G 07I 06I 05I
  2. Church of the Open Door (Maple Grove, MN) :: David Johnson >> 07V 04G
  3. Eagle Brook Church (White Bear Lake, MN) :: Bob Merritt >> 11G 11S 10S 09G 09S 08G 08S 07S 06G 06S 05G
  4. Emmanuel Christian Center (Minneapolis, MN) :: Mark Denyes >> 05G
  5. Friendship Church (Prior Lake, MN) :: Doyle Van Gelder >> 05G
  6. Grace Church (Eden Prairie, MN) ::  >> 04G
  7. Grace Fellowship (Brooklyn Park, MN) :: Dave Reno >> 07P
  8. Hosanna Lutheran Church (Lakeville, MN) :: Bill Bohline >> 05G
  9. Living Word Christian Center (Brooklyn Park, MN) :: Mac Hammond >> 10S 06G 06S
  10. New Hope Church (New Hope, MN) :: Stephen Goold >> 09G
  11. River Valley Church (Apple Valley, MN) :: Rob Ketterling >> 11G 10G 09G
  12. Substance Church (Roseville, MN) :: Peter Haas >> 10G
  13. The Sanctuary Covenant Church (Minneapolis, MN) :: Efrem Smith >> 08V
  14. Wooddale Church (Eden Prarie, MN) :: Leith Anderson >> 07I 06I 05I 04G
  15. Woodland Hills Church (Maplewood, MN) :: Greg Boyd >> 05G 04G
Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 14, 15 are all part of the former Baptist General Conference (BGC) that is now known as Converge World Wide.

All the churches would fit into the definition of evangelical churches, with #9 leaning toward Word of Faith and #8 with mainstream roots.

At least 6 of the listed churches are multi-site churches.

Also of note - both John Piper (#1) and Leith Anderson (#14) have stepped down from their weekly preaching roles in these churches.  Piper continues on in some different ministries related to the church (a college/seminary & conference speaking).

Referenced Lists

  1. 11G = Outreach magazine’s 2011 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  2. 11S = Outreach magazine’s 2011 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  3. 10G = Outreach magazine’s 2010 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  4. 10S = Outreach magazine’s 2010 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  5. 09G = Outreach magazine’s 2009 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  6. 09S = Outreach magazine’s 2009 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  7. 08V = Outreach magazine’s 2008 America’s 25 Most Innovative Churches
  8. 08G = Outreach magazine’s 2008 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  9. 08S = Outreach magazine’s 2008 103 Largest U.S. Churches
  10. 07V = Outreach magazine’s 2007 America’s 25 Most Innovative Churches
  11. 07G = Outreach magazine’s 2007 101 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  12. 07S = Outreach magazine’s 2007 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  13. 07I = The Church Report’s 2007 50 Most Influential Churches
  14. 07P = Outreach magazine’s 2007 America’s Top 25 Multiplying Churches
  15. 06G = Outreach magazine’s 2006 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  16. 06S = Outreach magazine’s 2006 100 Largest U.S. Churches
  17. 06I = The Church Report’s 2006 50 Most Influential Churches
  18. 05G = Outreach magazine’s 2005 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
  19. 05I = The Church Report’s 2005 50 Most Influential Churches
  20. 04G = Outreach magazine’s 2004 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
 For a full list visit Kent Shaffer's blog - Church Relevance

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Truth About Grace - by John MacArthur - a review

Over the years I've listened to dozens of messages from John MacArthur, and read a handful of his books.  Generally I enjoy his messages and books due to their careful attention to scripture.  This book had that same attention to detail that I've come to expect from MacArthur.  That said, I left reading the book only lukewarm on it, and uninspired to read the others in this series.

The content is solid beginning to end.  But it is the content that is the issue actually.  MacArthur has taken the subject of grace and mostly removed the joy from it through academic minutia in assembling this book.  I entered into reading this book with the expectation that it would be a lighter read (it's a small/thin book, quite different than most his other books).  I thought it would be an introduction to something he may have written or preached elsewhere, but rather than that it was very dense with all the interesting parts stripped away.  This doesn't remove the truth of what MacArthur is writing about, but it makes it far less enjoyable to read. Realistically the book probably should've been 2-3 times as long with some stories and examples to make it an enjoyable read.  But I had to nearly force myself to keep on reading it.

It is a great resource book however.  Like a mini-commentary on the subject of grace.  Had I entered into it with that mindset, I might have been more interested in it.  Where I think this has a place is on a pastor's shelf as a resource, or to be used as a study/discussion starter in a group setting where the human aspects could be added back in.

So would I recommend it?  With qualifications yes.  It's not where I'd start a new Christian on their path to understanding the concept of grace, but it is a tool that could be useful in a number of settings.  Would I have paid for this book?  Probably not.

From the publisher:

Book Description
Is the experience of God’s grace in your life a thrilling thing? Just thinking about the fact that God, by His own sovereign plan, decided to be gracious to me is overwhelming. There is nothing greater than receiving grace upon grace.” —John MacArthur
Simple definitions can make grace feel like an obvious―even mundane―concept. Nothing could be further from the truth. Grace is the defining feature of the Christian faith. Once we understand how undeserving we are and how much favor we’ve been given, grace becomes shocking, thrilling, inspiring, and contagious.
Best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur illuminates this profound concept with verse upon verse of Scripture. He also shows that misunderstandings about grace have led to some of the church’s greatest problems, perhaps because grace is her most precious gift.
For decades, MacArthur has encouraged countless Christians to develop a deeper understanding of the Bible and a greater respect for God’s truth. In The Truth About series, he now gathers his landmark teachings about core aspects of the Christian faith in one place. These powerful books are designed to give readers a focused experience that centers on God’s character and how it applies to their daily walk of faith.

I was given this copy of the book by BookSneeze to review but am under no obligation to give it a positive review.