Mark 13-16 & The Blue Parakeet

Finished Mark's gospel today. 1 book down, 26 to go! A few things jumped out at me. First, I found it interesting that Mark decides to include a naked young man in his account of Jesus being arrested! Second, this verse:

Mark 16:15-16 (ESV)
And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

This is why we must get it right! This is why we can't become lazy or unconcerned in our efforts! Lives are on the line and we've been given the task of partnering with the Holy Spirit to bring as many of them in as possible. Don't forget it!
I've been reading a great book called The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight. Scot's a great author and has written a few commentaries that I'm fond of. In The Blue Parakeet he sets out to teach us to rethink how we read the Bible. In short, this is one of the best hermeneutics books I've ever read, but it's not overly academic and dry. Very approachable and enjoyable to read. It's definitely worth your time and money.

To all the 27 Living Hopers who've accepted my challenge to read the entire New Testament during the 40 days of Lent, I want to challenge/encourage you with this quote from The Blue Parakeet:

Perhaps you remember the Magic Eye books. Whether you do or don't I hope you can find one somewhere and open it up and look at its pictures, which aren't really pictures. They are autostereograms. The pictures in these books, if we let our eyes do what they can do, somehow transform from normal two-dimensional images into three-dimensional images. In front of you is what appears to be a flat picture, perhaps with some dots. but if you look at that picture just right--if you have eyes to see!--what you think is an ordinary picture of dots and an assortment of shapes begins to take on life. We see humans and flowers and planets in the sky in three dimensions. ...

What we are looking for in reading the Bible is the ability to turn the two-dimensional words on paper into a three-dimensional encounter with God, so that the text takes on life and meaning and depth and perspective and gives us direction for what to do today. Gaining Magic Eyes ushers us into the renewal way of reading the Bible.


Mark 9-12

Great reading today! Jesus is puttin' the smack down on a bunch of religious people. This is the verse that stuck out to me, because I had never noticed the words I highlighted.

Mark 10:21 (ESV) - Jesus talking to the rich young man:
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Jesus gives this man the toughest advice, not because He wanted to trip him up, but because His love motivated Him to do it. Wow!


Magazine Recommendations

I currently subscribe to four different magazines that I find to be helpful tools for my ministry. Thought I'd share them.

Leadership - Formerly Leadership Journal. This is a great quarterly magazine ($24.95/yr) with top-notch articles. Each issue normally centers around a specific issue or area of ministry. I have to be honest, though. This is one that I've considered giving up. There was a time when it was the be-all-end-all in pastoral leadership mags, but it really hasn't kept up and evolved very well. Unlike the next two...

Rev! - This is the magazine I wish Leadership would be. It's captivating, 
colorful, on the cutting edge of ministry trends, and I really look forward to it. 6 issues per year for $29.95. It's put out by Group. I pretty much love everything they do!

Outreach - Another great idea mag. They are also on the cutting edge and offer many great practical ideas. However, the one thing I hate about Outreach is their annual lists of the 100 largest churches, fastest growing churches, or most innovative churches (although I appreciated the shift in focus this year to the 25 most innovative ideas). These kinds of list aren't healthy and create neurotic, competitive pastors and churches. But I love everything else! 6 issues per year for $29.95.

Fast Company - I just started reading this one and love it. This is a magazine that follows the top leaders, trends, ideas, companies in business and technology. I'm finding it very helpful in trying to remain a forward thinker. 12 issues per year for $9.99 - can't beat it!

Mark 5-8

Good stuff today. Lots of miracles and such. The verse that stuck with me was Mark 8:35.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.


Mark 1-4

Started my reading through the New Testament in 40 days plan today. Really looking forward to this. So far 15 other Living Hopers have committed to do this as well!

Favorite verse today:
Mark 2:11-12 (ESV)
"I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"



I've been anticipating Lent for a couple of weeks now. Lent is a religious observance where you fast from something or give up a vice for a period of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent begins this Wednesday, 2/25. I'm going to begin my Lent observance on 3/3. (The traditional Lent is actually 46 days long because they don't count the 6 Sundays leading up to Easter. I'll do a true 40 days.)

After a lot of thought I've decided to fast from Facebook and Twitter for 40 days starting March 3rd. Not because, they are evil or anything, but because they are increasingly becoming more addictive to me. I LOVE Facebook and Twitter! I love staying connected to people, reconnecting with old friends, and hearing
 about the lives/insights/opinions of my friends. I think a Facebook/Twitter fast is actually going to be very tough for me! But I'm hoping it will get me better focused on God, my ministry, and my family.

In addition to giving something up for Lent, I'm adding something to my life for Lent. I've decided to step up my Bible reading for 40 days and read through all of the New Testament. I'm really looking forward to that!

I want to challenge all of you (especially my fellow Living Hopers) to participate in Lent this year. What can you add to and subtract from your life that will bring you closer to God in 40 days?


My Oscar Picks

Jamie and I have been hard at work seeing as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible before the big show tomorrow night. We're finally done. Won't see any more. It's been a lot of fun doing this with Jamie. It's meant an extra several date nights over the last month or so, but time well spent! (Thanks to Mollie for all the extra babysitting!)

We've seen almost all of the nominated films/performances. So for the first time, I feel I can make a truly educated guess at the winners. Here's my picks in the major categories:

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire - Hands down! In my opinion, Frost/Nixon is the only other picture that came close to touching it. Slumdog all the way!

Best Director
Slumdog Millionaire - Have I mentioned I like this movie?

Best Leading Actor
Micky Rourke (The Wrestler) - Definitely the role Rourke was born to play. But for me it was a close race between Rourke and Langella (Frost/Nixon).

Best Leading Actress
Meryl Streep (Doubt) - Loved this movie so much! Streep dominates. You can't figure out if you should love her or hate her. In the end you sort of do both. Most people are picking Winslet (The Reader) to win this one, but I thought Streep's character was much more interesting.

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) - Unbelievable performance. Look at it this way - another incredible actor played the Joker (Nicholson) and Ledger smokes him. I mean it's not even close. (And Nicholson's no hack!)

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams (Doubt) - I think this is the toughest category to pick. Great performances by all. But I thought Adams did a great job of demonstrating lost innocence as her character progressed through this film.

Animated Feature
Wall-E - It's not even close. Kung Fu Panda was funny, but Wall-E was funny, moving, and jaw-dropping.



I saw this beautiful gem on Marko's blog today. If you are frequently annoyed at automated answering systems from businesses and simply want to speak to a human when you call customer support, check out gethuman.com.

It's a massive list of businesses. It will either list a direct phone number to put you in touch with a human or the phone number + the specific prompts you need to key in to get to a human. THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL THING!

The 100 Best Business Books of All Time

I want to recommend a new book by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten from over at 800ceoread called The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. If you are a student of leadership, marketing, business, etc..., this is a must-have book. 800ceoread is an organization dedicated to business/leadership and reviewing the many, many books in that category that are published every year. These guys were made to write this book. No one knows leadership books better than Jack and Todd.

The 100 Best... gives a synopsis of (you guessed it) 100 books in the categories of You, Leadership, Strategy, Sales & Marketing, Rules & Scorekeeping, Management, Biographies, Entrepreneurship, Narratives, Innovation & Creativity, and Big Ideas. (100 books total, not 100 books in each category.) There are also great little sidebars scattered throughout the book highlighting things like Leadership in Movies, Conferences to Attend, and more.

There are books you would expect to see on this list like Good to Great, The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. But there are some surprises as well, like Moneyball and Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!

The synopses are well-written and insightful. You can learn alot about leadership just by reading this book about leadership books. The 100 Best... has become my new book wish list. Check it out.


Made to Stick

Finished Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath the other day. This is definitely a book worth checking out. Not a Christian book per se, but every preacher/teacher should read it. It's a book about what it takes to get ideas to stick with people and becoming a better communicator. In short, their premise is that in order for an idea to stick it needs to be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and incorporate stories.

Honestly, for a preacher this book is a goldmine. Not only for teaching you to be better at your craft, but because it's also chock full of great stories and illustrations.



In high school and college, I was the biggest broadway fan. Had all the big shows memorized and listened to them all the time. Jamie and I used to see shows on a fairly regular basis, but haven't seen one in quite a while (I think Mollie was a baby the last time we saw a big show.) But we saw the best broadway musical yesterday. We went with a group of friends into San Francisco and saw Wicked for Valentine's Day. It was incredible! Everything about it - the music, the performers, the sets, special effects, costumes...everything was amazing!

Wicked is the story of Oz before Dorothy shows up. It follows the unlikely friendship of Glenda the Good and Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west) and explains how the wicked witch became "wicked." It's funny and moving. I seriously can't recommend this show highly enough. If you get the chance to see it, see it. I seriously can't get the music out of my head (but I don't mind).



I found a great little website today for all of you information junkies.  Alltop.com is a partial creation of Guy Kawasaki, author and blogger and tech dude. All top is like Google for recent info. You can pick a topic and alltop will list the 5 most recent articles of  the most popular magazines, websites, blogs, and other periodicals on that topic.

For instance if you go to http://church.alltop.com/ you'll find out what is happening NOW in the world of the church. Very cool stuff. Find your topic and stay current in your area of interest or career!


Embrace the Mess

I made a decision tonight that I hope I can follow through on. First, I have to set it up with a little confession. I'm a little bit of a freak about our house. It drives me crazy to see the kids eating on the furniture or not picking up after themselves. I'm like a spill psychic. I can see a mess or a spill happening about a minute before they normally happen so I'm usually pretty grumpy about preventing such spills and messes. I know it causes me to be too hard on the kids, but it's so hard for me to let it go. I want our home to be orderly and presentable, but I probably take it too far.

I got to hear Tony Campolo speak tonight and while he was talking I had this vision of my future where our home is perpetually clean. No toys or books scattered around the house. No crayon marks on the walls. No ink marks on the couch. No kool-aid stains on the carpet. No bikes in the driveway. No handprints on the patio door. No food wrappers under the beds or skittles in the couch cushions.

I saw all of this in my head and got extremely depressed. It hit me like a ton of bricks that the very things I rail on about so much and get me hot under the collar are the things I'll really miss when the kids are gone. I said something in church the other day about how things don't need to be absolutely perfect because "this is a church, not a museum." I want to try to adopt the same attitude about my home. I want to live in a home - not a museum.

Don't get me wrong. We need to teach the kids to respect our home and care for the possessions we've been blessed with, but I'm going to make a serious attempt at loosening up. So pray for me as I try to embrace the mess!


Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Some of our pics from the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco.  Happy year of the ox!


My Heroes

People inspire me by their attitudes and actions so often and most of the time I forget to acknowledge their impact on my life. I'm going to try to change that. Here are my current heroes.
  • My friend Amy who has had and incredibly difficult year. Her faith has been tested by relationships, finances, and half a dozen other things. Now she's president of the Dixon School Board in a very unpopular year to be president, because they have to trim millions off the school budget. She's holding her head high and being faithful to God! Awesome!
  • My friend Rich who had the guts to get in front of a church this week and share his experiences and feelings about Christians. Oh yeah...he's not a Christian. He was seriously a lion in a den of Daniels! His courage and transparency taught us all a great deal.
  • My friend Heidi who is struggling to find work, but she always has a great attitude and a smile on her face. And not only does she not have a job, but she answered the call to serve in India for two weeks in October and is trusting that God will provide the funds for the trip he called her to go on.
  • My friend Gary who has lost a crazy amount of weight and has inspired me to get serious about getting in better shape, too.
  • My friend Michael who is starting a church against all odds...and I mean ALL!
  • My wife Jamie for putting up with me, homeschooling our kids, working part-time, leading our women's ministry, maintaining our home, and losing weight this week! She rocks!


Favorite Podcasts

I really love listening to podcasts on iTunes while I work or exercise. I find it's a great way to be in a constant state of learning (I'm listening to great one now even as I type this.) If you're not downloading podcasts you are missing out on so much. You can literally expose yourself to the greatest minds, teachers, preachers of our time with the click of a mouse. Here's a list of my current favorites.
  • Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast - Andy is a great preacher, but I think he is an even greater leadership guru. His lessons are powerful and practical.
  • Catalyst Podcast - Another leadership podcast. Ken Coleman and Brad Lomenick score some of the best interviews and really have great comedic chemistry. They do a good job of highlighting both ministry leaders and popular leadership authors.
  • Cornerstone Simi Podcast - Francis Chan is the most inspiring preacher I know of.
  • Coffee Break Spanish - This is a great little 15-20 minute Spanish lesson. The thing I love the most about it is that it is done by two Scottish people. There's nothing like learning Spanish from two people with thick Scottish accents!
  • Resurgence Featured Audio - This is a podcast of special material from Mark Driscoll. Not his weekly sermons, but conferences he speaks at or guest speakers he brings in to Mars Hill Church for seminars/conferences.
  • TEDTalks (video) - TED is an annual conference featuring the greatest minds, artists, innovators, social activists, scientists, leaders... in the world. The talks are always fascinating and future-shaping. You can choose audio or video. You definitely want to go with the video, because so many of the talks are demonstrations or visually oriented.
  • The Village Church: Sermon Audio - If you forced me to choose, I would probably say that Matt Chandler is my favorite preacher.
  • Living Hope Church - I know it's self-serving, but check it out. It's too bad this one doesn't have a video option, because the pastor is a VERY handsome man. :-)
What are your favorites that you think I should give a listen?

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

I haven't done a MMQ update in a few weeks, but this was a really good weekend!
  • I got to go out Friday night with my best friend and beautiful bride. We've been dating a little more often recently and I'm loving it! Saw a movie and spent some time talking. She's an amazing woman and it's hard for me to imagine life w/o her. (By the way, we keep seeing Oscar-nominated movies, and if Slumdog Millionaire doesn't win best picture, there is no justice. SEE SLUMDOG IF YOU HAVEN'T. IT'S INCREDIBLE!)
  • We watched Mollie and Isaiah play their basketball games Saturday. They both did really well. So proud of their effort and hustle!
  • Saturday night we headed into San Francisco for the Chinese New Year Parade. I love this parade! It's colorful, loud, exotic, and lots of fun. Isla really got a kick out the dragons and the dancers and all the politicians driving by and waving. She really like waving back. She also liked the train ride into the city on BART. The whole family had a good time. If you live in or near the Bay Area and have never checked out this parade, do it sometime. It's really a neat experience. I'll post pics soon.
  • Sunday morning at Living Hope Church was truly unforgettable. I started a new series called They Like Jesus, But Not the Church. It's about dealing with the negative perceptions that non-believers have about the church. For the first week I interviewed my friend, Rich, who's an atheist. He did such a great job. I appreciated his honesty and we both had a good time. It was funny and insightful and hopefully impactful for people on both sides of the spectrum. The podcast is up, so take a listen when you get a chance.
  • I'm blown away at how our podcast increases our reach as a church. I've had many people commenting on yesterday's message from all across the nation. (So thankful for Harvey who tries really hard to get the message podcasted the same day!) It makes me want to start an internet campus! Definitely something to be praying about.
  • The Boicellis had us all over for lunch after church yesterday. They're such great hosts and the tri-tip was off the chain!! Got to feed my inner caveman.
  • It was good hanging out with Rich and Kelly a little longer yesterday afternoon, too. Love their family! Played a little Guitar Hero and had some good conversation. Thanks again, Rich, for all you did yesterday! It hit exactly the note I hoped it would. Since I got you "voice work" at my church, do you think you could get me "voice work" at Pixar?!


Jesus is a Football Fan

Saw this on afrayedknot this morning. This is seriously one of the greatest things I've ever seen!