Monday, March 28, 2011

Messiah is Coming, But It's Not Jesus!

From CBN:
New evidence has emerged that the Iranian government sees the current unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi--or Islamic messiah--is about to appear.
CBN News has obtained a never-before-seen video produced by the Iranian regime that says all the signs are moving into place -- and that Iran will soon help usher in the end times.
While the revolutionary movements gripping the Middle East have created uncertainty throughout the region, the video shows that the Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand.

Read the CBN article and find an abridged video here:

For the full length video (well worth watching) go here:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The New Evangelical Virtues (Plagiarized)

I've been working much of the day on tomorrow's message for Mythbusters (A Good God Wouldn't Allow Suffering) and don't really have much more to say till then (ok, true confessions: the real reason is that I only have so much RAM and it is already somewhat overloaded).

So, I thought I'd refer any browsers to Tim Challies' superb treatment of evangelicalism--specifically, 'The New Evangelical Virtues.' It is very good, if you dare read it. It has a lot to do with a recent theological debate, indirectly.

P.S. One day I might venture a definition of 'evangelicalism.' Suffice it to say right now that it is related to, but different from, 'evangelistic' and 'evangelism,' with which it is regularly confused. All right, for now let's just say it is the movement which is centered on the evangel, the euangelion, the gospel. There are lots of different ways to describe, delimit and define the movement, but none of them start with the letter 'd' which means there are 25 other letters that will suffice. What I'm saying in a late-Saturday-night-kind-of-way is that the movement is pretty broad (though I suspect maybe not quite broad enough to contain our mate Rob Bell's recent theological trajectories).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Science Meets Theology


"There is a kind of religion in science…. Every event can be explained in a rational way as the product of some previous event…. [but] there is no First Cause. This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning… as a product of forces or circumstances he cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications – in science this is known as ‘refusing to speculate’ – or trivializing the origin of the world by calling if the Big Bang, as if the universe were a firecracker. Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proven that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks, What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter and energy into the universe? And science cannot answer these questions.
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
                                                               - Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Sign from God

One asked for a sign from God; and day by day
            The sun rose in pearl; in scarlet set;
Each night the stars appeared in bright array;
            Each morn the thirsty grass with dew was wet;
The corn failed not its harvest, nor the vine —
And yet he saw no sign!

William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark DSB (Edinburgh: St Andrew Press, 1954), 190.

Model Predicts Extinction of Religion in New Zealand (& Nine Other Countries)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faster Pastor

My pastoral buddy, Roger, and I had many laughs, not all of them at my expense. In fact, the whole trip back from Austin to Madison became somewhat of a laugh-fest. Pastor Rog, despite having a laptop and even a Kindle, has not caught up with the invention of wheels. Needless to say his hands and shoulders are raw from trudging ten miles through numerous terminals at O'Hare. The best moment was when the zip on his bag broke. (I laughed with him, not at him. Ok, I started and he eventually joined in.)

"When I grow up I want to                                                                            Graham
be just like Graham"                                                                      (& shamelessly proud of it)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Team 500 Pastors' Retreat Continued...

There is such a wealth of wisdom and insight and compassion in this group of men. So powerful to be able to pray together for our churches, for the work of God, for personal and ministry challenges we are facing.

We've had a great couple of days together. Finishes tomorrow around midday. No agenda, other than that which we created. At the very start, we put up about 8 blank sheets on the walls with different categories and questions like:
  • One or two things we must talk about:
  • Something I could use your collective wisdom on:
  • Spiritually I could use some advice on:
  • One success story I'd like to share
  • I could use a breakout session on... etc.
Occasionally, they get a bit "cheeky," as we say -- like this one I photographed:

USA Today Understands Bell Better Than Many Evangelicals

Saw an interesting article last night in the hotel's edition of USA Today. Article was flagged on the front page. Here's the electronic version. Cathy Grossman has pegged Rob's position pretty accurately. I think the publication of this book is going to be seen as a watershed event in the history of evangelicalism in years to come.

Here's Rob's book interview and some Q&A. No surprises at all. Start at around 14 minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Texas Pastors' Conference

I'm in Austin for one of the pastoral highlights of my year: Team 500. This is an annual conference of Evangelical Free Pastors of churches with Sunday attendance of 500-1000. This is my 4th year attending, and we have around 25 pastors from as far away as Maine, Idaho, Colorado and California. In addition, we have 5 leaders from the EFCA National Office, including President Bill Hammel (pictured left, standing) and Alvin Sanders, who'll be speaking at LakeView in a few weeks.  

I flew down with and am rooming with Roger Knowlton, senior pastor from Waupun, Wisconsin. He's the shorter-looking guy to the left in the picture on the right. I say shorter-looking since he's taller than I am, but who isn't? Roger just told me right now that he's never thought of me as short. I feel so affirmed. These pastoral conferences are very beneficial to one's self esteem. He just asked me, 'You know how to keep a turkey in suspense?' 'How?' I ask him. 'I'll tell you tomorrow!' he says. Now I feel small and insignificant again.

It's not quite sunbathing weather, but it's a bit warmer than Wisconsin. This was our dinner at our host pastor's home. Beautiful view out onto this canyon below. Our family's love of Texas from our fantastic 3 1/2 years at Dallas Theological Seminary is coming back with a vengeance all of a sudden. 

Rob Bell's Book: The Definitive Word

Hi from Austin, Texas (more on that later). Been trying to get online in various places and in various ways all day to post this link, but have had no success UNTIL NOW.

Anyway, this is a careful and theologically astute evaluation of Rob's book. If, like me, you're a former Rob Bell fan at some level, or want to be informed about a huge debate in contemporary evangelical Christendom, you'll want to read this.

Note 1: Kevin DeYoung also provides this in pdf form for easier reading.
Note 2: In spite of what some may say, this kind of theological critique is not witch hunting. Going into print as a high-profile pastor taking a radical new approach to a major topic in Scripture invites (requires, actually) careful and fair biblical and theological evaluation. I think that's what DeYoung provides. But read it and decide for yourself. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chris Tomlin Concert

After a great week of filling my head, I'm looking forward to filling my heart. Tonight, Madison (if it hasn't burned down) is hosting the Chris Tomlin If Our God is For Us worship event. I get to go with my favorite American and Valentine. Looking forward to seeing her again after hanging out with all men: 4 Aussies, 2 Koreans, 1 Chinese and 1 Brazilian (to name the international contingent).

Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Sunday's Sermon on Elders

A couple of folks have asked about the message on eldership last Sunday. Did anything specific prompt it? Is something going on at LakeView? Short answer: no. Long answer: no. We have a great elder team and we’re doing really well together. 

Our philosophy behind sermon series is not just to respond to current needs and issues (very important), but to also address issues that are important for our long-term health. Understanding what Scripture says about church leadership is pretty important for everyone in the church: elders, congregation, pastors, staff. Hope that clarification helps.

This Sunday we’re looking at being members together in the Body, another key topic. Then we jump right into ‘Mythbusters,’ which we’re praying will connect well with unchurched people, but also Christ-followers. After all, if we’re honest, most of us have questions about the faith, right? I sure do. And Peter tells us “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First Official Review of Rob Bell's book 'Love Wins'

Well, I'm still in Chicago really enjoying this class on Missional Church with Ed Stetzer. But we interrupt this program for an important announcement. The first official review of Rob's book is out, and let's just say it's not pretty. Or maybe the correct term is 'complimentary.'

Here's one quote from the book:
"A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. . . . This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear" (preface, vi).

Click here for Tim Challies' full review:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi

I'm sitting in class at Trinity Seminary. Have a couple of key takeaways already which I think are pretty significant, and which I want to ponder some more. Maybe even apply. Now THERE'S a novel thought.

Out of a class of around 25, there are four Aussies. I'm feeling a bit outnumbered, but since I knew they'd be here (I've had them in a previous class), I brought the contemplative kiwi with me. He sits in front of my laptop and points at them with his beak if they speak with an accent.

They're great guys. Even better, none of them are Wiggles. Their names: Bazz, Andy, Wal and Gav. I'm serious. Aussies don't believe in wasting cranial capacity remembering long names. If I sound insulting, you need to know that to kiwis and Aussies, the greater the insult, the greater the affection. Seriously.

The last class that we had together, Wal (he that was named 'Walter' by his mother) showed me a youtube video of Aussies mocking kiwis. I laughed till I cried. Here it is for your cultural and viewing pleasure. A couple of interpretive notes might be helpful as background:
  1. Kiwis make fun of how Aussies say the number 'six' (and similar words). They say it like 'seeks' (though that's almost irrelevant since you won't hear it in the clip).
  2. Aussies make fun of how kiwis say the number 'six' (and similar words). Many kiwis say their 'i' a little like a 'u'. 'Six' sounds like 'sucks.' Therefore 'much better' becomes 'much butter.'
  3. Understand that the 'kiwis' in the video are Aussies impersonating and taking the mickey out of kiwis. :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hell and the Bell Curve

Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, is not going away anwhere soon, though I'm guessing John Piper has already picked out a spot at the very bottom of his personal dumpster where he'll toss it the minute he's finished reading it.

Seems like the New York Times has gotten wind of the brouhaha (wow, I love that word):

The Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago in April is going to have a bit of a chin-wag from Trinity scholar (yay, I'll be there tomorrow), Don Carson, and a few other notable clerics without dog collars, like Tim Keller. Wish I could be there.

ImageI was at the Gospel Coalition Conference two years ago with Brad Carr, my old mate from New Zealand. He and I co-pastored together and then he defected to do a church plant of all things ("they went out from us because they were never part of us" says John, but he got it wrong in Brad and Rochell's case). Sending them and 30 or so others away was one of the best things we did (does that sound bad?). So, to reverse Jesus' statement about Adam and Eve, "the one shall become two":

Oh yeah. At the G.C. Conference, Brad and I each scored a Free ESV Study Bible. It's a fantastic, literal translation with superb study notes, but it doesn't fit in my pocket. In fact, my insurance refuses to cover chiropractic that is required after I carry it anywhere. So it just sits on my desk. Under all the piles of paper.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Doctor of Ministry Class

Monday, early, I head down to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois to take my 3rd Doctor of Ministry class: "Change in the Local Church: Traditional to Missional" with Ed Stetzer, DMin, PhD, Affiliate Professor of Research and Missional Ministry, TEDS; Director of LifeWay Research, Nashville, TN. He's the author of 3 of the 6 books I've had to read for the class, and a very highly respected church missiologist, so it's gonna be good.

Back in Madison Thursday night to take Doreen to the Chris Tomlin Concert.

Here's the syllabus if you want to have a squiz:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Hate Hate

Yesterday the Supreme Court decided that the 'Westboro Baptist Church' can continue to do this. I'm sure, like me, the Justices would have personally liked to have trussed up the offenders (the parents, at least), and dispatched them to a dark, soundproof room for a year or two. But I guess this is the price of maintaining genuinely free speech. No doubt jurists will dissect the decision for years to come and there will be great debates about what constitutes hate speech and how to balance everyone's competing rights.

But for my part, I hate it. And I'm glad I can express it here and express it now:
  • I hate their hate.
  • I hate the fact that a little band of 70 or so inbred, related folks with a crazy patriarch named Fred can pawn themselves off as a church and get so much publicity.
  • I hate that these parents are destroying their kids.
  • I hate that some naiive people will assume this is Christianity and that God is hateful.
  • I hate the fact that they have singled out one sin, and ignored their own damning self-righteousness and arrogant vindictiveness.
  • I hate that they don't seem to have read a word of the four Gospels, in which Jesus repeatedly has the harshest words for those who trumpet their own goodness and others' sinfulness.
  • I hate their distortion of the Gospel, as if God's primary concern is to simply get people to improve their behavior, rather than come to know him as Savior and let him change their lives
  • I hate that I am proud that I am not like them.
  • I hate that the ugliness and pride and blindness I see in them resides in me, though it manifests itself in different ways.
  • I love that I've been redeemed from the consequences of that, and pray they will be too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why I Love LakeView Reason #1

Great staff meetings, um lunches. Two of our ten staff were missing,
but we sure enjoyed the ribs Steve & Julie S served up.
(NB: Reason #1 doesn't mean food is the most important thing
about LakeView, just the first I'm mentioning. :)   )