Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is Christmas about compassion or consumerism?

Yesterday we went shopping. In our defense we started out shopping for children off of the Angel Tree at church, but as often is the case, included shopping for our own kids, as well as for ourselves. As we walked through aisles and aisles of plastic crap, the weight of Christmas consumerism was overwhelming.
This year we made the decision to match what we spend on our family with spending on others. That feels like a start, maybe start that will move from 50/50, to 30/70, and eventually 10/90.
Some relatives ask me what the girls need/want for Christmas, and my mind is blank. There is really nothing more that they need, but I can think of a lot other people who do have needs.

Today I read about the Advent Conspiracy, is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption. They point out that Christmas, at its core, is about changing the world, not about buying more and more things.

It's one thing to celebrate the festivities of this winter holiday, to go and look at lights, to cut down a tree, to decorate the house...but it's another thing to continue to worship this false god of consumerism. As we study Colossians at Community, and as I talk to students and hear from them how tight of a grip consumerism has over them, I worry about using this day recognized as the birth of our revolutionary Jesus, to fuel the fire of the adversary.

Now...back to Christmas shopping.

Update: Lisa asked me to elaborate as to what I mean by 50/50
For every dollar that we spend on someone that we know, we aim to spend a dollar on someone with needs who we don't know. Orphans, kids whose parents are in jail, children of migrant workers, etc. The idea is that however much money we spend on our own family/friends, we also spend on "the least of these."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm not sure whether or not to be proud of this...but I am.

I submitted my blog site to "The Blog Readability Test," and within seconds got this response:

cash advance

This probably is a bad sign, it probably means that I need to use smaller-easier-to-understand-words... but somehow it feels pretty satisfying. ;-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Count your blessings

Anytime that Jesus says: for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. It's probably wise to pay attention.
Here's the full pericope:

9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

I'm familiar with this passage, and find solace in knowing that God is a good father, who gives good gifts. But I was reminded on Tuesday night at Rob Bells, The God's Aren't Angry tour how much God has given me, and how hesitant I am to trust him with the future. I realize that it is dumb not to trust God, but it is insane to not trust a God who has showered blessings upon me.

A friend from Matilija who also attended Westmont with me, always reminds me of the goals for my life that I shared with him in College. I wanted to

1) Live in Ojai
2) Have a manicured front lawn
3) Own a truck

Add to that the non materialistic goals that I've always had

a) Get married to a woman who loves Jesus
b) Have two daughters
c) Be a pastor

Alright, so maybe I was/am a bit shallow, but these were my stated goals as an 18 year old, (mixed in there somewhere was the whole goal to teach others about Jesus, but this post isn't about that).

So, I'm sitting listening to Rob Bell while I realize that although I am in fact generous and share with others, my initial reaction is to horde. What makes it really messed up is that out of my 6 stated goals, I now have all of them, and had very little to do with receiving any of them.

1) We can only live in Ojai because family has opened homes up to us.
2) I only have a manicured front lawn because my mom trades tutor services for lawn services.
3) I only have a truck because my Grandpa gave it to my family.
4) Amber married me because...(who really knows how I pulled off that one?)
5) I have two daughters because of something having to do with X & Y chromosomes and God.
6) I'm a pastor because God chose to call me and send me back to my home church.

So, my 18 year old goals have been achieved as gifts from God, none of them were achieved by my pulling myself up by my boot straps, and my initial response to another need seems to be hording. That sucks.

May I recognize that everything I have is a gift from God, and may I hold them with an open hand, trusting in Him.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


So, some of you have probably already heard about the new addition to the Smith House. When I was a sophmore in college, my roommates and I went in quarters on a new 25" TV from CostCo. After we were evicted 6 months later I bought my roommates shares of the tv and gave it to my mom. Then, when Amber and I got married we took the TV with us, and it was our first TV that we used for 6 years. Then, earlier this year, Amber's aunt gave us her CRT 35" monstrous TV. It was huge, but had no style...poor us ;-)
Then, last week, much to my excitement, Amber's sister let us know that they had replaced their rear projection HDTV with a plasma, and that we could have their old one.
So, Tim and I took a trip to LA and we picked it up. It had some bizzare blue lines going through some of the images, but after some internet research I took apart the front access panel, twisted a knob and "boom" the TV turned off. After I calmed myself down, I tried to turn it back on again, and there it was, a beautiful 50" image*, sans blue lines. It seems that it is only a temporary fix, and that sometime this year a tube may go ($500 to replace 1 of 3). So, I don't know how long we will get to enjoy watching Grey's Anatomy & Heros larger than life, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

Before and After

*Further research leads me to conclude that 50" is the perfect size for my living room, (Viewing distance /2 = ideal diagonal dimension)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When am I going to stop seeing myself as a Pharisee?

The Evangelical tradition, (of which I am probably a part), makes a big deal about the heart. We ask questions like, "How is your walk with God?" And we make statements like, "Well, Jesus cares about the heart of the individual."
I was recently listening to a sermon on Matthew 23, and was stunned by these words of Jesus, "You have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness." I know that Jesus cares about how I treat the poor, the wronged, the alien... I know that I am to show mercy to others, but I have also lived with the assurance that what was really important was my heart. I have cared about justice, but I have equally (if not more so) cared about religion. I would estimate that I spend more time being"religious," that is, acting in a way that a Christian Pastor is expected to act, than I have seeking merciful justice.
The Pharisees were super religious, they had their tithes down to a science, they didn't omit anything, even the smallest spice, however they missed the more important matters, they missed the obedience that God really was hoping for, they missed the point that obeying God meant more than just being concerned with their own walk with God.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Which Sounds More Pagan to You?

Harvest Festival?


History of name

The term Halloween (and its alternative rendering Hallowe'en) is shortened from All-hallow-even, as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day",[1] also which is now known as All Saints' Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions,[3] until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints' Day from May 13 to November 1. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints' Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar.


Harvest Festival:

Festival of the harvest?

How bizarre that the same people who get upset calling Easter break "Spring break," freak out at the thought of "Halloween" parties at church...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Like any nine year old?

I read a news story this morning about Apple responding harshly to a 3rd grader, and was struck by the introduction:

(CBS 13)
Like any nine-year-old, Shea O'Gorman spends a lot of time listening to her iPod Nano. So much so, that when her third grade class started learning about writing letters she thought, who better to write to than the man whose company makes her iPod....

"Like any nine-year-old?" Really, most 3rd graders have iPods? I remember getting my first $69 Sony Walkman in seventh grade, (my first personal cassette player my mom got me, it said "Warners" on it, and she got it for free when she bought three bras at Macy's).

I can't imagine most people slapping down close to $200 on an ipod for their nine year olds...what are they going to be listening to on it anyways? But, we'll see what's around in 5 years for me to spoil my girls with.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Do you want a revolution?

You say you want a revolution

Well you know
We all want to change the world

Last night, Darren and I went to see the new film, Across the Universe, Sony's new "Beatles Musical". Think Moulin Rouge, (the new one) with only music by the Beatles, (I have been a huge fan of the Beatles my entire life, and I think owned their entire catalog by the time I was 13).

The film is set in the late 60's, and deals a bit with student demonstrations against U.S. policy in Vietnam. My favorite scene in the movie is the scene where the protagonist bursts into a protester's headquarters singing "Revolution," the emotion and gestures are super fun. This scene got me thinking about what is the best way to bring about change. We currently live in a time with similar unrest as the sixties (however with Blackwater in place of the draft, public outcry and personal connections are less), and I think that many people want change. Many Christians long for change, desiring to see the Kingdom break in around us, and I wonder what we can do to be most effective.
I have never attended a student protest, (although I did participate in an International Peace Day rally once where someone through a carton of eggs at us) but I generaly dismiss the impact that a student protest or rally can have, (I would have to say that Kent State did have an impact, but that may be due more to martyrs than to simply gathering and demonstrating). So, if not a public demonstration, then what will bring about change?
As Darren and I talked on the way home from the movie, I think that our conversations in Community have been spot on. We have seen Jesus teach about removing the power of the Romans, not by force, but by disarming their source of power, turning the other cheek, willingly serving others, bartering, etc.

With this in mind, I am really excited about our new series. After considering both Acts and Colossians, I have decided to take a break from narrative to take a peak at an epistle. In preparing our study from Sunday, I came across the following quote, (I think that you will see why I'm excited):

The epistle to the Colossians, we are arguing, was an explosive and subversive tract in the context of the Roman empire, and it can be and ought to function in an analogous way in the imperial realities of our time. This letter proclaimed an alternative reality, animating a way of life that was subversive to the ethos of the Roman empire.
(excerpt from Colossians Remixed)

If you do want a revolution, if you desire change as much as I do, then I imagine that words like "explosive," "subversive," and "alternative reality" are making you as eager as me for our study to begin.

Don't you know it's gonna be alright
Alright Alright

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Poem a Day

On Tuesday I committed myself to reading a poem a day, and already dropped the ball. But today I started fresh, and joined a website that will e-mail me a poem every day. I read today's poem, and was already blessed.

The Conclusion -- Sir Walter Raleigh
Even such is Time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who is the dark and silent grave,
When we have wander'd all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Excited to Get out of Bed

When was the last time that you woke up in the morning excited to get out of bed?

When my three year old daughter, Sage, wakes up in the morning she never rolls over begging us for five more minutes of rest. She never even wakes up, and slowly climbs out of bed only to mope into the living room. Sage jumps out of bed, and hurriedly runs into our room full of energy and excitement to start the day. She can't wait to, go for a run/watch "Little Einsteins"/eat breakfast/sit with her mom & dad. And this excitement doesn't begin when she wakes up, she goes to sleep excited about the routine activities that will take place the following day.

At what point in our lives do we lose this joy?
How do we go from experiencing joy in the morning as children, to dreading the sunrise as teenagers?
Is it possible for us to, as adults, look forward to the day to come with the same enthusiasm as a three year old?
Am I excited to see how God is going to use me today, and on an even more basic level:
Am I excited to live another God-given day?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering Rightly

I began by responding to Amber's blog tonight, and then decided that I probably should just go ahead and post.

I was recently reading a book that was all about remembering rightly. I hope that we learn to remember 9/11/01 rightly.

In remembering this event, I want to remember and hear about the lives and families of the victims of the attacks, and not see images of the terrorists' victories of the destruction of the twin towers. In remembering rightly, I would like to be able to see how our country has risen amidst this attack to become a better place to live, or at least be encouraged to personally reexamine my life in response to Al Qaeda's attacks, and to live a life more like Christ. In remembering rightly I would like to somehow begin to wrap my head around the numbers of the lives devastated by this attack:
2,819 - People killed in the 9/11 attacks.
3774 - American Military Casualties in Iraq since 3/19/03
71,720 – 78,296 - Documented Iraqi civilian deaths from violence since 3/19/03
45 - Iraqi civilian deaths yesterday, as a result of violence
2 - Iraqi women killed yesterday as a result of a US raid.
126,000 number of abortions a DAY worldwide.

I don't want these to just be numbers, I want to see these numbers as individuals created in the image of God. I want to be able to see these numbers as people with sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, moms and dads, pastors and teachers. I want to learn how to love those suffering.
How do the emotions that I feel for the death of God's created beings in the Middle East compare with the emotions that I feel for the death of God's created beings in the US?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To all of Those Curious

This just in: I am not a heretic...yeah!
I was actually kind of nervous, answering these questions kind of freaked me out. But it looks like my theological training prepared me well, and my seminary professors would be proud.

Are you a heretic?
You scored as a Chalcedon compliant
You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant


Sadly for years I thought that there would be a test just like this at the gates to heaven. I felt that these were the type of questions that I needed to be prepared to answer. Don't get me wrong, they are great things to know, especially when questioning teachings, and exploring what others believe about Jesus, the only problem is that most of them are answering questions that were extremely relevant in 400 Ad and much less so today, (especially with the given language). But, take a stab, and take the test to see if you are a heretic or not.
If in fact you are labeled a heretic and you want to know why, it probably has to do more with your understanding of terms and language, than with actual belief.

What is the Kingdom of God (Quiz)

So, after all of this teaching on the Kingdom of God, where do you find yourself? Do you believe that the Kingdom of God is an inner spiritual experience, a counter-system, or maybe Earthly Utopia? Here's a quiz to see where you really stand.

Here's how I scored.
"You scored as Kingdom as a Christianised Society, Christians shouldn't withdraw from the world, but by being present in it they can transform it. The kingdom is not only spiritual, but social, political, and cultural.

Ken Silva Mentioned by Andrew Jones

If neither of these names mean anything to you, no need to follow the link, unless you are pondering the identity of the whore of Babylon, and the benefits of ecumenicism.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blog changes

Today, "Community" has a real web page! It's own. Check it out, you may even find a link to your own blog site.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Recap from Sunday's service

Who is OVCC

Letter from the Elders

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another Great Resource

Here is another, "What the Heck is Up with All of This Emergent Church Stuff?" resource.
I've told by many that this article that has been extremely helpful.

It is an LA Times Article depicting the "rift" between Chuck Smith Sr, (founder of Calvary Chapel) and his son, Chuck Smith Jr..
In summary, Chuck Smith Jr. was asked to remove the maranatha dove, and the calvary chapel name from his church because some of his teachings were found to differ from that of his fathers.

Most telling however, is the way that Chuck Sr. closes the interview:
He shrugs off the controversy as the result of critics who "get on and blog their ignorance," adding: "If you don't march to their drumbeat, they begin to pick at you, and once you put on that hypercritical mode, you can find plenty of things to criticize."

Reminded of the memo he issued cracking down on his son's views, the father replies, calmly and amiably, that he and his son are just aiming for different audiences, and he doesn't want to alienate the one he has. He says their relationship is stronger than ever, even deepened by the controversy.

"I don't feel that he's an apostate at all. If he would begin to question that Jesus is the son of God, then I would be concerned."

Hopefully this article helps shed some more light.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is the Emerging Church

A lot people seem to be asking this question, and I hear of a lot of people going to a lot of different sources to find the answer. I couldn't get the original link to the article to work, but here is a shorter version by the same author.

Hope this helps.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Family Meetings (Edited)

Edited previous post.
As I re-read, I found that it was possible to read that I was attacking some. The question below is the intent of my previous post, and is more direct and to the point.

Can you imagine having a family dinner, that fails to ever address any one individual directly? Or a dinner in which no names are ever used? It would be so odd to be sitting around a table, listening to others talk about each other, referencing actions and questions of others, without ever using personal pronouns.

If you've ever spent time with me in Aces, Crossroads, or Community, I imagine that you were fairly comfortable having someone personally addressed in service. How many times have we openly talked about Brian's weekend excursions or jail time? We pray for Jake before he goes to court, and I do whatever is necessary to avoid praying for, "the anonymous one who is undergoing struggles."

I'm curious as to what other's thoughts are regarding being personal in church. Does it make the experience more like a real family gathering or less? Does it strip away the religiosity or add to it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You Mean Churches Are Actually Helping People?

Did you get a chance to read the article in the Star on the 9th regarding a church in Ventura County offering "sanctuary" to a illegal aliens, (sojourners)?
The article ended with fascinating and telling quote by a spokesperson for the Center for Immigartion Studies in Washington D.C.,

"I would question any church leader sanctioning this and ask him or her What is it about this view that is distinctive or morally superior to 80 percent of the American public that can and does distinguish between legal and illegal immigration?"

What further proof is needed to show that the church has been neutered by it's alliances with the state. Someone thinks that disagreeing with the majority of the American public is grounds for the church being wrong? Wow!

"What is it about this view...?" How about, "It's Biblical," (also here)?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Standard of Living

After Sundays sermon which focused in part on the importance of taking care of the orphans. I got to talk with a lot of people about the issues surrounding the decision to adopt. One thing that I kept sharing with others is that if our sole reason for not adopting, is to not upset ours, (or our biological children's) standard of living, then we have some reexamining of Scripture to do. Nowhere do we find the Bible reinforcing or supporting our desire to maintain a high standard of living. In fact, Jesus seems to preach the opposite, (the whole to find your life you must lose your life thing). After thinking about it for awhile, I came to the conclusion that this thinking isn't unique to adoption pros and cons, but is applicable to every day decisions. Are we going to make decisions because they further us and our kingdoms? Or are we going to make decisions that will impact God's?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


In community, (and outside our walls), some of us have been asking how much we can really talk about being pro-life, if we ourselves are unwilling to provide homes for the unwanted unborn.
I remember several months ago, Brian B. said that he thought that perhaps one shouldn't even speak out against abortions, unless they had adopted, (or were willing to). He was met with some pretty fierce reactions. I think that the topic came up because I asked what injustice most concerned those gathered with us, and abortion came up.

Today I saw a question quoted from the StillHaventFound blog site:

"America has nearly 115,000 orphaned kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. Some wonder how this is possible in a country with Christian families. Surely, there are 115,000 missional families in America, right? Missional families, for example, embrace the redemptive mission of God and practice “true religion” in their local communities (James 1:27). Missional Christians in America could eliminate the foster care system tomorrow if we would stop “shootin’ up” with the American Dream (heroine) in order to get high on a lame life lived for the sake of comfort and ease."

Many critics of conservative ministries like Dobson's, Focus on the Family, criticize them primarily because the causes that they rally against have no impact on supporters lives. It costs me nothing to lobby against gay marriage, or for protection of fetuses.

What does it day about the way that we view "this world" and its comforts if we are unwilling to become uncomfortable.

So what are your thoughts? Are you rushing out to adopt the unwanted? Do we have an obligation as Jesus followers? Should our unwillingness to pull our families into adopting another impact our stance on abortion?

I personally have a lot of thinking to do, as I won't even adopt a dog unless it is a pure breed under 4 months old.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I do believe, I think

by Christine A. Hodge
During Community this morning, we watched a live simulcast of Pastor Paul Bergmann’s sermon (being preached in the main sanctuary). As I sat at a coffee table and listened to Pastor Paul’s teaching on Mark 9:14-32, my mind began to wander. But this time it was a good wandering. I was reminded of a blog post I read just days earlier from a mother who’s grown son is battling cancer (and I mean battling in every sense of the word). Her name is Ann, and her son is Aaron Boydston. Lately, Ann has been answering tough questions from a woman who wants real answers.

Here’s Ann’s answer to the question: When you are being strong for everybody, who can you be real with?

I have been surprised how many well-meaning Christians make it hard to be "real". There were times when I wanted to share the burden of my fears but felt "hushed" by their belief that thinking and speaking any negative thoughts would demonstrate a lack of faith and "mess up" Aaron’s healing. Thank God, I have learned it’s not the quality or quantity of my faith, but the object of my faith, Jesus, that matters. I am encouraged that Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well; go in peace" and not "Your perfect, immeasurable, unsinkable, flawless faith has made you well." I’m trusting in my Savior, not in how much faith I can conjure up. Having faith in my faith, feels like another form of "works."
One of the several people I have been able to be real with has been Aaron himself. His God is very Big, and not tripped up by the littleness of my faith. Aaron has never asked "Why me?" but trusted in his Father God, and is honored that God has used his illness to touch lives. A key verse for him has been: "For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ, but also the privilege of suffering for him." (Phil.1:29)

In Mark 9:14-32, a man whose son is possessed by an evil spirit, comes to Jesus with a request: "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." Jesus answers: "If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately, the boy’s father exclaimed, "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!"

That man was honest. He was real with Jesus. And that’s what God wants from us today. He doesn’t want us to say all the right words and do all the right things unless we are being real. God doesn’t expect us to have fake faith, as I call it. Or flawless faith, as Ann calls it. He wants us to have real faith. A faith that–even if we don’t like what’s going on and even if we’re not on the same page as God–we still trust that He is in control.

Pastor Paul said that "part of having true faith is trusting God’s will." He said, "That doesn’t mean that God will do whatever we want." And if we don’t get our own way, "that also doesn’t mean that God isn’t still in control."

Pastor Paul ended the morning by asking: "In what area of your life would you like to believe more? In what area would you like to trust God more?"

I think I’d like to just be more real with God, and more real with people, especially those who think I have it all together (Oh, if they only knew...) And I want to promote realness more among my friends and acquaintances. I want them to know that God doesn’t want us to get our act together before coming to Him. I want them to know that no matter what, as Pastor Paul put it, "God is a God who shows up"...every time!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Wow! I'm a blogging slacker....

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Is your "Community" putting the world back together? by Christine Hodge

All day Sunday I thought about the question, "Do you have the sense that you're part of a movement that's putting the world back together?" My answer is "yes." I believe--as a "member" of Community--that I am a part of something great. Something greater than me. Something so great that it can only be attributed to God.
I think it is easier to love people in a practical way, as a body of believers, when you are a part of a small church. I believe it is a lot easier to do an outreach such as the Free Car Clinic or a block party when you are part of a small church. Large churches often have large hoops to jump through before getting a ministry idea approved. Large churches have calendars and budgets and elder boards (all of which are fine and necessary). It's just that it gets complicated sometimes. Small churches don't have to worry as much about conflicting schedules or budget approvals. No problem, we'll just use our own (individual) money or ask for help from someone who has more money than we do. It's a lot less complicated and it frees us up to do what we've been called to do: love God and others.

That's what excites me about being a part of Community. I now have new ideas for loving people swirling around in my head that I almost can't wait to share them. Yes, I believe I am a part of a community that is putting the world back together, one exciting day at a time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Easter Chocolate

On Easter Sunday we handed out aver 150 "slave free" chocolate bars to families who came and visited our Community booth. With the chocolate we also gave them information regarding chocolate and slavery, as well as providing literature that explains some of the places to buy slave free chocolate locally. We were very blessed to have chocolate donated by Trader Joe's Santa Barbara, and by Rainbow Bridge.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Good Friday Labyrinth

Just in case you weren't able to make it last week, or if you made it, and would like to comment on it, here's a chance to revisit the labyrinth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One of the Saddest Things I've Ever Read

*Warning* Don't read this if you have any responsibilities for the next 5 minutes. After reading this news report from the BBC this morning, I had to weep. My heart now hurts, and I want God to intervene in the Middle East more than ever.

The Red Cross says every aspect of life in Iraq is getting worse - a trip to the market has become a matter of life and death.

"Once I was called to an explosion site," Saad, a humanitarian worker, is quoted as saying in the report.

"There I saw a four-year-old boy sitting beside his mother's body, which had been decapitated by the explosion. He was talking to her, asking her what had happened. He had been taken out shopping by his mum."

Do we even care who's to blame any more? I just want it to stop. I want the pain in my heart that I feel for this 4 year old boy who I don't even know to stop. I want his pain to stop, I want him to be loved, to be taken care of, and to have his mom with her head back so that she can explain to him what's wrong.

Click here for the whole story.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hand Eye Coordination Fully Realized

I wonder at what age your hand-eye coordination fully matures.

Today, while waiting for the video from last night's labyrinth to render, I stumbled across a website that caused a great deal of nostalgia for me. contains 10 of the best Nintendo games ever, and allows you to fully play them from their website. You have to use "z" and "x" instead of the red "a" and "b" buttons, and they are on the wrong side, but it is pretty amazing.

I started to play some of these 17-22 year old games, and two things shocked me.
1) They brought back intense memories from my childhood. I can remember playing double dragon for hours with Freddy at his house, and watching James Hester beat Zelda. I remember playing a borrowed Super Mario Bros. 2 at my dad's house on this itty bitty TV. And I remember beating it after a weekend marathon session. Every little secret brick on the original Super Mario Brothers is magically recalled as I effortlessly play through a few levels. And I can remember riding my bike to the Hawaiian Shaved Ice store to play Super Mario Brothers 3 on the arcade, (SMB3 is my favorite game of all time).
2) I still get stuck at the same exact places that I did as a 10 year old on some of the games. I still don't make it past level 3 on Double Dragon, and I still suck at Zelda. I'd like to think that I could beat a 10 year old version of myself at basketball. I know that I can do more pull ups, run faster, understand James Joyce, and correctly pronounce my "r's". But what happens with video games? Maybe some more playing time will help me figure it out.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Freedom Day: One Voice to End Slavery

Join us Sunday, March 25th at Van Guard University from 2pm - 7pm in Costa Mesa for Freedom day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ia Satan Responsible for Global Warming?

In a recent sermon, Jerry Falwell stated that "global warming" is a tool of Satan. In an article for Ethics, Bob Allen writes:

Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, who has worked for decades to involve conservative Christians in politics, said Sunday the debate over global warming is a tool of Satan being used to distract churches from their primary focus of preaching the gospel.

"If I decide here as the pastor and our deacons decide that we're going to get caught up in the global warming thing, we're not going to be able to reach the masses of souls for Christ, because our attention will be elsewhere, " Falwell said in Sunday's sermon at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. "That's pretty wise for Satan to concoct."

Falwell urged preachers listening on TV across the country, particularly evangelicals who signed an Evangelical Climate Initiative statement declaring man-made global warming a moral issue: "Don't be duped any longer. The jury is still out on global warming."

After reading the quote by Falwell, I didn't immediately jump on the anti-Falwell wagon. I'm constantly being asked by people whether or not preaching social justice distracts from the message of the cross, and it is important to consider for a second what the Rev. is saying here...for a second. After about a second of consideration, it becomes apparent of two things:

First off and most apparent: If global warming is a ploy by Satan to deter churches from reaching "masses of souls for Christ," Falwell himself has given himself over, as his entire sermon, entitled, "The Myth of Global Warming," was itself on global warming.

In his sermon, Falwell does admit the importance of taking care of creation, he preached that we should take care of our trash, beautify the earth, and keep the streams clean. He did, rightfully so, express concern at alarmism. I would agree with him, Christians need not panic the global warming is outside of the power of God, but we also should recognize that an aspect of keeping the streams clean, picking up our trash, and beautifying the earth (with its atmosphere), is to care about CO2 production.

My second observation follows this admittance that we should care for God's creation: If we should be beautifying the earth, how would preaching about taking care of what Brian McLaren calls our "created sister" be any more of a distraction to reaching lost souls than lobbying against abortions and same-sex marriages.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

If everyone lived like me, we would need 4 planets!

We talked a bit on Sunday about the disparity between the average U.S. worker, and CEOs. While most of us are not CEOs, are we living within our means, or are we using resources which aren't really ours?
Obviously as an American, I use more than my fair share of Earth's resources, but have you ever wondered how much more? Take this quiz to find out how many earths we would need if everyone lived like you.

Jesus and the Pharisees V

If you were poor would the Bible bring you more comfort or less?

Mark 2:23-28

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

25 He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."

27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Have you never read?: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

1 Sam 21:1-6

21:1 David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, "Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?"

2 David answered Ahimelech the priest, "The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, `No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.' As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find."

4 But the priest answered David, "I don't have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here-provided the men have kept themselves from women."

5 David replied, "Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men's things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!" 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the LORD and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

Had Jesus ever read 1 Samuel 21:1-6?

What aspects of Jesus’ rendition are different?

Purpose of Sabbath

Gen 2:2-3

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Ex 23:10-11

10 "For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove

Ex 16:4-5

4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days."

Ex 20:8-11

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Ex 23:10-11

10 "For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

  • Is it fair to infer that people can violate restrictive rules for the sake of human needs such as hunger?
  • Are there other “laws” within religion that have overstepped their boundaries and intent, hurting instead of helping?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jesus and the Pharisees III

(Heard on NPR January 25th)

“On the opposite side of every divide in American life there stands the other. Depending on who you are the other might be a right wing evangelical or a left wing Jew. Or the other might be a group of Muslims praying in an airport, two gays kissing on the subway, or a gen next 20 something with purple spiked hair and a nose ring.” -Juan Williams, author of eyes on the prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965

Who is the other to you?

Mark 2:13-17

…He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?"

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Has somebody ever tried to push their conviction on you? Why do you think they tried?

Have you ever tried to push your convictions on others? Why did you try?

The Pharisees pursued a program to extend the imperatives of the symbolic order to the masses while themselves following a rigorous practice of purity.

In today’s episode and the next two, we see Jesus directly confront the central tenets of the Pharisaic holiness code:

1) Their rules of table fellowship

2) Public Piety

3) Maintenance of the Sabbath

Table Fellowship

Table Fellowship was the central expression of social intercourse in antiquity:

For the oriental every table fellowship is a guarantee of peace, trust, or brotherhood…The oriental, to whom symbolic action means more than it does to us, would immediately understand the acceptance of the outcasts into table fellowship with Jesus as an offer of salvation to guilty sinners and as the assurance of forgiveness. Hence the objections of the Pharisees…who held that the pious souls only have table fellowship with the righteous.

–Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus

What are some ways that we guarantee peace, trust, and brother(sister)hood today?

Do we even have anything that resembles this?

If you haven't already done so (Ian) watch Dr. Muffins

What is the correct question to ask:

1) Is sin contagious?

2) Are we well?

Which of the two statements do you agree with more?

1) By grace, we are saints who sin.

2) We are Sinners saved by grace.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jesus and the Pharisees II

Do you see anything in this text that is subversive to the religious leaders?:

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.


2:1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"


Who can forgive sins but God alone?

What are the Pharisees really saying?

Who was responsible in Israel for pronouncements of forgiveness?

Who is Jesus threatening?

the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins

What is Jesus saying?

2 Options:

1) Jesus can forgive sins

2) Humans (sons of Adam) can forgive sins

Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk'?

Would you rather:

Have social Standing in a community


Be able to Physically stand on your own two feet?

“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees,”

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.”

How would Jesus’ ministry have looked differently if he focused his healing ministry on the wealthy and political leaders?

“This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

Have you ever had your religious actions, cause others to glorify God?

Have you ever had any of your actions, cause others to glorify God?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jesus and the Pharisees I

Mark 1:21-28

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!"

25 "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Mark’s plotting of the Scribes and Pharisees

Jesus’ first public act: Exorcism of an “unclean spirit,” as “teaching with authority,” in contrast with the scribes. (1:21)

Forgiving paralytic’s sins (2:1-12)

Eating with tax collectors and sinners (2:13-17)

Disciples not fasting (2:18-20)

Disciples eating grain on the Sabbath (2:23-28)

Jesus Healed on the Sabbath (3:1-6)

Casting out demons (3:13-30)

Not only does Jesus carry out his mission in contrast and opposition to the scribes and Pharisees, but they actively oppose him at every turn and seek to destroy him from the time of his initial campaign in Galilee.

Pharisees absent from the narrative while Jesus performs Moses and Elijah-like acts, (sea crossing, exorcism, healings, and wilderness feeding)

7:1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus

Then the Pharisees come from Jerusalem and attack the disciples for not washing their hands. (7:2-13)

The Pharisees request that Jesus provide them with a sign (8:11)

Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce (10:2-12)

Jesus goes to Jerusalem

11:11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple.

Pharisees come to entrap Jesus about paying money to Caesar (12:13-17)

Quiz about marriage in heaven (12:18-27)

Quiz about greatest commandment (12:28-34)

Looked for a way to kill Jesus (14:1)

Come to arrest him (14:43)

Who were the Pharisees?

Pharisees appear to have comprised a political faction among the broader range of scribes functioning in connection with the temple-state. The fragments of information available indicate that they were active in connection with the Jerusalem Temple government and that they served as representatives of the high-priestly rulers in dealing with villages and outlying districts such as Galilee. They were known especially as “accurate interpreters” of the Law and as having promulgated additional rulings, “the traditions of the elders,” that held the authority of state law at points under the Hasmoneans. Their legal rulings and opinions in later rabbinic literature are concentrated on issues such as eating and tithing of agricultural produce.