LOST Season 4 Finale

Well, Thursday night the whole fam gathered around the boob tube in anticipation of the Season 4 finale of LOST. It was so great. We saw 6 of the castaways get off the island and get rescued, the island actually moved to a different location, a few deaths, and a lot more.

Best line of the episode:
Locke: Why did you do that? You just killed everyone on the freighter!
Ben: (coldly) So?

There are two more season left of this show and tons of questions left unanswered. The thing that makes this show so great is that it constantly plays this game of give and take with the viewer. For every mystery it answers, it reveals an even bigger mystery. You're constantly left with this feeling of "Oh, now I know" and at the same time "What the crap does that mean?" It's story-telling at its best!


The Real American Idol

I'm about half-way through a great book called Jesus For President by Shane Claiborne. I'll post more about it after I've finished it. It's one of those truly rare thought-provoking, personally-stretching books.

In one section on whether or not the USA is a Christian nation he prints the following quotes by politicians I'm sure you've heard of:

"There's power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people." (President Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address) Putting "America" in where the old gospel hymn places "the blood of the Lamb" is not only idolatry, it also just doesn't have the same ring to it; try singing it on Sunday morning. (Claiborne's commentary, not mine.)

"The ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. ... That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (George W. Bush, Ellis Island, 2002)

And the recent words of Barack Obama on The Late Show with David Letterman (April 9, 2007): "This country is still the last best hope on earth."

Reading these quotes and dozens more like them just got me to thinking about how closely we associate patriotism with religion. I think the lines are so blurred that often we're blind to it. If you're like me, you hear patriotic, political statements like the ones above and at first you don't think anything about it. You even agree and swell with pride. It takes modern-day prophets to point out the error of such statements and the error of our own way of thinking to wake us up. Such prophets are difficult to hear, but necessary to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting that patriotism is a sin. I'm as patriotic as the next guy. I love this country and consider us blessed to have the freedoms we have. In fact, this last Sunday I played a short video to recognize our soldiers and highlight Memorial Day. The intent was only to remind the church to be thankful for God's blessings in our lives. Not to suggest that the USA is "God's chosen country" or to make any comment on the war or anything - simply a reminder to not take for granted God's blessings. But when we make or agree with statements like the ones above, it crosses the line. It turns "American ideals" into an idol. We have but one Savior, one hope, one power, one light - his name is Jesus.


The One I Couldn't Shake - 5/29

Psalm 67:3 (MSG)
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.

I spend a decent amount of time thanking God. I wonder how much time I spend enjoying God?


The One I Couldn't Shake - 5/28

Psalm 50:8-9, 14-15 (MSG)
"I don't find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?...
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you're in trouble --
I'll help you, and you'll honor me."

I hope my worship is God-centered and meaningful. Am I worshipping God by keeping my promises, or am I dishing out a plate full of "blue-ribbon bull"?

Lord, Save Us (From Your Followers)

Jamie and I were in a bookstore several days ago and saw a DVD of a new documentary called Lord, Save Us (From Your Followers). I was drawn to the clever title and thought I'd like to check it out some time. I haven't seen it yet, but it's definitely on my to-do list. I found this 10-minute sampler on YouTube and it looks great. From what I can tell it's a very well-balanced look at Christians in America and how they're perceived by the public.


The One I Couldn't Shake - 5/27

Nothing to add to this - it stands well on its own.

Psalms 36:5-6 (MSG)
God's love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.


The One I Couldn't Shake - 5/26

1 Chronicles 17:1-6 (ESV)
Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, "Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent." And Nathan said to David, "Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you."
But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'"

I love the fact that we serve a God-on-the-move! He doesn't need a fancy house, a tent is more to his liking. When we want to build monuments, he prefers to build momentum.

The Courage of a Kid

Yesterday's sermon was about dealing with the difficult people in your life. Here are the main points that we learned from Acts 5:12-42.
  • People are difficult for one of two reasons - their selfishness or your selfishness.
  • Ministry happens in the interruptions of life.

and when you're under attack, remember:

  • God is in control.
  • your enemy is ruled by fear.
  • faithfulness always defeats fear.

I saw this video of a 13-yr-old contestant on Britain's Got Talent last night. What a great lesson in dealing with difficult people!


Memorial Day

Memorial Day is one of my favorite holidays. It's a day that we set aside to reflect on those who gave the supreme sacrifice to maintain our American freedoms. Unfortunately, this holiday has morphed into a celebration of the beginning of summer and for most is nothing more than a long weekend and time set aside for recreation with family and friends. I'm not saying it shouldn't be those things, but I would encourage everyone to spend some time in reflection on the true meaning of Memorial Day. One of my favorite ways to do this is watching the National Memorial Day Concert every year on PBS. It always makes me so thankful for this nation that God has blessed us to live in.

Memorial Day has changed in meaning for me over the years. As a kid in the 70's & 80's, Memorial Day meant spending time gathered with family and neighbors at the local cemetery. "Decoration Sunday", as we called it, was something I always looked forward to as a kid. In Scipio, OK where my grandparents lived, the entire community would gather (about 50-100 people in all) at the Hugh Low Cemetery. Most churches would dismiss and combine services at the cemetery for an "all day singing and dinner on the grounds". Everyone would bring and share food. It was always a huge spread! To be honest, a more accurate description would be "all day eating and singing on the grounds." The cemetery had a pavilion where there would be plenty of southern gospel singing and people shouting out requests for their favorite hymns. Usually Grandpa Myers would give a sermon and there might even be a "testimony service" where people would stand and share how God had blessed them and give public thanks for his guidance and protection over their lives.

For all the kids present, we were much more interested in the cemetery itself. It's not often a kid gets a legal excuse to roam a cemetery. It was a treasure hunt of sorts. Headstones are fascinating objects to kids. Finding one around 100 years old was something worth bragging about. Hugh Low even had an Indian (Native American) grave which consisted of a pile of stones above ground. That was the stuff of fairy tales to us.

It was called Decoration Sunday for a reason. What normally looked like a dismal piece of property transformed into color and activity. Every stone had flowers and many had flags in front of them. I remember much care was taken in making sure the Myers' plots were presentable and decorated. There was something sad and almost shameful about a neglected headstone.

Memorial Day took on a completely different feeling for me while I was in the Army. I was stationed in Washington DC for 3 years. DC is a great place to be for Memorial Day. The National Mall is buzzing with activity. If you ever get to walk along the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Memorial Day, you'll never forget it. The sight of thousands of letters, mementos, and make-shift memorials left at the wall will bring tears to the toughest of men.

My favorite part of Memorial Day was that my unit, the 3d US Infantry - The Old Guard, was responsible for placing a flag in front of every single headstone in Arlington Cemetery. We would start around 4 or 5 a.m. and work at it for several hours. Placing our toe against the stone and putting the flag in the ground at the end of the heal of our boots. Once you started a row, you had to finish it by yourself so that every flag in that row would be exactly the same distance from the stones. I remember as I placed the flags I would read the names. The concept of "supreme sacrifice" became very real to me during the three times I had the honor of decorating Arlington.

Thank God for those who gave "the last full measure"!

Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I went with the fam to see the new Indy movie yesterday. I enjoyed it. It wasn't perfect, but I really liked it. The sets and action sequences were phenomenal. I didn't feel like the CGI elements were overdone. However, I wasn't crazy about the whole paranormal, "Indy meets the X-Files" side of it. It was just a bit much. Although the scene with the big flesh-eating ants more than made up for it! It was just great to see another chapter added to one of the great hero stories of all time.


Rebel With a Cause

I read this GREAT post on Mark Batterson's blog today. Enjoy!

I was reading a Fast Company article about the way Microsoft is trying to
re-image itself. They've hired an ad agency called Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Creative genius, Alex Bogusky, made one of those statements I can't get out of
my mind: "Life conspires to beat the rebel out of you."

It's true isn't it?

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He remained the rebel his
entire life. He didn't bow to the Pharisees. He didn't bow to Pilate. Truth is,
He didn't bow to anyone except His Heavenly Father. That is what it means to be
a spiritual rebel.

In the words of Dorothy Sayers: "To do them justice, the people who
crucified Jesus did not do so because he was a bore. Quite the contrary; he was
too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up
that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We
have declawed the Lion of Judah and made him a housecat for pale priests and
pious old ladies."



New Earth...Same Old Crap, Pt. 6

Well, I finally finished A New Earth last night. This will be my last post on it. This picture is of my copy of the book. As you can see, I put my highlighter/flag pen to work on it. I flagged about 30-40 pages of clearly heretical teaching, but I could have flagged much more.

The last thing I want to touch on is Tolle's teaching about what he calls the "pain-body".
  • The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. ... This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body. -pg. 142
  • Why is the suffering body of Christ, his face distorted in agony and his body bleeding from countless wounds, such a significant image in the collective consciousness of humanity? Millions of people, particularly in medieval times, would not have related to it as deeply as they did if something within themselves had not resonated with it, if they had not unconsciously recognized it as an outer representation of their own reality - the pain-body. They were not yet conscious enough to recognize it directly within themselves, but it was the beginning of their becoming aware of it. Christ can be seen as the archetypal human, embodying both the pain and the possibility of transcendence. -pg. 144
  • It has been said that "God is love" but that is not absolutely correct. God is the One Life in and beyond the countless forms of life. Love implies duality: lover and beloved, subject and object. So love is the recognition of oneness in the world of duality. -pg. 106

Here Tolle reduces the crucifixion to a symbol of the hurt in all of us. This is not the reason millions of people over the last 2,000 years have identified with the crucifixion. They identify with it because the Holy Spirit cries out to their spirit that the crucifixion is the only hope for mankind. Jesus death on the cross is the purest act of love the world has ever seen. To say that God is not love is to completely and totally misunderstand the truth of the Scriptures. In fact, to take portions of the gospel message and claim it as wise teaching (as Tolle does repeatedly), but discard the rest as false, is lunacy. The Bible is either God's revelation to man and His blueprint for restoring man to God, or it's the insane rantings of very misguided men. You can't have it both ways.

Tolle writes that the name of the book, A New Earth, is from the Bible's teaching about a new heaven and a new earth. In his mind the "new earth" is humanity becoming Present, Conscious, and ridding themselves of ego. This is his predicted next phase of human evolution. He closes the book with this sentence:

  • A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it! -pg. 309

There will be a new heaven and earth someday, but not the one Tolle speaks of. It will be one ruled by Jesus, our risen Savior. A world free of sin and death, a world restored to God's original design. A world where God will give us new bodies and all things will be set right. This world will be brought about by God alone - not by anything we do. Pure and simple, Tolle teaches a works salvation and a false God.

The One I Couldn't Shake - 5/23

I love the way Peterson renders Psalm 23:6 in The Message!

Psalm 23:6a (MSG)- Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.

If that won't get me through the day, nothing will. This is why the English poet, Francis Thompson, referred to God as The Hound of Heaven.


The One I Couldn't Shake - 5/22

2 Samuel 5:23-24 (MSG) - This time God said, "Don't attack them head on. Instead, circle around behind them and ambush them from the grove of sacred trees. When you hear the sound of shuffling in the trees, get ready to move out. It's a signal that God is going ahead of you to smash the Philistine camp."

God, help me to listen for your movement, so I know when and where to follow you.

Pray for the Chapmans

I just heard this news last night. The youngest daughter of Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman was tragically killed yesterday in an accident at their home in Tennessee. One of Chapman’s sons accidentally hit little Maria in their driveway with his SUV. Maria was the third child that the Chapmans had adopted from China. They have six children in total. Here’s a link to the AP story - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080522/ap_en_mu/chapman_daughter.

Please pray for the Chapman family. I know I have personally been blessed beyond measure over the years by Steven’s ministry. I can’t even begin to imagine what the family is feeling at this moment. Lift up a special prayer for the son involved in the accident – I’m sure this is especially tough on him.


New Earth...Same Old Crap, Pt. 5

Tolle teaches the following about TRUTH:
  • Beyond the realm of simple and verifiable facts, the certainty that "I am right and you are wrong" is a dangerous thing in personal relationships as well as in interactions between nations, tribes, religions, and so on. -pg. 69
  • All religions are equally false and equally true, depending on how you use them. You can use them in the service of the ego, or you can use them in the service of the Truth. If you believe only your religion is the Truth, you are using it in the service of the ego. Used in such a way, religion becomes ideology and creates an illusory sense of superiority as well as division and conflict between people. -pg. 70-71
  • There is only one absolute Truth, and all other truths emanate from it. ... The Truth is inseparable from who you are. Yes, you are the Truth. If you look for it elsewhere, you will be deceived every time. The very Being that you are is Truth. Jesus tried to convey that when he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life." These words uttered by Jesus are one of the most powerful and direct pointers to the Truth, if understood correctly. If misinterpreted, however, they become a great obstacle. Jesus speaks of the innermost I Am, the essence of identity of every man and woman, every life-form, in fact. He speaks of the life that you are. -pg. 71

Do I really need to point out everything that's wrong with this view of truth? The fact that he would teach that there IS absolute truth and we are each our own absolute truth is mind-numbing! He either doesn't know the meaning of the word absolute or he is choosing to redefine it. I keep thinking of that line from The Princess Bride - "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." (insert heavy Spanish accent.)

Our view of truth at Living Hope Church can be summed up with two statements:

  • The Bible is true...absolutely!
  • The Bible is true whether you choose to believe it or not.

The One I Couldn't Shake

I think I'm going to start doing these posts regularly to help me process my devotional reading and to set landmarks that I can look back on.

Psalm 106:20 - They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

I wonder what senseless things in my own life I hold on to in exchange for God's glory?


Marriage Counseling

I heard a great quote today from Rick Warren, author and pastor of Saddleback Church.

"Marriage counseling can be summed up in two words - GROW UP!"

I can't tell you how true that's been in my 13 short years of marriage.


New Earth...Same Old Crap, Pt. 4

From A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle:
  • ...a sacred sense of Presence, a deep peace and serenity and complete freedom from fear. This phenomenon must have been familiar to St. Paul, who used the expression "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." -pg. 56
  • When forms around you die or death approaches, your sense of Beingness, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter. You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications. You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with. That's the peace of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am. -pg. 57

This is just another example of Tolle asserting that, in fact, we ourselves are God. He continues to use Biblical language to convey this. First, by quoting Paul - which I found interesting because Paul, above any other Biblical personality, writes more to warn Christians against this very kind of teaching and boldly declares its evilness. Second by using Almighty God's chosen name for Himself - I Am. Tolle teaches that we are the I Am.

In my research I did on Tolle's background I found that while he does admit to being influenced by the Bible, his strongest influences, or the teachings he felt he most identified with, were Hindu sacred texts/teachings and Buddhist sacred texts. However, in A New Earth, the vast majority of quotes from sacred texts come from the Bible (I'd say the ratio is at least 3:1). He quotes the Old and New Testaments and loves quoting Jesus directly to reinforce his own world-view. Yet, by his own admission, the Judeo-Christian texts are not his biggest influence.

This is not by accident. It's a calculated move on his part to mislead Christians who may not be well-versed in the Scripture. By taking Biblical passages and twisting them, sometimes slightly - sometimes greatly, he is able to give naive Christians a false sense of security so they embrace his teachings as equal with the Bible.

2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) -- But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.



I am loving all the new LOST episodes this season. It's been quite intense and full of surprises. The 2-hour season finale airs in 2 weeks and I can't wait! It truly is the best series on TV. If you're not watching it, you're really missing out. I was thinking the other day that one reason it's so good is that it is truly unique. There's nothing on TV like it. It's not a cop drama or a doctor drama or a psychic drama or a slutty cop/doctor/psychic drama. It's really in a class all by itself. Our entire family looks forward to it every week. Even if you haven't ever watched it, you should buy or rent the DVDs. That's really the best (and most addictive) way to watch it anyway.

I found a fantastic website today called Lostpedia. It's modeled after the Wikipedia website (which I also love) and is truly a comprehensive guide to everything you might possibly want to know about LOST - including theories, behind-the-scenes stuff, and even spoiler alerts. I just looked at it for a little bit and couldn't believe how many little LOST clues/mysteries that have aired in the past that I had forgotten about. Great site if you're a LOST fan!


New Earth...Same Old Crap, Pt. 3

Tolle states the following about historical heretical off-shoots of Christianity:

  • Throughout history, there have always been rare individuals who experienced a shift in consciousness and so realized within themselves that to which all religion points. ... Through some of those men and women, "schools" or movements developed within all major religions that represented not only a rediscovery, but in some cases an intensification of the light of the original teaching. This is how Gnosticism and mysticism came into existence in early and medieval Christianity, ... It is through those esoteric schools or movements that the major religions regained the transformative power of the original teachings. - pg. 16

In Tolle's teaching, the major world religions (specifically Christianity here), can only be beneficial when enlightened spiritual gurus or mystics add to it. The Gnostics he speaks of were a heretical group of "Christians" who believed that God is an evil god, Jesus was merely a wise man - not God, and that spiritual salvation comes through increasing our knowledge. The gnostic teachings also penetrated Judaism and is where the Kaballah movement originated. According to Tolle, the Scriptures alone have no transformative power. The light of God's Word needs to be intensified by a mystic in order for it to regain its power.

Contrast that to what we believe, as the Reformers put it - Sola Scriptura (only the Scriptures), Sola Gratia (only by grace), and Sola Fides (only by faith). The Scriptures are the sole authority in our lives and our sufficient in themselves for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And salvation is a free gift (grace) from God that we receive through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Tolle goes on to say:

  • What is arising now is not a new belief system, a new religion, spiritual ideology, or mythology. We are coming to the end not only of mythologies but also of ideologies and belief systems. The change goes deeper than the content of your mind, deeper than your thoughts. In fact, at the heart of the new consciousness lies the transcendence of thought... - pg. 21

This is just a new way of saying that everyone should come to their own truth. There is no absolute truth. The human spirit can't be tied down by religions or belief systems. When you are your own God those things are irrelevant.

This all reminds me of something a college professor taught one day. He said, "There are no new heresies. They're always the same as they've been for thousands of years. They just package them differently from time to time."


The Story of Stuff

I read about this on Marko's blog and thought I'd check it out. Very interesting. Everyone needs to view this little movie (click on pic above). If your politics lean right, you might not agree with everything, but the lessons it teaches about how ridiculous consumerism has become are lessons everyone can appreciate. Good stuff!


New Earth...Same Old Crap, Pt. 2

Mr. Tolle's view of sin is interesting, too. In his world-view, what we would call sin - he calls the ego. However, his concept of this is quite different than what is taught in the Bible. He asserts the following:

  • According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of "original sin." Sin is a word that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. Literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering. Again, the term, stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations, points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition. -pg. 9

Mr. Tolle here again demonstrates that he is the master of the half-truth. Sin does literally mean to miss the mark. However, it does not mean to "miss the point of human existence." It means to miss the mark of God's righteousness. God is perfect and holy. We are not. Therefore, as Romans 3:23 states, we all "fall short of the glory of God". This is another example of Tolle making faith me-centered instead of God-centered. But sin goes beyond morality, it's really about abusing our relationship with God. The very best definition of sin I've ever heard is found in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (edited by Walter A. Elwell). It goes like this:

"The meaning of sin is quite different in a religion based on the gospel from one based on law. Sin, in an evangelical perspective, is not so much the infringement of a moral code as the breaking of a covenental relationship. Sin is not an offense so much against law as against love. In legalistic religion, sin is the violation of a moral taboo. In evangelical religion, sin is wounding the very heart of God. The opposite of sin is not virtue, but faith."


New Living Hope Logo

I'm so excited to have a new logo for our church. I've been working with an artist from UthStuph for several weeks and we finally nailed one down.


New Earth...Same Old Crap, Pt. 1

I don't enjoy reading books that promote alternative spiritualities, or more plainly - heresies, but I really felt like I needed to read this one. Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth is one of the most talked about books in years. This is primarily due to it's biggest fan, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah has made this one of her book club selection, has dedicated several episodes to promoting Tolle's teachings, and has even offered it as a free online 10-week course that she encouraged all her viewers to participate in guaranteeing that it would change their lives.

The reason I felt I needed to read this and spend some time teaching about it, is because of its danger. The average person with not enough Biblical knowledge or foundation could easily think, Oprah's a good person. She wouldn't steer me wrong. This book quotes Jesus on every other page. That can't be bad. I might actually grow spiritually through this book. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Oprah might be a good person, but by promoting this book she is leading people down a very dangerous path. Tolle might quote Jesus repeatedly, but he takes Jesus' words and twists them to back up his own message.

For the next couple of weeks, I wanted to highlight some of the heresies of A New Earth. This will also help me process some of my thoughts as I prepare to preach on the need to be on the lookout for false teachers (like Tolle) one Sunday in July.

Let me first say that if you remove all the heresies from this book, you'd have a pretty decent self-help book that occasionally offers some valuable advice. The book would also be half as long because it is full of teachings that are contradictory to Christian doctrine.

In a nutshell, Tolle believes that we are all God. Jesus was God. Buddha was God. I am God and you are God. He uses multiple terms to convey this. Awareness, Presence, I Am-ness, etc... The basis for his overall teaching is evolution. He believes that by being enlightened, learning to live in "the now", and learning to live without the "ego" (his concept of sin), we are literally bringing about the next phase of human evolution. Thus, human evolution would be something like pile of goo - fish - monkey - human - humans enlightened to the fact that they are God.

Here are a couple of teachings from Chapter 1, The Flowering of Human Consciousness:

  • Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings' perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. -pg. 4
  • The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of mankind. The messengers - Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known - were humanity's early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings. A widespread flowering was not yet possible at that time, and their message became largely misunderstood and often greatly distorted. It certainly did not transform human behavior, except in a small minority of people. -pg. 6
  • The second reason is that the act of recognition itself is one of the ways in which awakening happens. When you recgonize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is awakening. You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against the darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light. -pg. 8

In these three examples, Tolle teaches the need to become aware that you, along with all other matter, are God. Early spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha became aware of this before the rest of humanity was ready to accept it. Their teachings were misunderstood. While Jesus was trying to teach us that we are all God, Christians misinterpreted him and believed that he alone was God. You get a hint of it here in the third example, but later in the book Tolle directly quotes Jesus saying "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." and states that by saying this Jesus was actually teaching that each of us is our own way, truth, and life. Or as he says here, we are our own light.

Hopefully, the heresy here is clear to all Christians. The Bible teaches that there is only one true God and thank God his name is not Jeff. Jesus Christ is literally the only path to salvation. Jesus wasn't just a wise teacher - He was and is God in the flesh. All spiritual teachings do not lead to the true God. Only Jesus. Only the Word of God


Isla in Pictures

Well, Isla turns 11 mos. old tomorrow. It's been a while since I've posted any pics so I thought I'd put a few up (it also helps keep the grandparents off my back).

Isla shows us what sound a monkey makes.

She's a prodigy!

Isla having her cake and eating it, too.
(I took this one today.)


When Churches Die

I saw this great photo of a piece of concept art of sorts on Seth Godin's blog. It's a digital clock inside glass. The clock is dead - no longer keeping time - no longer moving forward - no longer useful. If the clock is to be started again, one thing has to be done - the glass must be broken!

As soon as I saw this, I couldn't help but think of the majority of churches in America today. I don't believe it's ever intentional, but a church begins to die when it focuses more on it's structures, buildings, or traditions, and less on its mission, it's Savior, and the world around it in need of Jesus. Eventually they come to a point where they would rather sacrifice the "clock" to save the "glass".

The hard reality for the vast majority of churches is that in order to see progress and get the clock started again, the MUST destroy their structures, traditions, or whatever else is keeping them from carrying out their Biblical mandate. This process is never painless. It creates conflict. It stretches people far beyond their comfort zones. It will ALWAYS mean that people will leave. For most churches, this is just too high a price. Most opt for the path of least resistance and revel in their glory days. When this decision is made (whether intentionally or passively), the church IS DEAD. It may be a slow death, but it's a death nonetheless.

For an older church to be a vital, Kingdom-minded, agent of life-change - it must intentionally make tough choices, expect pain, BBQ more than a few sacred cows, and be prepared to see people they love leave for another church. That sounds harsh, but it's the reality I've seen time and time again. The beautiful thing is the benefits far outweigh the downside (and it's a pretty stinkin' big downside). When a church is living out its call, embracing the Holy Spirit, loving a lost world, and experiencing the power of changed lives - it's beautiful. It's something worth dying for.


Podcasting Sermons

I thought I'd pass on a really great new tool that we will be taking advantage of soon. The company is called PortableSermons.com. It's a free (or pay) service that will allow you to easily podcast your sermons. The free version will allow you to podcast the current week's sermon only (or one sermon at a time, in other words). Or you can archive all of your sermons for $29 per month.

The reason this service is so valuable is the EASY factor. You've always been able to podcast for free, but normally you would have to maintain several different accounts and it's quite time-consuming. With PortableSermons you simply upload your audio file and they do the rest. All the formatting, getting your sermon on iTunes, everything. It's so fast and easy, you can literally upload your sermons and have them ready to download before your congregation gets home from church.

Anyway, check them out - they're a good company. One of the owners/creators is also going to be doing our church's web design. His web company is VaultMultimedia.

Best Mother's Day Video Ever

This is my favorite mother's day video ever! If it weren't for one little line, I'd play it in church Sunday. Good stuff.


Jumping Through Hoops

It's really unbelievable how many hoops our church has to jump through in order to get into a building. We're currently looking for a new space for our church offices and teen center. The space we're using currently is absolutely awful, completely unusable for anyone with a disability, and not that safe either. We've found a great location that used to be a karate gym. We want to move in. The owner wants to rent it to us. To a logical person, you'd think that would be the end of that. But not so...

We have to make sure it's properly zoned for our use, get a usage license from the city, approval from the planning department, building department, police department, fire department, public works department, the city clerk, health department, do a total remodel on the bathrooms for handicap accessibility, make sure there's adequate parking, iron out the details of the lease, and probably 3 dozen other things that I don't know about yet!

The good news is that, so far, everybody with the city has been easy to work with. Pray that that will continue to be the case.

I know most businesses do everything or say anything to cut corners and keep the city or fire department off of their backs when it comes to stuff like this. Everybody lies and most cities have come to expect this. I've even known well-meaning churches to get caught up in this game of dishonesty. I just can't do it! I want so badly to have the best possible working relationship with our city that I refuse to take possession of a building dishonestly. I would rather bite the bullet and jump through the hoops with the best attitude I can muster. I refuse to let Living Hope be one more church on the list of churches who have lied to or taken advantage of city agencies. We'll meet in the park before we compromise our witness.

Join me in praying for all the department heads and city officials. Pray that God would reveal Himself to all of them, that He would bless their families, and that He would help them see our vision to love and serve the city of Dixon.


Summer Reading

I'm stealing a great idea from Mark Batterson (National Community Church - D.C.) who is stealing it from Michael Lukaszewski (Oak Leaf Church - Georgia). It's a sermon series called Summer Reading where we'll spend 4 weeks highlighting 4 different influential books.

I've chosen the following books for our series which will run throughout the month of July:

Week 1
In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
This is a fantastic book that will give us an opportunity to discuss facing our fears and dreaming God-sized dreams.

Week 2
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
This is the most talked about book in a very long time. It outlines a new spirituality and is being promoted heavily by Oprah Winfrey currently. We'll take a look at some of Tolle's teachings and discover how they square with God's Word.

Week 3
Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne
This is a book that will stretch you and will give us an opportunity to talk about the Christian's role in politics.

Week 4
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
If you've got kids, chances are you've heard about this one. The two Wimpy Kid books currently hold the #1 and #2 spots on the New York Times Bestsellers List for Young Adult Fiction. We'll spend this week talking about navigating a rocky road called FAMILY.

I seriously can't wait for this series! I think we're going to have a lot of fun with it and learn some great things. For all of you Living Hopers out there, feel free to purchase these books and read them before hand. We'll also have some of them for sale at church during the series.


Thanks, ESV!

I normally get around 30-35 unique visits per day on the ol' blog. But yesterday I noticed my visitor count had jumped. I went to Sitemeter to check it out and, sure enough, Monday I had 215 visits, Tuesday almost 90, and a good number yesterday, too. I've never really used the tracking features on Sitemeter - I just wanted a free counter for my blog. But there are some pretty cool features. You can track exactly what cities all over the world people are visiting from, what websites they linked to your blog from, and much more.

So I notice that almost everyone had come to my blog through www.esv.org/blog. This is the official website for the English Standard Version Bible that I posted about last week. Turns out they did a little post about my blog post. Very cool! Check it out. The following conversation took place between me and my daughter Mollie:

ME: So, Mollie, if you think about what this means...the Bible is writing about your Dad. Some people wonder what it would be like to be in the Bible, but I finally made it.

MOLLIE (dryly): Dad. You are not IN the Bible.

ME: No, but I'm in the Bible's blog and that's pretty close. Quit ruining it for me!

MOLLIE (dryly): Dad...you're retarded.

...and then my "big head" bubble burst. Thanks anyway, ESV, for sending all the traffic my way!