May 26th 2011

Special Offer from Covenant Eyes

A few months ago I signed up for Covenant Eyes, what I consider the best Internet filtering system available. I signed up for three reasons:

  1. I love my marriage enough to protect it. I love my family enough to protect them. I love my church enough to protect what God has given me in them.
  2. I don’t trust myself online. I do most of my work on a laptop and a lot of work researching, reading, writing, etc online. And while I honestly don’t have a problem with pornography, I don’t ever want to have one. And I don’t trust the weakness of my sinful flesh.
  3. I, like most men, need accountability. I recently heard a sermon by Matt Chandler where he said, “What’s in the dark grows.” Covenant Eyes gives me that accountability online. A report of all my online activity is monitored by a friend of mine who is willing to confront me if something looks fishy.

I also use Covenant Eyes because I don’t want my young children stumbling onto something inappropriate. So why Covenant Eyes in particular? Well, I like it for a few reasons. First, the accountability piece I just mentioned. Secondly, it has great features that allow you to set levels for each Internet user (our kids are younger so this isn’t really an issue, but will be great when they are mature enough to use the Internet). Third, you can set time limits on Internet usage.

There are a whole range of other offers that are terrific. I’ve gotten to know and admire the wonderful folks from CE pretty well. And they have given readers of this blog a special discount. If you click on this link (or their logo on the right hand side of this blog), you can sign up for only $8.99 and get the first month free.

I highly recommend Covenant Eyes. It’s a flexible, innovative, and inexpensive way to protect your family online. Here are a few instructional videos:

May 25th 2011

Shooting the Gaps

I’m a huge sports fan, and when the Cubs or Sox are actually good, I’m a huge baseball fan. I’m not sure there is another sport where each move, each pitch, each play can carry so much significance. Especially when you get the the playoffs.

Well if you’re building a good baseball team you need a few kinds of players. Of course you need a solid pitching rotation. You need a decent, if not good, bullpen. And you need good hitters. Most fans think that you have to have big boppers–home run hitters. And you do need power. But you also need guys who can just put the ball in play and get hits. Some of the best hitters in the history of baseball have not been huge home run guys, but knew how to find a way to get on base.

The way they do this is they “shoot the gaps.” That is to say they are so skilled in their hitting, so disciplined, that they can read the defensive alignment and poke the ball thru the gaps. I’m thinking of guys like Tony Gwynn, who rarely hit a home run, but always got hits. Pete Rose was another. Ichiro Suzuki is another. What they do looks easy, but is hard to do. It’s hard to discipline your at bat and find a way to position the ball exactly where you would like it on the field.

In a way, writing is like this. To be a good writer, to build an audience and platform, you need to “shoot the gaps.” What do I mean by this?

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May 23rd 2011

Why I Still Like Paper Books

stack of books, Ballard, Seattle, Washingtonphoto © 2007 Wonderlane | more info (via: Wylio)

Not long ago I wrote a post on the importance of reading books, even in the 21st Century. I want to follow up on that by sharing why I still prefer paper books to e-books, even in the midst of the e-book revolution. Recently Amazon revealed that e-books for their Kindle reading device now outsell paperback and hardback sales of books. I also have quite  a few friends who speak of enjoying their reading experience on their Kindles and iPads. And yet, I’m one person that has resisted the revolution. That’s not to say I’ll never buy a Kindle or some other device. I may. But as of right now, I prefer paper books. Here are a few reasons why:

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May 20th 2011

Friday Five: Jared C. Wilson

 

If you’re a fan of Twitter (as I am), you’ll know that Jared C. Wilson is one of the great “follows.” He’s alternatively funny, serious, and poignant. Jared is a prolific writer, church planter, and conference speaker. He blogs regularly at his blog, The Gospel-Driven Life and at his group blog for writers, Thinklings. He’s currently the pastor of Middletown Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont as well as the author of Your Jesus is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness. Jared was kind enough to stop by for today’s Friday Five:

You’re a guy from Texas pastoring a church in Vermont. You talk often about the challenges of doing ministry in what most would describe as a less-evangelized area of the country. What’s the toughest part of about ministry in New England?

The toughest part is relearning how to bring the gospel to a field that is biblically and ecclesiologically illiterate. The Bible Belt is rapidly approaching this point, and biblical illiteracy is actually a problem throughout evangelicalism in every part of the nation, but in New England there is already a generation or two that has *no* church background or exposure to the Scriptures. We have to start from scratch very often.

Just as an example of the difference: In the Bible Belt, very often Easter and Christmas are huge attendance days. People who don’t go to church the rest of the year feel compelled to attend on these holidays. They often have some church background, went as a kid, or are even members somewhere from way back. This doesn’t really exist in many parts of New England. A few people may be more inclined to accept an invitation to church near these holidays — Christmas more than Easter — but there is no huge attendance bump. There is no nostalgia factor. So we are dealing with a real mission field, where the message is a foreign concept.

On top of that we have the added difficulty that while most people have no knowledge of the gospel or the Scriptures, they have an image of evangelicals as bigoted, intolerant, unintelligent fuddy-duddies. There is no commonly accepted cultural Christianity like in the South, for instance. So the illiteracy matched with the ideological hostility is a hurdle. But the gospel shared from a loving heart is a great jumper.

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May 18th 2011

10 Things I’m Not Looking for in a President

Primary season (that silly time when potential aspirants for President schlepp around Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina in an attempt to win their party’s nomination) is upon us. As a fairly conservative Christian, I’m anticipating the primaries. I do respect our current President and feel he’s done an admirable job on some tough issues. I also admire his dedication to his family. But I’m likely to choose a more conservative alternative, mainly because of the issues like abortion, traditional marriage, and government spending. I’m not under the illusion that a change in party will fix all the problems and I’m not pinning all my hopes and dreams on a particular movement. I also don’t think any of the candidates are “God’s candidates.” Nevertheless, I must eventually vote, so I need to start thinking about some of these things.

Around primary season, voters typically look for the candidate most in line with their values. They typically have a list of things the candidate must be in terms of issues, etc. I thought it would be interesting to post a list of things I’m not looking for. Here’s my ten:

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May 16th 2011

How to Act Like An MVP

A few years ago, one of my childhood heroes, Michael Jordan stood on a stage in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was giving a speech after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. I was expecting the usual words of acceptance, thanking parents and teachers and coaches. But instead, Michael shared a bitter rant against anyone who ever doubted his basketball ability. He was cruel and petty.

Jordan’s speech was so cringe-inducing I turned it off. But most commentators excused it because the greatest basketball player in the history of the world can, in their words, “say what he wants.” In other words, if you’re talented, it’s okay to be a jerk.

Contrast that with a press conference last week with the newest superstar on the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose. At 22 years old, he’s the youngest ever to win the MVP award. He’s got the entire world praising him for how humble, gifted, and poised he is as a team leader.

And yet when I watched him speak, he was still remarkably humble, even choking up to thank his mother who shaped him while growing up in the crime-ridden West side of Chicago. I pray Derrick Rose always stays so humble, so appreciative of his gifts.

Most of us will never reach the level of fame of Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose. But we each have a talent and if we’re not careful, we’ll adopt the worldly philosophy that says we’re entitled to treat people bad simply because we’re gifted. I like what bestelling author and popular blogger, Jon Acuff recently said about this on his blog: “Wild talent and a bad attitude eventually always loses to mild talent and a good attitude.”

Just because you’re gifted or have experienced some success, doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk. Especially if you’re a Christian. God call us to live humbly, confidently, and sacrificially. This is the heart of the Gospel, that Christ’s transformation within frees us from living for our selves.

 

May 13th 2011

Friday Five: Michael Kelley

If you’re involved with a small group, attend Sunday-School, or attend a Bible study in your area, it’s likely you are dependent on Bible study curriculum, produced by Lifeway, Group, or other evangelical organizations. Well, who write this stuff? Today, we peel back the curtain as my friend, Michael Kelley, editor of Lifeway’s adult curriculum line, stops by for today’s Friday Five:

What distinguishes Lifeway’s resources from the plethora of small-group/Bible study stuff out there?

Hopefully a few things. Lifeway has a reputation of being first and foremost biblically sound. That’s something we take very seriously and will, by God’s grace continue into the future. Threads are resources geared toward young adults and are built on a few foundational principles:

- Depth: We want depth to characterize the whole experience from the level of intimacy and sharing to the knowledge base.
Community: These Bible studies assume a discussion built around them rather than a lecture form of teaching. They are built to force personal engagement and introspection that is then shared in a group setting.
Responsibility: Young adults are, in many ways, leading the charge in the church to change the world. Issues of both evangelism and social justice are forefront in their minds and these studies assume a desire to bring the gospel to bear in the world.
Connection: We also want to encourage cross-generational ministry; connecting with people outside your specific demographic rather than each age group being a church unto themselves.

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May 11th 2011

Christians and Conspiracy Theories

Most of Americans rejoiced at the swift justice we unexpectedly witnessed on Sunday with the capture of terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.  Many gave important cautions against too much celebrating about the eternal damnation of a soul once created in God’s image.

In the days since, as with any news story, there are conflicting accounts of what happened in the raid by our brave Navy SEALS, including how involved the President was, why they buried Osama at sea, etc. And as such, there are a raft of conspiracy theories emerging. I won’t get into these here, but I think it’s a good jumping off point to discuss something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

It’s the subject of Christians and conspiracy theories. Alternate theories of history have abounded since the beginning of time, because we live in a fallen world, infected by sin, sinful leaders, and anterior motives. But it seems that the proliferation of new media, the vast reach of the Internet, and general distrust of authority has given rise to even more conspiracy theories.

Almost every day I receive an email forwarded from someone who forwards information about a political figure, religious figure, or institutions with which they disagree.

The question for us is this. How should we approach these ideas? Here are a few guidelines I’ve found helpful to me as I process stuff like this:

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