Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Poem by Wendell Berry


If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come--love for our enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

from the Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (p. 160)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Turning Inward

I go through phases. Sometimes, in my life and in my ministry, I am driven to connect with people. At those extroverted times, making visits with people in the church is easy. I am eager to get to know people. At those times I crave social activities and social times with those I care about.

Then there are phases like I am experiencing now. I dread talking to people on the phone. At those times I am not very social. I either want to have my nose in a book or have my face in front of a computer monitor. I get into conversations, and think I should contribute something, but then hold back becaause I know the conversation will take too much work to unpack.

I often wonder,when I am going through either phase, if I should try and embrace the mood and phase I am in, or push back against the feelings I have at that time. For instance, should I push myself to be out among people when I am in my more introverted phase, or use that phase to accomplish desk work, pray and study? Should I stretch myself to find people to connect with when I feel like going into my metaphorical cave? Should I make myself take time to be alone when I am in the middle of a highly social stage? Or should I embrace my desire to indulge a social "binge"?

Most of the time I try and push myself toward balance. I think it is important to have balance. But right now, I am finding it hard to have balance. Is that a bad thing, or just a part of my natural cycle of ministry and life? Also, is this common in other people's lives, or am I alone in this socialization cycle?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This week, I finished the book Outliers: The Story of Success. It is a book written by Malcolm Gladwell,who also wrote the books Tipping Point and Blink, writes this book about the factors that influence one's ability to achieve.

As with all of Gladwell's books, one of the funnest parts about reading this book is all of the interesting factoids that Gladwell discovers. Whether talking about the birthdays of hockey players, or comparing Asian and Western farmers, Gladwell weaves a good story full of good conversation pieces.

At the heart of the book is the question, "What makes a person sucessful?" Is it natural ability and skill? Is it hard work? Luck? As you make your way through the book, there is a sense in which you discover that all of the above are true. Most powerful in the journey to success though, is the opportunity to be in a situation to succeed. Many times, very few people have the unique opportunities that others have. But without the hard work, the assertiveness to seize the opportunity, and a minimal amount of skill, the opportunity could be lost.

The book is smart, entertaining, and able to read through in small chunks. I would recommend anyone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sermon for 1/25—On Colossians 4:2-20

Remember My Chains

Colossians 4

2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. 8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he[
a] may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, 9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete[
b] in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal[c] for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his[d] house.
16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."
18 This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.


Last words. History records a lot of people's final words before they died. Beethoven is reputed to have said, "Friends applaud, the comedy is finished!" The famous preacher and evangelist Henry Ward Beecher is believed to have said, "Now…the mystery." PT Barnum asked what ticket sales were like at Madison Square Garden. Joan Crawford said, "Darn it, don't you dare ask God to help me" to her housekeeper. Thomas Edison said, "It is very beautiful over there." Poet Dylan Thomas, "I have had 18 straight whiskeys…I think that's a record." Edgar Allen Poe said, "Lord help my poor soul."


The Baptist preacher Tony Campolo tells the story of his father-in law on his death bed. He has been bedfast for days. He sat up, quoting I Corinthians 15 and said "O Death, where is thy victory. O Death, where is thy sting." He repeated this three times, and then died immediately after.


My great-grandmother passed away in August of 2005. My birthday is in August. Imagine my surprise when I received a birthday card from my Grandma Pearl postmarked the day after her death. It seems, the last day she lived she sent me a birthday card on an old card meant for another occasion that she had laying around the house. She told me how much she loved me, and how much she was thinking of me on my birthday, and remembering watching me grow up. Then she spent a lot of time giving me the update on the flowers in the garden and the deer in the back yard. Though her health was getting more and more frail, she was taking care of the flowers that her health would allow her to care for. That night they told her she had colon cancer and she was going to have to go to the nursing home after surgery. She had a massive heart attack and died a few hours later.


And now we come to the end of the book of Colossians. The apostle Paul is there in his prison cell. And he senses that he senses that is most likely that he will be the last time he gets to communicate with the people in Colosse. In many ways these are like his last words, and at least his last words to the Colossians. So he grabs the pen from the man that was writing down his words, with manacles around his hands and feet. He draws attention to say that he is writing these last words, in many ways these final words, in his own handwriting And what does he say? He says, "Remember my chains".


Last week we talked about remembering our baptism. We talked about how a baptism is a chance to recommit to our relationship with Jesus. To refocus on what Jesus had done. And to recommit to what he has called us to.


Remembering is a big part of our lives as people. We are hardly able to function without our memory. Our memories help us tie our shoes and drive to work, they help us be able to know and love our friends and neighbors. A life without memory would be very painful and very difficult. We only have to look at those we know with Alzheimer's to know this. Remembering is important.


It is not only important to remember our pasts. It is important that we remember them rightly. It is important that we remember the important things. It is important that we remember with grace and truth and love, and not in petty and childish ways. It is important that we let our memories be guided by the Word of God and be energized by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no telling WHAT we remember and what we do not. But it is important that we let Jesus guide HOW we remember.


God, through Paul, is challenging us to remember in Christ-centered way. He is asking us to remember his chains. Through asking us to remember his chains, he is asking us to remember certain things about who he is, and who God calls all of us to be. When the apostle Paul says "Remember my chains" he is saying us to remember our purpose as a church. So let us dig a little deeper into what this passage says to see what that means.


When the apostle Paul says to remember his chains he is urging us to remember him in a way that causes us to act. To live out our faith. And to live it out in four key ways.


  1. My friends, I am convinced we do not pray enough. I am convinced that I am not as committed to prayer as I should be. I am convinced that many of you are not feeling as connected to God through prayer as you should be. I admit I could be wrong. But I do not think I am.


    We need to take time to pray with one another. Not just at the beginning and at the end of meetings, but we need to move prayer to a more central place in our life together. We need to devote ourselves to prayer so that we can bring our needs and our prayer requests before God. Of course we need to do that. But we also need to learn to pray prayers of praise and thanksgiving together. As our book club book suggests, we need to practice God's presence with us in all we do. As we whittle wood in our backyards, and do our churches business, we need to invite and be aware of the presence of God in our midst. And invite him to guide us, lead us, direct us, forgive us, and love us.


    Everything we try and do, everything we do as a church should be soaked in prayer, and led by God's Holy Spirit. It is easy to try and do things on our own power. And when we do that the church becomes not much more than a religious Lions Club. We need to be passionate about having a relationship with Jesus, and growing in our knowledge and relationship with Jesus. Even if that causes us to make major changes in our lives. We must remember to pray.


  1. My friends, it is so easy to come to church and focus on how it meets my needs, and focus on what I get out of church for me. Let us avoid that pitfall. Let us remember that following Jesus, first and foremost, is about carrying out the mission of Jesus.


    Verse 3 says we need to pray for open doors for sharing the gospel. Verse 5 says to pray that we will have the right words to speak at the right time. Even as Paul is suffering and about to die, he is passionate and wholeheartedly committed to sharing the gospel.



    Church, this church does not exist first and foremost for those that are a part of this body. First and foremost, this church exists for those that need to hear the life-changing message of the Word of God. Our church does not exist for us. It is exists for God. And it exists to reach others with the love of God.


    A couple of weeks ago we discussed an outreach project for our church where our church would be a center of mission for other churches around Southern Colorado through hosting a weekend of hands-on ministry in our community. We are still in the process of discerning whether this is something God might lead us to do.


    I am not going to push you either way on this decision, but I will tell you this. Even if this is not what God is calling us to do, we darned well better be seeking something else that pushes us as a congregation to have an intentional outreach in our community.


    Joining together with civic organizations like meals on wheels is a good thing. It is something Jesus would want us to do. Doing nursing home chapels once every few months is a good thing to do. We should be proud of our membership in the Ministerial Alliance. But our gospel ministry should go beyond our community partnerships. We cannot outsource all our outreach to mission giving and the ministerial alliance.


    We need to intentionally, as members of First Baptist, and as our congregation, to go into our community and to share about the saving love of Jesus with our words and with our actions. First Baptist, you are a GOOD CHURCH. I love you. I love pastoring you. But if we just keep doing the same old stuff the same way we are going to be closing our doors in the next 10 years.


    We must reach out. Passionately. Now. That is what we are all about.


  2. As Paul continues on, he shares about a number of people, and asks the church in Colosse to remember and care for the people he mentions. Many of them are a part of Paul's ministry team. Interestingly enough, many of them where failures at some point in their ministry. Onesimus was fugitive from the law, and an escaped slave. Paul asks the Colossians to forgive him and accept him as a brother in Christ. (The book of Philemon which is an attachment to this letter for a man named Philemon asks Philemon as onesimus' former slave owner to grant him his freedom). Paul mentions John Mark, who flaked out on the first missionary journey he went on, and was the source of Barnabus and Paul going their separate ways in their missionary endeavors. Each of the people he mentions has ministry gifts, but also big time failures


    Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul urges the Colossians to accept these men and support their ministry among them. In the process he reminds us about something we often forget.


    This church is a place where we not only offer grace to the world, but we offer grace to one another. We need to forgive each other. Bear with one another. We put up with one another. Even more, we choose to love one another.



    That doesn't mean we cannot speak our mind. That does not mean we cannot keep one another accountable. Loving one another is not always easy and it is not always nice. But we need to look out for each other, and bring out the best in one another. We need to seek to see how God is working in each of us, and encourage one another to grow in that way.


  1. This is implied, but it is important. Probably the most important point. When Paul says to remember his chains what he is saying is to remember his suffering, and as you remember the suffering of Jesus.


    There are a lot of TV preachers and popular authors that will tell you that following Jesus is something that you do so your life will be happier and easier. So that you will have more money and success. Most of these preachers do not preach the gospel. They preach idol worship. They want you to bow the knee to success, power, control or wealth. Following Jesus means something different.


    Following Jesus means that we are willing to sacrifice everything to follow him. We are willing to lose friends for the sake of the gospel. We are willing to sacrifice physical comfort. We are willing to follow Jesus even if it means pain. Even if it means failure. Even if it means heartbreak. Even if it means death.


    Why? Because we believe in the cross. We believe that Jesus is more than a self-help guru. He is the way. The truth. The life. And we cannot find true hope without him. We cannot find truth without him. Without him all our life is a mirage. And in a relationship with Christ all our life, our pain, and our heartache makes sense. Because even if we have to suffer and hurt, be in chains or take up our cross, we can somehow have that heartache and pain mean something if we have Jesus. Our live can be bigger than wood, and metal. It can be about truly knowing God, and truly doing God's eternal mission in our small part of the world. In small little ways our lives can have eternal influence. And if we truly believe, we should be able to sacrifice and use all we have to serve the one who has made all, and created all, is all around us, and who hold the whole world in his hands.


    Will you have the courage to trust him. With your whole life. Will you remember Paul's chains? Will you remember Christ's cross? Will you remember your mission? Your eternal call?


    Please do so. Today. And then…continue to remember.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Recent Movies

Jennifer and I recieved a nexflix subscription for Christmas. So far, we have watched three movies.

The first movie that we watched was Charlie Wilson's war. I was both entertained and educated by this fine movie. For instance, I was unaware that taking over Afganistan would have allowed the Soviet Union control the flow of oil through the Middle East. I love biopics that tell true stories about real people. Charlie Wilson's war does this, and by doing this informs America about a lesser known part of its intelligence/military history.

One of the things that intrigued me about this movie is that I began to wonder what the agenda of the movie maker was in light of current events in the middle east. The quote at the end of the movie mad me think that it was making a more liberal statement, but the movie as a whole made me wonder if they were endorsing what we were doing in the so-called "war on terror".

The second movie was "Righteous Kill". This was an entertaining movie. The ending would have really surprised me if my wife had not guessed the ending a head of time. Any crime flick with DeNiro and Pacino is good, and this was no exception. No thought provoking stuff though, it was just mindless entertainment.

The third movie was "Traitor" and we saw that last night. This was a high-energy, thought-provoking, brilliant movie about a double agent played by Don Cheadle. It is a movie about international terrorists that slowly make their way to America. Watching it, you wonder how close we are to more terrorist attacks on our own shores. This is a man-flick, full of a lot of energy, gunfire, and suspense. I would recommend seeing this movie more than any of them so far.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ted Haggard in the News

It appears there are more people who fell into Uncle Ted's web, and now some of them are reputed to be members of his church

Best posts

On Home Brew by J.D.

The Mixed Blessing of Technology by Matt

Lizzie's Splinter by Michele

Becca, Stan, and Kim and Steve on Politics

Quote from The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson

But despite the unrelenting witness of the Scriptures to the contrary, a surprising number of people are uncomfortable with this witness and try their best to spiritualize both creation and history: spiritualize the dirt and mosquitoes out of creation and then sign up for lessons in flower arranging: spiritualizing the accidents and train wrecks out of history by reducing them to dates in a textbook. To spiritualize in this sense involves the reinterpretation of life into something that is not comprised by cancerous growths, or difficult neighbors, or corrupt economics. It reduces the vast world of creation and the complex world of salvation to a few memorized Bible verses, a devotional book or two for inspiration, and a handful of truths or principles to keep us on the straight and narrow. By hook or crook, spiritualization insists on deconstructing a gospel way of life into a feeling or an idea or a project. Spiritualization succeeds when it sanitizes prayer into pious clich├ęs and cordons Scripture off from the traffic….Spiritualizing the gospel means that we love God but not the world that "God so loved." (p.168)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sermon on 1/18—On the Occasion of the Baptism of Holly Smith and Megan Hollenbeck


 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.

Yes, this morning we are back in Colossians 3. Again. I said that there was more than one sermon is this passage and we are back looking at Colossians 3 today. You had a hint why in our children's message a little over a month ago. This passage, among many other things is a passage that challenges us to remember our baptism. To remember our commitment when we came to Christ, and when we were baptized. It challenges us not to a sentimental remembering. Rather, it challenges us as a church to a remembering that effects the way that we live. The way that we eat and sleep, the way that relate to people every day.


As I shared in the children's message a couple of weeks ago, ancient baptismal traditions are a little different than our own today. One common baptismal tradition was to have people come to the bathroom with one set of clothes (a robe often in this case), to take off one's clothes for one's baptism, and as one came out of the water to be immediately covered by a new robe. This symbolized that they moved from an old life and put on a new life.


That is the decision that Holly and Megan celebrate today. They stand up and declare that they have made that decision. As they do this, we should celebrate with them. We should also remember that we have done the same. If we are disciples of Christ we have made the same decision. As they proclaim their commitment, we need to recommit to ours.


When we come to participate in a baptism, either as a congregation or as an individual person, we celebrate both a burial of sorts and a birth of sorts. A death to one way of life, and a birth to a new way of life.


You know, this is my first baptism with you, and my first baptism using a stock tank to immerse someone, but in other ministerial settings I have baptized someone. In the last church I served we had enough staff that if you were baptizing someone you just did not have to do that much the rest of the worship service. And so, the baptism was usually somewhere between the beginning and the middle of the service. So, I usually got to sit and visit with whomever was the baptismal candidate.



One time, I was baptizing one of the teenagers in our church. And as we got to visiting, I asked if he was scared or nervous. He said he was. The other person there to help him told him not to be worried or nervous. I told him I disagreed. This was an important moment. A public statement of a huge commitment. It is a moment that should come with a little anxiety and a little fear.


It comes with a new anxiety and a new fear because it is a kind of like a death. I have been with people as they are dying or are near death. I have sat in a few hospitals and by a few beds. And when you are there, at least for me, it never feels easy or safe or normal. It is never quite easy or comfortable when you are in that room.

It surprised me that when I visited with people near death, especially people who knew Jesus, that a lot of them were not anxious or worried about dying at all. Some are but many are not. It surprised me that many were worried about how their friends and family were going to manage after they are gone. The hard part for several people that I know is the letting go. The letting go. The being out of control.


Why do I share this? Because as you two, Holly and Megan, come to the waters of baptism, there is a death to an old way of life that requires a letting go. A death to worshipping your own agenda. A death to a way of life that is all about you. A death to a way of living that is all about being a slave to sin, to the world, and to the devil.


Colossians says that living the new life means that you have to put to death that old life. That old life that is full of a whole bunch of ways of living that bring regret. Regret about what we have said, who we have slept with, about how greedy and selfish we are and we can be. Even though we are imperfect, and we stumble, a baptism is statement to the world that we have chosen a different direction for our life, a different trajectory.


Romans 6 says it this way in THE MESSAGE:


 1-3So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

 3-5That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Jennifer and I like watching a TV show called Clean House once in a while. The concept of the show is that there is this house that is a TOTAL DISASTER AREA. It is messy enough that there is hardly room to walk through the house. And at the end of the show the house is not only cleaned, it is professionally decorated. Usually with some sort of new furniture or flooring with it. But, before they can get to this huge benefit, they have to part with a lot of their junk. Because, most of these people are pack rats. And usually the owners of the place are attached to well—they are attached to some personal junk. And they know that there is something better on the other side, but they have a hard time letting go of their invaluable junk that they never use and hardly ever even see. Baptism is about finally letting go of all of that junk that causes all sorts of distress and clutter in our lives, and letting go in the hope of the new life that is ahead of us.

Baptism is about a death. It is also about a new way of living. Because baptism is not just about celebrating a burial. Even more it is about celebrating a birth.

It is about celebrating a birth that has happened in your hear and in your mind. It is a new life announcement to the whole world. It is like a spiritual baby shower of sorts.

In most churches I have been in, people react to seeing someone coming out of the water much like they do when they see with little children the first time With ooos and aaaahs. And most of the time when you come out of the water you come out of the water your hair is all wet and plastered to your face and you are blinking and taking a deep breathe and trying to get your bearings, just like a new child entering the world.

Baptisms are one of the most beautiful things in the world because they are all about new life.

Our Bible passage from Colossians talks about the new life. It talks about the new direction of our lives in following Jesus. A life that is about forgiveness and compassion, humility and grace, hope and love. And trust that when our life does not seem all that full of any of these that God gives us grace and love to keep going in that direction. And he gives us peace, and patience, and hope, and joy.

Baptism says that about us and our choices.

Baptism also speaks about a new extended family. This family does not replace your biological family. But you find a whole new spiritual family when you pass through the waters of baptism. Colossians says by going through a number of ethnic and social backgrounds that none of those matter in the family of Jesus. You don't have to have some special background to be a part of the family You just need to have decided to follow Jesus.

Holly and Megan, I want you to know that you have a whole church family here that wants to support you, to help you grow to be more like Jesus. To support you when you are having a hard time, and to celebrate with you when you are being blessed by the Lord. We want you to know that you have a place in our mission to share the love of Christ with the community and the world. We want you to know that if you have not already sensed it, we want to be like family to you.

We will stumble and need forgiveness just like you do. But we all have God as our father. And we all have Jesus as our Master and Leader. And the Holy Spirit and our Guide. And we are here to follow Jesus together And we are thankful that we have you to serve with and love and to care for

Baptism says a lot about us. It says a lot about the group of people we joined together with. It says even more about our Lord

If you remember our study of the book of Colossians, it is all about how Jesus is our all in all. About how Jesus is the center of everything. It gets to chapter 3 and it talks about this resurrection life.

When you come to these waters of baptism, you tell the world about a choice you have made for your life. You also tell the world a choice you have made about your relationships. Particularly your relationship with Jesus. Both the passage that we have read in Colossians and the other one talk about resurrection life. They talk about what happened with Jesus on the cross, and with the empty tomb.



When you come to these waters of baptism, Holly and Megan, you come saying that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again to offer you eternal life. You are saying that you believe that enough that you are willing to stand up in front of all of us here and go through a baptism that tells people that Jesus died for our sins, and that he rose again. That is what baptism says you know.

You are telling the world more than this though. You are telling the world that Jesus has come into your life. That he has touched your heart. That you have surrendered your life to Jesus. That when you could not do anything to earn or deserve God's love and grace he reached out and loved you. Even more he treasured you, and each one of us, as if we were his favorite child.

And when you do that, Holly and Megan, it speaks to all of us.

It gets us back to basics.

It helps us to remember that church isn't all about all of the business that we do as an institution called a church. That is all a means to an end. Church is all about this. This relationship with Jesus. This call to new life of hope and faith that starts even now. This eternal life Christ has given to us if we choose to trust in. him.

And so we remember our commitment to Christ as a church. To follow him and believe him and trust him. We remember our commitment to one another as a church. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. Loving and forgiving. We remember, even more, Christ's love for us. Christ's grace in our lives. Christ rising from the dead and offering us new life. Even now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Live Blogging the Inaguration


Interesting contrast between the three news channels. FOXNEWS is a lot louder than every station at the same volume. And they spend a lot of time talking about how good looking Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are. Interesting.

Also, Brit Hume mentions "President Clinton always appears as though he is searching for the right expression on his face". So true, Brit, so true.

I think that my dog may be a Republican. As soon as it goes on CNN, he goes into the other room. He does not want to witness the innaugriation.

Dick Cheney in a wheelchair? I guess he twisted his back trying to move his own stuff. Typical, having to do all the heavy lifting himself. Dont VPs have movers?

A lot of different stations talking about the peaceful transition of power.

Why do all dignitaries work hard not to smile. This is one thing I enjoy about Biden. He is planning on enjoying the heck out of the whole thing.

Huge crowd. It is really amazing how many people are there.

FOX has as its team Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, and Juan Williams.

CNN Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer
Interesting how many journalists for American politics are not American born

Goose bumps as Obama enters. This really is an amazing moment in American history. Each station seems to mention the slaves building the White House. Each station also echos the beauty in American democracy of the non-violent transition of power. Diane Fienstein echos this.

Diane Fiendstein is speaking. Polticians like preachers always have to preach there sermon

Rick Warren is speaking/praying. He is very expressive, and he actually sounds a little nervous. He is also preaching more than praying. His prayer may go as long as some of the speeches. But it is well done and gracious. Ending with the Lord's Prayer is a very nice and moving touch. Allows all to participate.

Aretha Franklin singing. I did not know that was going to happen. Nice touch. Sounds great. I find this particularly moving for some reason as well. I think because it is another example of someone coming from nowhere to stand in the highest and most honored stages in the world. Only in America.

I disagree with a lot of Biden's politics, but I think he is a fun guy and I like him. He seems like someone you could hang out with for a little while. I like how he raises his hands and shrugs to his friends in the Senate.

MSNBC has Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Eugene Robinson. Man do I miss Russert on moments like these. Keith Olbermann and Maddow drive me nuts. I enjoy listening to Matthews and Robinson.

The quartet is amazing, and an interesting way of introducing more diversity. A jew, an asian, a black man, and a white man. I love both Air and simple gifts. Especially simple gifts.

"Dance then...where ever you may be....for I am the Lord of the Dance said he" (the worship song based on the tune for simple gifts. I truly believe this was part of the thought.)

Obama is nervous a little bit. Actually I think a little emotional. I like that it was a little awkward in the swearing in. Seems more authentic.

There is now a man on MSNBC a YES WE CAN t shirt screaming Yeah...Yeah. I think he may have some bling on as well.

I think as the president gives his speech there is a moment that he realizes how big the moment is. Bigger than him. Maybe even bigger than the country he has chosen to serve.

At times Obama speeches can seem pedantic. This speech seems very strong and muscular. Short declarative sentences. Excellent approach.

"The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous"--good line

For a post-partisan speech, this speech seems very partisan. I wonder if that is common.

His speech to the enemies of America is strong. It is good to have that part in the speech.

"your people will judge you on what you can build..not what you destroy"

This is a smart speech. Intelligent and inspiring at the same time.

Washington quote is brilliant.

All in all a well done speech.

As you watch the greetings after the speech, it appears Bush and Obama get along. Michelle was crying.

I like the poem--especially the "all about me is..." stuff.
"what if the mightiest word is love.."

I like the benediction. It too is also long.

tanks shall be beaten into tractors.......this is an excellent retelling of the swords into plowshares

the whole racial thing at the end was both funny and a good touch.

Will be interesting to hear the commentary.....and then get to work

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Couple Dating: Who Knew (New)?

I guess I am just blind. Before I got married, I socialized with both married folks and single folks as friends. Sometimes I would go to my married friends' houses, and we would do something together after their kids went to bed Sometimes, a number of friends would get together for dinner or movies. If I had friends I wanted to spend some time with, we would find a way to spend time together.

Now that I am a married man, I have discovered that there is a phenomenon called "couples dating". It seems that when you are married, that different couples decide to go out together on something very similar to a date. Often this is like a blind date, because only two of the four people involved in the social gathering know one another before the four people meet. But somehow, married couple's find it pleasurable to go out to eat or go to movie together in a way very similar to dating. We have recieved several such invitations.

Who knew??

Friday, January 16, 2009

Peterson on the prophets

Lots of people more or less believe in God. But most of us do our best to customize God to suit our convienience by adapting and modifying, making him "relevant to our situation". Prophets insist that God is the living center or nothing. Our task is to become relevant to His situation. They insist that we deal with God as God reveals Himself, not as we imagine him to be.

Too bad other people have not thought of this sooner....

Take a look at the new cheerleaders for the Florida marlins--the Florida Manatees.

Monday, January 12, 2009


My friend Matt wrote about a book he read by Albert Borgmann on technology. In it, there was a discussion on how we lose a little bit with most of our musical experiences being recorded, which is something that did not happen that much until after world war two.

It got me to thinking.

One of the things that is different about Jennifer and I is that Jen likes live music and live recordings, where I have much less interest in either, especially recordings of live performances. I like my music to be relationally distanced from the performer. I like to be able to listen to something while reading a book, and have the music help me write well. I like to listen to music that leads me to prayer while I am alone. For me, musical stuff is rarely a social event.

Jen and her friend Hollie almost glow when they talk about going to a Dave Matthews concert. They love the community experience. The chance to experience music live. The chance to be connected to the artist in that way. Jen and Hollie love the uniqueness of each concert experience, and will hear someone live more than once.

I would like to hear a few folks live in concert. The reason is different. Mainly, at some point, I would like to say, for example, that I saw U2 in concert. Or Van Morrison. Having said that, there are people that I was not a fan of until I saw them in concert. This is especially true of Christian musicians, and most true of Jennifer Knapp (a 90s Christian musician). To be honest, I had a celeb crush on Jennifer Knapp for a while.

So, my question is, are you a "live" person, or do you prefer music on a CD in your easy chair to being at a concert?

It’s For the Birds

Why are so many NFL teams named after birds? Are they really that ferocious? This next week the teams in the conference championships include three teams named after birds: the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Pittsburg Steelers are also in the conference championship. Now, as most of you know, my team is also names after a bird, the Seattle Seahawks. To me, though, I wonder if a bird is an appropriate mascot.

My wife is afraid of birds. I think she was traumatized by the movie "The Birds" as a child.

So, do you think a bird is an appropriate mascot?

If so, which out of the ones below do you find the most frightening?:

Seattle Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Philadelphia Eagles

Baltimore Ravens

Friday, January 09, 2009

Called Away

I stood up on that platform. And I was confident that the people could catch me. But I was not sure that they would. I am a big man. But I had done trust falls before. With squirly teenagers. From greater heights. And they had caught me. But this time I had concerns.

The camp was unique. From the beginning, it was structured in a more contemplative fashion. A way that encouraged youth and adult sponsors to seek God through prayer and spiritual disciplines. That part of the camp was brilliant. And it benefitted the kids and the other adult sponsors in many ways.

At the beginning of the camp, we were asked to come to God with a question or concern that we wanted God to speak to us about. My question was, "Do you want me doing this anymore?" By "this" I meant both youth ministry and ministry at First Baptist Church of Colorado Springs.

Admittedly, I came into the experience frustrated as it was. I do not like camps. God has used me to make a difference in people's lives at camps, and for that reason I continue to do them. And I have made friends at camps. And that is a good thing. But I prefer mission trips to camps or conferences. We did the camp because that is what the parents and kids that were left at church pushed for in the middle of our church crisis, and because I felt it might be what the kids needed even if it was not what I liked or what I wanted.

I don't like camps because camps seem to be a replay of my junior high years. Everybody seems to be connecting and growing closer to everybody, and I feel like the nerdy fat kid that nobody likes. The one exception is the class on camp leadership I took in seminary, because I had my buddy Shawn Geer as a roommate. (The way I remember it, Shawn could have had a room alone but chose to be my roommate because he did not feel having a room by yourself at camp was right. I felt valued and honored that he chose to share a room with me when he did not have to.) This camp gave so much free time to adults and kids on top of it, that I felt disconected from my group for big chunks of the day. (Have I ever said I like structure and clarity?) So, I throw all my camp issues in as a disclaimor.

As I went through the week, I kept asking my questions. I kept struggling through. I kept feeling this tug that God was leading me elsewhere. That I would not be at that church the next year.

I had a phone interview on one of those breaks with an area minister in Michigan. I was in conversation with another church, with youth ministry responsibilities, in Illinois.

My boss called to relay messages to me through the other adult leaders husband instead of calling me directly. I saw this as a sign he would never treat me with respect while I was working there (I was right).

The harder I tried to get connected with the kids, the further I felt from them.

There were a lot of other issues happening, but they do not need to be on a public web page. Some would embarass folks. Others would betray confidences. Others are just hurts that I have not shared with anyone, and should not be put on a public blog.

I guess what I am trying to say is I was struggling. And I was coming to God with this question all week. And I was leaning toward an answer. And there was a whole bunch of stuff going on in my heart and my soul. And it all kind of built up to this trust fall.

I was the first one to do the trust fall. And I was eager to do it. I was eager to do it because I needed my answer. Should I stay in youth ministry or not? Should I stay in Colorado Springs or not?

And I had this trust that the answer that I was seeking was supposed to be answered by that trust fall. These people represented God. If these people caught me, maybe God was supporting me in my ministry with youth and in Colorado Springs. If they dropped me, which hardly ever happens even with big boys like me, then it was a sign from God to move on. It was like God dropping me and no longer supporting me in my ministry I was at anymore.

They dropped me. I visited four churches in the next six months. Interviewed with 8. I preached in view of a call and tendered my resignation seven months later. But it was in Green Lake I knew I was being called away from Colorado Springs, and at that time was being called away from working with youth. I no longer had value there. And as far as I was concerned, I was a complete and total failure. The dropping had confirmed everything I felt and had sensed. I know it is not rational. I know it does not make sense. But that is how I felt.

Nearly a year after my first interview with Fowler (Feb 2), I am missing the work I used to do a little bit. A friend called me this week, and was excited about the young adult ministry in Colorado Springs. I guess a number of the folks that we started a small group with about 2 years ago are plugging in with an outreach that the church is doing. And the group is even growing. It sounded exciting. I was happy they were experiencing growth and success.

It also makes me wonder if maybe I wasn't as much of a failure in some regards as I thought I was. Especially with young adults. Maybe I did a lot of what I was called to do. Maybe I wasn't dropped by God. Maybe I was just let go, or released. And if that is the case, maybe I can hold out hope and dream that we will grow here.

Anyway, a email conversation with a friend made me think of this today, and I thought I would share it with you.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Doggie Crack

My dog is addicted to begging strips. He sees them. His eyes get big. His heart start palpitating, and he slobbers. I make him work for his money by performing tricks. But he short circuits his tricks to get his dope quicker. He yelps at me. I tell him he is not allowed to get a treat for half-ass work. He needs to sit all the way down and roll all the way over. Eventually he gets the point. Then he paws and begs for more.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Everyday Heresies

Today I was reading through one of the many books that I have yet to finish--The Trinity by Roger Olson and Christopher Hall.

In particular, I was reading a summary of the development of Trinitarian theology from the patristic era. As I was reading, it suddenly occured to me that it is very easy to become a heretic in one's trinitarian theology. Especially, in the patristic era, or the era of the early church fathers.

At the same time, it is also interesting to note what theological heresies continue to rear their ugly heads over and over again. In particular, I was struck by the human tendency to present the Old Testament God and the New Testament God as almost two different Gods, or two different kinds of Gods. According to this line of thinking, the Old Testament God is Rambo, and the New Testament God is more like Mr. Rogers. There are a million variations of how people communicate this "divine personality change" between the Old Testament and the New Testament. But this understanding of God is unbiblical, heretical, and immoral.

In the early church (or patristic period) this idea was advocated by Marcion, who as a result had a number of beliefs that were very close to gnosticism, and were rejected by the early church councils. Iraneus says of Marcion's beliefs that the Old Testament and New Testament God are different that one cannot "Divide God into two, calling one good and the other just. For in doing so he (Marcion) destroys the divinity of both." (Hall and Olson, p.27) As Gerald O'Collins correctly states "The Jewish Creator God is identical with the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". (The Tripersonal God, p. 97).

The OT God v. NT God theological approach creates a problem because it allows us to quickly dismiss the bulk of God's Word, or a least not give it as strong of an emphasis. Yet, a quick study of the New Testament demonstrates that the early church used their Old Testament as their primary Scriptures, and through the Old Testament texts were able to see how the message of Jesus was consistent with the God revealed in Scriptures (namely the Old Testament).

Relatedly, even though this was less a concern of the church fathers, this "divine personality change" divorces Jesus from his Hebrew context. And when we divorce Jesus from who he was ethnically, an ancient Jewish peasant/laborer, then it becomes very easy to misunderstand Jesus. Specifically, it can lead to anti-semitical theology and behavior. If you doubt this, study the theology of 18th-early 20th century German theology, which both puts less of an emphasis on the Trinity, and Jesus' Jewish heritage. This poor theology in many ways led to the holocaust.

Ok...enough of me rambling...sometimes I just need to write things down or I forget what I was thinking about.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men....

Last night I was trying to catch up on a little cleaning before my wife got home from work and her dentist appointment. We had some left over cookies from before Christmas. They were a little too stale for Jen and I. I thought I had a great idea. Lets give the dog the leftover cookies. It will make him happy. It will help us clean up the shelves a little bit. So I slowly doled out between 6-12 peanut butter cookies to Jake.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself until.....he vomited in living room. And the dining room. And the kitchen. And outside. And he did all this about 5 minutes before Jen got home. So much for cleaning the house before Jen got home from the dentist...

Live and learn I guess.