AJ Jacobs “The Year of Living Biblically”

I love this book. Have been reading it and can not put it down. Basically it is the experiment of a ethnically Jewish, agnostic, New Yorker trying to live out faithfully, all 613 commandments of the Old Testament for a year. His journey is full of funny stories and interesting moments in which you see his search for belief in the infinite. He is a writer and editor for Esquire magazine. I have so much I want to write on this book, but just do not have the time right now. The truth is the book has brought me more insight into the mind of an unbeliever than just about any Christian book I can remember. Plus his orthopraxy and religious dedication are astounding and convicting for anyone who calls themselves a person of faith.

Not only is that Orthodox Jew, but that is one sweet beard!

Big idea of the book is cognitive dissonance and you get what you give. Cognitive dissonance is the idea that if your behave in a certain way your beliefs will eventually come into alignment. This idea is fascinating in itself and possibly says much about the wrestling of faith and sanctification. But reading it play out in AJ’s prayer life and personal beliefs in the arena of faith is a great joy. Second you get what you give: this guy goes all out in obeying the LAW. He gets his own portable chair so that when in public he will not sit on any seat that has been made unclean by a menstruating woman. He stones an adulterer in a New York park. He builds a hut in his living room, and endlessly struggles with anger and coveting. Oh and here is an awesome passage in the Scriptures that even made me laugh.

When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall have no pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

AJ says this is one of the five most perplexing commands and one he hopes he does not have to fulfill. I was intrigued by what this could mean for Ultimate Fighting, hey maybe this could be a new spin for them.

Spiritual Formation at a Jesuit Retreat Center

This is Sacred Heart retreat center. It is a Jesuit retreat center that I recently spent the day at. The day was one big stretch for me as it gave me a place to practice some spiritual disciplines that are altogether alien in my life.

From the moment we arrived we spent the rest of the day in solitude and silence. Not talking or engaging in human conversation for a day was really a challenge, but good for my soul. So often life gets swallowed up in noise, tv, internet, and ringing cell phones, that we miss the subtle messages that God might be conveying to us. Our lives get so busy and stressed out that anything other than the urgent seems impractical and unnecessary. Opening myself to a day in which I could just let God know I was there and willing to be quiet was a great spiritual exercise.

During the middle of the day I went to Jesuit mass. There church service was only a half an hour long and I and the the two guys I went with were the only ones there who were not eligible for Social Security. I have to admit that since the service was so liturgical I got lost at a few parts and felt out of place. The sermon only lasted about six minutes and the communion portions was about twice as long. The reverence and centrality they placed on the Eucharist was great.

After that we all ate lunch in a big room with a buffet spread. The meal though was all in silence with just a subtle sound of orthodox worship music in the background. What a strange experience it was to sit at the table with other people and not talk to them. We would look at one and other and nod but no talking. In some ways it reminded me of the my many days I spent in lunch detention during Jr. High.

As we were getting ready to live I got to talk to the Jesuit priest for a moment. I told him I was a seminary student, to which he replied “oh well make sure your brain does not outgrow your heart.” I have heard comments like this before and I think there is merit to them. When he said it though something seemed to have clicked. I thought of an illustration of a kinked hose with a rush of water not getting through. This is often what seminary can be like; a stream of living water and rich knowledge that is somehow not funneling into our hearts. I imagine for me, being a crazy reader, I will always be learning more than I can functionally incorporate into my life. So maybe a more helpful illustration for me is a steady drip. That from my brain to my heart will be a constant drip of truth that is made into action. Because it often occurs that what we once learned and meant little then, can often later on click and become life changing.

Old Truths often become New Realities.

Everyone is a Raging Dirtbag

“Which illustrates the next incontrovertible fact about game theory: In the foreboding world view of rational choice, everyone is a raging dirtbag.”

This quote, in GOOD MAGAZINE’S feature article this month, The New Nostradamus, jumped off the page at me. For those of you who don’t know what “game theory” is. It is a theory within political science that has been gaining steam over the last few decades. The theory relies heavily on mathematics, probabilities (exhaustive probabilities mind you), and apparently both St. Paul’s and Thomas Hobb’s view on the nature of human beings. At the center of the science of predicting human and societal behavior is the beleif in Total Depravity, or as the article call it: “everyone is a raging dirtbag.”

I thought it was incredibly interesting that both political scientists and reformers being Total Depravity as paramoutn to understanding human behavior.

On another note: YOU NEED TO READ GOOD MAGAZINE. I’ll give you a few reasons why:

– It is 100% non-profit. And when you sign up for a year long subscription. you can pick from 1 of 12 charities to have your money allocated to.

– It is incredibly well written and thought provoking. Like Details or SPIN, minus the enormous pretentiousness.

– It does a great job informing you of global issues (especially that of sustainable life/business practices)

– The editing and layout are phenomenal, and are at the cutting edge of the culture.

– It will make you a better in tune with what the current culture in dealing with.

So check it out, preferably in print. You won’t be disappointed.


Middle school gives out birth control

You can read about it here.

Lunch box check, backpack check, contraception check!

Here is a snippet from the story

PORTLAND, Maine – After an outbreak of pregnancies among middle school girls, education officials in this city have decided to allow allow one school’s health center to make birth control pills available to girls as young as 11.


Not even sure where to begin here, but the story really hit me hard. Could be because my wife is going through parent teacher conferences right now and I am tired of hearing stories of disengaged apathetic parents. Don’t get me wrong I do not think it all has to do with parenting, but a lot of it does. When little Sally is 11 and having sex with her classmates its logical to wonder what kind of relationship has she had with her dad. And since schools are unable to call parents out and tell them to step it up, because it many ways the parents are the customers, you hand out birth control to middle schoolers. Saddening on so many levels.

Christian T-Shirts

Normally I despise Christian T-Shirts. But Lark News (the home of Christian satire) has restored my faith that Christian T-Shirts can be cool. To prove my point I present:

Exhibit A

(Heard you got into Christian college: BUMMER)

Exhibit B

(World’s Best Associate Pastor)

Exhibit C

(Jesus loves you, but then again he loves everybody)


Exhibit D

(You Suck. Which is why you need Jesus.)

I cannot decide whether I should buy the “Jesus loves you…” or the “You Suck…” shirt. Any suggestions?

Joel Osteen can kick my ass?

Since Ryan has turned our blog into the Joel Osteen Outpost, I thought I would add my two cents. Or just my random thoughts.

Did you notice at the end of that 60 Minutes interview they state that Joel puts up 300 pounds on the Bench Press? 300 pounds? Wait, does this mean Joel Osteen can kick my ass? I need to go back to the gym.

Vicky and I had some supporters in Seattle, and the guy was in love with Osteen’s Your Best Life Now. Since he gave me money I held my tongue (yeah, I suck) and let it go. Well, less than a year later this friend was attending Mars Hill and represented nothing close to Osteen’s theology. Perhaps we need not always raise the banner against Osteen. If our friends love Jesus, they’ll see the truth eventually.

Another buddy of mine has just completely taken a turn to the Self-Esteem gospel movement. He was a elder of a church I attended, and at one time a mentor. Now Tony Robbins is among his heroes. This issue of Osteen’s Christianity is sad, scary, and for me, a bit personal.

iMonk has all Osteen knowledge on lockdown. If that is a rabbit hole you would choose to go down. And since he encourages me to, I hereby deny any association or agreement with Joel Osteen, his church, or his er … theology?

I love Bob Hyatt and his blog. I am excited to catch time with him this week when I’m in Portland. He has had some fun posts on the topic.

Did I mention Joel Osteen can kick my ass?


Despite the fact that he can kick my ass, I want to address this idea brought up in recent comments regarding Driscoll’s calling Joel out, and whether any of us have the right to call him out. OSTEEN is a HERETIC. If the church refuses to call out heretics is is not faithful in DEFENDING THE FAITH (see Jude). We have a responsibility as the church to protect ourselves from false teachers (see 1 John 2). Joel should be glad the church is nicer to heretics now than it used to be (oh, shouldn’t have written that. Yet, instead of pressing backspace I continue in parenthetical thought).

Now with that said, where is the line? How many heretics do we call out weekly? Do we make a section in each of our services each week where we call out heretics?

This week we’ll warn you about Creflo Dollar. And just as a general rule, if a man has currency in his name, he has a 75% chance of being a heretic. Next week we will be covering Joyce Meyer, and the week after that we have a 2 week VINTAGE HERETICS series where we cover Oral Roberts and Charles Finney.

Well that isn’t very reasonable, unless you are super-fundamental and you think Billy Graham is a heretic (yeah, some people think Billy Graham is a heretic. Isn’t that an automatic ticket to hell?)


Yet, as Ryan pointed out, as certain heretics begin to represent the face of Christianity to popular culture, we have a responsibility to point out that they are not on our team. That being said, I will do my part:




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I Promise I will not post about Joel Osteen again

Could have done this as an update to my last post but there is enough here for a post.

1. Joel Osteen was on 60 Minutes last night. I watched this and felt he came off as a really good guy, he even got his cry on half way through. I came away with the impression that Joel likes money, fame, and Jesus, just not sure if those things are always compatible. His church brings in an annual 73 million dollars a year. His mom, wife, brother, and a whole bunch of other family members are pastors at the church. Maybe I need to research my genealogy and see if me and Joel have some type of relation. I am getting ready to be done with seminary and will need a job (please see sarcasm here). You can read Justin Taylor’s post for more information and comments on Joel Osteen’s 60 Minutes segment.

2.And in case you did not get your “best life now” from Joel’s first book or your fill of seven step plans your in luck. Joel’s new book dropped today.

Now you can become a better you. Which seems a bit weird, because if his first book worked and you had your best life now, why do you need to become a better you? (once again please understand that blogs are supposed to be irreverent and fun) Now if you do not have time to find out the seven steps to a better you, you can read an excellent review by the king of Christian book reviewers Tim Challies.

The point of me spending my time writing this, and hopefully you reading this, is that Joel is becoming an incredible force on the landscape of Christianity. When you are on 60 Minutes and your books go to number 1# on the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists, you are impacting the culture, and all Christians should stop and consider why and how. Why is this distortion of Christianity being embraced by a culture such as ours? I think much of it has to do with consumerism; people wanting a god that functions like a genie and religious goods that taste sweet, but there is more there.

I am an addict of sports talk radio and listen to Colin Cowherd all the time on ESPN Radio. Imagine my shock as I was driving to school this morning and Colin Cowherd is talking about watching Joel Osteen on 60 Minutes. His point was that any Bible scholar taking shots at Osteen’s “cotton candy” theology was dumb. Because to him what matters is that Osteen is “getting people in the tent” and giving a “nice uplifting positive message.” He admitted that even though he is not a “religious guy” he has on occasion stopped the channel on Osteen and listened for a few moments. To him it came down to what people like, and that ESPN gives people what they like and so should church. Well giving people what they want works for fashion, sporting events, and movie choices but not when it comes to God. In fact it just highlights that many of us miss the big “E” on the eye chart, that Christianity is about what God wants, not just us. Cowherd, who has the fastest growing Sports talk radio show and reaches millions of young men is another example of how Joel Osteen is quickly becoming the face of Christianity.

The great news of the gospel is grace, and for some reason many are not getting the message. We can teach people a passage all day, and tell them what they need to do and not do, but until we give them a savior that is more robust than a big bank account and a fancy car, then what hope do they have? Once again the answer is Jesus, Christ crucified, tomb empty, wrath removed, Kingdom creating Jesus.


Joel Osteen Preaches at Mars Hill Church

Well kinda.

If you don’t know this smiley fellow it is America’s pastor. He pastors the largest church in America, that meets in the old arena of the Houston Rockets.

they even have two waterfalls!!

Well Mark Driscoll began his new sermon series this week on the book of Philippians centering around the main theme of biblical joy. Toward the start of the sermon he plays about a three minute clip of Joel Osteen preaching the Christian life and then offers some critique It is worth listening to.

Also view this clip of John Piper speaking about the dangers of the incredible growth of the health and wealth version of the Gospel.

I say all of this not to just rag on Joel Osteen, but because we live in a culture that is dying for its ears to be tickled and many people are willing to do so. We have to realize that if we tell people that above all else God’s central concern is for you to be happy and rich, and you are not, than that means God has failed. This means God has let you down and not delivered and done what you thought he was supposed to. This only leads people away from the living water that Jesus offer us in John 4. People are thirsty and are searching for saviors, and freedom, which contrary to popular sentiment, cannot be found in a big bank account or cosmetic surgery. To point them in the direction of a god who will simply act as a concierge for their whims and materialistic desires, will only leave people feeling disillusioned. We should point them toward the one true fount of life, Jesus. Christ crucified on our behalf who gives us new life, by the atonement of our sin.

If Awesome was a person it would be Tyrone Wells

Last night Crystal and I went to see Tyrone Wells; who in my limited opinion is one of the best musicians around. His songs are innovative. His lyrics are original and moving. His performance is one of a kind, and his vocals are off the charts. This guy was just born to entertain. I don’t know anyone else who could do a mash up of songs including, The Police, Marvin Gaye, and Justin Timberlake and then throw in a little yodeling to top it all off. I mean we are talking about the total package here, so if you ever get a chance to see him perform do it you will thank me.

But there is probably a more enduring reason why I have such an appreciation for Tyrone Wells. As Crystal and I started dating she turned my on to him and a lot of his songs now carry with them special memories from when we were dating. We would take trips down to SoCal to watch him play at a small little coffee shop and then drive around town listening to his CD’s. One of his songs became “our song” and we danced to it at our wedding. The song is entitled “Home to me.” Which was on his very first CD

Well this post is not just about Tyrone Wells it is also about how awesome my big sister Kammi is. My birthday was a few weeks ago and she went way out of her way to find out that Tyrone Wells would be in town and surprised us with the tickets. But here is the really awesome part; third song into his set Tyrone says, “Kammi wanted me to play this song for Crystal and Ryan tonight who danced to it at their wedding, so this one is for you.” Talk about unexpected and shocking, Crystal and I were both just blown away. It was special and really awesome. So Kammi if your reading this thank you thank you, Crystal and I now have a new memory that we will long carry with us.

Last if you have not listened to Tyrone Wells, you need to. Go to itunes and download at least these three songs.

1. What are we fighting for

2. Wondering where you are

3. California

Matt feel free to recommend some others since I know you have heard most of his songs.

Confessions: “La, la, la … I can’t hear you”

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Romans 12:3


When we moved back to Las Vegas, the plan was to plant a church in 2-3 years. I’m not even sure if the pastor I was under thought this was a reality for me, or if he thought I had potential, and would be a good guy to have around irregardless.  There were, however, many voices of concern that were made.

A good pastor friend of mine stood out. He said that he didn’t believe a guy should plant a church until he was 35 years old. His main point centered around the missional concept that a church planter will attract people on a ten year age radius. This being the case, 35 is the ideal planting age for a pastor becuase he will attract young professionals and young families, and those two groups will attract others. Not only do I agree with this radius, but it was what I used as a reason for a 26 year old to plant a church in Las Vegas. This would allow us to hit a radius that we are barely hitting, a young/hip church that could reach an unreached group in Vegas: the young/hip 18-35 year old demographic.

While I do not think I should have been questioning whether the concept was right, I do think it would have behooved me to ask whether I had the capacity and character to swim against the grain and be the man that reaches that demographic. Or to say it differently, instead of questioning the validity of the concepty, I should have questioned whether it applied to me or not. The reason I couldn’t do that:

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(note: the picture is the answer. other note: the bear is holding its hands over its ears.)

I would even clarify that our hearts are broken for Las Vegas. Especially for the young adults. It kills me that most churches are geared towards young families almost exclusively. Not that these are bad, or that we even have enough churches geared that way (especially with only 5-8% of our city going to an evangelical church on Sundays). It just that there are hardly any venues for young adults in Las Vegas to hear about Jesus in a context that is relevant to them. This was my heart for wanting to be the 26 year-old pastor who planted a church to reach that demographic.

But the question arises when a young guy is unwilling to ask himself the hard questions about his ability or preparedness to accomplish the task: who’s vision is he carrying out; his, or God’s?

May we all, always be willing to ask this. That God may get his glory, and we might be empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the impossible: build His Kingdom.



Now playing: Derek Webb – I Hate Everything (But You)
via FoxyTunes