Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

27 December 2010

The Magi - The AFTER Christmas story

There are many things about the "We 3 Kings" story that we've jumbled up a little. But the story of the Magi is a VERY important AFTER-Christmas story.

In fact they weren't Kings at all. Many call them astrologers, and this is true. They were that. But they are most accurately described as Wise Men. They used anything at their disposal including science, poetry, art and religion to acquire knowledge and KNOW what of significance was going on. They were on a quest (and subsequently many missions) for truth. Star watching was one of the ways God seemed to use to announce events of earthly significance.

There were almost assuredly many more than 3 Magi who made the trek because when they began to move, Herod knew that the Magi were on the move. There is some dispute about the timeline of when and where it all went down. But there is a pretty good chance it looked something like this...



You'll notice that this puts the Magi at the Manger months AFTER the birth of Jesus. If true, He wouldn't have still been in the manger at all. Matthew 2:11 says

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


A house months later? Dang. This will mess up the staging for next year's Living Nativity. One of the reason's why this is seemingly confirmed is the abnormal and very significant occurrence of the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and the Earth in 7 BC. TWICE! Thus accounting for the 2 occurrences of the star's appearance. Experts say that this would have been EXACTLY the type of thing that would make the Magi giddy inside and it would have been very bright and visibly notable.

Combined with what the very learned Magi knew as "The Star Prophesy" from Numbers 24:17 that said:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab,the skulls of all the people of Sheth."


... it would have pointed the Magi in the direction of Bethlehem. A 3 month journey by camel.

It's significant that they came later because their story is a post-birth, modern-day significant story. The Magi were intentionally generous. They didn't stop by the Bethlehem gift shop on the way in. They came armed with costly gifts worthy and suited for a King. Now think about it. If you've ever had a baby, you know that the first couple weeks are a wild blur. The birth, the attention, people stopping by with casseroles! But soon after... it stops. And you're alone with your doubts, fears and (in Mary's case) the lonely/daunting task of dealing with a deity-baby. Then all of a sudden, men of high repute show up, bowing down to your infant son declaring him the prophesied, long-awaited savior. And they brought stuff.

Allow me hypothesize. The gold came in handy for a socially-ostracized, young, unmarried couple fleeing the country with a newborn. The other thing was simple encouragement. Joseph and Mary were likely in a bit of a "what now?" place. Then the Magi showed up and brought them a wise message of warning and fleeing directions. Directions that were soon confirmed by an angel (and by this time, I'm sure the two LISTENED pretty close to angels). But it first came from men sent on a journey to be mouthpiece of God.

Men who were the kind of men that 1 CHRON 12:32 talks about “…men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should." The Magi were men like we have the opportunity to be. People who act as agents of God to further bring God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. 1 Cor 2:8-12:

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"- 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."


The new covenant that we live in makes us able to participate in the work of the kingdom! God WANTS us to know what to do! We are actually able to know the times, and KNOW what the church should do. The Magi aren't really a part of The Nativity scene. They were never there. But they are a big part of the After Christmas story. The story we still live in today.

22 December 2010

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight

Tonight we had a wonderful church staff/leadership team Christmas dinner. We ate and toasted what has been an INCREDIBLE year of ministry and life at Freedom House. It was a toast-worthy night of reflection and celebration as so much good is happening in the life of the church we've all been a part of leading and shaping right from it's inception.

It was wonderful to sit at a table as 6 people who can count on each other to go to war with. I know I could... because I have. Last year we sat around a similar table a couple days before Christmas just on the outer cusp of "Church funk". We all felt a bit battered and bruised, but were just beginning to breathe again. The year before we didn't have a party at all... because none of us felt much like celebrating. But Bruce Cockburn said,

"Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight."
Bruce Cockburn

Our city is at the beginning stages of an incredible and largely unseen type of revival. It's a different kind of revival than Pensacola, Azuza Street, Wales and the like. It's a holistic community revival. Holistic in this case is defined as, "Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into part".

Our city is regaining it's hope and dreams, and faith & trust in each other (both in The Church and out of it). We're not only watching it happen, but we're finding ourselves right smack in the middle of it all... and in some cases, we're even being noted as an instigator of it both in spiritual and secular circles. It's wild.

But I recognized two things about it tonight.

1) It's exactly what we all felt was SUPPOSED to happen. And as a result, we've been praying for it... and working towards it happening for a decade.

2) This great year has been because we've fought for BEST instead of GOOD ENOUGH both in the good and bad times.

As we toasted the mountain, we remembered the valley and realized that our philosophy, resolve and determination was unwavering in both seasons. My wife Krissy recalled a recent situation where someone was whining a little about how much they were being needed to give. She said,

"Pft... You give. You give more. And when you go to be with Jesus you give Him your crown"
Kristina Carrol


I'm proud to serve a very worthy God with these 6 people and lead a group of passionate, talented, community-changers together. And our city WILL be transformed BY good INTO good? How do I know?

"...because this is the longing of creation itself,
the groaning of the Spirit,
the very dream of God.

My tomorrow is his today.
My distant hope is his 3D.
And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from hero’s of the faith, from Christ himself."
Pete Greig

17 December 2010

Why we SHOULDN'T stop giving gifts at Christmas



"Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves." ~Eric Sevareid


I'm sure you've heard, said, or at least thought this during the Christmas chaos:

"We all already have everything we need. I don't need your gift and you don't need mine. Let's stop giving gifts. Christmas is about kids. We'll just get THEM gifts."

It's hard not to be tempted to think this sometimes because of the cultural rut we've gotten ourselves into. At times it DOES feel like a runaway train. Believe me... I get it. I write ads for a living and being around Christmas ads this much is enough to put anyone over the edge.

But I don't believe that stopping giving is the remedy to the ailment. It's a visceral reaction. Dig deeper. Giving... is integrally woven into Christmas.

THE verse in the Bible that we can almost all recite John 3:16 is "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This is essentially THE story of the last 2000 years in a nutshell. Giving. But not JUST giving. Giving extravagantly and sacrificially to people who thought they had everything and didn't need this gift. In fact a gift of immense value that was given and rejected by nearly everyone aside from those who already longed for deeper meaning and purpose. It was a gift that was so good and was so confrontational to self-sufficiency and pride that it had to be killed off. This season is about giving and it's always come with the temptation to treat gifts incorrectly.

I've heard it said that we get to tell the Jesus story at Christmas because people like babies more than execution and martyrdom. But Jesus eventual death was a known entity to wise men and prophets like the Magi who came (at one point or another) to celebrate the birth of a baby into a cows food trough by bringing expensive, impractical, but significant gifts. Isaiah 53:2-3, 5 describes Jesus upbringing and destiny LONG before the first Christmas gift was given:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.


A gift. A gift that's beauty and intention still opens hearts. Years ago, U2's Bono was coming back from a very long tour. On Christmas Eve, he went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Belfast. He recalls the revelation he that day about the value of the Christmas gift.

"It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in sh*t and straw... a child, I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry. Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was just sitting there, and it's not that it hadn't struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. Because that’s exactly what we were talking about earlier: love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It’s actually logical. It’s pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh."


There must be an incarnation... love has to become flesh. There is something very personally confrontational about receiving gifts. Same with love. It's someone who doesn't HAVE TO, doing something to benefit you... regardless of whether you think you need/deserve it or not. Don't waste your time railing on poor Santa. Saint Nicholas was a faith healer and radical giver whose desire was to see Jesus glorified (link to an old blog called Santa and the human meat pies of death)

Here are a few ways I think we make gift giving and receiving a little more effective this Christmas:

1) WANT to give: In our culture we spend too much time ignoring and disregarding each other to let a season of GIVING go by and not let it change our hearts. Be warned that it can very easily out of shear habit. Learn to enjoy giving. Let the joy of it rise up in your heart. Don't think of people as dollars or lists. Think of them as they really are. Souls and spirits that your incarnation of love can open a door to something more eternal with. It's not about rich or poor. A human is a human is a human.

2) Think about your gift: It does the soul wrong to just pick out some random, insignificant piece in a store and give it because you have to. It SHOULD unsettle you. Really think about what would tickle someones fancy. Something that would really communicate your feelings for them. That's what we do at other times of the year, but the "responsibility" of Christmas giving can rob our creativity and dilute our actual feelings and intention. It doesn't have to be expensive. It could be words that you've never spoken. It could be time. OR it could be a Macbook. The thing doesn't matter... the story and spirit does.

3) Humble yourself to really receive: You're likely going to be getting a gift this year from someone who can't afford to give you something... but they will because they love you. Don't say, "Oh you didn't have to" and feel guilty. They have intentionally given you a gift that cost them something. Humble yourself and receive it and let the spirit of giving warm and inspire you. Be thankful at all times and receive.

4) Give to someone who don't "deserve it": This... is powerful. Think about how The Grinch warms your heart and makes you tear up a little (at least the Dr. Seuss/Boris Karloff version). I watched it this year and said out loud, "Those Whos really should be pissed" after being completely robbed blind on Christmas Eve. But they heaped love on someone who didn't deserve it. It broke The Grinch's heart and cause it to grow. THIS is the kind of gift Christmas is about.

It's not about what we DO deserve. It's about what we don't.

Culturally... we're out of whack with how we function in giving. While minuscule percentages of people tithe and give to the church, and people go hungry around the world... we go into debt at Christmas mindlessly. This is no good. But the answer is not to STOP giving. The answer is MORE giving. The answer is giving more of yourself. Time, Talent AND Treasure. The answer is being intentionally, extravagantly, and unendingly generous on all occasions!

The law of reciprocity tells us that what you give... is comin' back. Still don't think you can do it? Remember what we're celebrating this Christmas. The gift of God's only son, allowed to be born into poverty, even when the one who knows it all KNEW He'd be rejected and killed by the very world He saved from death. Try and out-give that.

Merry Christmas.

13 December 2010

Phil Dunphy on parenting and life

"We like to think we’re so smart, that we have all the answers. And we want to pass that on to our children. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you won’t have to dig deep to find the kid you were, which is why it’s kind of crazy that we’re raising kids of our own. I guess that’s the real circle of life. Your parents faked their way through it. You fake your way through it. And you just hope you didn’t raise a serial killer."


Yup.

11 December 2010

Are you learning what George Bailey learned?


Are you learning that you were designed to change the world?
Are you learning that God listens to the prayers of your wife?
Are you learning that the prosperity of others takes precedence over your own prosperity but it's the key to your own prosperity?
Are you learning that the journey to your destiny is not yours to decide?
Are you learning that the city where you're planted matters?
Are you learning that the big things are found in cultivating the little things?
Are you learning that God honors those who knowingly sacrifice?
Are you learning that fedoras, cigars, and gramophones are awesome?
Are you learning that you should lay down and die so that you can have life?
Are you learning that right is right?
Are you learning that you get to revel in the life you're living today?
Are you learning that enjoying your wife and kids releases life to you?
Are you learning that it's a wonderful life?

10 December 2010

"Magic" as defined by CS Lewis's Stepson


Brant Hansen is an award winning, engaging, and genuinely entertaining Christian DJ out of south Florida. His "Mornings with Brant" is syndicated around the US.

This morning Brant had CS Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham on the air talking about the release of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film. You can hear the whole interview here. Brant began to ask about Christians and their issues with the "invocation of magic" Gresham interupted knowing where it was all going and replied brilliantly:

"There has been a lot of stupidity in people's minds about magic. The difference between magic and science is that magic is what we freely confess we do not understand. Science is what we pretend we do understand. The primary difference between God and man is that God knows what He's doing and we don't"


He went on to define magic in Lewis's (and our) world:

"There are 3 kinds of magic in our world. The peddling little magician magic like Uncle Andrew in 'The Magicians Newphew' where people mess around with things they don't understand. It's movie magic. Then there is the magic of the evil side of things. The demonic forces. And that's not really magic... it's corruption of what really exists. And then finally there is the magic of the Holy Spirit of God which is the creation and maintenence of the universe. We don't understand it... and we haven't the faintest idea how He does it. But it's real. That's the deep magic."


I've been reading my son The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and we're both very excited about the movie. We both laugh out loud when they refer to the deck of the boat as "the poop" and I laugh inside at the number of times I'm reading my son stories of seamen drinking rum. It's such a wonderful story that our Kids Pastor at Freedom House has even written and published curriculum based on the book (linked here)

Like all stories, there is the pact of "willing suspension of disbelief" between the writer and reader that's required whether you're a kid or adult engaging in a tale that includes sea monsters and invisible creatures that obsessively agree with their leader. But because the protagonists are on a "magical" journey, in Narnia, it somehow becomes even easier to find yourself feeling each scene more deeply. They DO encounter all three kinds of "magic" (or spiritual) activity. Basically ignorant dufuses... then good and evil. Just like we are in the real world. The characters are challenged to discern the unexplained, and react largely by faith to the forward draw of the "deep magic" to freedom and liberty for themselves and others.

To me, it's a glorious to thing to engage my son's imagination, spiritual awareness and inner male chivalrous warier. It's tragic that adults have their belief in the unseen forced out of them with age and responsibility as if mystery was moisture and they were a piece of lean jerky. At 35, to be under the great illusion of thinking that one has entirely figured out the workings of the a known universe that (at what we can CURRENTLY observe) has a width of 156 billion light years that is created and controlled by an infinite all knowing God... is ludicrous. Mystery and magic IS a part of our lives.

But we CAN understand more today than yesterday. Yes God is big but He didn't want to stay far away. He wanted us to engage in the action. Just as Aslan keeps appearing to comfort, encourage, discipline and lead... God is there to show us "the way".

"He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food."
Job 36:16

8 December 2010

Writing radio creative at Christmas can make you want to spend Christmas throwing up

We received this paid "Public Service Announcement" from a brand name battery company "warning" the public about the "dangers" of batteries that aren't theirs. Did you realize that they could RUIN your Christmas... and eventually life.

"Battery powered toys and games are popular holiday gifts. For safety’s sake, _______ asks you to look for the CSA certified sticker and only use name-brand batteries. Counterfeit batteries can overheat, explode, or leak dangerous fluids. Always buy toys and batteries from a trusted retailer - and have an adult install and properly secure them. A few simple precautions can help ensure the holidays are both safe and enjoyable. This festive season, power the joy of giving with _______ "


An exploding "counterfeit" battery that sears little Jimmy's face off really would ruin the magic of the holiday season. Yuck.

If Christmas wasn't about the birth of the Savior of mankind I'd bail on this thing altogether. But since it is...

7 December 2010

The most popular blog post ever


I think today I will write the most popular blog post ever.

As an appetizer, I'd like to reference my most read blog post ever. It was the time that I wished the Fattest Man in the World a happy honeymoon. His name is Manuel Uribe and it appears he's very popular. I have also posted the first photo that comes up on Google Images of Manuel and his lovely wife. He's eating fruit for the camera. There are more grotesque photos. But this is all about the numbers.

Next I would like to reference the top news story of the day. CNN tells me that someone named Julian Assange has been ordered to jail over the Wikileaks . In fact, let me quote CNN's breaking news.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sent to jail Tuesday while a London court decides whether to order his extradition to Sweden.

Next I would like to say that Justin Bieber is cute. Then I'll post a pic.



I'll follow up with the phrases, Justin Bieber is a hottie. Justin Bieber is adorable. Justin Bieber is awesome. Sweet.

Now on to the most Googled things in North America. Many think that it's an easy porn, boobs, sex and girls. Not so (although it's good to cover the basics too). Restaurants, doctors, plumbers and mechanics are also very popular. Some other big ones are (believe it or not) God, christianity, church, Jesus, dating, true love, matchmaking, singles. People also like to google vitamins, nutritional supplements, Viagra, oxycodone, and vicodin.

I would now like to write a nonsensical paragraph using the top searched words from around the world so that my swell of pointless hits on this pointless blog post have an international flavor.

"Tom Cruise and Britney Spears watched The Hangover and ate a burrito together while discussing the state of Jihad and terrorism. David Beckham came in and said that he and Dolly Buster had just taken some Viagra. They were on their way to Iraq to spend some time with the Taliban and homosexuals. Kate Moss, all dopey eyed from the marijuana, suggested a car bomb might be a nice idea. 'Pft... you need botox' exclaimed Beckham. "

Next I'll embed and write out the hottest viral video at this current moment called

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See!





Now I will give you links to share this blog post with so that you will weave this blog post into your social network






2 December 2010

What's going on in the minds of University students who follow Jesus?


This Campus America video brilliantly tells the story of what's going on inside the minds of University students who follow Jesus.



This semester, we started a Young Adult and University group at Freedom House called, "The Marked Generation". Marked means "Clearly defined and evident; noticeable". And this generation IS developing into just that.

Their struggle towards adulthood is real. They face unique challenges and questions but their motives are refreshingly genuine. As a 34 year old, spending time with 20 year olds... it doesn't take much insight to see the vast difference between my Generation X and the Nexters/Millennials/Z'ers. They are a fascinating and hopeful generation that have gestated in an entirely different cultural cocoon than previous generations.

At the same time... they are just people. People throughout time have shared more in common than they've differed on. I have to admit that I've felt older around younger people than I did 5 years ago. Maybe it was the day I admitted I liked country music that did me in. But this week I invited 20 20-somethings over to my house for a cheesy-sweater Christmas party. Some of them I've known for many years, but many were University students in Brantford from other Ontario cities who I've just recently met. We laughed together, drank nog together, and shared the common bond of a genuine desire to love and serve Jesus together.

There was something reassuring to me about it. And by the social media comments (and a few really genuine words of thanks) I believe it was the same for them. Even though generations have differences and everyone has their own struggles and battles to fight... we're not alone. Not by a long shot.

Job 36:16 is one of my favorite verses:

“He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food."


The woo of the Spirit of God that Christians all experience, is meant to be a bonding agent. It happens in abundance if we're willing to share our journeys with each other.

Pics from my friend John's Blog

1 December 2010

Can we milk goodness out of indifference?




This is a FABULOUS 15 minutes of thought provocation by Frank Chimero (a graphic designer, illustrator and teacher in Portland, Oregon) from a recent design conference. Don't worry if your drawing skills are similar to my 6th Grade stick figures... it's not about that. Frank masterfully explores the enormous issue of turning the mundane & indifferent into something vibrant that, if achieved, can change our lives and the world around us.




It's easy to see how changing how you see your the world translates much further than the world of design. It effects communication, personal effectiveness and (from a Church perspective) how we seen genuine cultural change as motivated by God.

Paraphrased:

"We don't teach people how to see the world. Before you can really communicate, you must first learn how to see. If you change how you look at the world, you see new and different things. Learning to see is about perception and that is a deeply personal thing hidden deep inside us. We know how to respond to bad things. Somewhat so with good things. But hardly at all with neutral indifference."


I think one thing that Christianity has going for it, is that it does challenge people about how they look at the world. Some do it in a healthier context than others do, but it does go down this rarely traveled road. The bad news is that people often STOP creating and "unfolding" at a point. Even within this fertile context and commission, (that should produce explosive creativity, given our audience and access to the One who created the universe) stifling apathy and indifference sets in.

Paraphrased:

"Can we milk goodness out of indifference? We all have our own design problem that we're all faced with daily. How do we see the world around us? Perception is malleable (DEF: capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences) . We can make decisions about how we want to respond to what happens around us. We have exactly what we need... no more no less."


The idea that we already have everything we need either leads to goodness or indifference... very easily too... depending on the variable of human response. It's extraordinarily Biblical too. 2 Peter 1:3 speaks to our full equipment pack. " His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." The way we define prosperity at Freedom House is having everything we need to do what God's asked us to do. In this manner... we have to choose whether or not we will actually see the world for what it is and play in the playground. That's the freedom we DO have if we choose it.

Paraphrased:

"Noticing is finding the invisible amazing. Being a tourist inside your own life. Having soft eyes. Almost like you're finding little love notes everywhere. Framing is alchemy... turning the mundane into the exceptional just by putting it through the process of perception. "


Noticing and Framing are VITAL to the communicator as well as the designer. It's the difference between actually being able to make people comprehend and WANT what you're talking about... or not. Audre Lorde famously said, "There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt." EW Howe, around the turn of the 20th century wrote this "Ventures in Common Sense"






"If we can't transform the mundane into the exceptional I think it's very sad and stupid. We are not here to be bored. Indifference is a curse. Worse actually because it's self-inflicted."


Great thoughts.

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