Today is ash wednesday, when older traditions generally choose to mark themselves with ashes to represent the dust from whence they came and to which they are going. In other words, to prepare for Easter, the Christian calendar focuses on our sinfulness for 40 days through prayer and fasting.
Some Christians are opposed to such a morose view of the world and humanity. But many of us just don't get it.
We reflect on our sinfulness so that we can accept God's grace.
The world today is seeing an interesting phenomena amongst Christianity. On the one hand, megachurches are expanding their influence, becoming the dominant players in American Christianity. As a result, Christianity becomes less localized and more glocalized. This is fine if the entire world has the same problems, and the messages hit the hearts of the people who listen. But there are major problems with satelite churches. See this article for a very interesting perspective.
On the other hand, the crazy haired hippies are now forming a house church movement, which has even affected our congregation. People do "real church" the way it originally was. What if our situation is different than the situation 2000 years ago? Surely we can emphasize the proximity of house churches over and against the anonymity of megachurches. But it is easier to paint yourself into a corner this way, too. Remove ourselves from the greater body of Christ.
Both megachurches and minichurches (as I have officially now named house churches) seem to be thriving at the moment. You can choose anonymity, hype, and momentum (plus ability to change the world with huge amounts of recources) or sincerity, fallibility (unacountability), and intimacy (and a major emphasis on true community).
The group hurting through this time is that group who is in the middle. Like our economic situation, the middle class gets hit hardest. Losing members to both mini and megachurches, the local congregation as a cultural center is no more.
Bible Study Magazine and Mars Hill are giving away 20 copies of Mark Driscoll’s new book, Vintage Church. Not only that, but they are also giving away five subscriptions to Bible Study Magazine and a copy of their Bible Study Library software! Enter to win on the Bible Study Magazine Mark Driscoll page, then take a look at all the cool tools they have to take your Bible study to the next level!
This has been a long time coming, but is here at last. YS (through Zondervan) sent me a new book by one of my favorite authors of youth ministry stuff, Mark Yaconelli, son of Mike Yaconelli who used to be the CEO of youthspecialties.
A little caveat, if you do not work with youth (which you really ought to), you might find this post boring.
This book is a description of how to help teens pray. Young Yac wrote an excellent book on contemplative youth ministry, which in my opinion is a must read for youth pastors. His whole bent is not entertaining, but rather helping teens find God in the quiet places. In other words, being still so we can know that He is God. While the first book described youth ministry philosophy, this book is really an intro to prayer. I found it helpful in my own prayer life, as well as full of ideas regarding how to lead teens in prayer.
Note: teens are always seen as peers on a journey to God in this book rather than underlings.
The first part of the book is a philosophy of prayer, and the main portion is a description of many different ways to actually do it. Basicaly, the premise of the book is that prayer should be the foundation of youth ministry, not just regulated to brief popcorn prayers for the last five minutes of the class. Prayer is formative (it changes who we are), rather than our informative (only effecting part of our lives)teachings.
The proof that this is an effective work is in the result. I know a book is worth buying if I actually use it in the ministries I lead. I have used this book in nearly every youth meeting I have led since reading it. Definitely worth the investment. I cannot recommend this book enough to fellow youth workers.
That's right, McDonald's has done it right once again. I am talking about their new gourmet coffee line. I have been the beneficiary of 3 free cups of their coffee (two capps and a latte). I must say that I am impressed with this foray into an elitist genre of imbibements.
Here's what they get right, and why it works: Primarily, they make coffee accessible. No need to be intimidated by all the options and slang used in a regular coffee place. Confused about the difference between a cappuccino and a latte? Look on their handy (and well written) bookmarks they give out. In fact, let's start there.
Inside the store, there is a bookmark that isn't tacky. Sure it's not the nicest bookmark ever, but it is high quality, not ugly, and useable. They have a scale from sweet to bold, showing that an iced mocha is much sweeter than a cappuccino. THis makes coffee buying a snap. Had a capp and want to try something sweeter, but not super sweet? How bout a nice latte? The novice to coffee can understand the basics of the business. And they are all explicitly described on the signage.
The back of the bookmark shows what the actual difference in mixture is between the different beverages.
Secondly, they have regular sizes. not tall or grande, but large medium and small. Enough said.
Thirdly, they use nice coffee. It isn't the best coffee I've had, but it's far superior to St. Arbuck's. The roast is a nice medium to light roast, and incredibly smooth. While not my favorite (I prefer a boisterous dark roast), anybody can enjoy it. Their machines roast it well, and you can count on every cup being the same because the only thing the employee does is stir the syrup into it.
Their syrups are a very nice version too, not too sweet.
Finally, the price is unbeatable. Instead of paying 3.50-4.00 for a small drink, try 2.50
McDonald's is definitely onto something here, I applaud them for their efforts in both marketing and bringing a quality product at a cheap price. Now if they could just work on the rest of their menu.
Now go out and buy what shall hereafter be described as "the usual", a small nonfat capp. with sugar-free vanilla.
Here is a prayer that I stumbled across on another's blog today. It resonated with me in the same way watching The Dark Knight through the eyes of free will did (which really deserves its own post).
“My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”