30 November 2010

Screening a Film - fun stuff

Tonight I went to a screening in Pasadena of the upcoming film, "The Adjustment Bureau" starring Matt Damon. The film is being made by Universal and Grace Hill Media, which has a connection to Fuller Seminary's film and theology department.
       There were about 300 Fuller students in this theater in downtown Pasadena. We watched the film and then Robert Johnston, professor of film and theology at Fuller, led a discussion which was fascinating.
       Basically the film addresses issues around predestination and free will, to what extent do humans have a genuine choice in life decisions and to what extent are events pre-determined. So it touches on the issue of Open Theism as well.
       I thought it was a pretty good film - not a typically cheesy spiritual film made on a low budget. In fact I am pretty sure this film had a very large budget. It will be released by Universal in late March or early April. It's worth it - a great discussion starter for sure.

29 November 2010

Article: Narcissism from LeadershipJournal.net

Pastoral Narcissism | LeadershipJournal.net

From Philip Yancey's New Book

"Several years ago, a Muslim man said to me 'I have read the entire Qur’an and can find no guidance in it on how Muslims should live as a minority in society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find no guidance in it on how Christians should live as a majority.'" ~ Philip Yancey, What Good is God

28 November 2010

THE Paradigm for Giving

I can testify that [the Macedonians] gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. ~ 2 Cor. 8:3-4
       I have reflected on this verse from the Apostle Paul many times, and in different cultural contexts. I come back to it again and again. Each time I do so I am more convicted about the spiritual poverty and immaturity of the Church in the West when it comes to stewardship.
       Consider these contrasts:
1. The Macedonians gave "far more" than they could afford. Westerners give from our surplus;
2. The Macedonians gave "of their own free will." Westerners give because of slick campaigns and appeals, and largely due to guilt - especially toward year end;
3. The Macedonians "begged" to give. Westerners are begged so that they give;
4. The Macedonians counted it a privilege to give; Westerners count it a responsibility.

For a great treatment of principles of stewardship which challenge the western mind, read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.

27 November 2010

Visiting Universities with Steven

This week we have been in the Los Angeles area. We picked up Carly and friend Lauren at Westmont and spent Thanksgiving with good friends.
       Along the way we visited three universities - USC, Pepperdine, and UCLA - in anticipation of Steven heading off to college in a year and a half. It is quite the unique American experience to visit schools and hear their "schpeels" about why their institution is the best.
       I was impressed with all three schools we visited - USC has a rich school heritage in the midst of south-central LA, Pepperdine is one of the most picturesque places on earth being located in Malibu, and UCLA is like a small city of itself - some 50,000 students!
     This is an exciting and fulfilling season of life for our family. Carly is in her second year of university and thriving at Westmont. Steven is doing very well in high school and seeing many opportunities for him to go onto university.

23 November 2010

This is a Great Story

My friends Michael and Julianne Cusick were featured on the 700 Club this week. Their story is a tremendous testimony to God's grace. Check out their ministry at Restoring the Soul.

22 November 2010

Troy's Daily Prayers

My friend Troy - a good friend and colleague from our years serving in Europe - writes a short, one-sentence prayer each day. He posts it on Facebook and Twitter. I have come to use these as my own prayers. They are powerful, insightful, humble. Check them out on his blog HERE. They are listed on the right sidebar under "Twitter Update."

21 November 2010

SUNY Cortland Athletics - Cortland Beats Endicott, 49-35, in NCAA First Round

I attended university at a somewhat small, somewhat unknown school in central New York. So this news today that Cortland State football won their first found game in the NCAA Division III playoffs means very little to most of you. But I'm proud of my Alma Mater! Go Red Dragons!

SUNY Cortland Athletics - Cortland Beats Endicott, 49-35, in NCAA First Round

20 November 2010

Generous Justice

I have begun reading Tim Keller's new book, "Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just." So far I am so impressed with Keller's thinking about this subject.
      Here's the central issue, as Keller points out: Conservative Evangelicals have been very concerned with evangelism and people coming to personal faith in Jesus. Protestant liberals have been very concerned with social justice and caring for the poor. Both groups have had a very incomplete understanding of the gospel. As Keller points out, evangelism and social justice are two sides of the same coin, called the GOSPEL.
       In recent years the Evangelical church has been waking up to doing justice, and speaking up for the marginalized. Sometimes we have done this to the detriment of evangelism, almost shunning the latter. We have self-corrected and perhaps over corrected.
       As keller points out, maturity is living in the dynamic tension of the "both/and" rather than the "either/or."

19 November 2010

Tim Keller and Church Planting

Few people in the U.S. is a better spokesman for church planting in Western Culture than Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He critiques the Church in the West without deconstructing "church." He offers a positive way forward in reaching out to our culture. Check him out:

Redeemer City to City from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

18 November 2010

Outrage: Cholera in Haiti

There is a cholera outbreak in Haiti, reaching the capital of Port-au-Prince last week. Cholera is a brutal disease. I watched people in Africa die by the hundreds from cholera during the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s. It was like hell on earth.
       Cholera is a water-born disease of the intestine which causes acute diarrhea and dehydration. It can kill a person in a matter of hours.
       This epidemic was almost inevitable, 10 months after the massive earthquake which devastated the country. The earthquake was horrible, the assistance from donors around the world was anything but helpful. In the rush to help we in the west have perhaps caused as much harm as anything else.
       What is needed is for major organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, CARE, and World Vision along with government relief agencies (such as USAID) to run the relief programs in Haiti.
       It's time for all the church groups and other nonprofits to step back from going to Haiti and simply send money to the Red Cross and other organizations which can work on a large scale.

17 November 2010

Tribute to Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta

On Tuesday this week U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta received the Medal of Honor , the highest honor given to a soldier. He is the first and only active and living soldier to receive the award.
       You can read about why Sgt. Giunta was awarded the Medal. Check it out HERE.

Or you can watch this video:

16 November 2010

Very Kind, Gracious, Generous People

In the past week I have had the great pleasure of visiting with or otherwise being in contact with very kind, gracious, generous people. Some 5 or 6 of them. I count them as good friends which is a great privilege. I won't mention them by name because they would prefer to be anonymous - typical of their humility.
       I have asked myself what these people have in common, what are the characteristics of lives lived so well.
1. It is not about them! This is the first and most important common thread, and it sets them off from the large majority of the rest of us. They care deeply about others and will sacrifice themselves for others.
2. They are generous with their time, treasure, and talents without being asked to use them. They give before they are asked to give! WOW!
3. They are dependent people, as opposed to INdependent types. They are utterly dependent on God for their lives, and they take little for granted.
4. They know what is most important in life. God, family, close friends, helping the most vulnerable. They have an intuitive sense of right priorities and live consistently in that way.
       To those who so enrich our lives by your life, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

15 November 2010

Daring to Dream Broadly

Few of us dare to dream big. I mean really big.
As Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."
Here are some questions I have been asking myself about this:

  • What do I fear would or would not happen if I pursued the dream?
  • What will others think about the dream?
  • How will this dream be financed?
  • What if the dream is really folly?
  • If God is birthing this dream, why should I care about any of the above questions?

14 November 2010

A Great Article on Pastoral Narcissism (really!)

The most recent edition of Leadership Journal is all about AMBITION - the good, bad, and ugly of it, especially in ministry contexts.
       Let me say at the outset that I am mentioning this issue on my blog because I am 'the chief sinner" when it comes to matters of ambition, drive, narcissism, and the like. I do not mean to point fingers here.
       Here is a link to an article from the journal. It is titled, "Pastoral Narcissism." Whether you are a pastor or someone in a church where there is a pastor, you should read the article. It is insightful and profound - and convicting.
       The author, JR Kerr, quotes T.S. Eliot in the article. He sums it up very well:
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them ... or they do not see it, or they justify it ... because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

And now for something on the lighter side of narcissism:

12 November 2010

The $27 Sports Car Rental

I got to the rental car counter in Tulsa yesterday afternoon to pick up my economy class car, pre-paid for a whopping $27.
       The young gal at the counter said they were out of economy and compact cars and would I mind driving either an SUV or a Mazda 3.
       "I'm not familiar with a Mazda 3," I said. "Do you have a picture?" She showed me the picture to the right and said there was only 2400 miles on this 2010 car. It was a no-brainer - I took the Mazda 3.
       I had to drive about 100 miles from Tulsa to Oklahoma to have dinner with good friends. As I drove on the interstate (long, flat boring roadway with few cars) I noticed that the speedometer went up to 160 miles per hour. Hmmmm, I wonder if that's just for show or if this car really goes that fast?
       I drove to Oklahoma City late in the afternoon, when more people were out on the road. So I kept my speed to 80 MPH, only 5 miles over the speed limit. Good self-discipline!
       On the way back to Tulsa - at 11pm and without a soul on the road - I just had to see how fast the road would go. I think it's a guy thing or something. I chickened out at 120MPH and took my foot off the accelerator. But it still could have gone a lot faster, I could tell.
       Boy, that car was SMOOTH AS SILK on the road!

11 November 2010

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day in America. It used to be called Armistice Day back when it was created by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 after World War I.

       I used to make little of Veteran's Day - I am not too nationalistic and do not necessarily believe that the United States is the greatest nation on earth. Now before some of you get too upset, let me say how much my respect has grown for the 25 million Americans alive today who have served in the military. My dad is one of them. Our very dear friend Nate is a retired two-star general from the Air Force.
       This is what I appreciate the most about Veteran's Day: It honors ordinary people who have done extraordinary things for their country. The people who have served in the military are not super-human; they are plain folk like you and me. And yet many of them have responded to incredibly difficult situations with extraordinary valor.
       The other reason Veteran's Day has become more important to me is that the veterans of World War II (those amazing people who Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation") are dying off, and soon we will not have them in our midst. For me Veteran's Day is about those 80+ year olds. Here's all of them!

10 November 2010

An Impressive Interview with George W. Bush

I listened intently to Matt Lauer's interview with former President George W. Bush a couple of nights ago on NBC TV. It was an amazing, mesmerizing interaction.
       Breath-taking really.
       Here's some things I respect from the interview:
   1. Mr. Bush was articulate, much more than I remember than when he was in office;
   2. He owned up to his mistakes, he admitted when he had been wrong on some decisions (something Barack Obama could learn from);
   3. He seemed honest, open, direct, and clear. He did not mince words as politicians usually do;
   4. Mr. Bush never criticized his successor. To quote Mr. Bush, "President Obama has plenty of critics. I am not going to be one." Wow, CIVILITY from a politician! Well done, President Bush. Thank you.
   5. "I believe in justice, not in revenge." ~ George W. Bush on being at Ground Zero after Sept. 11th.

09 November 2010

A Mind-Blowing Thought from Richard Rohr

"We all remain who we are. But on the way to healing or liberation we have to do what the Romans called agere contra: we have to act against the grain of our natural compulsions. This requires clear decisions. Because it does not happen by itself, it is in a way "unnatural" or "supernatural" . . . (we) simply have to cut loose now and then, and in the process . . . make mistakes."
~ Father Richard Rohr
Check out the Center for Action and Contemplation which Rohr founded.

08 November 2010

Every Monday, the Economist Magazine

Every Monday the Economist magazine arrives in the mail at my house. I love the Economist. I feel like I re-enter the global conversation when I pick up the magazine and begin reading it.
       They always cover subjects, countries, and issues overlooked by much of the rest of the global media. There are usually articles about some out-of-the-way place that nobody has heard about. And they have a very different perspective on the U.S., which makes sense since the Economist is a British publication.
       Here is some of the article titles from last week's edition:
* Argentina after Kirchner: End of an Era
* War in Afghanistan: Lunch with the Taliban
* Sri Lanka's Moral Policing
* Blogging in China: Breaching the Great Fire Wall
* Can Kenya make its New Deal Work?
* France's Pension Reform After the Protests
* Technology and Obama: End the the Silicon Honeymoon
I can't wait for the mail to arrive today!

07 November 2010

Bailey took me out this morning!

Our two-year-old Lab, Bailey, came bounding down the stairs this morning as I going down the stairs. Totally took my legs out from under me and there I went sliding down the remaining 4 four steps.
       I lay there motionless for a few minutes. Bailey retreated, tail between legs, under the dining room table. She knew she had done something bad, just was not exactly sure what. She's not the brightest light bulb!
       So I whacked my lower back, and I landed on my left elbow and it's pretty sore.
       This blog entry has nothing really to do with my blog at all. I just wanted to tell someone what happened!
Bailey last winter in the snow.

06 November 2010

A Banquet That Was Worth It

We went to a banquet for Hands of the Carpenter last night. I'm not much into the fundraising banquet scene, but this was the best one I have been to.
What made this banquet better? A few things:
* Location: Denver Botanical Gardens and we could walk around beforehand. Beautiful!
* Open Bar - free beer and wine tasting. Sure, I might sound like a lush but I'm not (really). A beer company and a wine company donated their goods and staff to make this happen. It was a great time!
* The food was outstanding from beginning to end. A+
* The program moved along at a good pace, with a great dance group performing, a powerful slide presentation, and brief but powerful words from the Staff.
We live at a time when generating the resources needed for valuable non-profit work is hard to do. A lot of people are sitting on their wallets for one reason or another. Hands is doing a great work and is worth the investment.

05 November 2010

Leadership and Those 3 Magic Words!

I watched Barak Obama's press conference on Wednesday first with wonder and then with great unease. At least four times the President was asked something like this: "Is it possible that you have not heard the American people, and that some of your policies are wrong?"
       Each time the President gave an answer like this: "Clearly the American people are not happy" and "clearly we have to do better."
       I wanted to SCREAM at the TV, "Just admit that you were wrong on some things! Humble yourself, mr. President!"
       But he did not. Pride got the best of Mr. Obama, as it gets of many leaders who have an immense sense of power and authority. Pastors and other Christian leaders are tripped up by this over and over again.
       Somehow I thought Obama just might rise above petty politics, discover humility, own up to situations and policies in which he was wrong.
       Instead he acknowledged that the Democrats were beaten badly in the election. Duhhhhh....
       My point here is not to say that Mr. Obama's policies are right or wrong, best or worst for the American people. But surely Mr. Obama can own up to at least SOME poor policy decisions, even a few! But to put it on the American people and to say they are upset is just dodging the leadership issue. 
       There are two sets of words that every great leadership says AND means and lives humbly by - we would all do well to seek to live with these words on our lips - so would Mr. Obama:

"I was wrong."

"I don't know."

04 November 2010

That's My Girl!

Carly is doing really well at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
Last Sunday was Halloween and some students had a party (I guess). Carly dressed as a Zebra, as you can see from the photos.
That's My Girl! Ya gotta love what college has to offer!

03 November 2010

An Open Letter to U.S. President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,
Today is the day after the election in which the Democratic Party was roundly defeated by the Republicans. Today is also the next day in your presidency, and so as a citizen of the U.S. I am writing to you with several requests.
       1. I am a supporter of yours, which borders on crazy for me to say in public because many people in my circle of friends are NOT supporters of you. As one of your supporters, I want to remind you about something that Bill Clinton learned. You can campaign from the political left, and you may be able to win a presidential election speaking from the left. However, you must govern from the political center-right.
       2. Resist the temptation to be a political idealogue. You are a left-leaning politician, but do not use your political views as a battering ram. Political idealogues on the right are nothing more than thugs; political idealogues on the left are nothing more than goofy jokers. Do not fall in these categories. Rise above the partisan bickering of this current political climate.
       3. Now that the Democrats have held the Senate (barely), please find a new Majority Leader. Harry Reid has thoroughly discredited himself and is simply a weak leader. Please help your party find new leadership.
       4. Align yourself with the so-called "Blue Dog Democrats," those 50 or so fiscally conservative Democrats who are the last remnant of what was called a "moderate." Oddly, many of these people lost in the election, leaving the political middle ground vacant. Still, I urge you Mr. President to move into the political middle and govern from there.
       You have the most difficult job in this country, and I do not envy you for the responsibility you have. I hope, and pray, that you will govern well in the coming days.
Brian Newman
Lakewood, CO
(CO- 7th Congressional District)

02 November 2010

Today is Election Day in America

Mercifully, today is Election Day in America.
No more political ads on TV.
No more canned phone calls with recordings of candidates.
No more four-color flyers in the mail blabbing about the candidates!
God save the Queen!

01 November 2010

Movember Mustache time!

Today is November 1st and the beginning of MOVEMBER. For the next month I'm joining a bunch of guys in growing our mustaches for the next 30 days - all for the purpose of growing awareness about men's health issues (such as prostate cancer).
       I'll post some photos of my "progress" with the mustache in the coming days. My greatest anxiety is that it will grow in grey!