Thursday, October 30, 2008

99 Balloons

While I was pastoring in Ripley, I showed a video about the sanctity of life called "99 Balloons." The video is produced by Igniter Media and details the life of Eliot, a boy born with Trisomy 18. The video is a video diary of letters Eliot's dad wrote to his son. The video was shown on Oprah this week. The video there was a shortened version of the original. Here is the original:

If you would like to know more information about Eliot and his family - here is a link to their blogs:

Eliot's 99 Balloons Blog
The Spectacular Vernacular (the family's new blog)

Update: It looks like the family is going to be back on Oprah this Friday in a live update.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Christian the Lion

The music may be a little sappy - but it is still an amazing video:

Here is a link to a story about the lion.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Send an E-Couragram to Our World Changers

We have a group of youth participating in World Changers this week in Florence, AL.Please pray for them as they work this week and grow deeper in their faith with the Lord.

Our group includes:
  • Jake Gaines
  • Brian Wirges
  • Kecia Wright
  • Erica Wright
  • Hannah Kuster
  • Victoria Fagan
  • Wendy Laarz
  • Corey West
  • Mitchell Head
  • Don Allen Hornbuckle
Click here to send one of our team an e-couragram.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Take Better Pictures on the 4th

Here is a story about how to take better pictures of fireworks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Bryan

Today is my brother's 38th birthday. The last few months have been a very difficult time in the life of our family because of the medical difficulties Bryan has encountered. As a family we have truly appreciated all of the prayers and support shown to Bryan and to us in these days. We ask that you continue to pray for Bryan and follow his progress at the Caring Bridge Website.

Just a few days ago, I was sitting with Bryan in his room having a conversation. During the conversation, he looked at me and said - "You know some things that we think are important in our lives .... don't really matter." We went on to talk about how events like those that have occurred in his life over the last few weeks really make you think about what is important in life. It was the first real conversation we have had in over 2 months.

Bryan has a long road of recovery ahead. To be honest, we are not sure what the future holds, but I am confident that we serve a God who does know what the future holds. Bryan's illness and complications did not catch Him by surprise. He knows exactly what is happening. I pray daily for healing and trust that the Lord can provide that, but I am also praying that God will bring good out of this difficult situation. I am trusting in Romans 8:28 and believe that just as the life of Joseph shows - God can take a terrible situation and turn it into good (see Genesis 50:20).

One lesson that I have learned is to treasure every moment in my life and to focus my life on what really matters. I can think of no better way to honor Bryan on his birthday than to focus my life on what really matters. Maybe today you can celebrate with Bryan wherever you are by hugging your family, rebuilding a relationship, or taking time to call someone you've been meaning to call. Most importantly, maybe today you can take time to think about all that God has done for you, you can focus on the cross and the Savior's love for you, and maybe be still for just a moment and reconnect to Jesus. Because, after all, those are the things that really matter.

Call Me Old Fashioned, But . . .

This seems ridiculous - Helmsley Leaves Dogs Billions. (the picture is of her dog Trouble)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Booyah and the Art of Communication from the Mind of a 5 Yr Old

Tonight Eli and I were sitting at the table talking about our day over a late-night snack. During our conversation, Eli told me about something he had done during the day that he was particularly excited about. I just looked at him and said, "That's what I'm talking about - Booyah!" (Susan had told me the other day that Eli had said booyah while playing downstairs.)

As soon as I said that word, Eli said, "We shouldn't say that word daddy."

When I asked him why - he just showed me that mommy had made a bad face when he said it the other day.That's when I told him that sometimes there are words and things that boys say to each other that don't make much sense to mommies or other girls - and that booyah was one of those words (I did not feel it necessary to discuss the fact that the word has transitioned from cool to not so). Eli looked at me for a minute and then said - "Is it like another language?" And I simply said, "Yes."

The truth is that men and women do speak something of different languages. One of the joys of my almost 10 yr marriage has been discovering how Susan communicates and how I should communicate with her. I will be the first to admit that I am not as successful at figuring those two things out, but I enjoy the process.Tonight when I sat down to talk with my son, I never imagined being challenged to think about the differences in communication styles of men and women - but that is the joy of being a parent.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wall-E and Eve

Pixar will release their newest movie this Friday. The movie entitled Wall-E tells the story of a robot humans forgot to turn off when they abandon the planet. Having two young children, I have come to look forward to Pixar movies. One of the first movies that Eli ever really enjoyed was Finding Nemo. Since the day he watched it, he has been fascinated with ocean life. One thing that makes Wall-E interesting is that it is from the same director as Nemo.

Christianity Today has a great interview with Andrew Stanton, the director. In the interview he talks about the biblical themes in Wall-E:

They tell you that as a storyteller, it's vital to just stick with and be honest with your values system. The last thing I want to do is go to a movie and feel like I'm being preached to or being told how to be, and I think it's more honest—and you're going to have more effect—to be truthful with the values of your characters, working off of your own values. That was the case with WALL•E. The greatest commandment is to love one another, and to me, that's the ultimate purpose of living. So that was the perfect goal for the loneliest robot on earth, to learn the greatest commandment, to learn to love.

To read the rest of the interview, click here

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jesus Film 2.0

The Jesus Film is an amazing evangelistic success story. Since its first run in 1976, the film has been translated into 1026 languages and is estimated to have been viewed over 6 billion times. Statistics like those led the New York Times to declare that the Jesus Film is the most watched film in history. What is even more amazing is that the Jesus Film project states that they have recorded over 220 million decisions for Christ at live showings.

I have personally witnessed the power of the Jesus Film in one of my trips to Brazil. We had a movie showing in the town square where people just walking by began to gather to watch the movie. At the end of showing, the missionary gave a very brief discussion of the film and then offered an invitation. That a large number of people responded to the invitation.

But in spite of that success, the people behind the Jesus Film project are trying to evaluate how they can reach the next generation. While recordings have been made in the various translation languages, no new filming has been done in 30 years.

Instead of reshooting everything, the people behind the project are thinking of reworking the film as an Japanese animation project. What they say they need now is your input. Below is a concept video of the direction they are intending to go.

You can help the producers by completing a survey here.

So, what do you think? How do you feel about the style? Does the anime work for you? Should they re-record the voices? Should they reshoot the entire film with new actors?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Random Quote

"A good name, like good will, is got by many actions and lost by one."

Lord Jeffrey

New Report on Religion in America

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just released the second part of their study on religion in America. They conclude from their research that

most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith. A majority of those who are affiliated with a religion, for instance, do not believe their religion is the only way to salvation. And almost the same number believes that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion. . . . This is not to suggest that Americans do not take religion seriously. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey also shows that more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives, attend religious services regularly and pray daily. . . . The Landscape Survey confirms the close link between Americans' religious affiliation, beliefs and practices, on the one hand, and their social and political attitudes, on the other. Indeed, the survey demonstrates that the social and political fault lines in American society run through, as well as alongside, religious traditions.

What especially troubles me in reading this story is the number of members of evangelical churches that believe "many religions can lead to eternal life." According to the survey, 57% of evangelical church members believe that to be true. In other words, over half of the people surveyed from evangelical churches do not believe that John 14:6 or Acts 4:12 are true.

Here is a link to the full report: Religious Beliefs & Practices/Social & Political Views (You can also view the other report put out earlier this year on religious affiliation at that link).

Friday, February 15, 2008

YouTube Friday

Continue to Pray for Union University and its students.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Five of the Sweetest Words in the English Language ...

Pitchers and Catchers Report Today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Eli is 5!

Five years ago today, our lives were changed forever. It was on that day that we were blessed with our first son, Elijah James Larson. People tell you all the time that having children will change your life. And while I believed it when I was told before Eli, I could never understand then how much that is true.

Eli is truly a joy in my life. It is amazing to me to see him grow everyday and it is hard for me to believe that he is already five years old. There is nothing in life like his morning hugs and kisses. I treasure the moments we spend before he goes to sleep each night.

I thank God everyday that I have the privilege of being Eli's dad. I also pray everyday for the strength to be the role model that I need to be for him.

Happy Birthday Eli - I love you!

Friday, February 1, 2008

YouTube Friday - U2 Super Bowl Edition

I posted this video last year and hope to make it an annual tradition. It is the performance of U2 at the Super Bowl following 9/11. I love that Bono quotes from the Psalms as the music starts.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lost Returns Tonight

With the writers' strike continuing well into this year, television has really suffered. Tonight, however, a glimmer of hope comes. The fourth season of Lost is on tonight and I am really looking forward to it. With no 24 in sight, Lost is my favorite show on now. Part of that reason is that Lost had the most shocking and well-written ending last year of any show.

If you are not a fan of the show, ITunes has a recap of the first three seasons. It was free for a while - don't know if it still is.

If you are a fan, you might interested in this article of 48 pending questions on the show.

Random Quote

_____"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."
Mark Twain

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

List of Redeeming Films

Each year Christianity Today releases a list of the 10 films that they find to be the most redeeming films of the previous year. That does not mean that the films are Christian or clean. It simply means that the film have an element of redemption in their stories.

To see their list click here. Yet again, the only movie I have seen on the list is Ratatouille. I would love to see several others on the list. What about you - which of these films have you seen? Is there another movie you think should be on the list?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy 50th Lego!

My son Eli has officially become a fan of the Lego blocks. In the last few weeks we have built Star Wars ships, Mars Mission vehicles, and City Rescue Cars. This afternoon, Lego celebrated its 50th anniversary. Here is a timeline of some events in the Lego era. It is amazing to me to see some of the works that people have done using Lego blocks. For instance, this blog post shows some work by a man who is a self-proclaimed Lego artist.

My son's 5th birthday is coming close and I am sure that Lego's will be part of the celebration. I just wondered if someone can figure out how to keep Luke from playing with Eli's blocks just to bother him.

Is America a Post-Christian Nation?

One of my classes for this semester centers on church planting. Today I ran across a site that showed some startling statistics about the state of the church in America today. While I have seen many of these statistics in other places, seeing them together definitely raises some questions.

Take a look at the video called Post Christian Church Planting.

What reactions do you have to these numbers and quotes?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Random Quote

_ "It is my opinion that art lost its creative urge the moment it was separated from worship."
Ingmar Bergman

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominations

Oscar nominations were announced this morning (For a complete list, click here). As usual, I have not seen a single one of the "Best Picture" nominees. In fact, the only movie I have seen that is nominated at all is Rataouille. So, what about you? Have you seen any of the films? What do you think should have been nominated? Do you even care?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Random Quote

_____"Never give great responsibility to someone who cannot live without it."
George Shultz, former Secretary of State

Playing Golf in January

I ran across an article in Fortune about the next big thing on the Internet - World Golf Tour. Right now this website based game is only in a demo mode where you play a closest to the pin challenge for 9 holes.

The website promises more courses and full games when the site goes live later this year. In fact, they are claiming that you will be able to play foursomes with friends around the world on some of the greatest courses in golf (including Pinehurst and Kiawah). With big sponsors like TaylorMade and the PGA Tour, it looks like this might be something worth looking out for in the near future.

If you are interested check out the site for World Golf Tour.

Excuses, Excuses

A story from this morning lists some off the wall excuses that people give for missing work.

My personal favorites include:

While at a circus, a tiger urinated on the employee's ear, causing an ear infection.

An employee was upset because his favorite American Idol contestant was voted off.

An employee said he wasn't feeling well and wanted to rest up for the company's holiday party that night.

For the rest of the list, go here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

You Tube Friday

This week started another season of American Idol. With the writers' strike ongoing, television programming is very limited. While I wait for the return of Lost, I will be watching America's talent search.

The early part of the show always features a mix of good auditions with tragic ones. While this week did not seem to have any showstoppers with good performances, there was an inspiring song in the other category.

Conjunctivitis Delay

I apologize for the lack of posts this week. Susan and I were both diagnosed with conjunctivitis on Monday. While that sounds like we are both on our death beds, it actually means that we have "pink eye." We are starting to improve and you can expect more posts to follow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Quote

"We will have eternity to celebrate the victories, but only a few hours before sunset to win them."

Amy Carmichael, Irish missionary to India (1867-1951)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Glaus for Rolen

It appears the Cardinals are on the verge of sending Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. Aside from Glaus' mention in the HGH issue, I think this is a great move for the Cards. You can see stories about the trade at ESPN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There is also an instant analysis of the trade by Jeff Gordon of the STL Post-Dispatch.

Friday, January 11, 2008

YouTube Friday

Another video from Tim Hawkins. I especially like the part in the second half of the clip about the games boys make up. And I give my apologies to Chuck E. Cheese on the front end.


Apparently, this is the man that will be leading the Vols' offense this coming year. His name is Dave Clawson and the article from Knoxville News-Sentinel talks about accomplishments. All I know is that it appears his last name sounds a lot like former quarterbacks at UT.

Another note: It appears that Urban Meyer is not excited about our hire for RB Coach. Two articles (here and here) mention Meyer's disposition when he heard of the move.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Running from God (Jonah Part 1)

Last Sunday, I started a series of sermons called "God in Pursuit" based on the book of Jonah. In the first sermon, we talk about listening for God to speak and then obeying his voice.

To listen, just click play.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Three for Two

Are the Vols about to add an Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks Coach, and former high school All-American 5-star Quarterback all at once? It seems that the Vols have interviewed the OC and QBC from Michigan. And apparently, their highly regarded quarterback Ryan Mallett may follow suit.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel article talks of the father speaking of the possibility.

I don't know if the Michigan guys are the answer. If you were to compare UT to one program in college football - the best comparison would probably be Michigan (Both are usually higher rated than they show - both can choke in big games - both have problems with biggest rivals - both have/had coaches living off a National Championship from several years ago). So, I don't know that this is the hire I would prefer.

What about you? Do you think the Michigan guys are the way to go?

Random Quote

"When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost."
Dr. Billy Graham

Wednesday Video - Cletus Take the Reel

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wedding Madness

Take a look at this story on CNN (I-Reporter on Wedding Cake) and determine if it is:

A. Indulgent
B. Excessive
C. Disturbing
D. Creepy
E. All of the Above

Update: I did not realize when I posted this story that it was actually sent in by the bride herself .

Monday, January 7, 2008

Alarming Trend with Younger Leaders and the SBC

While the recently released study of Lifeway Research about the age of attenders at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention does not surprise me, seeing the research in black and white is still disturbing. Since I became a pastor at the age of 25, I have tried to faithfully attend conventions, conferences, and meetings within our convention. In local meetings, I have often found that I am the youngest attender by 10, 15, or even 20 years. At the national events that I have attended, it is obvious that the average of the attenders is definitely pushed in an older direction.

Both Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer have written insightful posts on the research. And while I do not have the years of experience or credentials that they do, here are a few reasons that I as a 31 year old pastor think the trend might be happening:

1. Perceived Lack of Importance - Many of the young leaders with whom I talk mention the fact that there seems to be no real purpose in the meetings. Many of them feel that the convention is a distraction or hindrance to doing effective ministry in their local setting. I have talked recently with people who are men of great character and leadership potential. Our conversation centered on whether they would be attending the convention this year. Their response was "I just don't see any point in going."

2. Perceived Lack of Desire for Our Involvement - One of the conventions mentioned in the report is the 2005 convention in Nashville. One of the events that I was most excited about in the weeks before the convention that year was the Younger Leaders meeting that happened before the convention. While I enjoyed the event, I walked away feeling that again I had been talked to and not heard from. I still felt after that meeting that no "real" attempts were being made to reach out to a younger generation of leaders.

3. Perceived Exclusivity - Part of the real disillusionment with the SBC among younger leaders is the idea that leadership is hand-picked among a select group of individuals. At a recent meeting of young leaders in the Nashville area, we spent a great amount of time talking about how we really wanted to participate, but did not know how to "break into" the group that always seems to lead. The election of Frank Page a couple of years ago may have signaled a change in the SBC, but many younger leaders feel that they do not want to put the effort into the national convention that is needed to "break in" to the groups that select the leadership.

4. Perceived Legalism - I don't know that legalism is the best choice here, but I think it fits. Our generation seems to be much more open to cooperating with people across denominational lines to spread the Gospel than our predecessors. We are more willing to look over issues that are not biblically mandated (although they have been taught as such in our churches for years) but are interpretation choices. We are willing to work with people who are building up the Kingdom. We are not liberal or moderate, but we do feel that we need to cooperate more with Bible believing organizations outside the convention to see people saved.

5. "We keep bombing the rubble" - I am appreciative to the great men of God who fought the battle for the Bible in the mid 80's and early 90's. While I was not there, I have been fortunate to hear the stories of my father-in-law who did attend those meetings. I heard with admiration as he talked about the votes and the battle. But now it seems that we kept on fighting after the battle was won. The quote above comes from a recent discussion with Dr. Jim Henry who captured what many young leaders feel about the convention. Consequently, they feel that they don't want to be a part of a convention that continually fires on one another.

Four of the above reasons start with the word "perceived." The reason for that wording is that there may be real attempts to reach out, but younger leaders do not see it that way. I would argue that there is great importance in our annual meetings, but younger leaders do not see it that way.

I hesitate to post this entry, because I feel like I have only given the problems without offering solutions. I don't have the answers to the trend, but I do think it is a problem that we need to seriously think about in the days ahead.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Random Quote

"It is not difficult to be relevant if you don't care about being biblical. And it is not difficult to be biblical if you don't care about being relevant. The real challenge is to be both at the same time."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Looking Ahead to 2008

Well, since I have looked back at 2007, I thought it might be good to think about what interesting things are coming in 2008. And while it is a significant year for many reasons (i.e. Leap Year, the International Year of Planet Earth, the European Year of Intercultural Exchange, the International Year of the Potato [both my sons will be excited about that], and the International Year of Sanitation), it is also a year of great promise for the work God is doing in the life of our family. So here is my list of ten things about 2008 that excite me:

10. Summer Movies - During the Christmas break, I saw I Am Legend and National Treasure 2 on consecutive nights. And just to let you know - that means that I saw as many non-animated movies in 2 nights as I had seen in the previous 2 years. Both were good - but the previews of a couple of movies got me really excited about movies coming out this summer. I am most excited about Prince Caspian - the second movie in the great C.S. Lewis Narnia series. But I am also looking forward to the new Indiana Jones and the latest int he Batman series.

9. Vols, Cards, and Titans - I am a big sports fan and always look forward to the start of new seasons with my favorite teams. All of three of my favorite teams had interesting years in 2007 and have questions to answer in the year ahead. Who will be the new offensive coordinator at UT and will he know how to call off-tackle right? Will Crompton play to his ability? Will the BasketVols make it to a Final Four? Will Chris Lofton remember how to be the "dagger"? How will Colby Rasmus fair in CF? Who will be the Cards' 5th starter (or 4th or 3rd or 2nd or even 1st for that matter)? Will the Titans draft or acquire some WR help for Vince? All of these questions will be answered in 2008. Here's hoping for the best.

8. SBC in Indianapolis - It has been a few years since Susan and I have been able to attend the Southern Baptist Convention. This year we already have plans to go to Indianapolis. It ought to be an interesting year with a real election for President and other issues that are in discussion.

7. Cohort at Southern Seminary - By the time 2008 ends, I will only have two weeks of class remaining at Louisville in my PhD program. I am already excited about my classes in May as we talk about church planting, leadership, and the authority of Scripture. I look forward to seeing the guys again and being pushed intellectually and spiritually.

6. Olympics - I am a sucker for international competition. In the coming year, I will watch a lot of coverage of the Ryder Cup and other international competitions. But the event that I look forward to every four years will happen in China this year. The 2008 Olympic Games should be an interesting competition and forum for the world's largest nation. I look forward to hearing of the athletes and stories that will abound. I am also looking forward to hearing how Christians can impact the world in a place where Christianity is rapidly growing.

5. Election - Just as every leap year brings the Olympics, it also brings an election for President of the United States. With the shakeup that happened in Iowa, it promises to be a very interesting year as we approach November. I know that I will be checking out Rasmussen Reports on a daily basis to see where the candidates stand. Let's just hope for a clear winner this year.

4. Full-Year at FBCG - I am really excited about what God has in store for us here at First Baptist Church Goodlettsville. I truly believe that God has a great future here and look forward to seeing Him move in this year.

3. Eli Starts School - Somewhere around Monday, August 11, our oldest son will officially begin Kindergarten. There has been very little in my life that reminds me of how fast time flies as writing the above statement. In fact, I don't really know why I just put this on the list because I really don't want to think about it.

2. A House - At some point in the first part of the year, we are going to buy a house here. We have been living on the second floor of an apartment for over four months and are very much looking forward to having a home to call our own.

1. 10th Anniversary - This July 25 marks the 10th Anniversary of our marriage. In those 10 years, I have grown to love my wife on a daily basis. We have been blessed with two boys when we were told we might not ever have children. We have been privileged to pastor in two great churches. This July we hope to be able to get away to celebrate those ten years. While we will not make it back to where we took our honeymoon,I look forward to spending time with her as we celebrate what God has done in our lives over the past 10 years.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Are You Ready for 2008?

In a message that looks forward to 2008, I look at the two ways that you can approach a year of unknowns. Will you face 2008 with fear or embrace it with faith?...

To listen, just click play.