Thursday, December 22, 2011

Joseph - a better stepdad than Mike Brady

I encourage all of you to watch this video....simply because it will put all of your Christmas-y office decorations to shame.  I know my little nativity and Christmas tree are cowering in the corner. 

Special thanks to our friend Eric Dye over at ChurchMag for this little gem:

Okay now that all of you have smiled - Merry Christmas - from all of us here at the revolution (okay so it's just me - here at my desk - but let's not spoil the fun).  There has been a considerable amount of real life stuff attacking me this Christmas season.  I have often found myself distracted this year - and I have a 4 year old at home - so that is not an easy task.  But, this morning I was reminded of something while doing my daily reading:
In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.  Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. - Luke 2:1-6, Common English Bible

 I read that Scripture this morning and it was "just" the Christmas story for me at first.  But - my Alma mater  (Indiana Wesleyan University) sent out an Advent devotional this year.  When I picked it up to read December 22nd's little ditty (written by the Rev. Dr. Mark S.F. Eckart).  Did anyone else read that Mary was pregnant?  I know you did because you all just read that with me... But I don't know what I've been doing that I never noticed it before now....Joseph was a step-dad.

 All this time we have been looking at Mike Brady as the greatest step-dad in history - what about Joseph?

Joseph steps outside of social norms and takes a pregnant woman as his wife.  This guy needs a medal - he isn't just going to be taking Mary and Jesus under his roof and hauling Jesus off to baseball practice - he is also taking on ridicule, shame, and the attacks of the entire Jewish community.  But he does it anyway because God asked him to do it.  That's a courageous thing to do.  I think that God takes the courage of Joseph into account when he comes to Earth.  He has to - I believe that he knew that Joseph would step out on a limb and trust Mary and God.

This year I need that courage. 

What about you? 

Have you experienced pain this Christmas season? 

This year? 

Did someone hurt you? 

Have you lost a loved one? 

Joseph was hurt too - and yet he embraced this little infant.   The one called Immanuel (God with Us) is calling for you this Christmas season - he wants to embrace you in this coming year.  I pray you will embrace the infant Christ and the peace he brings with the courage of Joseph.

Blessings and Merry Christmas - Jerrod

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Love Redefined and the CEB

Dream realized today!  Everyone mark your calendars....I am posting my first blog for the Common English Bible (CEB).  If you have ever read this blog you know that I LOVE the CEB - it is my favorite translation and I give out copies whenever I get a chance.  If I had the money I would buy the entire Bible to give away - but I'm in ministry - so I'm broke.  So, my loyal readers, who request a CEB from me, will have to be content with the New Testament).

I started this blog for several reasons and one of them was that I often spoke with people who did not see a "love disconnect" who did not see a need to take a fresh look at love and how we abused love in our society.  Then I stumbled upon a fresh take on the ultimate book on love ever written.  The collaboration that wrote it simply calls it the Common English Bible (CEB)- I call it a ministry breaker.  To say that I am concerned or offended that it might "put me out of business" would just not be true.  I take copies of this Bible everywhere I go - when I speak or have a meeting with someone.  I immediately purchased 50 copies of the New Testament (it was only available in the NT when I started out - now it is all I can afford) in the CEB because it changed my life and I began giving them out every time I speak. It's getting expensive - but it is worth it - because many people after simply hearing what I have to say (and I quote the CEB in all of my talks) say they have never heard Scripture presented like that and suddenly they are on board with a concept that beforehand never seemed necessary.  Redefining love is not a difficult concept to grasp (check out the basic idea) but without the help of the Common English Bible it would not be possible.

I have been working on this concept for quite some time and yet there was never a Bible translation available that flowed naturally with the topic.  (Do you want a copy of the CEB?  Click here to send me an e-mail and I'll send you a NT for FREE!) A translation that flawlessly flows into natural speech is important to me because it helps me get across the concepts without "preaching" at people (and I'm a pastor so I know all about preaching) because it isn't about pounding it into their heads - it's about love.  I really feel that the CEB paints that picture perfectly - it really gets across the idea of love in a fresh and new way.

Be Blessed - jerrod  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Danger of being Passive....

As Christians we are so quick to say – I’ll pray about it and then we don’t or we are “waiting on God” to make a decision when in reality we need to act.  If I’m being honest with myself, I’d rather sit down with a cup of coffee and blog about it before actually doing something about it.

I know.

It’s horrible.  

It makes me sick to even think about it.   

But how often do we do this?  

How often would we rather spend some time in Starbucks talking about it or post a status on Facebook than actually take a stand on something?  When did it become okay to tweet your frustration instead of stepping up and making a change?  Are you feeling lethargic?  GET OUT and do something!  Matthew 28:16-20 says:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, ‘I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.’” (Common English Bible – emphasis mine)
I’m not saying that if you can’t get out of your house that you’re a failure.  

 I’m just saying put your money where your mouth is.   

Don’t complain if you aren’t willing to do something about it.   

Christ didn’t sit around a wait for people to come to him and if anyone could have done that – it would have been Jesus.   He went to where the people were.  If that means that you see a homeless person and you don’t have any money to give them – pray for them.  All I’m asking is that you be outward minded.  As a pastor I need to be more inward focused – and guess what – I should be.  That is my job to build up the Christian Community – but we need to redefine love for those around us – so that they stop thinking about themselves and get comfortable with passivity.  

So get out there – redefine love – SERVE others and make disciples.

I’m doing something I don’t normally do – I’m posting here – and putting a link on my church’s blog.  Two reasons – I want to dialog about this and I think this will give a bit more traffic to do that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #6

Oops!  I thought I posted this before I left for the weekend....guess I didn't!  Be on the lookout for my contribution to the blog tour this week!

Recently, I sent out a mass e-mail for our church via Constant Contact – an e-mail marketing company.  I tell you that to say this.  Technologically, that’s an advanced product – it allows me to communicate with the entire parish in just a few clicks.  Now that being said – it only reaches those with e-mail. 
This chapter is entitled Rebellion.  It discusses the ultimate rebel.  Cain.  He murdered is brother and ran.  However, I learned something new today – Cain’s offspring – they gave us technology.

Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and own livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor of those who play stringed and wind instruments. Zillah also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the ancestor of blacksmiths and all artisans of bronze and iron. Tubal- Cain’s sister was Naamah.  – Genesis 4:20-22, Common English Bible (emphasis mine)

Dyer states:

“Cain’s offspring – those born in the anti-garden at the center of human-kind’s rejection of God – developed (1) animal husbandry, (2) art and music, and (3) metal tools.  Incredibly these three areas – agriculture, art, and technology – broadly summarize human culture.  Even today, these three categories apply to how our society operates” (pg 79).

Whoa.  I’ll tell you…I don’t see technology here.  All I’m viewing is the grace of God.  From the advent of animal skin clothing (you can read this chapter here) to the invention of technology – God is providing grace in the midst of punishment. 

While technology is an awesome thing, Dyer points out that technology is the “…means by which humans attempt to create a world without God” (pg 80). 

This chapter gave me a lot to think about – so much I haven’t processed it all yet.  I’m pretty busy this week getting ready for a youth retreat – so I’m going to end it here – but I want to leave you with one last quote:

“Today we, too, can create, helpful, productive, and even redemptive technology, but if we don’t offer and use it in faith, it is worthless” (pg 75).

Be sure to check out the post by Andy Darnell on ChurchMag.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #5

Right now I am sitting in Nashville, TN in someone’s upper room (literally – we don’t really do hotels…we much more prefer the cheaper route aka a bed and breakfast) preparing for the American Association of Christian Counselors world conference taking place the remainder of this week.  I’m sitting on a bed connected to free wireless the only thing that could make this better would be a good cup of coffee…

This is a great thing for several reasons.  One, I’m a country music buff…I LOVE this stuff.  Especially the old Nashville types, Johnny Cash is my favorite…I got to go to the Ryman Auditorium today…VERY COOL.  Johnny Cash, June Carter, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley transformed music from hillbilly music and bluegrass to rock and roll.  All of that began here in Nashville.  Two, because of the awesomeness of technology I'm still able to share this blog post with you guys even though I'm not at home.

Some of you might be thinking that I’m just sharing just so I can say I’m in Nashville and you would be right – but I’m not – well I am, but I’m not just doing that.  In the book John starts out by discussing the jumbled mess that is the definition of technology.  Our word technology comes from two Greek words téchnē which means “craft, skill or art” and logia “which refers to the systematic study of a subject.”  So, according to the ancient Greeks music is technology.  The distinction between fine arts and technology didn’t happen until the 1600’s.  But in 1650, everything changed.  A little thing called The Industrial Revolution.  Then it wasn’t long until technology exploded and a better definition was needed.

“To help comprehend the enormous complexity of technology today, philosopher Stephen J. Kline has broken it down into four discernable layers” (pg 60).


Technology as Hardware

This is the most basic tech.  We are talking hardware type things shovels, clocks, guns, belts, and cans of Pepsi Max.  “…any physical object that does not occur naturally in our world counts as technological hardware” (pg 60).

Technology as Manufacturing

This layer of tech pans out and distinguishes between hardware and the tools and machines that make that hardware.  “This includes everything from the people running the machines to the electrical grid powering the plant to the legislation that regulates the industry” (pg 61).  This layer holds considerable significance because it did not exist before The Industrial Revolution.

Technology as Methodology

This is actually “…the knowledge and know-how necessary for making technological products” (pg 62).  This includes the “IT guy” (in my church this is also known as ‘the associate’ but I like to call him, me).  One theologian even exposes our need for technology.  We apply technological thinking to everything that we do!  “For example, when we apply La Technique (technological thinking) to the Great Commission to ‘make disciples,’ the result is often the creation of a ‘discipleship program’” (pg 63).  Then, we Christian Educators (again, this is me) and church staff try and “push” our members through these programs.  That way, when they come out the other side they will be “disciples.”  Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way because, as John points out, we can’t treat the human soul like a machine.

Technology as Social Usage

This final layer is how we use technology.  The customs and social rules around how we treat tech, the example that John uses is the social media program Twitter.  Originally Twitter was intended for a way to send mass text messages.  But, Twitter users (I’m one of them!  Follow me here) started using Twitter in a way that the designers did not expect.  Users began using Twitter less with text messaging and more time was spent on the actual site and via third party programs.  Twitter was also being used more for two way conversation instead of mass communication.  “…technology can also shape entire cultures, and in turn be shaped by those cultures” (pg 65).

John Dyer then takes all of these various layers for technology and condenses it into a working definition.  
 “…‘the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practice purposes’” (pg 68).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #4

It’s interesting….that while this book is about technology…I don’t find myself reminiscing on tech that much after reading it. 
This chapter is called Reflection (you can unlock it here).  I have affection for several things; one of those things is church ritual.  I LOVE liturgy – I own several books on liturgical services – simply to have them to study and learn.  In this chapter John talks a lot about culture.  

As an example, I live in Westfield, IN.  Westfield was founded by Quakers.  The anti-slavery sentiment ran high in Westfield and it attributed to the vast number of churches in the area and thus, a high religious atmosphere.  There are stories of the Methodist women (from the church I currently serve – you can see our church history here) storming a local bar and burning it to the ground. 

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, is known for The Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  The Quadrilateral explains how we can know God.  One of the ways is tradition – how we’ve always done it – looking back over history shows us how we can know God.  The same can be said of culture, however as John points out:

“We don’t live in the Garden of Eden, and the things, images, and rituals of today’s cultures and subcultures don’t always reflect the values of our Creator.  The wickedness of much of today’s culture has led some to believe that culture is synonymous with worldliness.  Therefore it’s hard to believe that culture and technology actually existed in the garden” (pg 50).  

John shows that the first tools developed in Eden.  Adam created language and it changed things. Just last week, it was great to watch my son mull over, ponder, and finally categorize “the spinny zoo” (aka a merry-go-round).  Language was a tool for Adam – it shaped his culture.  It changed the lives of Eve and their children (pg 51).  

“Language is not only purposed for the transfer of information.  Another aspect of language that makes it more tool-like is that we actually use language to accomplish something” (pg 53). 

We do many things with language that cause change. God spoke the world into being – his tool to shape the world.

 “God designed the world in such a way to be cultivated and shaped by humanity, and when we create we are operating as God’s image bearers” (pg 54).

Check out this week's post on ChurchMag by Greg Deitz.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #3

“Technology, then, is the means by which we transform the world as it is into the world we desire.  What we often fail to notice is that it is not only the world that gets transformed by technology. We, too, are transformed….Indeed as John Culkin, a student of Marshall McLuhan, wrote, ‘We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us’” (pp. 35-36).

John opens this chapter with a discussion on imagination, in fact, that’s the title of this chapter.  He goes on to make an earth shattering statement that, while a truth that many people know, it needs to be said.  Essentially he states:  Most adults don’t have an imagination.  Some of adults really have no imagination to speak of; while others are ridiculously imaginative.   

I’m reminded of my son (well he’s my wife’s son too, but this is my blog and you guys don’t know my wife) whose imagination allows him to be a shark swimming in the sea one minute and a cat looking for a ball of string the next.  I too have an active imagination, but it differs from my son’s – I often see what could be…I see the world with a few new holes – just because someone tweeted about using a shovel (Confused?  You can read the Imagination chapter and get a better understanding of what I’m talking about).

Dyer goes in to much more detail and discusses the transforming power of technology and does a wonderful job in this chapter but I want to stay right here – because this concept speaks volumes about what this blog is all about.

I hope you read this chapter…if you haven’t click here….go ahead, I’ll wait. 
Did you read it?

Okay awesome….now that you’ve read it you should go and buy it (you can do that here).

I hope you bought it….if you didn’t and you REALLY want a copy…click on the Contact Me button on the left hand side of your screen and shoot me a quick message – and I will see what I can do for you.

The illustration of a shovel and the tool’s ability to transform not only the ground but also the worker – is what I want to discuss.

Love has that ability too.  Love transforms both “the lover” (the person who is “doing” the loving) and “the lovee” (the person who is being loved on).  See, when we redefine love (here’s the idea behind redefining love) from our own self-love to, what I’ll call, “other love” we start to see change.  You will begin to notice a difference in your own life and in the lives of those around you.  Thanks for that little indulgence – back to the book.

Then John goes Keanu Reeves on us…that’s right I’m talking about post-humanism.

“Our ultimate destiny, the post-humanists contend, is to transcend our weak biological bodies and be born again into eternal machines” (p 41).  
 Did anybody else see the Matrix?  If not, I would suggest you go to your local library and pick it up right now!  The central idea is that machines take over the world and enslave humans….blah, blah, blah….long story very short (spoiler alert…if you haven’t seen this movie don’t read these next few words) Neo (aka Keanu Reeves) is Jesus.  

 But it’s the back story of The Matrix that I am most interested in.  Humans create machines to do their work…eventually the machines start to wonder why they have to take orders from us….the next thing you know….apocalypse.

You might be looking at that going – that’s not what he’s talking about!  Let me try to explain.  Humans made an attempt to “better their lives” with technology – in essence technology to save them – only to realize that technology is/was not the answer to their salvation.

So does technology save us?  No.  

Does that mean that Christians should ignore it?  

Demonize it?  

Sell their house and move under a rock?  

 “If it is true that technology has the capacity to shape the world that God made, as well as shape our bodies, minds, and souls, then it seems we should care deeply about our tools.  Moreover, if technology plays some role in the story of God redeeming his people, we should care all the more” (p 42).

Check out this post on ChurchMag by Wes Allen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 - Ten Years Later....

My dad was a deputy sheriff for 27 years.  Law enforcement holds a special place in my heart - and it always will.  However, on this day 10 years ago, the danger of that profession came into focus.  I'm sure that you won't forget where you were on that Tuesday morning.  I remember watching in horror from the sales floor at my Central Illinois Staples store.

As night settled on that day it became apparent that life would never be the same.  In 2003 I had the opportunity to go to the WTC site.  What struck me the most was the silence.  Having been all over the city and being from a farm town, it was very loud.  Then suddenly from the moment that I stepped off the subway it was quiet. The symbol that was embedded in my mind and always will be this cross.

It's a symbol of peace in the midst of chaos.  It now stands at the 9/11 Memorial.  A conflict to say the least.  However, here it stands at the memorial unveiling:

Never matter your stance on the war - the memory of those who died need to be remembered.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #2

What the what?!  Wow.  I’d love to end my post here, but then it wouldn’t be much of a post, would it? 
In Chapter 1, John relates a ministry story involving a projector and Bible study.  Then he steps it up a notch and starts questioning long held “traditions” in Christian Education.  Now, because this is my field of expertise I was a little on edge, I was ready to jump all over him for stepping on my toes. 
“But, but, but…..but…..we’ve always done it this way!”  That little voice in my head is screaming.
The printed Bible…that’s what I was all up in arms about.  John says that his students didn’t bring their Bibles to youth group but instead were content to simply read it from the screen.   It concerned him at first…but then he realized that before the advent of the printing press people didn’t have their own Bibles they listened to the Word.  Nevertheless, I’m still all in an uproar.  Then, Dyer rocked me to my core with this statement: 

“While God’s words are eternal and unchanging, the tools we use to access those words do change, and those changes in technology also bring subtle changes to the practice of worship” (pg 25).
“It was different.”
That was the response from a recent visitor when asked what they thought of our worship service.
“I like to hold a hymnal.”
That story hit home today.  I was being just like that visitor – I was complaining because I thought it was “sacrilegious” that John was suggesting that we should be okay with students not bringing their Bibles to youth group.  Of my attitude, Dyer says this:
“Rather than taking our cues about technology from the Scriptures and the outline of God’s plan for humanity, we seem to be locked in a cycle of questioning the really, really new but accepting the just barely old.  We question the young for the blind acceptance of the latest gadgets, but we do so driving our computerized cars to and from church sipping on coffee grown on another continent” (pg 28).
Again – wow!  What a statement.  Dyer concludes with pointing out the progression of the Bible, and thus the title of the book. 
“At one end of this story is a pristine garden prepared by God for humankind to develop and transform.  At the other end is a glorious, heavenly city full of human creations, art, and technology.  At the center is our Savior Jesus Christ crucified on a cross, the most horrific of all technological distortions, built by transforming a tree from the natural world into a tool of death.  Yet in his resurrection, Christ redeemed even that tool, transforming it into the symbol of our faith that eternally portrays his power over death and sin” (pg 29).
To which, I must respond….
What the what.