Sunday, January 28, 2007

My moto robs my mojo

Update: The problem, it turned out, was that the positive battery cable was not properly attached. Thankfully, the new mechanic did not charge me. It makes me very thankful that I was well taken care of, and very angry at Walmart. I am trying my best to boycott Wally World now.
There are lots of wonderful things about my car. She has a wonderful heads up display, a fairly decent stereo, she handles fairly well, and she gets fairly decent gas mileage. But right now I am angry with her. And Walmart.
All of this started in November, when I discovered everytime a storm mosied through our area, my battery would have a hard time getting the car started. So, I would be flagging down folks here and there to help me get her batteries recharged.
Well, the frequency of these difficulties became such that I had to take my car in to get a new battery the night before my mother was scheduled to arrive for Christmas. And, the only place affordable to get a battery that was open was Walmart. So I drove up the hill in the beginning of the big blizzard on the 18th to get a new battery in the car just in time for my mother to arrive.
Mom did not arrive until the 26th. And on the 27th we went to a movie and as we came out from the late movie the car was dead and once again needed a jump. After we got home and we could not get the car started the next day, I called a tow truck to get the car to a shop to get the battery looked at again. As the tow guy came out, he recognized that my problem was a loose battery cable and fixed the problem temporarily. He recommended I take it back to the shop I got the battery from and have it reinstalled. When I went back to Walmart they told me that the problem was not the battery but the alternator. In the middle of another blizzard I slid down the road to the nearest Firestone. They ran an electrical system check. Guess what the problem was! Loose battery cable.
Fast forward to this week. This time my car died completely. With passengers heading home from Bible Study. My friend Ken came to jump me, and in order to get it started he had to wiggle the fuse box. Everything seemed fine. Then, Saturday I am showing Jen the clubhouse at my apartment, and we jump in the car to go watch a DVD at my place. Again, the car goes blank. The key is stuck in the ignition, and this time the doors are locked with no possibility of unlocking them. We are stuck in the car! Once again, I had a friend come bail us out, and he gets the car started by moving the fuse box around.
The car died again this morning. Luckily the door was unlocked. And as I investigated the wire work I noticed that the fuse box is completely unmounted in my vehicle, and that although none of the cords seem damaged, the plastic tube all of the electrical wire was bundled in has a clear cut (as opposed to a break) in it for 2-3 inches. In other words, the folks at Walmart not only messed up installing my battery cables, they messed up my fuse box and electrical system in my car. And, from the looks of things they did this knowelgably and without communicating with me what they did. The problem is, I have no recourse since I had to go to Firestone to get the vehicle running right.
So now, until I can get in at the shop I have start the car with the door open, and keep the doors unlocked most of the time. I have to be prepared to go manipulate the fuse box to charge the battery to get myself from point a to point b.
This car is now both embarrassing and scary. The sad thing is....I still have a ways to go to pay the darned thing off.

Let the Conversation Begin

I have a friend named Shawn. He is a married man with 4 kids, and a pastor in Iowa. And he says the worst 5 words he can ever hear is "Honey, we have to talk." We laugh afterward, but we both know there is a certain truth to the whole thing.

I recently had a gal I was dating say that we needed to "have a talk" as well. I started getting panicky. I stuttered. I stalled. I got agitated. And, although I eventually caved into having "the talk", I avoided "the talk" like the plague.

Neither my friend Shawn and I are unique. I think a majority of men avoid "the talk" whenever possible. Why then, would a woman with a reputation like Hillary Clinton's have as one of her key campaign slogans "Let The Conversation Begin". Does she have a bunch of therapists working for her? Is she trying to appeal exclusively to her feminine base as she launches campaign? (Notice the pink power in the picture above)

I don't know about you, but when the poster child for angry, bitter old women starts trying to win my vote by saying that we have to sit down and have a talk, I want to run the other way. I want to hide. I want to point to the guy next to me and ask, "Are you talking to him?"

Let the conversation begin? Just when you think it couldn't get worse, you realize that this is going to be an ongoing conversation where Hillary tells America what's wrong with it, and how she in all her wisdom can fix us. We are just at the beginning of having "the talk" because we will not just have one "talk" we will have several over and over and over again.

I really think this is a strategic error that will backfire on the Clinton for President campaign.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Surrendering


I have been reading THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE in preparation for our 40 DAYS OF PURPOSE here at First Baptist. And I was just reading the chapter about the importance of surrendering ourselves to God's will. In the chapter, it emphasized the concept (although this was not explicitly stated) of downward mobility. Simply put, downward mobility means that part of following Jesus is being willing to surrender ourselves to God's will no matter where that leads us. Often that means being in places that are insignificant, doing things that seem insignificant, instead of pursuing things like financial security, power, and the noteriety and admiration of others.

When I came here, I kept feeling like I was supposed to go to the place I was most needed for God's , a place where there were challenges, instead of a place of glory and significance. So I came to Colorado Springs, feeling like I was surrendering myself. I kept thinking that somehow, someway God would use me for his greater purpose. And then I would be rewarded.

I did not expect that the way of surrender and downward mobility feels like you are going through a very long tunnel, and that when you are in the middle of it your vocational hopes ahead look as dark as forboding as looking behind you. In other words, I thought the challenge would be to go somewhere where you were really needed , and then somehow the bliss of knowing you were in God's will and doing what God wanted you to do would carry you through. What I did not know was that somewhere in the middle of the journey of downward mobility you would feel alone, doubt you heard God right, and struggle just to keep your chin above water emotionally.

Yet, somehow thinking again of this decision process has given me encouragement and hope that I in someway was doing the right thing in at least attempting to be obiedient by coming here and staying here as long as I have. There is still the hope, though, that something new comes along soon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NT Wright quotes


I am reading Evil and the Justice of God by NT Wright. He is talking about Job right now and he says this and I wonder what all of your responses would be. It will help be familiar with the story of Job from the Hebrew Scriptures, since both quotes are discussing the theology of that book:

"We are invited to look at Job's torment, and his questions with the priviledged knowledge that this is not a contest between Job and God (who, knowing himself to be innocent believes God to have made a terrible blunder) and his would-be comforters (who, confident that God doesn't make mistakes assumes somehow Job must be guilty) think it is. It is also not--not straighforwardly--a contest between God and Satan, as a dualist might imagine. No, it is a contest between Satan and Job. Satan is trying to get Job in his power, to demonstrate that humans are not worth God's trouble, while Job for his part continues to insist both that God ought to be just and that he himself is in the right" (p.69)"

...and in response why Job starts over in life on earth instead of going to heaven after his trials..

"The question is about God's moral governance of this world not about the way in which we should leave this world behind and find consolation in a different one. That is the high road to Buddhism, not to biblical theology." (p. 70)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wallflowers and my Nephews--a Beautiful Combination



One of my emerging favorite bands in the Wallflowers. So you will imagine my glee when I punched in my second favorite song by them and out came a video based on the series Dexter, of which my nephews have a recurring role as Dexter as a young child. The clearest picture of the acting twins that you can see is at 1:47 in the video, but they show up several times after as well.

The song is a beautiful lament, not meant as a statement of theology, but rather a prayer of the heart. Here are the lyrics:
Seems like the world's gone underground
No gods or heroes
Dare to go down
Tear drops from a hole in heaven come
Overhead like ravens
Dropping down like bombs
Through the mornings silver frosted glow
God says nothing back
But I told you so
I told you so

God bless the void
Of my daydreams
Back in the snow
Making angel wings
Slow motion dancing lights have gone
Sail beneath the burning yellow sun
I'm calling out to the deep ends of my bones
Time says nothing back
But I told you so
I told you so

Still waters rising in my mind
Black and deep
Smoke behind my eyes
Last night I could not sleep at all
I hallucinated that you were in my arms
To be in your heart
I filled my own
Love says nothing back
But I told you so
I told you so

I'm still here
And climbing every rung
If someone saw something
Now Someone speak up
Back over the rotted bridge I cross
Open up these graves
Let these bodies talk
I'm Burried under leaves blood red and gold
Death says nothing back
But I told you so
I told you so....

Dreams and Covenant or What I learned from Al Sharpton


This week I had the opportunity to think a little more deeply about the "I Have a Dream" speech that sits on a poster at the entrance to my office. And that deeper thinking is thanks to Rev. Al Sharpton.

One of my favorite news shows is HARDBALL with Chris Matthews. On Monday, Chris was talking to Al Sharpton about many issues. He was especially talking about Barak Obama in the context of the MLK Day Holiday.

As Sharpton shared some of his thoughts on a wide range of issues, he made a little comment about the "I Have A Dream" speech. Sharpton said that most of us, regardless of ethnicity, rush too quickly to the "DREAM" part of the speech. He went on to say that we need to spend more time contemplating the first part of the "I Have A Dream" speech which talks about recieving a bad check, and the "promisory note" that freedom entails.

What Rev. Sharpton said intrigued me, so I watched a YOUTUBE video of the event. In the process I discovered Sharpton was a very insighful man, and that led me to think about several things in relation to this part of the speech.

I think it is interesting that the dream speech is grounded in covenant theology. We tend to run forward to the eschatology closing stanza, and forget the call to covenant that is in the first part of the speech.

This makes the speech so much deeper. Why? First of all, simply by calling for the renewal of covenant he is basing his whole argument on Biblical grounds and on the basic covenant of our life together as a nation. No other image of community in Scripture is more foundational than the concept of covenant.

Covenant theology is also important because it does not call for the kind of justice that separates us from one another once our agreement is set right. It compels us to believe that the destiny of all us tied together. Thus, the central vision of Martin Luther King Jr.'s theology that undergirds his civil rights is not establishing one groups rights over against one another. Instead, it is a vision that requires us to be reconciled with one another and be in right relationship with one another. It is not simply a call to a cessation of conflict and recognition of rights, it is a call to renewed friendship and brotherhood. In other words, much like the practice of non-violent protest, the "I Have a Dream" speech calls us to passionately love enemies as alienated friends that we need to get close to again.

I think too often we go straight to the inspiration, and forget the intellectual meat of the speech, which is really what makes it beautiful. Rev. Al Sharpton was right.




Quotes from Stardust Universe by Jakob Dylan



"We were born to stumble and to yearn in a stardust covered universe, where you will find troubles, but you will not be the first."

"You've got to slow your engines when God is in pursuit"

"...stardust universe. Where the end is certain but it will not be rehearsed."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Taken By Surprise


We are starting a Purpose-Driven Life Campaign on February 17th at our church. There are a lot of exciting things going on with the program, namely it is getting several of our church people off their rear ends and hard at work doing something productive to support their church instead of simply being pew fodder. Furthermore, we are all working together on something, which builds a little bit of momentum for us.



So, in order to be on top of things that are happening in my church, I have been reading ahead in the book. And, to my suprise, I am enjoying reading it a lot. Especially bit by bit as it is designed. Usually, I am a book snob, and choose not to read stuff that everyone is buying at the Christian bookstore. Thus, I had a little apprehension when I started reading it. But, I have been pleasantly pleased by what I have read so far.

One thing I like is that the book is written so that what you are to remember is in the first sentence of every chapter. It is a lot like most of us were taught to write two to three page essays in high school.

It is also good at relaying simple truths of what living the Christian faith is all about. It is not so much about twisting your arm into a decision to follow Jesus as it is inviting all people, no matter what age, into a process of choosing to follow Jesus by beginning to put some basic principles that he taught into practice.

Monday, January 15, 2007

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
Boston
North Central
The Inland North
The South
Philadelphia
The Northeast
What'>http://www.gotoquiz.com/what_american_accent_do_you_have">What American accent do you have?
Quiz'>http://www.gotoquiz.com/">Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

POT AND PREACHING


This is the car I parked next to getting lunch today. I found it humorous.

On the other side it said..."Jesus is coming soon, pass the joint around"

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Window in the Skies Video

Lyrics

The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat thats in the sun
Will keep us when there's none

The rule has been disproved
The stone has been moved
The grain is now a groove
All debts are removed, ooh

Oh can't you see what our love has done
Oh can't you see what our love has done
Oh can't you see what our love has done
What it's doing to me

Love makes strange enemies
Makes love when love may please
Soul in a strip tease
Hate brought to its knees

Sky over our head
Can reach it from our bed
If you let me in your heart
And out of my head

Oh can't you see what our love has done
[ these lyrics found on http://www.completealbumlyrics.com ]

Oh can't you see what our love has done
Oh can't you see what our love has done
What it's doing to me

Oh oh oh hhhhhhhhhhh
Oh oh oh hhhhhhhhhhh
Please don't ever let me out of here

I've got no shame
oh no oh no

Oh can't you see what love has done
Oh can't you see
Oh can't you see what love has done
What it's doing to me

Oh I know I hurt you and I made you cry
Did everything but murder but you and I
But love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can't you see what love has done to every broken heart
Oh can't you see what love has done for every heart that cries
Love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can't you see


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Compassion

Sometimes I get tired of being in my office to do my computer work, so I decided to take a day to work in Panera Bread Store. So I checked in with the secretary in the afternoon I made my way down to the Southgate Panera Bread Store to get some work done.

While I was reading an email, I looked up and noticed a couple. The woman was facing me, and the man was facing the other direction. She seemed giddy to see him. As a matter of fact she was positively glowing. Since I hate seeing lovey dovey couples and public displays of affection other than hand holding, I rolled my eyes and sighed.

I continued on with other work, and then looked up again. All of the sudden her face went from giddy, to quizzical, to angry, to crestfallen. I assumed the guy had broken up with the woman. She ran out of the place crying. He looked around, grabbed the meals, quickly threw them away and followed soon after. All of the sudden my judgements changed. Instead of thinking the mushy couple was disgusting and annoying, I began to think the guy was a jerk. He made a beautiful woman cry after all. How uncompassionate! How rude!

Then I realized that I had made people cry at times too. And while sometimes I felt like they were crying because I was a jerk (and I can be that), there are other times I have made people so upset that they cried and I felt like I said and did the right thing. Whats more, sometimes I have made people cry and felt like I was very compassionate. This leads me to believe that there are times when we confuse compassion and love with niceness and popularity. Maybe making the woman cry at that moment was the most compassionate thing for her in the long run. Who knows?

Let me give you an example that does not have that much importance. Their have been times where I rushed out of the house and threw on a shirt as I went. I went through my day. I was wearing the shirt for hours. Then, in the middle of the afternoon I notice that my shirt is on backwards. People notice, but nobody points this out to me. Are they being compassionate? Not really. They are just avoiding dealing with a situation that might embarrass them.

As I see it, true compassion includes speaking the truth in love. It at times includes confronting people who are doing immoral, self-destructive, or hurtful things, and realizing that this act of compassion may cause the other party to be less invested in that relationship. They may even abandon it all together.

Compassion is about caring so much about somebody that their hurt in some way pains you as well, and in turn spurs you to action. Sometimes that may mean giving money to a homeless person. Sometimes that may mean discontinuing helping someone who is using your help in an unhealthy way. Sometimes that means offering a guilt ridden person God's grace and love. Sometimes that means holding up a mirror to someone's sin and asking them to stop. Being nice doesn't always mean being kind. Sometimes being nice is just a cover for the selfishness of being a classic conflict avoider.

We are often good at being nice and being polite. But sometimes we struggle to be truly compassionate. We need to be compassionate enough to be both completely grace-filled and brutally honest when it is appropriate. May God bless us in the journey.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out of the Darkness--Light

My work life has been a little chaotic lately, and thankfully this time it doesn't center around me. Although it does present challenges to everyone in our church.

The first Sunday in November (which coincidentally was both the week after our church planning meeting and the week of the fiasco at New Life Church with Ted Haggard), a couple of men started attending First Baptist. These men arrive together and leave together. They sit next to one another, and they have the same address. They are impeccably well-groomed, and they have jumped into the life of our congregation almost immediately.They especially enjoyed jumping in with our church decorating party, as well as our choir.

Now, our choir has always been an "open" choir. What I mean by that is that anyone can join our choir. It is not a leadership position, it functions more as a church small group than it does a deacon board. Thus, when these men joined the choir the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we were not prepared for what was about to unfold.

What did unfold? Well, because two men who appear to be homosexual (though nobody knows if they are or they are not) have joined the choir, about 12-20 of our 200 regular attenders have left the church. Some of those regular attenders are long time members with deep pockets. Others are people who have regularly attenders who have invested a lot of time in nearly every facet of our congregational life. Most, though not all, are members of one influential family that helped found our denomination at about the same time our nation was founded. Last Sunday, with our other ordained pastoral staff on vacation, several of them chose to leave our congregation. Some wrote letters saying they were leaving.

Others chose to take their last Sunday leading their sunday school class to explain why they were leaving and convince others to join them. This surprised us. We expected that is was a possibility they would leave. But we felt ambushed. And when they left before the worship service we felt violated.

Too be honest, I have mixed feelings about their departures. On one hand, in part through difficult tensions, I have become friends with several of them. On the other hand, most of the insults, frustration and difficulty that has come my way over the last 3 1/2 years has been spearheaded by the meanspirited nature of those that left and/or are leaving. I am sad to see them leave, I am scared about our church finances, and I feel a heavy burden has been lifted from being the target of their annialating contempt all at the same time.

Most of our congregation is a conservative church in their theology, but compassionate and open-minded. So, wheras they believe that homosexual behavior is immoral, they at the same time recognize that they themselves have moral struggles as well. Thus, most are open to welcoming anyone into our choir and even membership. However, many are struggling.

Into was into this environment that I was assigned to do preach on Sunday. There was also a blizzard earlier in the week, so several of our more mature members were struggling to dig out. So many people were sad, discouraged and low. You could physically feel the congregational sadness and depression.

At the same time, I felt led to at the same time acknowlege our difficulties and remain enthusiastic and positive about our church and mission. I preached a very average sermon on the flight of Jesus to Egypt and God's desire to deliver us---both his church and those who are outside of his church (It will be posted in segments below).

At the end of the service, two unexpected things transpired. First, at the end of the service, the congregation erupted in clapping. This has never happened to me, and this has never happened in anyone's memory in the history of the church. So this was both very encouraging and very disconcerting. The second thing that happened was that members of the congregation came forward during the invitation simply for prayer and to connect with God.

It seems that out of difficult circumstances, good things are happening.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Deliverer


Please follow along with me as I look at our screen and read our Scripture text for this morning.
(Turn and read Matthew 2:13ff with fine art)

This morning I want to take you on a different kind of journey as we look at what God has to say to us this morning. I want to take you through my process of discovering what exactly this short story seems to be about. For some of you this may feel more like Bible study than your normal preaching fare, and that is ok.

This method also means that you are going to have to pay careful attention, because we are going on a journey to discover what God has to say to us together, and like a good detective story or mystery, each thing we will learn will help us build toward our ultimate discovery of just what God seems to be saying to us through this text.

Are you ready?? I hope so.

I originally felt led to do this sermon because of a Christmas song I was listening to. Bruce Cockburn was the person I heard it from, but I am sure several other people sing the song as well. The song that really captured my heart was “Mary had a Baby”. It is a Negro Spiritual about the birth story of Christ and the deliverance of slaves to freedom through the underground railroad. Toward the end of the song it talks about coming out of Egypt. Over the last month I have pondered, what has Christmas to do with deliverance? And what role does Jesus’ impromptu road trip to Egypt have to do with the overall message of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So I started exploring Matthew 2:13-26.

One of the most interesting things that we notice as we start looking over the passage are these Old Testament quotations that Matthew 2. There are three of them in the passage that we have chosen.

Out of Egypt I called my Son—From Hosea 11
Rachel Weeping in Rama for her children who are no more—Jeremiah 31
The passage that says Jesus will be from Nazereth—Isaiah 11



As we dig deeper we notice that these quotes are very significant for a number of reasons. Throughout Matthew 1-4, Jesus is presented to us as Israel personified. Israel is referred to as the Son of God in several places in Scripture including the one quoted here from Hosea. In fact, as you dig into the geneology in Chapter 1, it is organized in triplets of fourteen, to personify the three stages of Israel’s history—the period of the patriarchs, the period of the kings, and the period of the exile.

The implication from Matthew is clear. The history of the people of God is like a funnel. And slowly all of his people who are faithful has been slowly whittled down to a remnant of one. And when I use the word remnant, I don’t mean to use this word like we do in sewing circles where it is the scrap left over. I mean to use the word like we would understand it in Luke Skywalker Star Wars or Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings. Where there is only one who is worthy to stand for us all, one worthy to represent us all, one able to save us. And in the history of that universe that one that stands for us all is Jesus. In other words, what we see here is that Jesus, by fulfilling the prophecies, by going into exile, by being delivered from the sword of Herod and the pain of exile, and by doing so in faithfulness to the instructions of God, proves himself worthy to be our deliverer. Our messiah.

Its interesting isn’t it? That the cross shows up so quickly in the story of Jesus. We tend to think of the manger and the early years of Jesus as some peaceful, blissful experience. Yet, as we see here, Jesus is a marked man from early on. He begins his life as a refugee and as the focal point of a brutal massacre. Mark Lackey was gracious enough to do our little powerpoint scripture reading at the beginning of this message, and it was interesting. We kept looking at pictures of the violence that Jesus was born into, and it took a long time to find the right picture. Couldn’t have too much nudity. Couldn’t look too violent. Might offend people’s sensibilities.

Jesus as our deliverer has no such qualms. He is born a middle eastern peasant is a barn full of manure with animals in a ruckus over a screaming woman trying to find anyplace with any sort of shelter and privacy to give birth. Far away from home because of the government made them traverse over rocks and around robbers to go register themselves to give Rome more money in taxes and tribute.
From the cradle to the cross he is surrounded by thieves and murderers, and the masses longing and seeking for something to hold on to.

Our time is no different. We need a deliverer too.

And whether it is in Bethlehem or Colorado Springs, God has no qualms in looking at our messy, confusing lives and entering into them in an effort to deliver us.

We tend to think that we have to have ourselves and our churches all cleaned up before we can be “God’s people”. And we look at our lives, and sometimes at our church and wonder why it is full of so many sinners. We wonder why there are so many people with wrongheaded ideas and sinful lives.

I remember struggling to build a young adult ministry in a previous church. We had a number of launches and restart. Finally, one time we caught fire with a core group of about six people. Half of them were related to one another. One of them was a former member of my youth group. And I will be direct with you…there lives were not where they needed to be. They were recovering drug addicts, mothers who had their children out of wedlock, racists, they were belligerent drunks who got into fights on the weekends and who called me to help deal with drugged up friends at 2 in the morning. And sometimes they helped out at church to do their court ordered community service.

As I tried to get other people involved in joining this group I found we had another struggle. And it had nothing to do with the rough and tumble lives they lived the rest of the week. It had to do with the fact that our core group could not get through our meal and bible study without a smoke break in between.

As we went this went from a concern of mine to a concern by some of my young adults and their parents that were involved in the church. And I shared my plight with a mentor of mine. And as I finished sharing she said something very wise. She said, God calls us to be fishers of men, and yet so often we expect the fish to leap into the boat of the church cleaned up and ready to go. But, she said, if we follow Jesus’ command to be fishers of men we should expect it to be difficult, messy, smelly work full of people who have all sorts of problems and in needs of all kinds of deliverance.

I would add to what my mentor said. It is about time you as a church become more real and honest about how you are here at First Baptist. You are a people desperately in need of deliverance. And it about time we become the kind of church that enthusiastically welcomes other people, like me and hundreds like me, who need deliverance as much as you do.

I need a deliverer. So do you. Even though things look bleak, we are called to have the hope that Jesus is preparing to deliver us. That is the first thing we learn when we look at the flight of Jesus.