Monthly Archives: May 2008

Wii Business

Who said a Wii system at work is bad for business? Last month a friend of mine showed me how Johnny Lee turned a Wii remote into a next generation workplace tool. Lee demonstrated his Wii improvements at the TED2008 conference.

Lee used Wii video game remotes to turn the Wii video game system into a whiteboard tool, a tracking device and even a multi-touch screen. It is amazing to see the possibilities of the Wii system in the hands of talented coders. This makes me wonder if the Wii could be coming to a boardroom near you? Will some innovative software outfit develop brainstorming, training and teamwork tools that could liven up business as usual?

Check out Lee’s work and see how your Wii can be used for more than just sports and racing games. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/projects/

Wow… cutting down trees is good for the environment:)

The latest issue of Wired magazine had a cover story that attempted to debunk some common myths about environmental issues. Here was the cover text…

“Attention Environmentalists: Keep your SUV. Forget organics. Go nuclear. Screw the spotted owl.”

Wow, the article called for some interesting ways to cut carbon emissions. This article gave a whole new meaning to an inconvenient truth. 

I especially like the section where the article made it clear that cutting down trees is not necessarily bad for the environment. That has always been one of my pet peeves. Some people think that cutting down a tree is the worst thing you can do. I think that trees are a great renewable resource. We should cut them down when necessary. That is a whole lot better than using wood alternatives, such as plastic or metal. Trees are the answer.

See more of the article at … http://www.wired.com/wired/

Or find out more about the environmental benefits of using trees at http://www.greenspirit.com/trees_answer.cfm

Love As God Intended

It can be easy to think we are in love when actually our motives are the farthest thing from love. Paul gave us a clear blueprint for godly love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is not selfish. It seeks the best interests of others and is willing to sacrifice. Today, we tend to think of love as just an emotion. But the Scripture is clear that love is defined by our actions.

Much of what the world calls love is selfishness or even worse outright lust. If we are really honest, many times we use relationships for what we get out of them not what we can do for others. Only you and God really know if your relationships are marked by true love. Are you concerned about the interests of the other person more than yourself? Are you will to sacrifice for the other person or are you sacrificing them for what you desire?

If you are a Christian, does your love for God even outweigh your love for your closest family and friends? These are hard questions that we don’t generally want to answer in a me-first, gotta-have-more society. But if we want to find true love, we have to be honest that it comes from something that we can’t find if we look for it in the wrong place and in the wrong way. Pure love comes from a pure heart, which itself is a gift from God.

I have come across many well-intensioned Christians who ended up in misery or divorce because self and not God was the center of their relationships. We must come to realize that the only way to get what we truly desire is to trust God with our relationships. Our desires may entice us to do things that ultimately lead to more appetite and less fulfillment.

God is not holding out on us. He wants us to know love, the incredible gift of sex in a marriage relationship, the sense of acceptance and the other things we tend to seek from relationships. The big difference is that God knows we will only experience love in a truly beneficial way if we follow these two keys – first, love God with all your heart, your soul and your mind, and secondly, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Our relationships will work out for the best if we put God first and love others more than ourselves. Imagine a world where these motivations influenced our relationships and how we treat other people. There would be a lot more giving and less taking going on in our everyday conversations and interactions. We would be willing to forgive because we would recognize how God through Jesus Christ has forgiven us. Our identity and sense of acceptance would start with a loving God who is eternal and unchanging not with the opinions of any person, which can change with the wind.

Love as God intended is truly the best love of all.

Richly Blessed

A conversation with a dear old friend tonight reminded me of the greatest treasure of all – relationship with God and other people. It is memories that I find are my most important treasure. These relationships have shaped and inspired me.

God has richly blessed me to have had so many friends and engaging conversations in my life. Even at the age of 32, I would die a happy man tonight thanks in part to all the people that I have known and the glimpses of God they have shown me. Our conversations reverberate across time as if many of them took place only yesterday.

Writing a list of these people would not do them justice nor would any other activity other than just remembering them in my mind. I cherish these thoughts and am thankful for all the people that God has placed in my life. I am fortunate that many of these people have been willing to discuss deep issues and go beyond simply talking about sports or the weather.

I feel richly blessed because I have richly shared life with so many wonderful and fascinating people. This is just a thank you note to everyone who has joined in my journey so far. Thanks for being there. Thanks for being open while being there. Thanks for the memories.

Godspeed:)

 

 

Triumph of the Gospel

Dr. John Piper preached a great sermon at the first meeting of the Gospel Coalition. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

“The utimate gift of the gospel is not the new heavens and the new earth. The ultimate good of the gospel is not a redeemed body. The ultimate good of the gospel is not forgiveness, or redemption, or propitiation, or justification. These are all means to an end. The ultimate good of the gospel that makes the gospel good news, and without which none of these other gifts would be good news, is God himself—beheld in the glory of his crucified and risen Son, and enjoyed because of his infinite beauty, and treasured because of his infinite worth, and reflected because we have been conformed to the image of his Son.”

desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2177_The_Triumph_of_the_Gospel_in_the_New_Heavens_and_the_New_Earth

Losing Focus

Do you believe the entire Bible is about Jesus? Are the stories of Abraham, Moses, David and Elijah a glimpse of the One to come in the person of Jesus? Either you see the Scriptures focus on God or man. How one answers that question impacts his/her view of every passage.

Dr. Tim Keller said last year in a teaching to the Gospel Coalition that the difference between Gospel-centered preaching and lifeless pulpit talk is a focus on Jesus. He said that his wife told him that his best sermons are those that focus on the transforming power and example of Christ. He basically hit on an issue that I have been concerned about for a while. In the effort to be relevant, it has become all too common for preachers to deliver good messages on moral teachings instead of Jesus-focused calls to divine transformation and human repentance.

Preaching positive thinking, self fulfillment and propserity sells media and fills seats. Letting people feel the weight of their sin so that they can understand the depth of God’s love is something that is way too uncomfortable for Western church goers. Even if the preacher accurately presents grace in the end, most people don’t have the ability to stomach the journey associated with realizing the depth of our depravity and the destruction caused by our sinful choices. That is a door we just don’t want to open. It is much easier to blame others and focus on doing positive things to combat the sinful condition of humanity.

The problem is that good works is never enough to satisfy the demands of a holy God. Good works and social justice is just humanism with a friendly face. If man had been able to save himself, there would have been no need for Jesus. The true Gospel brings each person to the point that they understand what Paul stated when he wrote, “In me, in my natural, fallen condition is no good thing.”

Paris Reidhead talked about the futility in humanism and its grip on the modern church in his famous sermon “10 Shekels and a Shirt.” Humanism distorts the focus of the church from Christ to something else. This focus normally appears as a good thing. That is the trap because we don’t understand how dangerous this substitution is until it is too late.

Christians must come to understand that the Gospel will cut and hurt us in order that we can be healed. There is no deep work without a cutting Word. At the same time, the Word is never meant to permanently wound without causing transformation, divine redemption and individual transformation. Too many people take sides in the battle between theology and action. Either they try to be relevant and involved in the culture or they isolate themselves and focus on correct theology and a deep understanding of the truths behind the Christian faith.

Dr. Keller said that the true Gospel will both offend people and attract them. If you find that everyone shouts your praises, you are probably not being true to Christ’s message. If no one can find anything good to say either, you are probably too harsh and not acting in a way that reflects the grace, mercy and love of Jesus’ core message. Just as Jesus has those who praised him and condemned Him, so should a faithful ministry of the Gospel.

The key focus must be Christ. But that is hard to find in churches today. Some leaders focus on the latest marketing techniques or trends. Others push social or political issues. Others take sides in cultural debates and join agendas that directly go against Scripture. Some push self help while others encourage self loathing. But neither of these worldviews is what Jesus called His followers to embrace. Apart from theology, some leaders simply try to give the people what they want or do whatever will pack the sanctuary. There are many who preach the right things, yet the actual life of the church looks nothing like the message presented on Sunday morning.

All of the above points to a loss of focus. When Jesus is the center, He will be glorified and those in community with Him will be transformed.

For more insights into this discussion, consider visiting the Gospel Coalition at  http://thegospelcoalition.org/

The Mountain

There once was a mountain that played among the clouds. Its majesty seemed too great to comprehend or climb. Around the base was a crowd of young people who desired to ascend the heights. But they saw only a small part of the mountain because it was covered with a thick fog. What was visible looked treacherous and impossible to climb. Storms raged around the middle of the mountain. The weather and structure itself seemed very unpredictable.

A bright light covered the summit. This light was inviting although reaching it seemed beyond comprehension for those looking up from the base of the giant peak. Small villages dotted the base. These villages were fairly dark with a somewhat bland existence. Yet people there had enough light to see. They were content to stay put although they frequently wondered what it would be like to be on top of the bottom. What made the peak so bright? Was this a place of great vision, joy and happiness? It seemed as if the summit called to those below even though few actually dared to navigate the treacherous terrain to the top.  

The thought of reaching the summit was something that seemed beyond what was possible. People around the base discussed horror stories of climbers falling to their death or being killed by dangerous storms. Most people who tried to climb the mountain turned back quickly or were never heard from again. It was assumed that they got lost and succumb to the elements or they fell to a gruesome death. Base campers did not know of any well established paths or maps that could direct adventurers to the top. There were only a few testimonies of people reaching the top, but it was easy to dismiss these as frauds or phonies. 

The young people who could have zealously dared to do the impossible were frozen by fear. They did not want to fail. And they certainly didn’t want to lose their lives psyseniclen the process. Although things were far from ideal at the bottom, most people were content enough never to try to reach the top. Their pain was not great enough to force them to take a chance. The known and predictable at the base was much easier to deal with than a climb that took faith to undertake.

As each generation passed away, the next one got more cynical  and disillusioned about making it to the top. Hopelessness grew as each new generation became more fearful and set in the ways of their ancestors. The base camp became the only reality that most people ever knew. 

What do you believe the mountain represents in your life?

I will share more later about what it means to me and the vision that God gave me concerning the mountain.

Designing “Divine” Spaces

 Next time you walk into a church building consider some of the following:
• Does the environment seem warm and inviting or cold and impersonal? From the color scheme, decor and lighting to the presence of couches in the foyer for people to socialize, little things can make a big difference.
• Does the main sanctuary use pews or chairs? Pews are more traditional and almost expected by some. But chairs tend to give more flexibility, even making it possible for people during a service to break out into small group circles. Pews can be uncomfortable and appear less personable to the more modern set.
• Is the building used most of the time? Many church buildings exist for two or three days of use per week at the most. What a waste of space!
• Does the fellowship allow those outside of its membership to use the facility? If the church building remains vacant for most of the week, your fellowship could adopt other gatherings as a way to give back to the community or support other Christian ministries.
• Does the building have a prayer room or chapel where intercessors can pray? You can always tell how important corporate prayer is to a fellowship by the number of people that regularly attend weekly
prayer meetings. Another sure sign is the space reserved for prayer gatherings. Does your church have a prayer closet, a prayer chapel or a prayer sanctuary? The smaller the space, usually the smaller the focus.
• Does the building have some unique feature, which helps the fellowship carry out its unique mission to the community? Some church buildings come with basketball gyms, health centers, coffee bars, food
courts, prayer centers, banquet halls, lounges, libraries, youth facilities or other spaces designed to help the fellowship fulfill its unique mission.
• Is there a place for people to go for prayer/counseling during or after services? Many times people make a connection with God during a service and need to find a quiet, private place to pray or talk with a loving lay counselor. Where can these people go in your facility?  Is there someplace more private and less intrusive to the rest of the service than just the alter?
• Is the facility visitor friendly? Some structures seem like a maze and can be confusing. Is the design intuitive? The building should be designed with welcome centers near major entrances to enable visitors
to know where to go?
• Does the facility get in the way or enhance people’s ability to connect one-on-one with God? Does the facility really matter? Many contend the building has little to do with whether or not a fellowship
creates an environment where people can experience God. Others believe the facility plays a role. Some believe the building to be a key component in the entire church ‘experience.’ Just as each fellowship
is different, the church building should be different, reflecting the values and mission of its users. How well your building plays its part can only be seen through the revelation of the Spirit and your experience.

The above was taken from Broken by Design, a meditation that I wrote in 2003 about church architecture and the use of buildings to minister to the surrounding community. Read more…

http://www.organicfaith.com/brokendesignBOOKLET.pdf

Was Jesus Anti-Semitic?

Many scholars have asked the above question. If you read the Gospel accounts, you might easily see why some feel that Jesus was anti-Semitic. Although Jesus was a Jew, He certainly said extremely harsh words to the religious rulers. Some of His parables characterized the Jews in a very negative light. He pronounced woes on the cities of the Galilee region. After His first sermon, the people wanted to stone Him.

Michael Cook, a New Testament scholar, wrote, “These texts (in Matthew’s Gospel)… pose a serious dilemma for Christians committed to interfaith relations.”

Cook suggested three different approaches for dealing with the problem.

  • A denial that the New Testament itself is anti-Jewish.
  • Acknowledgement of anti-Jewish sentiment in the New Testament, but mainly in terms that tend to minimize its importance or otherwise explain it away.
  • Open recognition that the New Testament is profoundly anti-Jewish and that this is a serious problem requiring full confrontation.

Cook has made some great points about the debate over just how anti-Semitic are the word in the Gospels. This includes the thought that the harsh tone belongs to the Gospel authors and not Jesus. The idea that the Christians would want to appear distance from Judaism is a new concept for me. I had never thought about Christians wanting to appear as allies to Rome given the civil unrest among the Jews.

Cook pointed out that the one major hurdle was that Jesus had been crucified on a cross, a Roman punishment given primarily to subversive people. Cook suggested that this may be the reason that Jewish leaders were saddled with the blame for Jesus death. By Pilate washing his hands and distancing himself from the decision, it makes it easier for Christ to appear a victim of Jewish hatred not a traitor who deserved Roman justice.

Greek influence on the Gospels likely impacted the presentation of the Jews according to Cook. Jewish customs struck others as bizarre. They refused to worship the Greco-Roman gods and received preferential treatment in this area from Rome. Cook suggested that some Christians, especially those with strong Greek backgrounds may have resented this fact.

As Cook pointed out the Holocaust and the use of Scripture to support it is one of the reasons that society is looking to explain the apparent anti-Jewish sentiment in the Gospels.

God’s harsh tone toward the Jews is not something new with just Jesus’ earthly ministry. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God punishes the children of Israel and speaks negatively about their loyalty to them. They are compared to a harlot, thieves, stubborn children, pagans, etc. At one point, God threatened to wipe them out completely until Moses interceded on their behalf. My main point is that both testaments show God’s animosity toward sin even as He acts out love, grace and mercy. The focus should not be on whether or not we are offended by God. Instead, the right question is, “Have we offended God?”

It is clear that the Jews sinned against God throughout their journey in the Scriptures just as the Gentiles did. The focus of both Judaism and Christianity should be God and His glory not the feelings of any particular group of religious people. That is where some sort of humanism has crept into both religions – Christianity and Judaism. At the same time, misguided people have taken the Scriptures out of context to justify horrible acts against Jews.

I really like the view that the Gospels capture a snapshot of a religious as it is passing through a development phase. We must always judge Scripture based on its place in God’s redemptive history of mankind. Many things in the Bible may seem odd or objectionable to modern-day readers. We have to understand it in terms of where the people were at the time and then attempt to translate that reality into today’s world.

I guess I view the “harsh words” in the Gospels as more anti-humanism and works-based righteousness than I do as anti-Semitic. Jesus spoke against the human condition rooted in sin. The Jews were just one example of that. They had been called to be a light to the nations and were not fulfilling their mission.

Christ’s harsh tone was a provocation. Jesus was calling the chosen people to understand that God’s redemptive work was coming to a climax. The rhetoric may have been escalated somewhat given what was on the line and what was going down at the time.

I don’t think that Jesus was a racist at all. He merely pointed out the fallen human condition and the problems caused by religious piety. He loved the Jews enough to tell them the truth that their righteous acts were not enough to land them a ticket to heaven. If you look at Jesus’ rebuke from that point of view, He was doing those He challenged a big favor.

What is discipleship?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the above question. Is discipleship more than than just a Bible study or truth search? What are the essential ingredients? How long does it last? Are there seasons of discipleship?

How can we do discipleship in our modern culture of self reliance and self-focused desires? What about a church with hundreds or thousands of members? Can it really do one-on-one discipleship or small groups as Jesus did? Can we really do discipleship in an age where nobody wants to be held accountable and leaders are affraid to say tough words that might cause people to leave and not come back?

Our society focuses more on knowledge and less on the process. We are focused on the ends not the means. We measure success by whether or not something works. Jesus’ only measuring stick was God’s will.

I don’t know if we have the patience today for old fashioned discipleship. We may not be willing to trust or submit to those we are called to follow. Our society rewards rebels and those who do their own thing. Those values are not a high priority for a disciple of Jesus.

Today, we want a discipleship program. We need easy steps and bullet lists so that everything can be quantified and summarized. I think this misses a key ingredient to effective transformation – time. Jesus took time to focus on twelve men. I believe that many leaders in the modern church are not willing to walk through life with people. They already have full plates doing ministry that may not really be discipleship.

Deep, personal discipleship is messy. It is kind of like open-heart surgery. I think we want something less invasive with fewer limitations. This all points to one of the big problems with the Christian discussion today. We focus more on what we want and not God’s desire. We think too much and listen too little. Discipleship should be all about Jesus not any one person or group. Discipleship reveals God to us so that we can strive in His power to live as Jesus did. Humanism has subtly changed the focus of discipleship from Christ to our efforts and achievements.

I think the first key of discipleship is to remember who we are following. And His name is Jesus.