Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stay Away from Zombie Churches

ZOMBIE CHURCH: Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ by Tyler Edwards

Have you ever been to or been part of a church that seemed alive but yet something of life was missing? Welcome to Zombie church.
The author contends, and rightly so, that many of our churches today are ‘Zombie’ churches. That is churches that have the resemblance of life but are in actuality dead. From a distance they look as though they were alive but upon closer inspection they have lost their connection to life: Jesus Christ.

The author says,”…that many churches in America have lost sight of their purpose. It is this loss of purpose that turns our churches into Zombie churches.” Is it possible to know if my church is a ‘zombie church’? The author says we need to ask ourselves this question, “If the church closed its doors would anyone from the outside even notice?”

From there the author goes into and expounds upon some of the characteristics that resemble Zombie churches. The author says that the church has lost its motivation. We act out of duty instead of love. Love for God and neighbor. He says that it is the zombie churches that do a lot of damage in the world and make Christians look bad. They focus upon a lot of things that are not Jesus and that the ultimate cure for zombiism is life that comes from love.

3 particular areas that I thought the author touched upon, and wish he would have spent more pages on was his words regarding the churches laziness. He summed that area up with these words, “The danger of spiritual laziness is that it corrupts the atmosphere and function of the church.” Using the passage of 2Thess. 3:6-15, a passage that we don’t hear much preaching on.
The second area he mentioned was a sociological condition called, ‘narcotizing dysfunction’. “The idea is that the more we become informed, the less active we become. We mistake knowing about something and even discussing it as actually doing something about it.” Thus we can rationalize not doing anything, because we have talked about it and we are informed about it. How many of our churches talk more about evangelizing etc. than actually doing it?
A third area he mentioned a number of times was about the bad influence of ‘zombie’ Christians and how they tend to make us like them. Yet he never mentioned how we could extinguish, get rid of, or excommunicate those zombies from our midst in a loving way.

A couple problems I had with the book. This book is by no means a scholarly or academic book, by the way it is written I would assume the author, who is also a pastor, tends to be more of a exhorter than a expositor. The chapters seem to run into each other, what I mean by that, is that the author seems to never totally exhaust one chapter. He refers to the same subjects throughout the book, thus making it about 50 pages longer than it needed to be. Also I am not sure for whom the book is written for, a new convert, excited about his new found life, would not recognize that the church had any problems. A cold, should I say ‘zombie christian’, would probably not want to take the time to read it.

Friday, December 09, 2011



The author, who has held a number of church positions in India and the UK, has done a good job showing the inconsistencies between what a scriptural church is versus what our modern, at least American, church has become. He rightly decries the disillusionment that many have with Christianity by defining it as ‘Churchianity’. His argument is that we must move away from a institutional form of Christianity so that we can rightly represent Jesus to non-Christians.

He begins his argument by showing the unity of God (God is 3 persons but of one essence), the unity of man and the relation between the 2. From there he moves to the fact that each individual is the church and that no one person is more important than another. That the church is not a building, but people. He makes a biblical case for the priesthood of all believers, that all are ministers and not just a select few.

His most interesting (and unique) argument was how we have paganized our concept of the sermon. He says that the NT church was more into “the interactive study of the Word of God” but has now been “ replaced by the Greek Monologue/ Homily”. Thus replacing substance with style, form for content. In the synagogue sermons were not monologue but open for discussion and interaction. The author makes the distinction between teaching and preaching with this quote by C.H. Dodd, “New Testament draws a clear distinction between preaching (kerygma) and teaching (didache)…. Teaching is in a large majority of cases ethical instructions. Preaching, on the other hand, is public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world….while the Church was concerned to hand on the teaching of the Lord, it was not by this (didache teaching) that it made converts. It was by preaching (kerygma).”

The author says the NT church knows nothing of a monologue sermon and this is best evidenced by our lack of spiritual growth, “we witness the adverse effects of this practice - the people neither grow in the Word nor into maturity, but remain spiritual babes.”
The authors point is that preaching is for the unbelievers and that teaching is for the believers. If that is the case, and I would agree with the author, we sure have it turned upside down and my only question/concern is if it would ever be made right.

Though the author does not use history to back up his claims, it easily does. The Salvation Army began by preaching to people out in the streets and my own groups’ founder, John Wesley, began preaching in the fields to the coal miners. Then once they were converted brought them into groups (churches) to teach them.

My only problem with this book is the authors’ own vocational position. It seems that he holds or has held many church offices, which, I assume, he was paid and made his living. Yet he seems to discourage this type of ministry, even using and pushing the tent making ministry of Paul as the proper example of Christian ministry.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

America: The Last Best Hope

AMERICA: THE LAST BEST HOPE Vol.3 From the Collapse of Communism to the Rise of Radical Islam by William J. Bennett

This book covers the history of the United States from the years of 1988-2008. I have a problem calling it history since I remember a lot of the issues that he brings out in the book. History, it seems to me, to be what took place before you were born.

With that said, the author begins with the presidency of George H.W. Bush. The author, who was on the president’s staff, has only high regard for him. He says only positive things regarding his former boss. Like the presidents”… lasting legacy may be the maturity and self-discipline that the president exercised while in office.” And in regards to the president’s 1992 loss of election to Bill Clinton the authors says, “Great nations are too often ungrateful nations. And we Americans have a great nation. But surely, for our gratefulness and greatness, no people can expect to show their thanks every time they have an election. And in the election year of 1992 gratefulness was at a discount.”

Just as high as he was on George H.W. Bush, saying nothing really negative. He was just the opposite with Bill Clinton, not necessarily saying anything bad, but never saying anything good. A good example of this was seen in the authors failure to mention that in the presidents re-election bid he failed to mention how Bill Clinton used the presidents phrase, “read my lips” in regard to raising taxes against him.

The book moves from Bill Clinton to the presidency of George W. Bush and his fight with Iraq and terrorism. The authors writing of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 left me in tears. He concludes the book in praise of an American that can elect a black president in Barack Obama

A few of the problems I had with the book is the authors failure to explain some things like the Iran-Contra affair in more detail. His mentioning of it and not more explanation was like watching a movie with no end. Also, as in his praise of Bush Sr., his bias seems to show through. Also I feel this book would have been better titled a political history of the US for the years 1988-2008. Though he mentioned and touched upon some cultural issues, there was a definite lack of those issues discussed to understand the US in those years.

Overall, this was a good book, an easy and interesting read. I would now like to read the authors first 2 books of the United States history.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Mega-church or Mob

A friend of mine sent me this, I thought was pretty good.

How the mega-church resembles the mob:

1. Has a founding family, with a "godfather" type as pastor. It is assumed the son will take his place. Access to the "godfather" is limited.

2. The larger families, lord over smaller, sometimes giving the appearance of helping, this too, however, can be an attempt to cement control, and further prove the power of the larger family.

3. If your an outsider, your out, no special treament or knowledge is presented. Once your in your in, you become priveledged to know the future of the church, you are made to feel that your approval is valued. You may even be granted rare access to the "godfather" himself. If you last long enough, you may eventually be considered a "pillar" of the family.

4. As an insider you see all the works and learn the players (know the hit men, and see the hits, often the "family" tries to pull you into the hit, so that the element of control is enhanced).

5. As a mere footsoldier for the family, direction comes from the "godfather" through others, and you are expected to only carry out what you were tasked with.

6. Independent thought, or attempts to improve the process/organization/family will be met with some sort of minor punishment (broken knee caps, or amputated pinky finger); in an attempt to discourage any action outside of what is mandated by the "godfather". These attempts will be seen as a personal offense toward the "godfather" or a threat to the other high ranking family members. This is typically spiritualized as "taking some time off to prevent ministry burn-out".

7. Continued independent thought (even to the betterment of the "family"), will be considered offensive.

8. At this point a hit will be put out on you. From here it will only be a matter of time before you find yourself in a cement coffin, or face down in a drained pool. Do not attempt to explain your actions, or wonder why you had no chance to discuss the issues. You have stepped on an ego of a higher ranking family member, than yourself, you will be prevented from being heard. You will wonder what your offense might have been, the family will justify it as "creating a coup to overthrow the godfather" or "lack of unity with the family".

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book review-"Seeing Through Heavens Eyes"


This book is about trying to see through the eyes of heaven. His premise is that we tend to see things from the human perspective and fail to see from God’s viewpoint. Though the author says some good things I am afraid, at least in one spot, he has failed to see ‘through heavens eyes.’
The author, making reference to the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, makes some good points in helping us recognize the tactics satan (the serpent) used to deceive Adam and Eve.
1. The first tactic is that he disguises who he is. In this case he transformed himself into a familiar serpent, a creation of God
2. The second tactic is to divide and conquer. He apparently approached Eve while Adam was not around.
3. Third tactic he uses is to cast a shadow of doubt on the word of God.
4. The devils final tactic is to call God’s character and His motives into question.

It seems to me that the author has fallen to the wiles of the devil. The author says that after the fall Adam and Eve were still Gods children and that their sin disgraced them but didn’t disinherit them. “And our sin -no matter how serious or how shameful-wont disinherit us…It is our position in the family-not our performance in the family- that establishes our identity and entitles us to our inheritance. We can never be downgraded, disowned, or disinherited.”

At this point the author seems to ignore what he has just said and allows his theology to take precedence over the scripture. Let me briefly explain:
1. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because of disobedience- that was their inheritance and they lost it.
2. Their performance did matter. They lost their inheritance because they listened and followed the serpent (satan) instead of God.
3. The devil would like us to overemphasis God‘s love at the expense of His holiness and wrath. He along with many modern day preachers and writers (including our author) would like to think that Gods love overlooks and ignores our rebellion and disobedience.
4. There is a sense that when Adam and Eve sinned we didn’t just forget our identity but we lost it. In Genesis 1:26-27 it says “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Then in Gen. 5:3 it says “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.”
Evidently the image of God in man had become marred through the fall, that Adam’s childrens’ image is that of fallen man instead of the image that was first produced in the garden. Thus their identity had changed.

I am sure that this is the authors rational attempt to prove that even once we are ‘saved’ we will continue to be ‘saved’ irrespective of our behavior. But the rational does not meet with the simple truths of the bible and because of that I cannot recommend this book.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ending Extreme Poverty


The author, a senior ministry advisor for Compassion International, brings about a compelling and motivational case to end poverty. He believes that one of the main hurdles to get over in eradicating poverty is our low expectations. The point here is that we don’t think we can get rid of poverty it will always be with us, as seen and interpreted when Jesus told the disciples, “the poor you will always have with you.” The author brings out the argument that what Jesus was talking about and to were the disciples. The poor would always be with them, but not necessarily have to be with civilization forever.
He gives some statistics that show that extreme poverty is already being broken.

• In the past 8 yrs., the number of kids dying from measles has declined by 78 percent
• Twenty two countries have cut their malaria rate in half in only 6 years
• The number of children dying each day from preventable causes has dropped from 40,000 per day to 21,000
• In 1981 52% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today that number is 26%

As I read those statistics I could not help but think how those who feel that Jesus return is near, because everything is so bad, would respond. I suppose it would make you review your ‘last days’ theology. The author feels that for the first time in human history, we have the realistic possibility of ending extreme global poverty.

The author does not make a dichotomy between poverty work and evangelism. He says, “we don’t do anti-poverty work and share the gospel. Sharing the gospel is anti-poverty work.” He goes on to say that the most powerful ant-poverty strategy is the good news of Jesus Christ both proclaimed and demonstrated.

From a practical standpoint the author says that the best way to end poverty is by a combination of the 3 major sectors of society: government, business and the church/non-profit. Then he gives a chapter on each section to explain what he means. He closes the book out by showing the statistics of how little we as the church give financially ( 97.1% of the churches income from donations etc. is spent on themselves and that 96% goes toward buildings, carpet, staff etc)

This is one of many books written about poverty and its eradication that have come out in the last few years. If you have not read any this would be a good primer. It is easy reading, less than 200 pages and a good place to begin to motivate us to do our part to end extreme poverty

Friday, October 07, 2011

Wall Street Occupiers'

I like what they are doing and if I could afford it I would like to join them for a few days....The following is what Jim Wallis of Sojourners had to say.

The Occupy Wall Street protests make some people nervous, while others scratch their heads, and more than a few grab their sleeping bags and join in.

There is a lot of speculation as to who the "Occupiers" are and what they might accomplish. There is much I still don’t know about the movement, but undeniably it has caught the imagination of a generation -- and that matters.

Here are a few things I do know about the Occupy Wall Street protesters:

When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus.

When they stand with the hungry, they stand with Jesus.

When they stand for those without a job or a home, they stand with Jesus.

When they are peaceful, nonviolent, and love their neighbors (even the ones they don’t agree with and who don’t agree with them), they are walking as Jesus walked.

When they talk about holding banks and corporations accountable, they sound like Jesus and the biblical prophets before him, who all spoke about holding the wealthy and powerful accountable.

Pray for those out on the streets.

Think of ways that you or your church can be Jesus to them.

And do one of the things that church folks do best: Bring them a covered casserole!

Take your church potluck down to the occupations. Sit, eat, and talk with the protesters. Offer them the sacred gifts of hospitality, company, and friendship.

Or a hot cup of coffee.

Or send them a pizza. (Think of it as a peace-za.)

The Occupiers' desire for change and willingness to take action to do something about it should be an inspiration to us all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Christianity or Jesus?

“SPEAKING OF JESUS”: the art of not-evangelism. By Carl Medearis

This book was about telling others about Jesus, not Christianity. The author having lived in Lebanon for a number of years, seen the problem of speaking of Christianity and thus realized he had to shed “Christianity” and begin with Jesus. Whereas Christianity is seen in a negative light Jesus is seen more positive. That problem is also here with us in the United States. As the author quotes Don Miller (author of ’Blue Like Jazz’), “ask 10 people what Christianity is and you will get 10 different answers.”
The authors’ contention that the word ‘Christianity’ has come to mean almost anything except who Jesus really is. He feels that we should not even try to defend the term but ignore it. We need to get people’s attention back to Jesus and his life.

I totally agree with the author that we need to be speaking and pointing others to Jesus rather than Christianity. I had a problem with the authors downplaying of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The author wants to talk about Jesus life and almost ignore his death and resurrection. The problem here is that if Jesus did not die and rise from the dead his life and teachings will become meaningless. I don’t feel that people are interested in a good man or a good prophet as much as they are in a risen Savior. We cannot forget that it was his death and resurrection that makes his life worth studying.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Faith of Leap

The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch

The authors, with help from many outside sources, have succeeded in writing to encourage the church that they need to throw off their pursuit for safety and security and begin living “…the ongoing risky, actional, extravagant way of life “ that should characterize followers of Jesus. They contend that this type of life calls for courage which is learned through community. The authors call this communitas- a collective of people who find meaningful life together as a result of their shared mission. As the authors point to the need for communitas, we as individuals do not lost our uniqueness. For the authors encourage that there is a mission that we pursue as individuals, such as on our job, as well as in community/church.

As stated by the authors, the church has four key functions: mission, community, discipleship and worship. “Mission is the practical demonstration, whether by speech or by action, of the glorious lordship of Jesus. It is where we get to create little foretastes of the kingdom of Jesus…”
They say that mission should be the catalyst that energizes the other 3 functions and they build their case from a theological, sociological and practical viewpoint. They say that, “when mission is allowed to be the catalytic function, the other elements of ecclesia (church) are not in any way diminished; they are in fact enhanced.”
A few other quotes they give in this regard which I liked,”…just worshipping God on Sundays and midweek fellowships alone does not produce disciples-because if it did actually work, then there would be no crisis of discipleship in the church.”
Another quote, “Let’s stop kidding ourselves-there are too many instances of Christians worshiping sublimely every Sunday, but never making and impact beyond the congregation, never experiencing the powerful beauty of communitas, never going deeper in discipleship. We think this is precisely because the catalyzing experience of missional adventure and risk are removed from the equation.”

They close the book with some examples of where missional risk has been put to practice and is working.
This book is filled with good material and many good quotes. It needs to be read by all church leaders, discussed and then put into practice. The only thing I would have liked to have read is an example or two where churches and their leaders have attempted to make their church more missional and failed. All together this is by far one of the better books I have read about the church in a while. 5 stars

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Rumors of God

“Rumors of God”, Experience the kind of faith you’ve only heard about by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson

The authors springboard this book off of the prayer of Habakkuk which says, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”

The premise of the book is that God can do for us today what he did for those in the past.

This book begins with the story of Catherine, a woman who grew up in church, trying to serve the Lord. Her experience with God had begun to grow stale until she was asked to go on a mission trip to Costa Rico to minister among women involved in prostitution. As she came back to the states she began using her vocation as a make-up artist to work in a strip club to help women with their make-up before they went out to perform. As she ministered and as some of the women’s lives began to change, she experienced a renewal to her own faith.
The next couple of chapters deals with God giving us dreams that are bigger than what the world can offer, not just rumors but the real thing.

Some of the chapters that the book covers that I feel were lacking (or at least presented better by others) are on love, grace, forgiveness.

Some of the other chapters such as justice, hope and community they did a good job with stories and illustrations to back up their points. In emphasizing our need for community over our cultures “radical individualism” they illustrate by closing the chapter on community with a man who had died at his house, in front of his TV still on, months before anyone knew about it.

This book was a good read and the authors made their point in only 173 pages.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"FutureCast" by George Barna

“FUTURECAST” What Today’s Trends mean for Tomorrow’s World
By George Barna

The purpose of this book is to chart some trends that are taking place in the US. Barna says, that “Leadership is based on the ability to see future possibilities and shape the environment to facilitate desired outcomes.” Thus the information in the book is to help leaders become well informed so they may lead effectively.

Some of the trends that Barna documents are:
Regarding marriage he says, “…among the younger generations of adults, doubts about the durability of marriage sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Afraid to fail. They never fully devote themselves to do what it takes to build and maintain a strong marriage, putting that union at risk right from the start.”

He says that in our culture we are losing our civility. “Politeness, graciousness and restraint are lost arts.” He sites a survey conducted on the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival that found out that less then 4 out of 10 believe that a festival of that magnitude (4000,000 people) could gather peacefully for such an event today.
Another interesting point that he brought out is how disrespect for other people is rising, yet people are on the lookout for those who disrespect them. We want respect without showing respect.

He also shows the trends in media, religious views etc. etc.

One of the emphasis that he brought out in book was our need not to look at these trends and think that we will change the world. But that we use them to try to change one person at a time. At that place this book becomes personal, it is not just for the big organizations and churches, but it is for us as individuals to examine ourselves and do what we can do to change our neighborhoods and the people (individuals) we are around.

Overall, if you have enjoyed Barna’s other books you will enjoy this one.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Leadership or Followers

leadership...leadership...leadership. We talk about being good leaders, about training leaders, about how important it is to have leaders etc. etc. etc....Personally I am tired of hearing about leaders and leadership.

We dont need leaders as much as we need followers...Jesus followers

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transforming your community through unity-a book review

A New Kind of Big ‘How Churches of Any Size Can Partner to Transform Communities” by Chip Sweney

Are you interested in transforming your community? Is it possible to unite the churches in the community to bring about transformation?
This book is about how the ‘Perimeter Church’ of Atlanta organized with other churches, within a 12 mile radius of Perimeter, to help meet the needs of the community eg. Hunger, prostitution etc. The author is the leader of a organization called ‘Unite’ which works with other churches in the Atlanta area to meet community needs.

The author says, “That the problem with the church is not its size…the problem with the church is its reach.” The issue is not about a big church but it is about big needs, needs that are greater than any one church can handle. Thus the author hammers home 2 points that needs to be done to bring about community transformation.
1) Vision and 2) collaboration with other churches and organizations within the community.
The author states that his vision for community action began with the junior high kids who he was in charge with while in Chicago. He shares the story of Brian, an avid hockey player, who decided to give away his prized hockey stick to a child in a transitional village for homeless families. The question then goes back to the church, how willing are we to free up resources-money, people, time- to reach out beyond the doors of our church building? That is a question that is good not only for the mega church but the small church as well. Another, more specific question that I would ask is how much money (percentage wise) should be designated for staff members? It seems like in the mega churches we have almost lost our sense of volunteering, most positions are paid positions. Along with how much money to spend for staff is another question on the heels of that, how much should we spend on our buildings? Does it help the kingdom to invest in bricks and mortar or in people?

The author then states that after their church established its vision, the “What if?”, question. They then began to answer the, “What now?’ question. The “What now? Is where great movements really begin”. Though their church planned for months for this ministry it moved beyond planning to doing. I liked the fact that one of the first things the church did was to partner with existing ministries versus beginning their own. I believe this is the toughest thing to do in any neighborhood or community. Join up and support existing ministries. Somehow to many times we want the recognition of doing this ministry and supporting a existing ministry is just not going to give us the recognition we desire. For example, I wonder how many different churches have their own food pantry? Would it not be better to combine resources and have one big food pantry than many small ones?

After a lot of community research they decided to put their resources into 4 main areas: Families, Justice, Education and Poverty. They joined with a already existing group to help with those involved in the sex trade and also went into the public schools to help with tutoring etc. I like what he said about the public schools, “Want to measure the level of poverty in your county? Simply track the number of free and reduced lunches in your public schools…our public schools are the alarm system for our communities, if we’ll just listen.”

The author also tells what some churches in other parts of the country are doing in community transformation eg. Knoxville, Long Beach and Little Rock.

He uses many examples and stories to drive home his points. He closes with his 4th Appendix stressing the need to build relationships and see where Gods reign is already evident. He gives 4 main principles for what he calls an asset-based approach to transformation:
1)God is already at work in the community
2) We are defined not by our problems but by our potential
3) Do ministry with people not to people
4) Effective ministry builds on assets.

This was a good book with practical steps they used in uniting churches for community outreach. If only this would work in every neighborhood and in every community. I believe it is yet to be seen where small churches would join together for such a cause. Maybe God has raised up the mega-churches for such a time as this. They have the financial resources, people and may I say, community authority, to lead in such an endeavor. If only they would catch the vision.

Monday, June 27, 2011

REVIVE US AGAIN-book review

REVIVE US AGAIN: Living From A Renewed Christian Script by Frank Viola

Published by David C.Cook

This book was nothing that I expected it to be. I was thinking it would deal more with the old-time ‘revive us again’ mentality, that tended to give the local church a temporary reviving. This book deals more with us as individual Christians, changing the way we do and say things. Thus living by a different script. There are 10 different areas that the writer feels we need to change in our lives. There is nothing really profound here but areas where we all have maybe felt or questioned the reasons we do and say certain things.

One example is filling in the words, “The Lord told me” this or that which usually ends up God getting the blame for something He actually had nothing to do with.

Or when we say, “Let me pray about that” which is usually just a way to postpone a decision or to get out of something I do not want to do.

I appreciated the authors emphasis upon making sure Jesus is magnified in all that is said and done and though this book addresses Christians as individuals he does not fail to emphasize that as Christians we are part of the body and if we fail to live and connect with other parts of that body we fail to properly represent Christ.

He says, “…I’ve met believers who had their own private walks with the Lord. They never knew Christian community, yet they had an extremely strong devotional life. Every person who fit that bill was lopsided in some arena of their lives. The reason? They didn’t avail themselves of the balancing and tempering of the body.”
The writer gets his points across in 168 pages of easy reading. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What is Your Purpose?

“The Cause Within You” Finding The One Great Thing You Were Created To Do In This World by Matthew Barnett.  A book Review.

Be careful in reading this book. It may cause you to give up the things that you are now pursuing and begin searching for God’s purpose in your life.

This is one of the most inspiring books I have read in awhile. Matthew Barnett is the founder of ‘The Dream Center” in LA. The book begins with how he began to lose his passion and thus decided to spend a night on the streets joining with the many homeless in that area.

He said, “I went to skid row with a secret thought that what I was doing was somehow heroic, I left there knowing that I was not a hero but a servant….Returning to the Dream Center, I realized the real danger was living a routine life not fully aligned with God’s cause for me.”

Throughout the book he gives clues to what and how we are to find our purpose in life, filled with real life examples of those who have. The emphasis is that our cause is not tied to success or the accumulation of things but, “…marrying our passions, interests and abilities with the needs of people.”

One of my favorite examples of someone finding their purpose is the story of Alena Jackson. Alena’s child contracted a infection that caused her to remain in the hospital for 18 months. During that time they shared a hospital room with another child, with serious medical issues, who was abandon by her parents. After hearing that the child was not going to make it, Alena felt God telling her to take the child home and let it her die at Alena’s house. After much arguing and fussing with God, Alena gave in to God’s will and today Alena has served in her home over 170 children with medical problems.

Another story that challenged me was Sally and Craig Kinart who, in their 50’s, felt God telling them to simplify their lives, sell what they have and move to “The Dream Center” to help serve people. Today that couple is serving as houseparents in the men’s discipleship program and also overseeing the clothing distribution ministry.

If you want to be challenged, encouraged, blessed and even put under conviction this book is for you.

One more story. Matthew felt that God wanted them to do something for the children of the homeless families staying at the Dream Center. He got in touch with the girl who was in charge and said meet me at the “Build-A -Bear” in Hollywood. Expecting 15-20 kids he was shocked to find 50 kids showing up. As they began to build and dress their bears, Matthew came over to a little girl who had a male bear. Matthew wondering why she did not have a girl bear and dressing it as a princess, questioned her. She said, “I’m making a Pastor Matthew Superhero Bear. I am making this for you.”

This book may help you in finding that one thing that you were created to do.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Becoming Naked

“Naked Spirituality”, A Life with God in 12 Simple Words by Brian Mclaren. A book review.

He begins the book with the story of St. Francis, who after being accused of selling his fathers goods to raise money for a church renovation project, stripped himself of his clothes and everything he had to repay his father. Standing in front of his father, neighbors and peers said, “I shall go naked to meet my naked Lord.”
From here the author offers up 12 words that will help us to become naked before God. 12 words that help us develop practices that will lead us into a way of life with God. What the author means by these practices is,”…doable habits or rhythms that transform us, rewiring our brains, restoring our inner ecology, renovating our inner architecture, expanding our capacities. We mean actions within our power that help us become capable of things currently beyond our power.”

Like any book that deals with list of things some are better than others. Let me give you what I thought were a few of the better ones.

1. Thanksgiving. Being appreciative of what we have no matter how much or how little we have. He brings out the point that the more we have the more we should show gratitude or else our ingratitude will lead to unhappiness. Happiness is not to be found in the things that we have but in how thankful we are for the things that we do have.

2. He uses the word “O” to signify our need to worship. He gives 7 ways in which we can incorporate worship into our daily lives:

1) Give God the first greeting every morning
2) Give God the first thanks at every meal
3) Give God the first response to every pleasure
4) Give God the first consideration in your weekly schedule
5) Make God the first supervisor or customer for all work
6) Give God the first part of every paycheck
7) Give God the joy of your creativity

3. He uses the word “No” to express our times of discouragement and suffering. ‘No’ is our practice of rage and refusal to give up and to give in. It is the ability to question God and wonder where God is at during our dark times. The writer uses Psalm 77 and the story of Job to bring home his point.

The author concludes, in an appendix, ‘twelve simple prayers’ that relate with each of his 12 words. I liked these prayers. They are not prayers just to be recited but fill-in-the-blank types of prayers. Seemingly very practical and helpful.

This book was a good and easy read, the author avoids any big theological or technical terms thus making it accessible to all. He had some very good and original thoughts associated with many of his ‘words’. The only problem I had with the book is that I felt it was a little too wordy. Everything said could have been said in 50 less pages.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter, Taxes, War

Here is a powerful message about Easter, taxes and war. Give it a read and share your thoughts.
Shane Claiborne is a modern-day prophet you can read more about his work etc. at  You can also hear him speak on you tube. Very Good and inspiring

by Shane Claiborne

As a Christian, Easter marks the most stunning act of grace and enemy-love in human history – Jesus’ death and resurrection. As Jesus was being tortured and executed, he cried out for mercy, even for those terrorists who hurt him. As his buddy Peter picked up a sword and cut the ear off one of the persecutors, Jesus scolded Peter and picked up the ear and healed the wounded persecutor. The early Christians understood the message – it was a message of Amazing Grace. It was a message about how there is something worth dying for, but nothing in the world worth killing for – not even freedom or democracy. One of the early Christians said, “When Jesus disarmed Peter he disarmed every Christian.” After all, we don’t see Christians picking up swords again for hundreds of years.

I am one of those Christians who believe we should still have the right NOT to kill, even in an empire that has a military bigger than Rome’s. Perhaps that’s why it has been hard for me to navigate what to do as tax season approaches, with so much of our federal tax money going towards militarism. It was a crisis familiar to the early Christians who were accused of insurrection and tax evasion because they had an allegiance that subverted, or super-ceded, their national allegiance.

So I respectfully filed my taxes this year, and I sent the IRS the little letter below. My intention is to respect my country and contribute to the common good… but also to uncompromisingly follow the way of the nonviolent Jesus this Easter — in a world that continues to pick up the sword… and die by the sword.

Dear Internal Revenue Service,

I am filing my 1040 here. As you will see, I made $9600 this past year, and found that according to the 1040 form, I owe $324.44 of that to federal taxes. While I am glad to contribute money to the common good and towards things that promote life and dignity, especially for the poor and most vulnerable people among us, I am deeply concerned that 30 percent of the federal budget goes towards military spending, with 117 billion going to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Further, when we include the 18% that goes towards past military costs, such as the 380 billion in debt payments, 80% of which are military related debts, that number goes up to a total military budget of 1,372 billion dollars — nearly half of the federal budget). My Christian faith and my human conscience require me to respectfully reserve the right not to kill, and to refrain from contributing money towards weapons and the military.

For this reason, I am enclosing a check for $227.11, which is, according to the form, 70% of what I owe. The remaining $97.33 represents 30% of my tax payment, the amount that would go towards military spending. I will donate this remaining 30% to a recognized US nonprofit organization working to bring peace and reconciliation. My faith also compels me to submit to the governing authorities, which is why I am writing you respectfully and transparently here. I am glad to discuss this further if you have any questions. I can be reached by phone at 215 423-3598 or by mail at 1838 E. Allegheny Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19134.

May we continue to build the world we dream of.

–Shane Claiborne

Friday, March 25, 2011


“Fasting” by Scot Mcknight, published by Thomas Nelson

By the number of books published in the last few years, fasting has become a popular subject. Mcknight in this book believes that people fast for the wrong reasons. He believes that fasting is a ‘natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life’. We do not fast for the purpose of manipulating God or for certain expected results. Fasting is a natural thing that happens and should occur during times of grief such as the death of a loved one, sickness, sin, fear etc. He uses scripture, along with some early church practices, to back up and to support his definition.

He also believes that fasting is one of the most misunderstood of the Christian disciplines. The reason being that we have either lost or distorted the ancient idea of there being a unity between body and spirit. We have made a dichotomy between the 2, thus making the body evil and the spirit good (dualism). He goes on to show through scripture the unity that exist between body and spirit.

In his explanation and use of scripture to show the unity of body and spirit he fails to mention or use the verses in
1Co 6:13,18 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body….Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. An explanation of the meaning of these verses would have been nice and would have went along way in showing the unity of body and spirit.

I liked that he emphasised the fact that fasting is only food and drink related it is not doing without TV, facebook or some other item of interest. Those type of things that we do without he calls abstentance but not fasting.
He also ties fasting in with the church calendar and the practice of fasting among the early church, to encourage us to pick up/ start the practice of fasting.
The writer mentioned his feeling of hypocrisy as he was writing on the subject of ‘fasting’ then taking a break for lunch. I can understand those feelings for I felt the same way in just reading the book. This is not a book that you can read and set aside without putting it into practice.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Odds and Ends

Here are a few things (web sites, books, movies etc.) that I have enjoyed so far this year, and thought I would recommend them to you.

2 great movies I have watched this year: "Inception"- w/ DeCaprio it is about getting inside a persons dreams. This is a good movie with good special effects. I wish I had seen it at the theatres.
"The Social Network"- Great movie about 'Facebook'. Alot better than what I thought it would be and I will watch it again.

Favorite book: "Nudge" by Leonard Sweet. It is about nudging people toward God instead of pushing them. It is about using your senses to discern where God is and how He is moving in other peoples lives. (I hope to share some quotes from the book in a few weeks)

A helpful website for checking out non-profits and charity organizations that you may be interested in giving to is   I like it because it tells you how much money goes to the actual cause or need and how much goes toward fund-raising and the CEO etc. Some groups I will not give to nor endorse because their CEO makes too much for my liking (eg. Franklin Graham of 'Samaritans Purse' is paid over a half million dollars salary per year)

Another website/tool I have just discovered is  It is a place to store notes, pictures etc. etc. I have not yet discovered how to use everything, but so far it is great.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Holy Communion

“The Sacred Meal” by Nora Gallagher, one of eight books in, ‘The Ancient Practices Series’, published by Thomas Nelson.

This is a book about holy communion, the eucharist, the Lords supper or whatever you may want to call it. It is a time when the church celebrates the last supper with wine/grape juice and bread/cracker which symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus, which was shed for our sins. Some churches celebrate this weekly, some quarterly and others (like our church) on occasion.

This book is not a deep theological treatise on the meaning of the elements, nor is it a polemic in trying to convince us how often and what mode communion should be served. For the most part it is a book of practical, real life, stories in which the author ties in or at least tries to tie in the meaning of communion.

In the very first chapter the author shares the story of a family, who had just been notified, that their daughter was lost in a possible airplane crash. As many were searching and praying for the lost plane, communion was a web that stitched them all together, the human with the divine.

In other areas she shares stories to show that communion is a practice that makes us both aware of sin and makers of Gods kingdom. It helps us to understand that we are recipients of Gods blessing, Gods favor-grace.

Some choice quotes from the book include:

-“Transformation occurs in encounters, sometimes better named collisions, either with the self or with others or with the holy.” P.60
- “…communion is an act of the imagination” p.94
- “To be exalted by heavenly standards is to urge others to be exalted, too, to share in the bounty of being loved and loving.” P.128

This book will not make you change any of your communion/eucharist rituals but it may help you see communion in a number of different ways.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Great words from a man while He was in Jail

Today is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday and the cause he championed, racial equality. Since many conservative evangelicals were on the wrong side of the race issue decades ago, I think it is helpful to read some of the words that came out of that Birmingham jail. The letter was in response to several white religious leaders and an open letter they published, A Call for Unity.

Wikipedia explains:
The Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, also known as The Negro Is Your Brother, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader. King wrote the letter from the city jail in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was confined after being arrested for his part in the Birmingham campaign...

King's letter is a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963, titled "A Call For Unity". The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. King responded that without nonviolent forceful direct actions such as his, true civil rights could never be achieved. As he put it, "This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" He asserted that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but that "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

Here are parts of that letter:

I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said, "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry? It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation...

I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sidelines and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues which the gospel has nothing to do with," and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which made a strange distinction between bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular.

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven" and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's often vocal sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

taken from