Thursday, January 26, 2006

iPods and The Cross

I ran across this article about a pastor in Houston that is using the iPod to talk about the gospel. He is the midst if a sermon series called "iPod Theology," the main gist of which is that the iPod is so simple, and that life can also be simple. Now, I don't have my own iPod (but my birthday is coming up in seven short months, hint-hint), but I have my own take on how the iPod relates to our life in Christ.

The pastor, in making his point about the simple life, says this: "All you do on the outside is push the little button, drive the wheel and pick what usefulness you want out of your iPod," he said. "And so when Jesus talks to us about simplification, it must start on the inside." While the first step in a relationship with Jesus is a simple choice to follow Him, it is much more complicated than that. Just like the iPod, much work and effort went into the salvation process to make it simple for us. With the iPod, there were designers, computer programmers, engineers, musicians, etc. all working to bring about this product. With God, there was the Law - not simple - and then there was the sacrifice of Jesus - not easy - that went into developing a reconciliation with God. And once we start that relationship, it is often not as easy as kicking back and listening to tunes.

The pastor goes on to say, "When I go to iTunes, I select all that I want. When I go to Jesus Christ, he gives me all that I need. It's that simple." Yes, Jesus gives us all we need, but the implication here is that we can design for ourselves what our life in Christ will look like. Fortunately, we don't get to pick the playlist of our lives. When we sign on to follow Jesus, we are submitting ourselves to his playlist. We might want to hear the song of self-gratification; He plays the song of self-sacrifice. We might want to hear a tune about looking out for #1; He plays the tune of service and selflessness. We try to dial in a song about pleasure; He dials up one about dying for Him. We are not afforded the luxury or deciding what our life will sound like once we follow Jesus - He plays it for us. And it's not always easy to hear.

"When I am sitting here and I am rocking out with my music ... you don't know what I am listening to. That is between me and the iPod," he said. "That's between me and God. That's between you and God. All I can be responsible for is myself." This statement by the pastor is one that is very pervasive in evangelicalism. We talk at length about a "personal relationship with Jesus." While our relationship with Jesus should be a personal thing, it is not just about you and Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus should be seen in the greater context of the Church. When the Bible speaks about the great marriage, He talks about Jesus being the groom, and the Church being the bride. Fitz is not the bride (although I bet I would look good in one of those dresses); the Church is. The relationship with Jesus is not simply about you and Him; it is about you and Him and the Church. It may be personal, but it is not individualistic. When you try to keep it to yourself, you are like an eye trying to function like a whole body all by itself (another of the metaphors used for the Church). It simply won't work that way.

I fully expect to hear back from my good friend Brian, since he is the Apple expert. Any of the rest of you have any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My New Toy

The thing I have been saving several months for is finally here: my Apple iBook with a G4 processor and 14" screen. It is quite sweet! I am looking forward to having the DSL hooked up at home so I can surf the web there instead of having to come up to the church every time I want to use the internet. Marcy is a little concerned that she will become a computer widow, but I don't think so. This computer will come in quite handy when Fitz, Jr. comes along and we are taking pictures and videos left and right. We need to edit and send them somehow, and now we have the way to do it. The iLife software package that it comes with is pretty cool! So, be jealous if you must. I know my friend Oral is already...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lawyers...When Will They Ever Stop? (Sorry Stephan)

Just when you thought frivolous lawsuits couldn't get any more weird, along comes this story about the family of a man who is suing Benihana restaurants for his wrongful death. Apparently, the chef - as they are known to do at Japanese grill restaurants - threw a cooked shrimp at the man, and instead of catching it, he ducked, wrenching his neck. Later, when the pain wouldn't go away, the man went for surgery on his neck, and complications led to his death. Now, I feel very bad for the family. I try to imagine the pain that they are going through, and I simply can't put myself in their shoes. But to sue the restaurant, come on! That's just ridiculous...or is it, Stephan?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Misery of a Cleveland Fan has come out with their misery index, measuring how much misery a football team has made their fans endure. Not surprisingly, Cleveland finished as being the team with the highest misery index, using the categories of Historic Despair, Recent Despair, Historic Pain, Recent Pain, Intangible Misery, and Misery Outlook. Here is what Jim Caple had to say:

"1. Cleveland Browns

Sure, Cleveland once was an NFL powerhouse, winning three championships in the days before Roman numerals. But that was so long ago that America's heartland actually still manufactured things.

The decades haven't been kind to Cleveland since Jim Brown retired to the set of the "Dirty Dozen" to pursue his "acting career." The Browns have had more losing seasons than winning seasons in the past three decades. They've lost five games that could have sent them to the Super Bowl, losing three of them in a span of four years. They watched John Elway march the Broncos 98 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes of the AFC championship game on Jan. 11, 1987. They watched Ernest Byner fumble at the 3-yard line. But just when it seemed it could get no worse, owner/Satan spawn Art Modell stole the team and took it to Baltimore -- where the Ravens won a Super Bowl. Sure, Cleveland got a replacement team. But it stinks. It was like having someone take your Jim Brown throwback jersey and giving you a Jeff Garcia giveaway T-shirt in return.

Lousy teams, painful losses, a hijacked team. Sheesh. The only thing missing from the Browns' misery is Kathy Bates' crushing their ankles with a sledgehammer."

To see how your team fared, visit

Monday, January 09, 2006

Football and Kong

It is almost getting to the point that I don't like watching football. Now, before any of you revoke my guy status, let me explain. I watched the Rose Bowl, the college football national championship - the 2nd half, at least - last Wednesday night. I liked watching it almost as much as watching the Buckeyes whoop up on Notre Dame. I watched as Vince Young simply threw his team - Texas - on his back and carried them to the title over USC. He threw for 267 yards, and rushed for another 200 yards. He was a beast! But what impressed me far more than any of the numbers that he posted was how he reacted every time he scored or made a big play. Actually, what impressed me was how he didn't react. Each time he scored, he simply walked to the ref, handed him the ball, and walked off the field. No dancing, no Sharpies or diving into the stands, no imaginary cell phone calls. He just did his job, and let that do his talking for him. In marked contrast, I watched the Steelers vs. Bengals game yesterday. Not only did it pain me to watch Pitts-Puke win, but what I really didn't like was the reaction of the players after virtually every play. Score a touchdown, strike a pose. Make a big tackle, pound your chest. Make a reception, start talking trash to the defender. Make a small tackle after the offensive player has already gotten a first down, still act like you did something big and impressive. It doesn't matter what you do, make sure you show everyone that you are big and important. Vince Young and his humble behavior in the title game was refreshing. I never thought I would say this about someone from Texas, but why can't more people be like him (no offense, Guy)? Whatever happened to humility and gentlemanly behavior? On a side note, I'm just glad that he is going into the draft. It increases the chances of Ohio State winning the national championship next year...there I go jinxing them again...

I went and saw King Kong this past weekend. I do have to say that it was a good movie. I don't know that it blew me away like it did everyone else. But it was fine. One thing I noted was that I am getting quite tired of computer-generated special effects. I'm not talking about movies like Toy Story or the soon-to-be released Hoodwinked (go see this movie - a friend's friend wrote and directed it!). Those movies are good because they don't try to be reality. I'm talking about movies like King Kong, and Chronicles of Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (gasp!), where they are trying to portray something that is real through the use of computers. So much of these kinds of movies revolve around special effects. And for the most part, they are pretty good, but still not as good as the real thing. How long before we do away with actors altogether? The day is coming when you will be able to make a movie with computer graphics and some sort of voice-manufacturing device. I know, these movies are good and have a particular audience. I liked them all, but I just know that I am getting tired of all of the computer stuff. Bring back the real thing...or maybe go back to claymation like in Jason and the Argonauts. Now that is some cool special effects!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Books Read in 2005

My reading list is not quite as prolific as my friend Guy (30 books read this year), but I am pretty proud of the fact that I read an average of 2 books per month this year. That works out to be 24 books for the year, for those of you that are arithmetically-challenged. Here's what I read, with a brief comment about each, links to the books at, and my favorites of the year in bold:
  1. The Last Don by Mario Puzo - not as good as The Godfather, but a decent mob piece
  2. The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey - anything by Yancey is good
  3. Lightning on the Sun by Robert Bingham - disturbing and depressing, but I still liked reading it - a gift from my cousin's husband
  4. Visioneering by Andy Stanley - good for pastors and non-pastors alike, about developing and following the vision for your life
  5. Reimagining Spiritual Formation by Doug Pagitt - a week in the life of a postmodern church in Minneapolis
  6. A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren - a challenging look at modern Christianity in the postmodern context
  7. Thriving Youth Groups by Jeanne Mayo - good tips for making your youth group a friendly place
  8. The Seven Cries of Today's Teen by Timothy Smith - good info about what teens want/need that I have used to train our adult youth leaders
  9. Good to Great by Jim Collins - business principles that we can use in the church (or anywhere else)
  10. Do They Run When They See You Coming? by Jonathan McKee - about not turning off visitors and fringe kids from your youth group - didn't thrill me all that much
  11. Hurt: Inside The World of Today's Teenagers by Chap Clark - loved it! It made me sad to read about a lot of the stuff that today's teens are dealing with, but I sure appreciated reading it
  12. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - the inspiration for Simon Birch, but very different - excellent!
  13. The Relevant Church by various authors; edited by Jennifer Ashley - a look at some how different churches are remaining relevant to their culture - ok
  14. The Brethren by John Grisham - I really enjoyed this, especially since it didn't have a Hollywood ending
  15. The Testament by John Grisham - I liked the fact that it had a Christian character that was portrayed in a positive light
  16. Praise Habit by David Crowder - loved it! David Crowder wrote it. 'Nuff said
  17. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell - loved it! Rob Bell wrote it. 'Nuff said
  18. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller - memoirs of a Christian on hi journey - great conversational style
  19. Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians by Lawrence Kushner - helps to understand the Jewish understanding of some of what is in the Bible
  20. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell - a study on what makes certain things epidemics, social and otherwise - loved it! - probably my favorite this year
  21. The Coffeehouse Gospel by Matthew Paul Turner - a discussion on how to turn everyday encounters and conversation into venues to share your faith - nothing groundbreaking
  22. The Runaway Jury by John Grisham - the book that inspired the movie - can you tell that I think Grisham is not so bad
  23. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - I had to read this classic before the movie came out - great!
  24. Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler - the authour writes about his travels through the region that the patriarchs travelled through - very interesting and insightful about the Biblical stories

I notice that these books average a score of 4.02 stars out of five at Amazon (no rating was available for Do They Run...?), so I guess I have pretty decent taste. I think I am shooting for 27 books this year. Shoot! Now that it's in writing, I have to do it. I have already started with Erwin McManus and a book about being a father. Stay tuned...