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Showing posts from 2011

Good Perspective on Santa

This is a short but good point on Santa in American culture. More could be said than the one recommendation given by the author of the following article. St. Nicholas is someone who can be explained knowing some of the history on him, say from a solid evangelical professor like James Parker III at Southern Seminary who wrote an article along the same lines.

http://pastormark.tv/2011/12/22/what-we-tell-our-kids-about-santa

Merry Christmas!

Church Planter Info

Some church planters out there will be interested in this article:

http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/21/5-things-we-now-know-about-suburbia/

The Brookings Institute researched movement trends in the US. It seems the suburbs are more diverse, which anyone in a metro area would already know, but this gives you numbers. It may help you to think through some outreach strategies that are going to reach the suburbs now.

Isaiah 7's "God with us" Immanuel

It's interesting that several commentators on Isaiah 7, in major evangelical commentaries, go along with apologizing for Isaiah 7:16. Expositors, NAC. This verse in no way indicates that Isaiah had to have a child or Ahaz had to have a child. If anything it is vague enough to include a child later, even the Christ child. God has already rejected Ahaz, there is no reason that he has to prove something to him by having an immediate fulfillment of verse 16. While verse 16 is a part of the preceeding, it is best to take it as a later fulfillment, along with teacher John Oswalt, in his work on Isaiah 1-39.

What Do Pastors Actually Do?

I'm actually a missionary right now, but a lot of people over the years have said to one another, what do pastors do with their time? To give you a rough idea, whoever you are asking, I can reflect on my pastor days and share what those men are doing typically:

BY WEEK OF YEAR--

1. Prayer for those who are sick in their congregation. (10 minutes to 5 hours)
2. Prayer for those who are wandering away from following Jesus in visible ways. (30 minutes to 5 hours)
3. Sermon passage and topic choosing (with more prayer and study). (0 minutes to 15 hours)
4. Sermon passages study, to make sure you know you're not off track. (5 to 15 hours)
5. Sermon writing. (10 to 25 hours depending on difficulty, knowledge, jokes, illustrations)
6. Sermon study and re-thinking it. (minimum 3 hours to 10 hours)
7. Administrating teams. (0 to 10 hours)
8. Evangelism or Evangelism Training or Special Events for Evangelism. (1 to 20 hours)
9. Administrating budget/economic planning. (0 to 16 hours)
10…

Culture Making -- a short review

Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making offers a number of useful insights on the fact that we should view our American landscape as many "cultures" rather than a unified "culture." He also identifies the ability of typical persons to make or influence culture by personal insight, influence, family insight, family influence, and then other organizations or outlets. He has a 3 person, 120 person, and then crowd sized group commentary on what is possible at each level of culture. The book aims to be a distinctively Christian culture encouragement. He advocates new culture rather than recycling pop or secular cultural items/themes. He claims that is what made the church great in its heyday through centuries. Some parts of the book are a bit hard to keep reading in, and others provoke your imagination. I would recommend it as a resource on thinking through how cultures develop and bringing an awareness of what is and isn't possible in making culture. I'm not sur…

Why Start Churches?

This is an excellent article from a rising scholar on North American missions (including Texas), that engages that question.

http://northtexasbaptist.org/do-we-really-need-another-church-here

Blessings to you,

David

Lunch time thoughts on Consumer Income and Missions

This article came out based on Labor Dept. statistics: here. The general idea is that 2011 like 2010 had lower consumer income and lower spending. Food out, entertainment, and giving to charity took the big hits while money was transferred to gasoline and increased food prices.

It makes one wonder. In our missions participation, our missions partner denomination says that national level giving has remained at a level that drops slowly the past few years. How is this impacting the Great Commission? If the trend remains as it often does in the American context, since things normally regress, how will it affect international missions 5-10 years out?

Worth exploring in more depth...

Boredom

When it comes to that fog or lack of interest at work, apparently there is solace in community. It turns out that reputable poller Gallup reports 55% of workers are not engaged with their work. (mid 2005) in the USA. Interestingly, The Guardian paper reports 33% of UK'ers are bored at work most of the day. (early 2003)

Human resource and staffing experts reported at 45% of respondants that they had lost people who were bored at their work in one past survey.

What is boredom? This article explores the matter. The sense of boredom the article goes with includes a tedious or fatigue related attitude. So it isn't necessarily lack of something to do or being inactive per se.

It seems like part of this can be overcome with living for Christ in purpose. Philippians 1 addresses some of this challenge to a believer in Jesus. Paul was fatigued (he had plenty to do though) with his missions efforts, not because they were boring but because he knew something better awaited. He changed his pe…

The Lost Generation - Why People in their 20's and early 30's have been humiliated by the recession

As far as it goes with economics being largely social science with math brought in to track trends or remove false assumptions, there is an interesting piece that came out on how those who are in their 20's and 30's have been facing hard times in this economy. On my day off I've been pondering some of these trends.

It is here on this link. (May also be found here.) In essence, those who are graduates are not getting jobs in their fields and are instead entering service sector jobs that don't pay as well and every year drain down their level of expertise they had when they graduated. When things do eventually improve, it says, they are going to have to compete with those who are fresh out of training / school, who may have an advantage. That is why the article calls it the lost generation. It has been my experience that many of my friends in their 20's and early 30's are in the exact bind of this article. That's the only reason I posted this, is because I bel…

1991

In 1991 a NASA satelite that did Upper Atmosphere research was launched from the Space Shuttle. Now with the Shuttle retired and the satelite about to fall to somewhere on earth in the next three or four days, another milestone related to 1991 has hit. According to the USA Today reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman, American have changed their religious beliefs since WWII in a way that has had impact over the past twenty years in a noticeable dent. This long term result is that now she says we can sing "Gods bless America" rather than "God bless America" since "the folks who make up God as they go are side by side with self-proclaimed with believers who shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices." George Barna underlines that unfortunate trend, stating that "310 million people with 310 million religions" is an appropriate description of the American landscape. In 1991, still 49% of US adults in a typical week attended a church service. Today i…

Satisfaction with How Things are Going by Americans

While I'm not 80 or even 90% sure how this affects every area of presenting the gospel and outreach yet, though I would love to read more, this steep decline in perception is very very relevant to church planting. The # now stands at 11% which has only happened a few times, and in recent history in late 2008. New results show:
Click here for Gallup poll.

It's worth thinking about practically. The top leaders of the downshift as expected in the current climate are 1. economy. 2. jobs. 3. federal deficit.

Army Suicides Rise

Just a quick blog post on something that stood out related to ministers. It is too sad, but those defending the country from threats abroad face much stress. Being away from family, being shot at, having a restricted language barrier in foreign counties, and much more. Apparently there is a high point in July 2011 among Army suicides. The link is here. For chaplains, this means readiness and preparedness to assist other Army professionals to reach out to soldiers. It means seeing the tough combat perspective from God's encouragements in the Word. This will require wisdom and seeking deliberate application to lead them to serve God through the struggles. It is a tough ministry, but one well worth it.

Low Morale Politically - US citizens prerevolutionary

An article appeared here from a major polling site. The article details a recent poll showing that 46% of US citizens polled think that Congress is corrupt. Another interesting fact is that only 6% of those polled ( a # that keeps coming up in different polls, so it likely very accurate ) approve of the job Congress is doing. Only 17% of US citizens think the government is operating with the consent of the governed. Is it any wonder then that only 29% of those polled thought members of Congress were not corrupt. The citizens are realizing that: not only are many or most Congressmen and women no better than their constituents in civility, morality, and virtue in general, but in fact they're worse. Sex scandals. Cheating on taxes. Lying under oath. We almost expect federal politicians to just tell you what people want to hear in order to get elected. Then nothing seems to be accomplished that everyone wants. If you were dating or courting someone like that as a potential spouse, you…

USA Credit Rating

It turns out that S&P decided to lower our credit rating as a nation to AA+ from AAA. The article link shows that S&P made a mistake on the exact amount of debt, however, even so the burden of the debt in the long-term seems significant. Moody's and Fitch did not give the same low rating, yet that could change. It is reported that if those agencies agree with the S&P downgrade, then the cost of borrowing for the country and for mortgages and individuals (incl. corporations) would rise. This would slow business apart from other major factors. Interestingly, the weakness of the Eurozone created a situation where US debt was still in demand, as a safe haven asset. For the time being there appears to be a situation where we have a reputation of being better than the rest of the options for safe haven. Still, it cannot be passed by that if S&P is correct that debt would consume 88% equivalent of GDP by 2021, that we have major systemic problems ahead.

Consider: millions…

Weather and Church Growth

It is interesting to think about, but weather does play into church growth. In honor of the 109, 109, and 108 for Tues-Wed-Thurs in Dallas, Texas I'm using a couple minutes of my lunch break to just share some thoughts about this. It might be tempting to believe that in Canada and far Northern parts of the USA excluding the Northwest, evangelism in some forms outside of friendships is limited by cold weather. If there is ice covered by snow covered by ice then some more snow, and it remains below freezing, then you might not want to go 'door to door.' As obvious as this sounds, it might explain the trouble trying to reach people in colder climates in North America over 150-200 years. Not only might the French Quebequios be cold to evangelicals, but over time it could be a worse and worse reaction, since there aren't mediating influences. They can just hang onto traditions without much challenge. The internet changes some of this, as does global connectivity, but a pers…

What was Cornelius Van Til?

I was reading some from C. Stephen Evans on Epistemology and the Ethics of Belief. He was speaking about the failure of Internalism. One of his comments was "internalism shares a failing with deontological conceptions of justification. Even if it should be the case that it is intuitively evident that a belief is justified, it does not follow logically that the belief is likely to be true." He goes on to say that "the appeal of internalism may lie in the confusion between being justified in holding a belief and being able to justify a belief, which we noted ..., must be clearly distinguished." (219). It is interesting though, that Evans does not show his assertion by any justification. Can he justify his belief? Not really.

If we appeal to externalism, such as Plantinga and Alston, then are we not just arguing over what constitutes a justified belief? How can we gain any real certainty from passing fads of what it takes to be justified? If we say a well functioning c…

James K.A. Smith Gets It Wrong

In his useful work on postmodern thought, Who's Afraid of..., Smith reveals in several ways his thought that Protestant churches which fall into a "Primitivism" category reject creeds and catholic (little c) statements (129). There is simply a leap back to the 1st century practices and the work of the apostles, even the revelation of Christ, but no "traditions of men" are used. This seems a bit biased. After all, if Smith is acquainted with many new church starts in the Protestant vein he would know better. While he might be right about some seeker starts, he can't be right with all of them. Many of those simply do not care for creeds. But they aren't anti-creedal as he says. The half seeker or non-seeker starts, which mark the motion of the future of Christianity in the US, don't fall into that category. Many are highly creedal. I am thinking of several starts now that simply don't fit his mold.

Does Mormonism Matter for Presidential Candidate?

An article posted here deals with this question.

North America as Mission Field

It has become so critical in our time to see that new works need to be initiated in North America so that the good news about Jesus can get to people where they are living and working. As part of this effort, the North American Mission Board has some promotional videos about their work. They are actually very informative about this and also disaster relief work they do. Check them out there.

Especially of interest to genuine change in our time is the video on the barber from Norwich, Ct.

Blessings,

David

Cash Home Buyers at High Percentage Affects Planting Strategy

The market before us:

Cash buying. Feb 2011.

Cash buying. June 2011.

This means people are anxious and worried whether they say so openly or not, when it comes to homeownership, retirement, paying for childrens future at college, private school, and so on.

This equates to uncertainty for those who are renting on whether they want to buy or are able to buy depending on job changes and risks of loss of job.

This equates to low level giving by some who have not learned to trust God thru it all and adjust spending.

This trend means that people are mobile in their metroplex. They may rent wherever it makes sense or is close to work rather than where they want to live long-term. People are shifting locations, or if they can't sell their home if they are underwater, they are looking to downsize if they can get out of it by chance/hope. This factors into how to minister to such persons or how to try or not try to catch up to them as they transition around.

This trend means that the economy is no…

Why a 'Church' Might Not Grow

Some churches don't grow because they are in areas that are evacuating. Some don't grow because they don't reach those who are newly arriving around them. Others don't grow because outreach is not favorable to them, but only keeping those who already know each other as the priority at all costs. But at the heart of some, they may not grow if they pray this prayer:

Our Father who is in heaven
Hallowed be our name
Our kingdom come, our will be done
On committees as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our errors (notice there is not a mention of turning from 'sin')
As we forgive others their errors
Lead us not into temptations our tradition (denom.) despises (but others are ok...)
Deliver us from evil (except our favorite sins such as gossip, slander, malice and backbitting)

Amen (let it be).

Hmmm...

Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting 2011

The SBC 2011 was a meeting held in Phoenix, AZ the past few days, in order to continue international and national missions giving and planning. Other news discussed in that meeting include funding, upkeep, and progress reports from evangelical seminaries and a committee on ethics/religion.

A new first vice president was elected whom I hear is being positioned for a potential president of the SBC meeting in 2012. This individual apparently excites a number of the messengers to the SBC for a return to some historic Baptist principles in some areas, according to the 9 Marks breakout session Tuesday night at 9pm.

Kevin Ezell previously senior pastor of Highview Baptist Chuch in Louisville, KY and now the new president of the North American Mission Board presented a report/challenge for more church planting as a way that NAMB can impact our culture. He also brought in a solid line-up of testimonies of what giving to missions in Canada/the USA can do to help people come to know Jesus Christ a…

What was Jerusalem like in Jesus time?

I found a very interesting article by Time magazine, which offers some perspective on this question. What was the temple like? What was the size and scope of the city? Click here.

Paying Off Debt

This past week I had the opportunity to teach godly principles on paying off debt. This article records how at the national level the debt ceiling is quickly being reached. Click here. It is surprising that even Timothy Geithner believes we need to limit borrowing. This tells you the tremendous amount of money we owe on a regular basis as a country. Proverbs 22:7. We need to become stronger by eliminating debt and focusing on strategic budgetary cuts.

Thought Police

It seems that Apple has tried to be the 'thought police' to a perfect American tolerant of all but Christians viewpoint again:

Click here for the article.

Exodus International is as far as I can tell a well-known national agency. It doesn't cure anyone of anything, but offers an alternative expression that happens to be in line with the Christian tradition for those interested in getting away from one way of living and stepping onto the selective way of Christ instead. Is there a reason that Apple is selective in its allowance of applications? This is one more example of why neutrality in culture, or tolerance, or business is a pure myth like a 'unicorn' existing. Apple is no more neutral than Exodus or than LGBT. Apple just has bent to the pressure of the side it is favorable to. You know, I have heard that there are some tablet alternatives coming out from Samsung and also Blackberry that are faster...

Spending Priorities as We Look Back on the Year

According to Ken Hemphill, a former seminary President, and now professor; income for overseas missions work through six hundred agencies, inter and denominational, totaled 2.9 billion in 2002. What else received more money than seeking and saving the lost souls of humankind in 2002? Movie tickets received 9 billion. 38 billion was spent on various state lotteries. 23 billion was spent in domestic pet related stores. He then asks the question: if these are staggering insights, what will we do with them? A good question....
One of the worst things about society in the US -- unspoken, assumed segregation in churches, by nearly every background. When I was in graduate school many of the professors pointed this error out, rightfully so, that the most segregated place in America is the church on Sunday morning (referring to churches across the USA). It's sad that the God who created all peoples can't be the focus of worship by all peoples together in specific local churches. Sure there are major exceptions, though sadly they are not all that common. The general rule is observed by churchmen and women, and thank the Lord for new believers who don't follow the same rule and are willing to be formed by Jesus Christ and the Father as the potter (Jeremiah 18).

What has happened is sad for a more important reason than many think too: Christians who have gifts from God by the Holy Spirit (encouragement, service, mercy, teaching, leading, administration, evangelism, etc.) tend to use them only with people…

Multiculturalism Thoughts of Continental Politicians

There is an interesting trend in Europe. Major politicians are saying that the multiculturalism model has failed, especially in their respective countries. Check this trend out:


Click here on Cameron's remarks.

Click here on Sarkozy's remarks.

Apparently Merkel also made similar comments.

It raises some questions for the US. When will this paradigm shift get here too? Which way will the US swing as a result of the paradigm shift? How will that affect change business, family, chuch, and economics?

As an update to the above information, Foxnews reports 2-18-11 at 5:50pm cst, on this development in Europe. They had guests comment on it including the Weekly Standard, with the general impression that Europe differs from the US multicultural experience. Still their reasons weren't fully explained before moving onto another topic. It is interesting to see how many things predicted to not have effects elsewhere tend to, especially traveling from the Continent over to the Atlantic co…

What Use is Freedom of Speech if you Can't Use it

A major news outlet had an article touching on how a John 3:16 ad painted on a player's face was too offensive for Fox to show to the audience of the Super Bowl 45. See here. Perhaps they were trying to dodge other controversial ads that may try to ride the coat tails of one that isn't, but it raises a question. If the thought police at a network can block even advertising on television, or for that matter radio, what use is free speech? Is free speech now only available on sympathetic small radio stations or the non-viewed TBN health and wealth channel? Is free speech only available in public parks and door to door in a neighborhood? The medium of our time is internet. To this point it is largely free to sharing the gospel, but there have been times when large website companies have done the same type of thing with restricting Christian advertising (a la google on ads a few years back, which I think finally reversed itself). The second and third biggest mediums tv and…

What was so important about Acts 15:20?

At first thought, if you've read it before, it doesn't seem like it stands out. But there is a huge interpretive key in Acts 15:20. What should Gentile believers in Jesus do in relation to the Law of Moses? The early church council interpretive key was to hold them to pre-Law standards. While the 'strangled meat and from blood in meat' stopping comment by James seems random, it certainly is not. If you go to the book of Genesis, before the Law was given in chapter 9, you'll find that God made all meat available for man to eat, except not to eat it with its lifeblood still in it. That's not the main thing I want to weigh in on though, but the fact that they leap back previous to the giving of the actual Jewish Law, to the early days with Noah and his family. Just as Paul leaps pre-Law to say that Abraham the patriarch was justified by faith, faith allowed him to have God's righteousness simply credited to his account (chapter 15 Genesis). If you are wonderin…

Housing Markets

I suspect that a link to Bloomberg news about housing starts being low is due to the fact that a huge generation is retiring or seeking to retire (thus saving and selling), and an interested but smaller following generation or two is not able to eat up the surplus. Why build which is expensive when you can buy one of the many lower priced homes? For a link to the news article click here. This is a socio-economic factor dealing with population, choices by age, and unemployment numbers still being higher than they should be.

Watching God's Provision Unfold

It has been amazing the past six months watching how God provides and stretches faith. In my life, seeking to plant a new church for a growing area, it is a God-send and yet a challenge to see my faith have to grow. There are days when you have to apply seriously the day has enough of its own concerns, and trust Jesus to work out the needs being met with church provision. The bigger the challenge, even with some unanswered "how" to get there questions, have resulted in bigger returns on what God is able to do in my understanding. It would be easy to sit back and watch others grow in this way, in a comfortable pew somewhere that no real promptings have to be dealt with, but getting into the action has forced me in ways I could not predict to wrestle with assurance of God's interest in seeing us grow, and get confirmation in this assurance of God's working, of how God is good and brings things at the perfect timing showing His wisdom.

There has also been a great bo…

Discipleship

When it comes to Christianity, we can never lose touch with the fact that we are all to be disciples of Christ. We are discipled through relationships and we make disciples through relationships, focusing on the news of and reminder of the facts of the faith. These facts including assurance of salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, and similar themes. An interesting blog, especially for those interested in the topic of discipleship is listed below:

Right here.

Blessings,
David