Reflecting on my Biblical Seminary Experience

I graduated on Saturday from Biblical Seminary’s MDiv LEAD program along with our cohort (except for a special brother and faithful reader who was missed), and others from the other worthy programs at Biblical (MA Counseling, DMin, traditional MDiv). It’s good to be done, as it was a demanding program. Being in full-time ministry (and a position that I truly care about), being a husband (a role I care even more about) and a new father (do I have to say it?) was quite the experience. I know this is true for most graduate students and may grace be given especially to those who have it tougher. I always felt that I was fortunate in a few areas (supportive wife, able to stay up late and function on minimal sleep, and overall, the support from many within our ministry).

Finishing feels great but in truth, it feels great, because it was a great experience. As you can tell, I am very proud of Biblical and very grateful for this time.  Here’s a bit of background for the sake of context. I graduated from Liberty University (Bachelors in Religion with Biblical Studies Concentration) in ’98 and also finished with a MAR from their graduate program (Liberty Theological) in ’99. If you know me, I go back and forth with my experience at Liberty; overall a good experience (met Susan and some great friends there) but I usually find myself saying something like if I could somehow guarantee marrying Susan, it would have been interesting to have gone some place else. I do remember graduation being the final hoop to go through as opposed to a celebration.

I had always planned on pursuing an Mdiv in my twenties but there was no opportunity to remain at my first church and study. So upon finally leaving, finding a church that would support me was big on the list just below one that valued healthy marriage (said with intentionality and a hint of playful spite ;-) As I mentioned during my graduation speech (one day I may upload it here) I also thought that I would have two or three children by my 30th birthday. After years of fertility treatments, altering diets, medications, it were syllabi of Newbigin, Franke, and Hirsch that allowed us to adopt and then conceive. Life never goes as planned.

Alan Hirsch was our commencement speaker

In looking back, I have come to the conclusion that I enjoyed seminary more than I thought I would. That’s a pretty big statement for as you can see, it took a lot to get there. Seminary was a need for me for several reasons:
1. As much as I read, I didn’t always …

A. know what to read
B. and what to do with it.
Seminary has not “solved” that but has really helped in both areas.

2. I had too many suspicions regarding the Church, our theology, and our application, etc.
Among them are …

A. more and more, I am convinced that the Church is in need of great reform.
B. the emerging church conversation is essential to the future of the Church, especially our children and grandchildren. I truly see us X’ers and older Millennials (as well as prophetic Boomers) as the “bridge generation”.
C. I needed a place to test-drive numerous thoughts, hear the insights of others, be challenged, be refuted, be inspired.

Though some suspicions were confirmed (Like, “Am I the only one who reads this passage this way?” (“Oohh, pretty much all Christians did too until the last 100 years. I see – thanks.”) and some suspicions were intelligently thrown back (“So what you are saying is that it’s heretical. I see – thanks.”) (And yes, specific examples will not be mentioned here lest you think I am brilliant or stupid ;-)

I think I am leaving seminary with …
… valuing my local context.
… better theological and biblical foundation.
… the new friendships made in Cohort 10!
… better spiritual formation practices.
… less jaded.
… more hope for the Church, a better understanding of the triune God, a better follower of Jesus, and a healthier understanding of the Gospel.

I know seminary is not for everyone, and Biblical may not be either, but for me, it was a great experience and I am very thankful for this season of life.

Life Update – 6.24.10

I stopped doing the Monday Morning Brief thing because I thought it was too boring. I think only Marko and a few others can pull that off. Anyway, some of you kind readers have given feedback that you wanted some life-update stuff. So, for those who care, I’m renaming this to “Life Update” (the creativity is scary) and will post them with with no planned regularity.

Coming Home Was Nice
In case you couldn’t tell from the countless posts, I had a great time on our IME (International Missions Experience) trip with my seminary cohort. You can read all about the trip under the ‘Nambodia category if you are interested but coming home was also pretty cool. Susan does an incredible job and I was grateful for all the help my in-laws gave her. I have to say, I was relieved that Dylan remembered me (you know sometimes these little kids give you the cold shoulder when you haven’t been around) and Nathan gave me the biggest hug he’s ever given me. Great to be home and nice to be loved by the family.

Pictured here is from my office door. Nathan and I went to the church office to say hello and pick my mail. Nathan made a little welcome home picture for me (with a little help from our pastor’s wife – thanks!). I thought it was funny as I was going through my messages, he decided to peel the stickers off and take them back.

Father’s Day with the Family
I had a great time with my family this past Father’s Day. My parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and a few other dear relatives and friends had been away on a cruise. We met up at my aunt’s house and caught up. My niece has gotten so big and so cute.

Graduating This Weekend
Well my time as an Lead MDiv student has come to a close. I had tried pretty hard to get to seminary over the years and the odd thing that I am realizing now is, I have enjoyed it more than I thought i would. I gained much more than I thought I would and I hope that becomes evident in some way in my ministry and my life in general. Really going to miss my cohort friends but that’s what Facebook is for I guess.

Sr. High Mission Trip to NOLA
In just two weeks and we’re headed back to NOLA. We are bringing a group of 20 students and 4 leaders and there are quite a few first-timers, I’m excited about that. From a big-picture level, it’s been assuring to see this aspect of our ministry not just get more participants but adopt a healthier mentality of what missions is and how do we here in the ‘burbs live in response to the issues of our day and thus, how we share the truth, love and gospel of Jesus. So much more work to be done, in a number of these areas but I have been happy to see the progress. To God be the glory.

Fantasy Baseball Update
First in one league – almost last in the other.

For all you who asked …
Nope, I am not getting the iPhone 4. I don’t think I’m as early of an adopter or technophile as some suppose I am.

Thinking About …
Getting an iPad ;-) (Actually, I’m more interested in getting a Kindle when the technology improves, you know when it makes page turn noises and omits the smell of the book.)
Our youth ministry for this fall and our awesome youth leaders.
Taking the boys to a minor league baseball game.
When to post my NT Wright study blog posts.
When is Evan and Amanda’s baby coming?

Father’s Day Reflection inspired by Sunday’s sermon, the Vietnamese Countryside and the Arcade Fire

I try not to blog too much about our children because I know it annoys people to hear how incredible their kid is. But I blog what’s on my mind, not everything of course, but a little bit, and being a dad has occupied a lot of my attention. So far, I’m told I’m a good one, a really good one. I ask our two year old all the time, “Am I a good daddy? He always says “Yes” and he gives me a hug and I give him a cookie. I’ve caught my wife rolling her eyes at that. I don’t know what her problem is, after all, she has a great father too.

But I have been thinking about fatherhood quite a bit lately. This Father’s Day was my third one and it was also very special as it was the first for some dear people in my life – my brother-in-law, one of my cousins, and a few dear friends. I remember very clearly my first Father’s Day, there was a lot of joy and I felt very grateful. Today has really been no different and I would say that I have enjoyed many of these moments over these last two years.

In Pastor Sam’s sermon, he preached on a number of things while having the overarching theme of fatherhood. He reminded us that this is his first father’s day without his own father and he’s not sure if he has processed that. As one who enjoys a good relationship with his own dad, I was grieved by that. Further, I there were a couple of people throughout the congregation who had expressed emotion as we were discussing the topic of fathers. We all know it’s not an easy day for many but I was grateful that Sam felt the need to talk about it – we should always feel something when we come together in worship.

Being in Vietnam and Cambodia was tough on all of us in some way. Most of us are married, many of us have children and all of us have close family and friends that we missed, not to mention demanding responsibilities. There was a quite a few times we wondered what was going on with the respective ministries we were a part of. We reminded ourselves that if they cannot function without us for two weeks, then we are not doing that great of a job to begin with. That line of thought, however, does not work with being a husband and a father though. And I found myself thinking about fatherhood quite a bit. Not just because I was away from home but because this time in seminary is coming to an end, the boys are getting older and my wife has made numerous sacrifices as I have been studying and serving (I know this is true not only for all in our seminary program but for many in various vocations and contexts. Grace to you).

I think one moment that stands out while I was thinking about this was on one of our long bus rides. For me, it was an excellent time to process and stare out the window and listen to some music. It’s interesting to hear some of Dylan’s protest songs having just been to War Museum and staring at the Vietnamese countryside. As you would expect, it sounds different. Other things sound different as well. I listened to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible album. I love this band (even went to a concert by myself to see them play – they are so good live).

For those that don’t know, AF is not a “Christian band”, though they explore a lot of spiritual themes. This album was recorded in an abandoned church that was converted into a studio (in Quebec) and I appreciate/agree with some of what Win Butler is frustrated with. In the song, “Intervention”, which is driven by a powerful organ, one lyric in particular gripped me, “Working for a church while your family dies” … “Singing Hallelujah with the fear in your heart”. I have heard this album countless times, have heard the lyric many times too, liked it, etc. it just hit me funny while being away and again, finishing this time of seminary.

The song’s meaning is pretty open-ended. As far as I know, Win has not clearly explained what he was thinking when he wrote that. Throughout the album, many themes emerge as well as many different characters (politicians, parents, lovers, etc.). But that’s one of the things I appreciate most about music and postmodernity, you get to interpret for yourself ;-) I heard the words as if they were a prophet from the Old Testament and if you are similar to me, you know many pastors/missionary kids. Many of them have had fantastic family upbringings and many of them have not. This Father’s Day, I meditated and prayed that my kids would never feel that this lyric to ever be true for them.

Monday Morning Brief 4.26.10

What I’ve Been Enjoying

1. Today is Nathan’s Second Birthday. Susan and I are so proud of our little boy. We had a little birthday party with his little brother and his little friends yesterday. It’s days like these when all is right with the world and we are thankful to the Lord for allowing the goodness to pierce through.
2. Had a great time at the Wheaton Theology Conference with NT Wright. I have so much to write about that and I tend to procrastinate on the things I want to articulate well. I’ll get over it soon. Also wanted to mention, while the theology conference itself was fantastic, I had an amazing time on this road trip with my friends.
3. My niece was baptized last week. She’s the best thing to happen to Phoenix since God created the sun.
4. Enjoyed our Invisible Children Benefit concert at the Back Door Cafe in Nyack. I’ll try to post on that too.
5. Enjoyed our Second Mile service this past week. Mark Allen (youth pastor from nearby Pascack Bible) taught on not losing our identity so that we do not make excuses. He used Daniel’s reliance on God as an example of how we can be courageous in times of trial.
6. One of our closest friends had a baby this weekend. Beautiful baby girl! Welcome Chloe and big congrats to Bassim and Miret.

What I’m Reading –
Beyond Empire: Post colonialism & Mission in a Global Context – by Jonathan Ingleby. To be honest it’s really good. I just don’t feel like reading it in light of “senioritis” (it’s contagious Evan).
Paul in Fresh Perspective – by NT Wright (our independent study that I am so far behind on)
Since my last posting, there have been a couple of books that I read for school. One was Culture Making by Andy Crouch – required reading for those Christians who inhabit the culture (so unless you are returning to your planet, you should get this) and Clemens Sedmak’s Doing Local Theology. Evan did a series of posts that you can check out on his blog.

What I’m Listening to –
Jazz music again. I listened a lot in the 90’s (when Rock ‘n Roll and Baseball were dead). Mostly Coltrane and the tunes of NPR.  Haven’t given up on my rock or indie, (or baseball) just listening to some classic jazz.
Also really enjoyed Homebrewed Christianity’s podcast with Phillip Cary. As listeners will discover, he’s the Teaching Company legend on a lot of their religious education audio. I particularly enjoyed his comparisons on Calvin and Luther.

Who I Never Will Do Business with Again –
Expedia. I’ve been a faithful customer of yours for almost 10 years.  I wish no ill will to those who work in your company but your lack of professionalism and disappointing customer service has led to this.  After my last itinerary is completed, I’m deleting my account and removing your app from my phone.
Fortunately for the online customer, there are many options.

Looking Forward to –
Well, there’s a whole lot. A few gatherings, Dylan’s Baby Dedication, our seminary Vietnam trip, preparing for our student mission trip to New Orleans … yeah there’s a lot.

You Heard It Here Seocnd Last – April 16, 2010

I have a different excuse every week of why I don’t blog regularly. Today I have the good fortune to be at the Wheaton Theology Conference with some fellow Biblical students and a professor. Hope to find some time to blog about some of these excellent presentations but in the meantime, here’s a few links and thoughts that I have enjoyed and been challenged by recently.

Jennifer Knapp discusses her career-break, new album and that she is happy in a same-sex relationship in an interview called, “Jennifer Knapp Comes Out” with Christianity Today.
Another article here in the NY Times.

And of course, one by NT Wright, “Abandon Studying the Historical Jesus? No, We Need History”

How Great Is Your Youth Pastor – a fun one for the good guys.

Hope you enjoy.

Monday Brief – 4.10.10

What Was Enjoyable –
– Easter. Love its meaning, enjoy its celebration and am moved by the Lent preparation leading up to it. In a world marred by tragedy, evil, sin, despair, the meaning of Easter changes everything.
– Not as theologically and metaphysically profound but fun for me – our Florida vacation! Lol – It was great to spend a few days visiting with Susan’s family and catching up with other relatives and friends. There’s a lot I like about the area we get to live but it’s always good to be out of the zip code. Life always looks different.
– Really proud of my wife and boys. Grateful for such a fantastic family (Most of the time i am but wrestling with a two year old and stressing the importance of airplane safety by being buckled in during take-off and landings gets a bit frustrating. But it’s better than being annoyed by other people’s kids (Just kidding, “other people” ;-)
– Also grateful that my niece Lina was dedicated yesterday. My parents and brother got to fly out and be with my sister and brother-in-law.

What’s Going on in Seminary –
– While in FL, I realized again that this Mdiv is finished in June. Only a few papers and books left. Granted a lot is due tomorrow (a paper, a journal and a few chapters left in Andy Crouch’s excellent book, Culture Making) but the end of the tunnel is near. It’s been a really great experience but really looking forward to the break. Also, I’ve been very grateful for the support of my family and church.
– This last class has been on understanding culture. It’s been one of my favorites of the program.

What’ I’ve Been Reading –
Justification by NT Wright. And I just won a copy from Englewood Books.
Culture Marking by Andy Crouch – brilliant. I read most of it last year, and took it slower last week, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Doing Local Theology by Clemens Sedmak. Excellent also. I really liked it – wanted to underline the whole thing. Working on my response paper. I liked it but there’s something that kept bugging me as I read. Ever read a book that you like but can’t place your finger on what is bothering you about it? Well until I can put my finger on it, my response paper is a bit boring.

What I’ve Been Watching –
LOST. As I saw on numerous Tweets, “I don’t know what’s going on but I like it.”
Missed 24 last week, but I’m pretty sure the opening seconds will bring me up to speed. Oh and I just saw that Simpsons episode that was like 24. Where Lisa is Chole, Bart is Jack and Homer is …, well he’s Homer.

What I Have Been Listening to –
Spoon’s Transference – very good, as you would expect Spoon to be.
Broken Bells – Everyone’s right – it’s excellent.
Just started Denison Witmer’s Carry the Weight. I like his voice, I like his poetry, I’m going to keep listening.
U2’s Artificial Horizon – It’s their technotronic versions to recent hits like City of Blinding Lights, Magnificent, if God Will Send His Angels … I like it, it’s fun but back when No Line on the Horizon was first released, I thought the followup album that they mentioned was going to be more B-sides then the “Move This” versions of their stadium anthems.
And a mix one of my friends made. I have no idea what’s on it. I think most of it is new except for a song by Dakota Motor Company (anyone remember them?).
The music is so indie that Shazam and SoundHound do not work. Well, I like tracks 6, 9, 13 … (I know you are reading brother, thanks again).
Finally finished Jim Belcher’s Deep Church. Enjoyed it. May one day blog about it but until then, I think it’s the fairest non-emergent book there is. For those who have questions/concerns about emerging church/emergent/etc, don’t bother with Why We’re Not Emergent …. If you want to try to understand, Belcher does a good job.
Homebrewed Christianity podcast when I’m feeling up for it.
The Relevant Magazine podcast when I’m in the mood for a laugh.

What’s Going on in Youth Ministry –
– I am really pleased that we are have 17 students signed up to go to New Orleans this summer. We’re working with the Gathering Church (which is actually in Chalmatte, St. Bernard Parish) and people we really miss like our friends Aaron and Lucas.
– Had a really good series baed on LifeChurch’s Practical Atheist. Good stuff, especially their media. You get it, customize/personalize your lesson, add your stories, illustrations – it saves a lot of time – thanks LifeChurch.
– Our Invisible Children Benefit concert that was cancelled because of snow is being held next weekend. We are all looking forward to it.

What’s Going on at the Montvale Church –
– We had a wonderful Easter week. I thought Sam preached a very excellent message and I was really blessed by the Emmaus Worshp Team. Homeboy Glenn and crew are so good – so good.
– We have had these monthly fellowship luncheons for the purpose of providing a space for newer people to connect and create further community amongst us. A wonderful family had this on their heart and they recruited other wonderful people to help and here we are. The ideas come but the execution of them is where the commitment and labor is and we as a church are blessed. We also had a missionary family that our church supports share during this time. They are a young couple serving in the United Kingdom and I’m a fan of what they do. I love it when they come back and share with us.
– Our next Second Mile Service is next Saturday, April 24th. Pastor Mark Allen from Pascack Bible Church is bringing the heat! Well, he’s not fire and brimstone but I’m sure it will be insightful and Spirit-led. More info here.

What I Am Looking Forward to –
NT Wright Conference in Wheaton this week! So excited. I’m going with a few friends and a NT Wright expert AND one of our best professors, Derek Cooper should be helpful as well ;-)
Also, looking forward in seeing a couple of our students who attend Wheaton.
Q Conference.
Staying home in May til our Vietnam/Cambodia Seminary trip.

You Heard It Here Second Last – Favorite Recent Links

If you have been following this blog for a while you know I used to this fairly regularly. While the Twitter culture almost makes posts like these obsolete, there are still some wonderful people who as one person told me, “not on the Twitter”. Well, rotary phone users, fear not, these are some excellent links I’ve read, bookmarked and wish to share.

First off is a Christianity Today article from Daniel Kirk, author of Romans Unlocked, professor at Fuller Seminary in North California, husband, father and all around good guy. He blogs daily at His piece on the resurrection was fantastic and here’s the first paragraph –

In the spring of my senior year in college, I was deeply immersed in the rhythms of Christian life. I was a leader in InterVarsity, participated regularly in a Bible study with other seminary-bound friends, set my Sundays aside for worship and rest, and read more than my fair share of extracurricular Christian books. As Easter approached, I began rehearsing the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. I knew that for Paul and the other New Testament writers, there could be no Christianity without it. Yet one day as I was walking back to my dorm, it dawned on me that the gospel as I understood it had no need for Jesus to be raised from the dead.

More here.

Because this blog is read by some alleged Piper fans and in the event that you didn’t get the Desiring God text message a couple weeks back – Dr. Piper is taking a seventh month leave. He wrote a classy blog post that expressed he needs the leave because “I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me…” Again, it’s a classy move, all of us can gain somethhing from it. My previous post had a Doug Pagitt’s words of encouragement and call to prayer. If you don’t know the context, you should know that while they are not the best of friends (to say it least), they are brothers in Christ, and live in the Minneapolis area. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

It’s hard to really know who reads this blog, I’ll keep refining these posts. I think the first post should interest all Christians and the second for the “Pipettes”.

Monday Morning Update – 3.15.10

What’s Been Going On –

– Dylan has been rolling over!
– Already using very bad words, Nathan is living out the pastor’s kids stereotype. He’s having trouble saying “Truck”. What can you do?
– Susan is very concerned (Oh and church nursery workers are meeting with the elders tonight).
– I am a proud parent – come on the kid is talking!
– Fantasy Baseball draft is tonight. It’s a long baseball season, hoping for a good draft.
– Needing to fill out my NCAA bracket to defend my championship performances in my church and seminary. My working theory is that the worse of a Christian you are, the better you do at the Tournament Challenge. I am a little worried because I have some steep competition this year ;-)
– Last week I got to have lunch with a couple youth pastor friends. We’ve been meaning to for a while, it was worthy the work and waiting. Some good people serving around here.

What I’ve Been Watching –
– Lost! I’m right on the border of being impatient & irritated and sheer suspense. Btw, loved this Homebrewed Christianity podcast that was about Lost. Chris Seay, pastor, author, dude just released a book called The Gospel According to Lost. He’s done a couple of these books like one on Tony Soprano and another on the Matrix. He’s also one of the pastors who begain the Advent Conspiracy experiment – good guy, good thinker, good stuff.
– 24. I’m back on it like it’s 2002.
– The Office – the baby episode was the funniest I have seen since, what – 2002?

What I’ve Been Listening to –
Some new music, like Johnny Cash American VI and whatever was in my Paste Sampler. Also, downloaded Broken Bells when it was on sale for a couple bucks on Amazon. It was worth it – I need a few more listens to comment more. Not what I expected in a good way.
Still listening to Jim Belcher’s Deep Church on my way to school. I am enjoying it; I find many points of agreement and a couple points of respected disagreement. Hope to offer a few thoughts in the future.
Always listening to the Relevant podcast.

What I’m Reading is now called “What Books I Should Be Reading More of” –
Beyond Culture – by Edward Hall for a new seminary class on Culture.
Justification – NT Wright
The Gospel According to the Simpsons and Super Heroes and Philosophy for our Second Mile service

Student Ministry Update –
– Sent out letters for our mission trip to New Orleans. The other week I mentioned that some know they are coming and asked they pray about it first. And a long time ago, some decided not to go and I asked that they pray about coming. Either way, I hope it’s after prayer that we decide to join or not join this trip. It always leads to a better trip and a better attitude as a whole in our group.
– Some are also participating in organizing and packing clothes for Haiti and then next month, there is a local clean up day in Montvale.
In Sunday School, we are discussing how the Bible was put together. A little nerdy but it’s interesting. We Christians should know how our holy book was put together.
Wednesdays we are doing a series called the Practical Atheist (Thank you Life Church. Oh that’s right, you told me not to thank you ;-)

Looking Forward to –
– This week’s Second Mile service. The message is entitled, “The Gospel According to Superman, the Simpsons and Starbucks”. Everyone has a “gospel”, how do they contrast to the Christian one? Further, have we as Christians settled for a weak “Gospel” or are we truly living out the Gospel message? We are meeting in the balcony this time and hoping it works better for us as a gathering spot.
– Visiting Susan’ family next month as a family. It will be our first family vacation with the 4 of us. In fact, the last time I flew to FL, we didn’t have any kids.
– the NT Wright Theology Conference at Wheaton next month.

Monday Morning Brief – 2.22.2010

What I’ve Been Up to –
1. We had our Sr. High Winter Retreat last weekend at Harvey Cedars. I am thankful that it went well. I plan on blogging some thoughts concerning our material. We showed Bill Maher’s Religulous and discussed the topics of doubt and faith. A lot of content but our students did well with it. We also had a pajama party game night and a talent show over the weekend. Some really great moments.
2. Went to the Ecclessia gathering last minute. That was a good thing for me and I really enjoyed my time there. Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy was a game changer for me back in college. I am realizing that I need to read more of him, I need more voices like him in my life. There were some other excellent speakers there too, I hope to blog about that too.
3. Susan and I went out to eat over the weekend. It’s funny that we used to go out all the time and now a monthly date is quite the event. Also funny that we decided to go to the Olive Garden. I know, I know, it’s not cool but we do like that salad dressing and we said, “Who cares about fine local eateries, we are going to sell out to the corporate juggernauts because they do have awesome salad dressing!” It’s like the Big Mac secret sauce.
4. Watching Lost and reading Lost blogs. I can’t wait for this week.

Regarding Lent –
If ever there was a time of the heart’s preparation that I needed, it’s now. For years I had given up coffee and I’ve gotten bored with that and so I am among the many that have decided not to give up something tangible but to give up something spiritual. If the idea is about trust and prayer then the I need to give up my anxieties. I know how that reads on a blog – lame. But if there’s one thing that would help me prepare my heart to celebrate the Risen Savior Jesus, it would be to expend my mental energy on the things of life, loving God and others, sacrifice and life again as opposed to the things that are sabotaging my life. It feels like there is a lot going on and it’s distracting and I truly need to focus on the essentials here and am committing to some spiritual disciplines to get me there.

What I am Reading –
Read The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift by R Todd Mangum (one of our Biblical professors).
Reading A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren. My fellow Evangelicals, as you know fewer people are calling themselves Christian (or Evangelical). We should read this book because it carries a number of insights that would be helpful as we serve the Kingdom.
Need to read Piper’s Future Grace. This is like the Ridderbos of 2 classes ago – long-winded, reformed, not yet sure if it’s repetitive.) In truth, I think it’s actually a good book.
Just started NT Wright’s Justification for a independent class that Evan and I just started.

What I am Listening to –
Another Side of Bob Dylan, The Wilco album, and some worshipful playlists.
Relevant Podcast. And I’m behind on the rest.
Jim Belcher’s Deep Church on audio. Everyone has raved about this book and I think it’s pretty good too. I’ll reserve my final thoughts for a review post but Belcher sounds like a fair soul at this point. He’s trying to see the traditional-emerging discussion from all angles and I give him credit for that.

What’s Going on in our Student Ministry –
Invisible Children benefit Concert this Friday. If you’re local, come on by to the Back Door Cafe in the Nyack Community Center at 7pm. We will have the IC roadie team sharing between sets and the music will be by local high school bands in the Bergen-Rockland county areas.
We will be starting a few new series soon. One is called, “Practical Atheists – We say we believe but do we live like we do?” and another on how the Bible was put together. Should be fun.
Looks like I’m going to a lot of school plays in the coming weeks. We have some serious talent in our group so I’m looking forward to it.

What I’m Looking Forward to –
Catching my breath at home.
Second Mile service this weekend. The message is entitled “Love & Heartbreak From Chicago to Dashboard Confessional and yada, yada, yada”.

For those moviewatchers who have ruled out seeing Avatar …

… change your mind. At this posting it’s made a billion dollars. (Imagine how much it would have made if we weren’t in a recession).

I was among the many that dismissed seeing it after seeing the previews. It looked nice but so do many other wannabe epic movies. Then I would hear Michelle Rodriguez’s voice while flying that weird helicopter and say, “You should see your faces.” When she betrayed us on Lost, she betrayed us forever. (After watching this movie, I am working my way towards forgiveness but if she somehow appears in another Fast and Furious movie, it’s off again.)

Anyway, the previews didn’t appeal to me. Even knowing that James Cameron was at the helm didn’t convince me. What changed my mind was my twitter friends. Granted, there were some who didn’t like it, but majority did and their tweets changed my mind.

While I like some sci-fi movies (like Star Wars, Matrix, etc.), I’m not a real sci-fi person. I just don’t have the energy and lack the proper skills of remembering how to pronounce the names of all the foreign races, planets and characters. Undoubtedly this is why my Arabic suffers as well and probably why Greek was my poorest performance in undergrad. Anyway, I really liked this movie. Typically, this would be the type of movie that I would make fun of but what can I say, I’m a fanboy on this one.

As simply as I can put it:
It’s beautiful and visually stunning.
Like most epic fantasy movies, it is not the “most amazing plot ever” but I found it to be a much better than expected story line.
I was pretty intrigued about the avatar concept.
While there are some intense serious parts, a lot of it is pretty fun.

We saw it in 3-D because the theater needed to make a few extra bucks off the holiday crowd. When we looked, there were only two showtimes available that were not in 3-D. Cameron insists that 3-D is the only way to see this movie but the skeptic in me says, “You’re just trying to make us come to the movie theater.” Whatever, while it was fun and there are some cool things about the 3-D experience, me and my movie-watching friends left wishing we’d been able to watch a the regular showing.

For those considering taking children, know that the movie contains mild profanity and some sensuality. Remember the blue Na’vi characters are cute but the movie is PG-13. I have heard some call it borderline pornographic but frankly, I found that to be ridiculous. In fact, I think the moviemakers showed a lot of restraint. Should one finds themselves lusting over these blue creatures, they got some real problems.

The value for Avatar for me was that it allows the viewer to see important themes in life from a safe outside perspective. That’s not to say that you will agree with them and it’s not to say that the movie gives a fair or completely accurate analysis, but I think you will feel more than what you did before you entered in. And that’s always a good thing.

Lastly, for those that like to be culturally relevant and speak the language of the day, I think this is an obvious moment to be a part of. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve been in now where this movie has come up.

There are some solid themes and it takes a solid 2.5 hours to give them. I happen to like long movies if they are good.  Remember, i walked into the theater with pretty low expectations (I wouldn’t have had any unless I was on Twitter.) If you do the same, I think you may like it.