Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2 Bowls in a Row

My Ducks won in a shootout over Oklahoma State. In the process, they proved that the Pac-10 is not soft or weak, even though they play fast-break football. GO DUCKS!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Doubt: The Movie

Last night I went to a movie to mother and wife. We watched the Movie "Doubt". The Movie "Doubt" is based upon the play "Doubt".

Doubt has a stellar cast. The characters that play the minor roles do a good job with the parts that they play. But Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman do a superb job with their lead roles. So much of the acting in this movie is based upon subtlety--the looks and expression someone gives, or the little cues about what is going on between body language between two characters. Thomas and Streep pull this off brilliantly.

One scene in particular that is fascinating in this regard is when the nun decides she is going to confront the priest about something she feels he has done wrong. The priest begins the situation by taking the nun's seat at the desk. Then there is this subtle dance where the nun attempts to and finally does take control of the situation. The tension of the scene in palpable, and the subtle ways each person tries to take control of the situation is so brilliantly written and acted that is just sucks you in.

The movie did well in letting non-human "characters" speak. For instance, the light in the mother superior's office keeps going out at important times. The wind blows at points in the movie, and you wonder how the director intends that wind to speak to you.

The movie, says the author, is really about what the title says it is about--the relationship of doubt and certainty. It is set in a post Vatican-II catholic church in Boston, with the incoming of a new priest of a church and perochial school in the 1960s. At some point, the mother superior suspects the priest of an inappropriate relationship with a student, and the nun and priest get caught up in a power struggle. This power struggle escalates throughout the movie, and does not have a "disney" conclusion.

It also touches on the issue of homosexuality.

The role of the young boy's mother is also played brilliantly.

If you want a movie that will challenge you and make you think, watch the movie DOUBT.

Lower Arkansas Valley

Black and white when it is almost night
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This is a picture of a sunset between Avondale and Fowler, Colorado.
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Hwy 50

This is on the road from Fowler to Pueblo on Highway 50, just east of Avondale, CO.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Phrases or Subjects that make me change the channel

1. In this post 9-11 world... This declaration is a red-herring and merits an automatic changing of the the channel. As long as we mire in self-pity and depravation of civil liberties after 9-11 we let Osama Bin Laden win.

2. Any combination of these three words: Rick Warren, gays, prayer: This issue is also total bull. If the democrats cave on this, they will show that they are simply panderers and slaves to self interest. The gay lobby is flexing its muscles hoping to bully Obama around. I hope Obama is strong enough not to cave here, or he is going to be bullied by every other special interest.

3. Exit Interviews and (insert member of Bush administration)...An exit interview is something done by supervisors on a job. The media (conservative and liberal) has set themselves up as supervisors of politicians, and thus, they believe, as rulers of the world. I will not play their game anymore. Media members do not offer "exit interviews". They do not run the White House. I hope they never do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Middle Road on Gay Marriage: Respecting Civil Rights and Religious Freedom

I remember having a conversation with a leader in my former church that advocated pretty strongly for our church to be a welcoming and affirming church. Welcoming and affirming in Baptist cirlces means that you both welcome homosexuals into you chruch fellowship, and affirm that their lifestyle choice to be engaged in homosexual behavior can be both moral and healthy. I often disagreed with this person, I think it is clear that homosexuality is incompatable with Biblical teaching and Christian witness. However, we both agreed that we should extend the same welcome to gays as we do to anyone else. We both also strongly agreed that gays should be treated equally under the law.

As we discussed the issue, we got to a point where we discussed gay marriage. He shared with me a proposal that I thought was intelligent and reasonable, and I think in the end is the direction that both conservatives and liberals should aim for. He stated that legally marriage and civil unions should be separate institutions for both homosexual and straight couples. Civil Unions should be a legal partnership and open to people of all sexual orientations. Marriages should not be civil unions at all, but should be strictly religious institutions. In many cases, through common law marriage legistlation, this civil union/marriage separation is already a reality. I know several couples who would be recognized as common law in court, or who even have common law papers before they get married.

Why is this a good idea? It allows gays the rights that any couple in their position should have. The ability to visit loved ones in the hospital. The possibility of having equal parental rights in adoption situations. To have shared life and property together. There are a lot of heterosexual marriages that are less than ideal morally, but they still have these rights as well.

On the other hand, it allows religious groups the right to understand marriage as their theology allows. It allows these churches to perform marriages for who they feel comfortable marrying, without the drawbacks of government oversight. It lets the church better understand its theology of marriage and divorce without having to deal with the legal ramifications that homosexuality brings up. For instance, when someone chooses to follow Christ, and as a result wants to leave the homosexual lifestyle, what does the church do if the homosexual person wants a divorce? Divorce and homosexuality are both morally problematic for many believers. This would create quite a moral dilema. If it were simply a relgious ceremony, maybe it would be easier for the church not to recognize.

Anyway...these are just a few thoughts as I think through some of the challenging issues of our times. What are your thoughts?

HGTV Effect

Lately I have been watching HGTV. There are a number of consequences from watching several shows about home buying and home renovation:

1. You feel like you are smart enough to take on all sorts of projects when you are really not able to really begin.

2. You long to buy a home, even when you cannot afford it.

3. You start finding fault with the design of where you are living. Currently, in the parsonage we are in, each room had been revovated in a different era.

4. You learn the infinite value of a fresh coat of pain on about any wall.

5. You start wondering if you will ever be able to buy a home

6. You develop a strong distaste for people in their 20s and early 30s who seek to buy their first home and demand the PERFECT house.

7. You want to have a large account at home depot

RIck Warren and Barack Obama

It seems that it is a controversy for Rick Warren to pray at the innauguration. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

International Version of Street Musicians singing Stand By Me

Quote from The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson

When we pray, we cannot be too careful about our verbs. Are our prayers a means for putting us in charge of kingdom affairs, or making us the person through whom God can reveal himselv or bring his will into being in this world? Are our prayers assertive and demanding: "O God, make me like Herod and I'll do great things for you!"? Are prayers self-serving, separating ourselves from others:"O God I thank thee that I am not like this tax collector"?

Or are our prayers acts of submission that shape a life of willing obedience in the kingdom of God: "Let it be to me according to your word"?

(p. 219)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Lately, people have been discussing having a "car czar" for managing the automobile industry bailout. I think this is interesting.

Why do we use the metaphor of Russian despots from the middle ages to describe reformers in our government? Does this language help or hinder the accomplishment of the goals that we have "czar"s for? Which of the government "czar" positiions have really had a lot of success?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sermon on December 7, 2008

Family Matters

 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.

   David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife[
a] of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.[b]
8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[
c] and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

As I said last week, this week we are looking at the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. And when we look at this particular passage, it is easy to jump to conclusions. And what is that conclusion: Yaawn (act out).

I went to a college in Kansas in a small town of about 2000 people. In many ways Sterling was a lot different than Fowler. It was in Kansas, and in many ways Kansas is different than Colorado, especially the closer you get to Wichita. Most of the crops here I have seen are corn and melon. Most of the crops in that part of Kansas are wheat related. Sterling had 500 students living on the edge of town from August to June, and a disproportionate number of Ph. Ds in town. Instead of four Baptist churches in town, there were two, but there were two Presbyterian churches and two different kinds of Methodist churches to make up for it.

In some ways it was the same. It was a town on the Arkansas River. Neither town had a stoplight. It had been the size it was since it was founded for the most part. It had one grocery store about the same size as Jack's, although the meat was not nearly as good of meat as we have here in our little Fowler market.

The most popular church in town was the Evangelical Mennonite Church. They actually had a bus that went around and picked people up from the school and brought them out to their rather large church in the country. Or at least I heard it was large. I never went.

I went to a small Baptist church a half a block from CMART in the middle of town. The church ran between 20 and 40 on a Sunday morning, and had a series of part-time pastors. I came to the church and wanted to get plugged in with ministry. The church let me do the children's messages and teach Sunday School. Since I was the one college student that attended their church, they kind of adopted me as their own. There was a group of three couples that were the core of the church. And they went out to eat Sundays and Tuesdays. And they would usually invite me along. And they would fight over who would get to buy my dinner. It was all very nice.

Anyway…to my point. I would sit in those diners and restaurants with them for week after week, listening to them visit. And most of their visits with one another would run a similar course. They would talk about stuff going on with the church or their families for the first five minutes. Then, someone would walk out of the door and they would recount their stories. Some might call this gossip. Sometimes it was. But many times it not done with any sort of destructive quality. It was done with caring. Caring about each person's well-being. Each person's story.

At first, my reaction to recounting each person's name and story was the same as yours might have been when you heard this geneaology. Yawwwn. But slowly, as I sat and listened. Listened to how one person has lost his wife tragically. How another's wife is really his second wife, even though a lot of the new folks in town did not know that. How yet one more person was a hard worker, even though they recently lost their job. You know how it goes. You have been at those tables, in those restaurants and around those tables.

The stories were important. Because each other person's story was a part of their personal history, and their community's history. When I first heard them tell the stories, all I heard was names. Names that meant nothing to me. Names that bored me. As I lived in that place longer, and heard the names more and more, the names that helped me understood who my friends were, and who the people in their community were.

If this is true of people in a diner in the middle of Sterling, KS, then surely it is true of a family tree. I have talked to many of you about your family trees. Some of you have had seven generations of Fowler people here that have been born here and lived in the area. Some of you have relatives that were military commanders in the civil war. Some of you are children of Russian Jewish immigrants. Why are you interested in your history? Because it tells you a lot about who you are, where you have come from, what you are about.

And just like our web of relations and our family trees tell us something about us, Jesus' family tree tells us something about him and his mission. And Jesus' family tree is really more than just a bunch of names. Because of his bloodlines, and because of who he is as the personification of all the hope and dreams of Israel….because he is the King of Kings and the Messiah, his bloodlines in many ways is our spiritual family tree as well.

Now, if your family tree is like my family tree…well…there are some branches of the family tree that are something to be proud of, and there are some that are …well….a little more colorful. Jesus' family tree is like that. There are a little more colorful parts of his family tree as well.

One of the tell tale signs of where the unique stories are in Jesus' family tree is that there are certain parts of Jesus' family tree where the women are mentioned as well as the men. Let us look at those specific stories.

The first woman mentioned is Tamar. And actually one of her sons is mentioned who was not a part of Jesus' direct genealogy. Matthew Tamar had her children through Judah. It is an interesting story how Tamar had Judah's children, since Judah was Tamar's father in law. You see Tamar married Judah's eldest son. His eldest son died. Because his eldest son died, the custom was to make the next youngest brother marry the same wife, and father at least one son as the dead son's heir. Well, the middle brother did not like this arrangement and refused to impregnate Tamar. God allowed him to die as well. Judah, thinking Tamar was jinxed, sent her back home to her birth family. Tamar was shamed by Judah and his family in front of the whole world. She came up with a plan. So she decided when she knew Judah was coming through town that she would disguise herself, and present herself as a prostitute along the road. Judah came through and solicited Tamar as a prostitute. Tamar got pregnant and gave birth to twins. Those twins are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, and one is in his direct bloodlines. There is a prostitute in Jesus' family tree. What's more, Jesus is here on earth as a direct result of this immoral event.

After Tamar we meet a woman named Rahab. Rahab was from Jericho, and she was known as a prostitute as well. When God told the Israelites to enter the land after having them wander in the wilderness for 40 years, He led spies to Rahab. Rahab gave shelter to God's people, and made an alliance with them that allowed her family to be saved, even though they destroyed the rest of the community in Jericho, they saved Rahab. Rahab became a part of God's people, even though she was of another race and a prostitute. She committed treason against her own people to side with God's people. This woman, who was a prostitute and a heroine at the same time, is a part of Jesus family tree. The Israelite people were dependent on her to begin their entrance in the promised land. They could not have entered the land without this woman of poor reputation. This woman, with a colorful past, is also a part of the direct lineage of Jesus.

The next woman mentioned in Ruth. Many of you are familiar with her story. She cared for a mother-in –law she had no obligation to stay with. She moved with her mother-in-law back to her homeland of Israel, and helped her mother in law support herself. Eventually, Ruth marries a man named Boaz, and gets grafted into Jesus' family tree. The interesting thing about Ruth is that she was not an Israelite, she was a Moabite. She was a foreigner. A person of a different ethnic background. A different race. A person who at one time had worshipped other gods. There was an outsider in Jesus' family tree. Scandalous.

The woman we meet after Ruth is so scandalous she is not mentioned by name. She is simply mentioned as the wife of David and the mother of Solomon. The next woman that is mentioned in Bathsheba. Bathsheba, was married to a man named Uriah in her first marriage. At one point, David lusted after Bathsheba, coerced her into coming into his home and having sex with him. She got pregnant with David's baby. So, King David had her husband Uriah killed, and then married Bathsheba. Bathsheba miscarried. Later she gave birth to King Solomon. Who is in Jesus' family tree. Jesus has a murderer and an adulterer in his family tree. His birth is the direct result of this immoral relationship that spawned this murder of Solomon's mother's first husband.

Then there is Mary. Who is the faithful servant of God, and the mother of Jesus. Not much to say there, except for she was a teen mother without a biological father in the picture. A poor girl from the outskirts of the nation of Israel.

What are we to make of all of this? Of all these whores, adulterers, and foreigners in the bloodline of the Messiah..the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?

Last week we discussed how Jesus is our deliverer. This week I want us to take us the next step.

Not only does Jesus deliver us from our sin, he takes all of our mistakes, sins, peculiarities, and failures and makes them a part of a story of his love and his grace.

God does not simply forgive us our sin. He is much more powerful and amazing than that. God takes our sin-sodden lives, and transforms them into monuments of His grace and His love. Often using those very points of brokenness, failure and sin as centerpieces of his power and strength to heal, transform, and redeem.

Pastor Fred Allen, who was here as Pastor from 2000 to 2006, wasn't a Pastor for his entire life. He did other things for years. Actually, for many years he was an alcoholic. Or to be more direct and less politically correct, a drunk. Then, in an encounter with Jesus, he told the Lord that if God would help him quit drinking, because he believed he was powerless to do it otherwise, that God would deliver him from his battle with alcohol. Miraculously, God healed him. And Pastor Fred became a pastor.

And a lot of the power of Pastor Fred's ministry with you, as well as with many others, was as Velma says, "Because of the power of his testimony". You see, God was able to deliver Pastor Fred. He was able to do more than that. He was able take the tragedy of his sins, and transform them from tragedy to testimony.

Testimony to God's power to take our sin and shame, even our worst moments and biggest secrets, and make them a part of HIS STORY OF LOVE and GRACE.

As we come to the table this morning, we come to remember Jesus. To remember Him and to proclaim him until he comes again.

We come to remember we need him. We need him like we need the bread we eat and the liquid we drink.

We come and remember that it is not only this table that is a signpost to God's grace. It is the lives of the people that partake of this bread and this fruit of the vine that are the signposts of God. And as we come, rededicating ourselves to follow Jesus, let us know that nothing we have done or will ever do is outside of the scope of his redemption—if we will surrender our lives to this One who has come to earth to make us whole. This Jesus.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Shane Claiborne on the Church and Relevancy

As important as it is to be relevant, I think it’s important that we’re peculiar. We need to be a contrast culture.

Possible Names of Children

Jennifer and I are not planning on having children. Especially anytime soon. But we had a conversation about it due to people naming their dog's with full names, including adding their family names.

As we were talking, we thought we could add some names that would work well with our family name:

1. Skyler Walker

2. Streeter Walker

3. Faith Walker

4. River Walker

The wife wants me to clarify that we are not having a child anytime soon, we are also not getting another dog.

Anyone else have any fun names that could go with our last name?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Expectations game

I thought this was an interesting little piece here by CNN. And, I suspect Campbell Brown has a pretty good point. Although, I suspect Rendell was speaking in advocacy of his collegue to someone who is a little hesitant to support her.

There are two issues here.

Do singles get treated differently in the workplace than married folks?

How are women seen differently than men in the workplace?

Having just recently been married, I think singles do get treated differently than married persons in the workplace. More than once in my single years I have heard directly, "You are single, you don't have a family so you can....." Single persons are treated differently. So are married persons. In my work, it means that expectations are put on my wife to be involved with things and their is more expected of us as a family. I think this is true in other professions at times as well, it is not completely unique to ministry. Especially in Montana, as a single person I felt like a lot more was expected of my time and energy than would have been expected had I been married. Colorado Springs was very supportive of my transition into marriage, and for the most part was very understanding and supportive in my professional transition to married life.

As for gender, I think the gender issue goes both ways as well. In some ways women have to deal with the kinds of sexism demonstrated by Gov. Rendell. But, from my perspective, there are some women who are able to use their gender to also get away with things men in the workplace do not. For instance, my wife's former boss in La Junta started crying as she was leading a meeting of her department because they were mean to her. Very few men would get away with that, and get understanding in that situation in the workplace. Although I know that all workplaces are different, I think that women are often given more understanding for less emotional control in the workplace because they are women. I have seen that in my own workplace, I have heard about this in my mother's and my wife's workplace, among others. It does not always happen. There are workers in strongly male environments that may not get away with this (I am thinking of you, Robin), but I think for the most part gender expectations cut both ways.

In my experience, this was especially true in Colorado Springs. I say this was true because of a confrontation with a coworker. The coworker said something that I took offense to in a meeting, blaming me for something that I thought was due to her lack of communication. I took sometime to cool off, and then I confronted her directly. I told her that I was angry with her, and that I did not think I deserved to be embarrassed in front of the whole staff by her. She started crying. She sat in her office and cried. Then she went to my supervisor, and told him that she was thinking she couldn't work in the office because I was too mean to her. My supervisor called me into his office after she left. He said that in theory I handled this appropriately, but that I should not approach these things this way because I was older, my body was larger, and I was male.

From that point on, I learned in that workplace men and women were treated differently. Women were allowed to speak their minds. Men had to be careful. Women were allowed to scold the supervisor. Men were not allowed to question him. Women could lose their temper, even cussing in the middle of a church staff meeting or crying. Men had to be strong and keep a stiff upper lip. I think this is because women were seen as a support, and men as a threat. Thankfully, the church has called a female to fill my position. I felt strongly enough about this that I recommended that the church consider women strongly for the position in my exit interview. A woman will be granted more freedom in that work situation.

I guess I say all this because I think both men and women, single and married, can be caught in an expectations game. Sometimes we have to live with those expectations, and sometimes we need to challenge them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Other pardons I would advocate for...

Bush released several prisoners via pardon and commutation on Monday. If I were lobbying for some other pardons or commutations, I would advocate for the following:

Michael Vick--He spent enough time in jail to learn his lesson. Let him get back to his life and to the football field.

Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds--for any tax evasion fees that are still left. Willie should not have to crank out 2-3 poorly done albums a year just to pay bills.

Leonard Peltier--falsely accused of insurrection and murder at Wounded Knee uprising in 1973

Any you think should be pardoned still?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Church and the Presidents

Today I was thinking about the church going habits of American Presidents after the press reported Obama is attending the gym instead of church on Sunday morning. I thought this article was particularly interesting. It was discussing, in part, why Bush didn't go to church, and yet made a lot of hay about how he was more "Jesusy" than his political competition. She makes note, accurately I think, that Democratic presidents were more committed to Christian worship while president than their Republican counterparts.

In particular, her discussion about worshipping with the Clinton's at Foundry Methodist was interesting, well-writen, and at times moving:

And before Clinton haters work themselves into a frothing state of outrage, they should know this: I started attending Foundry after the Lewinsky scandal, when I was incredibly disappointed in Clinton and furious with him for putting his staff and other Democratic politicians in the position of lying for him. I joined the church despite, not because of, the fact that the Clintons went there as well.

Yet the experience of attending church with the president led me to eventually see him not as a corrupt or immoral leader, but as a fellow child of God, a sinner like the rest of us. On the Sunday that I joined the church, I was seated in the pew just in front of Bill and Chelsea Clinton. I spent the service listening to the president sing too loudly and slightly off-key (just like my own dad) with his daughter elbowing him (just like me). I turned around at the sound of scribbling during the sermon to see him jotting notes in his Bible. And when it came time for communion, I was powerfully affected. All of us--president, senator, student, welfare mom--drank from the same cup, shared the same sacrament. "His blood, shed for you," was the sentiment offered to each of us. Shed for me, shed for the president, shed for any who would come forward. For the first time, I understood the humanizing (in every sense) and equalizing aspects of the act of communion.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sermon for Community Thanksgiving Service

God of Second Chances…and third…and fourth

A Baptist preacher and his wife decided to get a new dog. Ever mindful of the congregation, they knew the dog must also be a Baptist. They visited kennel after kennel and explained their needs. Finally, they found a kennel whose owner assured them he had just the dog they wanted.
 The owner brought the dog to meet the pastor and his wife. 'Fetch the Bible,' he commanded. The dog bounded to the bookshelf, scrutinized the books, located the Bible, and brought it to the owner.
'Now find Psalm 23,' he commanded. The dog dropped the Bible to the floor, and showing marvelous dexterity with his paws, leafed through, and finding the correct passage, pointed to it with his paw.
The pastor and his wife were very impressed and purchased the dog.That evening, a group of church members came to visit. The pastor and his wife began to show off the dog, havinghim locate several Bible verses. The visitors were very impressed.One man asked, 'Can he do regular dog tricks, too?'
'I haven't tried yet,' the pastor replied.He pointed his finger at the dog..'HEEL!' the pastor commanded. The dog immediately jumped on a chair, placed one paw on the pastor's forehead and began to howl.
The pastor looked at his wife in shock and said, 'Good Heaven's, he's Pentecostal!

Isn't it a blessing that we can gather here as Baptist and Catholic, Methodist and Christian Church, Assmblies and Lutheran, as a united church of Jesus celebrating a common trust in our Lord Jesus Christ this evening. Praise the Lord. What a blessing tonight is

Read Luke 4: 14-30

The year 1991 was a good year. It was the year I graduated from high school. It was also the year a movie called City Slickers
came out. City Slickers was a movie about Mitch, a man who had just turned 40, who was played by Billy Crystal. He and his friends, who were all close to the same age, decide to go from the big city out to the country for this "dude ranch" kind of experience. Each of the men was struggling. They were dealing with typical mid-life issues, and all of them were in some state of personal crisis. Probably the best character in the movie is the head of this ranching operation, a man named Curly played by Jack Palance—a role for which Palance won an Oscar award. At one point in the movie, the assistant ranch hands, in absence of the Curly, get in a drunken, violent confrontation with these tourists. This confrontation sends one of the toursists, Phil, into a place of emotional distress. Phil begins to feel overwhelmed with his struggling marriage, his feelings of powerlessness in dealing with the men they were confronting, and deep-seated issues from way back in his childhood.

Billy Crystal's character, Mitch, and the rest of his friends, are sitting in the tent with Phil while he in a state of emotional collapse. Phil starts talking about how he is nearing 40 and his life is a waste. Mitch reminds him about when they would play games as a child. And sometimes they would be playing ball and the ball would get stuck in the tree. And then everyone would declare that the whole play in the game was a "do over". Mitch explains to Phil that he can have a do-over with his life if he chooses to do that. Phil is not sure that the do-over is practical, but he mulls it over.

The Bible has a lot to say about do-overs. It has a lot to say about do-overs because our God is a God of second chances.

In the Old Testament, in the law of God, in the book of Leviticus, there are a number of festivals that are mentioned. None is as radical as the year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee happened about every 50 years. Or at least it was supposed to happen every fifty years. And in that year, people would be forgiven their debts. And if they sold their family land, the family would be given the land back. In that time people would sell themselves into slavery to pay their bills. God commanded that in addition to debt relief these bondservants would be set free. God tells Moses, that in this nation that was being formed to follow him and reflect his name, that his people would know that God was merciful and God was just. Even more than that, they would know that God was one who loved to see his people repent, and to offer them new starts. Do-overs. Because, you see, our God is a God of second chances. He offered second chances then. He offers second chances now. Our God is a God of second chances.

Well, there is not a lot of proof that the Hebrew people ever practiced what God commanded them to do. And we cannot be too hard on them, because I think we would have a hard time doing this as well. As a matter of fact, as we keep studying through our Bible, we see that the people of God had a hard time following God's commands in all sorts of ways. The people would turn away. God would not bless them. They would suffer. They would repent. God would deliver them. Over and over again God would deliver them. For centuries this happened. God would deliver them because our God is a God of second chances..and third chances…and fourth chances….

It got to a point in the Hebrew nation when they came under the thumb of these massive empires. There was opportunity for God's people to be delivered from these oppressors, who sought to overrun them. God sent prophets to warn them. The people did not listen. It is from the past that Isaiah prophecies hope to the people of Israel after they are taken captive by the Babylonians and Assyrians. And Isaiah speaks the prophecy that was read earlier. Even though you are in captivity, God has a plan to set you free. God has a plan to return you to your land that the Lord promised to your forefathers way back in times of Moses. He has a plan to heal your broken heart. Isaiah 61:2 says that they want to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

The year of the Lord's favor is the year of Jubilee. Even though God's people were unfaithful, God is faithful still. And when he tells them about how he is going to take them back from exile to the Promised Land, he says he is going to make it a Jubilee Year. A year where captives go free. Where people can go back and live in the land that they lost the generation before. God says, even though you have sinned as my people, even though you have betrayed me as a people, I am going to give you a second chance. God does this because our God is a God of second chances.

When we come to Luke 4. Jesus goes to his hometown synagogue. He stands up to read the Scripture. He reads the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2. He rolls up the scroll. He sits down to teach. All eyes were on him. All ears are listening. And what are the first words that come out of his mouth. "Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing".

Well Jesus goes on. We only get highlights of the rest of the sermon. But the people get angry enough that they almost throw him off of a cliff. Literally.

Why? Because this promise of returning from exile in Isaiah was also understood as a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. The Son of Man. The Son of God.

Jesus, when he grabs the scroll, and says that "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing", what Jesus is saying is that he, in his own person, is the embodiment of this promise. He is the one who binds up the broken hearted. He is the one who sets the captive free. He is the one who brings good news to the poor. He is the Messiah. He is the one who comes to offer the world a second chance. Our God in the flesh, our baby Jesus that we will celebrate next month, comes to offer the world a second chance.

Furthermore, Jesus comes and he says, at the same time, through what he says in this sermon of his, that this is his mission statement. People try to make Jesus about a lot of different agendas. A lot of different political agendas. A lot of different social agendas. A lot of different personal agendas. At times these agendas are in tune with Biblical truth. At times the agendas are in tune with the Spirit's leading. At times they are not. But more than anything. Jesus comes to offer us, each and every one of us, a second chance. A chance to be new Creation. A Chance to be born again. A chance to have a new life. A new hope. A new future. We are given this through choosing to accept the invitation to have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are given a second chance by following Jesus instead of following the ways of the World. We are given hope by our God who has always been, and who will always be a God of second chances.

As we come to Thanksgiving, we remember a group of people coming to America seeking freedom to practice their Christian faith as they felt led to live it by God's Holy Spirit. They came to America for a new start. They had a difficult go of things the first year. They were not sure they were going to survive. But God provided. God provided a new hope and a new life for them in a new place. On Thanksgiving we celebrate more than anything, that these people were able to come to America and have a new start. A new start. More than anything to be thankful for when we celebrate Thanksgiving we need to celebrate the opportunity to have a second chance…and a third chance…and a fourth chance. More than anything on Thanksgiving, we need to remember our God is a God of second chances.

Not all of our relatives came over on the Mayflower. But most of us have a heritage that brought us here from somewhere else, as people seeking a new start, a new hope, and a second chance. And that is why we celebrate Thanksgiving with joy and hope. As Americans we have family that not only came to America from England, but we have parts of our population that came to America from all over Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Some people from many of these different groups are represented here tonight. My relatives, on my mother's side, came to America from Germany. And not under good circumstances. They were poor. And they were hungry. And so they went on the land owned by the king, and poached the elk on his land. This made the Kaiser very mad. And so they ran. They moved. They ran across Germany, somehow found a boat, and came across with thousands of other immigrants in the early to mid 1800s to America for a new start. Soon after, they discovered new faith by all becoming Methodists as they headed west—homesteading in the Oregon Territory. They were criminals probably headed for prison. They became farmers and faithful Christians in a land full of hope and promise. A place where God offered them a second chance—both with their day to day living, and with their hope for eternity. Why. Because in all of our lives, our God is a God of second chances.

As a ministerial alliance, we celebrate our God as a God of second chances. We put together food banks and thanksgiving baskets together. We do this to offer hope and love to be people who have been dealt a little rougher hand than the rest of us. Why? Because if we are about following Jesus we are about offering compassion to the brokenhearted. We are about giving people a little bit of a hand that might otherwise be forgotten. We are about communicating that Jesus offers us love and hope. We are about serving a God who is a God of second chances.

We also gather in worship on special occasions, especially occasions like Thanksgiving , Missouri Day, and Good Friday. And we celebrate in worship the God who offers us new hope and new life. We do this in worship together because we are united in believing that our God is a God of second chances.

We are so united in this attitude, as a matter of fact, that as a ministerial alliance, we have put together a new statement of faith and mission statement this year. We did this to be clear to the world that we are all about God-honoring, Bible-believing, faithful Christianity. We also did this because we want to continue to extend an open hand and open arms to other churches in this community who have chosen not to be a part of our ministerial alliance. We want to make it clear that the things that may have divided us in the past do not have to divide us now. That we believe that God offers second chances, even in our fellowship with one another. Because our God is a God of second chances.

And you know what, God does not just offer second chances to people far off, he does not just offer do-overs to people in movies, he does not just offer new starts to people in generations gone by, or through ministerial alliances and food banks. God offers new starts and new hope to people like you and I each and every day.

When Jennifer and I would have a Sunday off from church when we were serving in Colorado Springs, we liked to attend this little Covenant church plant on the north side of town. The motto of the church was, "a good place to start….or start over."

I don't know about you, but there are several days where I feel like I have messed everything up. I got offended with someone. I was short with my wife. I yelled at the dog. I had the opportunity to really show God's love to someone, and I missed it. Or sometimes, I have a confrontation with someone. Or feel like I am pathetic and hopeless. And, I wonder….I wonder….how to keep going. And I go to sleep at night. And I wake up in the morning. And I know that today is a new day, and in this new day God has given me a new start…a do over… a second chance.

God offers you a second chance this Thanksgiving as well. A second chance as you sit with your family to be a better father, a better mother, a more loyal child, a more loving, selfless grandparent. God offers you a second chance this thanksgiving to choose to be the person he has MADE you to be. Our God is a God of second chances.

I am here because God gave me a second chance. I wasn't in the church cradle roll. I did not grow up with an extended family that attended worship just because…My parents split when I was in kindergarten. We grew up with very little income at times, and we barely got by. My mother had an off again on again relationship with the church. My father left church in late grade school, when he was an altar boy and saw this the priest he served under be a belligerent drunk to the people he served. But God's people found us somehow, and in spite of the fact that the church was not perfect, it was a church that offered us love and hope. It pointed me to Jesus, and reminded me weekly that Jesus always offers a second chance

And, as an evangelical Christian pastor, I don't believe that being a member of a church makes you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car. I believe that there is someone here—at least one—who has been a member of a church all your life, but has never been born again. Has never accepted that second chance that Jesus offers. A chance to accept Christ and follow him. Today, I tell you…it is not too late. It is not to late to surrender your life to Jesus. Because being a member of a church is not going to save your soul. Choosing to have a personal relationship with Jesus where he is your Master and Savior will. Will you accept Jesus today. Will you let down your mask, and choose to accept Jesus into your heart today. Will you become a new creation. Will you come to Jesus, and say I have tried to do everything right on my own power, but I need Jesus. I need the second chance he offers. Come to your pastor after the service and accept Jesus today. Trust that even for you, that God comes and offers a second chance. Because our God is a God of second chances.

No where does that God of second chances show his self more than he does through Jesus on the cross. Who suffered and died a brutal death to take the sins of the world upon himself. Who, as we beat him and mocked him and spat upon him cried out "Forgive them father, for they don't know what they are doing." Even as he suffered, Christ is begging the father to give us a second chance. And his prayer is granted, as we can see through the resurrection. The power of death good not hold him. He had to rise again. To show us new hope. To give us a second chance.

And that truth….that hope…that good news. O, my friends, that is something to be thankful for.



Alaska Politics

I am watching people on TV now complain about Sarah Palin and Ted Stevens. It makes me angry and frustrated. Do both of them deserve a little bit of criticism. Yes, they do. Do they deserve the treatment they are getting? No way.

Ted Stevens was recently convicted on not telling the truth about failing to communicate in the past. His conviction may well be overturned. I think Bush will pardon him in January. He may well deserve to be voted out of office. But, he also deserves honor for all he has done for his state and country. Ted has served in the senate for 40 years, all but 10 years of Alaska's statehood. He also served one term in the House of Representatives. He has been a senator for 1/6 of our nations existence. Yes, he had some friends do pro-bono work on his home. But he spent years in the Senate working hard for Alaskans. People criticize him for getting a little too good at bringing home earmarks and funding for projects, but most of those people come from states that had most of their infrastructure built in the 1930s and 1950s. Alaska missed out on that. They still are trying to build infrastructure in Alaska. When I moved to Alaska in the 1980s, many of the main thoroughfares in Soldotna were just getting paved (Binkley Street for instance, and there is still a lot of infrastructure to be built. People should share their appreciation for a man who gave his life serving his country. The criticisms of Senators clapping for Stevens as he retired from the Senate is woefully ignorant, and nothing but vitriol of bitter partisans.

As for Palin, lets just leave the gal alone. Today, people were complaining because she gave an interview while turkeys were being slaughtered in the background. They thought that her down to earth interview was tacky and inhumane. C'mon folks. Grow up. If you want polished political stuff with staged backgrounds, do not go to Alaska. If you want someone who is polished and refined for national office, do not pick a Vice Presidential candidate from the last frontier. I was not a big fan of Palin's readiness to lead, but I continue to be irritated by the self-righteous, condescending way the media treats the poor gal. And, I think that media treatment will in the end make Palin more likeable and sypathetic to people, not less.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blue Like Jazz

This last week, I reread (well listened) to Blue Like Jazz while in the car. I had a trip into Rocky Ford, another one into La Junta, and a trip back and forth to Denver. It is a good book. Better than I thought in fact.

The first time I read the book I read it reluctantly. I had heard a few good things about it, but I had read his book called "Jesus and the Art of Volkswagon Maintenence". I read the Volkswagon book all the way through, in part because Mr. Miller was a popular speaker at George Fox, where I had some students from my youth group going to school at the time. I was not impressed with that first book. As a matter of fact, when I finished I said outloud, "If that is what it takes to get published, I can write at least that well."

Anyway, I read the second book when I had some time off transitioning from the church in Belgrade to the church in Colorado Springs. I was surprised that Blue Like Jazz was a HUGE improvement from the first draft of that first book, and enjoyed it immensely. I had no idea Blue Like Jazz was going to become the phenomenon in continues to be when I read it in 2003. When I read through the book the first time, I was especially impressed with the confession chapter. I was also pleased with the transition of the tone of the author. The writing in Volkswagon is something staged, and written for conservative evangelical young adults who want to go on a road trip. Blue Like Jazz is raw, wide-open honest book written for a much more progressive, emergent kind of audience. I really enjoyed Blue Like Jazz. Enough so that when Becca told me she thought that Miller sounded familiar, and then realized that she thought Miller's tone was similar to my own, I was was mildly complimented. (Since then Miller's writing has contined to improve, where my writing might have gotten worse)

As I reread (listened) to Blue Like Jazz this time around, I disovered Miller's book was even better upon a second reading. I was able to hear the theological threads kind of running through it. In particular, I came to understand that the book is in many ways a narrative theology of sin. It is also a spiritual autobiography. What Miller does is explain what sin is, the importance of confronting and dealing with our sins, not as a preacher but as a confessor. Over and over again in each chapter he comes back to this theme. He does this in an amazingly humble way, laying his soul bare. He commends the Christian faith as a sinner, and not a saint. A likeable sinner, but a sinner nontheless. He commends faith not through his strength, but often through his failures, weaknesses and foibles. In the process, he teaches the truth of God's grace through humility instead of arrogance. With lots of laughs and smiles as you go along.

I have read other books of his since. My favorite is still "To Own a Dragon", which moves me even upon several readings. I am not sure I have the courage to be as open and honest as Donald Miller is in his writings.

His writing has improved immensely, and continues to improve with each book. Now I consider Becca's compliment one of the greatest compliments I have ever recieved. As a matter of fact, I went to the store yesterday and picked up the Volkswagon book all over again. He has totally reworked it, and it now has the title "Through Painted Deserts".

The President Needs a Manly Dog

So says David Kuo in his article for NPR.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Amazon induced moral crisis

Today I revieved two orders for one order I made. The first order was late. By Friday I called Amazon to check on the progress of my order that was supposed to be delivered by Monday, and had been placed on Halloween. They said that the address had been declared undeliverable and they would send extra copies on UPS One Day Delivery. Now I have two sets of books.

The question is, should I send my books back? I hate going through all the customer service, spending lots of time repackaging and mailing the books back. Downloading mailing labels. Going to the post office.

Do I have a moral obligation to return the books, especially since I recieved them due to poor customer service? Or should I quietly reap the benefit of duplicate books?

What do you think?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Uncle Paul’s Two Step

Uncle Paul's Two-Step

Ok, folks. I have decided to do something a little unorthodox this morning. I am actually going to read this passage through twice. I am going to read this once through in the New King James Version, which is your pew Bible. Then I am going to read this passage again in the Message, a more contemporary translation. I will be referring to both ways of wording what God's word says here—so take time and listen to God's word from Colossians 3:1-17.


First, the New King James Version


 1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.


And now the Message


 1-2 So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

 3-4Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

 5-8And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It's because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn't long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it's all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

 9-11Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

 12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

 15-17Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Following Jesus is not always as easy as it sounds. At least it isn't for me. God, by his grace does not let me think it is easy anyway. Oh, there are times when I think that I am really doing well. I am saying the right things, I am thinking the right thoughts, I am doing the right things at the right times. I think to myself…"Clint, you are a pretty good guy. I am impressed with all that you do. You chose to be kind to that person who you can't stand. You are being patient. You are working hard. You talked on the phone with your mother and did not smart off…" I tell myself these kinds of things inside my head for a little bit. Then reality comes along and smacks me upside the head. I find myself marching around, mumbling under my breathe, angry about something that is very small in the eternal scheme of things. I let it get a couple of hours or even a couple of days of my time. And I realize that there is a lot of my life, a lot of my heart, and a lot of my attitude that still needs to be turned over to God.


For the last two chapters of the book of Colossians, we have listened as God has pointed us to Jesus through his Word. God's Word has told us about the power of Jesus, the importance of what Christ has done, about how Jesus is our foundation and our hope. As we listen, many of us can believe that. We can agree. We can shout Amen. We can study it. We can know God's Word inside and out. And yet, we can fail to live what we know.

The Apostle Paul points out a few different ways that we can miss the mark in following Jesus in Colossians Chapters 2 and 3. I want to take a look at these, as well as the proper direction to take as we follow Christ.There is so much here in Chapter 3, I could preach this same passage several times. I might do that. But, I won't try to do that this morning.


What I want to talk with you about is what I call "Uncle Paul's Two-Step". In several of his letters, but especially in Galatians 5-6 and here, the Apostle Paul works very hard to keep people from drifting to one extreme or the other in their attempt to follow God, and thus miss the mark of being in a powerful, living relationship with him. In this part of Scripture it is like God is saying through the Apostle Paul—not like this—or like that---but like this.


As you will remember last week we talked a little bit about legalism. At the end of Colossians Chapter 2 the Apostle Paul counsels very strongly against legalism. He reminds us that when we accept Christ we are free from the law. Why does he do this?


Because when we choose to follow Jesus, one of the easy pitfalls to fall into in understanding what Christianity is all about is too think it is about a bunch of rules. With the Colossians they were being pressured into possibly having adult males circumcised (which by the way, would probably not be the best church growth strategy)and going back to obeying all sorts of ceremonial rules.


For me legalism came easy in other ways, especially in my teenage years. Part of this was due to the church I went to. I attended a church where any music that was in any way contemporary in style was evil. Non-Christian or Christian. And if I listened to them, I was somehow stumbling as Christian. I vividly remember the shame I felt when I was listening to an Amy Grant album in the mid 80's thinking I was doing a worshipful Christian thing, only to be shamed for doing it by the youth leaders of our church. No shorts were ever allowed at any church activity, no matter how informal the activity was, and how hot the weather was outside. Girls and boys had to swim separately, and the pool was a hike away from the camp so that the girls and guys would not be provoked to lust over one another by actually seeing one another's legs. The King James Version was the only version I was allowed to read, devotionally or in church. Dances were wrong. Only Christian music was allowed. There were proof texts for this I was told. I remember one young man, who had come to church nearly every week, being yelled at from the pulpit by the preacher for 5 minutes because he had an earring in his ear. I could go on and on about this, and I am sure that some of the disciplines that the church of my childhood instilled in me you would agree with as even helpful and healthy, and some you would disagree with as excessively stringent and legalistic. In the middle of this, I had a mother that clearly was ministered to by the church, but did not buy into all the "rules" of the church, for better or for worse. She told us that the rules against shorts was silly, and that the pastor didn't even have his kids follow it all the time. She did not give up on Linda Ronstadt or Elvis. She still had wine and beer with her friends, though I never saw her drink more than one or two drinks. This created all sorts of internal conflict for me. My mom, I decided, was less godly than I. But someone I still had to obey to follow the rules. This attitude created lots of arguments between us, and she will say were some of the more difficult years in raising me.

The point is, as a teenager, especially in my early teen years, Christianity was less about having a relationship and more about following a set of rules. I did not listen to any music on the radio that was not Christian. I threw away all my early 80s music, including that Weird Al Yankovich album I loved. And, I was not shy about telling other people how wrong they were if they listened to "secular" music. In addition to youth group, church and Sunday School, I also attended the Wednesday Night Adult Bible Study and helped the pastor and the music director set up the church for an hour on Sunday morning. I told other people they should do the same. And gave fellow church members guilt trips whenever they were not living up to my standards—in the name of Jesus of course. Pretty soon, I began to see myself as the rule enforcer for everyone. Telling them that if they went to a different church, they probably did not believe in Jesus. Especially if it was affiliated with any sort of denomination. If they did not read the King James, they were going to used by the Antichrist to form his one world government that would signal the end of the world. I was faithful to the rules, but I was not very loving.


The problem was, as you might guess, that not only was I lonely kid at that point, but I had a warped view of God. I knew that I had been saved at that point, in spite of the fact that I sinned. But I viewed God as a God who was looking down from heaven, waiting to catch me doing something wrong. And when anything went wrong, it was because God was punishing me for being a bad person. So I kept having to work harder and harder, following more and more rules, to get God to love me. He was like I perceived my earthly father at that age, distant, hard to read, and hard to please.


I tell you all this so that you can see the problem with legalism. Legalism teaches that you are saved by grace, but you should still live by the Law. It gives God control of your eternity, but when you are legalistic your whole Christian life now is all about you working hard enough to be good enough. You don't depend on God. You try to live in your own power.


That is why Colossians 3:1 says, "1
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

OR as the Message puts it so well

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.


So….then what happens when a person rejects legalism? I started moving away from my legalistic heritage in my college experiences. And, even more so by the time I got in ministerial school. When you move away from legalism, it is easy to overcorrect. Like when you skid on the road because of ice, one of the biggest mistakes is to oversteer in the other direction. The results can put you in a tailspin. This is what Paul was concerned about with some of the Colossians. It is also something that we need to guard against. When we move away from a legalistic spirituality, it can be easy to fall into an attitude of "Christ has set me free, so I am free to do whatever I want". Which also runs counter to the good news of Jesus.


You know what it is like. The kind of relationship where we do what we want and then ask forgiveness later. As Protestants, we talk about how Catholics can do this with confession quite a bit. That Catholics can do whatever they please, and then they just go to confession. But often, Baptists are guilty of the same things. We do what we want to do, and then ask forgiveness afterward, only to do that same wrong thing over and over again. When we ask forgiveness, we have no intention of changing our ways. We just want to do what we want to do, no matter if it is wrong or not, and then ask God for forgiveness and freedom from the consequences after we have done exactly the opposite of what his Word teaches us.


We want God to save our souls for eternity, but we want to do what we want to do in the mean time. This is the opposite of the resurrection life that God has for us as well. It is a life that takes Jesus' cross for granted. It is the kind of way of living that makes no difference in the world, offers no hope to those lost in lives without the truth of Christ.


You will notice as you read through these, that two particular families of sin are identified. One family that are mentioned are sexual sins. Paul lists of several different kinds of sins that deal with our sex lives. He also mentions several kinds of sins that have to do with how we use our words. He mentions a few other sins. All of the sins he mentions that are the opposite of the Way of Jesus are sins that are about a loss of self-control and discipline.


When we choose to live with no boundaries, we treat God as our codependent instead of our Master. We do whatever we feel like, not caring about anyone but ourselves, and then expect God to bail us out for whatever we do—whether it is his will or not. We take God for granted.


So if we are not supposed to be legalistic, trying to discover and follow all sorts of rules and traditions, and we are not supposed to be people who accept Christ and just do whatever feels right, what are we supposed to do?


Well, we are supposed to be led by the Spirit. We are supposed to above all "put on love". Not a sappy sentimental kind of love. But the kind of love that passionately loves the Word of God and bases their lives on it, that loves the Lord so much we are constantly seeking to do his will. And a kind of love that spills out in how we treat one another. Eager to do right, but also eager to forgive. The kind of love that hopes for the best for people, but the kind of love that is patient with people when they disappoint us. The kind of love that sees people in need, and reaches out to help them. The kind of love that when it sees someone being treated unfairly, choses to help make that thing right for them.


What kind of people are we called to be. We are called to be the kind of person that chooses to be not living under our own rules and power, or controlled by our desires and passions, but driven and controlled by the love of Christ.


How does that happen? Well…we are going to need a couple more weeks to figure all that out, but for right now, I want you to be aware of the imagery the Bible text gives us. The Bible says to "put on" this, and "take off" that when it talks about how we are going to live here. And the Message gets it right. It is talking about taking off and putting on clothes. Specifically, it is talking about a baptism ritual. But it also points to something for us in our living.

We need to take time to make a daily commitment to live in love. Like we put on our clothes and get ready for each day, we need to make a conscious commitment to be guided and led by the Spirit in loving God and loving others every day. Each day, we need to remind ourselves not to miss being in relationship with Christ by making our lives about a bunch of rules for ourselves and judgments of other people. Each day, we need to remember not to take Christ and his death on the cross for granted by doing whatever we please whenever we choose to do it. Each day, we need to remember v1.


Seek Christ. Seek where he is at. Seek to join him in what he is doing . Seek to love him and please him. Seek to know Jesus more. Don't ignore Him. Don't try and do life without him.


Today and each day he offers you new hope and new life. Don't walk around, getting caught up in what is going on around you. Look to what Jesus is about. Look to what Jesus is doing. And join him in it. With Hope. With Joy. With Love. In Faith.


Trust him enough to let go. Trust him enough to let him lead you. Trust him now. Trust Jesus today. Trust him. Trust him.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thinking about Teaching

As I was walking the dog, I was thinking about how I have had to utilize different teaching techniques with my congregation.

With youth, having a variety of teaching techniques is both easy to carry out and necessary. I tended to always fall back on a small group discussion model with peer groups of about the same size and if big enough, also gender. But I also felt it important to have a variety of different learning experiences. They included devotional talks, debates, working on projects, multimedia presentations, and imaginative prayer exercises, to name a few.

With our young adult small groups, we kind of had this free form inductive bible study. I did most of the inductive study on my own, and wrote discussions that helped the young adults bring their lives alongside the work of God and lives of his people in Scripture. The goal was to see their story as a part of the story of God, and to get to know the Bible in a way where it really connected with what was going on in their lives. It was not so much steps to better living as it was trusting the Spirit speak through the group with me as the expert and tour guide.

I started out with the plan to do this same kind of dynamic bible discovery with the adults here in Fowler. Things have not worked that way.

Our Sunday School curriculum, in my opinion, is dreadful. It is a quarterly written by David C. Cook. It is primarily reading a very narrow and didactic text that is a simple commentary on a part of Scripture. Its approach is to ask a few content questions, and then write a page or two of text. Repeat. But our ladies are attached to it. I try and spice it up and make it interesting--but I struggle with both the style and content of the curriculum.

On Wednesday night, I started with my usual kind of discussion. What I found was, our Bible Study people found discussions difficult. They wanted more content and lecture. Or something like our Sunday School curriculum. I knew I needed to adapt.

So lately, we have been doing a combination of teaching Inductive Bible Study tools, the pastor sharing insights from study, and the ladies being able to ask questions. It works well for what I want because the folks in class are invested in being studiers and not just consumers. And they are having to bring some things into this discussion. It also allows me the flexibility to read the people and situation, and adjust my teaching to it. This flexibility is very important to me, and has been for years. They get their telling kinds of stuff as I share some extra points that I have learned from my study. And, they are not having to deal with so many discussion questions. We still need to work on the application piece of the Bible study a little bit, but so far so good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thou Shalt Laugh the Deuce

For our evening program at church last Sunday we had a comedy night, where we watched videos of Christian stand up comics. It was new for us, and fun. I was afraid some of the humor would be too contemporary, but I noticed several people laughing over and over again. I also thought a lot of it was good, clean comedy that made me laugh and was not overly crude or negative. You should check it out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Lincoln's Second Innagural Speech

I have been thinking about this speech as I heard Obama quote a small part of it tonight. This, in my opinion, given over 150 years ago, is still one of the best speeches in US History


AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. 1

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came. 2

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." 3

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Obama Cabinet Pool

Two points for a correct person in their cabinet position. One point for a correct name in the cabinet, even if you get the wrong office.

Must choose by 11:59pm on 11/5

Running Away from the Way

We use Him.
We use Him
for his

For the
it gives
as we
sweet words
from our

For the
we feel
we mount
the Gospel
to conquer
and condemn

For the
we know
as we
and lonely
for touch

he says
my Body
broken for
Take up
Your Cross
and Follow

We scatter
in fear
we deny
in the courtyard
we sell
His Body
for silver coin
We use
for His

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama Rally

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Today I went to the Obama rally. You will see and read more of it down below. But it was a great opportunity to be less than 50 yards away from someone who may be the next president of the United States. Even if my feet hurt, my back hurt, I was hot, and closterphobic after being stuffed in a crowd standing for 5 hours on blacktop.

This image struck me as I took it. A young black girl in a princess outfit. I am assuming she dressed up in it last night, but it seemed fitting today as well. There she was, in her princess outfit, watching a African-American man becoming president, with flags flying all around her. And as she sees him, she knows nothing is impossible for her.

Loved the Stagecraft

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Barack Obama Speaking

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Barack Obama

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Michelle Obama

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Another picture of old factories in Pueblo

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Overlooking the Railyard in Pueblo

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Waiting in Line at the Obama Rally--Looking back over the bridge

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People at the Obama Rally--Looking Back through the Crowd

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People at the Obama Rally--Hollie and my wife Jennifer

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Saying What Needs to be Said, But Should Go Without Saying           Racism is wrong. Violence based on racial prejudice is wrong. Christi...