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Speaking Of Cool, Here’s A Couple Of Cool People Singing A Cool Song

Speaking of cool, here’s the very cool Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt asking the musical question What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
Me, I’m watching the three real Star Wars movies and going to bed well before midnight.
I’ve got to go to work tomorrow.

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A Really Cool Church Building

We’re expecting temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius over the next few days.
35 degrees tomorrow. (Sunday, January 1)
Fortunately our evenings and night temperatures drop to levels which allow for comfortable sleep.
Still, worshipping in this German church made out of snow looks pretty… cool.

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Growing A Deep Soul On The Journey To Eternity (via Mark Buchanan)

Mark Buchanan’s new year reflection may seem to start a bit maudlin, but goes on to remind us that the change and decay which comes with passing years is meant to usher us from attachment to the temporal and direct us to the eternal.
And the season of life which he describes also seems eerily familiar.

We become old in a single day.

It seems that abrupt. Our old man or old woman status comes as sudden and unbidden as rain on a wedding day. It arrives as unwelcome but unavoidable as the VISA bill after the shopping spree.
The signs of decrepitude accumulate with alarming swiftness: one night you bed down youthful and nimble, the next day you wake up elderly and stiff. There you go, your skin a masterpiece of taut unblemished smoothness, vandalized by age until it’s blotched and withered and rough as lizard hide. Where did that smiling youth in the photo go, and why does he bear such little resemblance to the person in the mirror? We move from agility to debility, from keen recall to bumbling forgetfulness, from flesh tones to shades of grey, with nary a moment to catch our breath, which we have less of anyhow.
I’m thinking these gloomy thoughts for two reasons. One, I’ve been nursing a sore hip for a few days. It just happened, just another of those bodily malfunctions that attend, with worrisome regularity and for no apparent cause, those of us of a certain age.
The other reason is that my children are all home, or about to be: and they’re not children anymore. My son, whiskered and muscled, towers above me, and speaks in a deep man voice, and regales me with tales of things faraway and exotic. He makes his own way in the world, quite handily. He has skills I never acquired, knowledge I never attained, experiences I never tasted. I think he could probably hang a licking on me, but I don’t want to test the theory.
And my daughters – one who still lives at home, the other who I hadn’t seen for nearly 4 months until this past Saturday, and have barely seen since – are both women. They are full of their own thoughts, opinions, convictions, dreams and, it seems, a mild disdain for any advice I care to offer. They carry themselves with poise and confidence.
It is strange to feel so happy and creaky all at once. It is odd to be so proud of this man, these women, and in the same breath to feel so reduced and bewildered. One question I will ask God in heaven, if such things are permitted, or even needed: Why didn’t you give us a lengthier stretch of 20-something invincibility? Why couldn’t you have prolonged our prime for, oh, 50 years, or 60, so that any wisdom we attain by hard knocks and sheer longevity we’d get to apply with undimmed vigor?
But no. God built into us inevitable physical and mental decline.
The more I face the reality of this, the more I savor the soul. It’s the only part of us that can become more vibrant and supple and beautiful with age. Or it can become bitter, shrivelled, ugly. That choice is almost exclusively up to us. We tend our own soul. And the soul, unlike the body, is not subject to inescapable decay, or guaranteed spontaneous betterment. I work out my body on a regular basis (doesn’t it show?), and though I believe this is important and part of my stewardship, all I’m doing is slowing down the inevitable. Biology is a ruthless taskmaster. Chronos, the time-god, is a heartless driver.
But neither can touch the inmost places. That is our exclusive domain, to nurture or starve as we see fit. For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes: “…physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).
Question: Do you work out your soul with greater vigor and frequency than you do your body? Do you watch over what you feed your soul more carefully than what you do your body?
As we celebrate the coming of the One who makes all things new, and as we enter a new year, would you commit to one thing above all: to receive all Christ gives you in order to become all Christ intends for you? Would you make your main business the cultivation of a deep soul?

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The Moth Joke, And My Friend’s Little Problem

One of my pastoral colleagues here in town is pretty awesome in everything he does.
Except telling jokes.
Here’s The Moth Joke, as told on Conan O’Brien.

Now this is something like how my friend would go telling it.


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A Foolproof Method Of Always Knowing What Is God’s Will For Your Life (via Harry Reeder)

As thoughts turn to the year ahead, Harry Reeder explains how the Christian can always know what God’s will is for their lives.

Many believers are subtly drawn to solving the dilemma of doubts, confusion and fear by “reading the tea leaves” of life’s circumstances. This endeavor is usually pursued in the name of discerning God’s guidance. The reality is, it only furthers our dilemma by consigning us to the vagueness and instability of speculation while detouring us from the stability-giving dynamic of embracing the inerrant and sufficient gift of Divine revelation-God’s Word, by which life’s circumstances can be accurately interpreted.
Simply put, “reading the tea leaves” of life’s circumstances will not dismiss doubts, confusion and fears nor give the knowledge of God’s will for our life. On the contrary, to understand “the secret will of God” for our lives we must know the “revealed will of God” – His Word. God’s Word revealing God’s will gives us the ability to understand life’s circumstances to make God-centered and Kingdom-advancing decisions.

Read Reading the Tea Leaves of Life or God’s Word for Life? at Inperspective.


Police Storm Church Of The Nativity To Break Up Brawling Priests (via CNN Belief Blog)

This is what happens when you put your pastor on the cleaning roster.
You have been warned.

From CNN’s belief blog.

Bethlehem, Israel (CNN) – Clergy from two Christian sects came to blows in the Church of the Nativity on Wednesday morning, prompting police to storm the Bethlehem holy site.
Several dozen Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests were cleaning the interior of the church Wednesday morning when, according to witnesses, two of them began fighting.
The fight quickly escalated, and soon, 50 to 60 priests were exchanging blows with broomsticks.

I know this is serious, but I can’t help laughing.
Some of my colleagues maintain that our denominational meetings get a bit unedifying.

Here’s a link to a report on the Daily Mail site, where I found these choice photos.

Thanks to Nathan for the video heads up.


Growing Pastors Need Questioning Disciples (via Mark Altrogge)

Continuing reflections to prepare for the new year ahead.
Questioning is not the same as negativity.
Questions are necessary for leaders to learn and grow.
From Mark Altrogge at The Blazing Center, It’s Not Wrong To Question Your Leaders.

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.  Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.  (Acts 17:10-11 )

Why were the Bereans more noble than those in Thessalonica?  2 reasons: 1) They received the word with all eagerness. 2) They went back home and examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul and Silas preached lined up with the word of God.

We should always receive God’s word preached to us with all eagerness. We shouldn’t sit there, arms crossed with an “I dare you to try to teach me something” attitude. At the same time that doesn’t mean we must accept everything a pastor says without question. We can be both eager to hear God’s word preached, yet at the same time be discerning.

It’s not wrong see if what a pastor preaches lines up with the Bible. A pulpit doesn’t make you infallible.

Some pastors give the impression that to question them is insubordination. Pastors aren’t a different breed of Christians, but sinners just like the people they preach to. I always try to discourage people from calling me “Pastor Mark” or “Reverend” (though I will accept “Your Highness” from my wife).  I tell them “pastor” is just my job description. I say if you’re going to call me Pastor Mark, then I’m going to call you Carpenter Bob.

Years ago a local church brought a “prophet” in for several weeks of meetings. Because some our members attended the meetings I went to a couple.  One night this man “prophesied” to a young lady, “You are a key, and this town will sin no more.” The whole place erupted with applause and cheers. Except for me and the pastor with me. I thought “Well, one thing’s certain–I’m in this town and I’m going to sin.”

This “prophet” said many other crazy things, like “Dont’ let your doctrine get in the way of the Holy Spirit.”  What?  The Holy Spirit is the author of doctrine! His listeners were eager to hear the word preached, but most didn’t go home and examine the Scriptures to see if what he said was so.

We can question pastors’ actions too.

There are qualifications for pastors in Scripture.  They must lead their families, be husbands of one wife, be above reproach and have good reputations.  This means we can examine their lives.  But even the best pastors sin, drop the ball, make mistakes, and make poor decisions at times.  No pastor should ever say “Who are you to question me?”

I’m thankful for the folks in our church who’ve come to us with questions or disagreements. Sometimes they’ve been nervous (how could anybody be nervous about coming to me? This is me – Mark – gentle, approachable, laid back Mark.  I always calm down after screaming for 10 minutes – JUST KIDDING!)

Pastors should be glad when people come with questions, thoughts or observations even if they have a poor attitude. Even when someone expresses themselves in anger there’s probably something the pastor really needs to consider. There may be truth in what they’re saying even if it comes with extra baggage. We shouldn’t reject questions or criticism because someone doesn’t express themselves perfectly.

Help your pastor. Help him preach more accurately. Help him see how to lead and care for people better. Encourage him.  And if you have questions, feel free to ask.