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Mike Evangelist (yep, that’s his name) still remembers one of his first meetings with Jobs. It took place in the Apple boardroom in early 2000, just a few months after Apple purchased the American division of Astarte, a German software company where Evangelist was an operations manager. Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime head of marketing, put Evangelist on a team charged with coming up with ideas for a DVD-burning program that Apple planned to release on high-end Macs — an app that would later become iDVD.

“We had about three weeks to prepare,” Evangelist says. He and another employee went to work creating beautiful mock-ups depicting the perfect interface for the new program. On the appointed day, Evangelist and the rest of the team gathered in the boardroom. They’d brought page after page of prototype screen shots showing the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with paragraphs of documentation describing how the app would work.

“Then Steve comes in,” Evangelist recalls. “He doesn’t look at any of our work. He picks up a marker and goes over to the whiteboard. He draws a rectangle. ‘Here’s the new application,’ he says. ‘It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says burn. That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.’ ”

From http://www.fastcompany.com/node/1659056/print

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As I travel around the country, I see a lot of Christian churches – and they all seem to me to be pretty much the same – people go to a particular building on a particular day (or two) of the week, sing a few songs (about 30 minutes or so of music) where everyone is encouraged to participate by at least standing and clapping their hands in time to the music, then 30 seconds or so of prayer and 45 minutes of listening to a pastor speak at the assembled people, then 30 more seconds of prayer and a couple of songs at the end as the offering basket is passed, then it’s “see ya next Sunday!” as they leave and go back to their “other life”, the 9-to-5 workday and a day off on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  This church pattern is known in Christian leadership and pastoral circles as “The Program”, a structured approach to what we call worship today that is designed to “maximize the experience for the Christian believer” – in short, to maximize the entertainment value so that the believer will come back next week for more.  This is also sometimes referred to somewhat irreverently as “feel-good Christianity”.

There are, of course, minor variations to this pattern – an occasional altar call, communion every month or so, and maybe even a few minutes worth of prayer for the sick or those in need in the church – but those are just small changes, and there are a growing number of people that, in my personal experience, are growing dissatisfied with this form of corporate and highly structured approach to the Christian worship life, a life that would seen completely out of character to Paul, Stephen, Barnabas – or Brother Lawrence, Watchman Nee, or Aiden Tozer.

Contrast this to the way the early first century church was organized and operated as described in the book of Acts. They met in the homes of believers, they ate together, their main activity consisted of praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things, they laid hands on the sick and they were healed, they raised the dead, they shared their troubles and helped those believers in need, and even sold their possessions and helped those who had need during a famine, among other things – in short, they behaved like a big family.  No one person was in charge or led anything as far as I can tell from a careful reading and re-reading of Acts.  There was no singing, no formal taking of an offering or money, no agenda, no buildings, little or no self-focused activity – the focus of the church was on prayer, first and foremost, then taking care of believers, then taking care of and healing non-believers, then proselytizing.

In short, the church described in Acts was a very different sort of church than we see today – no computers, huge flat-screen displays, expensive clothes, staffs, budgets, multi-million dollar buildings or building plans, fund-raising drives, or collection plates – and even though Paul (and probably by example Peter, Stephen, and the rest of the apostles) could take an income (money, food, or whatever else the body of believers offered), he did not, correctly believing that taking money from the church would prove to be an impediment to the spreading of the beliefs of Jesus, that people would think that Paul was in it for the money rather than to spread the gospel.  And for those who think that Paul, sometimes incorrectly looked at as the leader of the early apostles, came up with all of this on his own, remember that he had been taught by his mentor, Barnabas!

So, what is the point of all of this?  What I see in the early church has nothing to do with how the church is conducted today.  I believe that a particular body of believers ought to worship according to the book of Acts – centered on food, fellowship, helping others in and out of the Body of Christ, prayer, the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, and completely submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Anything else is probably unscriptural!  Where in the bible does it say that the pastor is the only one to speak or to lead – those are the jobs of the entire body of Christ and the Holy Spirit!  Where in the bible does it say that worship is to follow a particular pattern, or corporate song is required?  Where in the bible does it say it’s OK to have, in an hour’s service, 60 seconds of prayer?  Most church services I’ve seen are a way for the pastor or the leadership to self-aggrandize and ask for money instead of following the clear pattern of the first century church as laid out in Acts.

What I am suggesting that there be a true revival of the church – that is, the body of Christ – starting in the hearts of believers, and spreading to every member.  Let’s reform the church to what it was in the first century – a body of believers who would raise people from the dead, would heal believers and non-believers alike, would see signs and wonders and miracles that were so commonplace that practically every page of Acts would mention them, where literally thousands of people were saved at a time, led by evangelism led by the Holy Spirit instead of the customs and traditions and motivations and agenda of men seeking their own aggrandizement or money.

I would pray that *you* reading this would honestly and sincerely get on your knees in your prayer closet and spend some serious time praying about what I have written here – and then, as Jesus said, “go and do likewise”.  Let’s raise up a true church of real Christians, who live their faith 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – who display all the fruits of the Spirit, who heal the sick, raise the dead, and are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit – the body of believers that Jesus truly intended.

One of the most explosive and prolific stories on the Net last week (almost crowding out Tiger Woods’ return to golf at the Masters!) was the story that Wikileaks broke about a supposed massacre of unarmed civilians in Iraq.  For those who didn’t watch the video (and I highly recommend you watch the full 39 minute video), Wikileaks claims that the video, ostensibly obtained through covert military channels and claimed to have been decrypted by Wikileaks), shows the US military firing on unarmed civilians in the middle of the street (including a Reuters journalist), then deliberately killing the unarmed journalist after he was wounded, and then firing on a van picking up the wounded, deliberately shooting two children in the process.

Putting aside the deliberately emotionally loaded and sensationalist language of the Wikileaks story, here are the real facts – obvious to anyone who saw the full video:

1. “The US military deliberately fired on unarmed civilians“.  False.  Every person I saw in the video was carrying a firearm, either a handgun or an assault rifle, or an RPG.

2. “The attack was unprovoked“.  Again, false.  The reason the military was there in the first place was because another unit was taking small arms fire from the “unarmed civilians” position and requested air support.  The Apache shows up and sees a bunch of guys carrying guns high-tailing it to cover.  What would you do, land and tell them “stop, you’re all under arrest”?  This isn’t Main Street, USA, this is a war zone and has been for years.  You carry a firearm in a war zone, you’re either a good guy or a bad guy.  The good guys wear uniforms, the bad guys wear civvies.  Very simple.

3. “They were civilians!”  Sorry, but wrong again – insurgents don’t wear uniforms, they wear the same clothes that the innocents do.  The only difference is that the insurgents carry guns, shoot at the military and run when reinforcements show up.

4. “The guy at the corner of the building had a camera!”  No, he didn’t – he had an RPG, probably a LAW rocket or similar.  The trained pilot in the Apache knew it, too, and he was orbiting the building as fast as he could to put the building between him and the guy with the RPG before the Apache could be fired on.  I can well imagine that the Apache pilot (and most of the crew) had to change their shorts afterwards!

5. “The military got permission to shoot BEFORE they saw the  guy with the RPG!”  True.  So?  You get a call that says another unit had been fired on from that position.  You show up, and a bunch of guys with guns are running for cover like a bunch of roaches.  If they get away, they will shoot more of your buddies.  You aren’t a cop, you’re the military – you’re trained to “immediately neutralize the threat”.  What would *you* do?  Exactly what the Apache driver did – he shot all of them, and rightfully so, so they wouldn’t get away and kill more US personnel.  In fact, the Apache pilot exercised considerable restraint – despite having a clear lane of fire, he waited until he received clear permission to fire, then did so.  A major point here is that he did *not* shoot the Reuters journalist who was wounded on the ground, because he was not showing a weapon.  That’s called “professional restraint”, not murder.

6. “The military deliberately shot up a van with kids in it!”  Well, sort of.  They didn’t know there were kids in the van – what responsible parent who loves his kids instead of trying to use them as pawns in a game of manipulation against the US (which Wikileaks obviously bought into) brings them into a war zone?  Why weren’t they home where they belonged, instead of riding around in a van on the way to a hot LZ?  Besides, the guys in the van were also obviously insurgents – look at how fast they showed up, and a common tactic of insurgents is to pick up their dead and wounded and salvage their weapons before the rest of the military can show up.

7. “The military deliberately killed a Reuters journalist!”  Oh, please.  The Reuters guy was killed by collateral fire when the van was fired on.  He was also carring a firearm – absolutely FORBIDDEN by ALL news organizations.  It’s pretty clear that this “journalist” was also working with the insurgents.  In any case, he was *not* deliberately targeted, the van was.

I hope this throws the light of a little bit of TRUTH on the Wikileaks SPIN STORIES…

It has become popular for many churches today to preach what I and others have come to call “the false gospel of false grace”, which says, in essence, “come as you are to the feet of Jesus, receive grace and forgiveness of your sins” and nothing else.  Seldom if ever is repentance or holiness mentioned, all we hear is “the grace and love of Jesus” – all you have to do is to “accept Jesus” and your sins are automatically forgiven.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those who preach such false gospel are sadly wrong, and sadder still are misleading their congregations into believing that once they profess a belief in Jesus that they are saved, they need do nothing else.

I can’t tell you just how wrong this is.  Jesus himself was quite clear.  Again and again in the New Testament the theme of repentance, of turning away from sin, is both necessary and required!

I guess we need to define our terms first – belief is “the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.”  It seems to me that if you believed in something that you would act in accordance with those beliefs, wouldn’t you?  If you believed in Jesus, that means you believe in his teachings, right?  And if you believed in his teachings you would do what he said to do, wouldn’t you?  And didn’t he say to forgive your brother for his sins, to repent of your sins and turn away from them, and to lead holy lives?  I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where it says that you are automatically forgiven of sin without repenting of that sin – quite the opposite, in fact!  But there are churches that teach that doctrine by omitting the necessity of repentance.  You don’t get a “get out of jail free” card just because you profess a belief in Christ – you have to act on that belief!

As for the “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” folks, I would just say that if you think you will always be forgiven, no matter what you do, you are mistaken – in fact, God will reinstate formerly forgiven sin. Salvation is not a license to sin at will!

God has sent many, many warnings to pastors, teachers, and evangelists, to stop sinning while at the same time preaching from the pulpit – to stop blaming God because their ministries aren’t where they think they should be or because someone they prayed for and laid hands on died or because the offering wasn’t what was expected, to stop chasing money and possessions and bigger congregations instead of seeking God, to stop committing adultery, to stop cheating people, to stop pretending that they are without sin, and a whole host of other sins.

What does it hurt to preach righteousness?  If you’re wrong and God is much more lax than what is presented here, you haven’t really lost anything, and gained a great deal.  If, on the other hand, God is exactly how he is presented here, then by being less righteous, you may be “saved”, but you certainly won’t go to heaven – certainly a less-than desirable outcome for your life, to say the least!

Preach, teach, live holiness and righteousness.  Teach the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts.  Root out the secular focus, both in your preaching and in your ministry – God doesn’t need you to make him popular, you’re only feeding your own ego!  Have you forgotten that people come to Christ not because of you or your preaching or your teaching or your live entertainment or big-screen displays or your big building, but because God draws them in? Forget about wealth, growing your church, and possessions, and focus on God, and everything else will take care of itself. Don’t believe this?  Really?  Then what are you doing in the pulpit?

Just when we thought it was safer to be a woman than a man, this story hits the news:

Reports say terrorists could begin hiding explosives in breast implants.

British spy satellites have apparently intercepted terrorist communications from Pakistan and Yemen, talking about women suicide bombers getting explosives put inside breast implants.

Former Houston FBI Director Don Clark said he believes U.S. Homeland Security is taking this threat very seriously.

Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose said that the industry’s technology makes the bombs possible and easy.

Travelers at Boston Logan International Airport reacted with outrage and anxiety.

“I guess it’s surprising, but I guess it’s not surprising that they’re gonna go to any lengths,” one traveler said.

Another person at Logan said increased security might measures need to be taken.

“I think that we need to invest in full-body scan equipment at the airports. I think that would be the only helpful and the right thing to do,” one man said.

No full body scanners are at Logan, but they could be in place in a few months.

The Transportation Security Administration says its scanners do detect explosive materials and residue.

However, it’s unknown how well full-body scanners would detect explosives inside implants.

Gotta love the scare tactics … yet another way for the TSA to humiliate air travelers!  It’s either a joke gone bad, or someone’s thinking “Gee, I wonder just how far we can show our power and control by forcing the American people to be humiliated so they can feel ‘safe’ while we leer at women’s genitals on full body scanners?”  Never mind that this security is just so much smoke-and-mirrors – we are no more and no less safe now than we were before 9/11.  It’s all just a charade for the idiot wimps who whine on TV, “I don’t care what they do, as long as I’m safe!”

For those of you who have been living under a rock the past few days (or just been buried with work like I have), the story of Ted Haggard, the former pastor of the mega-church “New Life Church” in Colorado Springs has drawn a lot of attention on Larry King Live and other shows.  If you’re interested in reading about the whole lurid story – tales of gay sex, snorting meth, heaven-for-cash letters, and the whole rest of it – go here.  It seems to get more lurid – and ludicrous – by the day.

Whether or not the man is guilty or not of all the things that have been said about him is beside the point.  What *is* the point is the completely unforgiving attitude his former church seems to have displayed towards him and especially his wife.  While there may be some question as to whether or not he had truly repented (as evidenced by the continuing revelations and shenanigans revolving around his conduct), there has never been a question of his wife’s complete innocence – but, according to published reports, the church kicked both of them out!  I can completely understand removing the man from the ministry until he demonstrates by his conduct that he has turned away from his sin, but barring him permanently seems to me to be a bit extreme, and kicking his wife out of the church is completely over the top.  This is not the first time that church leadership has exacted the harshest punishment for those who were in sin and attempted to repent, or who weren’t even involved in the first place, and unfortunately it probably won’t be the last.

What would Jesus do?  Well, let’s see what Jesus did do when confronted with something similar.  In the first part of chapter 8 in the book of John we find the story of the woman caught in adultery.  The Law of Moses says that both the man and woman caught in adultery “must be put to death“.  As a rabbi, Jesus certainly knew that he had the obligation under the law to condemn her on the spot and have her stoned to death.  There was no leeway for compassion, for forgiveness, for leniency – the law was quite clear.  Jesus knew it, the Pharisees knew it, and so they tried to use the Law against him.  Jesus had been preaching the law of love, but the Pharisees were in no mood to hear it – their entire ministry, their standing in the community, even their culture, was based on adherence to a strict interpretation of the Law, and no dissent, criticism, or debate was tolerated.  The Law was the Law (gee, where have we all heard that one before?), and so there could only be one answer to the question, but that answer would be contradictory to the teaching, the entire mission of Christ.  How could he have her stoned to death while at the same time forgiving others of their sin and insisting that others do likewise?

What a conundrum!  But Jesus wasn’t the meek and mild wimp that some churches love to portray – far from it!  Jesus waited to answer until the attention of the entire crowd was on him – then he said “if any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  The Pharisees were undoubtedly astonished at this completely unconventional answer, but astonishment gave way to conviction, and they quietly melted away, into the shadows, until only Jesus and the accused woman were left.  “Where are your accusers?  Is there no one left to condemn you?”  “No one, sir.”  Jesus replied, “Then neither do I … go, and sin no more.”

His reaction was completely consistent with his teachings – love of God and love of one’s fellow man.  Jesus certainly knew the woman’s heart, knew she was repentant in her heart of her sin, else he wouldn’t have said what he did.  He wasn’t condoning her sin, but he had compassion on her because of her change of heart.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, were completely consumed by the law – not to uphold it in and of itself, but to use it as a club against the people, to establish and reinforce their own egos, their own sense of vengeance, and their own status in Jewish society.  Jesus, of course, would have none of it – his harshest words were reserved for those who hypocritically used the Law as a club to beat people with and at the same time broke the very spirit of that same Law they were harshly enforcing.

It’s interesting today that the harshest words of church leadership are reserved for those in sin, or coming out of sin, even if those people are doing their best to turn their backs on sin and to repudiate their actions, or even those who never even committed the sin in the first place, but by being with the sinful person is guilty by association somehow!

Where is their compassion, the compassion Jesus showed time and time again in the Gospels?  Jesus hung out with sinners, loved them, had compassion for them, while at the same time exposing those at the top of the leadership pyramid who were the most guilty of hypocrisy, all acts which many in church ministry wouldn’t dream of being caught at.

Where is our compassion?  Do we read stories like that of Ted Haggard and feel for his wife and family, or secretly cheer in our hearts that someone on such a lofty perch of ministry has been brought down, that all along he didn’t deserve to be where he was in the ministry?  Do we disagree with others who want to condemn the man, or nod our heads in righteous indignation that someone entrusted with so much betrayed that trust?

Interestingly enough, Ted Haggard has written about the morals of those who would condemn those in similar situations:

“One of the greatest marks of bearing His [Christ’s] character is our response to someone else’s sin.  If we handle others’ mistakes with a life-giving attitude, then we (and they) have the opportunity to enjoy great power and freedom.  But if we handle others’ mistakes negatively, then we’re eating from the wrong tree and will begin to die.”

I hope that Ted Haggard, as well as the rest of us, has learned from his mistakes.

I ran across this story on Yahoo this morning.  What bothered me was the description of the ad the church will pay a minimum of $2.5 million for:

The tongue-in-cheek ad opens on a funeral scene and then cuts to a young man alive in a closed casket. His body is covered in Doritos and he is watching the Super Bowl on a tiny TV while chomping on chips as mourners sob outside. Two friends, who are in on the prank, snicker that by faking his death, their friend will get a week off work and an endless supply of his favorite snack.

But the man gets excited when his team makes a big play and jostles the casket, which tips over to reveal him inside with a pile of crushed chips.

After an awkward pause, his buddy jumps up and nervously exclaims to the shocked assemblage: “Aaaah! It’s a miracle!”

Putting aside the picture of the lead pastor of Mosaic Church posing outside a night club in LA (which has obvious theological problems of its own), the idea that God needs help from a Super Bowl ad to bring men to Him, especially one that pokes fun at the resurrection of Christ, is patently absurd.  Even the best preaching in the world isn’t going to affect people unless they are drawn by God first.  Not that Christians aren’t supposed to evangelize, but even the best evangelism will fall on deaf ears, unless and until God draws them and they are open to hearing the leading of God.

Besides, poking fun at one of the central themes of Christianity (the Resurrection of the Messiah) can be as offensive to Christians as poking fun at Mohammad would be to Muslims.  Not that Christians or Muslims are always sensitive to religious humor, but it’s a risky thing to joke about, and it’s even riskier to make fun of core religious beliefs, not to mention counterproductive to the purpose of the ad.

There’s also the issue of spending millions of dollars on an ad that is obviously more advertising for the mega-church than it is for Christ Jesus.  With annual budgets for the so-called “mega-churches” running into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, it’s a prime motivation to fill seats with people (and church coffers with dollars) to pay the bills, so it’s understandable that the larger the church, the more the need to advertise in an age when church attendance is dropping.  But this brings into question the very reason for the existence of churches when the motivation turns from bringing people to a belief in Christ and repudiation of sin, to a desire to fill seats to meet a budget.  Christ would certainly not have approved.

Am I over-reacting?  You tell me!

— Update:

OK, I just saw the ad – it’s not nearly as offensive as when I first saw the clip.  Maybe they changed it for the Super Bowl, but it was clear from the ad that it was a very much tongue-in-cheek TV ad, and not playing off the Resurrection at all, just a trio of guys whose prank went wrong…

Kevin Kelleher posted this over on GigaOM – here’s my reply:

What’s even clearer is that what Microsoft can’t dominate, it tries to destroy.  What it can’t dominate or destroy it is baffled by, and so lumbers around like a bull in a china shop.

I can see Ballmer and Gates having that kind of discussion – “But Bill, we haveto have that sort of ‘finger in the pie’ on the Web, no matter how much we lose!”  That’s also understandable, but I think Microsoft will come to a point where it will have to play to its strengths – Windows, Office, SQL Server, and related – and minimize their losses in other areas.   With the way the economy isn’t recovering, that point may come sooner rather than later – but there’s a better way.

If I were Microsoft, I’d embrace the up-and-coming standards and practices for web-based apps (like JQuery and other technologies that allow one to develop platform-agnostic apps), instead of pretending to “adopt” them but with the intent to subvert and weaken them.  I’d be the biggest purveyor of JQuery and/or Dojo apps and libraries, picking up revenue with high-end applications and consulting.

It’s sad that with Microsoft’s size, they could be *the* dominant player in the market, but because of short-sightedness and egoism, wastes enormous amounts of time and money trying to duke it out with the likes of Yahoo and Google, when they could be playing to their strengths…

OK, so why am I awake at 3 am? Is it because I think better at night, or after a nap? Or is it because God speaks to me better in the still of the early morning?

It seems like God speaks to me at the quietest times of day. That “still, small voice” comes through when I’m lying in bed, or in the shower, or any other time my mind isn’t occupied with the thousand-and-one other things I have to do to keep food on the table and the lights on. Sometimes conviction, sometimes instruction – but always enlightening, and I wonder why other people don’t hear as clearly – is it that they don’t take the time to listen, or they set a time limit on hearing God, or that they’re just too busy, pushing the things that matter the most to the bottom of their to-do list where they will rarely, if ever, be seen? Or maybe it’s ego, the certainty that one is on the right path, even when that small, inner voice is whispering vaguely disquieting things in one’s ear?

Meanwhile, I lie in bed, waiting for sleep, listening to Sandi Patti sing “I’d Rather Have Jesus” in my head…