Showing posts from 2011

Potential Auditorium Change

I’m looking for feedback on a potential update to the College Church auditorium. A few color-savvy people have looked at some different options proposed by a local interior designer. Leadership has chimed in as well. We all like the basic aspects of this option the best.

What do you think? How might this paint color (walls & beams) change the feel of our worship space? How does this artist's rendering accentuate (or damage) our building's architectural features?

Your thoughtful reflection would be most appreciated. Peace!

Lasagna in Monterey

Last week, I sampled the lasagna at Gianni's Pizza in Monterey. We had family in from Texas, and they were all busy touring the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I passed on fish in favor of working on Sunday's Christmas sermon.

The lasagna was good. But I can't figure out if Gianni's is actually still a place that locals like or if it is a place that locals used to like. The place has an air about it that says, "We think we're good, so we really don't care about your opinion." The result is that the interior decor is less than ideal. One of the wooden benches snagged my jeans with an exposed nail. Ugh!

But if you can ignore the musty feel, it probably is still a pretty good place. Most of the reviews are positive, though some are clearly for sentimental reasons. Regardless, it was a nice quiet spot to eat lunch and do some work. The family was actually done with their tour before I had finished.

Merry Christmas.

The Future of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures

Starting mid-May 2012, Mike Cope will be the new director of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. See his post on this at Mike's a great choice to follow the irreplaceable Dr. Jerry Rushford. Mike will carry the torch well, but he will undoubtedly do some new things. Mike's asking people for their thoughts about the Bible Lectures. He's a collaborator, and this quality is awesome. Some have attended the Lectures for decades and can offer more insight than I can. I've maybe been to six: three since I moved here to Fresno and three while I was doing campus ministry in West Virginia.  Here's what I wrote in response to Mike's request for input: I appreciate the geographical diversity of the Bible Lectures. Niches exist for almost every segment. When I was ministering in West Virginia, I would go to Pepperdine and see like-minded people from my region. It was in Malibu of all places where I was able to develop and deepen relationships with people who s…

Crazy Attack on Biker

Have you seen this crazy video from South Africa? This is why I haven't taken up biking!

Harry Potter, Witchcraft & Christianity, part 1

Someone posted a question last week. They wondered how I as a Christian preacher could justify going to see Harry Potter, a movie ostensibly about witchcraft. That person's mind may (or may not) be open to a conversation about this issue. Regardless, I view this as a good question.

Many people may wonder about this, and a few of them might actually read this blog. By the way, thanks to the two of you who do read it! ;-> I welcome the chance to think about it out loud. More than once in my life have I changed my mind on a subject just by talking it through. I welcome your thoughts on this, too.

I plan to tackle this in several pieces, although the conversation may evolve as it gets rolling.

1. A discussion of witchcraft in biblical times -- or what I know of it
2. The Book of Acts and its condemnation of witchcraft and two other "ungodly forces"
3. Missional questions -- i.e., Are we in the world but not of the world? What does that mean?
4. Should Harry Potter be off …

Potter Mania Hits Fresno

According to an AP story, Fresno's excitement over the final Potter movie is second only to that of New York City. Advance ticket sales in both places were statistically through the roof. A July 1 article in the Fresno Bee says this: "Robbie Arrington, marketing manager for the western region of Regal Cinemas, owners of four theater complexes in Fresno, says only the New York market has sold more tickets for the midnight screenings on July 14."

I might have scoffed at such talk if I hadn't wandered down today near the region's premier theater. Edwards 22, located at trendy River Park Shopping Center, is the newest and most popular movie theater in Fresno. When I went to get our tickets for one of tomorrow afternoon's 25 shows, I saw this incredible sight outside the movie theater.

At first, I thought Fresno's homeless community had suddenly moved north. Then it dawned on me! These folks are waiting at 2:00 p.m. for the midnight showing. They already have …

The Scavengers Are Out

It's neighborhood clean-up time in northeast Fresno. This annual event is Fresno's way to help folks dispose of larger items. Weekly trash collection only allows us to dump things that fit in our bins. The clean-up lets people get rid of tree limbs, couches, lumber, furniture, scrap metal and just about anything that isn't electronic or hazardous.

Folks pile their waste and garbage on the street just in front of their houses. Most of the piles contain trimmings from pine trees & miscellaneous junk. But when the trucks arrive tomorrow to haul it all away, the junk will be almost all gone leaving just the branches behind.

Most items get scavenged within a few hours. Need to get rid of some old junk metal? Someone will drive by to turn it in to recycling. Trading out your toilets for new ones? Someone will grab them and try to sell your old ones. That broken dresser no longer has a place in your garage? A scavenger will find something to do with it.

Monday night, I had for…

Fresno's No 1 in Auto Theft

Today's edition of the Fresno Bee announced a special distinction for the city of Fresno. Fresno is #1 in the nation in car theft. Our rate of theft is well ahead of #2 Modesto, CA. Eight of the "top ten" cities are in California. The other two are in Washington state. Eight car were stolen per on thousand residents.

Our local law enforcement officials blame the state's budget woes. They say the majority of cars are being stolen by only a handful of thieves. The cops know who they are and are able to catch them in the act. They arrest them, only to have them released hours later because there is no money to house prisoners who are waiting for arraignment and trial. So they go right back out and steal more cars. Then they skip their court dates. And it never ends.

At least no one has stolen my Subaru yet. Not sure why.

Jim Wallis & Social Justice

On a recent episode of Travel with Rick Steves, Rick interviewed pastor and publisher Jim Wallis. Jim is perhaps best known for his recent as editor and publisher of Sojourners magazine. Jim calls himself as "progressive evangelical."

I deeply appreciate the fact that Rick Steves is a Christian who doesn't hide his faith. Rick has occasional shows that highlight the relationship between travel and faith. These are usually fantastic conversations.

The radio show on April 16, 2011, was especially good because of an interview with Jim Wallis and a discussion about "travel as a spiritual act." Click on the link below to hear the show. You can also get the podcast through iTunes or on the Rick Steves website.

Rick Steves' interview with Jim Wallis

The interview with Jim Wallis begins at 33:25 in the show.

Disaster Relief in Alabama

The news of last week's devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri splashed across the nation. Its destruction was among the worst disaster ever caused by a single tornado. The vibrant city of Joplin will never again be the same.

The tornadoes that struck central Alabama in early May already seem a distant memory, but the wreckage and rebuilding will take years. For those who want to give money to those disaster relief and rebuilding efforts, I encourage you to look over the following information. I've reprinted this list from The Christian Chronicle. To visit their websites, just click on the name of the organization.

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort
 shipped semi-truck loads full of supplies to hard-hit communities in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In keeping with its practice after wildfires, floods, hurricanes and other tornadoes, the Nashville, Tenn.-based ministry worked with local churches, including the Hackleburg Church of Christin Alabama, to distri…

Spanish Dominate Champions League Final

I just finished watching the championship match of the European Champions League. FC Barcelona dominated Manchester United on the way to a 3-1 victory in London. "Barca" reaffirmed their position as the best club in the world.

Barcelona is basically an extension of the Spanish national team with the addition of a couple Brazilians and Lionel Messi from Argentina -- as if they weren't good enough already. Watching Barcelona is like watching the Spanish national team, and vice versa. They control the ball with amazing grace and accuracy. Against Man U, the ball was in Barca's possession for literally two-thirds of the match. That's an unbelievable statistic for a match of this caliber.

Of course ball possession matters not if one can't score. But Barca dominated in scoring chances, too, with nearly 20 shots to Man U's feeble 6 or 7. Manchester United is no small or feeble team. It's an all-star team with internationals from all over the globe. But again…

Rapture Forecast a Dud

So the much ballyhooed rapture did not occur on Saturday. Surprise! You'd love to see a little remorse from the false prophet who predicted this thing. But no. He simply says that it is actually October 21.

You know what they say: "Fool me once--shame on you. Fool me twice--shame on me." Of course, I didn't buy it from the very start.

The only people I feel badly for are those gullible individuals who actually believed the false prophet, Harold Camping. There was the family from Maryland who cashed out everything, took the high school kids out of school, spent their money on advertising, and then traveled the country. Or there was the guy from Connecticut who spent a bunch of money to rig up his car with a giant billboard on it. He drove it back and forth to New York City every day so that he could promote the rapture. I do feel somewhat badly for those folks--even though they should have known better.

I'm just sorry to admit that Harold Camping the false prophet …

Rapture Forecast?

Hm, how to dress on the 21st?

Short-Term Missions #1

Various explanations abound about why to go on a short-term mission trip. Some reasons are emotionally charged. Others stem from a basic desire to help people.

I am a proponent of short-term missions, but I think churches need to carefully consider the purpose of these trips. Churches need to be good stewards, and the cost of some short-term work necessitates a thoughtful evaluation of goals, needs and resources. Also, poorly identified goals cause a church to miss opportunities for the deep transformation of lives both at home and abroad.

For example, let's say that a church group wants wants to build a house in Mexico. The folks who help raise and administer missions funding need to ask what the #1 priority is. If the goal is only to build a house, then can we say that the best and most effective approach is to send a team of 25 teens with chaperones to build that house? My answer is "no." If house-building is the primary goal, then more houses could be built more effe…

Pics from Baja

My wife Julie posted some great pics from our church trip to Chapultepec, Mexico. Check out her blog at post at

Why Do We Do Short-Term Mission Trips?

Changes in our world have dramatically altered the landscape of international missions. Those who embarked on missionary trips used to be people who packed up their entire lives and moved across the world. Their contact with their home cultures was limited by the slow pace of ships carrying the mail.

The world is not the same anymore. The ease and speed of travel coupled with the relative wealth of Western Christians have allowed many more individuals to experience cross-cultural church work. Most of these are short-term workers who spend mere days or weeks on the mission field. The reality of short-term mission trips affects the way we think of the global missionary enterprise. I believe that short-term trips are here to stay.

So given this reality, why should we embark on short-term trips? What theological pillars should support short-term missions? And what should be their realistic goals?

In the next couple posts, I want to explore this topic. I write as a person who has experien…

A Week in Baja California

A large group from the College Church has been going to Ensenada, Mexico for years. Decades, actually. I'm not sure when the first group went or when. I know that our folks worked with the City of Children in many of those early trips. Our people built, painted, cooked, and did all sorts of various jobs to help that work.

City of Children grew increasingly crowded as church groups from across the US showed up to serve and learn. In the process of looking for new ways to serve, some of our folks came across YUGO ministries. They have outreach centers in several communities including Ensenada. Their primary mission is to work with local evangelical churches & pastors to strengthen their ministries. One of their primary tools is house-building.

For 8 or 9 years, the College Church has sent teams to build houses for families. The houses are incredibly modest by our standards. The YUGO folks at the Ensenada Outreach Center have this down to a science. They assign a local foreman to…

Trains in India

If you thought they were joking on the TV show "Outsourced" about how people ride on the outside of Indian trains, check out this photo from India. By the way, India's population has now passed 1.2 billion. India's population will be the largest on the planet within the next two decades.

"The Professionals" Returns to the Big Screen

Word has it that work will soon start on a movie version of the 1970s TV show "The Professionals." This BBC hit show starred Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins. The producers of this new film are Callum McDougall, producer of 007 films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Richard Whelan, producer of Captain America.

Click here for a story on this from London's Daily Mail.

I've seen many episodes of the series. As long as this film doesn't go the direction of Starsky & Hutch or Miami Vice remakes, it might be okay. The production team is certainly a promising sign.

Mountain Lakes

Our nearby mountains are currently covered with snow. Some areas got nearly 2 feet just in the past couple days! This is beautiful to behold from the Valley floor where we get no snow but can see the snowy peaks on clear days.

Here are a few pics of the family & friends back in late summer up at gorgeous Huntington Lake. The lake is around 7,000 ft in elevation and sits at the base of our closest ski resort, China Peak. The last picture was actually taken at Shaver Lake, elevation 5,000.

Fresno Seminar with Larry Osborne: Advocate vs Attendee

In a recent post, I referenced a seminar with Larry Osborne. Several of us from the College Church spent most a of day with 250 of our closest "friends" at a workshop. This was on the campus of Fresno's major Christian university, Fresno Pacific.
If you want to dig into what Osborne really thinks and believes, you should read a couple of his books. He's a great communicator and organizer. I wouldn't describe him as revolutionary or avant garde. He seems pragmatic, intelligent and a stickler for details.

One interesting thought was his comparison of Advocate versus Attendee. He described an Attendee as someone who attends your church. This may be a person who is deeply involved and really feels that this is their church. On the surface, most churches try to make people into Attendees. We as church leaders usually view ourselves as successful if we get a new person to commit and become an Attendee.

Osborne encouraged us to set a different target. He suggested that w…

Christian Response to Japan's Disaster

Several reactions: First, I can't believe the horror of what has happened to northeast Japan. This is beyond tragic. It's unspeakable. Tens of thousands dead. A sophisticated society reduced to the remnants of pre-modern existence. The universe contains more power than any of us can fathom.

Second, most news programs disappoint me. I wish the major news channels were less concerned with the "drama" of the events and more concerned with just giving us real interviews and analysis. The reporting of this tragedy is perhaps just another sign of the "dumbing down" of most American media sources and (tragically) of our broader society.

Third, debt restricts one's ability to respond in an emergency. This applies to individuals, corporations and countries. Japan's national debt is one of the highest in the world. The government owes 200% of their annual GDP. This is huge. The Japanese national government has been living beyond its means for more than a deca…

Recovery of Sight for the Blind

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

This passage from Luke 4 is no throwaway text. It is crucial for understanding the entire message of …

Colonel Gadhafi, the Hip Hop Artist

I'm sure you know a good bit about the uprising in Libya and Colonel Gadhafi's hard-line response. For 42 years, he has ruled this nation in Northern Africa. Most people think of him as a madman, a perception perhaps validated by his bizarre behavior in recent days. He went on national TV to rant about his enemies and promised to root out all "enemies of the state" alley by alley.

An Israeli musician and DJ named Noy Alooshe heard Gadhafi's speech and thought it was entertaining -- in the sense that it belonged to the theater of the absurd. He took some of Gadhafi's speech and mixed it to produce a song that has gone viral. Many across the Arab love it. Of course, some changed their minds when they discovered that a Jewish man has mixed the song. Others have decided to like the song in spite of that fact. Still others simply appreciate the parody for what it is. (FYI: There is a 2nd video version that features inset video of dancing girls. That version has ha…

What If It Snowed in Fresno?

Before living in Fresno, I had never before found myself in a locale where snow was all but impossible. Fresnans, please admit that it never really snows here. Oh sure, folks talk about "the great snow of 1967" when a couple inches of white stuff hit the ground. People actually tried to make snowmen out of it. Others tell me that there was a white dusting several years back. "Everything was white," they tell me.

I'm sure it looked nice. Perhaps it tickled the imagination of all, young and old. But that's a far cry from a real snowfall.

I spent more than a decade in the southeastern part of the US. It rarely snowed any significant amounts there, but an occasional snow storm did occasionally pass through. I remember below-freezing temps continuing for days as we pulled out sleds. I even built a snow fort in the yard. That was real snow.

I've spent two decades in northern places that had significant winters. Temps would sometimes hover below 32 F for weeks…

Fresno Seminar with Larry Osborne

A group of us from College Church attended a seminar yesterday. This was a ministry forum hosted and planned by Fresno Pacific University. Approximately 300 pastors, ministers, leaders and ministry students were there.

I'm grateful to have a Christian institution like Fresno Pacific here in our community. Although I'm not in their network and not yet very connected among Fresno area pastors, I can't fathom a city and region as big as this without a seminary and ministry resource like Fresno Pacific. Thankfully, the folks at FPU seem to recognize their role and work across denominational lines.

The focal point of yesterday's gathering was Larry Osborne, pastor at North Coast Church in San Diego County. His story in a compelling one. When he became the pastor there 25 years ago, North Coast was a storefront church with about 250 members. Today, they have 8500 members spread among several satellite congregations.

Larry's written several books like Sticky Church and Sti…

Spontaneous Reaction from Egypt

Check out this stunning footage of the crowd in Tahrir Square in Cairo. No matter what you feel about the developments, you have to admit that energy and excitement is real. Many ordinary Egyptians really think this is a change for the better. And remember that many Egyptians are not strongly religious. Christians are also a sizeable minority. Keep praying for the people of Egypt!

Has Big Ben Really Changed?

To follow up on the post about Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, I thought I would share this excellent story about Ben Roethlisberger. Elizabeth Merrill is an writer. Her article gives an up-close look at the star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers and his journey toward redemption.

PITTSBURGH -- The barkeeps along Carson Street say they haven't seen Ben Roethlisberger around in a while. They'd know if he were here. Pittsburgh, at its core, is one big little city. And people talk.

Steel mills used to drive the South Side, but sweat and grit have been replaced by Abercrombie & Fitch. It's a trendy area now, loaded with yuppies, college kids and watering holes. This used to be Roethlisberger's stomping grounds -- well, one of them -- and stories flow like Iron City beer from a tap.

There was a time, back in the boozy, pre-scandal days, when Roethlisberger could triple a bar's foot traffic within an hour. He'd show up at Jack's Rose Bar, a…

Reporting on the Middle East Affects Our Prayers

Whether we admit it or not, Christians are normally influenced by their national media. We are not as objective as we think because our sources of information are not as objective as we realize. On PRI's "The World," journalist Alex Gallafent reports on the reporting of the Egyptian uprising.

I recommend that you either read or listen to this report at The World's website.

Our stream of information affects the way we pray. Without realizing it, our prayers can be co-opted by our national interests rather than Kingdom interests. Listening to a broader range of sources might actually change the way we view & pray about world events.


A Different Side of the Pack's Aaron Rodgers

Jen Lada of Fox 6 News in Milwaukee posted this about Green Bay's star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. She wrote it last May. I thought it was a touching piece.

This job affords me some incredible opportunities. Being a member of the FOX6 Sports team means I've been able to witness and report on events and people that many can only admire from a distance. I never take these situations for granted and sincerely appreciate being involved in whatever capacity each permits.

Monday marked just the most recent case as I had the unparalleled privilege to be a part of Aaron Rodgers charity event to benefit the MACC Fund.The MACC Fund is one of those incomparable organizations that has the curse of being perpetually under-appreciated. This is by no fault of the dedicated individuals involved with this amazing organization. Simply put, the MACC Fund can never be appreciated enough for the tireless efforts its employees and associates are making to help eradicate childhood cancer and blood di…

A Christian Response to Protests in the Arab World, part 2

The wave of protests in Egypt goes on and on. The seemingly peaceful protest turned bloody last week as thug-supporters of President Mubarak started to attack the protesters. A family friendly revolution suddenly became a bloody battle for control of Cairo's main Freedom Square.

We can easily get swept away by the excitement of popular uprisings. Our own American revolution was a rebellion against tyranny, and we seem to feel sympathy for what we perceive to be similar revolutions. The revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 fascinated us. The so-called Orange revolution in Ukraine got lots of press in the US, as did the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

We need to remember, however, that not all popular uprisings lead to governments of our liking. The Iranian revolution resulted in a theocratic dictatorship that has been hostile to the US. African revolutions have tended to be guerrilla movements that simply traded one authoritarian ruler for a different one -- even some that…

Bono's Prayer Breakfast Speech

Bono was asked to speak at a recent interfaith prayer breakfast in DC. Some extremely powerful people were there. This is quite a sermon, and I encourage you to listen & register your thoughts.

A Christian Response to Protests in the Arab World, part 1

Over the past few days, we have seen massive protests in North Africa. The Arab countries of northern Africa have dictators and pseudo-dictators who have ruled their countries for decades. The economies of these countries have been improving in recent years, but most people still live a hardscrabble existence. Young people feel especially despondent. Even those who are fortunate enough to study often graduate to a stagnant job market that favors cronies rather than the talented and well trained. Anger against these regimes has been simmering below the surface for a long time.

A self-immolation in Tunisia started this wave of protests. A fruit vendor in Tunis, the capital city, had his goods seized by police because he did not have the proper permit to sell fruit. This man, frustrated and angry that he had no way to provide for his family, set himself on fire in protest. Remember this man's name, Mohamed Bouazizi, because he will likely be in the history books one day.

If you don…

Fresno's Renew Conference 2011

Our second annual Renew conference is February 18-20 here at the College Church building. Information is online at Registration is also online. The cost is just $25 for the whole weekend, and the includes the Saturday night banquet. You can pay with Paypal.

There are several HIGH points of this upcoming conference. One of the neatest aspects is Saturday afternoon's program. Instead of piecemeal classes we have created to high caliber tracks. Each participant can choose one track. Each track will be like an in-depth workshop lasting four hours and will provide meat for people of all walks of life.
The track for church leaders will probe questions of our church's identity in a changing world. Leaders need to discuss and think these things through. Mark Love will lead a 4-hour session to help you and your church leadership team learn about "missional churches" and how to take steps toward the world around your faith community. Mark will be sen…

European PGA golfer breaks clay pigeon with golf shot

Is this real? See for yourself.

2011 New Year's Resolution, Part 3

I'm sure I could think up random possibilities for New Year's resolutions ad nauseum. Perhaps you'd love to think up some New Year's resolutions for me! At any rate, I will offer one more idea for thinking Christians who might still be looking for an idea to implement this year.

Idea #3 -- Embrace a Bit More Suffering than Usual

The American dream has been driven by a success-driven mentality. The myths of American "individualism" and the "self-made person" reject suffering and poverty as curses to be avoided.

Funny, isn't it? The generation of my grandparents knew poverty and tended to suffer a lot -- at least in their youth. My grandmother was the next-to-youngest of 9 kids. She never had a moment of leisure. They had a farm that required all hands on deck all the time. Although they never went without, their life was anything but luxurious. My grandfather grew up in physical depravity. His father deserted them before be was born. One Christma…

2011 New Year's Resolution, Part 2

Okay, so if you're still in the market for an idea or two in 2011, perhaps you might like to try one of my suggestions. My proposed resolutions are not generic thoughts for anyone. They are for people of faith. Here's my second installment in this series.

Idea #2 -- Give up One Thing for the Kingdom

Most of us have habits, hobbies and interests that consume large amounts of our time, money and energy. We all need ways of relaxing, burning off steam and channeling our passions. If all we did was eat, work and sleep, I think we would have a miserable existence.

When do our interests consume too much of our time? How can we know if we have crossed the line from hobby into obsession? Can our habits actually inhibit our dedication to the Kingdom of God?
I'm not trying to suggest that your life is out of whack. No one thing or one person is in my sights. I'm just wondering what would happen if we briefly cut out something in order to make room for something Kingdom oriented. He…