Thursday, December 31, 2009

What are you reading?

Getting ready for the new year by getting a reading list together. Any suggestions about what should be on mine?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hello???

Is this thing still on? It's been awfully quiet in here lately. Might have to put up some new mediocre material in here, just to keep things going. More soon...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Urgent prayer from Iran...

For two Christians who are in prison for converting to Christianity from Islam. They may receive the court's decision on their fate Sunday morning.

Click here to read the full story.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Updates, we got updates...

I'm sure you'll be getting sick of these updates before long, but I'm going to give you another one anyway. We're in Glendale, AZ. Tomorrow morning at 9, we are going to meet the social worker for the baby. We'll talk, she'll get to know us a bit, then we may be able to have a visit with the baby.

I guess what I'm saying is, keep praying....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Update time...

We just spent a great week in Colorado, hanging out with my aunt and cousins. We left this morning, and we are spending the night in Albuquerque. Nice hotel, questionable pool cleanliness...but that's another issue altogether.

As for the baby update, we are supposed to meet him in Phoenix on Wednesday. The social worker is working out the details, but it looks like we'll be able to spend some time with him. He won't be coming home with us on this trip because there is still court work to be done. But that part could be wrapped up in a few weeks, and we'll have a new member of the family!

Interesting side note: while we were relaxing at the hotel pool tonight with the kids, we met a guy who is also staying here. We started talking, and it turns out that he was in town on business, but he lives and is on staff at a church in the same Phoenix suburb where we will be meeting the baby. He was very encouraging. He prayed for us, right in the hot tub! It was a great church service, amongst the bubbles.

Please keep praying! I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Prayer request from the road...

Hello everybody! It's been a while, and I have a lot to update you on. But that will have to wait. Right now, we are in Parker, CO, visiting my terrific family. We're having a lot of fun, and we plan to be here until next Monday.

I want to ask you to pray for us. We got a call this afternoon. I can't go into details, but we were asked if we would be interested in adopting a baby boy. We have been talking about adopting again for months, so we are definitely interested, But we need pray, and lots of it. We need God to open doors. We need wisdom. We just have needs, period.

So, the Mighty Mrs. J and I would really be thankful if you would remember to pray for us.

Thanks!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homeschool perks: combined lessons in football and spelling

This is from the New York Times: a picture taken from a football field where homeschool families have put together a high school football league. One of the coaches put up some inspirational signs:

Spelling isn't my strongest subject either...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's too powerful for God?

Stuff Christians Like is a great blog, and today's post is beyond awesome. Just the word I needed today...

Pastors, and other scary people...

There's one thing about pastoring that I had almost forgotten about, but I have faced in the last few days. It's the weird reaction that people have when they find out you are a pastor. Typically, they get an odd look on their face, and get really quiet. It's like they think I'm judging them, or waiting for them to do something that I can condemn them for. Or, maybe they are expecting me to hold them down and evangelize them.

I had the over-the-phone equivalent tonight. I called up someone who goes to our group, just to see how he was doing. I hadn't seen him in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to make sure that he and his family were OK.

He was obviously uncomfortable. He was evasive, short, and sounded like he would rather be doing anything but talking to me. And I wasn't being harsh or judgmental. I was just trying to express some concern for my brother. I got the feeling that he felt like I was going to do something to him. (What, I have no idea.)

It's an odd situation for me, because I don't view people through my agenda to grow "my" church. In other words, I don't see the people around me as prospects, or potential Sunday School teachers. They're just people like me. But the title of "Pastor" puts an immediate barrier between me and some other people.

It reminded me that pastors can get lonely in their position. I don't want that to happen to me and my family. I am going to redouble my resolve to be as real, honest, and open as I can be. If being a pastor sets up barriers, I'm going to do everything I can to bust through them...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Introducing, the new owners of General Motors...

In fact, I think these two might be designing the next line of cars:



Actually, Maxine Waters is twice as smart as most Kobe fans...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A long-awaited update...

Well, maybe it's not "long-awaited." Maybe it's just "swallowed by overwhelming apathy." Either way, just wanted to drop in to say "Hi!" (Wow. I have used quotation marks three times since the beginning of this post. "Awesome!")

Anyway, some of you might remember that I was asked to preach for a few Sundays at a local church that was looking for a pastor. They asked me to preach for 4 Sundays, then for a couple more Sundays after that. It must have gone well, because the church voted to ask me to be their pastor!

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know my misgivings about traditional church. But after a lot of prayer and talking, the Mighty Mrs. J and I felt like it was something God had opened up for us. As of about a week ago, I became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bell Gardens.

It's been busy. I still have my business to run, and I'm learning to juggle work and ministry. But I think it's going to be fun. They are a great little group of people, and they've expressed a real desire to minister to hurting people. There is a lot of work to be done, with the facilities and the people. We are looking forward to the challenge.

I think for me the hardest part will be to keep teaching and living grace as a lifestyle, and not to allow anything that cheapens the gospel to creep in. It will be interesting. Pray for us!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gender-driven abortion: coming soon to a country near you

Caught this from the Washington Times today.  Apparently, Sweden has ruled that it's A-OK for women to abort their babies based on the sex of the fetus.  It's already a common practice in China, which has a one-child per family policy. 

In China, couples don't want a girl for their only child, so they abort them at very high rates.  Sweden doesn't have a one-child policy.  Gender-driven abortion is just a matter of choice for them.

The reasoning seems to be that in Sweden, women have the unfettered right to abort until the 18th week of pregnancy, no matter the reason.

I have two thoughts about this,a side from the fact that it makes me ill.  First is that since the current president is extremely pro-abortion, as is the Congress, I see no reason to believe that this couldn't become standard practice in the US.  And, it would have the full blessing of the government.

Second, this is nothing less than war against women.  These babies are being destroyed solely based on the fact they are female.  This gives me great confidence that feminist groups, and lawmakers who champion women's rights, are going to jump all over this.  I'm sure we will see protests in front of the Swedish embassy in Washington, DC.  We should see the condemnation of this practice starting anytime now.

In fact, I'll just right here until the protests start...

(H/T: Hot Air)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Performance-based acceptance...

My awesome blog buddy Joel, from Grace Roots, has set up a synchroblog. The theme is "performance-based acceptance." Unfortunately, it's something I know a little too much about. I have several stories I could share about how I tried to measure up to someone else's ideas of what my walk with God should look like. Here's one of them:

To be honest, I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't feel like I had to perform a certain way to be accepted. My world, as a child, revolved around two things: my mom and my church. I got heavy doses of the need to live up to certain standards from both of them.

As a result, I built my life around doing what was expected of me, hoping to get the love I needed. I served the church in any way I could. I pledged myself to "full-time Christian service." (Are there part-time Christians? Oh, that's for another post.) I taught Bible studies, I led singing, I preached, I did everything I knew how to do. But I never thought it was enough. So I kept trying to do more.

Part of "doing more" involved planting a church in the area we live in. That's not a bad thing, but church planting is a lot of work. When you think that you have to meet everyone's expectations in order for you to be loved, it becomes overwhelming. After a while, I couldn't keep up with all the balls I felt I had to juggle. Finally, I had to let them all fall, and walk away from all my old notions of what it meant to serve God and others. I left pastoring, and dropped off the radar screen for a while.

The really awful thing about having people expecting me to perform a certain way was that I came to see God doing the same thing. I was working so that God would love me, would accept me. That was great when things were going well, but when something went wrong, it was torture.

I know now that my uncertainty about God loving me were based on messages I got from other people, not from God Himself. I find myself listening more to His voice, and less to those voices that tell me what I must do to please Him.

For me, the best part of living loved by Father is that I get to share this news (it's really Good News!) with other people. I'm shocked by how many Christians need to hear the gospel. You know--the real gospel, the one that says we are loved and accepted because of what Christ did, not by anything we do.

For the past few weeks, we have been fellowshipping at a very traditional congregation. Instead of being draining, it's been fun and liberating. It's great to be able to love on people, and not need them to validate me. It's also great to be able to preach God's love and grace, without giving them obligations they need to fulfill.

Grace is such a radical concept that I think there's always a desire to make it safer, more controllable. One way we do that is by putting performance obligations on people. But that's not God's way. That's man's way of taming grace...

(To read the rest of the blogs participating in the synchroblogging wonder, go here...)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Webcam frenzy!

Jesus is our homey, too...

Hey there, party people! It's just me, checking in with my regular semi-monthly blog post. Just wanted to give you a quick story. As some of you may remember, I have been the substitute preacher at a local church for the last 2 weeks, and the next 2 weeks also.

Well, the lady who plays piano at this small church, as well as the woman who leads music, will both be out this week. So the Mighty Mrs. J is leading worship, and she roped me into I volunteered to play guitar to accompany her.

I'm not very good, so we have to sing one of about 12 songs I can kinda play. We were singing through one of them, "I See the Lord."

The Former Toddler Houdini must have been listening, because she came through the house singing the chorus. Except when she sang it, it came out as, "Homey, Homey, Homey is the Lord." Which is the way I plan to sing it on Sunday.

Remember, he can be your Homey, too...

Here she is, looking adoringly at her big brother:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

3 video notes...

Here are the 3 kids, giving you their video greetings:






Abby's is a little loud, so be warned:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A personal update on, well, me...

I've been a bit scarce around here. Business is going really well, and it's hard to make time for blogging. In order to blog regularly right now, I'd need to take time away from less important activities, like spending time with my wife and kids. (Maybe I need to change my priorities.)

I would like to ask for those of you who are praying folks to drop a line or two to God for me and the family. You may remember that a few weeks ago, I preached at a small local church. it was the first time I had preached anywhere in a while.

Well, it went pretty smoothly. No one threw anything, or heckled me. Now, they've asked me to come back and preach for the next four Sundays, and teach their Wednesday night Bible study.

I don't really feel nervous about the whole thing, at least not yet. But I do want to be a blessing to them while I'm there. So I'm asking for prayer in a couple of areas. First, pray that I would be able to preach and teach God's love, without the baggage that sometimes comes in a traditional church setting. Second, pray for my family. It will be a little hard to be away from the people we usually fellowship with on Sunday. (We're seeing them at different times, but it isn't the same.)

Anyway, that's my update. You may now resume your normal activities...

The consequences of China's war on girls...

This article from Associated Press talks about something that is going to become a big problem for China in the coming years. Because of their strict one-child per family policy, they now have a lot more boys than girls. (The policy has been in effect since the 1970s.) Their 2005 census indicates that "males under age 20 exceeded their female counterparts by a whopping 32 million."

The reason for this is that many families, faced with only having one child, have chosen to abort female babies so they could have male babies. Apparently abortion is widely available, even in the last trimester of a woman's pregnancy.

Chinese officials are afraid that they will face increased crime rates as these boys grow up, and are unable to find mates.

The real tragedy is that because of the population control policies of the Chinese government, girls have become a burden for many Chinese families. In addition to the baby girls who have been aborted, many are abandoned, or even killed, after birth.

Of course, the Chinese government has no moral qualms about having babies killed. But because they see that trouble is on the horizon, they are loosening some of the restrictions on families having more than one child. Hopefully, it will mean that some of these precious girls will survive.

That would be a good thing. But the root of the problem is that the Chinese government doesn't see the Chinese people as valuable in themselves. Their value comes from their usefulness to the state. I can only hope that the US never gets to that place...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Does US Christianity need to be less balanced?

I just ran across this post from John Frye over at Jesus, the Radical Pastor.  In it, he makes a strong call for the church in the US to be less "balanced," less comfortable, and less bland. 

I don't have time for much comment right now.  But this post got me thinking, and I wanted to pass along the link...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Jesus came...

"Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works."

--Robert Farrar Capon

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The girls' dance recital...

Last Tuesday. our girls had their first dance recital. They have been taking dance classes at the YMCA for a few months, and this was their chance to show the world what they have learned. Apparently, the YMCA uses this recital every year as a fundraiser, because parents like me will pay whatever it takes to see their little girls onstage.

They were beautiful and wonderful, as you might have guessed. I have video of the event, but I don't know where the video camera is right now, so you will have to be satisfied for now with pics from before the show.



Here are the girls, waiting (somewhat) patiently to head out for the show.


















Now, they are waiting for us to take pictures, before they get in the car.
















This isn't from the recital, I just think it's cute. The Preschooler Formerly Known as Toddler Houdini really adores her big brother.










Anyway, the girls were great, DisneyGirl got a little stage fright, but she overcame it, and delivered a rousing version of the hamster dance, along with her sister and the other members of her class.

Is there a point to this post? Is there an uplifting spiritual lesson to be learned from this? Yes, there is. The point is, and don't forget this: my kids are really cute. Thank you. You may return to your previously scheduled blog reading...

Monday, March 9, 2009

The end of evangelicalism?

Michael Spencer has a terrific blog (http://www.internetmonk.com/) that I read regularly.  He wrote a great, if sobering, piece for Tuesday's Christian Science Monitor called, "The Coming Evangelical Collapse." 

It's not a happy piece, but I think he's dead-on with his predictions.  I'll have some thoughts on it in the next few days, but I wanted you, my faithful readers, to wallow in the end of Christianity as we know it for a few days.

I think he's right, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing...

Friday, March 6, 2009

The people I hang out with...

I don't know who your close, personal friends are. But for me, living in the hotbed of celebrity that is southern California, famous people are just part of my life. I can't tell you how often movie stars and famous musicians stop by the house to enjoy grape soda and ping pong. Well, a few days ago, it was Duff McKagan, former bass guitar player for Guns N Roses. Here we are together:



OK. Duff wasn't actually at my house. He was at a seminar I went to, presented by a client of mine. Has some amazing stories to tell from being on the road with GNR, as you might have guessed. Now, in addition to playing in the band Velvet Revolver, he's a family man. Plus he writes a syndicated column on finance.

Now, I'll let you go back to your hum-drum lives. I think I just heard Brad and Angelina at the door, they're bringing their kids over for a playdate...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How did this happen?

Through what can only be described as some horrible mistake, a local church has asked me to preach for them this Sunday. It will be the first time I've preached from a pulpit in a few years. Even when I was pastoring, I mostly sat with everyone else, and combined teaching and discussion.

Am I nervous? Not really. For one thing, I haven't had time to be nervous because my work schedule has been so packed that I haven't had time to think about it. But more importantly, my whole attitude on giving talks, or sermons, or whatever, has really changed since I've been out of "full-time Christian ministry."

When I was pastoring, I really felt a burden to make sure that I had a carefully-crafted sermon prepared, and that I delivered it as well as I could (insert your own joke here). I see things a bit differently now.

Not that I don't have a responsibility to put together a good sermon. It's just that I realize that very few people are changed by a once-weekly dose of "3 points and a poem." They certainly aren't changed by "7 steps to a happy marriage" or 4 biblical keys to financial security."

People are changed by one thing: the overwhelming love and grace of God. I think I read somewhere that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. If that's true, then the more we talk about and live out the kindness of God, the more repentance, the more godliness, we will see.

I guess what I'm saying is that I see my job when I teach or preach is to show how God's grace and love shines through on every page of Scripture. If the folks at that church leave the service on Sunday a little more in love with Jesus, I've done my job. Even if they don't get "5 biblical essentials for perfect, evangelical hair."


For those of you that read to the end, here is your treat. Keep hitting "Refresh" to get the full effect...

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm glad we are all tightening our belts...

I caught this in the headlines today.  I thought we were all supposed to be sharing the economic pain! 

At least we the taxpayers aren't picking up the tab for this.  Oh, wait...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some people really shouldn't have laptops...

I know they are supposed to increase your productivity, but in my case, having a laptop is really an excuse to do stuff like this:


Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm assuming this is a joke...

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0978736842/ref=sib_dp_ptu#reader-link

Please, someone tell me it's a parody.

Should have a red cover, though...