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American Idol Does Worship

Front Page Stuff I Find

I saw something last week on American Idol that really freaked me out. They opened the show by having the contestants perform Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zschech!

If you don’t know the song, Shout to the Lord is one of the most popular contemporary worship songs of all time. It’s popularity alone is perhaps the reason American Idol chose to have the top eight contestants perform it, but I was really creeped out by the whole thing. Watch it, and then I’ll tell you why I have a problem with it.

My problem with it…

I have always had a problem with the commercialising of Christianity. I don’t have a problem with the practice of paying teachers for teaching or for paying pastors for pastoring or artists for performing or writers for writing, etc. But I have a problem when someone uses their own Christianity to make money (“Buy from me because I’m a Christian.”) or when a person plays off Christian values to make money (some of the biggest “Christian” bookstores are owned by secular firms because they saw a business opportunity).

What was American Idol doing? Were they affirming their own Christian values? Were they playing off the values of their audience? Were they performing a great piece of music for its own sake?

My guess is that it was option number two. I don’t have anything against that song or the people who love it, but frankly speaking, there are many other songs they could have picked with better lyrics, better instrumentation or better melodies. No, they picked the most popular worship song for one reason… to make Christians think American Idol was a good show to watch. Just look at the comments on YouTube to see what Christians now think of the show.

Such irony for a show called American Idol to play off its Christian audience!

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Easter was a Smashing Success!

Front Page Lafayette Community Church

Our Easter Sunday service was an incredible success! We had the joy of meeting in the Long Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Lafayette, and nearly 100 people gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the anniversary of our church. Media from the morning will be posted soon, but I thought you might appreciate this video clip that I used as my sermon introduction and a video clip that I almost used as my introduction.

The one I used (from the Princess Bride)

The one I almost used (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Quotes from the morning.

I like a church where I feel comfortable bringing my family no matter what age. I love the music… Keep up the good work. — Tama

The music ROCKED this morning! I liked the message — I love your practical, real world way of relaying the message. And it’s engaging too! — Nichole

…we are truly wanting to get back to church. I feel to be a whole person I must include God. Thank you for allowing me to be whole again. God bless!! — Cathie

I’ve grown more spiritually in the few months here at Southside than at any time in my life! — Len

A Note from Greg

In addition to these quotes, I wanted to post an excerpt from an email that Greg Shackleford sent out yesterday. For those who don’t know, Greg is on the church Advisory Team and has been part of the church since October 2005! Here’s what he had to say.

WHAT AN AWESOME DAY IN THE HISTORY OF SOUTH SIDE CHURCH HUH??!!??

I just can’t get over what an awesome experience it has been getting ready for the service today. Jeff and I have been working as musicians for two years for this! I never envisioned that we would finally get a band together that would sound that good and I would be playing drums!! It just goes to show that God really does work in mysterious ways.

Jeff and I had only played with Mark and Terry 4 times coming into today’s service so God really was a part of it today. I was nervous and excited and hopeful that we would be able to pull together and perform well and I think we did. Jeff’s sermon was wonderful and all the new faces there this morning was so encouraging! I just know that someone made the decision to turn their life over to the care of Christ today. Praise God! I really enjoy having the opportunity to serve the church and our Lord in this capacity. Thanks for letting me.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we filled the Long center up next Easter!?

It was a great day!

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Church Website Redesign

Front Page Geekery Lafayette Community Church

So I’m embarking on a redesign of our church website…

Our current website has been in shambles for a while now http://thesouthsidechurch.org and I haven’t taken the time to really fix it. However, there are a few things I want the site to accomplish:

  1. Have an attractive, fast-loading initial page that communicates friendliness and “contemporary-ness”
  2. Have an easy-access media player to watch video and listen to audio files.
  3. Have an easy-to-use podcast system for downloading media files.
  4. Provide a section for standard Church Marketing Documents.
  5. Provide for blog-style news updates.

The current plan is to implement the site with the WordPress engine. The plan is a work in progress now, but here’s the technical stuff:

  1. Create a WordPress compatible theme and overall design of the site.
  2. Use WordPress pages to host specific content.
  3. Use the blog post system for both media files and for news items. (“sermon” category with subcategories, “news” category, “articles” category, and use the built in tagging system for posts in those categories)
  4. Use the “Podcasting” plugin to provide separate audio and video podcast feeds.
  5. Modify the Email-Notification plugin to send out newsletters to our mailing list.

I plan to do this on a test site first to see how it will all work, and if you are interested in giving me ideas or suggestions, I’d love to take them. Here are a few other church websites that you can look at to give me some help.

If you have any other church website suggestions, post them in the comments!

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2008 State of the Union Address

Front Page Leadership

I just read the transcript for President Bush’s State of the Union Address before Congress and I must say that I was rather impressed.

I have never known the man to deliver a riveting speech, but the text of this address is profound nonetheless. He of course reports on the various successes that his programs and policies have brought about over the past 7 years and he encourages Congress to simply continue all they have been doing. He proposes one or two new concepts, but by and large, it’s all about continuing to do what has already been done.

However, there was an obviously strong theme running through the entire speech: Trust.

Here’s the key paragraph:

In the work ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our nation great. As Americans, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. So in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives and their futures.

The beginning of every following theme was a statement on what we should trust.

  • …trust the people with their own money…
  • …earn their trust by spending tax dollars wisely… (with a clear challenge to congressional earmarks)
  • …trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions…
  • …trust students to learn if given the chance…

One of my favorite parts was in his discussion of making the tax relief permanent.

We have other work to do on taxes. Unless the Congress acts, most of the tax relief we have delivered over the past 7 years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

He had a pretty good “I told you so” moment when talking about scientific research over stem cells.

On matters of science and life, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries. In November, we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life. So we are expanding funding for this type of ethical medical research. And as we explore promising avenues of research, we must also ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves. So I call on the Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life.

Whom should we trust?

Of course, as a pastor, I am always thinking of the deeper implications of our culture and our words, and I’m thinking especially about the philosophy quoted at the beginning of the speech.

We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens.

There is no doubt that this philosophy has been the most powerfully successful governmental philosophy of the last 1000 years, economically speaking. But the question I have is whether this has been the best philosophy morally and spiritually. Don’t get me wrong! I’m glad this is the philosophy of our country. This very thought gives me the freedom to follow God fully with my life, and I would not change it for the world.

Nevertheless, this philosophy is based upon the notion that collective humanity is inherently good and wise, and we should remember that humans are still deeply scarred with sin. I am grateful to God that He has given us his grace enough so that despite the ravaging effects of sin, our reason and our conscience remain relatively able to deal with issues of governance.

But what about the moral issues? I find it interesting that were it not for a single individual at the top level of our government, the concept of using human embryos for stem cells would have been considered a “no-brainer” “done-deal” issue. However, the moral fiber of a single man put a ban on that kind of research which forced new kinds of research and the discovery of new ways to develop stem cells. That’s just an example.

So here’s the $64,000 question. Concerning which issues can the collective wisdom of the people be trusted? As a sideline question, who gets to determine which issues are “collective” issues and which issues are “moral leader” issues?

If you have 20 minutes, I encourage you to read through it all and leave your comments here on what you think.

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Watch Steve Jobs MacWorld Keynote Address on your iPhone

Front Page

For my birthday last Friday, my mom bought me an iPod Touch! It’s a cool little device that can play streaming media over Wi-Fi. In fact, it is exactly the same as an iPhone but without the phone and without the bluetooth features.

Now, I like watching Steve Jobs MacWorld keynote each year, so I was looking for a way to watch it on my iPod. Well, I figured out how to do it. Just browse this page with your iPod Touch or iPhone and click the following link.

Steve Jobs Macworld 2008 Keynote

Happy watching!

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Game On! Announcing the SCGTC

Front Page Lafayette Lafayette Community Church

On Sunday, I challenged my congregation to join me for a competition of spending time in the word of God. I called it The Southside Church God-Time Competition, and here are the simple rules:

  • At least 10 minutes a day with God, every day.
  • Time with God means something is read (from the Bible), something is written, and something is prayed.
  • There will be some kind of award given for the person who lasts the longest.
  • There will be some kind of award given for the person who accumulates the most individual “God-Times.”

I haven’t figured out the prizes yet, but I’m willing to take donations! If you want to sweeten the pot, let me know!

I’m also working on setting up some kind of online tool to track our progress and see how we are all doing. For me personally, I’m going to use my blog to record my progress.

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Ringing in the New Year with Hobbits

Front Page

We did it!

For a number of years now, I have had a dream of watching all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back in one big marathon. More than that, I wanted to watch the “Extended” version. Eleven hours and twenty-one minutes!

Well, I finally had my dream come true. This past Tuesday, January 1, Dave, Kristin, Tom, Kyle, Jen, Greg, and I started the first show at 11am, and Dave, Kristin, and Kyle made it all the way to 11:04pm when the credits were rolling.

Now, I’m kinda in the LOTR mood, and I’m thinking about picking up the books again.

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Happy 2008!

Front Page

I wanted to break my couple month long blog silence by simply saying, “Happy 2008!”

I hope this coming year is filled with joy and growth for you as you seek to get even one step closer to Jesus.

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20 WAYS TO SURVIVE IF YOU’RE IN A HORROR MOVIE

Front Page Stuff I Find

(Gleaned from the Internet and modified by me.)

  • If a killer with a knife is chasing you around the house, do NOT go upstairs. Go out the front door!
  • Never stoop over to see if the killer is dead. He’s not.
  • Avoid the following geographical locations: Amityville, Elm Street, Crystal Lake, Transylvania, many islands, lover’s lanes, most secluded mountain resorts and all small towns in the state of Maine.
  • Never dig up strange-looking objects in the woods.
  • Never bury pets or loved ones in old Native American burial grounds, because they aaaalways come back.
  • As a general rule, don’t try to solve puzzles that open doorways to Hell.
  • Find out what your parents were up to when they were younger. You never know if they burned up a serial killer, had a mysterious “other child,” are not your real parents, or opened up a doorway to Hell.
  • Never stay overnight in the old house at the end of town that’s supposed to be haunted. Let them think you’re chicken. Even if the prize is one million dollars. It’s not worth it.
  • If a TV starts calling your name, don’t touch it.
  • No matter what people say, there is no good reason why anyone’s eyes should glow red.
  • If a kid says, “I see dead people,” believe him.
  • If you just ripped your phone out of the wall and it rings anyway, DON’T ANSWER IT!
  • The crazy old guy everybody laughs at knows what he’s talking about.
  • If a crazy old person tells you never to feed your cute new pet after midnight, don’t!
  • Pay attention to dogs, cats, horses and other more intelligent creatures. If they’re nervous, scram.
  • Always skip the shortcut.
  • Never take anything from a clown in a sewer.
  • Aliens are not friendly.
  • No, it’s not your imagination. They ARE out to get you and it IS as bad as it seems!
  • For goodness’ sake, turn on the lights.
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Prayer for the next level

Front Page My Spiritual Life

Lord in Heaven, I’m sensing your call to take my steps into a new level of relationship with you. It’s more than a desire in my heart. It’s more than a thought or a notion. It’s a repetitive prompting that you have more for me and a constant reminder that I need it.

I’ve washed over it quite often. I’ve filled my life with entertainment, tasks, busywork, meetings, and even family responsibilities because of course those things need to be done, but then when I’m alone in the quiet again, and I allow my soul to quiet down, I sense the lack.

My lack is not a lack of knowledge. Although I know there is much still I have to learn, this next level is one you have already taught me about.

My lack is not a lack of desire. I’ve been longing to go to this next level with you for a long time without actually getting there.

Now, I’m convinced that my lack is not a lack of your willingness to take me to the next level. I’m certain that you have something for me.

My lack is mostly a lack of faith—will I step up onto this new level or not?

What’s holding me back? Fear mostly. What if I step up, and you aren’t there? What if I step up and people I love don’t understand? What if I step up, but I fall on my face because I’m not actually ready?

Lord, I want greater depth with you. Lead me deeply into the waters of who you are. Open my heart to see with the eyes of faith where you are moving, and prepare me for the step to come.

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037-03 What if they hadn’t?

037 UNCHAINED Front Page

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This week, I tackled one of the most damaging kinds of regrets we can face. It’s the kind of regret that comes from being victimized. And the most dangerous part about it is that we can bury our sense of victimization rather than deal with it in a healthy way. Watch this service to see how God wants us to deal with past victimization and even present relational conflicts.

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