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Friday, November 30, 2007

Credit Cards = Snakes. . .

I finally believe Dave Ramsey about credit cards and as of today, the Staifer Family are done with credit cards officially. I use to think that as long as you pay them off every month, they are fine. That was until looked at my statement closely today and notice "payment protector - 1.05". I then proceeded to notice this same charge dating back to FEBRUARY that amounted to 1% of my balance. I know I never signed up for it but yet it was there. While this only amounted to something like 40 dollars over the course of that time, I did earn $50 in "free" Amazon.com gift cards so at least I got a couple books for my stupid tax.

I know this is weird. If I have the money, I might as well pay it off. It's one less thing I have to worry about. I'm not going to cancel it until I get my second amazon gift card (after all I did "pay for it). Oh wait, it's going to impact my FICO score some might say. So what! Eat your heart out Chase. You are never getting our money again!

If you think I'm an idiot, watch the movie Maxed Out and see what the credit card industry is doing to the U.S. It is destroying families and lives.

Credit sucks and I've drunk the Kool-aid. . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stopping to smell the roses. . .

Today I decided to walk from my apartment to the Church. It's a little over 2 miles and it took me like an hour (rather than the 5 minutes by car) to do. I amazed me how nice it was just to slow down. I was able to see some really nice houses and landscaping. I also able to see how hilly it was or how many leaves are on the ground. It was refreshing and calming. It was neat to see God in the leaves all around. I also walked from the church to the bank and noticed some great places along the way to maybe just go and relax. I also noticed some crummy-looking houses that I never saw before.

How many times in life do we simply go to fast and speed right by things. Things that are beautiful. Things that are cool. Things that are beneficial. We go too fast to really see the things are God and even miss the problems in are life.

How good are you at slowing down to see God?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gay and Lesbian Bible

There is now a Bible that is devoted specifically to defending Gay and Lesbian lifestyle. For their website:
When the Bible was first translated from the original languages into English in 1537, the knowledge of Greek word meaning was quite limited. There was no real advance until the early 1900s, but the significant advances in Greek word meaning came after 1976. The meaning of numerous words which appeared in the New Testament then became known for the first time. This information was published in scholarly academic secular journals but has not yet made its way significantly into lexicons (dictionaries). The major documentary lexicon project on New Testament words is many years from completion. Bible translators have had to rely on outdated lexicons for their word meanings. In 2005, The Source New Testament (TSNT) was published. It was by Classical Greek scholar and lexicographer Dr A. Nyland, whose research field is word meaning from New Testament times. Now, in 2007, Dr Nyland has produced Study Notes along with TSNT for Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender people.
Here is what bugs me about this (CAUTION: Geek stuff ahead). The goal of Biblical interpretation is to determine the context and the thoughts of the author 2000 years ago to an audience that is also 2000 years ago in order to see what principles transcend the time and place. The debate over biblical text is almost always over how much is the culture of this day impacting the words of Paul (see debate of Women in ministry). When we approach the text, we want to put ourselves in the shoes of the writer and the audience because we are simply eavesdropping on one side of the conversation some 2000 years later. This is called exegesis in the Biblical studies world.

What is being done here is something called eisegesis. The interpretor of today is seeing the text through his eyes and bases all conclusions based off of today's values. This Bible is written with a ax to grind so every problem text will be looked at in light of Homosexuality as being legit.

When the New Testament was written, the focus was not on whether a dude could be with a dude. It was on Christ. Everything was focused on Christ. Paul (and Jesus for that matter) calls the Christ the bridegroom and the Church the bride. Throughout the OT, marriage is used to describe the relationship between God and Mankind where God is addressed as the "man" and mankind as "the woman". God get angry then when his people "whore" themselves out to other idols (see Hosea and Ezekiel 23). So, we can see that marriage between two different monogamous beings (either sexual or spiritual) is exalted as the ideal and the holiest form. All other representations are sin.

I applaud these people for attempting to bridge the gap and become a "grace wholesaler" to these people. We need to stop seeing homosexuality as any different from the cohabitors, the cheaters, and the porn crazies. All are sexual sins that need Jesus no different than the gossiper, the liar, and legalist. The only difference is a different idol to worship. However, the minute we attempt to justify our idol through scripture we get in trouble. We are coming to he hoping to find an answer, and guess what, we find the answer we are looking for.

Trust me, as a new Christian, I tried to justify every one of my sins as I read the Bible. If I didn't want to hear the answer, I would come away thinking about some way how the text I read was for someone else or some way it did NOT apply to me. It upset my idol and I refused to listen.

We need to approach the text with this Question: What does God want to tell me here about himself or Jesus? Not how can I justify my actions.

So which are you doing more of as you approach the Bible: reading about God or reading what we want God to be about?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"You know. . ."

This last Sunday I got the privilege to "preach" at Capital City. For the most part, it went well. I had a good time doing it. Then the day after comes. . .

I usually teach every week but I don't get a chance to listen to myself. Since the sermon gets recorded, I can listen to it in all of its glory (you can listen to it too at the website). Man, is it tough to listen to yourself! My Oma has told before that I say "you know" a lot and my wife makes fun of me for it but then I actually heard it for myself. I couldn't believe it. I said it A LOT! I guess if you have ever had a conversation with me I'm sure that you have picked up on that before so this is not anything new. Now, I finally had the OMG moment that should motivate me to change.

I firmly believe that many of us rarely are open to honestly looking at what we do and how we act. Others may see things clearly but until we actually see it for ourselves, we will never change. Solomon is right when he writes:

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. ~Ecc 5:18-20

Because things are going well, we "seldom" look at our lives. Why should we reflect and look at our lives? Look at the Book of proverbs for a few:
  • There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. ~ Proverbs 14:12
  • The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. ~ Proverbs 12:15
  • Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance. ~ Proverbs 20:18
  • When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall. ~Proverbs 29:16
I'm already noticing my faults the more that I listen to people. I'm going to look to Jesus to help with this part of my soul. My heart needs changed not my words. My heart needs to be clarified, confident and unhurried. When that happens, the nervous "You know" habit will disappear.
  • As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man. ~Proverbs 27:19
  • Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. ~Proverbs 4:23
  • The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." It's not about not doing something. It is about filling the something with something else. I need to submit my mouth to Christ more. ~Luke 6:45
What is it in your life that you have refused to look at because you are afraid of what you see? What do others see in you that you have ignored for far too long?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oprah's favorite things. . .

I was flipping through channels yesterday and stumbled upon Oprah's favorite things episode where she talks about a bunch of things that average people cannot buy unless they have their own T.V. show and magazine at their disposal (like Oprah). She gives everyone in the audience these items then which makes all of the women in the audience revert back to their Middle School days.

It made me want to vomit at some of the things that she was trying to pimp (yes, in many ways I see Oprah as a pimp to the middle American woman of the self-love gospel so I am using that word correctly). While I wasn't surprise to see a O's guide to life as an item on her list (since Oprah actual favorite thing is herself), I had to ask myself does anyone really need the following:

    Oprah's giving the most expensive gift in Oprah's Favorite Things history to her loyal viewers in Macon—LG HDTV Refrigerator LSC27991. It's a top-of-the-line, high-tech entertainment center with a LCD TV, DVD hookup, radio and slideshow option to display your favorite digital photos.

    With the press of a button, you can also access your five-day weather forecast and view more than 100 built-in recipes. LG has even volunteered to remove our lucky audience members' old fridges and either recycle them or give them to families in need. "LG has literally thought of everything!" Oprah says.

    Approximate value: $3,799 (here is a link to the rest of the list)

Now, I know it would be nice to have all of this but does someone actually need it. We may want it but do we need it. I saw a post recently but a guy named Joe Sangl who talked about wants versus needs. He might be a little too dogmatic but I like generally like he says.

We all get to a point where we are fed up and sacrifice one thing in favor of another or a higher cause. No matter what we all need to ask ourselves these two questions:
  1. What are the things we truly need or I will literally die (think food, shelter, etc.)?
  2. What are things I only want and don't actually "need"?
This type of thinking can also be attributed to actions as well. People say that we "need" sex but I did live for 25 years without it. A good rule of thumb is if an infant (or child) does not need to keep breathing, then perhaps we don't need it either. I'm not saying that we should be poor hobos living in a van down by the river but I think all of us are living like kings and never stop to ask are the things I truly need to get through the day. If you actually buy one of Oprah's favorite things, that might be a good sign.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Kitchen Nightmare = Church Nightmare?



It amazes me how similar restaurants and churches are at its core: the service of food. I'm sure everyone in some form or another have heard that Jesus has called himself the bread of life. Bread is a food. The church is suppose to be a dispenser of Jesus and make people hungry and thirsty for him. David has compared his search for God in the same way.

In the day of Jesus, restaurants as we know it were not around. They would make things from nothing or buy the ingredients at a market and make meals themselves. They would not go somewhere and be waited on hand and foot like at today's restaurant. So restaurants today survive by making people hungry for the food they serve.

Kitchen Nightmares is a Wednesday night show on Fox that turns around restaurants that for some reason or another have no longer been able to make people hungry for their product and they are close to shutting down. Star British chief, Gordon Ramsey, comes in to try and help these hapless dinning establishments around. It makes for some good entertainment. Here are some of the common problems in no particular order (see if they sound familiar):
  1. Poor Leadership - The leader(s) is either weak, indecisive, delusional with ideas of making it big, reluctant to remove failing parts, or all of these above. All of the employees are running around like chickens with their head cut off. They no idea what to do or are doing what ever they want.
  2. Lack of focus - They have too many choices in the menu or they are just plain confusing. They opened a restaurant but have no idea what makes them different from other places.
  3. Conflict - Everyone is out for themselves and are constantly looking out for number 1, not the restaurant.
  4. Poor Decor - The place is dirty or too old that it makes the 1950's look new. Bugs everywhere. Nasty smells. Corners cut. Lack of attention to detail and what new people see as they enter.
  5. Poor Product - This is the big one because the food is the major product of a restaurant. The food is usually frozen or prepackaged. The cooks have lost all passion and cut corners. They serve substandard food and think nothing is wrong. The people that work there are use to it but their expectations have been lowered over time.
Gordon comes in and diagnoses the problems and starts to work with the management to correct their bad habits. The first thing he has to do is convince the people that there is problem and change has to take place. It amazes me how many times the management refuses to listen to Gordon. They fight him. He changes the menu and they complain. He gets them to see there's a problem and Gordon then brings in his design team to fix things up. The staff then always gets excited and sees that a change can happen. The dinner service is hard but people see hope and things start to turn around.

Many churches suffer from the same problems listed above. The minister/preacher (the cook) have lost passion and are giving prepackaged "meals" to their congregations. The "restaurant" is not inviting and old looking. The "team members" are only out for themselves.

At C4, we are going in the right direction but our facilities are limiting the excitement of everyone, both new and old. This weekend is a big weekend for our church as this is pledge weekend for our Unleashed Campaign to improve ministry effectiveness. I'm excited by the steps we the leaders have taken already and I can't wait to see how the rest of our team responses on Sunday. I can feel God is about to do a big thing here at C4 and it rests a lot on this weekend.

FYI - Episodes of the show are free on FOX.com to watch. Feel free to watch and see for yourself. Caution: Language can be a little strong since the guy is British.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"It's a miracle!"

Who knew you could get some outstanding theological insight from ESPN. Columnist Gregg Easterbrook wrote the following:

"TMQ has long objected to athletes and sports announcers calling exciting outcomes a 'miracle.' First, a miracle is an event that contravenes physical law -- I have never seen anything in sports that contravenes physical law, and neither have you. Second, to describe a sports outcome as a 'miracle' is to suggest that God will not intervene on Earth to stop human suffering in Africa or the Middle East, but does intervene to determine the outcome of football games. Third, if you call a good outcome a miracle, what do you call a bad outcome? Earlier this season, when Jon Kitna returned to a game from a concussion to lead Detroit to a close victory, he said afterward, 'It was a miracle.' This Sunday, Kitna threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles as the Lions got pounded. What was that, divine retribution for Kitna's sins?"

This illustration is great because I know I get caught thinking after I do something good, that it was all God, and after the bad, that it was all me. I know God doesn't make me sin. But does God deserve all the credit for all of my good? Ultimately, yes but we do have a some stake in the matter and the process. Genesis 1:26-27 talks about us being created in the image of God to have dominion over the earth. We do get to have some of the credit because God has left us to make some decisions on this earth and stand for him as his agent/ambassador. We have to make the choice to say we are choosing to honor God and not ourselves. Likewise, some of our bad days do come from God as a way to "correcting" the stupidity God sees us do. So to the thought that all bad things that happen are our fault is incomplete.

So yes he should get the credit for our motives and some of the blame but bigger question is this: in the all things we say, do, or think about, is God being given credit for making me and this world? Am I honoring his name and his image? Am I thankful for everything, the good and the bad? Are you lost in the mystery of this?

Note: I probably didn't do this topic justice but it is always good to wrestle with.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who knew using a GPS could be so fun. . .

So I tried a new hobby this weekend: Geocaching. A friend of ours, Chris, was down for the weekend and he is into this advanced form of hide and seek using a GPS to hunt down little film containers hidden somewhere. Chances are you have walked past "caches" and don't even know it. I found five with Chris. We should have found two more if we had more time last Sunday. All of it is based off of GPS coordinates you get from the website and then you look for it. There was one that was simply a hollowed out bolt screwed into a transformer with a log in it that you sign to say "you found it". If you didn't have the clues or a GPS, you wouldn't even suspect any thing was there.

It got me thinking about how many times I go through the day and "think" past God or walk past something that God is hidden. I see something awesome and think nothing of it. I then read the Bible and I realize what I have been walking past everyday. Those of us that have the divine "GPS" known as the Bible, we can find hidden treasures in life. There are a lot of people searching for something but have no idea where to look. Chris was showing Lori and I the ropes and what to look for. It was fun.

I believe the Bible is more like a GPS system than an other form of direction. People say a lot that the Bible is a roadmap but that is too concrete. If I don't know where I am on a map, how helpful can it be? A map can tell us where things are but can't tell us how to get there. It has no way of interacting with us to tell us if we are going the right way or even if we have started in the right place. A GPS is constantly updating and telling its user how far off target the user is. It helps us zero in on truth and shows us how far we are from what we are looking for.

So, do you see the Bible as a roadmap or a GPS? Do you know where you are and how far you are from the "hidden" goal? Are you just walking by truth and don't even realize it?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hunters and Fishers

"But now I will send for many fishermen," declares the LORD, "and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks." ~ Jeremiah 16:16

I read this the other day in the book of Jeremiah and I was surprised. I've always heard from Preachers and religious people that we are "Fishers of Men" in this world. When I hear that, I think of the times that I have been fishing: BORING and A LOT of waiting for something that might happen. In church, we do this a lot. If were have a good thing (bait), people will come. That might be nice but when I was unchurched, you could have been giving away 3 million dollars and I wouldn't have stepped into a church.

But then God calls others to be hunters and seek out people. I've hunted before. Maybe not for an animal but for clothes or information. I have such a better time but I feel more effective. I'm at least doing something and trying to bring people back to God when I'm hunting them out. This was how I was won over by Christ. People sought me out.

So which are you more prone to be: a fisher or a hunter?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Watch This and Become Distrubed. . .

Back in early October, I got to go to Catalyst in Atlanta were I got to see one of my distant mentors, Craig Groeschel, whom I've mentioned before on this blog, speak on how he lives practically as an atheist on most days. It kicked my butt. Well, he gave the same talk at another conference in June called the Buzz Conference at National Community Church in Washington DC. The Buzz Conference placed the sessions online to watch including the Practical Atheist Message. You can watch it here. Everyone should listen to this because this WILL kick your butt.

My name is Dan and often I live like God does not exist. Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"The Office" Romace



It has been just this season that I (an avid T.V. watcher) have got into the cultural tour-de-force known as the Office on NBC. I have had the ability to catch up on the last few seasons (thanks to Blockbuster direct). I love the show. Steve Carell is a comic genius as Micheal Scott and they really do a great job at bringing Office Space to the small scene.

My favorite part has been watching Jim and Pam mess with Dwight K. Schrute. Their common cause to stave off boredom at work helped bring them together. In the second season, Jim dug Pam's chili though Pam was engaged. In the third season, Jim was dating another woman and through her aside for Pam. This season, they are together. We all cheer as they are now together. The show makes it hard not to root for Love to prevail.

I love the show but I have to say something about the dangers of letting people get too close when you are married. In a day and age where people are spending more and more away from their families at work, office relationships are and will happen a lot more. It starts off innocently because you're just trying to have a good day at work and be nice. After a while when things get rough (like when Pam's engagement was going too long), they confide in one another. They then start enjoying life together (like sneaking off to the roof to get away). While Jim does the right thing at the end of season two by moving to Conn. and letting Pam go, but then season three comes along and they are both pining for one another. Yet Jim falls for another Co-worker and Pam is stuck wondering and waiting. This makes for a very awkward situation.

While Pam wasn't married, this happens to marriages all of the time both in the church and in the business world. So watch out. The question is what boundaries have you established to prevent this from happening? While you think about it, I'm going to start a Finer Things Club so let me know if you are interested.