Sunday, March 25, 2007

Selling my Truck...

Well, I'm officially trying to sell my truck as of this week. If you know of anyone who wants a great 2001 White Chevy Silverado 1500, tell them to check out my ad on cars.com & send me a note if they are interested. The truck is just not practical right now since I never take the boys with me at any time (we're not going to move over three car seats to take a trip with the boys anywhere) - so it's just me in the truck. I just don't need the space or the horsepower. But I know there are people who do, so send them my way if they're looking.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Busy Week

Sorry for not posting more this last week - still fighting off illness as a family. Barie and the boys are feeling better, but I feel like my head's about to explode. I'm all medicated up, but the sinuses are still not agreeing with me. Wanted to let you know that we have a new website revision up for the Round Rock plant that has a lot of cool information about the vision of the plant and the beginnings of our different ministries - small groups & launch teams. God is doing some amazing things around us, and it is truly a ride to hear the wonderful, life-changing stories that I hear from our team. I can't hardly believe that we are only 171 days away from our first public service. It really feels like yesterday we were 18 months out.

Just to let you know, both HCBC Hutto and HCBC Leander are set to launch on Easter Sunday, April 8th. You can check out their websites above to see what they are doing to get ready for their big first day. Both churches were commissioned out from the mother-churches last week, so this is a significant week for both - they will have their first "practice" service this Sunday in preparation for going public on April 8th. Send some prayers up for both churches & their pastors, Bo Thompson & Peter Horn.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

Barie and I had the opportunity to slip out of the house last night after the kids went to bed (Barie was feeling better!) to see a quick movie. It was a great time with my bride, getting a big bucket of popcorn at the theater close to our house and seeing the new movie Amazing Grace, about the life and work of William Wilberforce in ending the slave trade in England in the late 18th century. I have to thank Mom-Davis (my mother-in-law) for watching the kids last night so we could slip out to the show. Now on to the movie...

It was the best-written movie I've ever seen - I felt like some of the lines were a little forced - somewhat cliche or formulaic. But overall, the acting was passionate and well-done. And the story is absolutely amazing. Though he plays a very small part in the film, the John Newton character was very well done. You can feel the depth of his remorse for spending years of his life in the slave trade, and the depths of his conviction for how Christ had redeemed his terrible sin. The story mainly centers on the Wilberforce character, a member of parliament in the late 1700's in England who gives his life to ending the slave trade in the British empire. The movie does a good job showing how his work was a life-time effort, not a quick process - he was going up against an entrenched position that had serious financial power in the empire. It took him most of his adult life to see the rest of the English Parliament come around to his conviction of the evil nature of the slave trade. It is truly unbelievable, as I've said before in this blog, how a people could so overlook an evil like slavery while it took place under their leadership. I wonder what generations in the future will look back on with horror in our own generation - abortion, genocide in Darfur, extreme poverty - human killers that we failed to engage.

Overall - I highly recommend you go see the film - powerful part of history and significant example of how a committed Christ-follower can impact culture for the better.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sick Family

We've been dealing with big-time sickness as a family this weekend and today. Barie got diagnosed with strep-throat on Saturday and Kade has been dealing with the same thing since last Thursday. Kade has been running a high fever. Both have been very sick. We've been giving lots of medicine over the last few days and just today are starting to see some improvement. Please pray that everyone gets better soon - the family as a whole is really struggling right now.

On a different note, the NCAA tournament bracket came out yesterday. You can see the whole bracket of 64 on the CBS Sports website - I love the college basketball tournament every year - we'll have to discuss who we think will go all the way very soon.

I also preached yesterday at HCBC PF - I shared some of my latest thinking on living a missionary life in the midst of our current culture. You can download the message at the HCBC PF website or from their iTunes link. More later when I'm not wiping runny noses.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Intellectual Honesty

I ran across this article in the New York Times last month (free registration is required to read it) and I wanted to post it here to see what everyone thought about it. The main issue that the journalist is raising is the increasing number of young-earth scientists who are going to well-established, secular, public universities for the doctoral degrees in scientific fields. The specific person in focus in the article is Dr. Ross, who just received his Ph.D. in paleontology from Rhode Island University for his dissertation work on the fossil record of reptiles at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago. The rub is that Dr. Ross doesn't believe anything that he is writing - he is a young-earth creationist who believes the earth is really around 10,000 years old based on his reading of Genesis. Dr. Ross defends his dissertation as work done through a "different paradigm" than what he personally believes. In other words, he feels comfortable doing scientific research and writing that conflicts with his personal Christian convictions because he can compartmentalize the two areas into two different paradigms that he works in.

You can read a little between the lines of the article and feel the journalist questioning the intellectual honesty of Christian scientists who do "university-style science" in order to get advanced doctorates from state schools only to go into private Christian colleges and teach their creationist views with the credibility that comes from an advanced science degree that comes from a national university.

What do you think about Dr. Ross' work and his views? Do you think the NY Times writer has a point?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Family Values

It would be natural to say that I am passionate about the success of America's family life. I have already given many hours of time and prayer and energy to help marriages and families succeed, and I'm sure over the next several decades of ministry, I will interact with many more struggling marriages and families. For all these reasons, this article in the Washington Post caught my eye as it described the dwindling number of married families with children in the United States. Once thought to be the norm, less and less families are made up of married couples with children. The author's main premise is that statistics are showing that the major factor determining the lifestyle of American families is economics, not values. This means that economic survival and financial vitality drive family choices as much as religious values.

Of course, the major flaw in this rationale from my point of view is that religious values drive economic choices as much as economic conditions drive religious views. That being said, the article does raise an interesting point that political conservatives can say they want married families with kids to be the healthy norm, but they must also be behind the economic empowerment of these families for this system to sustain itself. Any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Attacking Jesus, Attacking God

It is a popular thing to attack the validity of Jesus' deity and the rationality of God's existence these days. Two main efforts immediately come to mind. One is the recent Discovery Channel show on the discovery of Jesus' tomb. The other is the best-seller by Richard Dawkins called The God Delusion. A few thoughts and links below:

There is a lot of buzz about the Discovery special on the claimed “Jesus Ossuary”. You can read more about the TV special here: http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/tomb/tomb.html.
No reputable biblical archeologist has given any support to the claims of the Discovery special, but James Cameron’s help (director of the movie “Titanic”) is what brought the special credibility (weird as that is).

If you want specifics on why the whole thing is obviously bogus, you will want to read through Ben Witherington’s blog postings on the supposed Jesus Ossuary. You can find them here at http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/ He has several posts on the topic spread out over the last week. Scroll down for more or click on the links on the right side of the page. Witherington is an acclaimed professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary & author of several great books on the life of Jesus and NT interpretation.

Also, we’ve had some discussion recently on Richard Dawkins’ aggressive atheistic book called The God Delusion. I ran across this well-written response to Dawkins’ book by Alvin Plantinga, a renowned professor of philosophy at Notre Dame. I don’t actually understand everything in Plantinga’s response as it gets technical in parts, but the gist of his argument is that while Dawkins may be an excellent research biologist, he needs to stay away from philosophy. His thesis is that Dawkins make some very poor philosophical arguments – you can read for yourself at http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html if you are interested.

Hope that helps in your daily engagement with our culture.


Book Review: Battle Cry of Freedom

So I finally finished 860 pages of Civil War history last night. I sometimes hate the fact that I get wrapped up into long books that keep me from reading other stuff, but this one was a winner - big time. I felt like the 860 pages just flew by as I was completely captured by the historical narrative of the civil war era. The book spends a significant amount of space (maybe 250 pages) setting up the war, describing the political, economic, and social settings for the bloodiest war in American history. While I have been into history for a number of years, this historical account of the civil war (which won the Pulitzer Prize in history) helped me to place the battles, people, and events inside their historical context for the first time.

After reading this book, I really walked away with two major observations. First, the leadership it took for the Northern political leaders (especially Lincoln) to keep the North engaged in the war when it was costing so many lives was simply astounding. The fact that the Union encountered so many close calls at losing the whole war just reminds the reader that victory was never assured when the war began. As the years war on and the public support wained, Lincoln's leadership and commitment to victory were supremely important. To be able to endure the death of so many countrymen in order to save the Union and ultimately end slavery is surely a remarkable feat.

The second major observation I have is simply how deluded people can become in their own depravity. Being a white southerner by birth, it is really hard to believe that my ancestors defended the institution and righteousness of slavery as completely as they did. Reading the quotes of Confederate leaders throughout this book who passionately defended a morally bankrupt system reminds me that many times my reading of Scripture can be culturally determined more than I wish that it were. What I mean by that is simply that when a culture as a whole wants to defend an institution or a cultural value, they seem to be able to turn different passages of Scripture in their defense. As one of my profs from seminary used to say, "you can defend anything you want from the Bible if you take passages out of their context." Remarkable how recently our own great country was treating another race of human beings as property, as men and women and children not worthy to have their own freedom. How sad is our own story.

Overall, a great read and a stark reminder about our own fascinating American past.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Watching God At Work

We had the unique opportunity to attend the charter service for the Hutto church plant tonight at Hutto Middle School. What an awesome event! The core team for the Hutto plant heard from the pastors of HCBC NW and HCBC PF as we all celebrated the birth of the association's first granddaughter church. For those of you reading who are not familiar with church-planting movements, granddaughter churches are very rare. There are many great churches around the nation that are planting churches, but for the most part, very few church-plants actually reproduce themselves to the next generation. This tells us something significant - reproducing churches is important, but reproducing churches with the right DNA to plant other churches is the key.

And tonight we witnessed this truth in living color. It was a powerful moment as the elders of HCBC PF, the mother-church, helped the charter members of HCBC Hutto sign the charter document, make their financial commitments, and turn in their ministry commitments. God was definitely at work as this new church family was officially started. Elders were selected and Bo Thompson was confirmed as the new pastor. As one who will follow in their footsteps in six short months, it was truly an awe-inspiring time. A new, missional, healthy church was started tonight, and I know that Jesus is pleased with His people.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Easter Evangelism

Many of you know that we handed out copies of a very good John Piper book called Seeing & Savoring Jesus Christ to our neighbors and family over the Christmas break. Piper's ministry, Desiring God, had an offer on the table where they would sell the books to you for $1 each if you promised to give them away at Christmas. Barie and I bought a case of the book and gave all of our 48 copies away. The book was, like most of Piper's material, intense, biblical, and God-exalting. This Easter, his ministry has again agreed to sell cases of another one of his short paperback books for evangelistic purposes. This book, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, was originally published to coincide with the release of the Passion film two years ago. It is a great primer on the cross and why it was necessary. If you are interested in buying cases of this book to give away at Easter, you can find out about the offer on this website. Just a quick FYI however - the Christmas book cases sold out in like a week, so make sure to jump on this offer quickly if you are interested.

Movie Review: Flags of Our Fathers

I had the time to watch the amazing movie last night, Flags of Our Fathers. The movie is based on the book by James Bradley about the story of the men who raised the flag in the famous photo from Iwo Jima. His dad, "Doc" Bradley, was one of the flag raisers. The story behind the picture, the battle, and the lives of the men who were in the pictures is a fascinating story. The movie is powerful and captivating, showing the overwhelming horrors the soldiers at Iwo Jima witnessed, and the struggles the flag-raisers had in being called heroes. Thousands of American and Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the battle for Iwo Jima, and the weight of the evils of war are plain to see. The movie is very graphic, but war is very graphic, and the movie helps to communicate in some small way what the men of WWII faced as they took islands in the Pacific. Clint Eastwood directed the film and did a powerful job telling the story. I very rarely like movies based on books that I enjoyed, but this case is different - Eastwood captures the intense emotions of the book, and only holds out in revealing one terrible detail from the book - how Iggy, Doc's closest friend was killed by the Japanese.

The companion movie, Letters from Iwo Jima, which tells the story from the other side, was nominated for best picture this year & is on my queue with Netflix to get when it comes out on video. I am fascinated to see how Eastwood filmed the battle from the Japanese side. Another reminder of how the death of so many American soldiers have guaranteed our freedoms today.