Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thought this was funny

The sermon to offend everyone....: Reflection on the Sixth Commandment


Thou shalt not kill. Four words. They sound pretty straight forward. The way that they we interpret these words have been anything but straight forward.

Thou shalt not kill. Four words. Moses received these words from up on high, but when he returned from the mountain, he found the Israelites worshipping a golden calf. When he discovered this, he sent out Levite priests to slaughter folks who had bowed the knee to this evil idol. Three thousand were killed that day. Even though God had just said, “Thou shalt not kill”.

Thou shalt not kill. Four words. Four words vigorously discussed and debated about in regard to what they mean to our lives together in our society. Many of our most contentious issues politically revolve around how we interpret this passage. How does the sixth commandment apply to things like birth control, abortion laws, our wars in Iraq and Afganistan, the execution of Ghaddafi, assisted suicide and the right to die movement, capital punishment, and other such issues?

Thou shalt not kill. Four simple words. And yet, by the time we get to the teachings of Jesus they are words that should guide us toward a life that is free from anger, revenge, score settling and violence.


So, what are we to make of the four simple words? How are they supposed to make their way into our hearts and lives? How are they to guide us toward a grace-filled, blessed life?

Furthermore, what do they really mean? What was God trying to say through them anyway? I have had a lot of questions in my life about those four little words.

And as I prayed about how to present this passage this morning, that is how I felt led to share this message with you today. I thought instead of me simply telling you what to believe in regard to this passage, I would have you join me on my spiritual and intellectual journey as I have sought, and continue to seek, clarity in relationship to this small, succinct, and very wise command.

I realize as I do this, you and I may not come out at the end of this process with the same attitude and perspective. That is ok. We are Baptists. We are not required to agree. But as I hope as I share how I have worked through these issues you will respect where I am coming from, and I will work on, if we disagree, showing you the same respect in return.
And I hope you will know that I come to this issue from a deep love of Scripture and faithfulness to Jesus, and a desire to be faithful obiedient to it no matter what the cost.
 

So, I have to tell you, starting off, a little bit more about who I was growing up. I was, from a young age, a person who often tried to avoid a fight, but more often than not found myself in physical altercations. How this happened is complex, but I think I can explain it. First, I was always, growing up, a little bit larger than people my age. I was at one hundred pounds by third grade, around 160 by sixth grade, and just under 200 pounds before 9th grade. And, that was all before I hit my growth spurt, entered puberty, and really started growing.

I was also, as you may have noticed in a more refined way now, a tender-hearted, sensitive soul. I was an am a people pleaser. And, for the most part a conflict avoider.

At the same time, I had this temper, that would flare up more often than I would like it to, which would come out through angry words screaming, and once in a while through some more physical way, such as breaking things or hitting something, and sometimes through tears as well.

All of this made me a ripe target for the young punks who wanted to move up in respect and fear of their fellow classmates through taking on the big guy. Which in turn, meant that I would often end up in fights. I was taught never to start a fight, which was a rule I almost always complied with. I was also taught that if someone tried to start a fight, I had every right to finish it. Which is something I learned how to do if necessary.

I have to admit, it did feel really good to go toe to toe with someone and win in a fight. In fourth grade, a guy was picking on a friend of mine. I told him if he wanted to pick on someone, he should try someone his own size. He punched me. I punched him in the nose. Blood spurted everywhere. I broke his nose on the first punch. It was such a rush to bring bodily harm to someone. And when the principal confirmed the story—that I acted in self-defense—I received no punishment whatsoever, and quite a few “atta-boys” from friends and family.

As I grew older, I channeled most of my aggression through sports. I played football. I wrestled. I learned that I played better when I could get myself in a really angry and violent toward everything I hated about my life, and then funnel that anger and that violence toward the person I was competing against. My senior year in high school I had a guy in a headlock, put his arm over his mouth and nose so he couldn’t breathe. He was gasping for air and finding none, like you do when you are underwater for too long and trying to hold your breathe. Finally I pinned him. Having his breathe, and in many ways his life, in my hands, it was such a high. I still have not forgotten it.

All this to share this, growing up I did not question much of the violence I saw around me. In war. In fights. In politics. In anything. I did not want to go into the military because I did not want to have some strange man screaming and yelling at me. I knew I would end up yelling right back at him over and over again until I was discharged or punished in some extreme way. Besides, I was too big to do more than one or two pull ups. I knew it would not be good.

I was also pro-life. Have been for as far back as I can remember.

Flash forward to seminary from there. I had played four years of football. I had finished two years of seminary. I was taking an ethics class. The ethics class required us to take on one issue for our research paper. I did not want to do much with environmental ethics and faith, because to be honest I was over the leftist propaganda on that issue. I had already been pretty clear on several other issues. I ended up studying the ethics of war and peace. It wasn’t a hot button issue by 1997. With my pick-up truck and short hair I certainly could not have been mistaken for a hippie, and with my portly, informal appearance I could hardly be mistaken for the militaristic type. The Cold War had ended. Our military was not in Iraq. This made this a perfect issue to study objectively. No drama. No agenda. Just trying to learn what the word of God says. Turned out I did not just learn a lot about war and peace, I learned a lot about what the Bible said about what the Catholic Church calls a “culture of life” in general.

The Creation story shows us that God values life. He created it. Human life was brought into being by God’s Word. After the fall, we see brother murder brother, and this was strongly condemned. By the time we get to Noah and the Ark, what we see is a world that is becoming increasingly violent. This violence was a large reason why the flood was sent.

Throughout the law, not only is there the command “Thou shalt not kill”, but there are all sorts of laws that protect life, including the life of an unborn child. Besides that, there are ritualistic laws that teach the people of Israel to honor life. And to protect the lives and the well-being of even those that are not from our country but live among them, or people who are too poor to have the resources to protect themselves. These laws were radically compassionate for their time.

Yet, in the Old Testament law, we also see a place for capital punishment of many crimes. In addition we see commands for warfare, and in the midst of warfare. And practices of warfare that go beyond anything we would think appropriate today. Things like killing not only every warrior, but every man, woman, child, and animal of one’s enemies. If you like reading some gory stuff, just read your Old Testament stories.

At the same time, though, you often see that the Scripture sees those who do violence, even if they do so in justifiable causes, to be considered less pure. Ceremonially this is definitely true. David couldn’t build the temple because he had too much blood on his hands, but Solomon was given permission by God to do so.

You also see God at times how God delivers his people from military threat without them having to go into battle. This is the case when the Israelites escaped Israel through the Red Sea. 2 Kings 19 tells a story about how God went and killed 180,000 people in their sleep when a mighty army was attacking Israel, and the people did not even have to fight against those folks. There is this underlying stream of thought that comes to fruition in Zecheriah 4:6…which says, “not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord”.

So we come to the New Testament with this command that tells us “don’t kill” and this violent world that the Israelites lived in. We see them having a high regard for life, but also involved in many violent endeavors, like many of the nations around them were as well.

In the middle of this world, comes Jesus. Jesus, in Matthew 5-7, begins to speaks some pretty radical words. Words like these, from the New International Version:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

And these:

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These passages, and others, seem to say that the command to not murder was to lead us as far away from violence as possible. It was, as a matter of fact, designed by God not to simply keep us from killing one another, but if we believe Jesus it was designed to keep us from hating one another, wishing harm on one another, wanting vengeance on another, or anything like that. All of this seems to run counter to the Jesus way.

So what does “Thou shalt not kill” mean? For me, as I continued to study, it meant what it said, and much more. Because the command was not only a call to not kill, but an invitation to a life in the Spirit where I would and could be a person of grace, peace, reconciliation, and love. In other words, I believe in being completely pro-life.


In regard to abortion, this meant that I believed that abortion was wrong. I discovered in fact that early church was actively involved in efforts to prevent abortion and infanticide from early in its history. Often rescuing children that were abandoned because of their gender or their disability, and taking them into their home, Christians had a powerful witness in the ancient world because they were the original right to lifers.

Note, however, that the early church’s pro-life activities were amazingly pro-active. They took children in that nobody wanted. They raised them at their own expense. They didn’t make their pro-life stand simply a political stand. They made it a lifestyle and a costly commitment.

The New Testament is remarkably silent regarding capital punishment. It seems clear thought that when God does have an opportunity to offer someone life instead of death, he certainly does it. He tells the woman who is about to be executed in John 8 to go and sin no more. He speaks of himself as one who wants to set captives free. And in America, as Chuck Colson wisely points out, our standards for capital punishment are in some ways not as stringent as Scripture’s, which calls for eyewitnesses to a crime of murder in order for it to be a death-penalty case, for instance.

In regard to issues regarding end of life, I don’t believe in assisted suicide. Looks like murder to me according the Scriptures. Having said this, I don’t think artificially keeping people alive by machines is necessarily mandated by Scripture either. The Bible says that for “everything there is a season”. It is not our place to play God by taking a life prematurely, or trying to use machines to extend it indefinitely.

And in regard to issues of war and peace, I must again listen to the one who said, “Love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek”. Although this issue is difficult for many to wade through, and many Christians disagree, I personally could not participate in military service in good conscience.

This is, a stance, interestingly enough, that was also endorsed by the early church until the government took authority over the church at the time of Constantine.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not condemn others who have. In fact I admire their courage, commitment and others-centeredness in their service. And I believe our nation should do everything to offer the best health care and social and emotional support for people who have put their lives on the line on behalf of our country. The gospel is a gospel of mercy and compassion that extends to all.

But when I ask myself, “Who would Jesus want me to kill?” I can only answer, “Nobody!” Even in the case of war.

I would rather be overly-obedient to the commands like “Love Your Neighbor”, “Love Your Enemy”, and “Thou shalt not kill” than to compromise my conscience in this regard. And I would rather die or suffer for standing for what I believe in this regard than to simply go along with the crowd instead of what I believe Jesus preaches. Some of you may believe this stance to be weak or cowardly. I believe it to be both courageous--especially in the middle of our culture of violence—and right.

I also believe it to be in line with the model of Jesus, who when arrested could have led armies to free himself, his friends, and his countrymen. Instead Jesus allowed foreign mercenaries to hang him on a cross to do the bidding of corrupt political leaders. And he bled. And he died. He died so that we could life—eternal life.

And he gave us the mission of going out into the world with that same self-sacrificial life and that same hopeful message. What is that message? That life is a gift given to us by God. And it is a good gift. And that God loves each of us so much that his will is that we “should not perish, but by believing inherit eternal life”.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall Pics 2011


This is a picture of the tree out of our front window the night before the storm. Pretty nice view, huh?

This is a picture of the Arkansas River from the Nepasta Bridge. I love the Nepasta Bridge spot in the river. The only spot I like looking at better with the Arkansas is where the river bends about 3 miles before you get into Fowler. 


This is a field right off the Nepasta Road between Highway 96 and Highway 50. For some reason I like looking at this field as well. I love the fall!!


Battle of the Bulge: Feast day is not a feel good day

Every week I have a cheat day from my diet. On my cheat day I don't keep track of what I eat. Since it is a feast day, I eat a lot of my favorite foods that are forbidden every other day. There is just one problem with this. My body has become used to eating healthier.

I used to have a cast iron stomach. I could eat or drink lots of carbs, and not be affected at all, with the possible exception of bad gas. These days when I eat a lot of rich, restaurant prepared food I end up going to bed with a stomach ache, and my mood just tanks. I don't know why this is. In ways I am thankful for this change. In other ways I am disappointed. It is what it is. I just thought it was interesting.

My latest greatest suggestions for college football realignment

Each day it seems there is a new situation realignment is facing. Here is what I think we should see...or is it what I want to see...who knows.

Big 12
I would expand back to 12

I would add BOTH Louisville and West Virginia
If Missouri leaves I would also add BYU.

Pac 12
I would continue expansion to 14, maybe 16

I would add teams in this order:

Colorado St.
Boise St.
New Mexico
SMU or Air Force

BIG 10
I would lobby really hard to add Notre Dame
If that works, then I would also look to add one more team

ACC
Add UCONN and Rutgers

SEC
Add Missouri
Try and add Louisville and West Virginia as well
If not, add a couple of CUSA Texas Schools for recruiting purposes




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review on Muscular Faith by Ben Patterson

Muscular Faith
By Ben Patterson
ISBN 978-1414316666
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Life is a battle. A lot of times we try and sugar coat or ignore this truth. Ben Patterson does not. Instead of bemoaning the nature of life as a battle, in Muscular Faith Patterson encourages his readers to embrace this truth and to get in the middle of the fray with wisdom and passion.

Much of Muscular Faith is a reflection upon a word study of the Greek word "agon". This word, which at one point just referred to a place of assembly, by the time the Bible was written referred to a "place of conflict". Particularly, the word picture associated with this word is that of an athlete performing in a colleseum, fighting for his life. This, Patterson holds, is what the Christian journey is meant to be.

Patterson does not advocate for works-righteousness, but he does argue for a grace-filled journey with Jesus that does work. At different points Muscular Faith Patterson extends this metaphor in a number of different directions. He argues for why this "vigorous faith" is necessary, and what the obstacles are to staying strong in the battle.

In the last section of the book, Patterson begins to talk about spiritual disciplines as training exercises and weapons in the battle of faith. As a matter of fact, most of the practices that he discusses form dispositions in our spirit that are subsequently described in the famous "Armor of God" passage.

Patterson's book is inspiring. As a former athlete, I enjoyed the several athletic stories that are weaved in throughout the book. As I read chapter after chapter, I felt like I was recieving one pep talk after another. I was encouraged both by the author's honesty about having struggle in life, and his encouragement to stay strong in the struggle. I would recommend this for nearly everyone, but especially for those leading a men's group, or an FCA group at a local school. Good stuff!




Being an Oregon Ducks fan is a family tradition!


Resources for Sunday School and Church on my Desk

Posted by Picasa

Lots of Books to Review!

Posted by Picasa

One group of Review Books

Posted by Picasa

The other group of Review Books

Posted by Picasa

Parenting Posts: The Balancing Act

One of the challenges of thoughtful parenting, so far, in my opinion, is that it is a challenge to juggle competing good values in a way that is healthy for our little Karis.

For instance, our experience at church. On one hand, we want our child to behave at church. On the other hand, we do not want to teach Karis that church is this drab and judgmental place where her parents are tense and always screaming "NO" at her. This is hard. At some point, she is going to have to learn to not run around the church during worship. On the other hand, when she climbs up the platform and walks toward the pulpit toward me I hear Jesus say indignantly, "Don't prevent the children from coming to me. For unless you recieve the kingdom of God like a little child...."

Another is balancing our desire for her to communicate assertively, with our desire with our child to not become a demanding, spoiled-rotten brat. Karis is very verbal. She is very passionate. And, she is often very clear about what she wants. And, if you do not give her what she wants, he assumption is that you must not have understood, so she communicates more forcefully. For instance, Karis wants a ball. She begins her request like a question, "Ball?". If she does not get what she wants right away she begins to say louder and louder, "Ball. BAll, BALL, BALLLLLL!" So our job is to get her to communicate her needs and desires forthrightly and clearly, but to also realize that she does not always get what she wants. Not always easy. Especially with a girl who knows her own mind as well as Karis does for a 16 month old.

It seems to me that a lot of parenting is a balancing act. You want your kids to learn responsibility, but not be up tight. You want your kids to be compassionate, but not a doormat. You want your kids to take pride in their appearance, without being vain. The list could go on and on.

What other balancing acts can you think of? Does this ring true to your experience? If so, how so?

I would love to hear from you....

Book Review of Sticky Faith by Kara Powell and Chap Clark


Sticky Faith

By Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark

ISBN 978-0-310-32932-9

Zondervan Publishing

Reviewed by Clint Walker

 

Drop into many churches in the United States and you will hear parents and grandparents making the same complaint. The church will be full of older folks, with a few middle-aged people sprinkled in. In most of these churches you will hear how the church was once full of children, but now there are hardly any young adults or children present. They will go on to say that some of their children live nearby, and yet they cannot get them to join them in their church involvement. “What are we to do?” they ask, “How could have things been different?”



Into this world of concern about young people retaining their faith come the Fuller Youth Institute, and its leaders Kara Powell and Chap Clark. Combining keen insight with painstaking research, Powell and Clark believed they have uncovered some thoughtful ways parents can raise their kids so that their faith “sticks” even after they leave home. Their learning is compiled in the book Sticky Faith. Much of what they have to share is very helpful, and parents would be wise to heed it.



Over and over again, children and teenagers cite their parents as their primary role models and their heroes. Thus, Sticky Faith directly challenges parents to be very intentional in their child’s spiritual development, and addresses them as the primary influencers that they are.



The book challenges parents to be involved in their children’s lives on a number of fronts. First, it encourages parents to live their faith transparently before their children, and to invite their children into a family that functions as a community of faith. Sticky Faith gives parents helpful hints about how to have spiritual conversations with their teenage children. The book exhorts parents to develop larger, intentional networks of caring adults to support themselves and their children as they work to lead their children to Jesus. Through the whole book, Sticky Faith argues in a number of different ways that meaningful intergenerational relationships are essential to a child’s longevity in the church and overall spiritual vitality.



I enjoy the way the book is set up. Sticky Faith helps parents know more about what their child is going through, and that it is normal. It helps parents with specific practices they can have as parents to be stronger in leading their children into an authentic life of faith that lasts through college and beyond. It is a book that is less driven by guilt than by faith. The authors even occasionally point out times where they have struggled to implement the principles that they describe. Their humility encourages me, and makes me want to hear more from them.



Occasionally I was amused with the discussion of larger churches, and their inability to integrate young adults into “big church”. I serve in a small church, and there are several facets of “sticky faith” that we practice just by virtue of being small. At times, some of the things that Chap and Kara shared seemed to be obvious. But if they felt the need to say what they said, maybe the ability to relate to teens and children in a meaningful way is rarer than I expected.



Based on both Kara and Chap’s research studies, Sticky Faith is a gem of a book that should be in the hands of both pastors and youth workers across the country. This book is full of the cutting edge information about the spiritual lives of teens can endure into adulthood. And, although some of the discoveries may not be all that earthshattering, Sticky Faith is, at the very least, full of helpful reminders on how to love our children well, and hints on how to  guide them best to Jesus.

Monday, October 24, 2011

1995 Sabbath Poem I from A Timbered Choir by Wendell Berry

A man with some authentic worries
And many vain and silly ones
I am well-schooled in sleeplessness;
I know it from the inside out.
I breathe, and I know what's at stake.

But still sometimes I'm sane and sound,
however heart or head may ache;
I go to sleep when I lie down,
With no determined care to breathe
I breathe and live and sleep and take.

A sabbath from my weariness,
I rest in unwaking trust
Like clouds and ponds and stones and trees.
The long arising Day will break
If I should die before I wake.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review of Existential Reasons for Belief in God by Clifford Williams

THE BOOK:

Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith
by Clifford Williams
ISBN 978-0-8308-3899-8
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

REVIEW:

I have to admit. I am not impartial about anything written or said by Dr. Clifford Williams. Dr. Williams my professor in my Honors Introduction to Philosophy class my freshman year at Trinity International University. He was, infact, the teacher of the first class I ever took in college. His class was wonderful. It led a friend of mine to decide he was going to major in philosophy. And it taught us all how important it was to bring together the life of the mind and the life of faith.

It is no wonder that the first book of his that I have ever gotten to read is Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith. In this fine book Williams attempts to deconstruct the dualism between Emotions and Reason, Faith and the Intellect. He specifically does this in relation to decisions of faith, arguing that there is nohting irrational or immoral about having faith decisions generated by both our intellectual and emotional lives. In fact, as responsible humans, the realities of our emotional selves and our reason-driven selves should both be factored in to making wise, true, and ethical decisions. This is especially true regarding decisions about ultimate reality.

Existential Reasons for Belief in God is very deliberate and methodical in how it makes its case. It begins by setting the scene of arguments for faith in the world of philosophy, defining terms, and familiarizing his readers with the issues that need to be addressed. Then, it makes a well-reasoned argument in favor of "existential" arguments for faith in God. Next, Dr. Williams spends several chapters addressing objections to his thesis.

In addressing objections, Dr. Williams, true to his character, does not set up straw men to knock down. Instead, he addresses intelligent and thoughtful concerns with a lot of grace and equal measure of strong reason.

Next, Existential Reasons for Belief in God  takes a few more chapters to further commend the importance of both existential and intellectual paths to a life of faith.

The result is a wonderful resource, and a treasured book to be kept on my shelf for many years.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. I would not commend it to everyone, as it is pretty heavy reading for the average person. But, to those who love the world of ideas, and love doing a lot of in-depth reading, I would recommend this book heartily. Happy Reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sabbath Poem from Wendell Berry in A TIMBERED CHOIR


What stood will stand, though all be fallen
The good return that time has stolen
Though creatures groan in misery
Their flesh prefigures liberty
To end travail and bring to birth
Their new perfection in new earth
Let the trees of the woods all sing
And every field rejoice, let praise
Rise up out of the ground like grass
What stood, whole in every piecemeal
Thing that stood, will stand through all
Fall--field and woods and all in them
Rejoin the primal Sabbath's hymn
(1979, VI, p. 13)

Book Review of Humilitas by John Dickson

Book Info:
Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership
by John Dickson
ISBN 978-0-310-32862-9
Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Review:
Dickson's study of humility in Humilitas is a wonderful groundbreaking book. It is part study of a virtue throughout history, and part call to personal and spiritual transformation. It is engaging and smart, and I recommend every leader grab this book and read it closely.

As I said, one part of the book discusses the history of humility. It speaks about how humility was depised by many philosophers and leaders in the ancient world. Then, it goes on to show how the whole attitude of ancient culture toward humility changed after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This is, the author shows, without dispute.

The book also discusses why humility is good, and how humility is effectual in several arenas of life and leadership. In its final section, the author attempts to offer some advice and disciplines to generate humility in one's life.

This book is smart, very readable, and compelling. I would recommend Humilitas to anyone and everyone who wants to be a stronger and a better person.

Book Review of Welcome to the Story by Stephen J. Nichols

Book Info:

Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving & Living God's Word
by Stephen J. Nichols
ISBN 978-1-4335-2230-7
Crossway Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Review:

I am always on the lookout for books that offer overviews of Scripture as a whole. They are helpful for me, and they are helpful for the people I work with

This particular book is especially good. It offers a overview of the narrative arc of God's Word, with an emphasis toward major themes. Specifically, Welcome to the Story chronicles the overarching themes of Scripture as it goes along: creation, fall, remption, and restoration. Then the author talks about what this story teaches us about who God is and who we are. Finally, the author delves deeper in how understanding Scripture this way can form our spirits and change our lives.

What I especially like about this book is that it understands Scripture as GOD'S story. The Bible is designed for GOD to speak to us, for us to understand who GOD is, for us to see what GOD is doing in the world, and then for us to decide if we want to be a part of the big thing GOD is doing in the world.

This is a good resource to have on my shelf, and then to share with those who are asking, "What is the Bible all about?"

Book Review of Hungry for God by Margaret Feinberg

Book Info:
Hungry for God
by Margaret Feinberg
ISBN 978-0-310-33207-7
Zondervan Publishing
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Review:
Margaret Feinberg is one of my favorite authors. I have a certain affinity for her because she is around my age. She has also lived in the same regions I have. She is now living in Colorado, as I am. But, she also did a stint living in Alaska, as I have as well.

I also enjoy her writing because it is the wonderful combination of a contemplative heart, an active and curious mind, and a contemporary down to earth voice. Her previous books kept my attention.

Hungry for God is her most recent release. It continues in the tradition that I described above. Specifically, this book is written for the person that is eager to hear God's voice, but is not sure how that is done or what that means.

In Hungry for God, Feinberg deftly combines story and biblical principles into an inviting guide to a deeper and more personal relationship with the Creator. She challenges her readers to be attentive to the way that God is present in their everyday lives, and gives some specific examples to her readers about how that can be done.

The book goes on to share about ways that God has historically spoken to believers, how he guides and directs, as well as how God convicts and challenges. She gives tips to seekers on how they can equip themselves to better listen to God. Finally, she offers some helpful insight on how to continue in a conversational relationship with God. Hungry for God is a good book.

This may seem petty, but the biggest turn off for me about the book was the cover. The cover is, infact, a picture of Margaret. Margaret is an attractive woman, and this is an attractive photograph. I just hate buying books with huge pictures of the author on front. Probably the only exception to this rule for me are authors that lived in previous centuries. I even think Dave Ramsey's books with his picture on the front are a little offputting. I don't like this for two reasons. One, it was overdone in Christian books in the 70s and early 80s. Second, I think a lot of the books that do this are marketed toward a more feminine audience. And, I don't want to run around holding a "girly book". He He.

Anyway, if you can get past the cover looking like it is a magazine cover in the check out line, I would suggest grabbing this book and spending some time reading it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How do you read?

I blog I read occassionally had these insightful questions:

      How do you read?
      I don’t mean how do you comprehend words on a page. I ask in a much more practical manner:   
      How do you actually go about the act of reading a book? There is a great deal of diversity in  
      how people read these days.
    • Do you speed read?
    • Do you have to have complete silence or can you read in a crowded, noisy room?
    • Do you use an e-reader or are you a dyed-in-the-wool paper-and-ink person?
    • Do you skim or thoroughly comb through each word of each sentence of each paragraph?
    • Do you read with a pen in hand, marking up the book as you go?
    • Do you prefer reading in large chunks of several hours at a time or do you read ‘on the fly’ with a few minutes here and there?
    • Do you take notes?
    • Do you go back and re-read books months and years later if its good enough or is one time sufficient?
    • Do you have to read a book a few times before you retain the information or can you grasp it pretty quickly the first time around?
In the times of e-readers and such, this is an interesting question. Here are my answers

  1. Do you speed read?
I do not speed read. I do, however, do a lot of skim reading. Especially with the books I review

     2.  Do you have to have complete silence or can you read in a crowded, noisy room?

I can read in noisy spaces unless they are full of people I know. If they are, then I have a hard time reading when there are people I could be spending time with. For instance, I read a good chunk of a book on preaching lately waiting for doctors appointments.

     3.  Do you use an e-reader or are you a dyed-in-the-wool paper-and-ink person?

I  am a dyed-in-the-wool paper-and-ink person. If I ever use an ereader, it will be for different kinds of material than paper and ink,

    4.   Do you skim or thoroughly comb through each word of each sentence of each 
          paragraph?

Both. Depends on the book and my purpose for reading it. I skim some review books, and sometimes I skim research books while looking for what I need. Books I am more passionate about I read cover to cover

    5.  Do you read with a pen in hand, marking up the book as you go?

Always. Books are tools to be used not items to be worshipped.

    6.  Do you prefer reading in large chunks of several hours at a time or do you read ‘on the 
         fly' with a few minutes here and there?

Both

     7.  Do you take notes?

Yes. It is the only way I can remember what I read years later. Otherwise I am like..."I read somewhere that......."

      8.  Do you go back and re-read books months and years later if its good enough or is one
           time sufficient?

I reread about one book a year. Most often when I am teaching on some material presented in it.

        9.  Do you have to read a book a few times before you retain the information or can you
             grasp it pretty quickly the first time around?

I reread sections, but not usually whole books.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT WOULD YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS BE? WHAT HABITS IN READING DO YOU BELIEVE MAKE GOOD READERS?


Resources for this Sunday's Sermon on Sabbath

On the Ten Commandments:
Smoke on the Mountain by Joy Davidman
The Ten Commandments from the Back Side by J. Ellsworth Kalas
The Ten Commandments by Patrick Miller
The Truth About God by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
Exodus by Timothy Freitheim
I Am the Lord Your God by Carl Braaten and Christopher R. Seitz eds.

On Sabbath:
Sabbath: The Ancient Practices by Dan Allender
Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath
Keeping Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn
Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba
Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner

On Spiritual Disciplines
The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith
Sacred Rhythyms by Ruth Haley Barton
Downtime by Mark Yaconelli
Growing Souls by Mark Yaconelli
Wonder, Fear, and Longing by Mark Yaconelli
Soul Shaper by Tony Jones
Practicing Our Faith by Dorothy Bass ed.
O2 by Richard Dahlstrom

Confessional Documents
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Luther's Short Catechism

Book Review of Paul through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in I Corinthians by Kenneth E. Bailey


A couple of weeks ago I received a promotional catalog promoting forthcoming books that were due to be released. I saw Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes and I had to have it.

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is written by Kenneth Bailey. For decades, Bailey has been known as an expert in Middle Eastern culture. He has lived and ministered as a missionary, pastor and professor in the areas the Bible people lived in. Along the way, he picked up new insights about the cultural context that God's Word was written in, and how the original hearers might have heard those texts.

His classic text was Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes. These texts helped readers see the parables in the gospel of Luke in a whole different light. Recently, Bailey compiled Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, which offered unique perspectives on prominent passages in the Gospels. Now, in Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, Bailey focuses his considerable intellect on the epistle of I Corinthians.

The book does not disappoint. Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is deft at using literary analysis and cultural insight to communicate the essence of what Paul is trying to say in a simple and easy to understand way.   Instead of simply going verse by verse through the book of I Corinthians, Bailey also takes on the book issue by issue. Thus, while covering the whole book, he gets to address hot button topics such as sexual ethics, the place of men and women in the leadership of the church, freedom and responsibility in the Christian life, and the centrality of the cross and resurrection in true Christian experience.

I particularly enjoyed his egalitarian insights on men and women as partners in marriage and leadership of the church. In this section, he interspersed deft analysis with personal anecdotes of his experiences working among Mediterranean people. His perspectives on the commands for silence, and what that command did in fact mean  were both intelligent, and easy to pass on to others as I teach this passage.

First Corinthians is a popular book for many scholars to study and write about. There is a lot of work out there on this important book in the New Testament. Yet, none of what is out there in commentaries and other analysis is comparable to Bailey's unique perspective. I would recommend every pastor, teacher, and serious student of the word grab this book, purchase it, and add it to their bookshelf.  It is well worth the money!

*IVP provided this book for me in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review of Excellence in Preaching by Simon Vibert

Information on Book
Excellence in Preaching: Studying the Craft of Leading Preachers
by Simon Vibert
ISBN 978-0-8308-3815-8
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker
 
Overview
Simon Vibert has written a unique text on preaching. In Excellence in Preaching, Vibert chooses twelve well-known, leading evangelical English-speaking preachers from three continents. He analyzes one or two of each of their messages, and points out the strengths of that particular message. Then, he has some take-away tips for preachers to better the execution of their craft.

Personal Response
I enjoyed reading through Excellence in Preaching. There is a lot to learn from this text. There is also significant room for improvement.

As I read through this book, I found a lot of helpful hints and tidbits about good preaching that I needed to hear. Some of the information was helpful because it confirmed my experience. This is especially true of David Cook's description of beginnings and endings.

David Cook likens preaching to an airplane journey. Most energy and concentration are required at the beginning and the end. The takeoff and landing are the most dangerous and require the most engine thrust. In between, while airborne, the plane may cruise along. In preaching beginnings and endings matter the most. 'Maximum thrust at the beginning. Maximum thrust at the end,' he says (p. 93)
Other information was helpful because it gave me a needed admonition. Such was the case when Vibert discussed John Ortberg when Vibert surmised, "Don't feel like you have to say everything every time you stand up to preach. God's story is a big story, and full explanation requires a lifetime" (p. 117)

Despite the helpfulness of this text, I thought it was rather narrow in its scope of preachers. President Obama's speaking style was referenced at the beginning of the text. His speaking style has some roots in the African-American preaching experience. Yet, there is not one African-American preacher on the "leading preachers" to be analyzed. There were no women on the list, and yet Beth Moore, Anne Graham Lotz and Joyce Meyer have had a huge impact on women around the country and around the world. There are very few preachers on this list that are not both conservative and evangelical. It would have been nice to see someone more thoroughly mainline who is also recognized as a great preacher.

Having said this, this book will sit on my shelf, and I will refer to it many times when I need a little kick-start or a fresh breeze in my preaching.
.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Jesus Way vs. The American Way

Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite leaders and theologians. HERE is another excerpt from his writings:

Below is a teaser:

And here is how we are in on it: we become present to what God intends to do with and for us through worship, become present to the God who is present to us. The operating biblical metaphor regarding worship is sacrifice — we bring ourselves to the altar and let God do with us what he will. We bring ourselves to the Eucharistic table and enter into that grand fourfold shape of the liturgy that shapes us: taking, blessing, breaking, giving — the life of Jesus taken and blessed, broken and distributed. That Eucharistic life now shapes our lives as we give ourselves, Christ in us, to be taken, blessed, broken, and distributed in lives of witness and service, justice and healing.




But that is not the American way. The great American innovation in congregation is to turn it into a consumer enterprise. We Americans have developed a culture of acquisition, an economy that is dependent on wanting more, requiring more. We have a huge advertising industry designed to stir up appetites we didn’t even know we had. We are insatiable.



It didn’t take long for some of our Christian brothers and sisters to develop consumer congregations. If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon, recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem solving, whatever. This is the language we Americans grew up on, the language we understand. We are the world’s champion consumers, so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?



Given the conditions prevailing in our culture, this is the best and most effective way that has ever been devised for gathering large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which God brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and sets us on the way of Jesus’ salvation. This is not the way in which we become less and Jesus becomes more. This is not the way in which our sacrificed lives become available to others in justice and service. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, “deny yourself” congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church.




Monday, October 10, 2011

Quotes from the founder of Apple (and Pixar etc etc)

Scot McKnight's collection of Steve Jobs' quotes is just stellar. My favorite:


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Formation in Christlikeness Conference by Aprentis Institute: Day 2

Now, to discuss day two of my experience at the Formation in Christlikeness event:

General Session Speaker: Scot McKnight

I really enjoyed Scot McKnight's talk. I was hoping he would have spent more time talking about the content in the King Jesus Gospel, but instead he basically did an overview of some of the material about spiritual transformation that was in his book Jesus Creed.

In his talk he spoke especially about Peter's spiritual transformation, but also the transformation of Mary (moth of Jesus) and John (beloved disciple). He often spoke about how his perspective on spiritual transformation differed from the Willard/Smith model. As far as I can tell this took place in two specific ways.

  1. McKnight believes that most meaningful transformation comes through the "crucible of events" as "in moments of crisis we respond". This varies from the attitude of Willard, Foster, and Smith, who attempt to help people transform through the ordinary moments of their lives.  I favor the necessity of the Willard/Smith approach, but believe in truth most meaningful life change comes either through crisis or transition.
  2. McKnight feels it is less helpful to be conscious of our transformation, giving constant analysis and feedback to the transformation process. He instead believes that we should live through the transformation process in a more natural and organic way.
What I enjoyed most about McKnight's talk was his sense of humor. He was bright and witty, but often had us laughing outloud during his presentation.

General Session speaker Mindy Caliguire

I have nearly every book Mindy has ever written so I was excited to hear her speak.

To be honest, she was hard to follow at first, and my notes are not good for her presentation.

I wanted to get a lot out of it, but her notes she included were not existent.

She shared a lot of information about burnout with ministers, and how God is eagerly pursuing us, even as believers and pastors. And that he longs to spend time with us and be around us.

Worshop: Mark Scandrette and the Jesus Dojo

I debated on whether to attend this workshop. After all, a workshop titled after a karate studio was perhaps a little too trendy for me. I attended the workshop anyway. I am glad I did.

What was insightful for me in this workshop was its emphasis on "communities of practice" as a model of spiritual growth for the church and for individual believers.

Scandrette believes the church should resemble a dojo more than a college lecture hall. A place where we learn something, and then immediately put it into practice, and then have instructors and a group of practicioners of what we are doing be able to give us feedback and insight into how to do the spiritual life.

While the style in which Scandrette ministers does not necessarily fit my current context, the means for spiritual transformation may be a helpful way of helping people grow spiritually.

Having went to this workshop, I immediately went and bought his new book from the bookstand. His methodogy of doing the spiritual disciplines makes sense, both for outreach and for personal growth.

General Session: James Catford

Interestingly, this session seemed to focus on getting the message of spritual transformation and God's presence out into the world, instead of just keeping it in the church. I loved the evangelistic emphasis.

An evangelistic emphasis in a "Renovare" style is less about decisionism, or recruitment than it is helping people be aware of God's presence, and join him by faith in his Way and his Purposes. Catford explained this very well.

He also explained how believers have an opportunity to transform culture by their presence in it, and how necessary this ministry is.

General Session Eduardo Pedreira

Being from Brazil, I found Eduardo difficult to understand at times. But as I listened to what he said, much of what he shared was very transferrable.

He shared a lot about how if we are going to truly help people be transformed, we need to be incarnational. We need to be where people are, going through what they are going through. Then we need to show them a different way.

He shared how much of our congregations and pastors are in a cycle of behavior that leads to spiritual death. Thus, many people in our church segment their lives, surviving their weeks, and coming to church with a different persona. Then, we have a hard time reaching them.

He shared that in order to impact people, we need to impact their negative spiritual cycle, which moves this way: Competition--Effort toward Accomplishment--Exhaustion--Entertainment. In order to do that, we need to move into the world where this cycle takes place, and offer an alternative that makes life more meaningful and intentional than the "cycle". Specifically, we need to help people move from narcissism to selflessness. Interesting stuff.

Overall Observations

  • Loved having both the publishers and the 8th day bookstore at the conference
  • Enjoyed the messages, especially in the first two sessions. Thought they should have mixed in the final two presenters. They kind of felt like add-ons
  • Would like to see more worshop time at this conference.
  • Would have liked to see speakers and presenters more accessable to the relatively small number of attendees. In this sense, the conference should take its model from Youth Specialties conferences
  • Thought the curriculum presentations were especially helpful
  • Loved the Friends campus
  • Am thinking about implementing the Aprentis curriculum in the near future




Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sermon on Third Commandment on 10/9/11


Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain--The third commandment. What does that mean? Many other versions besides the King James phrase it differently. The New International Version says “misuse the name of the Lord”.  The New Century Version says, “not use the name of the Lord your God thoughtlessly”. The Common English Bible says, “use the LORD your God’s name as if it were of no significance”. And perhaps the New Revised Standard offers the best translation when it says, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God”.

But again I must ask, “What does that mean?” What exactly is the third commandment talking about, and why is so very important to God, and why should it be so important to us.

Most of us grew up with the understanding that taking the Lord’s name in vain referred to an excited utterance of the divine name in a moment of frustration or great excitement.  Probably the best illustration of how this kind of behavior is demonstrated by a story a pastor friend of mine told.

Pastor Mark accepted Christ when he was 17. He grew up in Jerome, Idaho. Jerome had a strong Mormon influence, and this pastor friend of mine loved to play basketball. It so happened that the Mormon church in town, like most Mormon churches, was built with a gym inside it. And in the summer it is where most of the kids in town would play in the evenings.

Well, soon after his conversion, Pastor Mark made a strong effort not to exclaim the divine name unnecessarily. Especially while he was playing sports (If you have ever had to struggle to give up cussing, the athletic arena may be one of the hardest places to exterminate the habit).

Well, most of the LDS kids were taking the Lord’s name in vain while they were playing ball. And he decided he would do something to make a point. Every time he missed a shot he would shout, “Joseph Smith” or “Brigham Young”. Needless to say, my friend did not make many friends, but he did make his point.

I was a spirited, strong-willed child as a little one. A fact that I am often reminded of. Because I was a spirited child, and because I was raised in a traditional, old-fashioned manner, I was often spanked as a child. I do not remember all my beatings, but I do remember a few. The first one I remember was from my father for pushing my sister off of the top bunk after placing her inside a cardboard box. I had told her she could achieve space flight. She did not. She got a bloody nose. I got a very sore rear end from a very spirited spanking.

The second spanking I remember recieving was for utterance of the divine name upon entering our home. Our dog had gotten into toilet paper and strewn it all over the house. I walked in and uttered the second person of the Trinity’s full-name. I was promptly swatted by my mother and sent to my room. She washed my mouth out with soap. She asked me where I learned to talk like that. I told her I had learned such language from her, which she firmly denied using. It was such a strange question in retrospect. All of our family friends were redneck loggers, who spoke the Lord’s name as often as took a swig of cheap beer. Which was quite often.

Certainly, when trying to understand what it means to use the name of the Lord in vain, such uses of the divine name as if it were a cussword are an appropriate example of how people treat the name of the Lord as if it is worthless or useless. But, it certainly is not the only way a person can take the Lord’s name in vain. It may not even be the primary way this is done.

As I began to study this issue, I discovered that many of the Reformers and early commentators on this commandment understood taking the Lord’s name in vain quite differently than we do today. Both Luther and the early Presbyterians in the catechisms of the 1500s and 1600s related the third commandment to taking oaths.

Haven’t you ever heard someone say, “I swear to God”? Or seen someone swear that they are going to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth with their hands on the Bible? Or say, “God as my witness”?

Have you ever seen someone do all of this, and then go ahead and do something false?

This is, in many ways, the way that several people have interpreted the commandment. They have believed that making dishonest oaths and living dishonest lives before God is a violation of the third command.

I agree that this also is a form of taking the Lord’s name in vain. I do, however, think taking the name of the Lord in vain is about more than an excited utterance, or a concern about oaths.

When one digs into this verse and does a little bit more of a word study, then one discovers some interesting insights. You see the word for “vain” is an interesting word. You might have guessed that from the varieties of translation of that one word that I read earlier.

The word “vain” is related to several concepts. One is a “lie”. The other is related to “emptiness”. It also has the connotation of being narcissistic, that is overly-concerned with self.

Thus, one of the ways that people have also understood taking the Lord’s name in vain is misusing the Lord’s name for personal benefit. Certainly, Jesus says this is especially common among church leaders. Jesus said that many people will come to him and say, “Lord, Lord….I cast out demons in your name.” and that he will have to say, “depart from me, I never knew you”. They acted like they knew God. But, they really did not.

Certainly, in our world we see people who use the name of God to shadily garner business through the name of Jesus.  I see it all the time. Especially once people find out I am a pastor, or are eager to do work for the church. Either way, they tend to visit a lot about how godly they are, or what church they go to, or how they govern their company on Christian principles. I remember when Craig Manchego and I were out trying to get some exercise. We came around the corner to the house. And we saw the man making his way down the street. He was going to be at the parsonage about the same time as I was. We knew what he was. He was a guy hired by a roofing company to go door to door and rustle up roofing work for some company based out of town. We visited with him.  Before he left, he shared he was utterly surprised that the parsonage was in fact a parsonage. He also shared that he was studying for the ministry, and that his school was named “Charis” just like our daughter. In other words, he was pimping Jesus for his own benefit.

It gets to the point that if someone is trying to sell me something, and then they start talking about their faith, and how Christian their business is, and where they go to church, I immediately view them with suspicion. I believe that they cannot be trusted. I believe that they are using their supposed Christian faith to sell me something for selfish gain. I am usually right. A lot of people take the name of God in vain in this way.

What about those people who protest military funerals, seminary graduations, and people being put on trial for murdering homosexuals? You know who they are. They are from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. They are all trained lawyers, which means that they are very skilled in their abilities in suing people. And so they go to funerals saying God hates soldiers and gays and about anyone else they can think of. They speak the name of the Lord. They decide to speak for God is ways that do not honor him, and that allow them to have substantial financial gain when people touch them, bump into them, get angry with them. They say they are God’s voice. In fact, they are taking the Lord’s name in vain. They are using the Lord’s name for empty lies and selfish gain.

In the New Testament, there was a couple named Annanias and Saphira that conspired to lie to the church by selling their land, and then telling the church they had given all their money when in fact they had held some back for a rainy day. When they chose to come into the sanctuary and lie about it, each of them were struck dead right on the spot. Don’t think that this is just an Old Testament concept. The commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain makes its way to several places in the New Testament as well.

Besides the word “vain” the other word we obviously need to look at in this commandment is the word “name”.

One thing we know about the word “name” is that names actually meant something in Bible times. How you named a person had power. It is not like our time, where we often choose a name because it sounds cute, or because it is common or popular, or the same name of a favorite sports star or actor.

Knowing someone’s name gave you power. And the name you had branded you one way or another for your entire life. Thus it is interesting that God changed Abram to Abraham, Sarah to Sarai, Saul to Paul. It is also evident that a name is more important to us than we might expect.

One’s name also spoke of one’s familial identity, as it still does today.

My last name lets people know that I am descended from Walker men.

But one’s family name can also mean something very special and powerful.

One’s name can establish a culture. For instance, at one point I will probably say to my beautiful daughter, “That is not the way we as Walkers do things’

Taking on a name implies ownership and power.

Also, we can sometimes in business authorize other people to speak on my behalf. To do things in “our name”. We give them power to speak for us and to be our representative. When we do this, our good name depends on the reputation of those we have given the power to do work in “our name”.

As the people of God, we are people of God’s name. As believers in Jesus, we call ourselves Christian. We take on God’s name. As a church we are called to live and work on God’s behalf, as God’s representitives in this world.

Throughout the Old Testament, God keeps telling the Israelite people that they were called by HIS NAME. Jesus says that we need to minister and do things in HIS NAME. What they are saying is that we are called to live in this world as his children AND his representatives.

Thus, when we are commanded to “not take the name of the Lord in vain” a big part of what we are asked to do is to not take our role as God’s children and as God’s representatives in the world for granted. Instead, we are to live and speak in a way that brings honor to God. We are to make commitments that bring glory and honor to God. We are to uphold our family name as Christians in word and action.

We are coming here today, in part, to gather together to support Shelby and Macenna in baptism. They are having the courage to stand up in front of everyone, and say that they are not taking God’s call to be obedient disciples for granted. They are not taking the Lord, or his work, in vain. They are taking on the name of Jesus, in public. They are saying, yes, I stand with Jesus.

Both of them have accepted Christ a few years ago. They have quietly taken time to listen and learn. They have not rushed to be baptized. They have prayerfully made the decision to follow Christ in this way. Now, they are standing up and saying that they are committed to publically take on the name of Jesus. To not take his gift of salvation for granted. And thus, they have to obey the call of Jesus to be baptized publically. They have chosen to claim Jesus, and to let him claim them.

As Shelby and Macenna are baptized, we are challenged to remember rightly. To not take our faith for granted. To not take God for granted. As they are baptized we are challenged to remember who we are. We are God’s children. We are people he has given his name to.

And as they are baptized, we are prompted to remember who we are. We are Christians. We are people who have taken on the name of Jesus. We are people who have been called to be his hands and feet here on earth. To live and work on his behalf as long we have breathe.

In this tender moment, we are reminded to not take our faith for granted. To not take the name, the name that is above all names, the name that has saved us, the name that has freed us, the name that has mended our brokenness, and found us in our lostness, we are encouraged not to take the name of God in vain. Instead we are called to honor God’s name by how we live, love, trust and follow the one in whom, as Paul said, “we live, and move, and have our being.” Amen.