Category Archives: Spiritual Formation

If You’re Going to See “Left Behind” – Do Me a Favor. . .

Originally posted on A Grateful Discontentment:

The new Left Behind movie is out, and I have no intention of seeing it. My personal reasons are many, but the fact that it’s not my thing doesn’t mean I insist on others holding the same opinion. If you’re a fan of the book series, the previous movies, and you’ve been anxiously awaiting this newest rendition, that’s fine. We can still be friends. As a friend, though, I would ask that in your “end times” fervor you do me a favor. Several favors, actually.

Please don’t turn a particular view of eschatology into a matter of orthodoxy.

The specific understanding of last things expressed in the Left Behind series is deeply ingrained in the thought of many American Christians. So much so that even in churches like mine, which takes no particular stand on issues such as a pretribulational rapture, there are those for whom no other system of…

View original 1,000 more words

2013 Apple TV revision gets its first exclusive feature: iOS 8’s Peer-to-Peer AirPlay


Finally! Now the Apple TV is truly a semi-portable presentation device. The newest model paired with a recent iPad can share presentations wirelessly, even without both devices being on the same network. This is great for several church, education and corporate situations.
1. A guest speaker doesn’t have to be given full access to protected networks.
2. If a network is down, a previously created presentation can still go on (as long as it doesn’t require internet access for content).
3. Complex corporate and university networks don’t have to be burdened with local presentations, preserving bandwidth for mission-critical services.

Originally posted on 9to5Mac:


When Apple released Apple TV software update 7.0 earlier this month, it came with support for new iOS 8 features including the new Peer-to-Peer AirPlay feature. First announced when Apple unveiled iOS 8 earlier this year, Peer-to-Peer AirPlay allows users on iOS 8 and the upcoming OS X Yosemite release to stream content to an Apple TV without having to connect to the same wireless network. What we didn’t know at the time, however, is that the feature is limited to only the latest Apple TV hardware:

View original 190 more words

Aubrey, Wall Lead Irish Past Orange


This is my nephew, Brandon, who plays soccer for Notre Dame. We’re very proud of his effort and attitude.

Originally posted on Notre Dame Soccer Blog:

Standout performances from its youngest and oldest starters paced No. 4 Notre Dame in its 1-0 win over No. 20 Syracuse on Saturday night.

Sophomore center back Brandon Aubrey headed in a Patrick Hodan free kick in the 74th minute for the game’s lone goal. It was the first collegiate tally for Aubrey, who was making just his sixth start in an Irish uniform. After appearing in just fourteen games last year as a forward, Aubrey used a strong spring to win a starting role on the back line. His performance has been admirable thus far despite having to adjust to a new position.

“He’s still really learning the position,” head coach Bobby Clark said. “He’s just getting better every game, and he’s done well.”

“He’s just a confident kid. He’s not an overconfident-type, doesn’t talk a lot, but he plays confidently.”

Aubrey’s strike was enough for Notre Dame…

View original 272 more words

Wrigley at 100: The Full Cubs Experience

Yesterday was Wrigley Field’s 100th Birthday celebration. And it was quite a party. There was a lot to celebrate when surveying 100 years of history. Wrigley was built on the former home of a Seminary. It was originally the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League (a competitor to Major League Baseball back in the day.) To distinguish them from the Major League team nearby (The Cubs) they were usually called the Federals or Feds, which eventually became their nickname. Weeghman Park (team owner) was its original name. It cost $250,000 and was completed in 2 months, opening in April of 1914. Weeghman was shrewd. The beautiful setting and success of his team forced MLB to respond by letting him buy the Cubs in 1916 (struggling at the time.) Wrigley played a major role in shaping how MLB came of age, was in the center of several national political scandals that touched even the White House (Tea Pot Dome), and along the way became one of the best places on earth to spend time with friends. History haunts this sacred ground everywhere you look. The greatest living Cubs and Bears legends (yes they played here for 50 years, winning 8 NFL Championships!) were invited to honor this great park. The ceremony concluded with Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks shuffling across the diamond like he had for 19 seasons. Ernie was rightly honored most. One of baseball’s greats who always wanted to “play two” and even requested to be able to live on the grounds while he was playing. But he never got a World Series ring and that’s the other chapter of living the Wrigley experience.

It’s one of my favorite places to be since the late 1970’s when my dad would drive me from Iowa to take in a game. (Sunny every single time he brought me.) Every season brings fresh hope that this will be the year a World Series Championship is won in these hallowed friendly confines. This special day brought gifts and cake (A throwback Federals jersey for the first 30,000 fans and a birthday cupcake for the first 10,000-yes I made sure to get both!). It seemed magical as the Cubs were winning. Samardzija was pitching like an ace. The Cubs were up 5-2 with 2 outs in the 9th and 2 strikes on the batter, when relief pitching collapsed. How many times have I seen that movie? Alas, we were all treated to the full Cubs experience. Boundless hopes, historic atmosphere, great excitement, and soul-crushing disappointment. All in the same day! But it was great to share it with my college friend Lon. Just like always, one of the best places on earth to spend the day with a friend. It’s about so much more than winning and losing. A place with a spiritual heritage of hopes handed down. I park on nearby Seminary Street whenever I can. Here’s to 100 years of Wrigley. May we run out of candles before this place breathes its last…

IMG_0010 IMG_0013 IMG_0025 IMG_0034 IMG_0038 IMG_0040

Salt and Light vs Cultural Christianity

Below are a couple of intriguing links to religion trends in Great Britain and China.

Both stories seem hopeful on the surface. A Prime Minister saying Christians should be more evangelical about their faith. He even says he has felt the “healing power of the church.” Then a trend in China where the Statist nation will soon house the most Christians of any country on earth. Wow, so it’s beautiful irony, right?
But if you read on in both stories you begin to see how hard it is for the church to define success. Turns out David Cameron has been all over the map on his previous public statements about the church. He’s struggling right now and facing a surging, more conservative opposition. So it’s hard not to wonder how politically motivated the comments are. Then if you read more, it really unravels. Good schools, social programs, and just enough faith to keep people from being hopeless seems to be the role of the church. Speaking truth to power? (As long as it’s the other guys…) Bearing witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? (Sort of, but mainly just helping make sure other religions aren’t trampled…) What you end up with is pretty close to what the optimist club could provide.
But surely the China story is good news! Well, there are now mega churches in provinces of China. High walls. Cross on top. One more feature…a closed circuit camera suspended directly in front of the pulpit. This is not for live broadcast. These cameras are controlled by the State. They are to directly monitor sermons for “dangerous” content. “They want the pastor to preach in a Communist way. They want to train people to practice in a communist way…the Old Testament book…Daniel…is seen as “very dangerous”…”
This seems pretty compromised.
To be fair, these must be gut-wrenching decisions for churches and pastors and believers to make. Do we work within the framework allowed by the culture in order to protect our level of “influence”/political freedom? Or, do we preach and live the full truth of the gospel, which challenges any and every political system?
The underground church in China has made their choice. Many Christians have left the Church of England to work more boldly for the Kingdom of God. They don’t want to be the religious arm of the State. But it’s not so easy to say that’s the only right choice.
Oh, for the happy day when those Christians who are fully and sacrificially devoted could win enough hearts and minds to eventually go public, joining those who have kept something going in the public realm. But tough questions remain…
It makes me wonder what John Wesley (kicked out of the Church of England for preaching the truth and challenging social norms) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (founding member of the confessing church of resistance to Nazi Germany, who was killed in prison) would want to tell us…

Words of faith and hope…

Forging into the Future…


Storyboarding the GospelImageThe Missional Church Engaging the Community




This past weekend marked the beginning of a new adventure for NewHope Community Church! With funding from the Center for Congregations and the NW Indiana District, we embarked on a learning journey with other pastors and leaders in the Chicagoland area. It’s called the Forge Chicago Residency.  Forge was founded by Alan Hirsch (See my post from Oct. 30th) who is a pioneer in the Missional Church Movement. For the next 9 months we are being refreshed in our skills as missionaries to a changing culture. With coaching, cohort groups and weekend intensives we are being supported on this journey. But it’s no theoretical academic adventure. In addition to reading, praying, and meeting, we are required to engage our ministry context for at least 5hrs each week! That’s 5 hours outside the office rubbing shoulders and sharing life with real people from outside our church community in their life settings. This is something I’ve always done, but not always with this much structure and intentionality. It’s a great way to live and enjoy your Christian journey. I want to learn better how to help others experience this lifestyle that makes Christian life more meaningful.

I’m thrilled to begin this journey with other leaders from our church. I’ll keep you updated along the way. Prayers are appreciated for spiritual growth and real life-changing connections with others!


Snow Kingdom

Snow Kingdom

Yep, that’s our poor mailbox! This has been the winter to top them all! Never so cold for so long and NEVER so much snow! Thankfully I love the winter and this has been a postcard permanently etched in my soul memory.

Spooky Jesus vs The Gospel


Alan Hirsch spoke today at Pastors Appreciation Days on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. You can click and view the chapel session here. Alan was an earlier innovator in the missional church movement. In fact, he pretty much coined the term “missional” vs “attractional”. Missional means that a church is focused on its mission rather than simply doing church or “getting people to come”. A missional church doesn’t expect people to come. The missional church goes. But today Hirsch reminded us that before we go we should make sure we’ve got the message down.
Hirsch quoted Archbishop Temple “If your conception of God is radically false, then the more devout you are the worse it will be for you.” He then presented 6 hilarious ways we often get Jesus wrong as we present him to our world.

First up:

spooky jesus

Hirsh says this is the most common picture of Jesus but it shows him as a glowing not of this earth figure oddly handing you his heart. If you saw this guy late at night you would “first, take a picture” then run for your life. But his more serious note is that this image of Jesus connects to how many of us essentially deny Jesus’ humanity and therefore minimize our own humanity. Spooky Jesus does not represent the Son of Man well.


Buddy Jesus


Buddy Jesus has got your back. He’s your pal. He’s on your side. He wants you happy. He’s completely domesticated. Here there’s barely a hint of the divine and not enough respect for the holy. Sometimes when we’re trying to reach out and be relevant we reduce Jesus to looking too much like ourselves. He mentioned a certain megachurch pastor in Houston as a purveyor of this kind of Jesus. (Who could that be?)


Sunday School Jesus


Sunday school Jesus fits nicely on a flannelgraf and helps children grow up to be productive members of society. This nice version of Jesus has lots of hugs and is entirely too tame. He never talks about sex or pain or death. This is not a realistic picture of Jesus. Some of us never grow out of it. He demands our complete loyalty and is far from being a safe, family values deity.




Jesus is my boyfriend is an overly romanticized picture of Jesus. Again, our desires are front and center. He rides in on a white horse to save our day. He’s the lover of my soul. Hirsch pointed out that many praise choruses present this image. Some truth to it but it shouldn’t dwarf our larger understanding of Jesus.




This one truly made me laugh out loud because a large print was in the foyer of the church I grew up in. I thought of it as the cocker spaniel Jesus but bearded lady works, too.  As I child I would look at it and think “Something is wrong with this picture.” He was kneeling in Gethsemane which was powerful, but I couldn’t put my finger on the error. Hirsch nailed it. Jesus is supposed to be sweating drops of blood but instead the stylist has just coiffed him for the photo-shoot. Unfortunately, with this image we miss that Jesus was a revolutionary building an alternative kingdom.




Middle class Jesus is beautiful and has it all together. He even shops at IKEA! Not much redeeming value in this Jesus but we probably see ourselves here. It’s ironic to see Jesus looking at a catalogue but this one hits close to home if we let it.

Again, there is some truth in each of these pictures, but Hirsch says that when one bit of truth dwarfs all others, Jesus is reduced, domesticated, made to fit our comfort zone. That’s not really good news and the world often knows it. Hirsch closed by inviting us to learn all we can about Jesus and then do everything possible to become like him, a worthy challenge. I would just add that it’s not all up to us. Jesus wants to be known by sincere seekers. He reveals himself and empowers us to change. Whichever reduced image of Jesus has sometimes distracted you, repent of your spooky, buddy, Sunday School, Bearded Lady, Boyfriend, or middle class Jesus ways. Thankfully, the full untamed Jesus awaits to know and be known on the wild journey of discipleship.

We have been given a transformational message. I led a couple of afternoon sessions looking at learning to navigate our visual culture and use that emerging language to communicate a truly transformational message without reducing the gospel to movie clips. If we keep asking these questions, seeking Jesus’ face, and taking the message to people in a language they understand, the kingdom will come…


Prodigal Christianity Blog Tour- Signpost 7

“But all this prompts a very important question: Can we really seek Jesus all by ourselves apart from the practices of the church?”

Fitch, David E.; Holsclaw, Geoff (2013-02-01). Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (Kindle Locations 3232-3233). Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition.

I have been challenged, frustrated, and mostly thrilled by David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw’s new book Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier. The book picks up a conversation that has gone on for a decade or more and been brewing for about 2,000 years. You can read other posts in the Blog Tour series which began here and continued here, here, here, here, and here. It has been a great conversation already and I’m excited to join in. I was interested in the early Emergent conversation because key theological themes were actually being discussed in light of ministry today. Ancient sources were being accessed and discussed in dialogue with contemporary theologians, philosophers, and ministry leaders. It was exciting. But I lost interest in Emergent a few years ago when I stopped recognizing the Church as we find it in Scripture, history, and contemporary life in that conversation. Enter Prodigal Christianity. A book that seeks to refresh this conversation on missional terms: terms directly related to building/experiencing the Kingdom of God through the local church.

I’m a local church pastor and teacher of preachers. I find the combination inspiring. One thing I have become convinced of in the last twenty years is that worship (including preaching and the sacraments) is the key focal point for discipleship, evangelism, and mission. In fact, preaching and the sacraments are foundational to what it is to be the church. Forms and styles of worship aren’t really the issue. Worship in community feeds living the missional journey in community. The Communion Table, where we experience the Eucharist (often in response to proclaimed Word and as the culmination of worship) is the place where the Gospel collides with the Church (real people) and Grace empowers our mission. It is where we understand what God has done for us, what God offers us, and the fullness of Kingdom life, which God invites and empowers us to live. This is no place for “me and Jesus” theology or practice. We come to the Table together in obedience to Jesus’ invitation and we receive the Grace of God for mission. We are conscious of each other, our connection to believers around the world, those who have gone before us, those who will follow, and those who are not present but could be.

So for me, any conversation about the Church separated from local church practices, centered in worship, is an adventure in missing the point, to quote an early emergent author. That’s why I’m thrilled that Prodigal Christianity includes Signpost 7!

“The church is not merely the product of mission. Rather, the church is mission. In the same way that Jesus’s incarnation both proclaimed and made present the kingdom of God, so too the church proclaims and makes present the in-breaking of his kingdom. The church is nothing if not local, incarnational communities practicing the kingdom.”

Fitch, David E.; Holsclaw, Geoff (2013-02-01). Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (Kindle Locations 3257-3259). Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition.

Another key quote:

“These practices— the Lord’s Table, proclaiming the gospel, reconciliation, being “with” the least of these, being “with” children, the fivefold ministry, and kingdom prayer— have defined the church in the past. Unfortunately the church of the past has sometimes turned them into mere maintenance functions (or programs) for existing Christians. But as we hope to show, these inherently missional practices can be recaptured. In them, the kingdom becomes manifest visibly as a foretaste of the future. They shape us as Jesus’s body in the very middle of his mission.”

Fitch, David E.; Holsclaw, Geoff (2013-02-01). Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (Kindle Locations 3266-3270). Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition.

I encourage you to read this book and dialogue with the authors. More importantly, wrestle with these epic theological questions in our present age. You will not agree with everything you read so you should discern God’s leading in community as always. But the authors point us to the right questions and more sustainable answers for our missional future. There is much at stake, but so much to be gained where we faithfully live our mission together by the Grace of our Ascended Lord.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,350 other followers

%d bloggers like this: