Flash Back: Considering Church

A great series I enjoyed writing that I wish I continued was about the church. And it started with this post, Why a Building?:

I think my initial hesitation about the whole building thing came when the church building craze started my last year of high school. My church decided we need to add a $2.5 million addition on to our building. I didn’t realize we were outgrowing the original building in the first place, and now they wanted to add on. And in adding on they wanted it to look really nice, which is understandable since the current building looked quite nice. But I thought to myself $2.5 million is a whole lot of money, and it just doesn’t seem necessary.
Little did I know over the next few years practically every church I went to was doing a building campaign. Some of them really needed it, others I wasn’t so sure. We attended one church for a while and then they started a building campaign for a second building and they where putting an indoor waterfall in it. That was it, I was gone.

Then at some point I started thinking… Why the heck do we need a building anyways? I mean we all live somewhere, why don’t we meet in our homes? It seemed to me that’s mostly what the early church did. I mean, it’s true we couldn’t all pack in to hear the really good preachers, but since when is that what it’s all about? Some would say that’s what small groups are for, to meet in smaller communities in our homes and stuff (I’ll address this later).

I’m not saying church buildings don’t have a purpose, I’ve just started questioning if they are really necessary at all. I mean is it feasible to do the things we do in a church building in our homes instead? And what about bigger events? Is it possible to do those in a place other than our own building?

One of my main concerns about the building is that seems to be all we spend our money on, or talk about spending our money on. The main time you hear about making tithing pledges in most churches it seems is usually related to a building campaign. And then the church goes into debt to purchase the new building before they even have all the money.

That was just a rant of sorts, I really should fine tune it a bit, but there it is raw.

The conversation that began from that post was great and it continued into a brief series entitled, Considering Church.

What If? Visions of the Future or Future Fridays

I’m a visionary of sorts. What I mean is that I often think about and dream about what would happen if… the big radical amazing changes we long to take place actually took place. In an effort to encourage my imagination and spread the vision of change to others, I’m gonna start writing once in a while some of these thoughts. Don’t know if I’ll call them by a unique title or not, any ideas?

In reflection on yesterdays post on Jesus’ statements on Wealth
What if Everyone Who Read The Bible Lived Out What Jesus said about Wealth and Possessions.

First of all, I think there would be a lot more people that chose to step out of the rat race, selling their possessions and wandering the land (just like Jesus!). But let’s think on a large scale. I’m not gonna look up specific numbers, but let’s just suppose there are 1 billion people in the world who actually read the Bible. If each of them read Jesus’ words and chose to live their lives accordingly it would mean incredible change in the world. Let’s assume they chose to continue at their jobs, provide the basics for their family and gave the rest to those in need.
There would be no one homeless or without something to eat in the entire United States. If a Bible reader saw a person walking the street with nothing to eat or no were to sleep they would bring them to their house and feed them, clothe them, and provide them with shelter. If they didn’t have room at their home they would do as the Samaritan and provide the finances to feed, clothe and shelter their companion until they are well enough to make it on their own.
Organizations like World Vision and Compassion which sponsor children through out the world would suddenly have more finances available then children and they would have to quadruple their service to every child in the entire world.

We could probably fully fund feeding, vaccinating, providing clean water, educating, and housing ever person on the planet.

Imagine that.

And just in case you thought there wasn’t any validity to this, here’s a stat from Generous Giving:
Generosity Potential (American Churchgoers)

1. If members of historically Christian churches in the United States had raised their giving to the Old Testament’s minimum standard of giving (10 percent of income) in 2000, an additional $139 billion a year would become available.

Se7en Statements of Jesus about Wealth

The name Se7en might be cheesy, more so maybe because it was a complete rip-off of 5ives. I thought it would be fun though to start making brief collections of verses on various topics (ones I like to talk about). This might be a weekly thing, or maybe not. Let me know what you think

  1. Luke 12:15 — “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ ”
  2. Mark 12:43-44 — “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’ ”
  3. Luke 6:24 — “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”
  4. Matthew 25:34-40 — “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ”
  5. Mark 10:21 — “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ ”
  6. Matthew 6:19-21 — “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [cf. Luke 12:34]
  7. Luke 14:33 — “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

Thanks to the Generous Giving website for the format of the text.

Thoughts on Worship from Walk The Line

From some dude in the movie Walk the Line:

If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying…
and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song…
people would remember before you’re dirt…
one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth…
one song that would sum you up…
you telling me that’s the song you’d sing?
That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day?
About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it?
Or would you sing something different?
Something real, something you felt?
Because I’m telling you right now…
that’s the kind of song people want to hear.
That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.

I’m not exactly the biggest fan of country music. However, I went to this little music showcase thing with Mindy and my in-laws with some country singer/song writers, and I have to admit I enjoyed it. There was a lot of story involved in the songs they sang, and though some of the themes got old quick, others I enjoyed and was touched by. Now back to the quote above.

I’ll be honest, when I was in high school, I was quite involved in the youth group at the church I attended, and I enjoyed the worship music songs and sessions. But, for the past six years, I have had the hardest time feeling connected or in tune with the songs that are being song at any church I’ve attend. There are a number of reasons for this, but I wanted to touch on just one: They are not real.

I don’t know a lot of Johnny Cash songs, but from what I’ve heard, and what the quote above infers, is that he sangs songs that were real. Not all the ‘worship’ songs these days are touchy feely, but a lot of them are. Not all of them are happy all the time, but a lot of them are. And sadly, most of the songs we sing lack any story, any connection for us and the place we as individuals or as a group are.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to go to a church on Sunday and the songs they sang had to do with the events unfolding around them? In Nashville there is a big effort by the homeless community right now to be recognized and for the need for adequate affordable housing to be available in the Nashville area. Wouldn’t it be amazing to sing ‘worship’ songs about God being a God of the Oppressed with lyrics that connected it to that story of the homeless in Nashville? With some much talent available musically in most churches, can’t we sing more of what’s on our hearts, sing about what we don’t understand, about our hurts, our pains, our lives? Let’s give glory to God, but let’s do it in a way that is real and connected to our lives, not totally unrelated.

Blogging, Writing, Reflecting, Sleeping

Those who have faithfully read my blog as it’s progressed over the last year or two should be happy that this is the first of these sorts of posts in quite a while. As I was getting started it seemed like every week, or every other post, I was talking about the blog, asking people’s thoughts on the design, etc. Well, I’ve avoided it for a while, some will be proud (kudos welcome).

I’ve been posting one blog post a day for the last few months now and I have every intention of continuing. Hopefully this has made it easier to take in, like choice morsels of caramel each day (or maybe prunes). I’ve also been doing mini-series of posts, which I’ve enjoyed writing as the desire to write about certain things has arisen. I’m also eager to sort of go back and bring up two older series, Considering Church and Thoughts on War.

The main reason I’m writing this fairly worthless self-reflective post, with the rambling above which I deleted, is to acknowledge that sometimes writing is hard to do. I have a bunch of ideas bouncing around in my head right now which I would love to write down, but I can’t seem to find the motivation at the moment.

However, I’m excited to acknowledge that I’ve been making an effort to go to bed earlier and to wake up earlier, which has been a very positive experience for me. I leave you with a brief list of upcoming changes/additions/ideas for what I’d like to do with the site in the future:

  • Update/fix my About Me page
  • do cool theme banners like Josh
  • re-design and promote the required reading and podcast pages
  • highlight and update the podcast more
  • update to wordpress 2.2
  • create downloadable booklets about various topics in pdf format
  • integrate better sidebar content
  • Sorry this post was lame. I’m just in a struggling writing mood.

$1 Provides Clean Drinking Water for One Year

I’ll cut to the chase: I would like each one of you reading this blog to donate $1 to Blood Water Mission. Better yet, I would like each one of you to ask ten of your closest friends to give you a $1 each and then take your $11 and donate it to Blood Water Mission.

Some of you might remember our campaign at Wheaton College entitled “I Support Meera.” Meera is a native missionary in India and in one day we raised over $1000 to full support Meera’s entire life’s missionary work (enough to get his ministry started and become self-sustaining). We did it by asking every college student on campus for $1 a piece. The power of many small acts can move mountains.

In a similar fashion, the community group I meet with from Mosaic has decide to adopt the goal of raising $1000 for Blood Water Mission, an organization dedicated to providing clean drinking water to individuals and entire villages in Africa. You can visit the website and read the details and what not, but the object is simple, please donate $1.

If you end up being ambitious and doing it on your own, email me and let me know how much you raised and donated.

Otherwise pass me a dollar next time you see me or use the Google Checkout button below (Google doesn’t charge any transaction fees right now, so $1 off your credit card is a dollar straight to Blood Water Mission).

Devotional Thoughts: Leaving Everything

I haven’t had the guts, honestly, to put together a post about the title of my blog, Trying to Follow. For now, this devotional thought is going to be pretty close to an explanation.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Luke 5:1-11

Some quick context: Jesus in his career life, had been a carpenter, not a fisherman. So you can hear in Simon’s voice an edge of annoyance “What does this guy know about fishing?” But Simon had seen Jesus heal his mother-in-law earlier from a high fever, so he was aware there was something about this guy, Jesus. Now, about the catch. This was the catch of a lifetime, it was like hitting the fishing jackpot; net’s breaking, boat full to sinking, this was like months worth of fishing in a single catch.
The response is astonishment and humility. But, don’t miss the impact of the astonishment and of what happened; This event so moved these fishermen, that when they pulled up on shore they left everything and followed Jesus, including their get-rich-quick jackpot of fish.

This event wasn’t some magician pulling flowers out of his hat to entice people to join his posse. This would be more like a homeless man walking up to a stock trader on Wall Street and giving him a stock tip that makes him instantly wealthy. One might think that a situation like that would make you happy because wealth and riches is what you always wanted. Isn’t that how we often treat Jesus? Like a genie, we pray to for wishes, and instant wealth is one of those wishes?
For Simon, and in my own life, an encounter with Jesus has caused a complete change in priorities and I’ve gone from pursuing empty dreams to Trying to Follow Jesus. Jesus says, “from now on you will catch men,” which is a bizarre statement, but its probably intended in the same way Jesus just caught Simon, James and John.

Like last week when I talked about Not storing up treasures on earth, I want to talk about how Jesus’ call can seem completely irrational to our logic at times. These Fishermen just went from working class to wealthy in a matter of minutes and then shortly after that they left it all and followed Jesus. My rational would be that they should have stayed, sold the fish, and then they could use their wealth to care for people or pay for their journey, but they just leave the boat full of fish and follow Jesus. It doesn’t make sense to my logic, and yet, I’ve been so moved by the words and power of Jesus in my life, that I desire to follow with the same abandon.


  • It was a Greg Boyd sermon I listened to that pointed out the wealth of the catch this would have been.
  • I peeked at an IVP Commentary for some further context.

Flash Back: Do Not Resist… Further Discussion

A while back I entered into a great discussion on the topic of war and pacifism. It sort of fizzled out, but the dialog is still there to continue. I think Brain has since left the readership of this blog, but maybe a comment or two will stir him back. Below is a quote from the blog post I wrote, but please stop by the old one to read the further discussion on the topic of Do Not Resist…

38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. -Matthew 5:38-42

The idea of not resisting an evil person has got to be the most counter cultural concept I had heard in a long time. We’d certainly heard the “turn the other cheek” passage, but usually it’d been flaunted as a weak and cowardly thing to do to avoid further punishment. Growing up I can only think of one example of this being carried out in real life: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. I later learned about Gandhi, Mandela, and others, but initially I had heard of nothing but the occasional reference to the Civil Rights movement. It’s no wonder I and many others didn’t take this passage seriously at all.

Read further comments on the topic of Do Not Resist…

What If There Were No Black People?

I don’t post email-forward type posts often, but I felt this one is definitly worthwhile. I heard a gentleman share it at a Black History Month Celebration and wanted to share it. It’s a neat story to inform and help acknowledge the many innovative African-American’s that have helped bring about the technology and life we live today. People who are often missed in history books. So, enjoy the story below and be sure to look up a few of the names to learn more about them.

This is a story of a little boy named Theo, who woke up one morning and asked God, “What if there were no Black people in the world?”

Well, God, thought about that for a moment and then said, “Son, follow me around today and let’s just see what it would be like if there were no Black people in the world. Get dressed and we will get started.”

Theo ran to his room to put on his clothes and shoes. But there were no shoes, and his clothes were all wrinkled. He looked for the iron, but when he reached for the ironing board, it was no longer there. You see Sarah Boone, a Black woman, invented the ironing board and Jan E. Matzelinger, a Black man invented the shoe lasting machine.

“Oh well,” God said, “Go and do your hair.” Theo ran in his room to comb his hair, but the comb was not there. You see, Walter Sammons, a Black man, invented the comb. Theo decided to just brush his hair, but the brush was gone. You see Lydia O. Newman, a Black female invented the brush.

Well, he was a sight, no shoes, wrinkled clothes, hair a mess without the hair care inventions of Madam C. J. Walker, — well, you get the picture. God told Theo, “Let’s do the chores around the house and then take a trip to the grocery store.”

Theo’s job was to sweep the floor. He swept and swept and swept. When he reached for the dustpan, it was not there. You see, Lloyd P. Ray, a Black man, invented the dustpan. So he swept his pile of dirt over in the corner and left it there. He then decided to mop the floor, but the mop was gone. You see, Thomas W. Stewart, a Black man, invented the mop.

Theo thought to himself, “I’m not having any luck.” “Well, son,” God said. “We should wash the clothes and prepare a list for the grocery store.” When he was finished, Theo went to place the clothes in the dryer, but it was not there. You see, George T. Samon, a Black man, invented the clothes dryer. Theo got a pencil and some paper to prepare the list for the market, but noticed that the pencil lead was broken, as well he was out of luck because John Love, a black man, invented the pencil sharpener. He reached for a pen, but it was not there because William Purvis, a Black man, invented the fountain pen. As a matter of fact, Lee Burridge invented the type writing machine, and W. A. Lavette, the printing press.

So they decided to head out to the market. Well, when Theo opened the door, he noticed the grass was as high as he was tall. You see the lawnmower was invented by John Burr, a Black man.

They made their way over to the car and found that it just wouldn’t go. You see, Robert Spikes, a Black man, invented the automatic gear shift and Joseph Gammel invented the supercharge system for internal combustion engines.

They noticed that the few cars that were moving were running into each other and having wrecks because there were no traffic signals. You see, Garrett A. Morgan, a Black man invented the traffic light.

Well, it was getting late, so they walked to the market, got their groceries and returned home. Just when they were about to put away the milk, eggs and butter, they noticed the refrigerator was gone. You see, John Standard, a Black man, invented the refrigerator. So they put the food on the counter.

By this time, they noticed it was getting mighty cold. Theo went to turn up the heat and what do you know, Alive Parker, a Black female, invented the heating furnace. Even in the summer time they would have been out of luck because Frederick Jones, a Black man, invented the air conditioner.

It was almost time for Theo’s father to arrive home. He usually took the bus, but there was no bus because its precursor was the electric trolley, invented by another Black man, Elbert T. Robinson. He usually took the elevator from his office on the 20th floor, but there was no elevator because Alexander Miles, a Black man, invented the elevator. He usually dropped off the office mail at a nearby mailbox, but it was no longer there because Phillip Downing, a Black man, invented the letter drop mailbox and William Barry invented the postmarking and canceling machine.

Theo sat at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. When his father arrived he asked, ” Why are you sitting in the dark?” Why?? Because Lewis Howard Latimer, a Black man, invented the filament within the light bulb.

Theo quickly learned what it would be like if there were no Black people in the world.

Not to mention if he were ever sick and needed blood. Charles Drew, a Black scientist, found a way to preserve and store blood which led to his starting the world’s first blood bank.

And what if a family member had to have surgery. This would not have been possible without Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a Black doctor, who performed the first open heart surgery.

So if you ever wonder, like Theo, where we would be without Blacks? Well, it’s pretty plain to see, we could very well still be in the dark!!!

Shutdown Day: Acknowledging Computer Dependency

Shutdown DayThere is no denying we are dependent on technology. One would argue we are certified addicts. In some ways we could argue our computers are simply tools, much like a pencil, and no one would say you have a pencil addiction (maybe a G2 pen addiction or something). But our addiction to computers at times engages us in a number of negative activities and uses of our time.

I am computer dependent. I know I’ve mentioned this before on the blog and I’ve mentioned things I’m trying to do to be more intentional with my time and how I use computers. For example, now I write/ready most of my posts for this blog on the weekend. I have my wife put a password on my computer and then I have to tell her what I’m doing and how much time it will take before she unlocks it for me. This really helps me be more intentional with how I spend my time, rather then taking on new projects at the spur of the moment (or at 10pm at night). I try and limit the amount of times I check my email and google reader (unfortunately I often use my email as a ToDo list and reference it frequently). I’m still making changes, and progress, and I’m still thinking through how to utilize my time and my use of the computer.

So, this Saturday I will turn off my computer. I’ll need to prepare for it. Check my calender and print off any reference info I’ll need (soccer schedule, etc). But, I think overall it will be a good thing. I’ve certainly gone days without computer use at times and it’s not a huge deal, but it’s an important step to recognize our dependence on technology, and consider its implications.

Those are my brief thoughts, anyone want to join me?