Monday, November 30, 2009

Here we go again

Time to get back to work! I love Thanksgiving; it's my favorite holiday of the year. It's all the nice feel of Christmas without all the commercial junk.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving. Lester and Maddie came in for a couple of days, and Luke was here. We ate and laughed a lot. Good stuff.

I was so out of routine last week, so I really need to push pretty hard this week to get some things done. I only have two more class meetings with my Oakland City students before I give them the dreaded (by them - ha ha!) final exam. I am really wanting to get our church website pushed along as well. Plus all the usual stuff.

Yesterday was a really good day. We had a nice crowd at church and though a lot of people seemed tired or hung over from too much food, everyone seemed engaged and joyful. Our life group last night was wonderful. We spent considerable time expressing thanks to one another for various things. Lots of laughter and lots of joyful tears. We all left feeling blessed to be a part of a loving community.

This week we turn our attention to the Christmas story. We are going to talk about 3 characters over the next 3 weeks: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. We start with Joseph. He is such an interesting character. We'll try to live the story through his eyes.

OK, I plan to be pretty active here this week, so check back from time to time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Give Thanks

SO, what are you thankful for? I would like to get a lot people's response to that question, but I'm not sure how to go about it.

You can reply here if you would like, and I think I will try to ask people this week.

Our text for the week is from Luke 17 - the story about the 10 lepers. Only one returned to thank Jesus for the healing.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Ramblings

I'm pretty sure that if I were still a kid that I would be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. I can't sit too long or stay too focused for too long. This especially happens during Thursday sermon prep. As much as I don't like it, it seems to be the way things work.

"Unfriend" the word of the year, so says the headline. Of course it's about all those social networking sites. I still find them more weird than helpful. For some it clearly provides an opportunity for narcissistic exhibitionism. Me? I prefer my blog for such activities! ha ha.

^ ^ ^
As I've mentioned before, I am reading through the Bible this year. I'm now in 1 Corinthians, which means I was recently reading Romans. Have you ever read Romans 16? If you grew up in the Churches of Christ, then you know Romans 16:16. Our brand is mentioned specifically there. But have you read the whole chapter? It has lots and lots of names. Actually it is pretty interesting to read with imagination. I heard Fred Craddock preach a sermon from Romans 16; changed my view. He beautifully imagined who these people were, based on what Paul says.

I like this one:

Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.

How cool is that? Tested and approved by God.

^ ^ ^
Here's a quote from Tom Long about preaching:

Preaching is an odd business, when we think about it. We stand up, week after week in a highly visible place holding a several-thousand-year-old text and commit acts of hermeneutics, and that takes nimbleness, imagination, creativity, and every responsible method we can get our hands on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Thought about Leadership

I finished re-reading Henri Nouwen's book on leadership, "In the Name of Jesus." It's good stuff. Of course it is! It's Nouwen.

Toward the end of the book he talks about Peter's restoration, recorded in John 21. Jesus asks Peter 3 times to affirm his love, and then he tells Peter "follow me." Jesus also reveals in the conversation that Peter will die in service to the Lord.

Here's part of Nouwen's conclusion:

Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, "Do you love me?" Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people.

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility. It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader. May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence...

I feel like I've been moving through some of this in the last few months. It is very painful and humiliating (could have used "humbling" but didn't).
It's also liberating. I think.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Honduras Again

Our second small team trip to Honduras is shaping up. There are now four of us committed to going. We're going for a week in late January. Steve G. is going again, and he'll be the leader. My two main business/ministry partners with the store, Darrin C. and Warren C., are going. I think we have our 5th guy, but we need to confirm with him.

We are carefully watching the price of the airfare. It came down $70 last week! We're praying for further reductions, but it's not too bad right now. It's very cheap to stay in Honduras--$15 per day takes care of 2 meals and a fairly nice place to sleep.

While there we plan to build 5 houses. This is all a part of our "Help for Honduras" ministry. If you know of someone who would like to build a house in honor or in memory of someone, please let me know. We only need $1200 to build a house. We'll get a nice dedication plaque made, and it will be prayfully and carefully hung on the wall of the new house.

He does what?

Seems kinda strange to me, but Ian McKellan, the actor who played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, rips pages out of Bibles when he stays in hotels. Why? Because he doesn't like what the pages say! He is a homosexual and rips out portions of Leviticus. You can read about it here.

It got me to thinking. Don't we all do this in various ways? Maybe we don't rip pages out of the book but we certainly act like portions of the Word do not exist.

What do you think?

Should be able to use this for a while...

After years of waiting on a list, my three sons and I finally received season tickets to the Colts game this year. It's worked out pretty well. Whoever goes pays good old dad for the tickets, and he is dutifully saving this money for the purchase of next year's tickets. Not a bad plan.

Since dad only works on Sunday mornings, and most of the games kick off at 1 p.m., he doesn't get many opportunities to attend the games. He could have attended last night's Colts vs. Patriots game, which turned out to be one of the best games ever. Instead of exercising this option (right, perhaps) he chose to allow his lovely wife and his loving son to attend. Dad is now working on lists of appropriate responses to his lovingkindness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Here's a good quote about hope. It comes from a book I just finished, "Preaching from Memory to Hope," by Thomas Long. He is emphasizing the need to talk about the future and the realization of God's complete reign, when everything will be made right. This is what we should hope for. But...

As scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne has claimed, much of what counts for hope in the current social context is "in a negative form--as a desire that certain things not occur." I hope the stock market doesn't crash, I hope I don't go into a vegetative state and die in a nursing home, I hope we don't have another 9/11. This is finally a secular hope, a hope that the party will go on forever, which Kierkegaard recognized as the despair that doesn't even know it is despairing, the "sickness unto death." Thy kingdom come, they will be done?--Oh, I hope not.

Seems pretty true to me. What about you?

Prepare to Fight!

This week we consider Ephesians 6:10ff., which discusses the Armor of God. The most striking part of the passage, to me, is the revelation that unseen spiritual warfare is taking place all around us, for us, and about us.

What do you think about all that?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Family Matters

Soon we are going to make some very intentional moves to better serve our younger families. Through Life Group discussions, based on the recent sermons regarding families, we have had good feedback that reaches across all generations. The desire and the perception of need is broad based.

While we don't know exactly what this new move will look like, it is very exciting. We have presently a lot of very young families; more than we've ever had, I believe.

We need to serve young families, but Randy Harris makes a good and interesting point in God Work:

Most of you have become family to someone who is not your blood because of your relationship in the kingdom of God. For that other person that relationship has become more important than blood. And so these commitments to family are important but they're relative--the ultimate commitment is to the kingdom of God. One of the things I always say when I go into churches is this: If you're still asking the question, "What is this church doing for families," you better start asking the other question, too, "How are these families serving the kingdom of God?" Because the kingdom doesn't exist to serve families. Families exist to serve the kingdom. It is the kingdom that is absolute.

He makes a really good point, and it reaches far beyond serving families. The church serves it's members, but what we are really after is equipping our members to serve the world, thus participating in the missio dei -- the mission of God. Right?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lipscomb & Ryan

Ryan Chastain from Mitchell is a senior at Lipscomb and has had a tremendous running career thus far. Lipscomb competes as Division 1 school, so he has been able to run at big name schools against big time competition. He has done very well. The pictures below show him as one of the flags that are along the main street that runs in front of Lipscomb.

Lipscomb Scenes

Luke, Earl, Ryan Chastain, Rebecca.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday p.m.

We're in Nashville for the night. Rebecca and her friend Melissa really wanted to visit Lipscomb (again), so they are here for an LU Friday, which is a day designed to recruit new students. Kedra and I are staying with Earl and Rebecca L., our good friends. Earl is teaching a grad class this evening, so I am waiting on him to finish up. Any time I can spend with Earl is always good time.

We got here this evening in time to meet with Luke and Caroline. We ate at a place where you select all your food in a raw form, along with spices and sauces. It is then cooked on a Mongolian grill right in front of you. It was very good. We had a really nice visit. Luke is doing really well in school and seems to be thriving in all ways. We'll meet up with him again in the morning on campus.

I need to finish up my sermon tomorrow. I think it will come together pretty well, and I should have time in the Lipscomb library to work on it.

We had an interesting class last night. We had some good thoughts expressed about relationships at work and the need to really understand what is happening in people's lives.

This morning I took a little time to run with a couple of my running buddies. One of them was my main training partner for the Monumental Marathon. This was his first run since Saturday. He looked strong and said he felt fine. We were able to swap stories of the race. It was good to reconnect. I am still pondering my future...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who do you work for?

Here's a couple of quotes that are pretty helpful when it comes to thinking about work. They are based on our text for the week (Eph. 6:5-9).

Everything we do involves a direct encounter with Jesus Christ. He is the origin and recipient of every act. If this is true, no act is mundane and no person is unimportant.

All of us stand on equal footing with the same Lord, who cares deeply how we treat each other and will hold us accountable.

...We are slaves of Christ. We belong to him and serve him. If we take seriously that he is the origin and recipient of every act, all our work takes on meaning and our treatment of people changes. Work will be done with care, not just to get by. People will be nurtured, not used or ignored.

These thoughts come from Klyne Snodgrass.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just a Smokin'

Started the fire at 4.30 a.m., and the meat went on some time after 5.00. Looking good and smelling even better! Doing 6 shoulders for tomorrow night at church and a couple of chickens for supper tonight.

As a bonus for tomorrow night I am going to smoke/grill about 60 chicken legs. Hey, I aim to please!

Is Gambling a Sin?

That's the question asked by this USA Today article.

What do you think? Is it wrong to play the lottery? How 'bout going down to the boat(s)?

I grew up hearing that gambling was wrong, but I never saw a "book, chapter, and verse" that said so. It always seemed like a fairly strained argument; that's what I thought, even as kid.

I don't gamble in any form; no desire, no need to. I think the greatest argument against is an unhealthy desire for money, but people do stupid things in the stock market for the same reason. And isn't investing money in the stock market a pretty big gamble?

Part of the problem with gambling is the culture associated with it and all the problems that it causes. In this way it seems a lot like alcohol, doesn't it?

I don't gamble and wish others didn't, but I don't feel compelled to preach against. I think forming people into the image of Christ clears up lots of things. Gambling is probably one of those. Jesus would suggest that instead of using money to gamble you should give it to someone who needs it. Right?

What do you think?

Monday Night

We had another good men's Bible study last night. It's not really a study. It's more of a time of reflection and sharing. It's a little hard to explain, but it is good.

We take a different approach in these gatherings. We use a form of lectio divina (divine reading) where we read the selected verse or verses a few times and surround the reading with periods of silence. We are listening for God as we see what's on our minds.

Last night our focus was Hebrews 11:1-6, which is just a little long for this type of practice but it still worked well. The thing that really struck all of us was how this passage ends.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

So we say with confidence,

"The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"

If we start with this foundation--of knowing that God is for us and with us--then we are ready to live lives of contentment that we all deeply desire. Peace and Joy live there.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Take Jesus to Work

Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

This passage raises some interesting questions. The first is this: why is slavely allowed in a Christian context? What do you think the answer is?

What we usually do, and what we will do this week, is apply the passage to contemporary work environments, which I think is a faithful application. Such an application has some pretty serious implications for whatever your position is in the workplace.

It seems to me that this passage could help our attitudes.

Paul is wanting the workplace, just like the home, to be a place where we show that we understand and live out the love of God. We are to be different. We are to be children of light.

What challenges do you find in the workplace?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Monumental Disappointment

Hey, it happens. Not only did I not qualify for Boston, I ended up dropping out a little after 17 miles. Not really sure what went wrong, but dehydration and a couple of other issues led me to stop. I've run marathons for 25 years, and this is only the 3rd time I've not finished. The other two involved fever and a knee injury.

I hated quitting today. I actually wept a couple of times; the disappointment is pretty deep. I was on pace for the first 10 miles, but then things started happening. My pace got progressively slower, and the weather was getting warmer and warmer and very windy. I decided it was best to cut my loses and get back to training sooner rather than later, which would have involved having to wait 2-3 weeks to recover from what would have been a very ugly finish.

Defeat and failure are most unpleasant companions, but they can be good instructors. I learned a few things today, mostly about my training flaws. I need to reflect some more, but I am pretty determined to adjust and try again, probably in early spring. I have all winter to log lots of miles, which is what I really want to do.

The upside of the day was that Lester ran the half marathon--his first--and did well. We were able to run together for the first (nearly) 7 miles. He cruised in 1.48. He stands to improve dramatically. He had never run more than 10 miles before. He's pretty pleased. My main training partner had a good run today. He finished in 3.45. A couple other of my friends had really good runs; one had a really bad day but gutted it out. There was another guy, but we don't know what happened to him.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What is the most important thing?

So, when it comes to raising kids and/or being parents, what is the most important thing? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday Morning

Thursday is sermon prep today; often a day mixed with frustration and some satisfaction. Not sure how this one will turn out. My class last night gave me a lot to think about as far as children and parents are concerned.

I have a meeting at Hoosier Uplands this morning. I went to it yesterday. I am usually early but 24 hours early was rediculous; not sure what went wrong there. Oh well. I am on a hospice advisory board. I helped start the program many years ago, so it's pretty neat to go back and see how it has grown. It is going very well.

The marathon is looming large. I have the classic devil-vs-angel-on-the-shoulder thing going on. One voice says, "no way!" and the other one says, "you can do it." I know I can run a marathon. I've run more than 20 of them. The issue is can I qualify for the Boston Marathon? I have to run a 3.35. The conditions are going to be good; maybe slightly warm. I have trained well. Now basically it comes down to mental toughness and no on-course injury or problem.

Back to the child thing... I was really struck last night by the part that says that children are to honor their parents. How do they learn this? Does it come naturally? It really comes back the parents doesn't it? Honoring parents seems to be the first, most basic, most fundamental response to God. We know our parents before we know God, right? Lots of stuff to think about with that. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How does God Work?

Here's a quote from the Randy Harris book I mentioned a few posts ago. Please understand that Randy is really funny; you laugh the whole time he talks. Then he hits you with profundity.

One of the really difficult issues of my own theological life--and I'm convinced of the theological life of most--is to try to understand how God works in the world, especially in instances where he doesn't seem to be doing as well as he might. And for those of us who experience intensely calling upon God and getting nothing out of it, those who tell how God is answering every prayer that they are praying become intensely annoying. In fact, they can become absolutely faith threatening. Because while the elder in my church is dying and the whole church is coming together in deep prayer for healing, somebody else is talking about how they couldn't find a parking place and they prayed to God and (lo and behold) one opened up. And I think, what is this? God does parking? He doesn't do elders?

What do you think about all that?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

In my backyard this morning...

This beautiful beast was drinking water from our pond. I'm not a deer hunter, so he was safe with me. My guess that some might get pretty excited at this sight.

Kids First?

Do they still make these available to people? There used to be a lot of them around, and while they are neat looking (some would say "cute"), I really think the message is not the best.

How can I say such a thing??

It seems to me that putting your kids first is some kind of warped idolatry. OK, I think I know the license plate is about not abusing children. I am very strongly opposed to that of course, but I think the slogan spills over in every area of the child/parent relationship. In a lot of homes the kids are first, which, to me, is a mistake.

A long time ago someone, maybe it was a professor, said, "The best thing you can do for your child is to love your spouse." Your spouse is first on earth because God is first over all things. Love your husband/wife as God loves you. The whole child thing will take care of itself. Children love to see their parents in love. It gives them a sense of stability and security that they can get nowhere else.

What do you think?

Sunday could be another really interesting day. There is so much to say about the family, and some of the biblical teaching/thinking is contrary to the culture. As usual!

Stay tuned...

Monday, November 02, 2009


I thought yesterday's worship was good. The sermon received a lot of good feedback, which is encouraging. I always go back over everything in my mind, and there are always things I wish I would have said or said diffently. Oh well...

The thing I might have changed about yesterday is to make more clear this: If we are submitting to the Lordship of Jesus, then working out our roles in marriage, while sometimes difficult, will not be too unpleasant. I think it looks different for each relationship.

It does little good to discuss specific gender roles unless and until it is framed by the Lordship of Christ. That's my view anyway. To approach the other way leads to what we commonly see: fights, disputes, division. Clearly that is not God's intent.

This week we turn toward kids and parenting. Should be interesting. The text is Ephesians 6:1-4. Read it and tell me what you think about it.

Books, books, books...

Been reading a lot lately. I always try to read a fair amount (book per week), but I've been picking up the pace lately (pun intended). A good friend gave me a copy of "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. I zipped right throught it (unlike some books on theology).

It's about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their amazing ability to run long distances. The book weaves lots of interesting stuff together. I guess that's why it turned out to be a "national best seller," well, at least that's what it says on the book.

Usually I don't read several books at the same time, but I am trying that presently. It's working out pretty well. I am reading 2-3 of Henri Nouwen books (The Only Necessary Thing, The Inner Voice of Love, and In the Name of Jesus). I'm reading them just a little at a time, sometimes as a part of my morning "Be Still" time. I'm also reading Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" in the same way. I didn't read it back when everyone else was. I picked up a free copy at ReGeneration. It has a lot of good stuff to say, especially for people new to The Faith. I am gathering some sayings for our church sign from it!

Randy Harris has a nice little book out, "God Work - Confessions of a Standup Theologian." Randy is hilarious, and he has written as he speaks. Funny. Profound.

As part of my "appreciation" gift from church, I received a $50 gift card for Amazon. I shared that with Kedra but was still able to order 3 books. They should be here this week. And with a birthday and Christmas coming up, I am hoping the old Wish List (you can actually click on it on this page - under links) will get reduced even further. ha ha ha.

What are you guys reading?