Friday, June 29, 2007

Summer Blast

When I was a kid there was a week each summer where we did something called "Vacation Bible School" that involved sitting in an old school house that our church owned and hearing stories illustrated by flannel graphs. As I recall, we did lots of crafts, and on the whole it was a fun, if rather basic, experience.

At HDC we host something we call Summer Blast every year. It has, at its roots, the same idea as Vacation Bible School: Bring kids in who are driving their parents crazy at home, give them a week to hear about God and have a great time. But we've come a LONG way from the days of flannel graphs.

First up, when I went to VBS there were somewhere between 20 and 40 kids or so. We had over 1100 in our auditorium (between 1st and 6th grade). If we sang a song, it was most likely either acapella or maybe accompanied by a piano. Summer Blast featured music lead by a kids choir that danced and had hand motions to every song. Two of the days they were accompanied by a live band.

The presentation involved drama and a movie that was written and produced in house. The special effects were simply jaw-dropping when you consider the whole thing was edited by a member of the children's staff at home on his iMac. There was a full sized volkswagon camper van on our stage, among other things.

Each day featured teaching by our children's pastor, who taught the kids from the word of God. My daughter accepted Christ this week at the age of nine. She has heard the gospel many, many times in our home, but it was Summer Blast that at last convinced her that she need to pray to accept Christ. She is obviously not the only one, but definiately the one that I care about the most in this crowd...

One of the really great things about our church is a focus on OIKOS, which is a Greek term for extended household. Essentially the 8-15 people you come in contact with on a daily basis. As part of this OIKOS focus, we actually make registration cheaper for our people if they bring a friend who does not go to our church. The friend is free, and our people pay less. My daughter brought eleven friends with her from girl scouts. Among them were two mormons and a catholic, as well as several that are unchurched.

Many of our staff take the mornings off from their "real" jobs to volunteer serving at summer blast. This is a testimony to what great people we have working at HDC, that they would be part of our programs like this as volunteers.

Summer Blast is my single favorite week of the year at this church. I don't get as much work done as I usually do, but it reminds me of why I put the time in that I do. It's awesome to see so many kids having a great time and learning about God. We've come a long way from flannel graphs, but we still serve the same God.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Man Camp

What ever happened to all the men? Somehow our society has made it not politically correct to be a man, and that is wrong. God created guys to be men, and we need to step up to the plate and fill the bill.

Enter Man Camp. Man Camp is the brain child of my friend Ryan, who wanted to develop an event where guys could spend time doing manly things and learning what it means to be a man of God. The first Man Camp was invitation only, and I jumped at the opportunity.

Man Camp started on Wednesday night, with a great steak dinner and a talk by Ryan introducing man camp and the reasons for its existance. One of the really great things about Wednesday night was meeting Marshall, a friend of Ryan who demonstrated selfless acts of service when he setup our tent and made us dinner, despite not attending man camp at all. Marshall didn't need to speak about how a man should serve, he showed it.

Thursday morning we woke up and had a nice breakfast (bacon and eggs, plus leftover steak!) and then went out to the Rampart Range shooting area where we unloaded an arsenal of guns and ammo and proceeded to put them to good use. I don't know exactly how many guns there were, but personally I shot a 9mm, a .40, a .45, a .357 magnum, an AK-47, some sort of Romanian built SKS, a Weatherby 300 mag, and of course the 12 gage pistol grip chrome shotgun. :-)

After a shooting contest we moved over to the shotgun range and had a clay pigeon contest. It took me a while to get the hang of it again, but I still shot poorly. Maybe next year. Marshall was there, along with his friend Matt and one of the security officers from Focus on the Family. Joe talked to us about doing security for focus, why it was necessary, and some of his time overseas. He focused on the religious conflicts he witnessed, and talked about our need to know why and what we believe, as well as to be strong Christians.

After shooting, we moved on to the Pratt river where we went fishing and had a little lunch. Fishing was fun, I haven't stood around and fished in years. It is very relaxing. Unfortunately the fish weren't biting, but I was very successful in hooking many of the rocks that dwell on the bottom of this section of river. Are you supposed to go through a lure every cast?

We finished our journey for the day at Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting, where we had dinner and setup our camp. The wind was outrageous, causing our tent to fall over and we had to move it and set it up where we could lash it to a fence. We finished the night around a campfire where Ryan was very open and transparent, sharing some of the failures in his life, the lessons learned and the importance of being a man of God. This time also involved a lot of talk from the participants. The mix of married men vs. unmarried men was cool, and I really enjoyed being able to give some of the younger guys some very frank advice about marriage.

After spending a cold night in the tent, we got up the next day and went rafting. Our guide, Dale, was very cool. He definately caught the vibe of our group and we had a blast. I have been rafting before, but it wasn't nearly as fun as this was. It was interesting to observe guys in other rafts not doing their job as men. It really drove home the importance of taking time to think about what it means to be a man and how to live it out day to day.

We left Noah's Ark and made our way back to camp, where we re-assembled our campsite. A man named Steve (who happens to be Marshall's dad) showed up and shared with us some great insights on parenting. He talked at great length about a 13 year old kid who had been killed recently, and the significance of the manhood ceremony that the kids dad had gone through with him. I was deeply moved by Steve's talk, and it really fired me up to think through very visible and concrete ways I can work with my son to lead him into a future as a man. Steve showed us a sword that he had made for Marshall, that included Joshua 1:9 "Be Strong and Courageous" on it. It's amazing how our culture ignores these values, and yet they are so important.

One aside: Steve brought his dog as an illustration. Rugby was a great illustration until he ran off and picked a fight with a skunk. After we all got a whiff of that smell, we didn't really want Rugby around any more, and we had to tie him up down wind. It was a very funny moment. Mostly the part where Zack said "Maybe he saw a skunk" which was followed by the realization that Zack was right, and then the incredible odor that goes along with such a discovery.

Saturday morning we had a nice pancake breakfast followed by a trip the bowling alley, where we saw the most amazing mullett in the history of mankind. We were only using two lanes, but we basically were the only people in the bowling alley, and it was a blast. We all had fun picking random songs from the jukebox and bowling up a storm. The first game was pretty rough, but by the second game most of the guys bowled pretty well. It was very fun, the first time I've been bowling since about 1992 or so.

After bowling we went to the house of Ryan's friend Roy. Roy is an MD who has the distinction of being one of only two people in history to deliver a gorilla via c-section. Roy is a stud. His game room has more trophies mounted on the wall than you could get if you went and shot the local zoo and mounted it on your wall. It was simply astonishing. Roy gave us a slide show of his life and of his safaris, and basically taught by showing the examples of his life. He gave us great instruction on raising kids, how to treat a lady, the importance of spending time with his kids etc. His success is evident not only by the trophies on the wall, but by the lives being lived out by his family. His kids are both very successful and it is apparent that they love their family. It's hard to summarize everything he said, but it also deeply impacted me. I will never forget this visit.

After a time fishing in one of the ponds by Roy's house, we headed over to Ryan's house to watch the UFC season finale and have pizza. I've never watched much of this, but it was very fun. The evening finished around the fire as we sat and talked about life. We needed coffee cups for the next morning, and so I borrowed my friend's Subaru WRX STI Limited and flogged it. WOW what a rush!!! It was so fun I couldn't wipe the giant grin off my face for days. It's a little car that weighs next to nothing and has 300HP. My friend Dave, sitting in the seat next to me, told me that this car could keep up with his Porsche 911 up to about 135MPH or so. Nice! It was, without a doubt, the biggest adrenaline rush I've ever had behind the wheel of a car. Amazingly I didn't get a ticket or hit a deer...

Sunday we went up to Woodland Park for the best donut I've ever had in my life, and then we went to Garden of the Gods for a finale. On the whole it was a fantastic week. I salute Ryan for putting the time into such a life changing experience.

I arrived home to my kids jumping up and down with joy to see daddy again. It was a wonderful welcome home!


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Radical Reformission

Radical Reformission is a book by Mark Driscoll that was published in 2004.

I really, really liked this book. So much so that I not only ordered my own copy, but I didn't give back the one I borrowed, I gave it to someone else to read first. I hope I don't seem to gushing and overly positive about the books I've been reading lately, generally I am very critical, but this round of books is really touching a nerve with me.

Radical reformission is about a transformation of the church. Mark shares his philosophy regarding the church, and what it means for a church to be missional. This book combines powerful teaching with storytelling, and the typical driscoll humor.

I love the story of how he started in ministry. Mark accepted Christ, and then immediately decided to start a bible study (the same week!). He summarizes it like this "It then dawned on me that I had been a Christian for only a few days, had never been in a Bible study, and did not really know anything in the Bible other than the fact that I sucked and that Jesus is God." Mark offered to let anyone ask any question, as long as they would give him a week to try to figure it out.

Mark is very transparent in this book, sharing both success and failures. After one very entertaining story about going to a gay cowboy bar (gotta read the book!) in which he was afraid to tell people he was a pastor, he said "I cared more about how I appeared to people than about whether I shared the passion of Jesus for those who are lost"

But the chapter on reformissional evangelism really hit home with me. I struggle with the idea that we expect people to jump through hoops to be part of the church, and Mark writes an incredible analogy on this point:

"In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God's people before they are called to repent of sin and trust in God. Taking a cue from dating is helpful on this point. If we desire people to be happily married to Jesus as his loving bride, it makes sense to let them go out on a few dates with him instead of just putting a shotgun to their heads and asking them to hurry up, put on a white dress, and try to look happy for the photos."

Mark then explains "In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries (for example, helping to run concerts, helping to guide a rock-climbing expedition, taking a class on biblical marriage, helping to develop a website, joining a Bible study, serving the needy) and participate in them before they possess saving faith."

This is a key difference between the emerging church and the traditional church. Traditionally churches require people to be members before they do things, which requires that they are already Christians. The emerging church is about exposing people to a life in Christ and using that to draw them in.

Mark challenges readers to engage culture rather than withdraw from it, but is careful to caution that engaging culture does not include sinning (e.g. things like fornication and drunkenness are not engaging culture, they are sin).

In a chapter entitled "the sin of light beer" Mark talks about the dangers of syncretism and sectarianism, and specifically utilizes the Christian church's demonization of something God created for the joy of His people, alcohol, to make his point. I really love Mark's conclusion in this chapter:

"Here's what I'd like you to remember from this chapter: reformission is not about abstention; it is about redemption. We must throw ourselves into the culture so that all that God made good is taken back and used in a way that glorifies him. Our goal is not to avoid drinking, singing, working, playing, eating, love-making, and the like. Instead, our goal must be to redeem those things through the power of the gospel so that they are used rightly according to Scripture, bringing God glory and his people a satisfied joy."

The conclusion of the book is profound in its own very post-modern way. Rather than wrap everything up into a neat little conclusion, Mark concludes the book by sharing his hopes and dreams for the city of Seattle and the ministry of Mars Hill. In essence, Mark shares what he prays will be the end result of putting into practice the things that he has been writing about through this book. That the world would be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long, long time.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Raping the poor

Last night I was working on my computer while Patty was watching TV. As she got up to go to be she turned off what she was watching on the tivo, but left the TV on. A commercial came on with Gary Coleman pimping "Cash Call" and talking about how easy it was to get money put straight into his checking account.

A screen filled with tiny print came up at the end of the ad and I paused it (the glory of tivo) and read what it had to say:

"Cash Call has an average APR of 99.25%. A loan of $2600 has 42 monthly payments of $216.55"

An AVERAGE APR of 99.25%???? If you actually pay this thing off you will pay $6495.10 in interest in 3 and 1/2 years on a debt of only $2600. There are only three groups of people who would ever do this:

(1) People who think they can take the money and run.
(2) People who can't do math
(3) Poor people who have absolutely nowhere else to turn and have no other choice.

Now, I have no sympathy for #1. People who work the system to steal from everyone deserve to be hunted down by cretins like Cash Call. But the other two groups are simply being exploited by this company.

My dictionary defines usury as "the illegal practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest"

Now obviously they have found a legal loophole to walk through, but nobody could argue that their rates are reasonable. You can find God's opinion about people who oppress the poor and lend money to receive unreasonable amounts of return in Ezekiel 18. I get very angry when I see commercials like this. We are allowing people to exploit the poor for money and oppress them by making them a slave to a loan they really can never hope to repay.

Proverb's 19:17 reads: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed."

God wants us to be generous to the poor, not keep them down.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches

Well, here's my first post-seminary book review...

Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches - Five Perspectives is a book edited by Robert Webber that contains theological essays by five leaders of the emerging church. Those of you who have any familiarity with the emerging church know how difficult it is to pin down anything, so this book provides a little glimpse into the theology of a few successful emerging churches.

There are five essays, each followed by responses by the other four authors. The overwhelming tone of this book is one of friendship and respect. Even when there are radically different views the responses provide a glimpse of how I believe God intended us to work through these things. There is no shouting, no condemning, there is love and respect. It is wonderful to behold.

There were a few quotes from Dan Kimball that I thought were worth sharing about the beliefs of the emerging church:


If we are only trying to be "relevant" (a word churches love to use), by adding candles and coffee, using art in worship, and playing hip music, this is not good. Those are only surface fixes. If we merely tweak the surface level of things, we are missing the whole point of cultural change and what the emerging church is about. That is only a re-fluffing of the pillows. I believe true emerging churches must go deep within, and from the inside out, rethink, reshape, and revalue how we go about everything as culture changes. We must rethink leadership, church structure, the role of a pastor, spiritual formation, how community is lived out, how evangelism is done, how we express our worship etc.


But nevertheless, the emerging church needs to revere, teach, respect, discuss, and study the Bible. I think all the more in our emerging culture, do we need to create a culture of hungering for the Scriptures.


I really like what Dan Kimball had to say. I think he "nailed it" with regards to some of the common misconceptions about the emerging church (e.g. it's all about worship style). I also found this line from Webber's conclusion very intriguing:


First, these leaders remind us that we live in a new world. This assertion doesn't mean that emergents feel the old modern world is completely gone. They acknowledge we live in two worlds-the modern and postmodern. What they ask of us is to get ready for the new world, to recognize that we live in a time of transition, where the old Christendom is dying and the new postmodern world is emerging...the church is in a new missional setting.


I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding the theology of the emerging church. Although I certainly disagree with some of the points these guys make (as do the other authors in the book), I found the overall tone and "feel" of this book to be very Christ-like and inspiring. God is doing great things with the emerging church. We need to praise Him for raising up leaders like the five essayists in this book and pray for more like them to lead the next generation of the church.


I have my life back

My friend David is fond of saying that school is "sucking your life" and giving me grief about attending seminary. It was all good natured, but now that I'm done, I'm realizing how right he was. Don't get me wrong, I don't for a second regret going to seminary. But what I am finding is that I am seeing my old self return. It's very exciting.

The burden of school is a large one. Summer and quarter breaks provide a temporary reprieve, but when there is more to come the next quarter they are simply a chance to catch your breath and resume full tilt banzai when the new quarter begins. Now that it's over I find myself doing a lot more stuff.

For example, yesterday I came home from work and found my family was not home. For the last few years this would have resulted in me plopping down on the couch and watching TV while trying to de-stress. Yesterday I did the dishes, emptied the dishwasher, etc. I am reading again, something I love to do. That's for the next post...


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ducks win! Ducks win! Ducks win!

I became a hockey fan the year the LA Kings were in the Stanley Cup Finals with Wayne Gretzky. The next year was the first year for the Ducks, and being an Orange County guy I made them my team. I remember getting together with friends to watch them win their first playoff series against Phoenix, and then lose what I call the "closest sweep in history" as they went down 4-0 to Detroit, losing three of the games in overtime, two of those in triple overtime if I remember correctly.

I haven't been this excited about a sporting event since October of 1988.

Randy Carlyle has officially made me forget Ron Wilson.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It ... Is ... FINISHED!

I am sitting in the "Garth" which is a courtyard at Fuller in the middle of Payton Hall.

I have just turned in the final exam, for the final class, of my seminar career.

I am now officially a dude with a seminary degree!

This has been a long haul, but a great one. I have learned a ton, grown, developed, and found new passions in ministry.

What's next?

Not sure about the answer to that one. I didn't do this seeking a change. I did this because I wanted to be better at what I do. I think I have accomplished that goal.

My first order of business after tonight is to make progress through the stack of books I've been dying to read.

It's a big stack, but I'm _really_ looking forward to it. Look for a lot of book reviews to show up here in short order.

I'm also toying with the idea of writing a daily devotional to keep people in the Greek & Hebrew. Too many people spend a lot of time and money studying these languages and then promptly forget it all. I have a great idea for a way to help them keep it fresh. We'll see if I have the perseverance to make that happen.

I also am hoping that without seminary in my life, I can resume my old ways of watching very little television. TV is great when you need to turn your brain off, but it's a HUGE time killer. Other than racing and a few other sports (Go Ducks!) I can do without it.