Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blog, Blog, Blog

During this 30 days challenge to myself (which I am still questioning) I haven't read a lot of the bogs I usually frequent. However, as my 30 days draws near to close, I thought I would mention some other blogs that I really enjoy reading:

Kevin DeYooung - Kevin is one of my favorite writers. I think he is one of the clearest thinkers and talented writers in the Church today. He continually challenges me with what he has to offer.

Merely Theological - Part of the blog series produced by the Village Church in Dallas, TX, this blog provides insightful topics from the world of theology.

Justin Taylor - Similar to DeYoung, Justin always seems to have well written, interesting posts on a variety of current, relevant topics

JR Vassar - Although JR seems to disappear from the blog world at times (I can relate) his posts are usually written towards the heart of pastors. I think he must be a really cool dude.

Mars Hill Blog - Resource Rich! Pastor Mark Driscoll and the team at Mars Hill are always on the cutting edge of what is happening with churches around the world. I consistently learn something new when visiting this blog.

Tarheel Fan Blog - Not much explanation needed here.....everyone has their vices...right?

Grace Student Ministry Blog - I am obviously bias on this one. All the latest happenings, videos, photos and random thoughts from our student ministry staff and leaders.

Challies - This dude knows books! It seems like every few days he has a very thorough book review posted. I love books so naturally I am drawn to gain his latest thoughts. The only problem is I spend too much time on his blog and not enough time reading the books he recommends.

So there is a handful of blogs that I visit on a regular basis....I would love to hear where you spend your time online?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Film and Theology

Over the past few days I have had some interesting conversations about the difference between secular and sacred. All too often, especially in suburban, Christian culture, we tend to quickly label things as Christian or not. For example, we have Christian schools, stores, radio stations, books, clubs, etc. etc. I honestly hate the label. According to the bible only people can be Christians so I am not sure why we choose to label buildings, institutions and lyrics as such. Anyway, my friend Dion wrote a recent blog which deals with this issue as it relates to films and how they should be evaluated. Check it out:

Just this past week, a student in our ministry had this posted on his Facebook wall: “Robin Hood was terrible. Save eight dollars and watch the version where Robin is a fox.” His reasons: the movie lacked character development, the acting was so-so, and the dialogue was weak. While I don’t entirely agree with his assessment of the movie, it did raise a couple of questions for me:
8 bucks??? My ticket cost $10. Since they have student discounts doesn’t it only seem fair that they would have teacher discounts? What about pastor discounts?
What determines whether or not a movie is good?
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll ignore #1 (even though I think it is a great idea) and deal solely with #2. For the student posting on Facebook character development, acting, and dialogue obviously determine whether or not a movie is good. For some, a movie is good if it allows them a couple hours of escape, while others enjoy movies that make them think. Other criteria includes whether or not a movie was visually pleasing, whether or not a movie was entertaining, funny, or sad, and whether or not there was a lot of bad language, nudity, or violence. These are often the criteria highlighted in the responses people give when asked whether or not they liked a movie.
Unfortunately, what often is overlooked is whether or not what the movie presents to be true lines up with the Bible says is true. Take Avatar for instance. Visually, it was amazing. It didn’t have the best acting, but the acting was tolerable. And, it’s rated PG-13 so that means it is government approved for students to see. However, the movie is also filled with the lie that God and nature are one in the same. It presents a religion that is paganism at best. Or take just about any romantic drama commonly referred to as a “chick flick.” While these movies may not have a lot of cussing, lack gruesome violence, and stir your emotions, almost all of them end with a girl committing idolatry by finding her identity in a man other than Jesus.
Does this mean that we as Christians should ban all movies except for the likes of Fireproof and Facing the Giants? I sure hope not or else I may not watch another movie in my life. However, what it does mean is that the way we watch movies and the questions we ask afterwards need to change. It is not good enough for us to just ask whether or not we liked a movie. We must ask why we liked that movie and whether or not what we liked lined up with the gospel. We must ask what lies the movie presented as truths. We must ask whether or not the movie celebrated sin or accurately showed the effects of sin. In short, we most watch movies with Romans 12:2 in mind:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
If we aren’t careful, a seemingly “good” movie can lead to us copying the behavior and customs of this world instead of being transformed by God into a new person. Movies that do that should be considered “bad” regardless of how great the acting is.
- Joseph

Yeah Yeah

In the last few weeks I have had some very special dad moments.

A few weeks ago the annual BMW Celebrity Pro-Am was in town. I thought it would be great opportunity to spend some quality time with my son who loves all sports. In order to really make myself out like a hero I checked Cal out of school early which immediately gave me super dad status. His face lit up as if it were Christmas morning as I explained to him where we were going. Other than helping him understand why Tiger and Phil were not at this tournament even though it was a tournament for professionals, we had an amazing afternoon. We followed groups around as they bombed the ball of the tee, fired dart-like approach shots and drained lengthy putts with ease. Calahan and I were both amazed with the abilities that the seemingly normal athletes displayed. It was a really good day until we decided to sit and watch a few groups finish their round on #9. As one group finished, two players walked up to Calahan, smiled at him, and tossed him their golf ball. Almost speechless with shock and excitement, he managed to say thank you as the players gave him a high five and walked off. It was a total thrill to experience that moment with him.

That same weekend, I watched my 6 year old little girl score a soccer goal. While most people saw a busted and broken play, I saw a skilled player maneuver down the field weaving between defenders as she strategically placed a shot into the back right corner of the net. I might as well have been watching Mia Hamm score a National Championship winning goal for the Tarheels. As she half skipped, half ran towards me in excitement, I was overcome with the same feeling I had the day before with Calahan. I wish more than anything I could bottle those feelings up to use them on demand at a later time.

As I reflect on those moments I am reminded of 1 John 3:1, "See what kind of love the Father has for us, that we should be called children of God." If I can be overcome with love, joy, peace and happiness over the simplest achievements and special moments for my kids, how much more does God smile upon us daily because of the masterful accomplishment of his son Jesus. It's just one more subtle reminder of the goodness of God and the all sufficiency of the gospel.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I found this blog post from Kevin Deyoung a few days ago. It was extremely convicting and caused me to reflect on all the things that are right at my fingertips that I am harmfully neglecting.

The word “to marvel” or “to stand amazed” (thaumazo) is pretty common in the gospels. But it’s almost always used in connection with the crowd’s response to Jesus. They are usually the ones amazed or marveling, not Jesus. In fact, there are only two times in the New Testament where Jesus is said to marvel. One is in Mark 6:7 where Jesus marvels at the unbelief in Nazareth. The other occasion is in Luke 7:9 where Jesus marvels at the Centurion and his great faith. These are the only two times we have record of Jesus marveling.

It seems, then, there are two things that make Jesus step back and say “Wow!” 1) Those who believe when it’s not expected they would. 2) Those who disbelieve when there’s every reason they should.

Does Jesus ever marvel at you or me? I think when he sees his people trusting in the midst of extreme suffering, he marvels. When he sees people from the roughest backgrounds come to him with brokenhearted humility, he marvels. When he sees you give up comfort and security for the sake of his kingdom, he marvels.

But on the other hand, I fear he may marvel at us for the wrong reasons sometimes. If I were a teenager or twentysomething I’d hate for Jesus to look at me and think, “Here’s a kid with loving parents, Bible reading at the dinner table, prayers from his whole family, faithful teaching at church, a comfortable home with lots of opportunities and encouragements, and yet this young person wants nothing to do with me. Amazing!” That’s not the amazement you want from Jesus.

I think Jesus marvels at some of us who sit under the preaching of the word and enjoy the fellowship of the saints and know all the Bible stories and still there’s no zeal for Christ, no desire to grow in him, no effort to put him first.

Nazareth is a warning to us. Familiarity can breed spectacular unbelief. The Centurion is a ray of hope: even the unlikeliest among us sometimes believe. In both cases, Jesus marvels.

I’m sure Jesus stands amazed as he looks at the church in North America. I wonder what makes him marvel the most.


Of late, I have been telling people that I hate the month of May. From a distance, May seems so pleasant and so promising. Spring is in full bloom with warm temperatures, lush green grass, and the expectation of another glorious summer is so close you can almost taste it. Due to my job, that expectation is bitter sweet. Sweet because summer always brings loads of fun and adventure with family, friends and students. The bitter comes from a combination of having to prepare for all the future festivities and the complexities brought on by "the end." By "the end," I mean all that comes with the culmination of another school year: graduation, graduation parties, awards days, etc, etc, etc.

Thankfully, last night, if only for a moment, I was reminded of everything beautiful with the month of May. Each year, we put on a Senior Night for the graduating students of Grace Church. Our goal is to both humiliate and honor the seniors in a creative and professional way. For two hours (or so) we put on an Oscar-style night filled with awards, photos, cover songs and a plethora of pot-shots aimed at all the seniors. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much. It was quite impressive to the see the night come together with few to no hiccups.

Towards the conclusion of the evening we transitioned into a time of musical worship, prayer and one last charge to the class of 2010. It's hard to put into words how it feels to reflect on seven years of memories with approximately 30 high school students including Bible studies, retreats, mission trips, late night food runs, summer volleyball and pool outings. But more than all of that, most meaningful was thinking about how much life change has occurred in that group. As a leader, nothing is more gratifying than realizing how many of those students are giving their lives away because they believe in the gospel. An eternal investment with eternal rewards. To believe so deeply in something that you sacrifice your time, money, energy and interests for others is truly amazing.

As I read Ephesians 2:1-10 to our students, the power of the Holy Spirit was so comforting as he reminded me that loving God and loving others is always worthwhile. It is by God's grace that we have been saved. It is not because of anything we do. And because of that mind-boggling, radical truth, our lives can be transformed in a way that compels us to love others in the way He loves us.

Thanks Seniors!

Friday, May 21, 2010

I can see you

I have known about Skype for a while. I have seen it used on TV and by some friends, but not until this past week have I actually used it for myself. Although I imagined it would be cool and helpful, I honestly never really needed it. I just viewed it as a luxury that I may or may not get around to having some day (kind of like an iPhone or a Blu Ray player).

However, this past week it became a necessity. We kept our two nieces while their mom and dad were traveling in the Bahamas, and they wanted to be able to talk to them while they were gone. Additionally, we used Skype with our good friends John and Tina as they are in Peru finalizing their adoption.

So, just in the past five days, we have had six Skype conversations. We are able to have essentially face to face communication with people that are across an ocean on a different continent! Now that is pretty amazing. But what is more amazing is that it didn't cost us a dime!

If you have not taken advantage of this technological nugget I would recommend that you do so really soon! Oh...gotta go....getting a Skype invitation from Peru!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

7 Miles

Last week my good friend Laura Babcock Baxley (or Babs as I call her) turned me on to the way cool website called sermon jams ( They take snippits of sermons and put them to music and catchy video. As I watched video after video I found myself wanting more as I continued to play the next one in line. I'm not sure what it is but there is something addictive in them for me. Ironically enough, most of the sermons they highlight I have already heard. However, this format is very compelling and very powerful. There is a creative genius to mixing clear, biblical, gospel-centered preaching with contemporary tunes and simple graphics. The perfect fit for our entertainment saturated culture. Check out this one. I hope you enjoy. But warning: you may be watching for the next few hours.

And oh by the way, Matt Chandler is one of my favorite preachers and communicators. Amazing how compelling he is!