This Just In!

I just found out that People Magazine has rated me #51 in this year’s 50 Most Beautiful People Issue. Unfortunately, this means for the 38th straight year I didn’t make the magazine, but hey, it’s good to know that you almost made it.

Thanks, People!

Okay, so this didn’t really happen. I’m not rated #51, and may not even be in the top 5,000,000. But, I know this, God loves me. He really does! He’s passionate about me, and you, and everyone else on this earth.

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t keep a 50 Most Beautiful People list? Aren’t you glad that God’s view of our worth has nothing to do with what we look like, who we know, how much money we make or what are what we do?

So, God, you are #1. You are the most beautiful. You are beauty. And, I am in awe!

Pizza and God Talk Updates

You won’t want to miss Pizza and God Talk the next two times that we meet. This Wednesday night’s (April 25th) Pizza and God Talk discussion will include a Stump the Pastor discussion. You will have the chance to ask Geoff Bohleen, Wooddale’s Outreach Pastor, Fred McCormick, Wooddale’s Adult Ministries Pastor and me any question that you want about the Bible, spirituality, religion, God, etc. We will do our best to answer those questions the best that we can.

In two weeks, May 9th, Paul Helseth will be with us. Paul teaches theology at Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. He is the co-author of the book Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity with John Piper and Justin Taylor. He will be addressing the concept of Open Theism, and what you need to know about it.

Pizza and God Talk happens at Davanni’s in Eden Prairie and runs from 9:00-10:30 PM. As always, if you would rather have your own discussion rather than talk about the topic of the night, there will be several open tables for people to talk theology.

Remembering Virginia Tech

It’s been one week since life at Virginia Tech was changed forever. I was thinking earlier this morning about how fast life can change. Virginia Tech is a beautiful place. The serene setting of this campus tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains is incredible. I used to pass Virginia Tech several times a year as I would drive from my home in the suburbs of Chicago, to my college campus that was located in Lynchburg, Virginia. I remember gazing upon the VA Tech campus each time I drove by, thinking this is a beautiful place.

No amount of beauty can change the ugliness of what happened last week. And, in the ugliness, the new sort of beauty that arose. From the ashes of lives that were torn apart sprung up a new kind of hope. When the Virginia Teach family was too weak to stand on their own, a country surrounded them with prayer, words of affirmation, and offers of help. When the Virginia Tech family was in despair, a country reminded them that tears are okay, and hugs are important, and that all of humanity identifies with their pain. When the Virginia Tech family was in despair, we were also reminded about how small we really are. We were reminded about the uncertainty of life. And, we were reminded that God, who is debated in the public arena and mocked in plenty of university classrooms, is still there. He is there to go to in prayer. He is the source of healing. Prayer vigils sprung up on campuses all over the world on behalf of the Virginia Tech family.

Virginia Tech, it’s been one week, but our prayers are still with you. Our hearts are with you as you start class back today. Our prayers are for the countless people who lost loved ones, and who have a huge hole in their hearts today. God has not forgotten you, Virginia Tech. He loves you. He wants to help bring hope and healing out of despair. And, we want to help.

I’d love to hear from fellow bloggers on what you think are some practical ways that we can come along side of the Virginia Tech family at this time.

Tax Day Relief

Today is April 15th. This is the day that taxes are traditionally due for most Americans. Because April 15th falls on a Sunday this year, taxes are not due until Tuesday, April 17th. Procrastinators are engaged in a collective sigh of relief. For, this year, they have two extra days to get their taxes done. It’s a two-day grace period, which allows them to wait until Monday, April 16th to get really stressed out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of grace. I loved when I was in school and was given an extension to finish a paper, or to study for an exam. I love it when I’m forgiven by someone, when I really don’t deserve to be forgiven. I love it when I’m given two extra days to get my taxes done. And, I love that Jesus Christ has provided more than enough grace for me on the cross of Calvary.

So, have you accepted God’s grace? Have you placed your trust completely in Jesus Christ for your salvation? Unlike tax day, which only gives grace every several years, God gives grace every day. Every day that you are alive is an extension of God’s grace to you. Like tax day, we will all one day have to make an account of the way that we have lived our lives before a holy and righteous God. Unlike tax day, none of us know when that day will come. If we fail to seek God’s forgiveness and allow Him to take control of our lives before the end of our lives, no extensions will be given. Your grace period is now. Don’t procrastinate.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
— Revelation 3:20

The Bible Literacy Project

Did you happen to catch Time Magazine last week? The cover story is about, Why We Should Teach The Bible In Public School. The article has caused quite a stir. What do you think? Should we use this textbook by the Bible Literacy Project in public schools? If you didn’t get a chance to read the article, here is a good look at what people across the religious landscape are saying about it:

Thank You For Praying

The funeral service for Daniel Olsen took place today. I really believe that God was glorified in this service. There was something so special about Dan’s funeral. The full military honors that he received at both the funeral, and the graveside ceremony was something that was truly spectacular to behold. I’ve acquired a deeper appreciation for the brotherhood of the Marines.

Holly Collison’s rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic sent shivers up my spine. It was hard not to want to jump out of my chair in applause. I felt a great deal of pride for our country. The Iraq war is an unpopular war, but the men and women who are fighting in the war are heroes in my book.

Please keep Wayne, Gwen, Shelcy and Shaina Olsen in your prayers as the emotion of this day now moves to the very sober reality that life goes on. Dan’s body is in the grave. But, Dan is in heaven. Praise be to God for His unbelievable gift.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Tonight, we pray for all members of our armed forces. We pray for those families that are dealing with the pain that distance brings. We pray for wives who miss their husbands. We pray for husbands who miss their wives. We pray for children who miss their moms and dads, and for parents who miss their sons and daughters. We pray for protection for all who are in harm’s way, and pray that you would bring peace to the waring regions of the world. We pray for courage and hope for those fighting in this conflict, and for peace, hope, and joy for the families that have lost loved ones. Thank you that You are the God of love, the God of reconciliation, the God of hope, the only wise God. To You be all praise, glory and honor. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are some nice stories about the funeral that you can find by following these links:

A Little Bit of Bonhoeffer?

We had an incredible discussion at Pizza and God Talk tonight. We were talking about the issues that the church is going to have to deal with in the next 10-20 years. While speaking I shared a quote from Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s classic, The Cost of Discipleship. If you don’t own this book, go to Amazon and order it tonight. It’s an essential for any library. I shared part of a quote from this book with our students tonight, and thought I’d put the complete quote in this blog. This is from a section of Bonhoeffer’s book where he is dealing with the concept of cheap grace.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “. . .this cheap grace has turned back upon us like a boomerang. The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available at all too low a cost. We gave away the Word and sacraments wholesale; we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured fourth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.”

I wonder sometimes if we are guilty of this. What do you think?

Jim & Casper Go To Church

It’s a fascinating premise — a Christian hires an Atheist to accompany him to several churches and give his impression of Christians. Jim & Casper Go To Church is a new book publshed by Barna that is tough to put down. I’d highly recommend this book to any pastor, church leader, or sincere Christian that wants to understand how at least one Atheist views the church. Jim, the Christian, and Casper, the Atheist, visited such churches as Saddleback, Willow Creek, Mars Hill, Mosaic, and others, and rated their experiences. You can read about their ratings, and those of many other Atheists at The site causes one to pause, and really think about what it is that we are communicating to spiritual seekers. I’d love to hear your reactions to the book or the site.