Saturday, March 29, 2014

I like wrinkled

The other evening was my night for ‘chapel service’ at the local rescue mission. I showed the crowd a crisp new 5 dollar bill, and ask how many of them would take it if it were offered. Then I took a beat-up old wrinkled 5 dollar bill and ask the same question. Wrinkled or crisp, the bill is still worth 5 dollars. It was an object lesson about how God sees us, and how He looks past the outside.
After the service someone came up and asked me if I had a wrinkled 5 dollar bill.
“You know I do, I just showed it to you”
“I’m not sure I believe in God, but would you give it to me, so that I can give it to someone in this room?”
“Who are you planning on giving it too?”
“I don’t know, but someone needs it, and I have to be careful not to give it to someone who’s going to buy booze.”
“Here it is – what are you going to do with it?”
“I don’t know, shouldn’t I get some kind of inspiration about now?”
“Maybe by the time dinner is over, you’ll know”
I don’t know what he did with it, maybe he’ll tell me next month at Chapel. It cost so little, but gave me great pleasure to give it to him, and see him struggle with how God blesses us so that we can bless others. Brought a smile to my face (and my heart)! Someone will love that wrinkled 5 dollar bill as much as if it were a crisp brand new one.
A nice reminder that God loves me even when I’m wrinkled, beat-up and broken.

I like wrinkled. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What kind of movies does America Want

It certainly seems that over the past few decades the Hollywood folks have been pushing the envelope as it were.  Remember Lucy and Desi, Ward and June Cleaver, Rob and Laura Petri? Married with kids, but on TV they slept in separate beds and their pajamas were pretty much neck to toes. Now you see every imaginable combination in the same bed, and as far as PJs, well, there's really not much left to the imagination. What used to be rated R now barely rates a PG 13.
It seems like Hollywood is getting out of control. And the film/tv characters are the role models our children are trying to emulate.  No wonder the National Day of Prayer  Task Force lists the media (blanket term for the press, movies/tv/entertainment and sports figures) as one of the 7 focus points as people pray for the nation.
The Hollywood mentality for some time has been that religious/moral movies wouldn't have an audience because people wanted to be excited, and get a sneak peek at the forbidden pleasures. People wouldn't be interested in something that mirrored their own boring life style. But more and more people are realizing that what's presented on the silver screen is often fantasy: it has no connection to reality. People are tired of ruining their lives chasing after that which can never be obtained.
On another note, people who like the sex, gore, senseless violence, drug themes etc, etc,  don't necessarily want their children hearing/seeing/copying that type of language or behavior. We teach our kids that some words are naughty, and then get tired of responding to "Daddy, that man said a bad word" or correcting a behavior only to hear "but that’s what they do on "ABC show".
While people may think that they want to be free to experience and enjoy the forbidden pleasures, they quickly find that a hedonistic lifestyle is hard to maintain: it's financially,  physically and emotionally draining.  So the pendulum is swinging back, and once again people are interested in clean wholesome entertainment. Entertainment which truly aligns with the values that they maintain they hold.
Hollywood is quick to pick up on those trends, and since the viewing audience is requesting more religious and moral movies, that's what we'll get.  Hopefully as gangs, drugs, prostitution, suicide, and some of the other major problems in some communities  are no longer glorified on the silver screen, we'll see life imitate art, and our communities will become more family oriented. What if the film industry were   more intentional about showing healthy male role models?  If they taught that there's more to being a man than being the biological father of a child you have no intention of caring for. I'm guessing that we might see fewer runaways, fewer street children, fewer young people with no resources, left to their own devices to figure out how to survive.
As long as people will pay to see the religious and moral movies, there will be more and more of them (Law of demand and supply) not necessarily out of any sense of morality on the part of the film makers, but because it's what sells.

Get to the theater this weekend. See a movie that aligns with your life and your values rather than one that has nothing going for it other than lots of needless profanity and violence  along with some naked bodies. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Try Putting God First

Some things seem so obvious, until it comes down to actually putting them into practice. Putting God first in everything we do is one of those things that should be obvious, but somehow, it doesn’t always come across that way.  In his latest book The God First Life: Uncomplicate Your Life, God's Way (Zondervan, 2014), Stovall Weems does an incredible job in offering tips to make things a lot less complicated than we usually see them as being.
            Weems starts with a single, simple verse from the gospel of Matthew: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33, NIV).  For such a simple verse, it certainly is powerful, so powerful that I wondered if Weems wasn't oversimplifying things. But he’s not. The place we should start is with God, and the rest will fall in to place. Ask anyone who tried doing things their way first, and then turning to God as the last resort. Most of them will be glad to tell you that they got things backward, and as a result they paid the price.
            A major premise of this book is that putting God first allows the Christ follower to reap the promises of God, a new family, a new life and, and a new freedom. I usually don’t like books which the author claims will give you anything, I read this book expecting to find the catch, to find the words which would seem to be adding something to the gospel of Jesus, but it just wasn't there.
            Another thing that pleased me about this book is that the author doesn't paint everything as coming up roses. He talks about servant hood, he talks about giving, yes, giving, as in tithing, as in ten percent to the local church, and he does so unapologetically.  We read that sometimes Christians suffer, just like anyone else, but it’s better to suffer as a Christian than as a non-believer.
            Well placed scripture references reinforce the whole concept of putting God first. He even includes a breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer to help people understand the purpose of each phrase.

            Thanks to the publisher for providing me an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

I like Book part 2

A month or so ago I reviewed a really interesting book call ed "I Like Giving: the Transforming Power of a Generous Life. There are a lot of interesting stories in the book, and since it's release more stories are pouring in.  The other day i saw this really neat video based on the book,.  I like being 98  You'll fall in love with this lady!

You can read the first chapter here I like giving Chap 1

feel free to share!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: Fatherless Generation

I grew up with a Father who I love. I have a son who I love. I grew up knowing about and learning about God the Father, who is also very real to me, and who I love. In a sense that means I can’t relate to the pain of the ‘Fatherless Generation”. But it also means that my heart breaks for those are growing up without a father.

This is a book that should never have had to be written, but as societal values change, the role of the family has changed also, and in the process we have lost a lot of what we used to call ‘family values’.

John Sowers book Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) paints a heart-wrenching picture of one of the problems of today’s society: the pain of the children of  ‘invisible dads’. Men who refuse to accept their responsibility and leave as soon as they find out that the girl friend is pregnant. Men who leave when things get tough at home. Men in mid-life crises who leave home for the fancy car and much younger trophy wife. In other words, males who are men by virtue of age and testosterone, but still just little boys when it comes to accepting adult responsibilities.  And that doesn’t take into account the children who are left as orphans when dad goes off to war, has a fatal accident, or is struck with a senseless terminal disease.

Fatherless Generation tells of the pain of girls and boys, (25 million if Sowers’ facts are correct) who are looking for their Dad. Boys and girls who think the divorce is their fault; who wonder what they did that was so bad that Daddy doesn't love them anymore. Girls and boys who are disappointed time after time when Dad doesn't show as promised for the birthday, holiday, or other ‘important event’ celebration. All dressed up with no place to go when Daddy doesn't show up for the visit, dinner, ball game, piano or dance recital, school play or graduation.  Kids’ whose hearts are eventually hardened, they no longer care, but often carry around the guilty feeling of not caring.

And what happens to these kids with hardened hearts. Some survive; some go into therapy, some turn to other places to find the love they don’t get from Dad: gangs, drugs, prostitution.  And some find positive role models through their church or school, with a Big Brother or a Big Sister, or a mentor associated with Sowers’ organization “The Mentoring Project”.

Fatherless Generation is more than just a stark picture of boys and girls growing up without someone to teach them how to be men and women. It’s a wake-up call for our communities. It’s a call to action for those who are tired of reading about another senseless murder or robbery or drug deal gone sour.

The book describes a problem but also offers a solution. Sowers describes way that men and women can get involved and make a difference in the lives of young people growing up as part of the Fatherless Generation.  I was reminded of the prophet Jeremiah who spoke to the God's people: Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jer 29:7, NIV).  Mentoring young people, being the adult role model, is a way to put those prayers into action.

Sowers writes from his perspective of being part of the fatherlessness epidemic. Friends, acquaintances and anonymous responders to his blog as quoted throughout the book. And whether they’re well known or anonymous, they are real people who know what it’s like to grow up without a dad.

Have the box of tissues handy. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Does Helping Really Help? (or, “I’m quitting my job in favor of standing on a street corner with a piece of cardboard)

For the past year or so it seems like every time I pull off the freeway there is someone standing there holding a sign asking for money. Some signs are humorous, some are designed to evoke pity, empathy or sympathy; and some are truly pathetic.  Government leaders at all levels are suggesting that the people who want to help should do so by donating to the various agencies in the area that are set up to provide assistance.  For some reason that message doesn't seem to be getting out as well as it should. Everyday there is someone on the off ramp. 
Apparently some of these locations are pretty lucrative because there is usually someone there: early in the morning, late in the evening, rain, snow or shine. The other day I saw some people that I know. From what I know of their circumstances, they don’t need to be out there, but hey – it’s working for everyone else.
I’ve heard various stories about how much can be earned in a single day on a good corner; if those reports are right, there are some people making a good living by standing out in the elements. And they don’t report it, so there are no taxes, and their ‘benefits’ aren't affected. What a deal.
But the real point is people need to use some common sense. The other day I was fourth in line in the Left turn lane on an off-ramp. Yes there was someone standing there with a sign. The light turns green, and car # 1 makes his left turn.  Car #2 moves forward a couple of car lengths, stops and motions to the sign holder to come to the car.  Something changed hands; I’m assuming it was cash.  Sign guy returns to the corner and car # 2 turns. Car # 3 inches forward stops and motions the sign guy back.  Guy runs over to the car, something changes hands, guy goes back to his corner and car # 3 turns.  The light is turning yellow as I (car # 4) make my turn, and as I check right, left, back and over the shoulder notice that Sign Guy is giving me the one finger salute.
Guess he thought since the light was turning anyway I should have stayed there and given him some money.  Wondering if there had been a cop there if he could have issued tickets for impeding the flow of traffic and crossing against the light.

Think I’ll find a piece a cardboard, make a sign, and if I’m lucky enough to find a good corner I can ‘retire’ early. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Not the argument I saw

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land, and after seeing first-hand the tensions that are so evident between Israel and Palestine, and the various ethnic and religious groups found in the region, I was excited to be able to get an Advance Review Copy of The Israeli Solution: a One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East by Caroline Glick (Crown Forum, 2014).
            As I started the book, it quickly became apparent that this was not the book that I had expected. The author has certainly done her research, but it seems that she was very selective in which parts of the material she used. I found the book to be extremely biased and one-sided. Everything she presents that Israel is doing, has done, or is trying to do is viewed in a positive light. Israel is presented almost as a loving God (whatever happened to ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’?). As Glick presents Israel’s side of the story, everything they do creates jobs, raises the living standard, provides better health care and promotes peace. Everything anyone else proposes is misguided and foolish, filled with promises that the proposers have no intention of keeping, or outright terroristic in nature.
            She lambastes 3 American Presidents (Clinton, Bush and Obama) for the way they have hampered and impeded peace efforts.The United Nations is a pawn,  Europe is no better, and as for the Arab nations in the region, well let’s just say that she isn't impressed.
            There is no doubt in my mind that the situation in the Middle East is tense, and that both sides need to be willing to give a little. But my personal experience , as brief as it was, is certainly different than what it put forth in this diatribe.  I’m sure it will appeal to extremists on one side of the argument, and the extremists on the other side will see it as inflammatory. Both sides will take things out of context and use those out-of-context arguments to justify their behaviors.
I hate to say this but it seems to me that rational people would be better off avoiding this book altogether.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for the review. Obviously I was not required to write a positive review. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

God is bigger than whatever is eating your lunch

Most of us are overwhelmed by something, or maybe lots of things.  Perry Noble addresses that issue in Overwhelmed: Winning the War against Worry (Tyndale house, 2014).
I enjoyed this book and one of the first things that I noticed is that this talented and gifted pastor is maturing as an author. This book seems to flow better than UNLEASH (which by the way, I also enjoyed).
But back to the book at hand. Perry introduces the book with the honesty and candor for which he is known: “I wanted to kill myself”.  Great attention getter, but more than that, it sets the stage for the journey that Perry takes the reader on.  A journey from despair to hope. A journey that teaches us that God is bigger than our fears, our concerns, our particular bêtes-nôir, or our personal boogiemen.
All of us have those moments, but how many of us have as much faith as Daniel, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?
Perry points out the difference between letting your circumstances define your belief system and using your belief system to help overcome circumstances.
Using biblical references, personal anecdotes, and stories shared by people he knows, Perry addresses quite a few of the circumstances that seem to conspire to overwhelm us. Those circumstances that force us to ask if we want to tell God how big our problems are, or do we tell our problems just how big our God is. When we’re overwhelmed by circumstances you can probably guess what the default position is.  So we have a choice, “focusing on our circumstances and the size of our problems always leads to tress, anxiety, and fear. Focusing on Christ, however, allows us to walk in freedom.”
Have you ever been ‘overwhelmed’ by people, circumstances, and religion? Do you have issues when it comes to sex, greed, unforgiveness, trust, God's love?  You’re among the majority.
And the final points that Perry makes are simple ones that we probably know, but often forget: God is good, all the time.  We can be upset, mad, overwhelmed by everything that happens, or we can believe that no matter what happens, God is still God, and God is still good. And the next is like it: God is greater than whatever it is that we’re going through, “so don’t give up on the God who has never given up on you.”
Jesus can do what you can’t. Let him
I might have preferred fewer but longer chapters, and more references to the story of Daniel throughout the book, but overall this is a compelling read. 5/5

I received an advance review e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There was no requirement to post a positive review. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Noah: biblical or artistic

Just got an email from Grace Hill Media with a link to an interesting article  The bible and artistic license    The Bible doesn't tell us much about Noah, so just how how far can an artist go?  As the author of this article points out, some will like it, some won't. But hopefully the movie will be a tool for sharing more of what the bible says.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Primal Fire - the APEST gifts:

A different Neil Cole than I’ve read before.   Primal Fire: Reigniting the Church with the Five Gifts of Jesus (Tyndale Momentum, 2014) addresses five important gifts that are mentioned in Ephesians, and in many cases seem to have been forgotten or ignored. Cole makes a strong case that the gifts are important to the church today, and should be sought out, and allowed and encouraged to develop.
He goes on to say that the Teacher and the Shepherd are often confused and used interchangeably, but that is far from the original intent. The other gifts that he mentions are the Apostle, the Prophet and the Evangelist.  Together he calls his grouping the APEST gift.
As he discusses the gifts, he refers frequently to a group of men that work with him on a regular basis, men who each have one of these gifts, and he uses this group to show how these gifts are meant to work together, how those who have these gifts are meant to work together for the good of Christ’s Church.
I have read some of Cole’s other books and was expecting something along the same lines as Search and Rescue or Organic Church. Initially I was disappointed, but the more I read, the more the book made sense.
As a Pastor, (Shepherd) it becomes clear that the job of “equipping the saints”  involves much more than looking for someone who has a gift of caring, hospitality or administration.
Food for thought.
or follow Neil’s blog:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review. 4.5/5

Good things come in threes: God loves a cheerful giver

Do you ever wonder if God is speaking directly to you, or if He’s just messing with you? Within just a few days I got copies (print or electronic) of several books about the joy of letting go. Three different authors (Stanley, Formsma, and Shinabarger), three different books (How to be Rich, I Like Giving, and More or Less) and three different approaches. But what seems clear from reading any/all these books is that most if not all of the people that I know are rich when compared too much of the population of the world.  It doesn't take a whole lot of income to push you toward the top, make you part of the 1%.

As I read these books, it was fun to see what people are doing with their excess wealth. I mean, really, how much is enough.  When do we look at the closets full of clothes and realize that we pack into our closets enough clothes to dress some small villages. We have enough food on the shelves to feed ourselves for several weeks, or that small village for several days.

Jeff Shinabarger ( More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, David C. Cook, 2013) reminds us that in most cases we have more than enough and tells of some innovative ways that people are reaching out to their communities for help in making a difference in someone else’s life.

Andy Stanley (How To Be Rich: It’s not What You Have, It’s What You Do with What You Have, Zondervan, 2013) asks us to consider if the wealth we think we have doesn’t really possess us. Since we have been entrusted with much, we are also expected to be wise stewards.  What if we all read about the church of the 1st century, recognized their culture of generosity, and decided that the legacy we leave will be one of extravagant generosity.

And then there is Brad Formsma (I Like Giving: the Transforming Power of a Generous Life – Practical Ideas, Inspiring Stories, WaterBrook, 2014).  This book is full of stories of how to recognize a need and respond to it. Maybe it’s cash, maybe it’s a smile and a hug, but so often something that we have but don’t use or need can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. And the people that  give find that they “like” beyond anything they might have imagined.

And as if that weren't enough, I got an advance review copy of a book by Stovall Weems (The God First Life: Uncomplicate Your Life, God’s Way, Zondervan, 2014). The book will release later this month, but one thing in the book that I really like is a section on tithing.

Maybe God is just messing with me, but I think He really wants me to listen to something that He’s trying to get me to understand.

Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes I have to be on the receiving end of a baseball bat before I start to pay attention. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

NOAH some behind the scenes stuff

This is a behind the scene view of the building of the ark. I've read the story of Noah many times, and this helps me visualize some things. Looking forward to some more 'featurettes' in the weeks before the movie releases