Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Can Men be Stay at Home Dads?

Watch the video below. I would love to hear your comments. How do you agree with the Biblical statements being made? How do you disagree? What is the role of culture?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sabbath Retreat

This past weekend our church plant, In Process, escaped to a cabin for the weekend to enjoy a mountain retreat in Big Bear. The owner of the cabin has been generous to many other pastors and families over the years to use their cabin as a place to rest. One of the best comments I heard this weekend was how restful the retreat was.

We had plenty of plans for the weekend including a time of sharing, especially since we cancelled our regular Sunday service. We were hoping that we would continue our time through the scriptures in preparation (Lent) for Easter. The theme for this Sunday, Week 3 of Lent, is Thirst and one of the passages of scriptures we were going to share was Isaiah 55:1-9.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As I read these words I feel as a group we were spiritually fed this past weekend. Even though none of us cracked open the Bible nor did we share our thoughts on Lent or this passage. We were there in the mountains as a community. And for a true community to thrive and survive requires sharing. We shared meals together. We shared laughter. We shared chores. We shared play time in the snow. We shared encouragements, and as many communities do, we shared a good ribbing with one another.

I do not understand how this act of sharing helps us spiritually, but I will tell you that we grew closer. We grew closer to one another, and we grew closer to God. We ate well, but the food we ate wasn’t what sustained us. It was the community.

There are times when I am frustrated about the politics of starting a church. And there are times when I am floored by the ways that God is working in the group. Most importantly though I am floored by the ways that the group is responding to God. I always think that if the church plant succeeds or not (don’t know how you measure that type of success), I have been fed by the living God as I continue to do the work He has called me to do.

Maybe that is real success: being fed by God.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spinning Plates

Plate spinning is an act you might see at a circus or a comedy club. It is an attention getter as the performer and maybe an assistant work hard to keep plates spinning on a pole extended from the ground. The tension builds as more and more plates are added. As the plates lose their speed, the performer must return over and over again to increase the speed of the spinning plates. If not, the plates fall to the ground and break. The world record for the number of plates spinning on these poles is 108.

I have heard many individuals in management and in ministry compare their work load as plate spinning. These leaders are frustrated that they must constantly return to projects they are responsible for and check to see the status of the work. If there are issues they must take time away from other projects they are involved in. These leaders return over and over again to each project in order to keep those plates spinning. It seems to them that there is no one else who can handle this difficult, dangerous and important task. Ultimately something crashes.

No one wants to follow a leader who pushes others aside as they focus only on the work of spinning plates. No one wants to follow a leader that eliminates plates because they grow tired of spinning plates. To be an effective leader requires trust. Trust that the right person is in place to keep their plate spinning. Each pole and plate must be manned by the right person. This person understands the importance of keeping that plate spinning and they demonstrate the joys and rewards to others.

These others become future plate spinners and the number of spinning plates on pole increases. If the trust is real, plate spinning becomes an art. New methods and techniques are discovered, used and shared with the other plate spinners. A network of plate spinners is created.

Every so often a plate crashes to the ground. It might be that the equipment (pole) may need to be repaired. It might be because a lack of focus on the spinner or the leader. It might be because of a lack of training. Maybe the entrusted spinner is trying to spin multiple plates instead of empowering other plate spinners. But the great thing about plate spinning is that the broken plate can be replaced. The good leader is not actively spinning plates. This allows the good leader the ability to work one on one, or through the plate spinning network, with the plate spinner. Together they create a plan that keeps their plate spinning.

I remember the first time I saw the plate spinning act on TV, I think it was on the Ed Sullivan show. I was amazed that the performer could handle so many spinning plates. And I remember the anxiety I felt as I watched the performer work hard to maintain the spinning plates. I was at the edge of my seat. But that was a great performance; I cannot imagine living a life filled with that kind of anxiety everyday as I approached work or ministry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Second Sunday of Lent: Hunger for Justice and Healing

This past Sunday Brian spoke about hunger from another perspective. This hunger is one defined by a compelling need or desire. Some of us hunger for wealth, fame, approval or affection. Last week I spoke on hunger being a condition; this hunger is a verb. From Brian’s definition hunger becomes a noun.

Hunger as a noun causes us to do verbs, and verbs are action words. What are the actions we do to achieve our hungers? Our hungers expose us for who we really are. Are our fears and anxieties the responses to our hungers or do they drive our hungers?

What does our church hunger for? What does that expose about our character?

In the Bible we read of an encounter Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at a well. I like to refer to this encounter as the “Samaritan Incident.” You will find the Samaritan Incident in John 4. Much has been written about the account. The character and the lifestyle of the woman are questionable. She doesn’t appear to be the kind of girl you taken home to meet Mother Mary.

Jesus exposes the Samaritan woman’s sins, and cleanses her from them. She has been changed, transformed. She runs into the village to share the news, sounds like good news to me!

The Disciples reunite with Jesus after shopping around for food at the local convenience store. The Disciples encourage Jesus to eat but He refuses. Jesus tells them of food they know nothing about. He refused to eat because he was actively doing, dealing with another hunger. Jesus knew that His nourishment would come from the one who sent Him.

And it did not stop at the well. Jesus and The Disciples spent three days in this unnamed Samaritan village. Three days of religious and personal reconciliation. Three days of lives being transformed. Three days of justice, healings, teachings, friendship and community.

Maybe we should be less concerned about what we hunger. Maybe we should seek to discover what God hungers for and make these the things we hunger for.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Intersecting Communities

Tuesday nights are planning nights for the church plant I am involved with. We share ideas and dreams. We pray together. We share a meal together (tonight was teriyaki chicken, rice pilaf and green beans). We laugh together. We watch Jeopardy. And we challenge each other to radically be the church God is calling us to be.

Quick thought: church is not a building or a location but a group of people sharing life and beliefs aligned with Jesus’ mission here on earth.

The idea of “location” was a topic of conversation tonight, and one that we will discuss further with our entire group at the next vision meeting. Currently we are blessed to have a facility to use: a church building. It comes totally equipped with chairs, sounds, new technology, heat and AC, everything you would need to do church.

But is having all these things crippling our ability to be the church?

A sister church plant of ours use to meet in a coffeehouse. What was awesome was that the coffeehouse wasn’t closed during their church services; the public was welcome to come in and get a cup of coffee and a pastry. Anyone was allowed to come in and sit and converse.

One great story I heard was that while the church was meeting, and the pastor was up front sharing, two women came in, got coffee, and sat in the middle of the church group. While sitting in the middle of the group they proceeded to have a lively conversation. They did not recognize this group as a church.

This is the church I want to be a part of. A church willing to gather together in unlikely places: a coffeehouse, a bar, a park, anywhere people gather. People may be unlikely to drop in to a church service at a church building, but imagine a church that is willing to intersect communities.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Rule

This past weekend I was at Saddleback Church to hear about health and proper eating habits. The church is on a year mission to promote this healthy lifestyle. As a church planter, I am always interested in what local churches, big and small, are doing to be significant to their community. As a store manager of a health food grocery store, I am always interested in what groups are doing to promote healthy living.

But it is an odd combination, Western Christianity and holistic living. Maybe i will post more on this topic in the future.

A comment was made that hit me as an affirmation. People feel welcome when they can help themselves to anything in your refrigerator.

Monica and I have opened up our home weekly for many years now to many groups of people. Years ago we had two groups of junior high students that would meet weekly at our home. Monday nights was guys’ Bible study and Tuesday nights was girls’ Bible study.

I ran the guys’ night. It was a night filled with popcorn (each guy would get one bag), soda, a movie and study. It is still one of my greatest memories. 20 guys, 20 bags or popcorn (my microwave would glow after popping that many bags!), 60 cans of soda, Monte Python and the Bible!

One rule: help yourself to anything in the fridge.

After I went to another church, guys’ and girls’ Bible study was handed off to the new pastors to run at their own homes or at church. But many of the students that were a part of that great memory were now in high school or college and still wanted to hang out. So we created a Tuesday night gathering. Tuesdays for many years was Pizza Night. It was a simple night of pizza (5 large!), soda and conversation.

One rule: help yourself to anything in the fridge.

Many of the conversations around the dinner table seemed to center on their faith, community, God and their unhappiness with the church. As the students graduated from high school, many quit going to church. For some the gathering at our home became church. So we started a church.

The original groups of guys and girls that attended Monday and Tuesday Bible Studies are in college or nearing graduation. Many are connected to the church plant and show up when they can. Life is busy! But one thing they know when they come and hang out at our home is there is one rule: help yourself to anything in the fridge.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We Believe

This morning I was watching TV (Sunday Morning on CBS) when a commercial came on. Now that in itself isn’t unusual. But this commercial has caused me to think; that alone makes it an amazing commercial. This commercial was nothing short of a religious experience!

What do you think?

Friday, March 18, 2011


Fear is what bosses use to get their workers to perform better. Do the job or risk getting fired. Do the job faster or we will find someone who can. Fear is what teachers use to get students to perform better. Study hard and get good grades or you risk failing. It becomes that the student knows the answer but might not understand the answer, they fail anyway. We use fear on our pets. We beat them if they get out, if they pee on the floor, if they bite. It is the fear of getting beaten that gets them to behave. They don’t understand, they work hard to avoid the punishment. Fear can cause the worker to rage against his family, cause a student to drop out or cause the pet to bite.

Fear, to me, is one of the most devastating emotions to have. I feel that many time fear is not used constructively. Instead, the emotion of fear is what carries them, what drives them, what motivates them, what cripples them. Today many are going to be watching and waiting to hear the news: are we being poisoned with radiation floating over the Pacific Ocean from Japan?

Many have been rushing to stores fearful of this poisoning, looking for a supplement to reduce the risk of getting cancer. I have seen the fear in their eyes when told, “I am sorry we don’t have that, and we are unsure when the next shipment will arrive.” I have seen the fear.

Once a group of people I am very close to decided to be prepared for a natural or manmade disaster. They considered how much water and food would be necessary for them, their families and others. They searched their shared communal property, looking for the right place to set up a storage unit to house all their survival staples. It turned out this unit would have to be quite large, there was no free space on the property to house such a large storage unit.

So the question to the group: what would happen if 10 people showed up looking for assistance? But maybe the harder question was: what would happen if hundreds of people happened onto their doorstep looking for food or water? Would they be willing to share? Day one, probably. Day 10, less likely.

My concern is fear can turn into self survival. Fear can turn into anger. Anger becomes so great it turns into rage and hatred. Hatred is ugly, what are we willing to do to survive?

Maybe at this time it would be a good time to check our hearts. Maybe this is a time to determine if it is fear that is driving us or is it something else.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heaven and Hell

Yesterday I watched as Rob Bell was interviewed by Lisa Miller. The interview was Rob’s opportunity to share with over 6,000 web viewers and an audience in New York his thoughts and ideas of Heaven and hell. Unfortunately Rob did not answer the questions directly, but the questions were great. I do believe that God is love and that Jesus came to give us that message of love. Jesus' message of love demonstrates Heaven on earth, then and now. It is this message that I feel that we as humans, and primarily as Christians or followers of Jesus, must demonstrate to others.

The interview can be watched here, go to @10 minutes into the video to watch the interview.

Hell in particular is a tough and unsettling concept/reality to wrap my mind around. there is a mystery to it. It is hard for me to consider a place of eternal torment.

I love CS Lewis' imagery of Heaven and Hell in The Great Divorce. We chose heaven or we chose hell. I like to think that we will decide where we go. In the day when there is a separation of sheep and goats, the sheep will naturally go to heaven and the goats will chose hell and a total separation from God and others, total self induced isolation.

Bottom line, I must read Rob's book “Love Wins”. What becomes of this conversation/debate, I pray, is a deeper desire to understand God and His message of love, grace and mercy that He offers through His Son.

There is so much disagreement between so many great thinkers, John Piper, Bell, NT Wright, Robert Gonzalez and others, I am not sure if we can really answer these ideas this side of Heaven, wherever that is.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Sunday of Lent

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Lent. To prepare for my message I was reading and studying from Luke 4 (although the “right” passage on the church calendar should have been Matthew 4). What I discovered was that in the past I didn’t give this passage it full meaning. I believe that to fully preach this passage you must include Luke 3 (Matthew 3, if you are preaching Matthew 4).

I encourage you to read Luke 4, I won’t be posting the passage here. In Luke 4 we read of Jesus’ encounter with the devil in the wilderness (when you hear wilderness, think lions and tigers and bears not a camping trip). When I read through this passage I look for words and phrases that stand out. Some of the words that stood were Holy Spirit, led, Jordan, wilderness, 40 (days), Tempted (by the devil), Hungry, If you are the Son of God, Jesus quotes scripture, and high place.

But before I can really understand Luke 4 I need to read Luke 3. In Luke 3 we learn of the one that precedes Jesus, the man we know as John the Baptist. John is speaking to all who will listen of one coming to take away the sins of the world. He pleads with his audience to repent and be baptized. Sounds like a time of consecration (Exodus 19).

In the process of baptizing the listeners, Jesus shows up and asks John to be baptized. Have you ever wondered, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?”

One writer described Jesus desire to be baptized,

“Jesus's baptism inaugurated his public ministry by identifying with what Luke describes as "all the people." He allied himself with the faults and failures, pains and problems, of all the broken and hurting people who had flocked to the Jordan river. By wading into the waters with them he took his place beside us and among us. Not long into his public mission the religious leaders called Jesus a "friend of gluttons and sinners." With his baptism Jesus openly declares that he stands shoulder to shoulder with us in our fears and anxieties. He intentionally takes sides with all peoples in their neediness.

While Jesus is praying, and after His baptism, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove and descends upon Jesus, did the dove actually land upon Jesus? And the voice of God says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” If I were a good Bible scholar these words should make me jump. These were words spoken before and should help the listener know that what is happening is of God and we need to take notice. Read Isaiah 42 and Psalm 2.

We end Luke 3 with the genealogy of Jesus. It is an odd genealogy that starts at Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather and establishes Jesus as being in the line of David and continues to track his linage through all of history to Adam. Matthew 1 also shows a genealogy of Jesus, that genealogy starts at David and ends at Mary.

Why are the two genealogies different?
Why do we need Joseph’s genealogy since Jesus is not Joseph's genetic son?

Establishing some background allows us to approach Luke 4 with information necessary to understand Luke 4 a bit clearer.

Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River and then heads into the wilderness for 40 days of testing. Does this sound familiar?
  • Noah and his family endured the deluge on board the ark for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:4, 12; 8:6; 9:8-17);
  • Moses fasted for 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai while he received the inscribed words of God (Exod 24:18; 34:27-28; Deut 9:9);
  • Elijah fasted in the desert for 40 days and nights before receiving a new commission from God (1 Kgs 19:8);
  • The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years prior to their arrival in the Promised Land (e.g., Exod 16:35; Deut 2:7)

It is this wilderness setting that we read that Jesus is hungry after fasting for 40 days, it is unclear from the Gospel writers if the temptations happened after the 40 day fast or during the fast. But we know that Jesus is hungry, famished.

The devil starts each of his temptations to Jesus with, “If you are the Son of God...” Because we have read Luke 3 we have been told By God Himself that Jesus is His Son. So maybe the temptation from the devil can be better translated, “Since you are the Son of God…”

The first temptation should again make us remember. It was in the Exodus account that the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness when they too became hungry. The devil tells Jesus to turn the stone to bread but Jesus refuses and quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, but we shouldn’t read just that verse, the passage speaks of God’s word supplying all the needs of the Israelites. God would also supply Jesus’ need in His wilderness journey. Jesus passes the first test of self survival.

Notice as we approach the second temptation the devil is doing the leading. The second temptation, in Luke 4 is done from a high place, presumably a mountaintop (Matthew 4). It is here that Jesus is shown all the kingdoms and cities of the world and told it can be all yours. For an awesome video of this watch the Jesus Miniseries that NBC created, the devil is in a business suit showing a modern snapshot of our world. This picture reminds me of the mountaintop experiences of Moses and Elijah. Jesus is being tempted with worldwide domination. All Jesus has to do is worship the devil. But Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13.

The final temptation is from a high point at the temple in Jerusalem. For me this is the critical test. Jesus has been tempted with self preservation and with world power but now he is being tempted with the ability to be god. Remember Adam and Eve’s temptation? They ate the forbidden fruit so that their eyes would be opened and be like a god. Again Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, this time verse 16. But I think all of Deuteronomy 6 needs to be read. In this chapter we have the Shema in verse 4 “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” There is one God, don't test Him!

Imagine the invisible hand of God rescuing Jesus as he leaps from the highest point of the temple. How do you think amazed crowd below would respond to Jesus? His humanity would be vastly overshadowed by his divinity.

Later we will read these words while Jesus hung from the cross as one of the thieves next to Him challenged, or tested Jesus, “If (since) you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

After Jesus has passed the tests imposed upon him we see the devil leave. But did you notice that nowhere in Luke chapter 3 and 4 do we read that the Holy Spirit ever left Jesus. As a matter of fact when we start reading the next verses of Luke 4 the Spirit is still with Him, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit...”

It is my hope that we always recognize that the spirit of God never leaves or abandons us, even when we are tempted or tested.

The first Sunday of Lent marks the start of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus could have sought comfort, security and power but refused. Instead Jesus’ ministry was a ministry of giving. He gave it all away. We are invited to come alongside Jesus in a shared partnership to serve the poor, the sick and the hungry. Not for our selves, but for the glory of God.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

God and Mother Nature

The earthquake in Japan has really troubled my soul, especially since the world was able to watch the destruction of entire cities and farms on live TV. Thankfully, from this tragedy, we haven’t seen the personal tragedy of losing one’s life through Mother Nature’s violent groaning. I am wondering if our live TV is similar to what God sees the world when He looks down on us.

I have not searched the internet looking for the blog writers’ point of view regarding God’s hand being involved in this tragic act of natural violence. I remember reading in the past that anytime there is some horrific tragedy we should look to God being the cause of the destruction, as if He was punishing us through these tragedies. Is this the God I follow?

I think of an ant farm that a kid might have and think if maybe one of the ants bit the boy, would he react brutally towards the ants? In the boy’s godlike presence all he would need to do is place the ant farm in the sun to watch the ants die off due to the extreme heat. All he would need to do is place a large cup of water into the ant farm and drown his victims. All he would need to do is shake the heck out of the ant farm and bury the ants. Drought, flooding and earthquakes are all natural, and sometimes tragic facts of life, I don’t think this is the way my God punishes.

Through any act of tragedy, like the earthquake in Japan, it all comes down to, “What is our response?” Let’s avoid pointing fingers and blaming one group or another. Let’s be like Jesus and be first responders in prayer, love and action for the victims.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday 2011

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an Ash Wednesday at a Catholic Church in my community. I grew up Catholic but do not recall ever going to an Ash Wednesday service as a kid so this was truly a new experience for me.

The Mass began with a liturgy reading of Joel 2. Next, there was a time for a congregation singing, very unlike the worship songs we sing, and unlike hymns. The songs were awesome and had an essence of individually but mostly spoke of community and the Jesus’ response to the community. The Gospel reading was from Matthew 6.

The priest shared the significance the Gospel passage, especially in light of Lent. It was a simple message but powerful. Bottom line was that there are three things we need to do better during Lent:

Alms Giving
Self Denial

So my challenge is how to these things better during Lent. And if I am trying to deny self during this process I must do these things secretly. I shouldn’t complain that I am suffering as I give up this or that. I shouldn’t pray in ways that draw attention to me. As I give I should work towards giving more sacrificially, and not brag about the hardship it causes. Lent is about giving God the honor and not honoring or looking for honor ourselves.

I pray that we all draw closer to Jesus during Lent…

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Today is Day One

I look forward to observing Lent every year. Many would think it very weird to get excited about self denial. I spend the weeks prior to Lent prayerfully considering anything I crave. Those cravings drive me to the point that if I do not fulfill those cravings I feel hollow and incomplete. Some of these unfulfilled cravings cause me bodily discomfort.

The first year I considered follow Lent I gave up all soda. It wasn’t that hard but I did come to realize that I drank a lot of soda. At every restaurant I was had to make a conscious decision to not order soda. Breaking this habit had long term affects, today I rarely drink soda.

One year I decided to give up coffee for the Lenten Season. Mistake! I had the biggest caffeine headache ever, and I think they lasted the entire season. Easter Sunday I was bathing in coffee!

Another year I decided to give up TV for Lent. Sounded noble! I love TV. I cannot read a book, write a paper, prepare a sermon, or have a conversation with my wife without the TV being on. I felt this would be an easy thing to accomplish and best yet: I wouldn’t get a headache. But I have a DVR. Everything I missed during Lent I recorded. Easter Sunday I was watching 40 days worth of TV!

This year I looked at my spending habits and discovered that I spend a lot of money at Starbucks. I would be embarrassed to confess the amount. I also spend too much money eating out. We make fewer and fewer meals at home. So for Lent this year I have decided to limit my overspending.

Yesterday I went to Starbucks and was greeted by all the employees there by name. I guess if you spend that much money at one location you are bound to get known. After I got my mocha and sausage sandwich I informed the crew that I would not be back until after Easter. Thankfully they sighed and didn’t applaud my decision.

As far as going out, we will be limiting our dining out experience. Thursdays will remain Date Night and we will enjoy a quiet dinner out together. But for those other nights we will refrain from taking the easy way out and getting Fast Food. Instead we will spend the extra time required to prepare something a bit more nutritious. It is cheaper.

So as I forgo these bad habits I look for the reminders that the reason I am avoiding my bad habits is to help me draw closer to Jesus. When I crave Starbucks I am reminded that the only thing I should crave is a fuller relationship with the Savior who denied everything for us. And when I desire to take the easy way out for dinner, I must remember that Jesus avoided the easy fix and suffered and endured much for us.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Music Industry and the Church

One of my favorite authors and motivators is Seth Godin. He challenges his readers to initiate, to get out and create art, and then to ship. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t try to survive. We are told to play nice and follow the rules and you will be rewarded. The reward is a paycheck. But is there something more?

Recently I heard Seth speak at a gathering in Orange County. He continued to challenge us! One topic of conversation was the recording industry and its apparent fall. It seems that the record industry, the book industry and even MySpace are all facing this fall together.

It seems the record industry is controlled by executives and they are the ones making the big bucks. The LP was the standard for years. Innovation happened and the cassette and 8 track came onto the scene helping increase sales and profits for the record executives. The next innovation was the CD. CD’s cost pennies to make and ship helping increase profits and sales to record levels.

But the next innovation caused the record industry to lose its focus, making them forget they are in the business to sell records. This new innovation was the advent of the internet. With the internet individuals found ways to share music with one another, for free. In the past if you wanted to hear a song you could hope to hear on the radio, remember calling in for an instant request? Or you could buy the LP, cassette, 8 track or CD. Getting something for free created a problem for the industry. So to protect their assets the industry went toe to toe with these sites. Even though the sites are gone the music industry suffered the greatest, profits and sales are not what they once were. Is it too late for the industry to recover? Only if they initiate, get out and create art, and then ship.

That was a long introduction to a deeper question. As I was hearing Seth explain this problem with industries that are failing to create art I was thinking about the Church. We see in history where individuals have been able to initiate and bring something new to the faith. They create new insights, new thoughts, new questions, new theories and new perspectives. Unfortunately the initiators and their art are not embraced. And I as look at the state of the Church today I see this religious industry fighting hard to keep the way they are (were). And I wonder, will the Church be able to recover?

NPR did a piece on the issues facing the Music Industry. You can read it here.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Joe's Memorial Service

Today was I honored to do a Memorial Service for a great family as they honored the life of their father. Below are some of thoughts I shared:

One thing I learned the other night was that Joe loved to gamble. There are people who gamble and lose and there are people who gamble and win. Joe was a winner! Joe played the horses and greyhounds. Joe loved Vegas. He played the slots and won hundreds every time he went to Vegas. He even taught one of his grandsons how to play craps.

Later when Joe couldn’t get to Vegas anymore he played the lottery.

Let me talk to you about the way that Joe gambled. When he played the horses he kept good records of horses and how well they ran in the past. I am sure he tracked not only the horses’ records but he tracked the jockey’s records as well. Playing the ponies was a calculated risk but Joe knew how to win.

When Joe played the lottery he tracked numbers that won. He knew the numbers that won most often. He worked those numbers and he worked those numbers looking for just the right pattern, hoping that he would discover the secret.

With gambling, rarely is there a certainty that you will win, there is always the risk that you will lose. You can’t win them all. For every winner there is at least one loser. Poker requires you to bluff. Slots machine pay off only a certain percentage of the time, the gambler hopes to be playing the right machine at the right time in order to win that big payoff. But unfortunately not everyone wins.

There was a very wise man many years ago that contemplated God, Jesus and eternity. His thoughts were that if he bet in favor of Jesus being the Savior of the world and Jesus was, he won for all eternity. But if the wise man bet against Jesus being the Savior of the world and Jesus was, he lost for all eternity. There was always the option that he could bet for or against Jesus being the Savior of the world and if Jesus isn’t, no one wins or loses. In Blackjack we would call that a push.

Ultimately this wise man bet on Jesus being the Savior of the world. I think he made the wisest choice.

Joe was given the same choice by his son. And Joe made the wise choice. Now I am not sure if Joe got his ledger out and calculated the odds. I don’t think Joe even considered this choice a gamble. But something deep inside Joe told him that believing in Jesus as his Lord and Savior was the right choice.

You see betting on Jesus is not about the big win, it is not just about Heaven.

There is a cost to betting on Jesus. It requires us to release control of our lives and devote ourselves to Jesus. The family saw Joe’s life turn around. Joe tried to live a better life. Joe showed up weekly for services here. Joe wanted to know more about this Jesus he bet everything on.

It is God’s will that everyone would bet it all on Jesus.

And when death finally came upon Joe I am sure Jesus was waiting for him. Just because Joe bet it all didn’t mean he won big bucks, no Joe is enjoying something much more glorious than that.

I am not sure what Heaven really looks like. But from the stories I have heard about Joe he is probably hanging out with the laborers of Heaven. The people who keep the place clean, the gardeners, the cooks and of course the mechanics. And I am sure that there might be a card game or two, secretly played in some corner of Heaven where Joe will be winning the wings off some poor angel's back.

Do you feel like gambling?