Monday, April 27, 2009

Can a scientist believe in the resurrection?

As a follow up to this week's teaching at The Vineyard, I submit a lecture by N.T. Wright. Click at your own risk. You'll need your thinking cap and an hour to burn. The first man to speak isn't Wright. You can skip the first five minutes of introduction to get to the lecture if you'd like:

N.T. Wright Lecture on the Resurrection.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FPU Endorsement

Debbie and I began Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey) back in January. We just finished the last of the thirteen weeks today. There was a time in my life when I would not have been in the state of mind to embrace something like FPU. Ramsey is great at what he does, but he's not exactly my preferred style of teacher. I'm also hardwired to react negatively to any "system" that claims to change your life. No system works all the time and sometimes systems used improperly can cause more hard than good. To top it off, I have a hunch that Dave Ramsey and myself may have different political and theological positions on more than a few issues.

That said, I was ready to submit to someone - anyone - who could take some of the fear, frustration and guess work out of my personal finances. After five years of freelance income, three major relocations and more than our share of financial instability, we knew it was time to get back on track. I decided to go into Ramsey's classes with a posture of submission. I would do whatever he told me, even if I disagreed with it, for thirteen weeks. I could do anything for three months. And today is the day I am allowed to stop submitting to him. But I won't. Submitting to his common sense financial worldview has already changed our lives and improved our marriage. Over the last 13 weeks we have reduced our consumer debt, including our car loans, by more than 20%. We've established an emergency savings account, pre-paid for this summer's vacation, and reduced our monthly utility and grocery bills by almost 50%. The amazing thing is that I already knew how to do all of those things. Submitting to this process was the key. I learned a lot for sure, but I knew how to do the basics - budget, save, plan. I just wasn't really doing what I already knew how to do.

It's made me realize that I have spent most of my adult life not committing to systems because I see the flaws in them. That generally doesn't really work for me. I end up alone and frustrated. When it comes to being more disciplined it probably starts with submission. Seems like you can't be a disciple until you submit. That's what I really learned in FPU...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Real Hollywood Ending

You know all those trite sports movies that end with the underdog becoming the star of the team...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Next at VCC: The Creed

Then Jesus said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest."
"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
"Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:48-50, NIV)

Jesus was scolding the other eleven disciples for their immaturity and power grabbing, but John’s thoughts were elsewhere. He impatiently held his tongue waiting for Jesus to finish speaking. He had a secret. A big, fat, juicy I-have-to-tell-this-right-now kind of secret. At the exact moment Jesus finished his statement with the words, “...he is the greatest,” John squealed:

“We saw an imposter today!”

The other disciples snapped their eyes back in his direction. A few of them – those who had been with him earlier - nodded in agreement. Jesus furrowed his brow, staring back at the secret-teller.

“Just a while ago,” John continued. “Over near the Temple. He was driving out demons!”

Jesus raised both eyebrows, projecting a silent, “so what?”

John leaned in and whispered back to protect his master’s reputation, “he was doing your name.”

The other disciples mumbled. In Jesus’ name? Somebody we don’t even know? Somebody other than us is pretending to know Jesus? It was unheard of.

“So what did you do?” asked Jesus.

“We tried to stop him,” confessed John. “I told him straight up that he wasn’t one of us, so he wasn’t allowed to do anything in your name....but he just kept doing it...”

“And it worked,” interrupted one of the others, collaborating.

Jesus scanned their faces. What did he know in that moment? How many times over the next decade would they encounter renegades throwing Jesus’ name about in the strangest of ways? How many future petty debates would tempt them away from their real mission? How many territorial distractions lay dormant in the present waiting to overtake them in the future? Jesus knew that his disciples would have real enemies who would want them silenced, humiliated and killed. Some strange Jesus-follower doing different, but effective, ministry was not the real enemy. Not even close.

“Don’t stop him,” Jesus said. They looked back at him with those ever-present masks of confusion on their faces. “If they are not against you,” Jesus continued, “then they are for you.”

It was this same secret-teller, John, who would record these words of Jesus in his gospel:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35, NLT)

Did you catch the secret plan to prove to the world that we are with Jesus? Those outside the Kingdom will know Jesus by the love that believers have for other believers. No territories. No divisions. No mini-kingdoms. Just radical love for the ones who also love Jesus, even and especially the ones who aren’t exactly “with us.”

About 300 years after John wrote those words, St. Augustine is credited with this statement: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love.” That unity mantra has passed through the lips of many Christian reformers over the previous sixteen centuries. But what are these essential things that demand unity? What are the most basic of truths recorded in Scripture that make us, for lack a better way of saying it, Christian?

Early in the history of the Christian movement, church leaders gathered from all over the world over the span of several generations to reach agreement on these essential beliefs. Through the years we have seen dramatic rifts and divisions in the Christian faith on the non-essentials, but through it all the essentials have managed to remain, more or less, the essentials. We battle over some of the words here and there, but it is these truths--these ideals--these realities that unify us. They are recorded in the Bible, written on our hearts, and summarized by our earliest church fathers in the Creed:

We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried and on the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

The Vineyard will launch a new six-week series on April 18/19 called The Creed. We’ll look at those beliefs that form us--God as Father, Son and Spirit, the church, communion of the saints, forgiveness of sin, resurrection and everlasting life. For those of us new to the journey, this series will set a foundation for all that is to follow in our walk with God. For the rest of us, looking at the Creed will help us continue to reset our faith as we strive toward that which is perfect--true love for God and the people around us.

Like John in the story above, we have a tendency to focus on those around us who love God differently than we do. We focus on our dissimilarities and disagreements at the expense of the essential things. Like John, we focus on the distractions more than Jesus. Perhaps if John had actually heard Jesus say, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all--he is the greatest,” he would have kept his secret to himself.

Join us each weekend after Easter in a spirit of unity, love and humility as we study the essential things of our faith in The Creed.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. -John 19:28-30

Jesus finishes. Good Friday shows us many things. One thing it shows us about the character of Jesus is that he is willing to finish what he starts. This season of my life is a season of finishing some things I've started. There is always some death associated in finishing.

I love starting things more than anything in the world. I love new ideas, new challenges, blank pages and visionary dreams. I like thinking that being created in God's images means we are all destined to become little creators. We can make amazing things out of nothing. Simply by willing it, we can create new stories or books or movies or artwork or buildings or businesses or nations. I love new beginnings.

I also love having finished things. I love reading the last page of a massive book and knowing it has been slain. As a producer, I love it when the film is on a DVD sitting on a shelf or when the play ends with a final bow. There's something incredibly satisfying about being finished.

Here's what I don't love: finishing. Every project I have ever started has had a moment when I want to give up. Even the smallest of projects. I mowed my lawn yesterday and 3/4 of the way through I really wanted to quit. If I go for a three mile run, I will want to quit after two. Whenever I speak on the weekends at VCC, I hit a moment in the preparation where I wish that I could just fast forward and not have to actually finish. I can't imagine it coming together, but I have to push on and finish. I'm editing my first book right now and everything in me wants to just snap my fingers and jump to the day when it is already complete and printed. I don't want to do the hard work of fixing it. Finishing is always hard for me. I've been "finishing" one particular film project for over two years now. I wrote the script in two weeks. That was the easy part. Finishing is hard.

All of my little projects are nothing compared to what Jesus had to finish on the cross. Part of me hates to even draw the comparison, but seeing him as a finisher is what helps me finish my little things. Especially when I remember that Jesus did not always want to finish. He asked the Father for permission to bypass the cross:

Going a little farther, Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

The Father willed the plan finished and Jesus obeyed even when he didn't fell like it. That's what Good Friday is about. Jesus finishing God's agenda. I want to someday be known as a finisher as much as I am known as a starter. I want to be more like Jesus. Yesterday was my thirty-sixth birthday. Sunday is the twenty-eighth anniversary of the day my family entered the Kingdom. I'm praying that this next year of my life is the year I learn to what it means to obediently finish assignments the way Jesus did.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Eli's Day

Today was a good day in spite of the mid-afternoon April snow shower and the Reds losing on opening day. Today was all about Eli Boyd. We slept in (ok...that part was really about me) and then headed out on a twelve hour road trip. It began at the Waffle House in Monroe. He liked the bacon, but not the chocolate chip waffle. (The rest of my day included a constant stomachache. I think I've had my last Waffle House breakfast for a while.)

From there it was off to COSI in downtown Columbus. He had been when he was four years old while visiting my parents, but couldn't remember it. We actually had a coupon and both of us got in for less than $15. That was a heck of a value. I've been to my share of children's science museums around the country and COSI might be the best. I grew up going there on school field trips every year. It's in a new (and better) building now, but there's something about seeing your kid experience the same things that you did at the same age. He had a good time.

From there we headed over to Easton and ate at one of Eli's favorite restaurants, California Pizza Kitchen. There isn't one near our house. He thought they were only in California, so he was very excited when we pulled in.

His last request was a stop at Target where he spent every allowance dollar to his name on a big lego kit. It took him twenty minutes to decide which one to get. He takes the purchase of legos very seriously. I popped for Airheads at the checkout line. (He has terrible taste in candy.) He slept all the way home. When he was little he always slept in the car, but rarely does anymore. It seemed right somehow. We had several great talks throughout the day about God and life. Nothing major happened, but I have a feeling that neither of us will ever forget today.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Treasures and Worries

I just posted the Bible Study on Matthew 6:19-34 here.