Monthly Archives: May 2011

I Am: What’s wrong with our world and what can we do about it?

Increasingly I am finding pockets of God’s truth in places I wouldn’t necessarily expect it. Then the places I would expect to hear Truth, I don’t. Last Friday I watched Tom Shadyac’s new documentary, I Am, which spoke Truth in some unexpected ways.

Tom Shadyac, who directed such films as Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor and Ace Venture: Pet Detective, was experiencing all that Hollywood offered. After a bike accident which resulted in a brain injury, he ventured into his own dark night of the soul. During this time he pondered what his last message to the world might be. I Am chronicles Shadyac’s journey to answer two questions:

  1. What’s wrong with our world?
  2. What can we do about it?
Shadyac and his small crew traveled the world asking scientists, researchers and philosophers for answers to these questions. It amazed me that most of these thinkers were talking about the Christian story even though they didn’t say it explicitly. There were some elements that were New Age philosophies but most of the discussion finds its origin in the Christian story. I found the idea that we are each built for cooperation, not competition to be an interesting idea. Scientists are finding a case for this in nature and even argue that Darwin stressed love and cooperation in his writing much for than the idea of survival of the fittest.
The other interesting storyline through the movie is how Shadyac changes his personal lifestyle as a result of this dark night of the soul. He realizes that he is part of the consumer culture that he is speaking out against and sells his huge mansion. The end of the movie shows him biking into work from his mobile home in Malibu. Shadyac sums up his philosophy with the following quote of St. Augustine, “Determine what God has given you, and take from it what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”
I would definitely recommend the movie to those seeking the deeper things of life. Take in the movie on its own terms and dialogue about it with others. After truly experiencing the movie I know it will change your outlook on life and impact your daily life.
Here’s a preview of the movie:
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Divergent Paths Converge

Nine years ago I graduated from Taylor University and dreamed of what would come next. As I sweated through the humid Indiana summer working at a lumber yard, I wondered what the future would look like. What would marriage be like? What would we do for a living? What would the next ten years look like? Hillary and I were married that August and the last nine years has been a fun adventure. Sitting there on the forklift in the lumber yard, I could have never guessed where we would be today.

I am almost a year into my role here at First Presbyterian Church in Champaign, Illinois and another change has come. Interestingly, this new development makes the last nine years fit together into one path instead of divergent paths. With some staff transitions at our church, we realized that there were some important systems in the church that needed to be addressed. Through various discussions and prayer, we have decided to add another component to my current role of Family Ministry Director. I am now the Director of Family Ministry and Administration. On top of overseeing our great Family Ministry Team, I will also be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the church. I get the opportunity to work with our great Operations Team in overseeing technology, facilities, communication and staff management.

I have wondered how my experiences running a coffee shop and working for Apple Retail would fit into my future roles. There were definitely times that I felt like these were just fun distractions from what I was really supposed to be doing. Now I believe that each of these roles were a key part of preparing me for the job that I am now doing at First Presbyterian. Running a business and dealing with all of the details that come with that prepared me for dealing with church finances. Working in Apple Retail and seeing a company that expertly trains and develops its employees prepared me to step into a staff management position. These were not distractions from my calling but fit perfectly into what God is calling me to do now.

I am excited to see how I will learn and grow in this new role. I get the awesome opportunity to work with a talented team and see what God can do in and through us. I am thankful for all the opportunities that God has given me and how these seemingly divergent paths are actually converging into this new role.

Upside Down Kingdom

Biblical scholar Michael Wilcock writes, “Christians will prize what the world calls pitiable and suspect what the world call desirable.” Tim Keller calls the kingdom of God an “upside down” kingdom. As followers of Christ our values should be countercultural. Kingdom values turn worldly values upside down. What does this mean?

  • Selfishness to selflessness
  • Power to service
  • Restless to content
  • Hoarding to sharing
  • Pleasure to sacrifice
  • Seeking fame to seeking the glory of God
  • Safety to adventure
This past weekend, Chris Cohoon (our middle school coordinator) and I attended TEDx Bloomington and heard from a variety of different experts and speakers. It was definitely not a “Christian” conference. But as we were debriefing the experience, Chris mentioned that the message of the conference actually contained many kingdom values. An organic gardner shared his thoughts on how we can be better stewards of the soil around us. An expert in virtual worlds explained how we are all searching for home and a story greater than ourselves. A sex researcher explained that statistics show that exclusive sexual relationships bring the most happiness. A Harvard happiness researcher showed that happiness does not come from a good job and wealth but from something much deeper.
Kingdom values are opposed to the popular values that we see around us but they are actually hardwired into all of us. We were created and designed to live according to these values. These kingdom values are seen by researchers and those outside the church. As we tell “The Story” we need to understand that God has revealed his Truth through creation and other means so that many people already know deep down that these Truths are true. We just need to give them a framework for how it all fits together.
We are all part of a much bigger Story.

How to Get into Heaven BEFORE You Die

The Gospel is not about getting into Heaven after we die. There is so much more to it than that.

At the Catalyst Conference, Dallas Willard explained the Gospel in a totally different way than some are used to hearing. He said it is really about how to get into Heaven BEFORE we die.

Here’s the video. Lots of truth nuggets in this one.

Divorce and Personal Happiness

News is now out that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver are splitting up. We don’t need to know the details as to why they are ending their 25 year marriage. But it is part of a bigger trend in the Baby Boomer Generation. This morning I read this article on CNN which digs deeper into why Baby Boomers are getting divorced after many years of marriage. In the article, Amy Wilson lists different reasons as to why this happens but the theme throughout is that Baby Boomers are leaving long marriages to find their personal happiness. Wilson writes:

What gives? Are we a nation now of Howzabouta Second Chancers, even for those who seem to have gotten a pretty good ride the first time around?

Maybe.

Truth is, they can’t help their birth years. There is a national predilection of boomers to demand midlife happiness, even if it means they chuck a good portion of the first part of their sort-of eternally vowed adulthood.

Marriages built on personal happiness will fail in the end. True love is rooted in self-less love. The hard part is that we are each inherently selfish and need to work daily on seeking the good of others, not ourselves. From a Christian worldview, the only way we can truly combat our own selfishness is by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us to love others.

It saddens me that marriages that have endured for 20 or more years end with one partner wanting their own personal happiness. I am saddened for the children in that marriage. I am saddened for the grandchildren.

Books like Eat Pray Love anger me. They feed this desire to look for personal happiness. Searching for personal happiness will end in despair. In the wake will be a path of broken and severed relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when divorce is necessary. But divorcing your spouse to go out and look for your own personal happiness is not a good option.

The Church needs to be a place where we are equipping couples with the tools and resources to develop this self-less love. We also need to be providing places of honest sharing where couples can discuss and be encouraged to seek this type of love instead of seeking personal happiness.

God is… Family Devotional Cards

How do we take an active role in investing spiritually in our children? I am a big fan of a set aside time for family devotions, especially for families with young children. I am always on the lookout for resources that help parents present a simple, creative family devotion time.

Back to the Bible Ministries has a great resource called “God is…Family Devotional Cards” which is a valuable tool for family devotional times. They divide the cards into three main sections:

  • My Relationship with God
  • My Trust in God
  • My Faith in God
They also provide ten cards which equip parents with tools to take an active role in their child’s spiritual development. Last night Hillary and I used one of the cards that focused on God as our shepherd. We read the beginning of Psalm 23 and had them draw what they heard.  Then there were some application questions followed by prayer. It was a simple activity and our kids got the main point.
I would definitely recommend this resource to parents who want to spiritually invest in their children. The cards seem to be targeted for PreK through elementary school but could be adapted for teenagers.
For those who attend First Presbyterian and are interested in this resource, we will buy it for you!  We want to provide you with all the tools and resources possible to equip you as a parent.

Getting Naked

Picture from cover of "Getting Naked"

I am an addict of whatever Patrick Lencioni, the founder of The Table Group, writes and says. Lencioni is devoted to organizational clarity and effectiveness and I believe the church has a lot to learn from his ideas. Though the church is not a business, we do manage people, teams and ideas so principles from the business world can and should inform how we manage. We view and analyze these principles through the lens of Scripture to see which ones contain God’s truth.

Patrick Lencioni’s new book “Getting Naked” is focused on overcoming three fears that threaten customer loyalty. I love Lencioni’s method of telling a fable and weaving in his principles throughout the story. Then at the end of the story he explains these principles more in-depth. Getting Naked follows Jack Bauer (not of 24 fame, but the same name) as he studies a small consulting firm that his management consulting company, Kendrick and Black, has acquired. Jack learns that this smaller company has some interesting and mind boggling principles that fly in the face of his training and experience. He immerses himself in this acquired company and finds out that his company has a lot to learn from this smaller, yet more effective consulting firm. As Jack reports back to his company on the experience, he develops a model that explains why this acquired company retains its customers’ loyalty so much better than his own company. Read the rest of this entry

Two Girls and Happiness

Want to be happy? Have two daughters. Recents studies out of Britain show that families with two daughters tend to be the happiest. Those with four girls are less likely to be happy. Sounds like a highly scientific study! You can read more about the findings here.

They include a list of the benefits of having two girls, so I thought I would come up with my own. I’ll warn you, I  realize that I’v made massive generalizations based on our limited experience with two girls.

  1. Clean floors – girls don’t track in mud and dirt
  2. No random gross stuff in pockets
  3. Lots of leftovers after dinner – our girls don’t eat much
  4. Cleaner toilet seats
  5. Conversation is easy
  6. Daddy gets to be the hero – there are always bugs to be killed
  7. Less trips to the ER – major injuries in our house are scratches that don’t even draw blood
  8. Why pay for cable when you can have dramatic performances in costume for free?
  9. Verbal arguments are easier to calm than fist fights
  10. I get to learn how to dress Barbies

Justice: A Reason to Rejoice?

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks has been killed. Last night President Obama declared, “On nights like this one, we can say to those families who lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: justice has been done.”

How do we respond to this news? Last night as I watched my New York Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies, fans in the stadium chanted “USA! USA!” Crowds were jubilant outside of the White House. The United States had finally found Osama bin Laden and killed him. Justice had been done.

As I watched Twitter during Obama’s statements last night, it was interesting to see what followers of Christ were tweeting. They were quoting statements like this from Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbort and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).

How do we respond as followers of Christ to the news of bin Laden’s death? How do we love our enemies yet rejoice that justice has been done? Is it even right to rejoice in the fact that justice has been done? This whole event raises interesting questions about justice and our response to governments enacting justice.

What do you all think? How should followers of Christ react to this news?