Monthly Archives: October 2010

Who I’m Voting for Tuesday

Election Day is this coming Tuesday.  As a pastor, I never endorsed or even fully revealed who I voted for.  I think it is important in certain leadership positions that one not become too partisan and too many churches wade too far into politics for my liking.

But now I am “Joe Citizen” and a chef and no one really cares what I think, lol — so I am happy to let you know who I am voting for and why. (click here for a sample ballot)


Simply put, Malloy is a highly qualified and effective public servant with a solid track record.  He is a pro-business, fiscally moderate candidate who has the experience to lead CT through a hard fiscal time.  Also, his principled opposition to the Death Penalty wins me over big time.  I give him a lot of credit for standing by his convictions given how unpopular it is (especially given the current Stephen Hayes trial).  That said, Foley would not be a disaster at all.  I think we have two pretty good moderate candidates to choose from.

CT US SENATE: Richard Blumenthal

I am not thrilled with my choices here.  Blumenthal gets the nod because I think he is smart and a policy wonk.  I believe we need two kinds of people in Washington — leaders and good policy makers.  As fat as i can tell, Linda McMahon would be neither and really brings nothing to the table in Washington.  Blumenthal is not particularly likable and is a terrible candidate, but will be a good policy maker, good at constituent relations, and good for CT.


Simply put, Larson has earned another term from me.  He does a solid job, is good with constituents, and is good as an advocate for CT.


Jepson gets my vote mostly because Martha Dean doesn’t.


Denise Merrill has a long record of service as State Rep from Mansfield.  She is effective, solid and I think worthy of this office.  She will get my vote based on her track record as State Rep.

CT TREASURER: Denise Nappier

An incumbent who has earned the right to go back for another term.  


I know little about either candidate, but people I trust say both are qualified and competent.  I have heard Lembo speak and he was impressive.  

CT STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (District 13): John “Jack” Thompson

A long history of good service and advocacy for Manchester… he gets my vote.  (Bonus endorsement: I don’t live in District 12, by I would vote for my friend Geoff Luxemberg.  He is great!)

CT STATE SENATE (District 4): Steve Cassano

A small business owner, I think Cassano has common-sense and leadership, particularly in the areas of job creation and economics, right at a time when we need both.

No matter who you vote for, I hope you will vote!!! And take some time to get informed about the issues and candidates.

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Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Uncategorized


Why I Still Believe that Jesus in the Local Church Is the Hope of the World

Twelve years ago, when I was a young youth minister working with the largest parachurch youth ministry in the world, I had a second conversion experience.

Five years earlier I had my first conversion when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and committed to following Him all the rest of my days.

My second conversion came while sitting in the old dining hall at a camp called Lake Champion listening to a tape recorded message from Bill Hybels about why the local church is the hope of the world.  That night, I knew that I wanted to give the better part of my life to the mission of building the local church.

Indeed for a decade after that moment that is exactly what I did.

I am side-lined now. Not sure for how long.  Maybe forever.  We’ll see.


I know that how the local church is expressed, organized, led and structured will continually have to change.  But the basic truth that the local church is God’s appointed change agent for justice, love and shalom — that will never change.

Check out what Willow Creek is doing these days by clicking here:

And be sure to check out the video form Hybels about the vision.

This… people like those that gather at Willow and at great churches across the globe — both large and small — that convince me that JESUS IN THE LOCAL CHURCH IS STILL THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.

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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Uncategorized


Spiritual Directions

Yesterday I had my regular meeting with my spiritual director.

I am a big fan of meeting with a spiritual director.  Whenever we meet I leave encouraged, challenged, stretched and with a better perspective/vision on my life.

One of the most significant things that happens for me is that as I recall and retell where God has been active in my life since we last met, I discover just how much Jesus has been doing!  In the day-to-day of life, sometimes we can feel like our spiritual lives are dry or that God is not as active as we would like or that somehow we are a disappointment to our Heavenly Father.

But as I recall the ways He has been active in my life and remember His faithfulness, joy, smile, direction, grace and word — I realize how much He is doing.

Sometimes we need an outside perspective to see how we are growing — and what God is doing — in our lives.

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Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Uncategorized


Homophobia Is An Abomination

A good friend sent me the link to this article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about the issues of homosexuality and homophobia within the Jewish and Christian understanding.  It is one of the best essays I have read recently on the topic.  Here it is in its entirety:



by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Huffington Post

Who could have thought that homosexuality, of all things, would tear this country apart?

For two decades now I have watched how opposition to gay relationships has come to define American values. While fifty percent of straight couples divorce, while America sinks ever deeper into an eddy of materialism and greed, and while purpose and happiness remain so elusive that our country consumes three-quarters of the earth’s anti-depressants, for our religious leaders, politicians, and the media it’s still all-gays-all-the-time.

Why the obsession? People of faith insist that homosexuality is the sin because the bible calls it an abomination. Little do these ignoramuses realize that the word appears approximately 122 times in the Bible. Eating non-kosher food is an abomination (Deut.14:3). A woman returning to her first husband after being married in the interim is an abomination (Deut. 24:4). And bringing a blemished sacrifice on G-d’s altar is an abomination (Deut. 17:1.). Proverbs goes so far as to label things like envy, lying, and gossip as that which ‘the Lord hates and are an abomination to Him’ (3:32, 16:22).

As an orthodox Rabbi who reveres the Bible I do not deny the Biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. Rather, I simply place it in context. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples come to me for counselling and tell me they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex in their entire lives and are desperately alone, I tell them, “You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home with a mezuzah scroll on the door. Turn off the TV on the Sabbath and share your challah with many guests. Pray to G-d the prescribed three times a day for you are His beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out.”

Once, I said to my friend Pat Robertson, whom I have always found engaging and open in our conversations, “Why can’t you simply announce to all gay men and women, ‘Come to Church. Whatever relationship you’re in, G-d wants you to pray. He wants you to give charity. He wants you to lead a G-dly life.” He answered to the effect that homosexuality is too important to overlook. Other evangelical leaders have told me the same. Homosexuality is the single greatest threat to marriage and the family.

Really? With one out of two heterosexual marriages failing, with seventy percent of the internet dedicated to the degradation of women through pornography, and with a culture that is materially insatiable even as it is all-too spiritually content, can we straight people say with a straight face that gays are ruining our families? We’ve done a mighty fine job of it ourselves, thank you very much.

But the extreme homophobia that is unfortunately to be found among many of my religious brothers and sisters — in many Arab countries being gay is basically a death sentence — stems from an even more fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of sin. The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets to connote two different kinds of transgression, religious and moral sin. The first tablet discusses transgressions between G-d and man such as the prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy, and desecrating the Sabbath. The second tablets contains sins between man and his fellow man, like adultery, theft, and murder.

The mistake of so many well-meaning people of faith is to believe that homosexuality is a moral rather than a religious sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. But who is being harmed when two, unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Rather, homosexuality is akin to the prohibition of lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover. There is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.

For the record, I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage because I am against redefining marriage. But I hardly believe that gay marriage is the end of Western civilization. For me the real killer is the tsunami of divorce and the untold disruption to children as they become yo-yos going from house to house on weekends.

I have countless gay friends whose greatest fear, like so many straight people, is to end up alone. Should we merely throw the book at these people? Does not the same Bible also say, “It is not good for man to be alone?” And all I’m asking from my religious brethren is this: even as you oppose gay relationships because of your beliefs, please, for the love of G-d, be tortured by your opposition. Understand that when our most deeply held beliefs conflicts with our basic humanity, we should feel the tragedy of the conflict, rather than simply find convenient scapegoats upon whom to blame all of America’s ills.



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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Uncategorized


Tony Campolo Speaks at Marin Foundation Event

As always with Campolo, this is a must listen/watch:

Dr. Tony Campolo speaks at Roscoes in Chicago, IL from The Marin Foundation on Vimeo.

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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized


But I Never Tire…

Yesterday I reflected upon some of the things I used to do as a follower of Jesus and how those things have changed.  Whether I am in a season — or a season has passed — I do not know. 

But even with those changes, there is one thing I never tire of: pointing lost people to Jesus.

I know that it is considered uncouthe to refer to people as lost these days.  But to be honest with you, most of the people I know are well aware of their lostness. 

I used to work with a group of people that were largely successful, smart, educated, self-assured, affluent, and even cocky — or at least invest a lot of energy into making it look like they’ve got everything together.  Frankly, for most of these folks life has been pretty good and the future looks bright.  And they know it.  With or without God in their lives, they will achieve what most people would consider success.  Or already have.

Part of the challenge was to help these folks see that they aren’t independent… that they need something that they can’t provide for themselves.  That is a tricky business and take a long time.  It comes through friendship and conversation and long-term investment.  

Now I tend to be surrounded by a different group of folks.  Folks who are broken-hearted, wounded, bedraggled, beat-up and knowingly lost.  

The challenge is different.  It is not helping people see that they are not independent, but rather helping them understand that there is a better day ahead.  

Now I don’t think Jesus loves the knowingly-broken more than the cockily-self-assured.  I don’t love one group more than the other.  Both need Jesus.  Both are loved by God.  Both need healing and redemption.  Both have a lot to offer the church and the kingdom.

But the way forward is different.

The broken-down crowd knows they need a savior, they just don’t know if He cares enough about them.

The self-assured crowd are relatively confident that God loves them (after all, what is not to love?) but get real nervous about things like surrender and Lordship and dependence.

But I never tire of pointing any of these folks to Jesus.

And here is what I am learning about evangelism these days: that’s it.

That is all evangelism is… pointing people to Jesus.  Helping them see what Jesus is already doing in their lives and has already done.  That he is present… he is real… he is there.

You’ve just got to see it!

Why do I point people to Jesus?

The simplest answer is this: LIFE IS BETTER WHEN YOU SEE THE SAVIOR.

Life is more fun.  Life makes more sense.  Tomorrow has more hope.

That’s it.

We are better with Jesus than without.

I really believe he wants a real relationship with everyone he ever created — and that includes you.

So I don’t need to get into theological gymnastics nor eschatalogical scare tactics to convince me to do evangelism.  Nor do I need those things to convince people to follow Jesus.

No, all I need is the simple truth that LIFE IS ALWAYS BETTER LIVED WITH JESUS.

And that is a truth I would bet my life on.

So I never tire of pointing people to Jesus… and praying that TODAY, YOU WOULD SEE HIM!

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Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Uncategorized


I Used To…

I used to be the kind of Christian who stormed mountains, fought to establish beachheads, and charged forward to do anything I could to push back the gates of hell in the battle to bring forth the kingdom of God and to bring people to Jesus.

I don’t do that anymore. 

It’s not that I am less passionate about Jesus than I was. Or that I am less committed to Kingdom-advancement.

It’s just I’ve changed.

When I was a run-through-the-wall-for-Jesus-leader kind of a guy, I had a clear leadership philosophy: run with the fast ships.

I would often say that the only folks I really wanted to work with were the fast ships and the lost ships… either radical discipleship or far-out evangelism.  The in-between didn’t interest me much.  Luke-warm, wounded, wishy-washy, wandering, wondering…

And in many respects, that is what FRONTLINE ministry is all about: fast ships and lost ships, not sight-seeing or set-adrift ships.

I spent ten years on the front. I have the battle scars to prove it.  

But now I am not on the frontlines anymore.  And when you are a veteran back home — instead of out on the front — you realize that a lot of the folks who you thought were sight-seeing or set-adrift are actually wounded and recovering from being on the front too.

I am meeting a lot of wounded and recovering folks these days.

And I am wondering if maybe just loving and caring and extending grace to the wounded isn’t actually a pretty important ministry.  Maybe Jesus has the front taken care of and doesn’t need us as much as we thought… or maybe he does, and now that season has passed for me.  Either way, the wounded and recovering have grabbed a part of my heart.  They have served well in the past, and now just need to be loved and cared for and encouraged and walked with.

Maybe I will be called to the front again sometime.  I kind of doubt it — usually you don’t go back.  But you never know.

But for the time being, I am okay simply loving and caring for and showering with grace those wounded who are around me.

Maybe we have fought the good fight… and now it is someone else’s turn. 

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Posted by on October 20, 2010 in Uncategorized


More Inside Baseball: Church Trends

Continuing with some more “Inside Baseball”, John Ortberg posted last week on his blog some observations he has made about the “State of the Church” after spending time with young leaders at the Catalyst conference.

Here is what John observed:

–The word “emerging” is fading faster than the Colorado Rockies in a pennant race, but the word “missional” continues to drive thinking.  Andy Crouch said that the (re)discovery of justice is one of the primary impacts on evangelicalism in our day.

–There is still confusion over gender and ministry.  While there is increasing involvement by women in the evangelical/charismatic  world around leading and teaching, there is not yet a common understanding of the theological and scriptural foundation for ministry by giftedness rather than gender.

–The inability to maintain high quality in small groups is the dirty hidden secret in countless churches; including lots of large churches.

–Paradoxically, evangelicalism is becoming the primary version of Christianity (historic mainline liberal Christianity is fading faster than the Chicago Cubs in a pennant race), but is becoming increasingly viewed as marginal by mainstream culture.

–New church leaders, who once learned mainly from denominations, and then learned from large flag-ship churches, are increasingly learning from high-profile individuals through social media.

I would love to hear your thoughts/reactions/analysis…

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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Uncategorized


Inside Baseball: The Problem with Evangelicalism

This might be a little “inside baseball” for a lot of the readers here, but bare with me…

Scot McKnight has picked up on an article in First Things by Joe Carter.  In the article, Carter criticizes much of the methodology of modern evangelism as it comes from evangelicalism.  Here is what Carter writes:

There are two types of evangelicals in America: those who naively embrace whatever trendy items happen to be hot sellers at “Christian” bookstores—WWJD? bracelets, Testamints, prayer of Jabez scented candles—and those who shun such kitsch. I am solidly of the second type. Like a good Pharisee, I thank God every day that I’m not like those people.

But I take comfort in knowing that most of this stuff is rather harmless and nothing more than a passing fad. It is not the dernier cri that will soon be gone that concerns me but the faddage that becomes a fixture. Fads still receive scrutiny; fixtures remain largely unquestioned.

The following are ten fixtures that I find particularly harmful not just to evangelicalism but to evangelism. None of them are inherently pernicious (well, except for #10) but evangelicals use them in ways that do not serve their intended purposes.

1. Making Converts (not disciples)

2. The Sinner’s Prayer

3. Do you know Jesus as … your personal Savior.

4. Tribulationism

5. Testimonies

6. The Altar Call

7. Witnessing

8. Protestant Prayers

9. The Church Growth Movement

10. Chick Tracts

In general, I agree with his critique of #4 and #10.  I think that, depending on how you define the terms, #1 & #3 can be problematic.  #2 again, I think, is about emphasis and perspective more than anything else.  I think his concern about #5 and #6 are that they can be too emotional — this is not inherently true and also reveals a bias against heart/emotion.  I have seen these tools abused, but more often than not, they are well-used and effective.  I am pro #7 when done well and have no idea what he is saying in terms of #8.  I am also pro #9 (for the most part — though I certainly have my critiques of specific methods and models within the diverse movement) and always agree that #10 is a bad idea.


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Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Uncategorized


It Gets Better

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Posted by on October 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

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