This afternoon I'm relaxing watching some football. I have HDTV. Most of my friends do not have HDTV. I have considered dropping HDTV and saving a few bucks on my bill each month until.... until I watch sports in HDTV.
Today I accidently began watching some of the Steelers v. Cardinals football game in standard definition. I could see the game, follow the score and enjoy the game well enough. But then I thought... 'I'm on the wrong channel.' I hit the buttons to the HDTV version of the same game and WOW. It was like someone gave me glasses for the first time. All of a sudden I was kinda bumbed that I had just wasted 10 minutes watching the game in a way I didn't have to.
You see, HDTV lets you see the pores on the skin of the players. You can see the individual blades of grass. Depth perception is amazingly improved when you watch on HDTV.
Today at church I tried to tell our people that its time for many of them to become leaders. The church (both ours and globally) need more people to rise up and take leadership. This is one of those areas that are as tough to explain as HDTV.
There are many areas in the Christian experience that leave me feeling this way. Serving, Giving, Leading, Risk-Taking, Sacrificing to name a few. These are areas I try to exhort people to experience but for many the exhortation falls on deaf ears.
Its like trying to explain HDTV. My words are inadequate. Who cares about pores and blades of grass after all... It's just a game. As long as they can see the game and tell who scores they don't need to go further right? Yeah. Until they see what I see.
Christianity often relies too heavily on words. That's why the word had to become flesh (as Ben pointed out earlier this week). I've tried to explain HDTV to my friends. It's so tough. But when my friends give it a try and come check out a game at my house... they never want to go back.
The Christian life is to be lived in HDTV.
You'll never experience the HDChristian life by avoiding risk, looking for security, avoiding true leadership, avoiding sacrifices and serving with your excess. The HDChristian life can only be experienced by reckless abandon. It's tough to explain but I never want to go back. I don't want my life to be safe anymore. I don't want to be comfortable. I don't want my Christian experience to pleasure me first. I want my Christian life to be lived in High Definition. Come check out a game at my house sometime.
Finally... a bible worthy of the ipod
I have yet to put a bible on my ipod. Honestly the reason is I don't keep much on my ipod that puts me to sleep. Most bibles I've heard for ipods have been boring readings. I have never wanted to distort my view of scripture with some monotone reading of the text as if I was in a Math 101 class in college.
Finally someone (or a group of someones actually) has invested the time and talent necessary to produce a worthwhile bible for the ipod generation.
You've got to go check out "Inspired By... The Bible Experience".
I have not been asked to promote this but honestly it's worth your time to check it out. If you're like me, my ipod spends some time with me everyday. At present I listen to a bunch of preachers tell me about the bible through my ipod. This now gives me reason to listen to the text by itself for an extended period of time.
Go check it out.
Here is a video clip explaining who's involved and how they did it.
So I was doing some reading and typing from Panera Bread on Wednesday. Some guys at the next table over were either meeting as a church staff or having accountability. All I know is that they were Christian guys whom I couldn't see myself hanging out with.
Anyway they got to the end of their discussion and started to pray. Unfortunately they prayed loud enough (in Panera Bread) that I could hear them.
While I love prayer and happen to partake of prayer quite often myself, this incident brought up some of that dry throw-up that comes when I hear some people praying.
So here goes... some of my prayer annoyances in no particular order.
1. When people boss God around.
Our hard of hearing friends demanded God to do a number of things. They didn't come off as requests for blessing on another person's life. They talked as if THEY were God and knew best for certain people. They TOLD GOD how to handle that person. They TOLD GOD what God should make this person think and do. They TOLD GOD the counseling that this person needed. It was crazy. I can't see myself telling God exactly what God has to do to solve a problem or a person.
2. When people talk to each other during prayer.
"God please let Tally know that I ....." I hate hearing this one. If someone does this when I'm in a circle praying it makes me want to reach across and smack them and say "NO... YOU tell me what you want to tell me." It's weird. It's like people use prayer time as a time to say things that they haven't said or won't say to you personally. I guess if you use God as a cover it's better. So if you know me, please don't ask God to re-affirm something to me that you yourself haven't done a good job sharing.
3. Long and drawn out prayer.
I'm all for spending time in prayer. I'm all for praying very specifically for various things. But not before dinner. The food gets cold. And not before the end of an all-day meeting. There is a season for everything. A time for everything. Some prayers can be as simple as "Thanks God." Not every prayer has to be a 'Never ending story"
4. Repeating everything we just talked about in prayer.
This one bugs me b/c it comes across to me that we didn't believe God was in the meeting. Or that we didnt' believe the people around us were in the meeting. Pastors can do this one but so can well-meaning laymen. When you're repeating a sermon in your prayer... probably a little much. I can even see asking God to bless a certain path that was just talked about... but you don't have to repeat it all as if you're giving God "minutes" of the day. He knows... He was there.
5. Stuffy prayers.
I get really sick of hearing prayers with puffed-up language. People talk to God like he's impressed with our use of words that aren't normal. Whenever you need to pull out an apologetics book to follow someone's prayer it drives me nuts. One of the biggest points to God is that He's within reach and the Holy Spirit lives within us. He's not operating on some intellectual snobbery to where your prayers have to be prayed in an ancient language. He understands English just fine. Additionally my bible says that he knows our prayers even before we pray them.... so save the homiletics degree for something else. Let prayer be prayer.
6. Flowery prayers.
This is almost the opposite of Stuffy prayer. This is when someone paints a picture of dancing through a bed of roses with how they talk to God. Puhh-lease. God's not fooled like the people in the prayer meeting. Again I'd say it's a good idea to pray the way you talk and live. He meets you where you are. Don't try to impress others around you by how smoothly your words roll off of your tongue or how impressive you sound.
Thanks for listening. You were as effective and less costly than a shrink.
Ben is Brilliant
I'm back from my trip to the country of Texas. Yes its still there. One of the things I love about Texas is the people. In particular I've been fortunate enough to know some great people who reside there. One such person is named Ben. Ben is a Junior in High School but has the brain of a guy halfway through college. His family is one of the coolest I've ever known and his parents would honestly get my personal award for 'Best Mom and Dad in the whole Freakin' World!" I admire the way they've raised their three children. All unique in their own right, they are a product of a great family.
I've always known that Ben was great as an artist and over the last year I've learned that he's been elected class president a few times. I now recently heard that he's destroying the school books as well with a 4.million GPA. Pssst. On top of it all I hear he's considering going a few years to the world famous Liberty University. All of this makes him BRILLIANT.
Over lunch after church Sunday I decided to be his personal cheer leader and with an empty paper towel tube in my hand I decided to cheer "Ben is Brilliant" over anything he did. I figure one can never have enough esteem boosts! So toward the end of the meal I told Ben I wanted to continue my "Ben is Brilliant" campaign and I told him if he'd make me a shirt I'd wear it.
To my surprise (but should I have been? He's brilliant...) Ben shocked me with this one of a kind BRILLIANT T-shirt.
To my friend Ben and all in Texas who know him.... Thanks. Thanks for a great weekend and for being as Brilliant as you all are.
Deep in the heart of Texas
It's 5:30 a.m.
In less than 2 hours (Lord Willing) I'll take off for the great country of Texas.
I miss my wife and son already. I'm getting old.
Hook 'em Aggies. Is that how it goes? ;)
Cant afford a large-scale Plotter?
One of the things that many ministries are turning to is large-scale printing done IN-HOUSE. I was down at Fellowship Church a few years back and a friend of mine who is on staff was showing me how they make so many of their environments look so great without spending a ton of cash. It basically comes down to a large-format printer or "plotter".
Typically a plotter costs a few hundred bucks a month for the lease/service contract and then a few hundred more for ink refills.
This week I came across a base-line program that can help smaller ministries use their office laser printer in a similar way. I should say up front that this is not what you should use if you can afford the real thing. Don't penny pinch. But if you are starting out or cannot afford the real deal, this may be a solution to get you started.
This software allows you to blow up an image and print out and multiple PDF pages. So you can take a photo and it will resize it to print out in any size you'd like to go to. The difference is that you'd obviously have to put the puzzle together.
I can't see this being great for things people will see from up close (because of the pieces). But it looks promising for something large that would be on stage and far back from the audience.
If any of you have used it, let me know. Otherwise some of you can take a look and see if it helps your ministry.
LINK TO THE SOFTWARE HERE
Did you guys hear about the kid at the University of Florida who got tasered for resisting police?
Apparently he turned an open mic Q&A with Sen. John Kerry into a debate and/or monologue. He asked Kerry some questions and felt the politician wasn't giving a straight answer (was he surprised that a politician would side step the question?). Ultimately his time was up and he was asked to leave t he mic. He refused, threw a fit, police came to escort him out and he kept resisting. Ultimately 6 of them were trying to take him into custody and he continued to refuse.
I saw a report at lunch on CNN (yes I watch news during my lunch break) and the anchor couldn't believe he'd get tasered for resisting officers.
My take: Good for the cops.
Freedom of speech stops when the person footing the bill for the venue and speaker says "Okay, you've said your peace, let others talk." It definitely stops when an officer says "Hey dude, you're disturbing the peace... lets leave." It most certainly should stop when you've been slammed to the floor for resisting and trying to continue make a rear-end of yourself by protesting at an event where everyone in the building already gave you more than enough time to make your point. When a cop says "Give us your hands or we will have to taser you. Stop resisting or we will taser you...." What do you think comes next? ZAPPP!
Respect for people in authority is out the window these days. Everyone thinks that somehow everyone's voice should carry the same weight. A student should be able to use someone else's time and dime to blast a sitting US Senator, disrespect the hundreds of other students in the room and ignore commands from police when you've disturbed the peace.
I say good for the cop. I'm not a fan of Senator Kerry. Who knows I may have agreed with the kid politically. But don't think you can throw your tantrum and poop on everyone else's yard and get away with it. ZAPP!
When asked how he can stay motivated even though he's one of the most famous and most wealthy rappers of all time 50 Cent said "Our industry is 4.1 Billion dollars. When I look at what I make it feels like I am paid $5 bucks." He also went on to say "When you succeed it's even more important to get around people who have done more than you. I used to look up to anyone who was signed, now that I'm one of the best I fly around to visit people halfway around the world who are billionaires. When they meet with me and know what I'm worth they pat me on the back and smile because they make that in their sleep. To stay hungry you have to get around people who are where you want to be."
These are two lessons that successful Pastors say over and over but yet a gangster rapper applies them to his life more than most of us in the ministry.
Lesson 1: The harvest is plentiful.
Someone asked me recently if I thought being near other churches is a hinderance to Focal Point being successful. They said "Are you in anyone's shadow." The answer is no, their are no dominant churches near us. In fact 8 churches have come and gone in our area since we've been going. Apparently no one (including us) has found the formula just yet. We believe we will. Either way though our city/region is 1.6 million people. Even if we have 10 churches of 20,000 people each, this city would still need enough churches to reach the other 1.4 million people. 50 cent doesn't compare himself to other rappers as his end-all. He compares what he's done with what is left to do.
This lesson is why places like Anderson, SC are blessed to have visionaries like Perry Noble and Tony Morgan. They basically have their entire city in their church but they feel like they just got started. You've gotta love and respect that.
Lesson 2: Get around people above you.
We didn't' do this enough early on. We started too soon. Regardless of why we had to do that, we did it. As a result I didn't lead our people properly by letting them SEE the vision in action somewhere else. It's not their fault, it's mine.
This is why Tadd is having so much success. This is why Steven Furtick did great out of the gate. This is why Gary spoke at NewSpring and talked recently about their drive home and the vision God stirred in their heart. Each and every one of these guys paid attention to this lesson.
We must always be humble to learn from people who've been there.
I recall Ed Young talking about a time when he noticed a young guy studying in Starbucks and as they got to talk Ed realized he was a church planter. Ed decided to invest some time in this guy he didn't know so he started by understanding this guy's ministry. This kid turned around and began bashing Fellowship Church and talked of all he would be doing better than Fellowship. He wasn't humble. He wasn't hungry. He was arrogant and he's now probably unemployed.
What I'd give to sit down with any of these men. Unless and until that ever happens I'll continue to read their blogs, attend their conferences and call the ones I do know. Stay humble and stay teachable. No matter how many butts were in the seats last week.
Things I learned from 50 cent- pt 1
50 Cent has recently been featured on myspaceTV. Myspace did a 5 part interview with 50 (1 interview divided into 5 clips) that turned out to be pretty enlightening.
Having grown up in Baltimore City I learned 'street knowledge' in the school of Hard Knocks before I learned 'book knowledge' at Liberty University. One thing that has made me smile through the years is the underestimating of inner-city minds by suburbia . Many educated elites view the 'lower class' as unintelligent. In fact one of the ways a tyranny is able to hold down a population segment is through deprivation of education. So today while its true that many in our cities don't have a populous filled with 'book knowledge'... they do have many people with advanced degrees in 'Street'.
Professional marketing firms spend billions trying to understand how to sell to the masses. The truth is that they're just trying to learn the lessons of the street.
50 Cent said some pretty cool things in this interview that translate into all areas of life. I wrote down some of my favorite quotes and I'll share them along with my take over the next few days.
My first installment of quotes comes from the general line of questioning similar to: "When you walk into a room you have a presence about you. Can you describe why some people have that and others don't?"
"I don't believe anyone can beat me at being me."
"We skipped media training. I was like "Why. If a reporter asks me a question I can answer for myself."
"A lot of artists don't know who they are before they go into the studio with a producer."
Obviously this line of questioning is powerful when considering who we are in the ministry. Scripture teaches us that we're all both 1. Made in the image of God and 2. Uniquely designed within that image. If this is the case we should both represent that which unites us to the image of our daddy as well as embrace and hone that which makes us unique within the Kingdom.
Many Pastors fall on hard times when they forget who they are. They try to mimic other big named Pastors. They try to pacify the questions from church members. Instead of living out the vision of their calling they live out the desires of everyone around them.
No matter your position or skill set. If you're reading this blog, stop and take time to learn what a rapper and former drug-dealer has learned. "No one can beat you at being you." They may be great at being them... but you should focus on being the best 'you' that you're wired to be. After all, our job is to do the work he's given us in ADVANCE to do. Why try to re-wire myself to be like someone who is doing what God called THEM to do.
No one can be a better you than YOU. Become confident in who God made you to be and unapologetically live that out under God's instruction to the best of your ability.
I think a lot. It's part of my personality type.
The thing is... when I think a lot I usually don't say much.
I haven't said much on this blog because I have always challenged myself to not become a slave to the blogworld. I want the ideas I put out there to come from my desire to share them, not from the pressure of production. I love the blog but it's a hobby, not my master.
All that to say this... I expect to be back. I'm not done thinking... but I have had things come to mind that I'd enjoy sharing with you, the reader.
For those who have kept in touch and wondered where I was... thanks. I appreciate it. And for the rest of you who kept me on your blog-roll during my absence. Thanks.
My next post is coming soon. "Things I learned from 50 cent."
Attention Christiane Amanpour
Recently CNN ran a 3 day special called "God's Warriors". The "documentary" by Christiane Amanpour was divided into three segments on three consecutive nights. Jewish Warriors, Muslim Warriors and Christian Warriors. Blogger Joe Carter was one of a few bloggers able to preview selected clips and ask questions prior to the CNN airing. Here are the titles of the clips (and based on my watching of the 'documentary', these sum up the gist of each program).
* God’s Jewish Warriors: theocratic Israeli settlers, including the man who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin
* God’s Muslim Warriors: theocratic British students, including the London subway bombers
In addition to Dr. Falwell the Christian night had people such as John Hagee, Ron Luce Founder & President of Teen Mania ministries and a few people who were mainly concerned about the environment and poverty.
Instead, during the graduation ceremony, several hundred students from her class interrupted the principals remarks by reciting the Lord's Prayer in unison and then received a standing ovation from nearly 2,000 people packed into the gymnasium for the ceremony. To conclude her own remarks Megan bravely told "So, when you get out in the world and things get hard and you don't feel like you're going to pass that final next week in college, or you're not going to be able to pay that next bill, God's going to help you through that with your faith in him,"
So there we have it folks. Jewish Warriors assassinate, Muslim Warriors blow up trains and the awful 17 year old Christian Warriors earn the right to speak at their graduation through 4 years of hard work and sacrifice only to have the ACLU try to squash their right to free speech.
You may have heard of that story but if you watched the CNN report I'm talking about you also saw Amanpour interview Megan and her twin sister in their LU dorm where they were asked why they felt like they were being attacked when they are allowed to freely practice their religion in America and in other places they couldn't. The girls spoke of an ongoing attack from the ACLU and others trying to get God out of all public discourse. Amanpour didn't seem to be buying it and ultimately moved to clips of idiot bombers blowing up abortion clinics (even though no person on the show did or ever would approve of those few loons).
So Christiane Amanpour, I wanted to point you to a story being covered by a competing organization. Check out what happened to this Colorado student. She had her diploma held hostage until she denounced remarks about Jesus.
"A student who said she was told she wouldn't get her diploma unless she apologized for a commencement speech in which she mentioned Jesus has filed a lawsuit alleging her free speech rights were violated.
The school district contends its actions were "constitutionally appropriate."
Erica Corder was one of 15 valedictorians at Lewis-Palmer High School in 2006. All were invited to speak for 30 seconds at the graduation ceremony. When it was Corder's turn, she encouraged the audience to get to know Jesus Christ."So this school gave 15 valedictorians (how they had that many is beyond me) each 30 seconds of stage time (7 1/2 minutes total) of a several hour program. Okay... as an aside... I think of that news being given to the students who worked so hard for 4 years. Hey, thanks for applying yourself, missing school events, running school events, volunteering, doing all of your work with excellence, etc.... So as our reward we want to give you 30 seconds to speak at graduation!"
Anyway... this girl had 30 short seconds to say something worthwhile to her peers and their families. A girl who EARNED THE RIGHT to speak. She chose to point to the One who made it possible for her and encouraged others to get to know Him. Then the gloves came off! How dare her! This girl who was a respectable student for 4 years ruins graduation and her reputation (as far as school administrators are concerned) by mentioning Jesus Christ. She should be so ashamed! The school is so angry that they want to force her to sign something that denounces her own actions. What a way for the government to welcome this girl into adult life. "Keep your Jesus to yourself or we'll take away something you earned the right to have over the last 4 years."
So Christiane... THIS is what is happening in America. THIS is why Dr. Falwell wanted to train educated, passionate and strong leaders at Liberty University. THIS is why he helped start the Liberty University Law school AND why it has at its disposal more than most of its competitors including a true to life replica of the U.S. Supreme Court.
So Mrs. Amanpour, thanks for comparing Christians to the Taliban (as she did with Ron Luce) and for comparing young women like Megan Chapman to assassins and train bombers. Thanks for doing your part to rid the world of any reasonable discussion or debate about faith in the public square.
Thanks also for showing how humanity is helped by the sacrificial gifts of Christians around the country. Thanks for showing Dr. Falwell's home for alcoholics and drug addicts or the home for unwed mothers that sits on the same mountain as Liberty University. Maybe the CNN truck couldn't get to downtown Lynchburg to show Dr. Falwell's program called "The Center" where inner city kids are given mentors and a safe place to come away from the drugs and violence in their neighborhoods. Thanks for your very unbiased piece. (That's called sarcasm... just in case you missed it.)
Two smaller complaints I had about this "documentary" was that 1. It's not a documentary if the host talks for 90% of the show unless they are documenting themselves and 2. Every time a Christian leader spoke something deemed 'conservative' the music went from pop to poop in 2 seconds. We'd go from hearing strings and violins to bass drums and organs. It felt like I was watching a car with a "Just Married" sign being followed by a hearse. It so happened that the hearse music came on every time the speaker said something Jesus may have said.
As you can tell I wasn't a huge fan. While the Christians came off less violent than the other two I can't say it was due to any help by CNN. Between the funeral music, comparisons to the Taliban and her obsessive use of the term "pit bull" with Dr. Falwell (which coincidently I heard more in this interview than my 4 years on LU's campus combined!)... I was left with the feeling that the only reason the Christian one came up somewhat sane was because she interviewed people who actually know how to respond to a loaded question.
I also might as well and thank the Colorado School Board for doing something so stupid. In this information age schools such as those in Colorado and Kentucky continue to harass Christians, Liberty University and it's new Law program are going to look more and more appealing to students around the country who have had enough of the secularists shoving secularism down their throats. They're going to want a first-class University to train them how to stand up for themselves and after a few mouse-clicks they'll end up on the campus of Liberty University!
One blogger's take.
Another detailed rundown here from another blog.