The 9 Commandments and That Other One

June 29, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I almost entitled this “The 10th Commandment*” and then I would explain the asterisk.  However, I know how you are.  “Don’t covet is the 10th commandment.  That’s not what you’re talking about.” Then I would have explained the asterisk.  You would have objected again that it wasn’t clear.  It just wasn’t worth it.  “This was?”  Hmmm…

Two passages for your consideration:

Exodus 20:8-11

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Col 2:16

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

So there you go.  Honor the Sabbath is right there in the top 10, #4 to be specific.  Then you have Colossians where some false teachers have emphasized the ceremonial parts of Jewish law and Paul says don’t let people judge you based on these.  You put this together with the idea that Jesus fulfilled the law, we are not under the law and the 10 commandments become 9 + 1.

(Sidenote:  You want to waste some time? “Of course, I do.”  Top 2 Bible related things to Google and read some weird stuff:  Sabbath and King James Bible.  I take it back.  Don’t do it.)

Is this the right approach?  Is there nothing in between strict observance of the Jewish Sabbath (Please tell me you didn’t read that stuff) and ignoring it completely?  Surely there is.  Surely.

God still believes sin is serious, even though we do not sacrifice animals.  We trust in Christ.  God still wants us to be his people set apart, but we don’t follow the dress codes and dietary codes.  We strive to live lives with pure hearts.  God still values worship, but we don’t celebrate the Jewish feasts.  We worship God in community and throughout the week.  God still values rest, but we don’t celebrate the Sabbath.  We…we…what do we do?

That’s the rub isn’t it.  We think this one doesn’t matter at all any more.  It’s one thing to say that we are not bound by the rules.  It’s another thing entirely to say that God’s value system has changed.  “God doesn’t even care about that any more.  Move along.  Nothing to see here.”  From the very beginning it would seem that God is honored when we rest.  We were created to rest.  We were created to take time and reflect on him and stop the madness of a pace of life that is spiritually, physically and emotionally unsustainable.

“Fine then, how?”  Welpst, we struggle when there aren’t rules, don’t we?  This isn’t a rule.  This is a principle.  You will have to figure that out through prayer, reflection and with your family.  The how is up to you.

Wait, Ok, I’ve changed my mind.  I’ll tell you exactly how to do it.  Oops, I can’t.  I’ve got to get to a meeting and then to unpack some boxes in the new office and then hurry home to get on the treadmill, eat some dinner and get the kids to play practice.  Maybe later…


Green Lantern Movie Review

green_lantern_movie_poster-ryan_reynolds1I did something that some people do not understand but sometimes I find to be necessary.  I went to see a movie by myself the other day.  The girls were at camp and mom was busy and so I took a couple of hours and just unplugged and watched the Green Lantern.  First, did you know the cheap movie theater in Fayetteville has a 3-D theater now? Did you know it was small and depressing? Did you know that makes it not cheap anymore, even if you get there super-early?  Did you know they let you keep the glasses?  What does it mean?

Green Lantern stars Deadpool in the lead role (I don’t like one superhero also being in another superhero movie.  It doesn’t seem right.  I’m looking at you Captain America/Human Torch and more obscurely Cyclops/Lois Lane’s new boyfriend or husband or whoever you were.) It also stars the Gossip Girl (never seen it) as the stereotypical wet-blanket female lead, the bad guy from Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes as the foreshadowingly named Sinestro (That is not a spoiler. He is good throughout the movie, but come on, Sinestro? You could’ve figured that out.  Also, you should know that if you have any familiarity with the comics.), and I swear I know him, no I don’t, wait he was in Knight and Day as the bad guy.  It also features a couple of “Really it’s come to this” appearances by Tina Turner (the one who played her) and Andy Dufresne.

Expectations: Very low.  The previews didn’t look that good.  A fellow superhero movie lover said he didn’t like it.  “Then why did you go see it?”  Duh, it’s a superhero movie.  Clearly, you are new here.

Reality: It actually was pretty good.  Maybe that is just the expectations were so low that it had to be better, but I enjoyed it.  Better than Thor worse than X-Men First Class.  It certainly is not an elite superhero movie, read Iron Man, The Dark Knight, but it was good.  The story was good, the acting was good, the wet blanket female lead wasn’t wet blankety at all.  I think the directors are starting to figure this out.  Thor and Iron Man were both good, X-Men doesn’t even have them.  With the exception of Rachel Dawes (both movies) there hasn’t been much wet blanketyness.  (If you don’t know what this means, you don’t watch many superhero or sports movies.  Watch the Michael Keaton Batman and observe Vicky Vale or Hoosiers and that teacher.  Add nothing, discourage the hero, take away from the action.) I think the reason it (and Thor) did not do well is that I think we love sci-fi movies and we love superhero movies.  When they are both, it’s just ok.

Appropriateness: An abundant supply of wirty dords and some implied sex-having (What? He wakes up and there is a bare-shouldered woman in his bed.)  The violence is very sci-fi-ish and not troubling.  I would put it very low on the appropriate for kids.  PG-13 for a reason.

Rating: (Back to the old system)

See it in the theater and will definitely own

See it in the theater and might own

See it in the theater and will likely rent it

See it in the theater and be done

See it at the dollar theater

Rent it

Avoid it.

I rate it a see it in the theater and be done. (There is a small chance that I would by it.  If I were strolling around in a Best Buy this fall and the Blu-Ray were 9.99 or less, I probably would get it.)

Well, But It’s True!

June 23, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

The title of this post is one of my least favorite expressions that gets uttered at the Loften home. (Is “utter” an upgrade over the more common and accurate word “said?”  You bet it is!  Why?  I don’t know.)  Here is the context:  someone says something ugly to someone else.  Dad confronts the ugly-talker.  The response, “Well, but it’s true.”

99 times out of 100 (yes it probably has happened that often.  Not really…maybe…we’ll say 24 out of 25) the rebuke-worthy statement is true.  “Just because something is true, doesn’t mean it should be said,”  says the dad channelling TV sitcom dads.  Depending on the person you are saying this to, dad can get a look that suggests that their brain has just shut down (in the same way it would freeze your calculator when you would divide by zero.  Nothing to do but hit the AC button.  The C button simply can’t fix this problem.).

“Truth-tellers” is my name for these people.  Some like to call them people with the spiritual gift of prophecy or exhortation.

Question: When did not having any tact become a spiritual gift?

Let’s chase that rabbit.  Prophets did speak unpleasant truths.  However, it was at God’s direction, not at their own discretion.  Exhortation is encouraging someone to take right action.  If your words crush someone’s soul and demoralize them, then you have done something, but you have not exhorted anyone.  Let’s call it the gift of “getting something off your chest but framing it in a spiritual context, so if it has a bad result we can blame God or our nature.”

(Rabbit on the ropes now)  You can identify a spiritual gift not by whether or not the person “does it” or even “enjoys it.”  It is identified by whether or not the proper response or effect happens (Nerd).  You can be a teacher and enjoy teaching.  However, you can only have the gift if there is, in fact, learning going on.  There are lots of people out there claiming to be gifted teachers, but no one seems to have the corresponding gift of listening to them.  There are also lots of “leaders” hanging out by themselves.  There are also a lot of exhorters walking through a pile of bodies they have kicked to the curb.

(Good-bye rabbit)

The question is does everything that you think that is true need to be said? If so, does context matter?  When will I say it? Will it be publicly, semi-privately or privately?  What tone will I use?

Even bigger, why would I say it?


“It needs to be said”

“I need to get it off my chest.”

“Somebody needs to take them down a notch.”

“It’ll make me feel better.”

“What do you mean reason? It’s true”


“Because I believe saying it, in this way, at this time, in this place has a great chance of helping the person become better, and because I love them.”

There are a lot of pastors out there that don’t have a filter beyond, “is it true?” and there are plenty of (well-meaning?) friends and family member that lack that filter as well.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

There are things that are true that aren’t pure or lovely or admirable.  Let’s dwell and think and say those things that are all of these.

The Bridge

The next 12 months for The Grove Church will be exciting, challenging and a bridge to new opportunities for ministry in the future. God has blessed the Grove tremendously over the past year and we have seen new people come to faith in Christ and become a part of the Grove. As such, Sunday mornings in both services have become quite crowded, and we began looking for a new place to meet.

After considerable prayer and discussion the elders decided that we needed to wait for a season before we move into a different facility. We had some financial priorities that needed to shift first, most notably changing our missions giving from 3% to 10%. We still believe that God wants us to worship in a different facility, but not yet.

However, rather than calling this a season of waiting, we believe that this is a season of building and preparation, which we are calling The Bridge. We believe that God wants to multiply the impact that we are having in the lives of people. God wants to use the Grove to REACH people who are far from God, help people GROW into committed followers of Christ and SEND people into their communities and the world with the gospel.

In order to get there, we are asking God to prepare us. We are asking God to give us hearts that are open to him using us in the lives of people. As members of the Grove we are going to need to increase our level of commitment, both in our time and our money. Through this, we expect God to continually bless the church this year in the number of people who come to know God and begin worshipping with us.

Here are some videos that explain that describe what’s next for us:

The Need for Giving

You’re the Birthday Boy or Girl

June 17, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

I will have to ask you here to not judge me.  You know how you can be sometimes.  We have a few birthday traditions around our home and we had another successful birthday yesterday.  My wife Heidi, who I contend is not aging at all, had her birthday yesterday.  She shares it with Phil Mickelson, my favorite golfer, but I love her more.

Anywho, the first tradition is the singing of a song from a Simpson’s episode.  Not the sappy Lisa birthday song, sung by Michael Jackson, but this:

I’m pretty sure I’m the only who has ever seen this episode, and I haven’t watched the Simpsons in probably 15 years, but this dumb little clip stuck in my head.  It used to make Maylee furious.  “I am not a boy or girl.  I am a girl!!!!”  In a different home, that would have modified the dad’s behavior.  Not here.

That tradition is silly.  Here is one that is not.  The birthday “boy or girl” gets to pick where we eat.  Then while we wait for the food, we all go around and share one thing we love about the birthday “boy or girl.”  We typically make about 3 laps around.  It’s a great opportunity to take some time and do some intentional appreciation.  The birthday “boy or girl” loves it, even if at times it seems a little cheesy.  BTW, this same routine is done for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  On our anniversary, which we call our family’s birthday, we do the same thing.  This time everyone shares what they like about being a part of the family.

We often do a good job of doing things and giving things for people’s special days.  It’s also important that we say things as well.  Those last a lot longer than the gifts and certainly the dinner. (Don’t judge me)

X-Men First Class Movie Review

X-Men First Class

X-Men First Class

It was the last day of school and Lauren had her awards assembly.  She dominated and didn’t want to stay at school.  They were just going to watch movies.  So I checked her out and we went on a daddy-daughter date (Took the day off).  She didn’t want to watch movies at school, so what did we do? Went to Chick-Fil-A and watched a movie–X-Men First Class.  This was a risk.  Lauren has seen superhero movies before and she loves them.  However, I always screen them and let her watch ones that are appropriate, but no pre-screen today.

X-Men First Class is an ensemble show with too many characters and actors to mention them all.  It stars Mr. Tumnus (Narnia) as Professor X. He was in 300 but I don’t remember as Magneto, Betty from “I’m not cool enough to watch” Mad Men, and a new addition to the most improbable villain pantheon, which of course includes John Lithgow from Cliffhanger and Dennis Hopper from Speed, we have “he’s been in every movie with everyone” Mr. Footloose as the bad guy.  There were a slew of “I recognize them” and “I think I know who that is” all throughout the movie.

Expectations: Reasons for high expectations–Superhero movie, X-Men, my love for origin movies, and I didn’t know Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt were in it.  Reasons for low expectations–5th movie in the series, not doing well in theaters and a bunch of relative nobodies starring as the X-men.  You know what pushed me over the edge?  The guy who sold us our tickets giving us a 5-minute movie review from his little cage…not really. No it really happened, but it didn’t persuade me.  Lauren thought that was hilarious.  Overall, my expectations were moderately high.

Reality: I thought it was pretty good.  Origin movies if you like the characters are always great and this one didn’t disappoint.  I watched it through Lauren’s eyes a little and felt bad for her, because it was fairly complicated and in her words, “a lot of characters to keep up with.”  I thought all of the relative new/young actors did well and it was a great blend of action and plot.  However, I could never get over, “Wait, that’s Kevin Bacon.”  That’s my bad though.  It could have used a little more mutant fight scenes, but it was still good.

Get Over Yourself: There is a discontinuity between this prequel and the Jean Grey flashback in X-Men 3.  Who cares?  You do.  Read the category title again.  On the other hand, it was cool how they tied in the Magneto origin flashback from the trilogy.

Appropriateness: This is where I wish that I had pre-screened this.  This was definitely more inappropriate for kids than previous X-Men movies.  There were a lot of scenes of women in their underwear and a lot of language.  This includes one F-bomb.

Rating: (New System–American Idol Style)

Paula: That was fabulous, amazing, and I was touched deeply (Definitely go see it, now)

Randy: It was just aiiight for me, Dawg (Maybe see it, you should rent it)

Simon: That was indulgent nonsense (Bad, but still worth seeing. Redbox it)

Kara: What was the point of Kara, anyway? (Run for the hills, don’t ever see it)

I rate this almost a Paula but better than a Randy. (I’m beginning to think this system doesn’t work) If you are an X-Men fan or even superhero movie fan, you should see it in the theater.  I will definitely have the BluRay.

Other Possibilities:

Ellen: It’s supposed to be good, but it’s not, even though you really want it to be.

Steven: Trainwreck good

Jennifer: At least she can dance, but that’s not what we’re doing. Confusing, but mildly entertaining, nowhere near a Paula.

I Think I Heard That Sermon Already (Colossians Review)

June 6, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

People asked me last week, “What are you preaching on this Sunday?”  (Is “preaching on” the right expression?  It seems to be the one that we use regardless.  Obviously, the correct answer to that is “the stage.”  But to say that would put me on the same level as the guys I grew up with that would say “the sky” as the response to the greeting, “What’s up?”  We don’t need any of that.)

Anywho, my answer was “the same thing I preached on two weeks ago.”  Bad answer, but it’s true.  “Do you think people will notice?” “Nah, it’s summer so probably half the people there this week weren’t there before.  The other half won’t remember.”  Just in case you think I’m insulting you, the only reason I remember is I have access to my notes.  Just kidding…maybe.

Paul essentially says the same thing in Col 2:6-15 that he said in chapter 1.

Christ is fully God and the Lord of everything

We are complete in Christ, completely forgiven and fully his.

We live for God in the same way received him as a gift.

Our lives should be grateful responses to what Jesus did.

He said that in chapter 1 and says it all over again.  Didn’t he know that pastors almost 2000 years later would be looking for different sermons to preach as we go verse by verse through his letter?  Rude.

He says it in chapter 1 in the form of a prayer and an intro and repeats it as instruction and encouragement immediately after he starts the body of the letter.  Conclusion: that stuff is very important.  We have yet to be given any kind of do or don’t do command.  Paul is just encouraging the Colossians to have a different outlook on their approach to God.  Don’t view your relationship with God as a religious activity and an obligation, but as a grateful response to a gracious God.  Focus on Christ not,well, anything else.

That’s a good message for them and a good message for us.  God is not interested in simply more of our religious activity.  He certainly doesn’t want us to think that we are earning his love or “paying him back.”  He wants our hearts, our devotion and our gratitude.

“So what are you preaching on this Sunday?”  Guess.

Family Topic Month

First there was the Toenail Ogre, then Family Tag Month.  Now perhaps the most intentionally goofy family you know brings you something completely different–Family Topic Month or Family Chat Month or something like that.  Maybe it needs a better name, but it’s a cool concept.

Everyone in the family will put discussion questions or topics in a jar.  You can put as many as you want in the jar.  Every night, with TV off and sitting around the dinner table (Something we can do now, since this is one of two months that isn’t soccer season, and we are currently not in any plays.), we will pull one of these out and we will discuss it.

The only prerequisite is that the topic/question that you submit must be of a serious nature.  The counter-example I used last night in describing “wrong” suggestions was, “How cute do you think Justin Bieber is?” (Very surprised that Bieber got the classic red squiggle.  Thought for sure that had made it to the Oxford Dictionary by now.)

Last night’s intro discussion was Mom’s question:  What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself this year that you like?  What is one that you don’t like?

Unlike most things we do, there is no competition.  This is just being intentional to talk about deeper things together as a family.

BTW, the final results for Family Tag Month were Mom and Lauren had 7 points (points are bad), I had 8 and Maylee had 9.  Lauren was the winner.  She had 0 times where she woke up “it” and went to sleep “it,” without remembering to tag anyone else, which is very lame.  Mom had at least one.  Lauren gets to plan on her own, a family date night.  So far it includes Hugo’s and one of those weigh your own yogurt places.  She’s not sure what she wants the activity to be, she said maybe Gator Golf.

Excellence in Ministry

June 1, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Me and el staff team are reading a book about church, leadership, focus on lost people, etc.  That’s right. We read books.  This will be the 4th book we’ve read together as a staff in the last 8 months.  We read sections and discuss them each week at staff meeting.

Today we ended up talking about “excellence.”  That is a leadership buzzword at least in church circles.  Simply put, you want what you do at your church to be done very well.  You want the music at your church, whatever the style, to be done well–excellent.  It is the same with your teaching, you want it to be excellent.  The same goes for small groups/Sunday school or children’s and youth ministries.  If you are going to do it, do it with excellence.

This isn’t about style. This is about whatever your style, you do it excellently.

Here is the question(s): Does that strike you as secular or unspiritual?  Does that kind of talk belong in talking about church or ministry?  Do such things matter?

If you object, what I want you to suggest is the alternative.  Instead of being excellent, ministries should  _________.  There are lots of things you could put in that blank, for example, “love Jesus,” “be focused on people,” or “provide snacks.”  However, all of those, especially snacks, can go hand in hand with excellence.

Do you think it is important, but overemphasized? Underemphasized?  What do you expect or anticipate from the church that you attend?

Someone recently said that commenting on blogs is “over.”  If it is, then this will have been a waste of time, but then I’ll know.  I really do want to know what you think.  So, let’s discuss.