Sunday, March 29, 2009

Extra syrup please

Rainn Wilson from the TV show "The Office" (he plays Dwight if you didn't already know that) has created a website called SoulPancake. I've only had time to click around a little bit on the site, but I think I'm going to have to order a double-stack. It is really a brilliant concept. Here is the description of the site:

Hi. I’m Rainn Wilson. I’m an actor. I helped create this here Web site, SoulPancake.
What is SoulPancake? Well, it’s more of a mission than a Web site...

We want to make discussions about Spirituality, Creativity, and Philosophy cool again. Were they ever cool? I have no idea. But it seems like a good idea. We want to engage the user to “Chew on Life’s Big Questions”™. (I was kidding about the ™ symbol; you can use that phrase however you want. Even to sell frozen taquitos.) Where do you go on the Interwebs if you want an irreverent, fun, and profound take on God and Art and the Soul and Faith and Beauty? Maybe. But maybe also here at

We provide some rockin’ content (interviews, blogs, challenges, contests, features, and more), but it’s really all about having YOU—the SoulPancake community—bring this site to life. Say what’s on your mind. Be real. Talk about WHY WE’RE HERE. And if I say something that offends you, let me have it.

Just remember: Life is a rich, weird, difficult experience. So join us as we go on the spiritual and artistic journey that is SoulPancake.

I'm looking forward to not just viewing but participating in this site. I need more mental stimulation, challenge, and excitement - so I'm glad this place is available where probably not everyone will agree with my points of view - but we can still have fun being part of the discussion.

Plus, come on - who doesn't like pancakes?!?!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thanks for the reminder Bruce

The other night I was driving home from an awesome 20's group around 10:30pm. It was a beautiful night, the first drive of the new season when I could roll down the windows and crank the music. Exactly what I did. Wanted to just listen to some of my all time favorite songs, so I jammed to some Pumpkins and other randoms, but eventually rolled the Zune over to The Boss. Couldn't get Badlands any louder, or Thunder Road. But the one song, my favorite all-time Bruce track, "Better Days," really hit me in a deeper way than just jamming on the way home:

Well my soul checked out missing as I sat listening
To the hours and minutes tickin' away
Yeah, just sittin' around waitin' for my life to begin
While it was all just slippin' away.
I'm tired of waitin' for tomorrow to come
Or that train to come roarin' round the bend.
I got a new suit of clothes a pretty red rose
And a woman I can call my friend

These are better days baby
Yeah there's better days shining through
These are better days baby
Better days with a girl like you

Well I took a piss at fortunes sweet kiss
Its like eatin' caviar and dirt
Its a sad funny ending to find yourself pretending
A rich man in a poor mans shirt
Now my ass was draggin' when from a passin' gypsy wagon
Your heart like a diamond shone
Tonight I'm layin' in your arms carvin' lucky charms
Out of these heard luck bones

Now a life of leisure and a pirates treasure
Don't make much for tragedy
But its a sad man my friend who's livin' in his own skin
And cant stand the company
Every fools got a reason to feelin' sorry for himself
And turn his heart to stone
Tonight this fools halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I'm comin' home

These are better days baby
There's better days shining through
These are better days
Better days with a girl like you

My wife, my daughter, my family, my friends, my church - I really don't have anything to complain about in my life. And even if I did, I feel like I have clearer, healthier outlook at present. "These are better days" is the epitome of how I feel about life right now.

I came into 2009 praying for a renewed sense of joy and purpose in my life. Though I've heard it 100x's or more already, the way the lyrics of this song really hit me emotionally was a proof to me that I'm gaining that joy, deeply.

The first line is a good word to where I was a year, year-and-a-half ago: "my soul checked out."

But the last line of the bridge is where I am today: "Tonight this fools halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell, and I feel like I'm comin' home."

Yep...these are better days. Better days it's true.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Were we wrong with the 21 Day Fast?

A week ago today New Life ended a 21 day season of fasting and prayer. Some fasted from a meal a day or a couple meals a day, some only drank juice for the season, some said good-bye to forms of media. The emphasis throughout was for personal spiritual renewal, and we encouraged one another to keep at it, to pray, and to draw closer to God through the act of removing.

But was it the wrong thing to do?

To clarify - did we go about it the wrong way? Fasting isn't wrong, the Bible clearly teaches and encourages it. But is the manner in which we as a church went about it done in a wrong way?

The question was raised, "Jesus says to not let people know that you're fasting. We're letting everyone know, it's even being pushed on our website. How much more obvious can we get that we're doing it? Isn't that wrong?"

The passage that's being referenced in this great question is from Matthew 6:17-18:
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So the honest question is valid - by being obvious that we were fasting were we doing something wrong?

When we bring our good questions to the Bible we have to as much as possible look at the whole message of the Bible, not just a part - not just one verse. Using one verse to back up an idea is called proof-texting, and a lot of damage is done in the name of Jesus by those who do it.

So to bring in some more context, here are some other passages that mention fasting:

There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. Ezra 8:21-23

Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:1-3

You can also read many other passages throughout the Bible that speak of fasting (click here).

The point of showing these 3 texts is to show that there has been a practice throughout the centuries of God's people joining together to pray & fast. Not just individuals but communities of believers participating in the removal of things so as to add more time with Jesus.

So how do we take the community reality of fasting and the "don't be obvious" Matthew 6 passage at the same time?

"so that it will not be obvious" comes from a phrase that means "so it will not be seen." It's the idea of an appearance, an appearance that isn't necessarily connected to an inner reality. Another way of thinking about it would be putting on a costume for a play. It gives you the look of the part, but it's not who you really are.

The Pharisees of Jesus times, the so called religious guys who got it all wrong, were very theatrical with their fasting. For them fasting was an opportunity to put on a religious show through which they would get lots of applause for what they were doing. They wanted to be famous for being spiritual.

Unfortunately, loving God means that we make Him famous - not ourselves. God sees the heart, the secret reality of us all. And that is the point of the Matthew passage. He sees the depths of our hearts and the motives that are connected to our actions. The Sermon on the Mount is the revolutionary teaching of Jesus setting the record straight on what deep spirituality truly is like, flipping the Pharisee's idea of life on it's head. With fasting he basically says, "When you fast - don't do it to put on a show - do it to connect your heart with mine."

I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrases the Matthew passage:

"When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint. If you 'go into training' inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn't require attention-getting devices. He won't overlook what you are doing; he'll reward you well."

So were we doing something wrong with the 21day fast? No & Yes.

No, because it can be seen from Scripture that people joining together to seek out God is a powerful and necessary thing. Seeking God for spiritual renewal was the reason we were doing it, the motive of our hearts, not to look cool and spiritual. To be part of such an honest, heart focusing season with our church was amazing! The 21 days was a powerful thing for me because fasting is a spiritual habit I never really developed. But over the course of the 3 weeks I really got to a point where my heart and mind were more in tune to the heart of God and His word than previously. Knowing I wasn't alone in that but was joining in with my church family was even powerful. I need to fast more, our church needs to fast more. So no, we weren't doing something wrong.

But also maybe a little bit Yes. Not at the community level but at the individual level. Because maybe some did put on a show. Maybe it wasn't a thing of the heart for some. And that should be a constant reminder to those who do desire to fast. If it is going to be a temptation for you to try and get compliments or attention from people by telling them you're fasting - then keep it a secret. If you desire for people to be looking at you instead of looking to Jesus, then keep your fasting a secret.

May the next 21 day fast not be the next time we exercise such a spiritual habit.

May New Life always be a place of people who are constantly seeking to make Jesus famous.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fire Alarm Temptation

When I was at the library at Moody Friday, I was talking on the phone by a wall with a fire alarm that had this sticker above it:

For someone who is always tempted to pull one of those when I walk by - that wasn't very helpful.

But...I didn't pull it. Just laughed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

If I think it's a planet then it's a planet

I've been laughing about this for the last two days:

The Illinois State Senate adopted a resolution on February 26 to return Pluto to its planet status. The legislature voted Pluto was 'unfairly downgraded' to dwarf planet status in 2006. According to the rest of the world, Pluto remains a dwarf planet. Pluto was discovered by a Streator, Ill. astronomer in 1930. Pluto Day celebrates the planet, as well as Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, on March 13. [From]

So Illinois has the audacity to go against the rest of the known world - and scientists - to say, "Nope, we think it's still a planet." Brilliant.

Isn't that all of us though at times.

Truth stares us in the face and we say..."Nah, I think it's this."
But you have all of this information and testimony pointing to the contrary? And we say..."So?"


Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.. Proverbs 12:15

Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation Proverbs 26:5

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Generational Service

Tonight at our 20's group we were covering the second lesson in New Life's First Steps book, which is on faith. The big idea of the lesson is that true faith can't be summed up with the word "knowledge," nor with the word "feeling," but with the word "surrender."

One part of the lesson asks the question, "How can we increase in faith?" To spend time in the Bible is the answer. It is in there that we learn more about God: who is the object of our faith.

During our discussion we were looking at I. Timothy 3:16 & Hebrews 10:25:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. I Timothy 3:16

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another... Hebrews 10:25

I was sharing with the group how we need to live in community, which is unfortunately becoming such a cliche in the church. But the point I was making is that we need to have people in our lives who have permission to point us to the Word so as to teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us. Specifically though, we need people from within our peer group and people older than us. Our peer group for people who can resonate with where we're at and those older because they have been where we are at. But the idea isn't to have these people in our lives just to come along side to boo-hoo or gripe with us, but to be come along side to keep us focused and cheer us on to obedience and love for Jesus.

After talking for a bit Jessica made the comment, "Then we need more than just those two groups in our lives. We also need younger people in our lives as well. We need to be spurring and encouraging them on because to them we are the 'older' people."

As soon as she said it two things hit me, beyond just the fact that she was absolutely, brilliantly correct.

The first truth hitting me was the reality that the most influential group of people for the current teen generation is the current 20's generation. Who are they more likely to mimic - a 24yr old or a 34yr old? Not that those outside of the 20's aren't influential - they are crucial - but there is a reality that the 20's have a special influence over the current teen generation that is special and powerful. That truth should empower young 20's with both a wake-up call and a mission. A wake-up call that you have influence, you have the potential to impact a generation. The just out of high school or college "I'm not under mom/dad's roof anymore I'm going to do what I want" attitude that some 20's have is going to turn divine potential into generational genocide. If you're in your 20's you have such an unique, amazing opportunity to turn the eyes of the generation before you toward Jesus. That is a mission! That is amazing!

That led to the second thing - there is a need to embrace generational influence in the church. There is a necessity to split up age groups for various reasons that are justifiable in my opinion. At the same time - the above discussion to me is evidence for more of an effort to bring the ages together. Looking to those older than me, younger than me, my same age and asking, "How can I help you in your journey?" Teenagers have something to offer the elderly, vice versa, and then apply that to every other age group comparison you can chart out. Mentors are needed, labor is needed, guidance is needed, friendships are needed, coaching is needed, fun is needed - all of these both in AND across the age generations.

So all of this brought me to a big conclusion: the church is a necessity. That will be obvious to some, but not to others. "I can just have the 'church-thing' with my group of friends. I don't need to go to a large group or a building." More than the fact that this way of thinking excessively drips with consumerism thinking, this mentality is also one of isolation. One is isolating themselves off from what so many others can offer them - AND what they can offer to so many others. Al always says to me and our church location, "The time to make friends is before you need them." Jesus said it before Al did, "do not neglect meeting together - encourage one another." When we truly embrace the church for what it can be, and embrace that reality across age differences - it just seems like a living reality that something good, needed, and profound will happy: people will be helped, changed for the better, and will see Jesus for who He is really is.

Sounds pretty good to me.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Fasting F.Y.I.

While fasting, if your wife asks you to run to the grocery store with her, lovingly say "no." Talking about the land of temptation. I thought I'd make it easier on myself by walking to the juice isle to
stock up.

Nope. Foolishness. The crackers are across from the juice.

I turned into Homer Simpson, drooling and moaning. "Cheeeeezzzzz-Itttttsssss." Luckily you have to pay before you eat at Dominicks (just in case you forgot that process during the fast) and I was saved.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I just finished reading KISS by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy. If you like suspense fiction, then you would probably like the book. Since reading Three, I've really liked Ted Dekker on account of the fact he is willing to deal with and examine the darker issues of humanity so as to shine light on them. If you've never read the Circle Trilogy - I highly recommend it.

KISS has nothing to do with Gene Simmons, his jewels, or the band. Here is a summary of the book from Dekker's website:

Sometimes dying with the truth is better than living with a lie.

After a car accident puts Shauna McAllister in a coma and wipes out six months of her memory, she returns to her childhood home to recover, but her arrival is fraught with confusion.

Her estranged father, a senator bidding on the White House, and her abusive stepmother blame Shauna for the tragedy, which has left her beloved brother severely brain damaged. Leaning on Wayne Spade, a forgotten but hopeful lover who stays by her side, Shauna tries to sort out what happened that night by jarring her memory to life. Instead, she acquires a mysterious mental ability that will either lead her to truth or get her killed by the people trying to hide it.

In this blind game of cat and mouse that stares even the darkest memories in the face, Shauna is sure of only one thing: if she remembers, she dies.

Without giving anything away, I think that the themes in the book are interesting and powerful. For that reason alone I would recommend this as a read. That being said, I didn't think the book had the punch at the end for me like Three & Obsessed did (especially Obsessed). Not that it is bad, I just had different expectations than what it delievered.

Read it though! We'd have an interesting conversation after you did, I do promise that.