Advent Calendar 2015

Advent is the time in the church calendar when we wait for the coming of the Christ child. It is marked by the observation of the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent the church observes a different theme of this journey: hope, peace, love and joy. Candles are lit as the light of the world (Christ) is drawing closer to us.

During this time, we are called not to run to the manger but to wait… that’s right…. wait… for Christmas. Sure some people have decorated their entire house on November 1 but Advent calls us to slow down, be more reflective and wait. It is through this intentionality that we begin to see and experience the message of hope, peace, love and joy in our own lives and the world around us

There is something freeing, however, in slowing down. We are able to take in all that is around us and see how God is moving in our lives in ways that we would have looked right over had we not taken a moment to be reflective and aware.

How are we using this time of Advent to prepare and to wait? Are we rushing from store to store buying mountains of gifts, trying to equate our love for someone by how big the price tag is?

Don’t we want Christmas to be something more than lights, too much food, elves on the shelf and Santa? Why can’t this time of Advent propel us into a deeper sense of the Divine around us and with us? Where are the places God is leading us to? These are the thoughts that we take with us during this journey to the manger.

Use this calendar each day of Advent to prepare yourself for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Each day has a scripture and something to pray for or to reflect on. Let us journey to together to find the Christ-child, the source of all hope, peace, joy and love this Advent.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

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Advent Calendar 2015 PDF

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Creative Commons LicenseAdvent Calendar 2015 by Rev. Evan M. Dolive, M.Div. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Tweet of the Week: Wait… What?

I know that a lot of people do not like the President’s policies or whatever, but this type of criticism is a new one for me.  I have heard people in passing joke about the fact that they think the President is the “Anti-Christ” (a word not even used in the book of Revelation but that is topic for another day) but never anything like this.

Happy Friday and happy tweeting!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Stop Taking Attendance!

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At a church I used to serve there was a well-intentioned person who after every service would tell me how many people were in attendance. “We had 47 today, Preacher,” he would say. I could hear the disappointment in his voice when he would have to tell me a low number like 35. A smile beamed across his face when we had more than 50. No matter the number, he would tell me without fail.

In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services.
After years in the ministry I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance, immediately.

For many churches the process of collecting attendance is to get an accurate account of people in worship, to measure how many people occupy space in a pew. Some churches have note pads in the pews so people can fill out their information and place it in a designated area. Others have a volunteer to manually count the people in attendance. No matter how small or big the faith community is an attendance is taken. Some congregations publish the number of people in their church bulletins or have it on a sign in the sanctuary to compare last week to this week.

For too long churches have measured their ‘success’ and ‘failures’ on the number of people that darken the door on 11am on Sunday morning. The quickest way to get people to wring their hands in worry is to tell them that numbers in worship have dropped. Visions of the church closing its doors will run through people’s minds inciting more and more anxiety.

It’s no secret that the church in the American culture is not where most Christians would like it to be. The church was once the central hub of the community is now a place where people go on Sunday mornings if they want to. The church has been in a decline for some time and I believe this has caused us to become more inward focused. As the church began to experience decline numerically the church’s reaction was to try making everyone left happy including the ministers, elders, deacons, lay ministers, organist and even the custodial staff. The boat was not rocked, things stayed the same, a course was laid in and no deviation would be acceptable.

I believe that this is the wrong approach. One time when I was interviewing with a church for a position they inquired if I had any plans that would help the church grow numerically. The answer I told them I believe with all my heart and prompted a bevy of puzzled looks. I told them that I was not a ‘numbers guy.’ I did not measure the success of the church in how many people showed up on Sunday morning. Is Lakewood in Houston, the largest church in America, a “more successful church” because they average several thousand people each week? No. Most churches just want bodies in the pews and babies in the nursery but this is the wrong approach.

I would rather have fifty people in church on Sundays that went out and touched a hundred people’s lives, than have a hundred people in church that only touched fifty.

The church has become too worried about having more people than the other churches in town. The church needs to stop looking inward and start looking outward. There is a world that is in desperate need of a Savior right outside the walls of the church. The time we spend in meetings or around the pot luck lunch table talking about how big the church was in 1947 is wasting everyone’s time.

I have to admit that even I can fall into this number trap. It can be disheartening when a minister prepares a sermon or the choir works diligently on a piece and only a handful of people are there to experience it. I have to remind myself that the people who are in attendance are there to experience God and worship and that is it. God can use all sizes of churches and faith communities to promote God’s message of love, peace, joy and reconciliation.

I want people to experience God in the same way that I do but I am not beholden to a number.

Let’s start taking a new kind of attendance, one that is centered on the other, not bodies in the pew.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Photo Credit: “Checked_tick” by Oliver Tacke via Flickr. Used Under The Creative Commons License 2.0.

#BringBackOurGirls

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Hundreds of girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria because they had the audacity to want to get an education.

Be in prayer for these girls and that they might be brought back to their families safely.  It’s hard to imagine that so many girls could be taken away.  Social media as been buzzing trying to draw attention to this problem.

Sadly this problem is not just located in Africa but every day women, men and children are sold into modern day slavery and sex trafficking.

Despite all of the rhetoric and differences that get thrown around Christian circles there should be a united front from all followers of Christ.  These girls (or any person for that matter) are not property to be bought and sold and exchanged for goods.  If we truly believe in the divine presence of God indwells within all of humanity then we should be outraged at the actions of this terrorist group in Africa. Not just because they are a terrorist group but because they are stealing the innocence of these girls.

Pray for their safety, prayer for their families who struggle to cling to hope and pray that peace will come to earth and this never happens again.

 

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

 


Follow the story on Twitter by searching the hastag #bringbackourgirls

14 Books In 2014

My new year’s resolution is one that I think many people make: to read more.

I enjoy reading and I even have a Kindle.

I have an ever growing list of books that I want to read, should read and have been recommended to me but by consequence of having a full time job, preaching on Sundays, a wife and two kids, time is scarce.

So this year I am going to make a goal to read 14 books in the year 2014.  I know to some avid readers out there 14 is the standard quota for a week but I am taking baby steps here.

I hope to write reviews on the books I read during this challenge and you never know maybe I will surpass my goal of 14.

If you have any recommendations for me feel free to comment below!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Rev. Evan has
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Picture: “Books HD” by Abeee via flickr. used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.

What A Difference 3.8 Million People Make

Two months ago today I clicked publish on a post about Victoria’s Secret Spring Break Collection called “Bright Young Things.”   The aim of the letter was to let Victoria’s Secret know (as well as whomever would listen) that I disliked their marketing to a younger demographics and how they set up an unattainable standard of sexuality and beauty.

To date the letter has been read/viewed on this site nearly 3.8 million times from all around the world.  The letter is still be read today and shared over the internet.

To date the letter has been shared on Facebook over 765,000 times, on Twitter over 5100 times, almost 100 times on LinkedIn and over 550 times on Google Plus.

I want to take this time to say thank you for everything!

Because of the exposure I received, I have begun to contribute to a few websites- the Good Men Project, Sojourners and RadicalParents.com.  I am humbled and honored to contribute to these great sites.  I will try to post my articles here whenever I can.

I have been completely overwhelmed by all of this and I all of you to thank.  Without you sharing, liking, emailing and commenting- none of this would have ever happened.

I still have not had an official response from Victoria’s Secret (and I do not expect to), but another clothing company did.

About month ago Fruit of the Loom contacted me to let me know that they had seen my letter online.  They liked it and wanted to send my daughter “age appropriate” underwear.   They sent my daughter 10 pairs!  She was so excited to get them in the mail.

Fruit of the Loom

I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Fruit of the Loom.  Thank you for generosity and for thinking of my daughter! (The items pictured can be found here and here.)

Thank you again!  Keep reading, sharing and liking!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Disney Princesses, Merida’s Makeover, and Empowering Girls

My latest piece for Sojourners


Having a 3-year-old daughter opens your eyes to a world that you did not know existed, the world of princesses. Disney has cornered the princess market; there are currently 11 official Disney princesses, and if you are brave enough to travel to Disney World/Land or even a Disney store, you will soon find out that there is a plethora of accessories — dresses, placemats, and cups (just to name a few).

Disney has come under fire in the past for focusing only on Caucasian women — Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and others. But over time, non-white princesses were introduced, like Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Tiana.

Disney’s latest princess was Merida from the film Brave broke most of the Disney princess rules. She didn’t like pretty gowns, she liked to shoot bows and arrows, and her crowning glory was frizzy, wild red hair. Some people believed that Disney had finally broken the mold of the “damsel in distress” model of princesses that has been a dominant theme throughout many of the films. The trend actually started with Pocahontas and Mulan; maybe the theme of strong women role models would continue. Brave was a cute film with a wonderful message. Merida had a round face and was rough and tumble with her triplet brothers. She didn’t want fancy dresses or even want to be a princess; Merida just wanted to be Merida. She was the example of girls being girls, no matter how they look.

However, in a recent update, Disney decided to take the idea of Merida in Brave and throw it out the window. Merida, for her official induction into the Disney princess cohort, got a bit of a makeover. Merida 2.0 was taller, skinnier in the waist and had a slimmer face. Her famous bow-and-arrow set are missing, and her iconic wild hair has been tamed.

After the uproar that followed, Disney quietly pulled the newer version of Merida.

But my question for Disney stands: Why? What was so wrong with Merida that it warranted the change?

Disney made a statement with the creation of Merida, and it inspired girls around the world to live into who they wanted to be, not what society wanted them to be. Merida’s makeover told girls that, yes you can be who you want to be, but at some point you are going to have to fit in.

Brave’s director called the change “atrocious” in an interview with the Marin Independent Journal.

She continued: “When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

Girls today need characters and princesses that are strong and powerful and reflect the society of today. I know that no one princess or character on Disney will ever be 100 percent inclusive of all people, but Disney at least needs to try.

Maybe sexualized images are more marketable, but that is not the point — empowering our girls is. I’m pleased that Disney has reversed its decision to alter one of their best examples of an empowered girl. I hope the trend of strong princesses started by this character continues.

Film Review: For The Bible Tells Me So

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So - Co...

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So – Copyright 2007, First Run Features (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most divisive topics that is dividing the Church today is the issue of homosexuality.  For decades (if not longer) this has been an issue (whether we like it or not) on the forefront of Church. Recently some denominations have had decisions and votes on whether or not to ordain open homosexuals; it has caused dissension, grief, hurt feelings and in some cases it has cost ministers their job. Many churches and even denominations have decided that in the interest of keeping everyone happy, they have not or will not broach the discussion at all.

In matters of church conflict or even church doctrine, the normal question to ask is “What does the Bible says regarding this issue?” It is a natural place to start.  However, there are varying ways on which the Bible can be interpreted and thus a problem can emerge.

The film, For The Bible Tells Me So, explores the issue of homosexuality as it relates to the Church and Christianity. This film tries to demystify the stigmas that have been placed on a certain group of people and tries to look at the issue from different angles.

Film Synopsis from forthebibletellsmeso.org:

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

This film dives into the Biblical text from a number of different perspectives trying to encapsulate the essence of the text as the original authors intended.  Scholars from many different denominations and faiths weigh in on this issue.

This film is presented in a way that brings in new ideas and understandings about homosexuality and how the Bible has been used and mis-used to subjugate a particular group of people. The interviewees do not hold back with their position and thought process when it comes to the controversial issue.  They are open about their feelings and in some cases have regret for the way that they treated their child when their child came out.

One of the positives of the film is that it does try to show different view points with regards to how different families  react to their children telling them they are homosexual– not all families reacted the same way then or even now.  For many it has been a journey that they have to take one day at a time.

I believe that this film is an excellent conversation starter no matter what side of the issue you are on; the key (as with many controversial topics) is that those watching must do so with open eyes, hearts and minds.  For many Christians this has become a hallmark issue; it has become the benchmark of righteousness and orthodoxy.  It is easy to hear something counter to your belief system and immediately get defensive and stop listening.  It is in those moments of struggle where we can learn and grow.  It is through difficult situations and conversations when we are able to open up to the possibilities of seeing a particular issue in a new light.

The website for the film also has two discussion guides (here and here) for further study and dialogue.

Overall, this film is well done and thought provoking.

I highly recommend it.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars
Film Website

Watch this film on Netflix

In Christ,

Rev. Evan
(Trailer Below)


Trailer

Review: “The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation”

One of the most talked about and polarizing texts in all of the canon of Scripture is the book of Revelation.  This book has been the subject of fiery debates, discussions, theological stances, studies and TV programs on TBN.

At first glance the book of Revelation doesn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the New Testament.  It’s style and language are different than anything else in the Bible.  Reformer Martin Luther (as well as others) wanted the book to be removed from the Bible.

When it comes to interpretation of this book there are several camps of thought but I will highlight two of them:

  1. Dispensationalism– a literal understanding of the book; the book portrays events in the future that marks the Second Coming of Christ into the world.  The book is a coded message that the faithful need to understand so they can be on the look out of the signs of the return of Jesus Christ. This method of understanding the book of Revelation was first postulated by John Darby in the late 19th Century.
  2. A message or story of hope and support for a persecuted community– The message of Revelation is one that encapsulates the pain and struggles of a community trying to live and survive in a society that did not like them.

The Rapture Exposed puts forth the thesis that the book of Revelation has been misunderstood for many years.   The author claims that the book was not meant to be a future predicting, dispensational text,where people are trying to connect events in the world to the ancient text.  The author believes that the message of Revelation is really a hopeful one.

The book looks into the nature of Dispensational theology and how the text does not support this idea; one of the most popular modern versions of the this theology is the Left Behind series.  This series has sold millions of books world wide and even spun off into three films (with a reported reboot coming soon starring Nicolas Cage).  The Left Behind series follows the life of people who have been left behind after the “rapture” of all Christians on the earth.  They have to battle the evil Anti Christ and try to get the message out about the salvation of God in Christ before God destroys the world and starts anew.

The author, Barbara Rossing, writes:

To understand the biblical basis for much of today’s end-times thinking we have to begin our story further back than the book of Revelation. In the view of Darby and other dispensationalists, God’s whole biblical plan for the end-times is already mapped out in the Old Testament. The entire end-times framework of Darby’s dispensationalist system is based on just three verses at the end of chapter 9 of Daniel! (page 25)

The problem according to Rossing is that the Book of Revelation has been distorted to fit the model of theology instead of the Book itself shaping a model of theology.  She points out that no where in the text does the word “Anti Christ” appear as well as there is no mention of the Anti Christ establishing a covenant with Israel and then breaking that covenant.  These items have been read into the pages of scripture and made to fit.

Rossing lays out well reasoned arguments on why the message of Revelation is one of hope and not World War III. The message of Revelation is one that is centered in the notion of God’s revealing and redemptive power now, not in some predetermined future date. She writes,

Like the visionary journeys of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Revelation’s vision of seals, trumpets, bowls, and other manifestations are meant to be a wake-up call. They unveil the urgency of God’s justice and judgment by taking us on terrifying journey, all with the goals of persuading us to ally ourselves with God’s vision for our world. The journeys are not intended as literal predictions of events that must; they are nightmarish warnings of what may happen– if we do not follow God’s nonviolent Lamb. (page 91)

The Book of Revelation has been used as a tool for right action and orthodoxy (correct belief). The mode of thinking is: one does not know when the end of the world will be so you better get right with God or you will witness the destruction of the world. The faithful of God, however, according to dispensational theology, will have a front row view of the end of the world and humanity from Heaven.

Revelation is not a book written to inspire fear or terror. But it is definitely written to increase a sense of urgency for our world. It is an apocalyptic wake-up call for each of us, precisely because there is hope for us and for our world. … Revelation teaches us a fierce, urgent, and wonderful hope– not an easy comfort, but a hope that knows the reality of terror and evil and still can testify to God’s love in the face of that terror. (page 170)

Overall I thought this text was a good overview of the pitfalls of a literal interpretation of Revelation and I believe that the message of hope as laid out in this text is a refreshing one, one that the church needs to hear more of. This type of hopeful theology is one that is not being promoted and propagated in the church today; if it is for may it is falling on deaf ears.

★★★★☆
4 out of 5 stars
Amazon Link

In Christ,
Rev. Evan

Review of “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church”

It’s no secret, the church is in a decline.  Attendance and support for the Church has been in on a steady downturn for many, many years. A whole host of reasons have been given on why this is.  Some blame MTV and iPhones, others blame parents for not taking their children, while others blame extra-curricular activities and sports.  Whatever the problem might be, rarely does anyone blame the church itself and the people that are attending it.

Dan Kimball is a minister and author.  He noticed that when he met people and got to know them that there are a great number of people who like Jesus, but not the Church.

The book discusses what the Church has done to foster these views, and how to address them. Kimball encourages Christians to leave the “Christian bubble” and listen to what non-Christians are saying.

Through a series of interview Kimball articulates six objections that people have with the church. At first glance a person is who in the church and has a connection with God because of it might be defense and even dismissive. Therein lies the problem. Kimball argues that Christian live in a “Christian bubble” and therefore think they know and understand those who do attend church or even believe in God.

Here are the six objections

Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.

Kimball does a good job of showing both sides of the issues, expect for number four; on this particular issue he touches on the accepting side of the issue but still comes down (and pretty hard I might add) on the side of homosexuality is sin.

Selected quotes from the text:

“The more we focus on what we stand for instead of what we stand against, the more we will line up with Jesus and his teachings about the kingdom of God, and the more we will be seen as a people who will believe in truth and love.”

“We need to be open and honest about the difficult passages and odd stories in the Bible. It seems more people are doing their homework about the Bible outside the church than they are inside the church.”

“Our goal should not be to get people to ‘go to church.’ We should be inviting people to participate in the life of the church community and to participate in the activity of God, not merely inviting them to attend our worship services.”

Kimball’s book may not be the end all be all to Christian evangelism and prevalence  but I believe that this book is a good conversation starter. Kimball glosses over a few things here and there but for the most part drives home the point that the church has to do something to reach out to the emerging generations.

I think that this text would be good for the leaders of a church or even an evangelism committee. The point of reading this text is to start conversation, not to change minds… that takes time.

Link to Amazon

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Happy Reading!!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan