Category Archives: Family
Last week I had a refreshing time at PALCON, a conference for Nazarene pastors and leaders on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where I teach. The conference had everything from high level theological training from Dr. T.A. Nobel to practical ministry tips and fellowship. The best part was connecting with former mentors, ministry friends and former students now in ministry. The days were full and a little long, but it was worth the investment. Sparks flew in a few panel discussions (probably that’s a good thing) and I felt challenged by the sermons from General Superintendent Jerry Porter, NTS President Carla Sunberg, and a favorite preacher, Scott Daniels, the new leader at Nampa College church at NNU, where I also teach online. When I stepped into the pulpit at NewHope on Sunday I felt a bit more of a breeze behind me after these days of renewal.
There’s also good news on the marathon training front…we continued to run Sunday and Monday, getting back on the correct schedule. Today we walked, the second to last time that will be part of our training. We picked up the pace and had our fastest walking mile yet at the end. Next week the training gets more challenging and the group from our church will need each other to stay on track!
Last night I took in a church kid’s youth baseball game with friends from our missional community. It was nice to meet other parents and watch a team cope with unexpected challenges. (Jason drew a walk and scored!)
I’ve also begun plans for courses I will be teaching this fall and next Spring. I’m taking a refresher course on creating online courses in preparation for teaching Preaching and Worship online this Fall for NNU. I’m prepping for teaching the Faith & Film course and a New Testament course, both of which I’ve taught before. The Pew Study on the Changing Religious Landscape in America will be the focus of a Spring Honors course I’m designing with a friend and wise colleague, Paul Koch.
It was also a big week for my family as my youngest daughter became engaged to her long-time boyfriend and classmate at Olivet! Congratulations to Jon and Rachel! In a delightful old-school move, Jon sought the approval of my wife and I before he asked Rachel. He shared with me about his recent spiritual growth and excitement about how he and Rachel have brought out the best in each other. After praying about it for some time he felt the time was right to ask her, even though it will be a couple of years before they actually get married. We agreed they should wait to get married but were excited about this big step in their lives. God is good and our lives are very full just now!
The 2nd 50 pages have been full of surprises as well, but I’ve found more common ground with Stanley.
I like and have used the image he borrows from The Gospel of John “full of grace and truth.” John uses it in chapter one to wrap up the Logos passage in describing the essence of Jesus. Stanley uses it as a mantra for ministry decisions. He says they are not driven by policies. Instead they have nearly endless conversations with people and make decisions. I have to say that those who advised me to setup policies so we don’t get bogged down and criticized for decisions were not as “right” as I thought. Often the broken and messy situations in the lives of real people are our best opportunities for ministry. We need to get bogged down in the details. We need to engage with them where they are. I used to go by policies. Now I get involved.
I’ve gone to court to get someone released without bail. I’ve listened to couples describe situations they never taught me about in school. I’ve been lied to, used, rejected, and blamed. I’ve also been loved. Most importantly I’ve learned to do better at making sure people see the fullness of grace and truth as we understand it. I’ve tried to teach our leaders the same and they’ve reminded, challenged and taught me as well. And this was quite a process o transformation. It’s still a work in progress.
So I really resonated with Stanley’s big picture here. He’s done a far better job on a bigger scale of developing a place that lives with these real ministry tensions, especially on issues of homosexuality and divorce.
But then he throws out his procedure on baptism and frankly it’s just wrong. He says on page 81: “You have to allow us to video record a three-minute version of your story to be shown on Sunday morning in order to be baptized. No video, no baptism. We don’t have any verses to support that. But baptism is central to our worship and arguably our most powerful evangelism tool.”
It’s this kind of stuff that keeps popping up. Stuff where even the sacraments must submit to promotional convenience. And all his talk of messy truth gets undermined. I’ve done video, audio, written and live testimonies. We’ve worked hard to let the reality of the person’s story and of the gospel dictate the format. Public? Yes. Profession of faith? You better believe it. But some people have aspects of their journey which make video a personal challenge too great to overcome. And it basically weds baptism to a certain technology. I’m an early adopter of tech, but I can’t swallow this one. I loved his example stories. Some of them were incredibly similar to ones I’ve had the joy of participating in. But too many stories are edited out for non-biblical reasons. This causes me to question a lot. Can you tell I’m stoked by this one?
But…still it’s only 100 pages in. Now we’re arriving on the doorstep of Spiritual Formation. This is what I came for. I’ll extend grace and get off my high horse to see what I can learn in Section Three: Going Deep. Rethinking Spiritual Formation.
Thanks for reading.
I received a copy of Andy Stanley’s new book: Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. There’s no doubt he’s an excellent communicator of biblical truth and all of us have a lot to learn from him as a strategist. He has built teams and developed vision for life-changing ministries. It seems this is his “everything I’ve learned so far” book. I’ve read the first 50 pages and if you’re connected to ministry in North America the story is a page-turner. Like many of my generation, Andy is someone I watched grow up in the spotlight of his father’s ministry. I’ve had opinions of various shades from gushing to sincere appreciation to doubts. Reading so far I’ve experienced all three again. Quite a bit of what I’ve read confirms what I’ve intuited from afar. There’s complexity and I’m not sure everything adds up as he explains it. But I came away with greater appreciation for his Father and for the support my wife has always given to my ministry. He takes a jab back at his critics who call his model “attractional” and point out its flaws. Instead of embracing their critique he fires back, using their preferred term “missional” somewhat sarcastically. This is unfortunate. But hopefully later in the book he’ll be a bit more balanced and positive.
I’m intrigued to read more and will eventually have a full review. I’m most interested in his take on spiritual formation, which apparently contains attractional elements.
This was just a great week of ministry. I’m so glad our church still does VBS. Kids are dealing with so many heavy concerns these days. And their parents have less time to help them sort it out. A whole week of many caring people surrounding them with support and faith does a world of kingdom good. It reminds the church just how much life change is possible when we come together to focus on the next generation. We get a clearer picture of our community as well. Everything else we do this year will be better because of this focused ministry week. It’s that important. Other stuff is important too, even more important. But this was a very good thing once again.
The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s final installment in the Batman saga. The sign of a great movie is that it leaves people wanting more. It’ll give too much away to go into detail, but the ending is a beginning on more than one level.
“Epic and amazing” were my first thoughts as the credits rolled. The story is big and complex, but not perfect. Anne Hathaway shines as a conflicted bad girl, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt quietly steals the show. There are flaws in the story but none of them linger.
Immersive, disturbing soundtrack, check! Bigger than life characters, check! Bad News that threatens the very fabric of our society, uh-huh. Globe-trotting, time-shifting storyline that leaves you guessing to the end, yep! We long for redemption even though we are brought face-to-face with the brokenness and frailty of humanity and civilization itself. This storyline makes The Amazing SpiderMan or The Avengers seem trite. This movie asks us to confront evil on a biblical-scale. Where can we look for redemption and hope? It shows us our need for a savior even as it chips away at over-simplified visions of the good news. In that way its a good setup for the Good News of the Gospel. Does this Batman story ultimately deliver? Just like real life, you’ll have to decide. Nolan’s unique gift is presenting the problem of evil. It could be debated if his stories resolve adequately.
There’s a lot of violence. No children should see it in my opinion. Very young teens are presented with a relentless hopelessness in this film. Make sure they have a way to talk it through if you let them see it. 15 and up is better.
We suffer, we hope, hopes are dashed, then dashed again. But finally The Dark Knight Rises…
Sad to hear of Stephen Covey’s passing. Ironic that it’s at age 79 when he had us imagine our 80th birthday party to begin with the end in mind. His son stated that all the children were there for the last hours the way he’d always wanted. Vision realized. No small feat to maintain positive relationships with 9 children! No doubt he lived to help others fulfill their potential as few have! Complications from a fall off my bike on a steep hill in Utah at age 79? Yes, I would take that exit ramp! Thank you, Stephen, for a great book that not only didn’t conflict with Scripture, but enhanced its application in my life.
At a crucial time in life, a key ministry mentor handed me this book. Thanks, Jeren. The 7 Habits gave us all permission to pay attention to the deep Spirtual rhythms of life. Covey made the point that these enhanced productivity. In one sense, the 7 Habits are about living out the Sabbath principle in Scripture. Take time daily and a whole day each week to sharpen the saw. Productivity-Capability growth is the renewable long-term key to increased productivity. In these lean times where states and corporations are tempted to squeeze workers and cut benefits, I hope we don’t lose sight of these principles. Work people too hard and you actually reduce productivity. On the other hand, where people feel empowered to dream and grow with fair compensation, they will often work harder than you could ever get them to with a stick. Growth as a person is habit-forming. May the church always be the best environment to develop human potential. May the experiences there create more potential in work life and in the home & neighborhood.
I pray my ministry can grow great people who can be used of God to change their world!
Above is the link to an article that does a great job with a book I don’t plan to read. I downloaded the free sample 1st Chapter on my Kindle app. As a father and husband I’m terrified that people have embraced this kind of material. I can only comment on chapter one but most high school sophomores could do better. As a pastor I don’t want to come off as just judging everyone who’s gobbling up this book. I don’t want to read it because I know in advance how bad it is. What I like about this article is that the author not only read it, but as an informed female, she puts the book into the whole context of women’s rights. Let’s be discerning with our reading choices. But rather than railing against it, let’s use some of this helpful data to inform friends who may be into the book without realizing the implications. Please pass this article on to others who ask you about the book.
I plan to learn more about violence against women and changes I can make to help fight these disturbing trends. Are you in? If you have experience with this issue, I would welcome your comments!
The Amazing Spiderman is the reboot of the Spidey franchise. I had a soft spot for the previous series, so I was skeptical. But the previews looked interesting and Navy Pier IMAX had tickets available, so we took the family and donned the corny glasses:
IMAX 3D is the way to enjoy 3D. But this movie wasn’t obnoxious “in your face” 3D. It’s used sparingly and artfully with just a few fun surprises along the way. The soundtrack is very well done, providing a fun. immersive experience.
Now, if you’re a Spiderman story purist who has fallen in love with any previous version of the story you will be thrown early on. But I suggest you suspend story expectations and let this version take you to a better story. I agree with Roger Ebert that this story provides us with better reasons for the birth of Spiderman. I agree with Claudia Puig that the story is allowed to lead the way, rather than simply special effects. (But there are plenty of those.) Speaking of effects the action is a little easier to follow this time and you feel it more. The action is also a little grittier, too. We experience the joy of Parker’s newfound abilities, but also his limitations. The art of action film-making has become more subtle and it shows.
Denis Leary gives an inspired performance as captain Stacy, father of Gwen Stacy. He’s more subdued than I’ve ever seen him for most of the movie. As a father to teenage girls I’ve been that dad before, trying to understand, being over-protective, etc… But when the chips are down, we see the Denis we’re used to from past roles.
I wouldn’t have picked Andrew Garfield out of a crowd to play Spiderman, but in this unique version of the story he shines. Andrew is gifted at displaying vulnerability. He is masterful at almost saying something. Therefore, he’s very believable as a teenage boy dealing with unexpressed feelings for a girl and facing the impossible while trying to do the right thing. Of course, Emma Stone delivers with great spirit and a winning smile. Again, I was impressed with her ability to make a character come to life.
This story is a complete reboot and with an all-star cast playing major and minor roles you are drawn in. It’s the emotion that makes any individual scene shine. It’s the story that keeps you wanting to see how this will end. Yet, somehow the carefully-paced action keeps this a fun summer blockbuster!
Spiderman can’t do it alone and that creates some of the best surprises the movie holds. We should all embrace the youth of this generation who want to make a difference. They may not have all the experience they need to make perfect decisions, but they have unique abilities and connections. When we all support them and let them do what they are gifted for the world can change. Highly Recommended