STR: Are Sermons Enough?

http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2008/08/are-sermons-eno.html

Stand to Reason has a blog post this morning asking the question: Are Sermons enough? An excerpt from the post:

 

I came across this Chinese proverb recently:

"I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand."

For any of us who want to help Christians grow in knowledge, wisdom, and character, I have a question:

Can we continue to rely on sermons as the primary educational vehicle in our churches?

Lecture-type presentations are an essential piece to the puzzle, to be sure, but let’s be honest about how much the average listener remembers from a typical sermon. Even more importantly, let’s be honest about how much of the material we present the average listener actually uses after we are long gone.

I have to admit, many sermons, even good ones, don’t do much for me after I walk out. Some sermons leave me wondering how much time preachers ended up with for preparation at the end of the week. Our preachers are normally good, but some weeks I wonder if they didn’t just dust off an old sermon or borrow one from online. That is no joke; I’ve seen it happen. One year for Easter, our minister Dan used one of Rick Warren’s sermons. I know this for a fact because I run the computer and sound system and I had the sermon transcript and Rick Warren’s name was crossed off and replaced with Dan’s. Being Easter Sunday, the message was hardly relevant. It was along the lines of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” I had it figured out before I saw Rick Warren’s name. I’m not complaining; I’m just saying.

I personally prefer the expositional sermon. I’m not too fond of topical sermons. I seem to get more out of a sermon that focuses on teaching the Bible. The Holy Spirit can give me the meaning and application. I’d love to sit in a church under a preacher like John MacArthur.

It’s not that I sit in the pew looking to critique, but I have caught a few gaffes. I remember one sermon not too long ago where Paul’s first and second imprisonments were confused.

In any case, back to the point of my link to STR, I think they are right. I have a bad habit of wanting to sit around studying the Bible, but I know I fall short on taking the Word out to the world. We’re in a small group this year that plans to focus on one service project a month, so we’ll see where that leads. I could use some leading into real world ministry.

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To Take the Edge off My Car Issues…

I couldn’t resist. I got this from Real Dan Lyons, formerly Fake Steve Jobs…

 

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Car Headaches

My cars are driving me nuts. At least, mine is. In July, I noticed that the air conditioning on my 2003 Kia Sedona wasn’t blowing cold. We were driving around on a Saturday, and I popped into a Monro to ask if they could do a recharge. I’d been taking my car to Monro in Stratford for oil changes for years, and I found out that some of the guys from Stratford now work in Williamstown. It turned out that I apparently had a bad shredder valve, and they couldn’t get one until a weekday. That was the week of my marathon trip trying to get back from Maine, so I was able to bring my car in the following Saturday. The valve was replaced, coolant was added, and we drove off. Three weeks later, the air wasn’t working again. I called and made an appointment, and I brought the car in after work one day. My wife learned her lesson about bringing both boys to sit at Monro for an hour and a half just to save a little gas on our errands.

This time, the air held out for about a week, then the coolant was gone again. I brought the car back in to find that now my high pressure hose was bad. Being a Friday afternoon, about 4:45, no Kia parts center was available anywhere in the world so I had to wait until Monday. In the meantime, my ‘95 Windstar needed a $1400 front end/power window job plus another $100 when the muffler dropped down. At first it looked like the hose for my Kia was on national backorder, but the guy at Monro followed up and found out that somebody was using the wrong part number. We’re not dealing with highly intelligent or motivated people here (the Kia parts people, not Monro.) The part wasn’t on the shipment to Monro yesterday, so the mechanic drove to Cherry Hill to get it today. I took my car and Caleb to Monro. I also found a screw in my tire, but that was a quick fix.

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Verizon DSL: When Will People Learn?

A friend of mine got a new laptop and I was more than happy to go over to his house last night and help him get the laptop and his wireless network setup. Once again, I found myself up against the personal hell that is Verizon DSL. I spent about seven months on Verizon DSL between 2004 and 2005, before realizing that it was better to just pay Comcast $10 a month more for a connection that WORKS. I’m, of course, not much happier with Comcast since being told by a tech that I lost my IP address and have to call Microsoft to get another one, but I will not be returning to Verizon DSL anytime soon.

       

My friend had somehow setup security on his router, but we weren’t sure how or what the password could be so I restored the router to factory settings. I then logged into the router and gave the network a name and security. It looked like the router had a connection through the DSL modem, but when I tried to load Google, I was redirected to a page that wanted to download and install some kind of Verizon Internet Connection Manager software. I had to step through 4 “Invalid certificate” warnings to get the software to download. When the software tried to install, it asked for a username and password, but wouldn’t take the username and password that my friend told Verizon to give him. I had no choice but to call tech support. We called twice, both times stepping through the painful voice-activated menu before being told that we would be transferred to a tech, only to have the call drop. The third time I called back and was somehow routed through to the “Account Cancellations” department. I could have done my friend a favor, but that wasn’t what he asked me for so I held back with all my might. I explained to the person on the phone my problem, and he routed us and stayed on the line until a tech picked up. I tried explaining my problem to her. She needed the account information, and asked me who I was. Somehow there was confusion over my name and my friend’s name as to who was on the account. I kept asking her why my name mattered. She finally said she needed to know what to call me. I said “My name is irrelevant. Just help me get this connection working.” Apparently, what happened is that somehow security was set on the DSL modem. I had to shut down everything, connect the laptop to the modem, and plug the modem in and boot the laptop up. Then we could disable security. The tech helped me to set bridge mode, but before I could ask what the next step was, the phone disconnected. The tech never called back, and I wasn’t going through that again (this was a total of 50 minutes consisting of two dropped calls plus the third, which lasted more than a half an hour.) I gave her a number to call back on “in case we get disconnected,” but she never did. I kept trying different settings on the router until finally an Internet connection showed up.

 

I then setup a printer, which worked flawlessly. That was the true definition of “plug and play.” Then we had dinner, and I walked him through setting up a gmail account, the mail service I highly recommend.

 

Before I left, I asked “Now do you see why, whenever somebody asks me if they should get DSL, I say “No!”? I’ve helped several people out with DSL, and of course there was my own experience with it. I’m not much happier with Comcast, and to be honest, at least the Verizon tech didn’t tell me to call Microsoft to get an IP address, but still, I’ve never had a painless experience with Verizon DSL.

 

I wish there were a viable alternative high-speed Internet service besides Comcast cable and Verizon DSL. I’ve heard FIOS is pretty good, but it’s a Verizon product, which is two strikes against it in my book.

 

My Review of The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield

Thomas Nelson recently published “The Faith of Barack Obama” by Stephen
Mansfield. The CEO, Michael
Hyatt
, made a very interesting offer to bloggers: Thomas Nelson would provide a
free copy to the first 100 bloggers willing to write a minimum 200 word review
of the book. Michael Hyatt had been linking to promotional videos by the author
in his Twitter feed, and those videos got me very interested in the book. Though
I am hardly a supporter of Obama, the promotional videos piqued my interest. A
comment by the author stating that “Even if he loses this election, Barack Obama
can run for President every four years for the next 24, and he will still be
younger than John McCain is now. He’s going to be around for a long time” really
gave me a desire to understand the man.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened the book. Thomas Nelson
emailed me the introduction and the first two chapters to get started, and they
only made me want to finish the book, which arrived about a week later. This is
not a very long book, but I found it to be packed with interesting information.
I can’t say I’ve ever gone out of my way to read a book about a candidate in an
election year, but I find that most fall into one of two categories: the
puff-piece and the hatchet job. This book was neither. I found it to be an
honest attempt to understand a prominent man in our politics who will likely be
a fixture on the public scene for many years.

“The Faith of Barack Obama” contains 144 pages of content, plus
acknowledgements, references, and a bibliography and index in the back. It
totals 164 pages with the “back matter.” Keep in mind that the definition of
“content” in this review is my own, and I do count the endnotes and bibliography
as valuable. The book is organized into an introduction and 6 chapters.

Chapter 1, “To Walk Between Worlds,” is about the man: his background and
upbringing. It traces the formation of Barack Obama’s background through his
grandparents, his mother, his father, and stepfather. It deals with the “urban
legend” that Obama was raised as a Muslim. I do personally know Christians who
believe that because Obama has a school document from Indonesia declaring his
religion as “Muslim,” then obviously he must be part of some Islamic plot to
take over America from the inside. I’m all for a good conspiracy theory, and I
do believe several that are very well documented, but this one is easily handled
by Mansfield in this chapter. Barack Obama also attended a Catholic school, but
does that make him part of a plot to take over America for the pope? His mom was
an Atheist, does that mean Christopher Hitchens will be Secretary of State?
Anyway, I’m getting off base here. This chapter also traces Obama’s growing up
and going to college, trying to find his way between worlds of black and white.
What was his identity? The chapter ends with Obama sitting in Trinity United
Church of Christ listening to Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Chapter 2, “My House Too,” speaks about Obama’s longtime church, his pastor’s
background, and black liberation theology. The concept of Black Liberation
Theology is not new to me. I have heard and read of it in the past. This is
a key to understanding Barack Obama.

Chapter 3, “Faith Fit for the Age,” speaks about Obama’s conversion and his
beliefs and politics. Obama clearly does claim that he believes the Gospel of
Jesus Christ, and his words to me as an “Evangelical” clearly do indicate an
honest belief and conversion. Obama also seems to subscribe to a postmodern
philosophy, and claims to believe that there are other paths to God. This
chapter examines these issues, as well as the issue of why Obama remained at
Trinity when some of his former pastor’s statements made it out into the media.
I must admit, Stephen Mansfield’s explanation of this made my ears pick up. I
came to realize that I could not make the same claims currently about my church.
Stephen Mansfield says that Obama stayed at Trinity because the church met his
needs. The church was his family, and it fed him intellectually and in other
areas. My wife and I are struggling with an issue at our church with whether it
is meeting our needs or making us feel like we truly belong to the group, and
when I read those paragraphs to my wife, we were about ready to just not go back
to our church. I even wrote a note in the book “If only our church met our needs
like that.” That has no bearing on the review; I just can’t help but adding TMI
(Too Much Information) every time I open my mouth or start pounding on a
keyboard. Our personal reasons for our reaction go very deep and I have no idea
if I will blog about it or not, ever.

Between Chapters 3 and 4 are a series of pictures from Obama’s life, from
childhood to present.

Chapter 4, “The Altars of State,” explores the formation of Obama’s political
career and how he had to reconcile his Christian faith with his politics in the
Democratic party, which has been secular for a long time. Even men such as Jimmy
Carter and Bill Clinton, with claims of being “born again,” have tried to push
faith and politics far apart. This chapter explores Obama’s race against Alan
Keys, a man I have supported in the past, for the Senate seat from Illinois.
Obama did win, but the race against Keys, a very eloquent and well spoken man,
left him shaken. This chapter examines that.

Chapter 5, “The Four Faces of Faith,” contrasts the faith of Obama against
John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush. I found this chapter
particularly fascinating, though I think I’d rather open another discussion on
them rather than sidetracking this review.

The final Chapter, 6, “A Time To Heal,” speaks of the issue of healing and
Obama’s desire to help with some of that healing in our culture and our
politics.

All told, I thought this was a very good book. It did not inflate Obama, nor
did it skewer him. I took it as an honest attempt to understand the man and the
issues surrounding him, and to pass that understanding to others. To me, this is
what journalism should be. This book did help me to better understand Barack
Obama. It challenges the seeming notion that Christianity in American politics
belongs to the “Religious Right,” and that Democrats can’t be Christian and
Christians can’t be Democrats. (I dropped my normal facetious “Demoncrats” for
this review.)

This book did not in any way give me a desire to support or vote for Obama,
but I believe it gave me something much better: it gave me the idea that I could
like him. It even gave me the thought that perhaps I could like Hillary Clinton.
Yikes! Our two party political system (I currently support neither, though I
once considered myself part of one of them, you guess) seems to encourage
demonization of the “other side.” I can’t say I haven’t fallen prey to that idea
in the past myself. I’m finding it to be liberating that I can disagree with
somebody and still like them, that disagreement does not need to mean lack of
association. This is something I have been thinking through on my own prior to
this book.

My final comment about the book itself is the price. During one of my
discussions with my wife about my use of time during the evenings, as in, should
I be reading a book or doing something she prefers, I said “Look, Thomas Nelson
GAVE me this book on the promise to write a review. This book would have cost
me…” I looked at the back and saw the price listed as $19.99. This is the MSRP,
but my eyes must have popped out of my head and I had to restrain my urge to
make a comment about some variation of “sacred fecal matter” in front of the
kids. I’ll be honest; I have absolutely no idea what goes in to the pricing of a
book, but I have bought thousands of books in my life so I can only go on the
relative cost of them. $20 for a 6 chapter, total of 164 page book does sound
kind of high. It is listed for $13.59 on Amazon with “39 new and used from
$9.25.” Maybe some fellow Michael Hyatt readers can join me to ask him for a
primer on how books get priced one of these days. I find him to be a very open
CEO and I believe he would respond if we asked him. His blog has been a
tremendous source of inspiration and advice to me over the years.

I would like to make one final comment on our political system. I’m not sure
why, but so many people seem to treat the Presidential election as if we’re
choosing our Messiah (already got one, thanks.) It’s as if we put the right man
in and he’ll save us all, and the wrong man will destroy our country, ruin our
lives, and make George Orwell’s 1984 sound like the recounting of a stay at a
vacation resort. Please, people, read our Constitution and keep this all in
perspective. Don’t look to the President to save you. He’s only the head of one
branch of government. You still have one Representative and two Senators that
you can call or write or email about any issue you wish.

If you’d like to read The Faith of Barack Obama, I highly recommend it. You
can buy it from the Amazon affiliate link in my sidebar on the left under
“Books I’m currently reading.” I’ll probably move it to the “Books I’ve recently
read” sidebar at some point. I know, that’s a shameless plug, but if you buy
enough of them from my affiliation, maybe you can help feed my gadget habit.

Pain in the A$$words

Pardon the title. It’s late, and I’m strung out, and tired, and I’m just trying to make a point. Passwords and sign on security are getting to the point where I’m ready to just ditch my precious technology and go live on a mountain in Montana or something. I’ve tried since getting on the Internet in 1996 to keep fairly standard passwords so that I don’t have to remember (and record, which can be stolen) my passwords and logon information, especially at work where I often deal with sensitive accounts. It can be a security violation to write down a password for some of the networks that I need to access. The problem is that password standards are reaching the point where it is impossible to NOT maintain a record. What do you do when you need to access three or more networks or websites, each has a different logon, with different password requirements and change periodicity? How do you remember rand keep all of that straight? Some passwords that I’m required to keep have to be a minimum of 14 characters, with at least 1 number, one upper case letter, one lower case letter, and one special character.

PayPal just about pushed me over the top this evening. I used their system for a transaction today, and got an email later that they believe my account has been accessed by a 3rd party and had a restriction placed on it. I went through the processes to lift the restriction. The first step had to do with verifying my location. They needed a phone number. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything with my PayPal account that they still had my landline number that was disconnected more than 3 years ago when we got fed up with paying Verizon $50 a month for an open conduit for telemarketers and cut them off. Now we’re Paying AT&T (The NEW AT&T) for spotty coverage and non-connected calls, but at least no telemarketers. I input my Grand Central number, and PayPal called it. My cell phone rang as it was supposed to and I input the security code. When I hit NEXT on the web page, PayPal said that they can’t verify my location based on that number and they’ll have to mail me a letter. No CRAP PAYPAL! It’s 2008! People have like cell phones and Grand Central numbers and stuff, you freaking idiots!

Next I had to change my password. That sucked. I had to write it down, because there is no way I’ll remember it. I’ve used the same password with PayPal for years. Oh, yeah, then there were those idiotic security questions. Mostly they’re useless to me. What is your favorite restaurant? I don’t know, it changes every week. Who was your favorite teacher? I don’t know, I grew up in the Air Force, went in the Navy, went to ITT Tech and University of Phoenix. I’ve had tons of teachers. I’m not likely to remember very many. I hate those stupid security questions because most of them don’t apply to me. Who is your favorite sports team? I hate sports, I have no use for sports, and as such I have no favorite team. I’m too much of an egghead to just pick one because I’m a geek and I can’t take that kind of lying to myself.

Something has got to be done about security. For the time being, I’m using KeePass on my Pocket PC to keep track of logins and passwords, but even that is getting to be too cumbersome. Somebody needs to straighten things out. I almost just closed my account with PayPal over this, because it’s a pain. At some point, security and convenience need to meet each other and shake hands and come up with a way to coexist.

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David Allen’s GTD Connect Featuring Free 14 Day Membership

David Allen’s company, Davidco, rolled out GTD connect somewhere in the last year or two. I could probably look up the exact date, but if it matters to you, you can look it up. I always thought it sounded like a great idea, but $45 a month is a little out of my price range and tax bracket. Maybe that statement is a little subjective, but I wouldn’t be able to convince my wife to let me join.

Now, GTD Connect has a free 14 day trial. I went looking for the catch; there is none. Most trials require a credit card, this one doesn’t. Many trials will automatically start charging your credit card when the trial runs out. This one lets the trial run out. It’s a simple “fire and forget” trial membership.

The only thing I’m afraid of, and all that is holding me back from joining, is that I’ll sign up for the trial, then not have time to take advantage of it. That always seems to happen to me.