Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's revolution

My senior pastor gave our assembly a wonderful challenge this past Sunday. He talked about the three basic ingredients of spiritual growth: Bible, prayer, fellowship. As you might expect, he talked about the challenge to read through the Bible in a year. We even passed out checklist cards so that the whole assembly can be on the same schedule - very cool. He talked about the discipline of prayer and the critical but often overlooked importance of real community.

But the challenge I most appreciated was this: read through a whole book of the Bible each day for a month. So here's what I plan to do. I'll read through the first half of Romans each day for the month of January, then the second half through February. Not sure where I'll go after that, but that's my start.

I believe this reading will have a revolutionary effect on my life. I'll let you know if that belief holds true...


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As is usually the case, this Christmas I had much more fun giving than receiving. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the gifts I was given. One in particular has been a joy to me for the last few days. My mother-in-law (who lives with us) bought me Paul Simon's Graceland album (CD, actually). Why have I so enjoyed this gift? ...

First, I love this album. I bought it for my Dad a few years ago, who also really likes it. I've found a few of the songs online and posted them to my song list for this blog. I find myself singing bits and pieces of the album now and then. So when Mary found it for me ... ! To say I was excited is an understatement.

Second, I love Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the group that Simon features on this album. Their sound is terrific. Here's a YouTube page of their stuff - check it out if you're unfamiliar. Have you noticed the rather curious version of the ABC song playing on this blog? That's Ladysmith...

Third, the album has led me to a follower of Jesus. Seriously. As you might know, a number of the lyrics on this album are in Zulu. They're left untranslated, so I set about the task of trying to figure out what some of them meant. My Google search took me directly to a dude working as a missionary in Africa - check out this post from his blog. Strange how the LORD can use such a variety of means to get His children acquainted with one another, no?

Hopefully you have enjoyed the Christmas season as much as I. Graceland is just one of so many reasons...


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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Good Bible maps site

Just a quick shout-out to a website I find myself using regularly for their very good maps. Hi-res, folks. Very hi-res. Print them without any fear of fuzziness!

Anyway, the site is here. Enjoy!


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Voice, part 2

As I wrote about here, it seems that my emerging friends have a new Bible translation on the market. Aside from the fact that the very last thing I think we need is yet another Bible translation, I have a problem...

I strolled over to the website recently [note: it works better in IE, sorry!] and found a side-by-side comparison chart of the Voice with three other translations (the Message, the ESV and the TNIV). One of the passages they chose for comparison was Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. The NET (which, not incidentally, I really like) reads this way:

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. The tempter came and said to him..." Matt 4:1-3a

Fair enough; a fine translation.

The Voice reads this way:

"The Spirit then led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. After this fast, He was, as you can imagine, hungry. But He was also curiously stronger because of His fast. And so He was able to withstand the devil, the tempter, when he came to Jesus."

Houston, we have a problem. I'm okay with the concept of dynamic equivalency. I'm okay with a Bible inserting explanatory information within the body of the text, to a point. But did you notice the huge running commentary inserted into the Voice?! To their credit, it's italicized (the oft misunderstood standard for this kind of translational work). But that's little solace to a guy like me that feels the reader - not the editors of a particular translation - should bear the primary responsibility for interpretation.

Who's to say that Jesus' strength was "curious"? Why does the translation call for the quaint little insertion "as you can imagine"? How do we know that it was "because of his fast" that He was strong? What's the value of a comparative (strongerer) when it comes to Jesus?

These and more questions are raised by the Voice's translation. As a rule, any translation that raises more questions than it answers should be viewed with skepticism, no?

So while I've read precisely two passages from this new translation now, I'm very skeptical at this point.

What say you?


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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Wow! Talk about a mixed bag of reactions to a Presidential election! I've heard conservatives talk as if the end of the world is upon us. I've heard doom and gloom. I've heard people giddy that we finally elected a black man. I've heard liberals talk as if the weather itself is actually better now that a Democrat will be in office. I've heard virtually every kind of reaction possible. And, yes ... I even heard someone ask if perhaps Obama is the anti-Christ!

Let's set that stuff aside, folks. Let's focus on the audacity of hope. Real hope. Hope in Jesus.

President-elect Obama has struck a nerve in this country with his "Hope" mantra. Witness the t-shirts (even Oprah had one on!) that read simply "Hope won". Obama wants to give us hope precisely because people need hope. This is always true, but especially when times are tough.

So let's have the audacity to suggest to people that while political hope is fleeting, hope in Jesus is our bedrock.

Let's remind people that while Obama's policies may or may not work, Jesus is our certain Redeemer.

Let's let the audacious statements of Jesus permeate our lives:

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mark 9:35 "If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

Mark 12:30-31 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Matthew 25:45 "I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me."

When Obama - like all political leaders - ultimately fails to provide real hope, let our light shine so brightly that others turn toward it.

Jesus is the hope of the world. How's that for an audacious statement?


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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Christian civility for President Obama

Like most of my readers, I did not vote for Mr. Obama. Unlike most of my readers, I voted for a third-party candidate. Nevertheless, please remember:

Barack Obama will soon be our president.

None of this silly "not my president" nonsense, please. Let us show the respect the office deserves. Let us look for areas where we agree with him and support him in those. Let us raise our voices in respectful protest when we do not agree. Let us pray for him, as we ought pray for all our leaders.

This is an opportunity for followers of Christ that disagree with Mr. Obama to be known for their love and grace. This is an opportunity for followers of Christ that agree with Mr. Obama to show respect and grace to those of us who don't. Let's not waste God's glory by becoming petty and mean-spirited. Campaigning is over; let's move forward. Perhaps more than ever, America needs the spirit of true grace that only the Holy Spirit - working through His followers - can bring.

Grace and Peace,

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


No offense to people like "the Reverend Billy Graham" or others like him, but why oh why is "reverend" still an acceptable title for pastors?!

I don't really care much how people refer to me. As a Children's Pastor, I get all kinds of names. Some of my kids call me Pastor Nathan, some just Pastor. Some call me Mr. Nathan, others Mr. Hyde. A few simply call me Nathan. Their parents are much the same: though most just call me Nathan, some call me Pastor Nathan and a few simply Pastor.

No one, however, calls me "Reverend". There's a good reason for that - I've specifically asked that no one use that title...

There are two reasons for this preference. First, I'm no more "revered" than anyone else. Our standard is Jesus, not any person running around on His earth. Like you, I'm a sinner saved by grace. I just happen to be a pastor.

Second, it reinforces that very misguided notion that the profession of pastor is more "revered" than any other profession. There's nothing more holy, more godly, more special, more important, more ... anything about being a pastor. We are each called to service; mine is to serve as a pastor. Yours isn't. So what!

Okay, back to the impetus for this post. As you saw in the image at the top, I received a piece of mail today addressed to "Reverend Nathan Hyde". I assume it was so addressed because it came from Operation Christmas Child, a ministry led by the son of "Reverend Billy Graham". I assure you that I did not ask to be addressed as Reverend!

I type this post with the sincere hope that I'll never see another piece of mail addressed to "Reverend Nathan Hyde".


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Christian postmodernity ... ?

Most of you know that I've been beating the drum for a Christian understanding of cultural postmodernity for a long time now. But I think I've discovered that I'm either irrelevant, misguided, or cutting-edge...

What am I talking about? I'm beginning to think that few people are talking about postmodernity in specific cultural terms. Evidence: Google "cultural postmodernity" (with the quotes) and a few interesting things happen.

1) A post of mine is third on the list! I'm not that relevant, folks! So my presence in the top three likely indicates that my topic is not all that relevant...

2) The majority of the posts are from a spiritual/Christian perspective. If only followers of Jesus are using this term, it's well on it's way to being a part of some Christian subculture - the very last thing I want to be a part of!

3) None of the entries are really popular level. If I'm merely a part of some "intellectual" conversation, I'm not sure I'm on the right track...

So I'm left with the initial conclusion that I'm either wrong (there's no such thing as cultural postmodernity), misguided (there is such a thing, but everyone else is using different language) or cutting edge (soon everyone will be a part of my virtual self-conversation).

Right now I'm not sure which it is... but I'm still working on it. I'll keep you posted, eh?


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As some of you may know, I've had a MySpace account for a while now. For reasons unclear to me, that social networking site has gone more or less dormant amongst my various friends. There's only one reason left for me to check that account - a former student in Maryland. If not for her, I'd likely give up on it altogether.

But recently my wife - my extremely technically-challenged wife - setup a Facebook account and is enjoying it immensely. I've therefore started one myself. For those that are on Facebook, you may view it here.

If you're not on Facebook, thus far I highly recommend it. It's simple to join and maintain the page - go for it!


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Monday, October 20, 2008

The stuff that matters most

I continue to be amazed at the things we - meaning follower of Jesus - make an issue of. One of the things I most appreciate about my home church is that we've zeroed in on simply six "center circle" issues and work hard not to allow other things to be divisive.

Anyway, I've recently stumbled across a few very silly stereotypes that still continue to linger in our culture...

A good friend of mine, who happens to be a pastor, takes some time once in a while to visit the local bar and strike up friendships and conversations. You guessed it - one of the patrons recently expressed shock that a pastor would drink a beer! Are we still fighting that one!?! For reasons I'll not disclose here, I am a complete abstainer from alcohol. But it's not possible to argue that everyone must be an abstainer. Thus saith the Bible: don't get drunk, yo!

Another: I've had an ongoing discussion with a friend that thinks school-age students at Christian schools should have a hair code. Not too long, not too wild ... you know the stereotype. Part of his argument is that plenty of professions have dress codes that include standards for hair. I agree, but I'm also pretty sure that school-age students don't get that, and that they don't care right now (nor do they need to, in my opinion). More to the point, doesn't having codes like that reinforce all the wrong stereotypes about Christians?

If we're going to live as truly authentic follower of Jesus in our culture, we can no longer afford to reinforce all the wrong images. I'm certainly not arguing that we adopt all the culture has to offer, but where culture is just culture (and not immoral) why not?

Be the real you! If you really like rock music and long hair, listen to rock music and wear long hair ... and as you live your life be sure to talk about the Saviour.

If you really like emo and bald heads, listen to emo and shave your head ... and as you live your life be sure to talk about the Saviour.

You can't fake these things. As I've noted before, postmoderns have their "poser" sensors set to turbo! You be you. I'll be me. Together we'll authentically witness to His grace, His power and His desire to transform this world.


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stranger things have happened!

As you may have noticed, I installed a traffic feed near the bottom of my blog. It shows me where the various visitors to my blog have come from. It's been fascinating to watch the locations that pop up, to say the least.

Using the feed, I can tell when certain of you visit my blog, since some of you virtually never leave comments! So, for example, when my former student from Maryland visits, I see "Baltimore, MD" show up on the list. I like having this feed - it amuses me!

Having said all that, I had to share a few facts from my feed...

Interesting fact #1: Some of you have apparently figured out that I have this feed and have taken steps to mask your identity. Periodically I see simply "United States" on the list. Not sure why you'd care that much, but I respect your right to privacy.

Interesting fact #2: I had absolutely no response to my post awhile back on Jesus as High Priest and King. Then a strange thing started to happen. I found my feed showing hits to that particular page, over and over again. Hits from South Africa (at least twice, from two different towns). Hits from all over the US. Hits from places where I've never visited (and therefore made friends that now read this blog). Curious. But not as curious as ...

Interesting fact #3: I had a visitor from Mongolia! Seriously. The image posted at the beginning of this blog entry is a screenshot from it. Some dude from Mongolia found my post on Jesus as High Priest and King via Google. I had to Google "Ulaanbaatar" to figure out that it was in Mongolia, incidentally.

All of this leads me to think that perhaps I should finish the posts on Jesus as High Priest...

A penny for anyone's thoughts or comments.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

God's Universe

I finally finished one of the books on my reading list! It's remarkable how little reading I've been able to get to year...

I'd love to give you a full review of God's Universe, but it's hardly worth reviewing. The author (Owen Gingerich) supposes himself balanced on the subject of science and creation. But he consistently uses little phrases here or there that make it clear he's not. Not that I am either, mind you - it's just that I make no pretense of so being!

In the end, this author basically continues to argue for the same old tired (and thoroughly Modern) "category error": Science and Creation/Design are not in the same category, so it's unfair to compare them or allow one to slip into the realm of the other. Ironic that he points out the common understanding during Copernicus' time - it was held that something could be mathematically true but not really true (in this case, the heliocentric view of the universe) - without realizing he's committing the same error. Either God created the universe of it evolved. Either the text of Genesis is true or it isn't. I certainly understand there are ambiguities here; issues that need addressing. I'm not arguing that this is an easy subject! But Gingerich seems to want it both ways: something can be "scientifically" true (for him, macro evolution) but perhaps not "really" true (he still wants to believe in an omniscient Creator).

If this is the "balanced" view of the Science/Creation debate, I guess I'll have to remain off-kilter!


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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Good news!

This will be too cool for words when/if completed!


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Dude, this is just ridiculous!

Okay. Deep breath. I rarely rant on this blog. But I feel compelled. Here goes.

The local metro newspaper in my area is horrible. Just horrible. This is nowhere more evident than in their "Faith" section. I scan the section most weeks - the stories are often trite and more or less without significance. Apparently that's the kind of stuff they think a reader of the "Faith" section desires. But I digress...

You simply must read this ridiculous article. Read the article first, then continue on with my post (if you like)...

Let's start with Mr. Abernathy's initial statement: "Many just don't use the word 'god'. It's been a word that, no matter how you use it in a sentence, it means a thousand different things, and you can't tie it to anything."

Wow. So the time-honoured argument about who/what determines the meaning of a given word has been reduced to this?! Try this one, Mr. Abernathy: God sent His Son to earth as the baby Jesus. Am I to believe that there are "a thousand different" ways that "God" might be meant in that sentence? Really? A thousand?! Obviously Mr. Abernathy is as fond of hyperbole as I am, so I'll cut him a bit of slack. But he clearly believes that the meaning of the term 'god' is so nebulous and individually-determined that we shouldn't even bother trying to agree on any aspect of him/her/it.

His example of saying "God loves you" to a homeless dude and then claiming that such a sentence is "meaningless" is absurd. That very simple sentence can be understood by virtually anyone. Failure to grasp it's meaning would lead to an obvious response - questions. Questions such as "Who is God?", or "what is love". There aren't many additional questions that need answering to understand "God loves you", eh? But apparently homeless folk are simply and only seeking material goods, not religious and/or metaphysical hope. How silly of me to forget that the material always takes precedence!

How about this beauty: "Religion is about morality"? Seriously?! So first we can't settle on even the most basic definition of 'god', but no we're to believe that the very essence of 'religion' is to be defined as merely 'morality'? If we can't settle on a meaning for 'god', why should I have any confidence in Mr. Abernathy's definition of 'religion'? In short, I shouldn't.

The article gets better... The reporter than makes a statement that begs for explanation, but receives none. She claims that Unitarian Universalism has "roots" that are "Judeo-Christian". So do the Jehovah's Witnesses. So do the Mormons. But that doesn't excuse the author from explaining that sentence at least a bit. "Roots" seems to indicate a still-existing connection. This is, of course, no longer true of the UU "church". Apparently that little tid-bit of information was too much to include in the article. Or, more likely, the author believes that UU actually is still connected to Christianity. That's either ignorance (which indicates a lack of research) or lack of intelligence.

But wait; there's more! Next we read that Matt Casper (a self-avowed atheist) is agitated with churches. In fact, he has some advice for them - "a church should be about action". Well said; as a follower of Jesus I couldn't agree more. But then this: "If all who claimed to be Christian actually did what Jesus asked, there'd be no poverty or war or disparity of income".

More deep breathing. Okay...

So I'm to believe the central meaning of Christ's church is embodied in equal distribution of income?!? The ol' "Jesus as Communist" bit again? Wow. How about the fact that Jesus told us (in Matt. 26:11, for example) that we would always have the poor? What about John's regular references throughout Revelation to "war"? Sorry, Mr. Casper - your vision of Jesus is clearly faulty. It would be nice if pastors like Mr. Abernathy would attempt to introduce, or even to model, Jesus to you. But alas, religion is about morality...

Then there's the sad case of Mrs. Powers. She "grew up in a liberal Presbyterian church, but her father was always a skeptic". Further evidence of the utter failure of mainline liberal churches - Mrs. Powers has been with the UU for years now.

Here's perhaps the biggest reason UU works in America: "Don't let other people define religion for you". Apparently, "other people" even includes Jesus, Paul, Peter, Luke, etc... Sad.

She's also convinced that "the concept of God is an attempt to describe [the need for something other to be in charge]". It's the tired old 'God as a crutch' thinking. If He's merely for the relief of our own self-inflicted angst, I for one want no part in Him.

And my favourite line from the article: "I really enjoy life and try to be thankful...". But, Mrs. Powers, to whom are you thankful? This is one verb that requires an object. Apparently the object of one's thanks does not matter in the UU "church".

Rant completed. I'll now return to my regularly scheduled blogging. Sorry to have bothered ya'll.


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Stuck on Ooze

I pretty much can't stand the theology of guys like Spencer Burke. Yet I find myself routinely reading posts on The Ooze. Why? Part of the answer, I suppose, is that I enjoy a good laugh now and then - some of the arguments made on that site are so ludicrous as to be laughable!

But I find some gems now and then, too. Seriously. I hate to admit it, but once in a while the Ooze really does post something challenging. Usually not; once in a while.

Today's reading of The Ooze is a case study in this truth. This article is utterly ridiculous; this one is actually good.

If you don't read the Ooze, I would encourage you to do so now and again. But keep in mind that you'll need the ability to sift through a lot of garbage to get to the good.


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Monday, September 1, 2008

The fusion of two passions

Those of you that know me very well know that I'm passionate about a number of things. High on that list (and in no particular order) would be 'environmental stewardship' and 'outdoor power equipment'. Sound contradictory to you? Read on...

For whatever silly reason, the radical fringe of the environmental movement has labelled outdoor power equipment (OPE) as "evil", sometimes literally! From lawn mowers to leaf blowers, groups like the Sierra Club and others characterize the OPE industry as a part of the problem, not the solution.

I have attempted to moderate my passion for environmental stewardship with an equal passion for the plight of the human race. Let's be honest, OPE makes people's lives much easier. Don't get me wrong - it can be overdone. There's no sense firing up a chainsaw, for example, just to cut off a single 2" branch. There's also no sense mowing your lawn every 3 or 4 days. But that doesn't change the fact that most OPE is a help to humanity.

The OPE industry is doing its part in working toward environmental stewardship, too. This happens in two primary ways; one obvious, the other not so.

First, and most obviously, the OPE industry has been subjected to more and more stringent emissions standards. OPE of today is vastly less polluting than machines of only 10 years ago. Two-cycle lawnmowers, arguably the single greatest polluter in the OPE industry, have been outlawed. Small two-cycle engine (think string trimmers and leaf blowers) are constantly being improved for emissions efficiency. [The interested reader will consider Stihl's four-mix engines.] Carburetors are now being manufactured that are difficult (at best!) for the average consumer to bugger with - making it much less likely that they'll accidentally run their equipment too rich and therefore too polluting. Catalytic mufflers? Got 'em. Fuel injection? Showing up more and more. Clean two-strokes? Check. Add all of this to the simple fact that the entire OPE industry makes up perhaps 5% of total emissions in this country and I think you'll agree that OPE is doing its part to be more green.

But there's a second way that OPE contributes to environmental stewardship. Taking better care of your green spaces is not only aesthetically pleasing, it actually helps care for the environment.

For example, one fairly well known example is forests. Whether it's the massive timber stands we have out West or the small plot of woods in the back of your property, stands of trees do better when cared for (as opposed to leaving them "natural"). Maintained stands of trees are less susceptible to forest fires, less susceptible to the rapid spread of disease, less desirable for vermin, etc... Property owners that keep their woods "natural" are generally missing out on plenty of benefits.

Another example: harvesting timber or firewood from tree stands helps reduce emissions. By felling and using the larger trees in a stand, the tree canopy is opened up to allow more small trees a chance at rapid growth (and therefore absorption of tons of carbon).

I recently read of one more example; one that just about all of us can contribute to: mowing your lawn. The radical environmentalists regularly moan about the evils of gasoline powered lawnmowers. Scan the recent marketing trends in mowers - electric and/or reel-type mowers are all the rage because they're "green"! But recent research reveals a very compelling case for proper lawn care, even when that requires a gas-powered mower. OPE Magazine recently reported a study that shows well-managed turf grass sequesters four times more carbon than the engine powering the mower emits. That's because well-managed turf grass is in constant growth mode, and when it's growing it's absorbing carbon.

So there you have it: some of the basics behind how I can maintain these two passions simultaneously. Like so much else in life, it's really all about balance, eh?


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Thursday, August 21, 2008

The latest trend?

I often marvel at how silly we can be. By "we" I mean followers of Jesus in America. It seems we're always looking for the latest trend, the newest methodology, the best data to support our positions.

I came across another one of these sorts of tidbits just a moment ago. Well intended, for sure. But at least a tad bit silly.

It seems that some people with more money than I commissioned a study to find out some things about why people join churches and why they leave them. The full article is here, for your reading enjoyment.

The results? In a nutshell, people like friendly churches. Even more profound, people tend to like churches where they can develop strong relationships. More marvelous still, "younger" (read: culturally postmodern) people tend to value these attributes even more than others!

I must say, I'm shocked. I had no idea that pomos would be more interested in real community than most anything else. Seriously? Wow.

Okay, I'm done with the dripping saracasm. But let's think about this for just a second: if we're analyzing this data from a viewpoint of efficacy (which clearly this article is), aren't we missing the point? Is it really in the best interest of churches to study "what works" and not merely "what's right"? We end up with merely the "latest trend in research" kind of thinking... Sad.

The point is this: the Church of Jesus Christ must be founded upon relationships because it was designed by the Creator to be founded upon relationships. It is first and foremost about our relationship to Him - notice I said our relationship to Him, not merely my relationship to Him. We are to be a body, a family, a community ... not a collection of individuals.

Data or no data, local churches should be striving toward authentic community because it's the right thing to do. If articles like these make people hop on a trend-setting bandwagon only to switch to the next big thing a year or two down the road, we've missed the point. We've been given the blueprint for what a healthy church looks like (hint: it looks like a healthy family); let's just focus on that, eh?


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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jesus our High Priest and King, part 1

As most of you know by now, I was hired to be the Children's Pastor at our local church not that many months ago. Since then, I've largely been wrapped up in the world of CM - Children's Ministry!

But recently the elders asked that I teach an adult Sunday School class for a few weeks this summer. I'm now two weeks into an eight week course on Jesus as High Priest and King, which got me to thinking...

... why not blog about the same topic here? The study is one I did some years ago for a Greek course I was taking about the book of Hebrews. It turned out to be truly fascinating, and I'm eternally grateful for Dr. Bateman's assignment (he's now at Trinity; I had him at Grace). As it turns out, my research is transitioning smoothly into a Sunday School class. From the reviews I'm getting so far, I think it's fast becoming a very profitable study for people. Perhaps I can persuade you - oh shadowy reader! - to engage the subject as well...

In this first post, let's start with this: the origins of the High Priesthood. This is a somewhat complicated subject in its details. But in broad brush strokes it's pretty straight forward. The first mention in the Bible of "high priest" is Numbers 35. The context has to do with cities of refuge - a fascinating subject in its own right! For our purposes, the important part is that people in a city of refuge could only be released to their pre-crime lives when the sitting High Priest died. Why? Apparently it had to do with the OT social justice system of "eye for an eye" and the perceived holiness of the High Priest. In other words, since a manslayer (living in the city of refuge) had killed someone, even if accidentally, only blood could atone for it. The death of the High Priest was the only that was sufficient to the task.

What this says about the holiness of the High Priest is remarkable. He (either his office or his person ... ?) was the only person in the community of faith righteous enough to give his blood for the crimes of another. Don't get me wrong - I'm not reading too much Christology into this text. The High Priest didn't actually give up his life, nor did he even have to die a bloody death. But it's still significant that only his death could atone for the manslayer. This, the earliest OT reference to the High Priest, begins immediately to lay the foundation for holiness and sacrifice that will come to fullness in Christ.

But why does the office of High Priest not show up until the book of Numbers? Didn't it start with Aaron? The answer - at least to this theologically conservative pastor - is 'yes'. Aaron was the first High Priest. In fact, it's telling that the Numbers text offers no background whatsoever to the High Priest - he just shows up in a way that makes it clear that the original readers were quite familiar with him.

So the High Priest comes from the line of Aaron and is perceived to be the most holy member of the community of faith. Even during the Tabernacle period, he's responsible for sacrifices.

In short, he's set apart. He's special. Not just anybody could be the High Priest. He has to have the right lineage and character. As a Christian, it's easy to see where this is heading. But keep in mind that to the Jew of the OT period this was simply not the case.

In the next post we'll look at the High Priest in the Kingdom period and then into the Babylonian Captivity. Until then, let me tell you the end ahead of time so you can watch for it as we go. What this study will show is that there was a gradual merging of the office of High Priest and King through the ages of Jewish history. This merger was completed in Christ, who now stands as both our High Priest and King. And, of course, that has ramifications for our lives. All this and more is spelled out in the book of Hebrews... but now I'm getting too far ahead of myself!


Please note: Due to the under-whelming response to this first post, I've decided against posting the remainder of these lessons. If you'd like to have them, email me and I'll send you the materials.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Absolute Postmodernity

As you know if you've read many of my posts on the subject of postmodernity, I maintain that when discussing postmodernity we must distinguish between "cultural postmodernity" and what I tend to call "ivory tower postmodernity".

Culturally, most younger Americans are postmodern. Yet the vast majority of them continue to believe in a set of absolute truthes. What gives?

The truth (as I see it) is that those of us who identify with postmodern cultural values still tend to understand that there are some absolutes in this world. We have a much smaller list of them, no doubt - but a list nonetheless.

The troubling part is that most cultural postmoderns (at least those that don't know Christ) tend to have trouble acknowledging this fact. They say they don't believe in universal moral truth, but when pressed they generally do have at least a limited list.

Which brings me to the motivation behind this post. Like me, you probably get a copy of Parade Magazine in the Sunday paper. It's mostly Holywood stuff - celebrity gossip, new movie releases, interviews with actors, etc... Recently they interviewed Christian Bale, in light of the new Batman film and his connection to the late Heath Ledger.

I don't know a thing about Christian Bale the man. But in this article he says he's one who has "always enjoyed the gray in life" - a pretty classic way of expressing culturally postmodern sensitivities. Yet when asked about being a father, he says:

"There’s a very hard line you find in yourself when you become a parent, an absolute belief that cannot be questioned. It’s something that you will kill and die for in a way that you never experienced before. I’ve always enjoyed the gray in life. This is an area of total black and white. This is something that is unquestionable."

That's what I'm talking about! If Christian Bale embodies cultural postmodernity as much as I suspect he does, he's (anecdotally) proving my point. Here's something he's found that is absolutely true - a father would die for his child.

There's one other absolute truth I hope he finds - a Son died for His children.


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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby Dedication Day!

I had the privilege of officiating my first baby dedication today. [In the future, I'll be doing them jointly with our elder of family life, but he was out of town for the weekend.]

It was a great experience, and it got me to thinking about the nature of community again...

As I navigated through the dedication of this beautiful little boy, I reminded the family that they were being dedicated too - it wasn't just about the little one.

Just as importantly, I reminded our people that children are people too (a phrase I use all the time, and intentionally) and that we have a responsibility to help them raise this little one to know Jesus and to learn how to follow Him.

But what does that mean, exactly? Clearly parents are the spiritual leaders of their children, and fathers are the spiritual leaders of their homes. But it's just as clear from Scripture that we're a family - a single body in Christ striving for His purposes.

I wonder if we haven't allowed the American "right to privacy" to overly permeate our parenting. Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating the ol' "it takes a village" per se. It's just that too often (in my experience) we don't seek the help and wisdom that our fellow Christians could offer. We're too proud, or too shy, or ... too something. Always too something...

Am I - as the Children's Pastor - modelling the kind of attitude I feel the Bible calls for? I'm not sure. Of course I'd like to say yes ... but I don't know if that's completely honest.

I'm not even sure exactly what I'm calling for. I just know that I'm tired of watching well-meaning Christian parents struggle with issues about which other parents in our assembly could share wisdom. Maybe we're too closed off - not connected enough. Maybe it hasn't even occurred to these parents that these family resources are available to them.

Perhaps that's where to start - to at least make parents aware that they can both receive and offer wisdom with regard to the struggles of other parents.

Today, that's just what happened as we dedicated this little soul and his family to Christ in the presence of His followers. May we take seriously the affirmations made this day. Too much depends upon it to do otherwise.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Survivor Camp

The local church I serve just finished our Survivor Camp today. What is Survivor Camp? Think traditional vacation Bible school on steroids!

Every day we had some corporate worship, a skit relating to the Bible lesson of the day, the corporate Bible lesson, then we moved the kids by age (ish) through a series of 15 minutes stations. One was snack/discussion, where they got some refreshments and a chance to talk about the Bible lesson in a small group format. The other stations were all games/activities, mostly of a somewhat crazy variety!

For example, today was water day, so we had a couple of water balloon slings set up and let the kids launch away at their leaders! We also had an obstacle course that would challenge many adults.

We had some of the more standard games, too. Volleyball, soccer, wheelbarrow races, etc... All told, the week was outstanding. We had a couple hundred kids running around having a grand time, learning a bit of Bible and building relationships with (mostly) teenagers that intentionally showed the love of Christ.

We also involved some civil service to the week. One day we had a demonstration by a K-9 unit. The kids loved the dog (of course!) but it was also nice to see our police forces painted in such a wholesome light (in lieu of so many video games). Another day we had members of the SWAT team come in. It was awesome! They brought an APV, a bunch of equipment and a bomb robot! The robot roamed around and took a team flag from a child ... who nervously cooperated.

I know there are some that would see what we did this week and think (or say), "They weren't direct enough in their presentation of the Gospel". But this week wasn't about a head count of "decisions for the LORD". It was about being a beacon of love and hope in the midst of our community. I shared the Gospel directly during the final day's Bible lesson, and I'm sure the topic came up through small group discussion as well. But more than anything we wanted to plant seeds and build bridges.

We'll be inviting each of these families to come to our next Family Sunday (see this post), which is at the end of this month. Pray that the love and grace we poured into these little lives will continue to honour God in the days to come.


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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Baptism revisited

A while back I brought up the topic of baptizing young children. I know those of you in 'baby baptism' circles might find this hard to believe, but you can really get a heated discussion going when you bring up questions on this subject in evangelical circles.

Well, as I mentioned in that older post, we've been rethinking the process some and have come out of the woods, as it were...

I still maintain that the very best way to determine whether a younger child is really ready to be baptized is to follow them around for a week! But since that simply isn't possible, we've decided to do the next best thing.

I began interviewing candidates for baptism a few weeks ago. The interviews are not tests - I'm not just reading a list of questions and looking for "correct" answers. We're spending some time getting to know each other better, these children and I. Along the way, we're talking about the issues that matter most when it comes to readiness for baptism. But rather than just ask questions, I've been weaving a narrative for them involving something they like (sports, music, games, etc...) and using that narrative as a framework to find the answers children really believe, not just what they've been taught to say.

In case you're curious, here's the list of concepts/questions I try to weave into our interviews. In no particular order:

a) How many ways are there to Heaven?
b) Why would a person want to be baptized?
c) Is baptism necessary for salvation?
d) What about persecution - things like 2 Tim 3:12?
e) What exactly is a sinner?
f) Why do we need the Bible?
g) Who and what is Jesus?
h) What about those that don't yet know the LORD?

Depending on how the conversation goes, I'll emphasize one or more of these issues. I'm finding (in my limited experience so far) that kids understand a fair bit about these subjects. There have been (of course!) some youthful errors to correct along the way, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised by the interviews.

Anyway, having said all that, I'm happy to announce that I'm expecting to conduct a number of baptisms for some of our younger souls in the upcoming months! These will be truly joyous occasions, and I can't wait for them to start...

Baptism in many local churches seems to have become a ritual in the worst sense of the word - something we do simply because we feel we must. Gone is the excitement at the symbolism. Gone is the joy for the public display of lost ones that have been found. Why is this? For my part, I hope to always model the kind of excitement I think baptism deserves.


[PS: If you dig the William Johnson print as much as I, you can buy it here.]

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Amazing Grace

Do you know how many marriages make it to see their 10th wedding anniversary? About 65%.

How about their 25th anniversary? Only 33%.

50th? A meager 5%.

Part of this is a matter of simple math - Americans now tend to marry in the mid 20s instead of their early 20s (or even late teens). That fact alone shaves a fair number of people off the list of candidates for a 50th anniversary.

But math alone cannot explain what some dear friends of mine just celebrated...

I couldn't even find statistics related to their marriage accomplishment. Given the state of our marital culture today, it's unlikely that we'll ever hear of this accomplishment down the road...

Last week Joe and Grace celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary!

Yes, you read that right - they've been married for 71 years. Using numbers doesn't do it justice. Let me try that again.

Joe and Grace have been married for seventy one years!!

Plenty of people don't live that long, let alone stay married that long. But the most amazing part (and the primary reason for the title of this post) is Grace. She has been a loving caretaker of Joe for many years now. He continues to ever-so-slowly slip into the arms of His Creator and Grace is there with him every step of the way. This beautiful woman devotes virtually every moment of every day to the care of her wheelchair-bound husband. Joe's not himself anymore; hasn't been in quite some time. But still, there's Grace.

She's a living, breathing testament to the power of love in marriage.

Faith. Hope. Love.

and Grace. May all of us be able to follow her example.


[FYI: the statistics I cited are from this website.]

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Stormy weather

We had our first taste of thunderstorms at the new house the other day. It's rained here since we've moved in, but this was the first really windy, ugly, thunderstorm we've had. We had another tonight, but that's another story!

Anyway, this storm blew in very quickly and it left almost as quickly as it came. Immediately after it passed over, the sky turned this bright shade of almost yellow and the adults in the house all knew what was coming next ...

a rainbow!

But we didn't just get one - there were two rainbows out there in that strangely calm sky. I captured a few pictures, using my favorite Christmas gift of last year (Carmen bought me a polarizing filter for my camera). I hope you enjoy them!


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Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Voice

The details are a bit fuzzy for me right now, but it appears that the emergent crowd is soon to have a Bible specifically marketed to them.

Or not?

I'm still doing the research, and I'll leave you to do the same.

Check out The Voice. Poke around a bit and let me know what your impressions are.

As I discover more, I'll post it.


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Update, part 3

I have internet access again!

This is going to sound cheesy, but (seriously) thank God for broadband.

Our service is not blazing fast, but it's broadband and I'm happy for it. I have to give some love to the folks at Lightning Net for providing wireless internet to guys like me that live within a country mile of the middle of nowhere.

Anyway, I believe I've worked out all the initial kinks in having new service. I am able to receive email again (the address linked on this site has worked all along; I'm referring to my more personal address that some of you have). I've also just finished configuring my outgoing SMTP settings, so I can send email from that account now too!

So... if you wish to begin interacting with my posts again, feel free! We are live and good to go!


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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Update, part 2

Coming soon to the Hyde household ... broadband internet access!!!!

After much searching, we finally found a wireless company within range of us. Barring some major calamity, we should be hooked up again this coming Wednesday.

Thank God for high-speed access.

Expect a full-scale resumption of my blog within the next week!


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Saturday, May 17, 2008


Since my last post, we've:

1. Moved to a 118 year old farm house.
2. Had our seventh child (Abigail Elizabeth).
3. Lost virtually all access to the internet.

Therefore, I've not posted in a month and won't likely for a few more weeks. I'm working on getting reasonable broadband where we now live, but the prospects are few and far between.

I'll keep you posted.


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spiritual Vertigo

A former pastor of mine used to speak a lot about balance. "What's so often lacking in the local church", he often said, "is balance." I have to agree. You and I both could list countless examples of how this is true, but today I want to talk about one particular example that I'm personally familiar with ... but it's a positive example!

As most of you know, I'm increasingly convinced that my home church is a very special place. Some of the usual hang-ups that often infect local churches have been effectively warded off (to date!). One in particular is the oft-noticed "worship wars" of other families.

Our worship pastor is that rare combination of a stellar musician and a humble servant leader. He makes a conscious effort to find a balance between what the more Modern section of our demographic might prefer (more polish; less improv) and what the more Postmodern section prefers (less polish; more improv). [Note: as usual, I'm referring to cultural Postmodernity in this context.]

As with any balancing act, he sometimes errs too far one way or the other. But there seems to be an abundance of grace given, knowing that this is how balancing usually works.

If it's true (and I believe it is) that Modern/Postmodern is the biggest cultural rift in America since ... ever, then this will be the most difficult period in our history to strike the right balance. We've always had issues of musical preference, but I would contend that they've never been couched in such significant cultural differences. In other words, those of us that would have local churches with both Modern and Postmodern family members will have to strive even harder to keep a sound and healthy balance.

The funny thing is that very few of us in this local body would ever talk about this issue in terms of Modern/Postmodern understandings and sensitivities. But that doesn't change the fact that grace is given and balance sought.

To God be the glory, in all aspects of our corporate worship.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seven babies; seven chakras

I had an unusual experience the other day, and upon further review I think I could've handled it one of two ways. I offer here the situation and the two possible reactions; you tell me what you might've done...

My wife and I were touring a new birthing center in the area (in anticipation of our soon-to-be-born seventh child). The facilities were beautiful and well conceived (pun intended!). Our guide was giving us a personal tour - just she and us.

We passed into yet another wing of this place and noticed a lady painting a beautiful canvas. In the background were the colours of the rainbow; in the foreground were cute little children. As we admired her 2/3 finished work, she began telling us about it.

"The colours of the rainbow actually correspond to the seven chakras. The reason I'm here today is to help you use this information as you raise your children. For example, if your newborn is fussy you can hold them to your chest - the seat of the purple chakra - and actually transfer that calm energy into your baby. This system of belief is ancient spirituality - it predates Christ."

I am, of course, quoting her from the best of my memory. But this is the gist of what she said. As she's talking, she's shoving a flyer into my wife's hands detailing all that she's explaining. My wife clearly had no idea how to respond to this situation.

So ... I see at least two ways I could've handled the situation:

Option 1: I could've engaged this woman in conversation. I could've asked her if she realized what she was talking about is nothing more than standard-issue Hindu teaching. I could've asked her how the cherubim in her painting could co-exist with this Hindu teaching. I could've told her how I put my faith in the calming power of the Holy Spirit, not a purple chakra. I could've met this woman where she was and tried to help.

Option 2: I could've become visibly upset. I could've thanked the woman for the lesson in Hindu teaching, but kindly moved on. I could've later informed the tour guide of the inappropriateness of this woman's actions. I could've become righteously indignant.

I chose option 2 at that moment. I'm not sure that I would if I had it to do over. At the time, I felt sucker-punched. Here I was, basking in my thoughts of beautiful babies. My mind had wondered to our upcoming birth ... I had nothing but pleasant thoughts about the blessings of my LORD on my mind. Then ...

WHAM!! I was hit with this spiritual assault.

At least that's how I felt in the moment.

Looking back, I'm not so sure. But hindsight is always 20/20, so they say.

What say you?


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Sunday, April 6, 2008

A picture's worth a thousand words

This is a picture I took myself - I can verify it's veracity. Yes, it's actually a Christmas tree shoved into a porta-jon! Fear not, it was removed shortly after I took this picture. And no - I didn't put it there!

What I need is either a story behind how on earth it might have come to be here, or a witty caption.

I know many of you a very creative people - have at it!


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Friday, April 4, 2008

Charting the change

One of the very first books I ever read that could be said to be in the "emerging church" crowd was Robert Webber's The Younger Evangelicals. At the time I read it, I didn't really realize that this work would turn out to be on of the cornerstones in missional (and, for many, emerging) thought.

The folks over at Resonate have taken the time to publish one of Webber's comparison charts from the book. I found it fascinating when I first read it, and even more so now. I discuss it here in the hopes that it might prove useful to you...

Here's the link to the chart. Spend a little time reading over it and let me know what you think.

One of the more interesting features of the chart to me: the final column (Younger Evangelicals) is what most mirrors emerging and/or missional folk today, and I find that much of that thinking is a reaction more to the middle column than the first. Certainly no one in either the missional or the emerging church movement would advocate much of the first column! But at least to me it seems the primary reaction is to the middle... What do you think?

Incidentally, as you might expect, I find myself much more in agreement with the last column than any other. I have some agreement with column number one here or there, but I can't really see anything in the middle column I find appealing... How about you?


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Children and Baptism

Wow! If you decide you want to elicit some strong emotions from parents of young children, just bring up the topic of when/if children should be baptized!

I find myself in the position of having to wrestle with this issue right now, so I thought I'd share some thoughts and then (as usual) ask for feedback...

First, let me note (briefly) why I don't practice or approve of infant baptism. I understand that there are plenty of folk that do; I just have to agree to disagree. In a nutshell, those that baptize babies believe that the ancient rite of circumcision was a sign of membership into the community of faith (a point I agree with) and that modern day infant baptism is the replacement for that rite, now that we're in the church age. These folk believe that the Church has replaced Israel.

I don't take that position. I advocate what's commonly called "believer's baptism"; that is, I believe only those who've personally chosen to follow Christ should be baptized.

Hence, the "at what age" questions begin...

For my part, I believe that it's in the best interest of local churches to make a legitimate effort not to baptize those that really don't understand the Gospel. It's ultimately unfair and unhealthy to baptize a hypothetical seven year old kid that says she loves Jesus but otherwise doesn't really understand what she's saying.

Therefore, local churches have a responsibility to implement wisdom in making this decision. For me, I'm increasingly coming to the conviction that wisdom on this question involves asking the prospective baptismal candidate the right questions; questions that are neither tricky nor leading. We can't, for example, simply ask a child "Do you love Jesus?" and expect that their answer reflects actual understanding!

But neither can we expect children (or adults, for that matter) to have a developed theology before we baptize them. The New Testament pattern typically reflects baptism very soon after the decision to follow Christ. But with children, the question centers around when they are actually mature enough to really make that decision.

Believing as I do that young children best grasp narrative, I'm thinking that posing hypothetical situations is a much better way to get the kind of honest, heart-felt answers we should be looking for. Asking a child a "fill in the blank" kind of question will get us only so far. But asking a child to tell a story in response to a story we tell them? Much better.

The question now becomes harder - the details. That's where I'm wrestling right now. I'm trying to think of reasonable, hypothetical situations I could mentally put children into - narratives that will set the stage for their continuation of the story. I'm optimistic that(if done the right way) this will get us closer to a child's true understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

Your thoughts? Anybody with personal experience on this issue? I'd love to hear from you ...


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Family Sunday update

As I mentioned in this post, our church held its very first "Family Sunday" this week. For a first run, things went really well...

We started the service very casually - our worship team meandered their way up to the stage (now covered in couches and chairs) and began playing as they got there. We had a short time of corporate worship before moving to the ever-popular announcements!

I had three of our older kids do the announcements - each is in the 4th or 5th grade, and they did great! After that, I invited all the kids that would to come up on the stage with me. We had a packed stage - I'm not even sure how many kids it was, but it was most of them! I shared with them and the adults from Daniel chapter 1.

We always invite a different person each week to lead corporate prayer, but this week it was an entire family. It was wonderful to hear husband, wife and their two young girls pray over us.

From there, we moved to some more corporate worship that was kid-friendly - songs they'd been used to singing in their own KIDS church services. After that, our youth pastor spoke to the whole assembly about "springing forward" into new levels of service. Since we're all a family, each of us has to do her or his "chores", as it were.

I look forward to many more Family Sundays down the road, building and improving as we go. For those of you who've been considering something like this in your own assembly, I whole-heartedly recommend you give it a try!


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wednesday night stuff

I'm in the process of researching some of the various programs out there for Wed. night church programming for kids. We'll be expanding what we do on Wed. nights at my home church, so I'm trying to figure out the best and wisest way to go.

Here's what I've found and what I know, but I need your help...

After a cursory search on the good ol' internet, I've found the following:

1. CEF/Good News Club
3. Word of Life/Olympians
4. Faith Weavers
5. Royal Rangers
6. Pioneer Club

I know a fair bit about the first two (especially AWANA), and have a passing familiarity with WOL. I know the last three only by name.

So ... if any of you know something you think I should know to make a wise decision, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to either comment here or email me.


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Monday, March 17, 2008

Family Sundays

As most of you know, I'm always trying to figure out ways to foster a more authentic sense of community in local churches. Over at my home church we're going to try something different that I think will really help on a number of fronts...

If you look at a calendar, you'll discover that there are four (sometimes five) months in a year that have five Sundays. I doesn't take much imagination to realize that this regularly creates scheduling difficulties for Children's Ministry workers. You usually have volunteers that agree to work one Sunday per month ... but suddenly you have an extra week but not extra workers! Churches choose to resolve the issue in many various (and fully functional) ways. We are electing to do something a little out of the norm.

On these "extra" Sundays, we're declaring Family Sunday. We'll not have our normal Children's Ministries, but instead we'll have everyone all together in the main assembly area. This will create some challenges, for sure - but we think the rewards will far outweigh the difficulties. When you put them on a scale, it looks something like this:

1. It's different - there will be a certain amount of adjustment to things just plain old "not normal"!
2. It will be louder - there's no question that having children in this setting will create more noise and a little bit of chaos, too.
3. It will create some tension - some parents will be uncomfortable with the fear that perhaps their child will do something embarrassing or distracting.

1. It will foster authentic community. Real community is multi-generational, yet we typically exclude an entire generation from our corporate worship times. Family Sunday will be truly multi-generational.
2. It will weave children into the life of the church. Kids need to know that they're valuable and that they have a legitimate place in the life of the church. Involving them in "big church" will help bridge this gap.
3. It will help disciple our children. For starters, our children will have an opportunity to see a large group of adults (including Mom and Dad) worship together. It's hard to over-estimate the value of this experience. Also, it will allow many followers of Christ to share with the children in a variety of ways.
4. It will force us out of our comfort zone. At the risk of sounding harsh, I am increasingly convinced that many American church-goers keep a god in the closet and its name is "Comfort". We get in our ruts and we get comfortable. Doing something this out of the ordinary will be a healthy experience for us now and again.
5. It will involve more people in corporate ministry. In order to keep younger children involved and interested, we'll be doing things in smaller pieces. Instead of one 45 minute sermon, we'll have two sermons of perhaps 15-20 minutes each. Instead of one long set of corporate worship, we'll break out into singing in spurts throughout the entire time. Instead of just a few faces on the platform, we'll be involving many more. Instead of mostly 35-55 year old people, we'll have a more legitimate multi-generational feel - we're striving for the very best of a family reunion feeling.

Mind you, this is all in theory at this stage! Who knows if things will really work out as I'm suggesting. Our first Family Sunday will be in just a few weeks - I'll post to let you know how it works out.

In the meantime, do any of you do something like this? Have any ideas to share with me? I'd gladly give a (cyber) penny for your thoughts!


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Monday, March 3, 2008

The LORD provides!

I've been wanting to chronicle this story for some weeks now, but I couldn't (for reasons I'll not get into here).

Now I'm finally at liberty to say that ...

I am officially the Children/Family Pastor at the church we began attending last year!

I can't begin to express how excited and energized I am by all of this. As time permits, I'll fill you in with more of the details. For the moment, please continue to pray for me...

My two primary prayer concerns:

My position is part-time, with the hope of becoming full-time. For now, I need to continue to find other sources of income. I'm doing some substitute teaching, some work at the chainsaw shop, and some building trades/construction stuff too! As you can likely guess, I'm really enjoying the diversity of my schedule these days. But the fact remains that I need to stay organized and I need to continue to find ways each week to meet our family's budgetary needs.

Also, I have tons of names and faces to connect, and perhaps just as many ideas and notions to consider. There's a lot of positive momentum building there, and a great many very concerned parents. In short, it feels like the perfect spot to join in. But having said that, I still must successfully navigate the challenges of this new position.

If I can impose upon you to pray for these two issues, I'll be indebted to you.


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's all relative

One of the standard criticisms leveled against Postmodernity is its rampant relativism. In its extreme form, some even contend that everything is relative - there is nothing absolutely true.

While it's true that Postmodernity embraces relativism, the standard criticism doesn't quite hit the mark...

It is not my purpose to defend relativism. There are times when it is defensible (we all know this: think "self defense" versus "first degree murder" versus "manslaughter", etc.), but I want to move beyond that for a moment.

Or, more precisely, I want to move before that. It is my contention that the birth of relativism owes as much to Modernity as Postmodernity, if not more. No one within the Modern worldview likes to admit it, but relativism pre-dates Postmodernity.

It starts like this: "You need to be able to separate your business life from your home life". Generations of working people were fed that mantra over and over again. It became ingrained in our culture. The way you treat people in your work-life isn't necessarily the same way you treat them in your neighborhood-life.

Compartmentalization is one of the hallmarks of Modernity in recent American history. It's also one of the things Postmoderns like about Modernity the least. But ironically, it's was this very compartmentalizing process that gave rise to the prevalence of relativism.

If I come to believe that I am a different sort of fellow at work, at home, at church services, at play, at the store, etc... then I am implicitly establishing the foundation for believing that the answers to certain questions depend entirely upon the circumstances and situation I find myself in. For example, while no one would advocate "upselling" your mother, it became standard practice with strangers. Moving the models you're overstocked on is a perfectly acceptable business practice for many, but you wouldn't practice it on your pastor or good friend.

Language is another obvious example. How many tried-and-true Modern followers of Christ use coarse language on the job site, but never at home or in a church building?

All of this gave rise to the Postmodern mantra about "keeping it real". The lack of authenticity, the compartmentalization and the sense of falsehood that it promulgates weigh heavily upon Postmoderns.

But as I noted briefly above, the irony is that this same cultural phenomenon helped the rise of relativism tremendously. So we now have a situation where the average Modern blames relativism on Postmodernity, the average Postmodern think Modern compartmentalization is disingenuous, and neither party realizes what they "owe" to each other! Pots are calling kettles black all over the place.

Again, I'm not attempting to justify or defend relativism - those that know me or have read this blog much know that to be the case. I just find it very frustrating that there is so little understanding and so much blame be passed around.

Don't like relativism? You have both Modernity and Postmodernity to blame.


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Saturday, February 23, 2008

More humor

Again, thanks to Buttons for leading me to another funny website. Along with a truly over-the-top parody of Oprah interviewing a former postmodern, there's a witty bit about basic forms of government and economy...

The page itself is here, though I've not read most of what's on it. What I did read is this:

Cows and Government


You have two cows.

Your lord takes some of the milk.


You have two cows.

The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.


You have two cows.

Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.


You have two cows.

You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.


You have two cows.

The government takes both and shoots you.


You have two cows.

The government takes both, shoots you and sends the cows to Zurich.


You have two cows.

The government takes both and drafts you into the army.


You have two cows.

The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment.


You have two cows.

All your neighbors decide who gets the milk.


You have two cows.

Your neighbors pick someone who will tell you who gets the milk.


The government promises to give you two cows, if you vote for it.

After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate", but supports the president. The cow sues you for breach of contract. Your legal bills exceed your annual income. You settle out of court and declare bankruptcy.


You have two cows.

You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.


You have two cows.

You feed them human sewage. The government bans British beef as it is unhealthy.


You have two cows.

At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.


You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You retire on the income.


You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the right to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because of bad "feng shui".


You have two cows.

The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.


You are associated with (the concept of 'ownership' is a symbol of the phallocentric, warmongering, intolerant past) two differently aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non specified gender.

You are torn by feelings of guilt, your psychotherapist recommends a treatment center. You spend six weeks there, paid for by the community health plan, and graduate into Guilty Anonymous.


Wow, dude, there's like...these two cows, man.

Uh, so, like, you have really got to do some of this milk, like, fer shur, it's awesome, man.


You have two giraffes.

The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.


Maybe you've seen this posted elsewhere, but I've not. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of truth in this parody!


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Monday, February 18, 2008

There is hope

I had a very encouraging experience this past Sunday evening. If you read me regularly, you know that I am often very frustrated at the inability/unwillingness of most evangelicals to wrestle through the implications of postmodernity. It sometimes seems that there's no hope beyond radical revolution.

But then I have moments like Sunday night; moments that renew my hope in the ability of Christ's followers to adapt, to think, to change...

I was graciously invited to be the guest speaker at a meeting for the parents of high school students at Blackhawk Christian school. I was impressed that a Christian school even has such a group, let alone that they invited me to speak. [Thanks, Ted; I owe you one!]

As soon as I began brain-storming topics to speak on, I quickly settled on postmodernity. But then came the real question: do I actually use the term "postmodernity" in this speech? After mentally going through my speech both ways, I opted not to use the term.

I'm glad I didn't.

By avoiding the term "postmodern", I was able to speak to this group of parents about the inner windings of their kids' minds (as much as I dare claim that ability). I was able to show them the great importance we (as postmoderns) place on community, environmentalism, multi-generationalism, etc... I was able to talk about the death of metanarrative, and the tremendous opportunity that affords us to share ideas on a level playing field.

The meeting was great. I couldn't have scripted a better response from these parents. We were able to talk in the abstract and the concrete, and I think I helped them. I know they encouraged me.

The best part? After my speech, I took questions from the group. One sweet mother reminded me of the beginning of my speech, when I spoke of the "new set of lenses" that today's younger culture sees the world through. "Do those lenses have a name?", she asked. "Postmodernity", I answered. You could see the gears turning in some of the faces. It was a great moment.

My thanks to Blair, to Ted, and to Blackhawk for making the evening possible. And for those of you that sometimes wonder if Christ's Modern followers will ever pull their heads out of the sand and seriously wrestle with the cultural implications of postmodernity, I offer this post as encouragement.

There is hope.


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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Postmodern films

If you want to see a film that bears many of the marks of postmodernity, I would encourage you to see The Invisible. We watched it last night and I found myself routinely noting the postmodern themes.

So as not to spoil it if you haven't seen it, I'll talk in only broad brush strokes...

One major theme was community. The whole notion of certain people becoming "invisible" in a culture, and the brokenness that creates. The two main characters were truly "invisible" in their own way. Cultural postmodernity's premium on community was well-represented.

Another major theme was spirituality. It's not evident at first, but trust me - it's there. As is typical of postmodernity, the spirituality was of a general sort. Science as metanarrative is rejected with the fundamental premise of the film, too - another aspect of the spirituality latent in the film.

There is much more to be said on this topic, but I'd really rather wait to see if any of you have watched the film. I'd love to hear your take if you have.


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Technical difficulties

Since I started this blog, I've had a number of comments here or there about difficulty making things look as you like. Specifically, a number of you have commented on how to make things show up in italics or bold. More recently, I was asked how to make snazzy little hyperlinks.

If you're not sure how to do these basic html codes, please read on as I try to explain them as simply as I can...

The first thing to know is that codes must be set off in brackets, specifically '<' and '>'. Your internet browser will attempt to read anything you place within those brackets (without the single quote marks, of course) as html code. So, for example:

To make things bold, you use the letter b. (Novel, I know.)

To makes things italicized, you use the letter i.

To underline things, use the letter u.

Precisely, they would look like this:

You are basically turning on the bold (or italics, or whatever) with the first letter enclosed in brackets, then turning it off by using the / with the letter. Make sense?

On most blogs, you can leave comments with these html codes. You'll notice on the comment section of my blog that you are warned that you can only use certain codes. Most blogs are this way.

On to the (only slightly) more complicated process of hyperlinking. Remember, you must enclose everything in brackets. For hyperlinks, you need the following basic format:

In this example, you would replace "" with whatever the precise address of the link is that you wish to create. You would also replace "name" with whatever you want the hyperlink itself to say.

For example, if I wanted to hyperlink to my homepage I could have it say this, or something else, or even something entirely different! (If you hold your mouse over each of these links, you'll notice they all point to my homepage.)

There are plenty of other codes, of course. But generally you can only use the ones I've noted in blog comments. If you're thinking about starting your own blog, you'd do well to google "html codes" and work your way through some of the many tutorials that people far more qualified than I have posted.

Does this help? Any specific questions?


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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Divine humor

Thanks to new reader Buttons for turning me on to this site. Consider it the Christian equivalent to The Onion. I've only just begun to poke around the site, but have found it laugh-out-loud funny thus far. One that's particularly good:


Emerging Church Explores Christology of SpongeBob Squarepants

Pastor Doug Pagitt of Solomon’s Porch slammed the yellow and brown markers onto the whiteboard tray and strutted back to the microphone. “It’s totally obvious. The world that God so loved, for whom Christ died, really is symbolized by that pineapple under the sea.”

More than five hundred leaders from the emerging church conversation gathered last weekend in Earlimart, Calif. to discuss Biblical typology found in the popular cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants.

Author and speaker Spencer Burke was emphatic in his rebuttal to Pagitt. “The proper postmodern hermeneutic, one that gives great space for the meta-narrative, leads us to conclude that the world is typified by Bikini Bottom,” Burke said. “Can’t you see that, Doug? The pineapple under the sea is a symbol of our Father’s house, where Jesus is preparing a place for us.”

Though sharp disagreements arose over which people in the Bible were represented by Squidward Tentacles and Mr. Krabs, most attendees agreed that Patrick Star is a spot-on Simon Peter.


Happy Reading,


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What is beauty?

The question has vexed humanity for generations. Ultimately, most of us come to a position characterized by "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". For most, that's good enough - I have my particular tastes in art and music, you have yours.

For others, that apparently leads down a slippery slope toward "today's anti-Christian worldview"...

That quote is taken from an article by a man I respect a great deal. Gene Edward Veith is a primary contributor to World Magazine, a publication I've been reading for years. I generally appreciate the insight Mr. Veith brings to his articles - you can tell he hasn't been striving merely to meet a deadline. But once in a while he takes his anti-postmodern thinking too far for my comfort. A recent article on the nature of beauty was just such an article.

Here's the pivotal paragraph that sets the battle ground:

Often, Christians reject the claims that truth and morality are relative while agreeing with the postmodernists that beauty is relative. But to think that beauty is nothing more than a subjective preference—unconnected to standards that originate in God Himself—is to buy into a foundational principle of today's anti-Christian worldview.

First, can we please all take a vow to stop using the phrase "buy into" in this way? It's demeaning and doesn't make for good dialogue. It's a hard habit to break (I've been working on it for years!), but worth the effort.

More to the point, the real comparison here is not "Christians" to "postmodernists", but "Moderns" to "Postmoderns". There are Christians of both persuasion, just as one would naturally expect.

Unless, that is, you believe Christianity and Postmodernity are incompatible. That, I think, is Mr. Veith's real point, and one that I wholly reject. But setting this aside for today, let's think about the substance of his contention regarding the nature of beauty.

In the very next paragraph, Mr. Veith makes a somewhat audacious claim:

The Bible tells us to set our minds on "whatever" is "excellent" and "of good report" (Philippians 4:8). Beauty does involve personal taste, but our tastes need discipline. Growing in taste means learning to take pleasure in what is objectively good.

Really? Am I seriously to believe that Paul had in mind music and the arts when he spoke to the Philippians about "excellent" and "of good report" things? The word "excellent" simply means "a virtuous course of thought, feeling or action". It was used by the ancients to describe what we today might call "manly character". Honesty, integrity, self-reliance, respect, responsibility - these are the present day American "virtues". But are they absolutes? Can we objectively define these virtues?

Take honesty, for example. "Honey, do I look fat in these jeans?" - the question no husband ever wants to hear. Depending on your cultural context, the "honest" answer will differ. What one might call honest another might call rude! So one's definition of "honesty" should make room for tact, right? What about when being "honest" causes great and unnecessary harm? What about simple cultural differences? Consider Mexico - if you ask for directions you're likely to be given them ... even tough the person you asked has no idea where you want to go! They consider it rude and socially unacceptable to leave the asker in greater stress than they found her, so they will simply give you false directions as a way of easing your immediate stress level. Wrong? Dishonest? In America, absolutely. In Mexico ... it's hard to say, since I'm not Mexican.

The point is that attempting to take an ancient word with at least a somewhat subjective meaning and force it into a Modern box of "divine objectivity" is unfair at best. There is no slippery slope here, folks. Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder, and I for one think that's the way God intended it.

The full article is worth the read, so I encourage you to do so if you haven't. But far be it from me to decide for you whether you should consider his writing beautiful or not!


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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bad news?

If you poke around missional circles very long, one of the threads that bind these folk together (and, incidentally, I consider myself very much one of them) is their understanding of "sharing the Gospel" in today's culture.

Part of the complaint has to do with the difference between Modern and Postmodern understandings of the world in which we live. For example, to the average Modern, the Four Spiritual Laws make a great deal of sense. They're very logical, to the point, and hard to misunderstand.

Postmoderns, on the other hand, find them entirely unconvincing precisely because those very positive qualities to Modern ears make them altogether impersonal to Postmodern ones.

But there's more than that going on...

One of the biggest gripes missional folk have with what is considered "traditional" expressions of the Gospel is that it seems to always start with bad news. Right off the bat, we are told that we must inform people of their status as sinners.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not denying that we are all vile sinners, thoroughly and completely depraved to our core. But why must every "presentation of the Gospel" start with this truth? Consider the following hypothetical conversation between two co-workers who are just now meeting:

Joe: Good to meet you! How long have you been with the company?

Chris: Nice to meet you, too. I've been here about a year now. By the way, is that a picture of your wife there on your desk? Dude, she's ugly!

Now let's pretend in our hypothetical situation that Joe's wife really is hideously ugly. So what? Is this any way to start a conversation with someone? Is it possible he doesn't know she's ugly? Sure. More likely, he knows but has chosen to ignore the truth.

Okay, it's a silly analogy. But I think you get the point. In "polite company" these days it's simply not acceptable to start off a topic of far more importance than the relative beauty of one's wife with such a harshness.

Consider a real example I just witnesses on the telly. Survivor started tonight, and I'll admit to being a fan. So here are these 10 perfect strangers on a beach. They've known each other not even one day, and one walks up to another and says (I kid you not):

"So, your homosexual, right? Or do you prefer 'gay'? I'm not even sure what term to use..."

This lady wasn't trying to be mean. On the contrary, she said it in the nicest possible way. But come on! Is this any way to strike up a conversation?!

Here's all I'm saying: let's not water down the Gospel by trying to deny or hide the total depravity of people. But let's be far more kind, gentle and loving in the way we approach the issue. I'm sitting here running through the examples in the life of Jesus, and I'm struggling to think of a time He "presented the Gospel" anything like we so often do today...

If you followed the so-called Friendship Evangelism methodology back in the day, you might be hearing echoes in your mind. But only to a point, please. I'm not advocating that we befriend people solely and only in an effort to be able to share the Gospel with them. If that's the whole goal of your friendship and they refuse Christ, what then? You likely abandon them and create even greater bitterness in your wake... Aren't we commanded to love like Christ loves? Doesn't He love those that He knows will never accept His sacrifice for them? Doesn't the Father send rain on the just and unjust alike?

Love people because ... just because. Let your conversations about God and Christ flow as naturally as your conversations about a hard day at the office and whether the weather is likely to change soon. And by all means, don't ever start another conversation with "so, you're a wretched and vile sinner completely separated from God ... want to hear more?"


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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl

My pick: Patriots over Giants, 38-17.

I'm posting this merely so that - on the off chance I'm right - I can prove I "called the score" before the game started. : )


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