Thursday, December 24, 2009


That's how many tickets we gave out for tonight's services.

12,600 tickets for six services. Our building only seats 2000 so we are counting on at least 20% not being used.

It should be awesome. Glory to God in the Highest!


Friday, December 18, 2009

This is awesome

I'm not surprised to hear the guy that started all of this say "I'm praying for you daily" because this is exactly the kind of thing we are called to do: think of others rather than ourselves.

They may not know it, but each of the people that was involved in this saw a little glimpse of the kingdom of God when they threw themselves into working on this car for someone they had never met.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Best news I've read all day

Blue Hippo, a company that specializes in ripping off poor people (and anyone else unsophisticated enough to give them money) is filing chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation).

I posted about another company like this under the heading "Raping the Poor" a couple of years ago. Let's pray those guys go the way of the blue hippo...


PS - You can read what they got in trouble initially for here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Leading Cross Culturally

This morning I read Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership by Sherwood Lingenfelter. I don't generally like books on leadership, but I have a certain affinity with this author so it made the stack by my bed :-)

The first problem with this book is the title, to be honest. This is a very good book on overcoming cultural and personal obstacles that hinder ones effectiveness as a leader. But the title implies that it is a missions book, when in reality, this book is far broader in scope than that. Unless, of course, you look at it as leading within the culture of the cross, but that would be a rather esoteric interpretation. The second problem with this book is that it is published by Baker Academic, which means that it will be overlooked as an academic book by many people who could benefit greatly from its contents.

Leading Cross Culturally uses real world examples of leadership failure to teach how as leaders we overlook the cultural differences in our teams at our own peril. There are great examples of how these differing value structures can result in conflict and failure of the overall operation, followed by clear explanations of how the teachings of Jesus show a way out of this morass of conflict. Where the title of this book lets it down is the fact that most of these examples can take place within our own culture, and these type of conflicts arise without the cross cultural component highlighted by Lingenfelter in this book. In fact, one of the best examples in this book is about a (presumably) american pastor who struggled in leadership at his local church due to his misuse of power and misunderstanding of the biblical context for its application.

One chapter that was particularly poignant to me was about Strawberry farmers in New Guinea, and a missionary who setup a growers co-op to bring those strawberries to market in Port Moresby. The co-op was extremely successful; however, it was sabotaged by a cultural predisposition to cheat and try to "pull one over" on the buyers. While the missionary was in place, he was able to overcome those problems with control through quality checks and accountability, but when he left the co-op collapsed due to the cultural abhorrence to confrontation. This in and of itself is where most books would stop, but Lingenfelter takes this a huge step further in discussing how the real goal of the missionary should have been to work with those farmers to understand what it means to be a new creation in Christ, and what the effect of that transformation would have to be on the underlying motivations and behaviors. In building a covenant community rather than a simple business co-op, this reversion to prior behaviors might have been avoided in the absence of the western manager. Furthermore, this would have been a more effective example of what Lingenfelter calls the combination of good news and healing touch. In the ministry of Jesus He proclaimed the good news and provided a healing touch, freeing people from their physical maladies. In the modern context we do this by providing both the good news of the gospel and medical, economic, educational or other assistance. Each of these things on their own are good, but they do not provide the full picture.

The discussion of covenant relationships, of worship at the cross and surrender of secular power structures, is where this book really shines. Every context is different, every conflict is a complex web of personality, culture, upbringing, education, and experience. But the gospel is the same, and the call to Christian community transcends those boundaries and blocks to effective leadership. Scripture calls us to a different sort of arrangement, one in which we are all co-laborers in Christ. This does not mean there should not be leaders, not by any stretch, but rather those leaders need to work to inspire and lead in a self-sacrificing manner.

One of the great things about this book is that it does not only teach from negative examples, but provides examples of leaders who use these principles effectively. In the case of the pastor, there is even a watershed moment where the power structures changed through submission to the suggestions of others, which resulted in an increased role of leadership rather than a diminished one.

I believe there are great lessons in this book for all Christian leaders, not just ones dealing with an explicitly cross cultural context. Highly Recommended.


Training in Christianity

So if you follow this blog you probably think I've been doing nothing but watching dvd's and playing video games for the last week or so as I haven't posted anything about reading. Well, that's not exactly it. What happened is that I ran into a buzz saw of a book entitled Training in Christianity by Soren Kierkegaard. I was quite looking forward to this book, having read ABOUT Kierkegaard in seminary, but never having actually read his stuff...

This book opens with no less than four introductions over a total of 55 pages. I began to get the impression that each person wanted desperately to attach themselves to a work of Kierkegaard. It was, quite frankly, tiresome after a while. I enjoyed the first introduction, found the chronology to be an excuse for someone else to write their own introduction to this book, and by introduction number four I simply didn't care anymore.

Unfortunately for me the book is even more tedious than the introductions. First is a section entitled "Come Hither" which is a 50+ page commentary on those two words. Really.

After that is a long section entitled "The Offense" which is on what it means to be offended by Christ. It includes amazing nuggets like this:

What is to be understood by a "sign"? A sign is the negation of immediacy, or a second state of being, differing from the first. It is not thereby affirmed that the sign is not something immediate, but that what it is as a sign is not immediate, in other words, that as a sign it is not the immediate thing it is. A nautical mark is a sign. Immediately it is a post, a light, or some such thing, but a sign it is not immediately, that it is a sign is something different from what it immediately is. This [viz., the failure to observe this distinction] lies at the bottom of all the mystifications by the help of "signs"; for a sign is a sign only for one who knows what it signifies; for everyone else the sign is only what it immediately is. Even in case no one had erected this or that into a sign, and there was no understanding with anybody that it was to be regarded as such, yet when I see something striking and call it a sign, it is qualified as such by reflection. The striking trait is the immediate, but that I regard it as a sign (a reflective act, producing something out of myself) expresses my conception that it must signify something, but the fact that it must signify something means that it is something else than that which it immediately is. So I am not denying the immediacy of the thing when I regard it as a sign without knowing definitely that it is a sign or what it should signify.

Got that? I'm guessing that most of you just skimmed that paragraph because it made almost no sense whatsoever. Now imagine reading a 254 page book full of paragraphs like that and you see why I've been reading this book for days. I can honestly say that I DO understand the paragraph above, and am no better for it. In other words, taking the time to understand it was a waste of my time.

The third section, "He Will Draw All" is quite a bit better than the first two. There are some interesting thoughts on the church and its shortcomings, as well as a good discussion of Nicodemus. But this, for me, was really not enough to rescue the whole book.

I almost feel like this book is the kind of thing one reads to show other people how smart you are when you don't have the self confidence necessary to not worry about what other people think about you… I'm sure this book has its fans, but I am definitely NOT one of them. I think rather than "Training in Christianity" it should be titled "Laborious Incomprehensible Ramblings of a Swedish Philosopher"

Recommended only if you need titles like this on your reading list to make yourself feel smart…


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This morning it was 24 degrees. The Jeep was so cold that the doors wouldn't open or close properly. Once we got them open, we couldn't get them to shut. My truck suspension made horrible sounds when I sat down, probably as ice shattered and such. Getting the door open was a challenge, and I never was able to get the passenger door open. I had to scrape all of my windows.

The year started with the largest snow we've had in 30+ years in the desert.

And on the radio this morning I heard that the copenhagen summit announced 2009 as the warmest year on record. How stupid do these clowns think we are?

First off, I think everyone should read this.

The governments were making a lot of noise about a coming ice age thirty years ago. Honestly, that's what it feels like at my house right now...

Then we have the east anglia emails. They show collusion among scientists to modify data and skew research to support their conclusions. They are quite frustrated by the fact that global warming cannot be shown by the data even though they are convinced it exists. Sounds more like a cult than a scientific community to me...

Now if you still thing "ok, these guys are cretins but the earth is still warming despite the fact that I am currently buried in a snow drift" then read this.

One of things that has come to light through all of this is that the raw climate data has been "lost" but the "value added" (read: modified) data is what we use. Value added? IT'S DATA! You dont' "add value" to data, you use it for your experiments.

The climate "scientists" espousing global warming are no better than the leaders of heaven's gate who told their people that they all needed to commit suicide to catch a ride on a spaceship trailing the hale bopp comet.

What annoys the snot out of me is that I have been saying this all along: Reducing pollution is good for all of us! It makes the air better, gives back our view of nature, makes it easier to breathe, and is just all around a good idea. But if you make stuff up to try to force this issue, you are going to eventually have to pay the piper and you are going to torpedo the exact cause you are trying to help. That is exactly what is happening right now.

As for the Copenhagen summit, don't even get me started. Forget that they are intentionally putting something together that will keep the poor nations poor, or their amazing hypocrisy in traveling in limos and private jets to go to a conference to tell all of us that we need to pollute less. The whole thing is based on a sham perpetrated by people who ought to be criminally prosecuted for their deception.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

The TV Experiment is over -- but continues.

On November 2 we turned off our TV. Totally. No TV, no DVD's, No Xbox. Nothing. We planned to turn everything back on for December, specifically December 4. It was an awesome month of reading, listening to music, playing games, and doing other non-tv-focused things. We did not enforce the no-tv rule for our vacation, but at home we did. At the end of the month I got to thinking about the experiment. Here are my thoughts:

I didn't have a DirecTV bill last month, but if I did, it would have been higher than my electric bill.


How did I not notice this before? It's amazing what a month off will do to provide clarity to a matter like this. That is absolutely ridiculous. On one hand, I have something that provides light for my family, ignites my stove, runs my oven, powers my clocks, powers the stereo, tv, air conditioning, runs the heater fan, runs my computer, powers my iPhone, powers the dishwasher and clothes washer, and is very difficult to live without in this day and age.

On the other hand, I have programming for my TV. And that costs MORE than electricity? Something is SERIOUSLY out of whack.

So I called DirecTV and told them that my bill was far too high, and that they needed to give me speed channel for less than $40 per month, or we were done. Since a new subscriber can get a package that includes SpeedTV for $34.95 this should be easy right? Apparently not. They would not budge on the "new subscribers only" mandate, so they lost a customer of 11 years. I guess it's ok to ripoff your current customers in their book, so I'm done. I am no longer a DirecTV customer.

Will I sign up for DIsh Network? Maybe. But for now, we will turn our TV back on tomorrow without service of any kind. Unfortunately where we live we cannot get OTA tv of any kind. There IS a translator, although I'm pretty sure it only broadcasts analog despite the digital drop dead date being long gone. The last time we tried it, we couldn't get anything, but I'm thinking that MAYBE if I put an antenna outside I might be able to pull in some signals so we can at least have a few things available. I have heard great things about this antenna, so maybe Jacob and I will build one and see if we can get any OTA TV at our house.

Of course the next question is if my tv can even tune in the analog stations. Sadly there is no deadline nor even a plan of one for the LPTV translators that serve communities like ours. It's astonishing to me that we can be considered in the "market" of a tv station, and yet they can do nothing to insure we get their signal and that's ok...

So anyway, back to the experiment. We didn't enforce the rules while we were on vacation, so there was a LOT of xbox going on with the kids and we watched a few movies. But we are back home and we still haven't used our tv (ok, Patty may have cheated yesterday, but we didn't make the rules clear for December) yet. Tonight the TV is allowed back on, and I am hoping to have a movie night, should be a nice treat.

We will allow dvd's and xbox starting today, although we have decided to limit the kids to xbox on Wednesdays and Fridays + weekends only. We initially wanted weekends only, but that would mean they could never play with their friends next door who come over in the afternoons after school and we wanted to be nice. This was actually a cool teachable moment for my son, because was upset about it when we said weekends only, and he expressed that it meant he couldn't play with his friends. Patty and I talked about it later, and then were able to communicate that we had listened to him and decided to change our minds. He was really happy, I think more about being listened to than about the decision itself. It was cool.

On the whole, it has been a great month for me. Life is better without tv, and I have grown a lot by reading a ton of books. I plan to continue this and try to leave the tv off. You can monitor my progress by the number of book reviews I post :-)

Now you've heard from me, here's Patty's take:

It is a bit unusual that we live in Southern California, yet in our rural area we have no cable lines, very limited radio reception, no access to quality/affordable High Speed internet, and the Los Angeles newspapers consider us too rural for their delivery routes. I'm feeling a bit isolated and ignorant again. I do like the space, the quiet, seeing the stars (except when pastor Scott turns his light on and blocks them), and our home. But with the media isolation, it can seem like we are in a third world country, to use an exaggeration. When we had television, I had a link to the outside world. I'm realizing that television is more than entertainment, although admittedly that is the majority of what we use it for. I agree that the DirecTV pricing is out of line with the worth we place in it. Many people also feel this way. Something has to change.


So.... We are a bit divided on whether no tv is a good thing or not. But the discussion is good and for now, we have a quieter house and lower utility bills both in electricity and no tv payment. That is a good thing. Now if only we could get internet...


Forgotten God

Last night I read Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan. This was very refreshing to read after the disappointing Why Leaders Can't Lead...

Francis clearly fears writing this book, or rather the reception it might receive. It's astonishing to me that a topic as central to the Christian Faith as one of the members of the Godhead could be considered risky to write about, but this is an area that is misunderstood and fraught with disagreement within the church. In short there is one side that looks at events like the "Toronto Blessing" and other rather out of control worship experiences, and rejects the idea of the activity of the Spirit altogether. The other side of the argument accuses the church of ignoring and suppressing the Spirit of God.

It is into this rather divided ground that Francis steps with his book on The Holy Spirit. He has awesome things to say. I loved this conversation, with his wife, about what a caterpillar must think:

"For all it's caterpillar life, it crawls around a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. And then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plump little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body and gorgeous wings? As believers, we ought to experience this same kind of astonishment when the Holy Spirit enters our bodies."

I stared at this sentence for a long, long time. I'd simply never thought about what it truly means to be a new creation in Christ. Suddenly I got it. Admittedly, I have been a Christian for a long, long time. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't seek to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Chan has an excellent chapter on the theology of the Holy Spirit in which he lays out, biblically, facts about the Spirit according to scripture. He then has a very specific list, with verses, that shows the role the Holy Spirit should be playing in our lives. I spent time looking up the verses and dwelling on it, and this was the very best part of the book. Great, great stuff.

He then talks about motives in the chapter, Why Do You Want Him. The most important point is this: Do you want the Holy Spirit in your life so you can accomplish your goals, or God's? He also is quite honest about the fact that turning yourself fully over to God and what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life is pretty frightening, because we don't like not being in control.

The chapter entitled "The Real Relationship" really hit home for me when it identified two things that might be limiting the activity of the Spirit in my life: Comfort (Maybe Your Life is Too Safe) and Volume (Maybe Your Life is Too Loud). I've been struggling with the idea that God doesn't call us to be comfortable lately, so this really hit home. But the volume portion of this chapter is really what I needed to hear. I live life with iTunes on, with my car stereo on, checking my iphone constantly etc. I very rarely can stop and just reflect and listen. I've blogged in the past about how profound it impacts me when I do that. Maybe I need to listen and do that more :-)

Chan closes by looking a bit at what a church looks like when it begins to take the Spirit seriously, and it is an awesome thing. The book of Acts has a lot to teach us about sacrifice, loving one another, and forsaking materialism in the name of Christ. Chan is working to put these things into play in his own life and in the life of his church.

This is an excellent book. Highly recommended.


Why Leaders Can't Lead

Tuesday night I read Why Leaders Can't Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues by Warren Bennis. This is one of those books that has been sitting on my "to read" shelf for a long time. Specifically, almost twenty years. I'm trying to go through my library and find books I haven't read and rectify that. Not watching TV has provided a lot more time for this sort of thing...

Anyway, on to the rant, er book. This book is very odd. It has rave reviews on the jacket (well, what book doesn't), but it is more of a rant than a book. Bennis writes a kind of "where have all the leaders gone" book where he looks at past leaders with the rose colored glasses of time, and looks at current leaders (in this case reagan and team) as being a shadow of leaders of the past.

It is interesting to read this book 20 years after it was written, because Bennis is right about a great many things. The 80's WERE a decade ruled by greed, in which many people tossed ethics out the window to pursue the almighty dollar. Incidentally, he also slams the leadership of General Motors as managing towards a disaster. Hmmmmm....

But at the end of the day, it isn't a very helpful book. It reads more like a rant. It reads like a bit of an idealistic dream. He does have suggestions, but they are often only a few paragraphs long and are not grounded in reality. He has a lot of bad things to say about the CEO/COO relationship, which I find interesting because this relationship seems to work quite effectively in churches for a Senior Pastor & Executive Pastor...

I purchased this book as part of a Business Ethics class when I was in college. For some reason we never got to it and I never read it. I can see why the professor wanted us to read it in the context of the end of the 80's, because it is a good book criticizing the lack of ethics during that decade. Twenty years later this is mostly a pass.