Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I lost my PAP

Somehow during my travels this week my CPAP went missing. Now I am paying the price!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Book Finished

Daily Bread and Manna

I am doing a little study on the history of Koine Greek and Classical Greek in the translation of the New Testament (Nothing high falutin', just Eugene Peterson's "Eat This Book").

In it Peterson describes daily bread and offers another way of translating the word "daily--epiousion in Greek" as todays or fresh. I have then started to think about the relationship between a request for daily bread and manna in the wilderness. Does anyone have any input on this or any resources to turn to?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This is one of my favorite anthologies of thoughts on prayer and prayers ever written. Ken Gire does an awesome job of gathering up diverse sources from throughout the centuries in a way that moves your soul.

I recommend Between Heaven and Earth to anyone.

Book Finished

'One of my goals in the coming year is to finish more of the books that I have started. This is a book I just finished, which was something I was reading and studying for Lent. Here are a couple of quotes:

Make no mistake! Sin isn’t a concept. It’s a living organism. (138)

Those with deep spirituality have a stong conviction abou their sinful natures (147)

The goal of righteousness is Jesus. (139)

Sometimes as we grow in grace, we get the feeling that we’re growing in sin. When this happens we shouldn’t yell to high heaven, we should give thanks. We should be grateful that God has saved us and called us to a righteous life. Now we understand Paul when he says to the Romans, “There sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20) (148).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some good articles on politics

Why Hillary will not win

Obama casts his spell

McCain spoils Dems Western Strategy

Sermon from Sunday--The Adventure of Faith

Note: This is the manuscript for the sermon. I ended up abbreviating in points and clarifying other points on the advice of my wife. It came off fairly well.

We live in a culture that wants instant gratification. We want to mail things electronically instead of through the postal system so that people can have instant information. We get anxious if we have to wait more than 15 or 20 minutes for food in a restaurant. We pound our dashboard and tap our fingers if we are stuck in traffic. We shop and scan the store to see which lane is the shortest because we hate waiting in line. We rush everything from shipping to love and friendship. We rush our teens and children to grow up to fast. We are in a hurry for everything.

Perhaps it is not so unnatural then that when we think of the book of Hebrews, we want to rush to Chapters 11 and 12. We want to rush to the adventure of faith. We want to talk about the great leaders of faith and the great things that they accomplished. We want to avoid the hard work of working out our faith, and we want to get right to the good stuff. That is my temptation anyway. To take Hebrews 11 out of context, and talk about all of the victories and adventures of trusting Jesus.

I wish I could do that this morning for you. But I cannot. Why? Because in order to understand the beauty, the adventure, and the power of Hebrews 11 and 12, we need to first understand what has happened in Hebrews 1-10.

The book of Hebrews is packaged with the “epistles”, which leads us to often think that this book was written as a letter to be read in our living room. But the consensus of scholarship is that Hebrews is a sermon. A copy of a sermon of a pastor preaching to their congregation. There is no clear sense of authorship. Some have attributed this to Paul. Some even think this may have been written by a female pastor, and say that is why we do not have a name attached to the book.

Nevertheless, Hebrews is a message written by a pastor. The pastor’s heart is evident as you read through the book. Maybe it is evident because the author takes a long time to get to a point, and speaks about a lot of obscure theological stuff. But it is even more evident as you look through the book. As you read you see concerns for a congregation not too much different than you would find in America today.

See if any of this describes churches that you might know of:

Attendance is steadily declining (Hebrews 10:25)

Their church has experienced a recent financial crisis (Hebrews 10:34)

The church is theologically wishy-washy (Hebrews 4:14)

They have to be urged not to argue with one another (Hebrews 13:1-2)

They aren’t listening to Biblical teaching (Hebrews 5: 11)

They have been in the church a long time, but have not transitioned from being “babes” in the faith to “eating solid food”. People are content to be involved as long as they are not teaching and leading (Hebrews 5: 11-14)

They are struggling in being open to newcomers and their needs (Hebrews 13:2)

They are struggling to continue to pray and spend time in God’s word (Hebrews 4:11ff). And struggling in feeling that their prayers are even being heard.

Some of their number that used to attend the church have left the church completely

Others are considering leaving.

Almost all of them are tired. The preacher says that their shoulders are drooping and that their knees are getting weak (Hebrews 12:13)

Do any of these kinds of situations sound familiar to you?

I don’t know about you, but to me it is kind of comforting. It is a comfort to look at the early church and see that there are some things that are different, but in many ways the early church had many of the same struggles that many of us do.

We get tired. We have people that leave the church. We have financial struggles. We have arguments. We as a church struggle to find teachers and leaders. We struggle in believing that God is even listening to our prayers. We struggle to maintain spiritual discipline. We sometimes have trouble welcoming people into our church family. We even are tempted to stay at home on Sunday mornings and have a late brunch and watch the morning news. We are tempted to sleep off the hangover from the night before instead of worship on Sunday mornings.

This wasn’t only problem that the Hebrew church faced though. They were down and discouraged. This is true. But they compounded their problems by seeking out an easy button faith.

Maybe you have seen the commercial. It is a commercial for Staples. There are people in an office and they have an urgent problem regarding production. They need a quick solution. All of the sudden one of them finds the easy button, and all of the sudden the problem is solved. Usually by Staples products or a service that the store is offering.

The Hebrews did this with a Jesus plus one approach to spirituality. They thought that what they needed was to supplement their faith with other options from the spiritual marketplace. In chapters 1 and 2 we see that they tried to tie in some sort of teaching about angels and their special powers. Angels are gifts from God, but they are no replacement for a relationship with Jesus. As we go on we see that they want to have a Jesus plus Moses spirituality or a Jesus plus some sort of priesthood. The journey with Christ is hard. So they seek supplements, rituals, and programs to make it easier.

This may all seem strange to us…because it is written to Hebrews. We don’t understand all the technicalities that Jesus is getting into with the Hebrews. We don’t understand the priesthood. We don’t understand all of the cultic beliefs around angels and demons that drew them away from Jesus.

But we do know something about easy button faith. We do have a similar temptation.

We struggle as a church. And so we ponder how to fix it. And we come up with our own solutions. Instead of what the Hebrews did, we tend to seek out our own technological solutions to the challenges the church faces.

The first things churches do is they try and change the music. If we just got something a little bit more contemporary or upbeat, then our problems would be solved. If we had a few more musicians or were a little bit more reverent and reserved, people would become more serious about their faith. Don’t get me wrong. I love excellent music in worship. It is central to my experience of God in our time together whatever its form. But an electric guitar or a beautiful organ never died for my sins.

Then we start thinking about programs. Programs are good things. They are fun. They give us structure to connect to one another, and give us opportunities to invite friends to connect with Jesus. We have youth programs and children’s programs. We even have Purpose Driven Life Programs, Baptist Identity Programs, and Lenten Supper Programs. We think if we just find the right program for our demographic than all our problems as a church will be solved. If we just find the right business model for our church, or change our structure in one way or another that our problems will be solved and we will have our easy button. Programs are good things, but there isn’t one program that will save your soul.

Maybe that is why the preacher in Hebrews went a little different route.

Instead he has the audacity to take his finger, lift it up, and point to the cross. He points to Jesus.

You may look at angels, he says, but Jesus is greater still.

You may seek your answers with Moses he says, but Moses was just preparing the way for Jesus.

You may try to find your answers through some mysterious tradition, but the Lord Jesus is bigger than your traditions, and all of that history is the point to his love and his grace.

What is the preacher’s solution to the problems of the congregation? What is the preacher’s challenge to his struggling church? What does this preacher say to help his congregation endure?

He challenges them to take their focus off all the petty, smaller stuff as something that they put their trust in to save them, and encourages them to refocus on Jesus.

Church I want to encourage you to stay strong this morning. I also want to encourage you to refocus your lives, your church, your hopes, and your dreams toward a trust in Jesus.

Jesus is bigger than Moses, Abraham, Mechizadeck, angels, and any other created thing. Jesus is bigger than our current struggles as a congregation. Our willingness to trust him and refocus upon him and his will for us is more important than any gimmick, any program, any style of worship, any building improvement, any one persons opinion or agenda, as important as those things may be, He is more powerful than any problem. His purposes will not fail. You can trust him.

It is easy for us to get shortsighted. To just see what is front of us. To get overwhelmed with the challenges of life. To get overwhelmed with the challenges of being a community of Jesus followers. And to miss the big picture.

That is why we have Hebrews 11. We see a great number of people that kept their focus on what is eternal. Who stayed connected in relationship with God. Who didn’t give up. Who did not run away when things got hard. They endured.

Moses spent years in the desert.
Abraham wandered around away from home.
Prophets beaten, ridiculed, tortured, and put to death.

But they were certain of what they hoped for…
They trusted that God would bless them one way or another

All of them believed that the trails of this world were not worthy to be compared to Jesus.

One by one, from Abraham, to Issac and Jacob, from Isiah and Jeremiah, to John the Baptist, they endured.

The Bible says all of the people in this book (hold up Bible) trusted in God, ran toward Jesus, trusting in faith.

Then God says through the preacher says, like a relay racer, they are holding out their hands toward us, and it is now our turn to run the race.

Will you run? Will you focus on Jesus? Will you set aside all those things that are getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus? Will you trust him?

Will we run? Will we trust Jesus with our church? Will take the time to take our focus away from the million other things that are good but not good enough, because they are not about Jesus, and they are not eternal. Will we trust him?

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He is the beginning and the end. Before anything was, he was. He created us. When each of us has gasped our last breathe, he still will be. We can trust him.

It’s a little like a story one person told about a bike ride…

At first, I saw God as my observer, my judge,

keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.

He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn't know him. But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don't know just when it was that. He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable...It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, "Pedal." I worried and was anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn't answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I'd say, "I'm scared," He'd lean back and touch my hand. He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord's and mine. And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight."
So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light. I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life.
I thought He'd wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning how to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful companion, Jesus Christ. And when I'm sure I just can't do anymore, He just smiles and says... "Pedal."

Hebrews says he is the author and perfector of our faith. He knows our story. He is working toward writing a happy ending. You can trust him.

Jesus is the Way. He is the gate. He has made a way for us through a painful world we would otherwise be deceived and lost in. He urges us to follow. We can trust him.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is eager to care for even the weakest and most helpless of us. Your addictions will fail you. Your friends will let you down. Jesus will care for you more than you can care for yourself. You can trust him.

Jesus is Bread of Life and Living Water. He can touch the deep parts of our soul where nobody or nothing else can. You can fill yourself with knowledge, activity, food, booze, or even religious activity. It all will leave you hungry and empty in the end. Jesus will fill that void in your soul. You can trust him.

He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is more powerful than any political party, any thug, gangster, or terrorist. He stronger than any other person or power on earth. And as a King he wants to make you princes and princesses. You can trust him.

He is Immanuel, God with us. He left the comfort of heaven to live with us, teach us, heal us, comfort us, and show us the way. You can trust him.

He is the Lamb of God. He lived a sinless life. He was nailed to a cross, so that he could make a way for us to be reconciled to God through giving his own life. You can trust him.

He is the Resurrection and The Life. He conquered sin and death. He trampled the enemy underfoot. He rose again three days after he died. He offers you the opportunity for New Life and new hope as well. You can trust him.

The question is…will you?

Will you trust him with your life by committing to follow him? Will you trust Jesus?

Will you trust him by setting aside all those things that are getting in the way of you and your relationship with Jesus? Will you trust him?

Will you trust him by refocusing as a church to make our mission about loving Jesus and serving him instead of ourselves, our attitudes, and our agendas? Will we trust Jesus?

I hope you will. I hope I will. I hope we will.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Meditation on Guarding Your Heart

“Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4

I have always liked this verse. You hear it quoted a lot on occassions where you need a bible quote to encourage people. A lot of us like its sentiment, but if you are like me you have not given a lot of thought to what it means. So lately, I have been spending a little time pondering what it means to guard my heart.

The first question I asked myself is “What does the bible mean by heart?”. When most of us think of hearts, especially around Valentine’s Day we think of love. While we certainly love with our heart, the Biblical meaning of “heart” is much bigger than that. My help in understanding the Biblical picture of what the Bible means by “heart” is in looking at the Latin word for heart. The Latin word for heart comes from the same word as we get the word “core” (think of Spanish “corazon”). When the wise man in the Book of Proverbs says to guard our hearts, he is encouraging us to guard the core of who we are.

So, when the Bible says to guard you heart, what it is really saying is to guard the core of who you are, and to not let the core of who you are become corrupted or polluted. We must guard the core of our convinctions, the core of our beliefs, the core of our lives by living and breathing and basing our whole life on those core values and beliefs.

In the New Testament, there is a story about two sisters. One sister, Martha, is busy trying to take care of everything for everyone. The other sister, Mary, is taking the time to attend to Jesus, to sit at his feet, to learn and grow and be in relationship with Christ. Martha scolds Mary for not helping her. Then Jesus takes the defense of the sister sitting at Jesus’ feet, telling the Martha that Mary has chosen the one thing most necessary and important.

Mary chose to guard her heart. Mary chose to make sure that the wellspring of life in her soul was well taken care of, so she could have something to offer others. Mary paid attention to what her core relationships and convictions were, and did not waiver.

We should all do the same

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My energy level this week

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A Choose Your Own Adventure Election

I do not write a lot about politics, so many of you that read this may not know that I am a little bit of a politics junkie. I try to watch at least one politically oriented show an evening. Hardball is my favorite of these shows. Chris Matthews, during Super Tuesday, said something I have been thinking for a long time. People today are not so much about voting with constituencies, loyalties, and issues as they are voting for what kind of story they want their country to have at this point in history. The 2008 election is a choose your own adventure election, and the majority of electoral college delegates will decide which page we turn to next.

Several candidates who are now out of the presidential election process are out because they did not have compelling enough stories. On the Republican side, Guiliani and Romney both tried to sell themselves as problem solvers. Romney tried to run for President on a list of problem solving credentials in business and government. He came to Republicans with a resume, and tried to sell them on his skills as an efficient manager (which he is). The problem is that Americans do not want their story to be about being efficiently managed by an extremely wealthy benefactor. In fact many of them find that a little condescending. Guiliani tried to run on a history of solving problems. He talks about leading through 9-11 and turning New York around. He did a great job leading New York City through difficult times, but most Americans do not want our nation to be just like New York. Nor do they want their narrative to be about continuing to harken back to one of the darker days in American History.

Furthermore, you see a lot of conservatives pandering back to the years of Reagan. A narrative that attempts to follow the agenda of a politician that is dead and has been out of politics for 20 years is a recipe for failure as a narrative with younger voters and even middle aged forward thinking persons.

On the Democrat side, John Edwards had a very compelling narrative of the "two Americas", and he offered himself as an American Robin Hood. I know that John Edwards' conviction come from a place of deep conviction about Jesus' ethic of social justice, but he shared his message as a prophet and not a president. Prophets get shunned or killed most of the time. They do not win elections. Edwards' narrative was also contentious, and this contentious narrative has become more and more difficult for Americans to elect.

Of the people left in the race, each is telling a story. And we as Americans are listening and trying to choose between 3 1/2 of them (Huckabee only counts as 1/2 right now).

Hillary Clinton is telling several stories (which is one of the reasons she is slipping in the primaries). Several of her stories are similar to Romney. She is trying to impress us with her resume and her credentials, and her skills as a manager. Probably Clinton's most compelling narrative is essentially conservative in nature, by the literal meaning of the word "conservative". Hillary wants us to "go back to the future" by electing her to return us to the agenda and prosperity of the 1990s. She calls us to look back, notice where Bush got off track from the Clinton agenda, and emplores us to get back on the track that her husband started us on. The problem is, our collective memories of the Clinton's is not entirely positive, and there are emerging generations that want to look forward and not back.

Huckabee is also attempting to share a compelling narrative. His agenda is many ways is politically conservative, but it is also practically progressive. What I mean by Huckabee being progressive is that his campaign is future-oriented. He has new ideas about the tax code. He is fairly moderate on issues of immigration and the war, although he has been pushed in a more conservative direction. The problem with Huckabee's campaign is that while many people find the idea of a forward-thinking, guitar playing, conservative Christian interesting, Huckabee has yet to find a compelling narrative that draws people to him and his movement.

Of the candidates left, McCain and Obama have the most compelling narratives, which is why each of them has some sense of momentum in gaining their party's support. McCain embodies benevolent strength. This is shown through his personal experience as a prisoner of war. This is also shown by his political life. He has the courage to speak his convictions, even when it costs him dearly (such as the 2000 primary). He had the strength to admit his negligence in being involved with the Keating 5. He stands for a strong military, but is outspoken against torture. He isn't afraid to work across the aisle. He has an image as a maverick, which is especially attractive to people who are conservative but not slavishly devoted to conservative evangelical dogma. Most American's are fairly conservative in their financial and social beliefs, they just are not religious power monger, big business and oil conservatives. For these people, an independent minded, somewhat progressive, tough, ornery and generally on the right side of important issues McCain sounds good.

Obama's narrative is by far the most dreamy and forward-looking. He calls us to a future of unity where we do not "have red states and blue states but the united states of america." He is progressive on solving the health care problem. He is idealistic on oppotunities to solve foriegn relations problems. His slogans "Change you can believe in" and "Yes we can" look toward the future and optimism. They also allow people to believe the best about themselves, their neighbors, and the country.

The challenge that awaits Obama as he moves forward in the election is that his personal narrative and the narritive he is sharing lacks foundation for many. Even my more liberal friends tend to tilt there heads and wonder a little bit about whether he has enough of a personal foundation and track record to be trusted. The Obama campaign narrative seems a lot like a movie trailer to those that are skeptical of him. Lots of fun and cool highlights, but you wonder if the show will be as good as adverstised, or whether you have seen all the good parts of the movie in the preview.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New Blogs

I have put together a devotional weblog for the Lenten Season on behalf of my church. Right now it is just me doing it, but hopefully that will change soon.

And there is also a new blog under Theologians and Leaders, which is the weblog of Albert Hsu. You should check it out.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Books I Completed 2007

Mike Devries had a post not to long ago about books that he had read this year. I thought putting out a list would be a good idea, but my list looks small. Unfortunately, I have started a lot of books I have not finished this year.

I suppose that is ok, I worked hard, dealth with a church split, fell in love and got married. Those are all good things, and big priorities. But perhaps I need to be a little more disciplined this year in my study and finshing what I start.


Dwelling Places--Venita Hampton Wright


Evil and the Justice of God--NT Wright
Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places--Eugene Peterson

Sexuality and Homosexuality

Welcoming but Not Affirming by Stanley Grenz
Homosexuality and the Christian Faith by Walter Wink
Sex God--Rob Bell

Church Leadership

The Gospel According to Starbucks--Sweet
The Purpose Driven Life--Warren
Organic Community--Myers
Celebration of Discipline--Foster
They Like Jesus But Not the Church--Kimball
Healthy Congregations--Stenkel
Walking the Small Group Tightrope--Willow Creek
Leading Life Changing Small Groups--Willow Creek


Starfish and the Spider by Braufman(?)
Death By Meeting by Patrick Leconi

David Studies

Leap Over A Wall by Eugene Peterson
David: A Commentary by Robert Alter

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Quotes from Deep-Rooted in Christ by Joshua Kang

God is more concerned with who we are than who we think we are. He doesn't care how many talks we do or how big they are. What matters is that we become what God wants us to be. (75)

Every spiritual leader needs discernment about God's time..God uses those that understand the times. (77)

To become a servant of God requires advanced study in how God uses lonliness; thats to say, how he teaches his students to reach spiritual maturity. (79)

Wilderness and Word have the same orgin in the Hebrew language (81)

Even Pharoh knew Moses was a man of prayer. When the Egyptians were suffering from the swarming flies, he asked Moses to pray for him. (85)

Before trying the hearts of other people, we should try and move the heart of God. (86)


As I begin to prepare for the Lenten season, one of the devotionals I am using is a book called "Reflecting the Glory" by N.T. Wright.

I was struck especially by one devotion on 2 Corinthians 4. Much of the devotion was about how Paul measured success.

There are all sorts of ways that people choose to measure success in ministry. Some measure success by numbers. They feel that the more people that attend their events and services, the more successful that person is in ministry. Others measure their value by their skills, or how innovative or cutting edge their program is. Still other pastors measure their success by the financial health of their flock.

Paul is tempted to boast about many things in 2 Corinthians 4. Yet, he does not. Instead he challenges people to look at his faithfulness. His faithfulness in loving people. His faithfulness in serving God through the hard times. His faithfulness in being a servant. He puts both the responsibility for growth and the credit for changed lives in God's hands.

So often, it is easy to think as a minister that our job is about pleasing people. It is not. It is about pleasing God and loving people in God's name. It is up to God to use our gifts of faithfulness as he wishes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Theology on Comedy Central

Lately I have been thinking about how someone on the Colbert Report or on the Daily Show can realistically survive an interview. It seems no matter what perspective one comes from, they look like a fool.

If you try and play straight man too much to Colbert's statements, you can end up looking like you are as much of a caricature as his character is on his show. If you try and play along and joke around too much, you look like a panderer at best. If you try and dish back to Colbert what Colbert and Stewart dish out to you, that gets you in trouble as well.

Here we have a couple of examples based on theology and church life. One video is of Bart Ehrman, a theologian who is also an agnostic. Colbert calls him a "atheist without balls" (ht Marko). Then you have Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist pastor who comes across equally as goofy, eventually trying to dish a little back to Colbert.
If you were on Colbert's show, how would you approach the interview?


Perhaps one who does this setting best as a Christain leader is Tony Campolo, who was on tonight. Here it is:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Movie Review

I have a couple of friends that are movie junkies. For the last several weeks they have been recommending the movie Juno. I have been hesitant to want to see it because they have also been recommending movies with subtitles like J'taime Paris. (Anyone who recommends french movies with subtitles to me on a regular basis takes a step down in earning trust about the strength of their recommendations)The most recent review I read on the God's Politics blog may convince me to watch it when it comes out on video.