Monday, December 21, 2009

How to improve your adolescent's grades by one letter in just 15 minutes

Give them more sleep.

Ashley Merryman demonstrates that more sleep will improve your adolescent's grades, make them happier people and make them safer drivers. So when are parents going to start pushing school boards to adjust the school calendar? Maybe it should be a priority.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Myth of Christmas: Immaculate Conception

I believe in the birth of Jesus as it is told in the Bible. I believe that it was miraculous and that he was born of a virgin. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, however, is pure myth. Many people mistake these two doctrines. I just heard a well-educated and prominant Christian author/speaker make this mistake.

The Immaculate Conception doesn't refer to how Jesus came onto this earth. It is about Mary's birth. Particularly, it is the belief that Mary came into this world without original sin, or without a sin nature for that matter. This is not a biblically defensible doctrine.

As you think about the truths of the coming of our Savior, consider the misconceptions that are often spread this time of year. Can you think of any others?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is the Christian Religion a Myth. Review of Greg Boyd's book

Greg Boyd isn't the kind of pastor who says the things you'd expect pastors to say. No, he calls them as he sees them and The Myth of a Christian Religion: Loosing Your Religion maintains his MO. Of course, if you pick this book up knowing the title and didn't figure that this would be a different look at our faith, you didn't read the title.

Boyd's thesis is that Jesus didn't come to start a religion, but he came to start a revolutions. (Again, plain in the title.) A religion is too institutional, too people centered for what Jesus came to do. He didn't come to create more ritual. He came to be counter-cultural.

The revolution is against so many bad habits that people fall into. Interestingly, they are the same bad habits that many/most American Christians have: Idolatry of stuff; Judgmentalism; Individualism; Gaining power through military action. He adds issues like sex and secularism. By secularism, in contrast to so many Christians, he isn't attacking the secular world for being secular. Rather he is frustrated with Christians who live dualistic lives of sacred and secular.

Boyd's voice is important for the American Church to hear. We need more people pointing the misconceived values that have become standard in our churches and personal practices. He makes some bold statements. Bold statements will make some people uncomfortable, and he's certainly not perfect in his analysis, but this discomfort may be the Spirit prompting the reader to reconsider things that we often take as true without recent contemplation.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Review of The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani

The Divine Commodity by Leadership Journal editor Skye Jethani (Zondervan: 2009) is a green vegetable book, not a dessert book. It doesn't taste good, but it is good for you. You won't be happy that you read it, but you'll be better off. Skye Jethani will challenge your comfortable way of doing church. He will push you to consider your faith more than your religious out workings. He destroyed any chance I had of enjoying Christmas like in the feel-good way it has always been.  Jethani does all this using a wonderful comparison of the church and van Gogh paintings. It's a creative, well-written book, and as such a easy book to read. It's not an easy book to consume.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Should we celebrate Advent (or Christmas)

Note: I originally posted this as a response to a blog by Mark Roberts. He wrote on the question Is Advent Biblical? I would suggest that you read his post. He writes very well. I decided to re-post my response on my blog because I think it explains well why I'm not all keen on this season, Advent as well as Christmas.

Whether Advent is biblical, is not my concern. Certainly, it is based in the very biblical goals that you ask us to consider. All things, including Advent, and for that matter Christmas, are permissible.

However, I wonder how beneficial it is for the church to celebrate this season. I include Christmas as we currently celebrate it, particularly by demanding that the money takers take our money in the most religious was.

This whole season is a distraction. I don't know of a single family in my church that will spend more time focused on the elements of Advent that you talk about as good, instead use the Advent season to focus on material things. Celebrating Advent as a church encourages Open Season for materialism.

I say this as one who as a pastor to children. There is almost no way to spend Advent focused on Jesus. Advent, by its nature, focuses on the minor things of the scriptures, not the coming of the Savior. Sure Jesus is the consistent thread of the Advent season, but he because a minor player as we spend the month focus on Mary and donkeys, Joseph, Wise Men and Angels. Camels usually take a bigger role that Jesus. Even Jesus is caricature during this season. We talk a lot about a baby, but our link to the Jesus that died for our sins is usually lost in making Jesus God's gift to us. It is true that Jesus is a gift to us, but the way it plays out in the way we do Advent and Christmas is that Jesus is just another gift like the many we will rush out to buy after our worship service.

Sure Advent is permissible. There are many noble reasons for celebrating the season. Unfortunately, Advent and Christmas are not beneficial. Sure, you can name the half dozen people you know that turned to Christ in this season, but consider how many turn away from him and turn toward minor issues of faith or toward worldly matters.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Are you making your kids want to live with you forever?

It may be that your lifestyle is stunting the maturity of your children in such a way that they won't have the drive to move out of your home. A recent article in Psychology Today says that the trend for children to live with their parents later is attributable to our affluent lifestyle. Stephen Mason writes
It means that the tide of hormones that hits pubescent kids, the tide that causes them to want to fly from the nest provided by their parents, has been greatly attenuated by the economics of America in the 21st Century. The rights of passage and the periods of apprenticeship that have always been a part of the teen years and of growing up, have been largely replaced by an additional decade of utter dependence.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

With jetlag, returning home brings contemplation

We're home.

We were all awake by 5am this morning.

Writing might be interesting because my mind is already shutting down for the day.

But I have a lot to think about after our wonderful trip to Italy.

First, pray for these things:
  • Our family has a busy first week back. Pray for strength, focus and alertness as we get back on schedule.
  • Pray for Tim and Jacki as the weakening dollar makes funds tighter.
  • Pray for Il Faro in Naples, the Bible School students and Il Faro in Turin as they contemplate the message I brought about youth and family ministry.
  • Pray for Richard, a man I met on the plane from Rome. We had a deep discussion that open a door to the Gospel. He never thought that the Christian religion was anything other than the judgment he sees in the News. Pray that he will be bombarded with others who share that Christ's message is one of love.
What am I contemplating?
  • How can we at Grace Point learn from the mentoring and youth in ministry in Naples?
  • How can I be more active in discipling young believers?
  • If we lived in a house that only had heat on for one short period over 10 days, can we cut back our energy use in our home?
  • After spending 10 days contemplating the Italian culture, do I really know the Bucks County USA culture?
  • Is it OK for me to wear the scarf with a heart on it in the US just because I saw a couple men in Italy wearing it?
Thanks for all our love, support and prayers.