Showing posts from 2008

An Open Letter to the Guy or Gal Who Packages Dolls

Dear doll packaging guy, Did you learn your trade from Houdini? Were you formerly trained by the Department of Homeland Security to restrain terrorists at Guantanamo Bay? Is that how you learned to put Elmo under wraps, by dealing with terrorists? In whatever forum you developed your craft I extend to you kudos because you are the best. Since the birth of my girls I have continually looked forward to helping the doll of choice escape from your shackles. Following a late night of “assembly required” and an early morning awakening by an excited child nothing makes me want to cuss Santa like unwinding one of your death traps. Must every Sesame Street character be removed from its carton with a Phillips head screwdriver? Is it necessary to bind “Baby May I” with a quarter mile of industrial strength metal ribbon? On the side of the box, please print clearly the tools that will be required to unwrap your victim. “Jaws of life and double A batteries” not included. Not that I dou

Black Friday

The Friday after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday.” What an ominous name. They say the name is due to the fact that on this day retailers move from profit loss (red) to profit gain (black). While this may be true, I believe the origins of the name are more gothic in nature, more evil and representative of something far more sinister. Black Friday is retail Hell, a day choreographed by demons. I am sure of it. On Black Friday, 11/28/2008 I entered the black soul of retail. My wife took me to Wal-Mart in Fort Oglethorpe, GA at 4:30 a.m. Maybe it is called Black Friday because it is indeed very, very dark at 4:30 a.m. But we were there by invitation, summonsed like sheep to the slaughter by a 12 pound edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press the day before. On most days the newspaper weighs about an ounce and a half, but on Thanksgiving Day, a holy, godly day, the devil sends out invitations to death. Glossy, full color, captivating sales booklets all of them nothing but

Romans 8:12-25

I know I have been posting a lot of academic/Bible study type stuff lately, but honestly that is what I am most immersed in right now. More specifically I am immersed in Romans. By the end of the week I should post an article about my “Black Friday” experience. Until then I have been trying to offer some things for those of you who are really trying to absorb Romans right now. This Sunday I will be preaching Romans 8:12-25. Back in the summer I wrote a paper for a seminary class on this passage. For those who care to read it, here is the link . For those of you who have a Turabian fetish please know the grader killed me on it. In rebellion to Turabian I have not corrected those mistakes! I desire to be a man who remains 1/64th of an inch off at all times. In any event Romans 8 is an incredible passage that describes the plight of the Spirit filled soul in the midst of a sinful world. It is a crescendo in the Biblical corpus. For those who were at RBC on November 23 I am sure you were

The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible and Its Connections to the New Testament

On Sunday (11/23/08) I will be preaching the first of three messages from Romans 8. This passage is a theological crescendo that is rooted in salvation history and prophecy. Because of justification by faith man awakens to the dawn of a new age in which he is dominated by the Holy Spirit of God. This is the first fruit of salvation, men and women who are awakened by the Spirit in the midst of a sin cursed world. It is evidence that the full redemption of God’s created order draws nigh and that it will indeed come to pass (Romans 8:18-25). In light of this message I would recommend an excellent article that surveys the development of the idea and teaching of the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture. It is rather lengthy, but when you pastor the cream of the crop it is only natural to expect that we can all memorize Romans 8, read broadly from three or four different books, accomplish the mundane tasks of life, and still find time to read massive online articles intelligently just so

Is Sin Biological?

The Bible is not about biology, or history, or archaeology, or mathematics. It is not exempt from mentioning any of these subjects, but the Bible is about God. It is a theological interpretation of all things. The key word here being “interpretation.” The red flag word here being “theological.” When it comes to the interpretations of life and our world it seems like the Bible is not invited to the dance because after all, it’s the Bible. Yet it seems that biologists, historians, archaeologists, and mathematicians of the strictly secular variety have no issue interpreting the truth of scripture according to the lenses of their own disciplines. For the most part this means that because the Bible is theological, secularists believe biology can prove that it is idiotic; as can history, archaeology, or mathematics. The predominant belief is that these are scientific disciplines and as such have the ability to stand alone. The scientific disciplines are a truth unto themselves. The

A Reading for Our Democracy

I think an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”, a later edition to the classic “Screwtape Letters” is a haunting reminder for us just days away from democratic elections. ______________ In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among them. The little vermin themselves will do it for us. Of course this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the

Man in Black

We are connoisseurs of Saturday, at least we used to be. Lately I have been so busy it has dulled my appreciation for the flavors of life. You can get so wrapped up in what must be done that you forget what yellow really looks like, what air feels like, and how life smells. Texture is suddenly defined by routine, colors constrained to pixels on desktop screens, acres of landscape are quarantined to 8x10’s, and the smells of life are piped in through vents. When life becomes overwhelming things like yellow, open air, and family are undervalued. My wife determined on this Saturday we would taste appreciation again. Wives add color to an otherwise color blind male existence. Women match curtains to floor tile, wallpaper to cabinets, and can somehow even find a box of Kleenex that perfectly matches every towel in the house. If you are not careful they will match your shirt to every other member of your family and to the friends that will be connoisseurs of Saturday along with you. We we


In a culture that seeks gratification as its supreme good, fed by sound bytes and images, we become obtuse to the long term consequences of our decisions. We want an economic collapse that has been in the making for years to be remedied in a moment. We want choice without consequences. We want someone to blame. We have no conscience. For three decades abortion has been defended as pro-choice. The image we are fed is a mother in danger, undone, and desperate. Without the right to choose her life will be ruined. Her rights should be defended at all costs. This image is a smoke and mirrors illusion meant to hide the grotesque underbelly of what is actually happening to women and babies in the communities in which we live. It is an illusion of choice meant to hide a world bathed in blood. In the final presidential debate Senator Obama sold America on the illusion once again. When asked about his opposition to the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act he answered with smoke

Beneficial Basic Bible Browsing Books or Some Good Basic Old School Bible Study Stuff

I just had someone stop by my office asking if I would recommend something that would help her and her husband read the Bible together more effectively. When I get a request like this I usually direct people to Bible study tools that reveal the Bible in themes and ideas. In other words, I recommend stuff to laity that paints with lots of colors and broad brush strokes. As a preacher I usually choose to preach paragraphs of Scripture instead of verses because paragraphs reveal themes and in most cases the verses are sentences, or parts of sentences. Ideas, sentences, in this case verses support themes. I am probably more likely to preach a sermon on John 3 or John 3:16-21 than I am to preach a sermon on John 3:16. Many moons ago Warren Wiersbe published a book of outlines on the whole Bible. The copy I have was handed down to me. The pages are brown, it’s in a three ring binder and it weighs about 42 pounds. It is old school. It is VERY alliterated. It is 8th printing 1982 – (At the ti

The Perfect Pastor

The Perfect Pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly, but never hurts anyone's feelings. He works from 8 a.m. until midnight, and is also the church janitor. The Perfect Pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the church. He is 29 years old and has 40 years' worth of experience. Above all, he is handsome. (The line about he is 29 and has 40 years worth of experience - that one actually happened to me in a telephone interview with a church!) The Perfect Pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his church. He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed. The Perfect Pastor always has time for church meetings and all of its committees, never missing the meeting of any church orga


Exegesis; its what preachers do.  It means to pull meaning out of a text, to interpret it.  My grandmother was great at it.  She had an elementary school education but she was the greatest theologian I ever knew.  She could make a Bible story three dimensional.  When she talked Bible you could hear Scripture breathe.  Exegesis is about recognizing the life that lives on pages filled with ink.  It is about giving stories legs, feeling colors in poems, and hearing dead prophets speak. I love exegesis.  I am a privileged man in that a great deal of my time is spent in the ink of exegesis; surrounded by books listening to Scripture breathe.  I do for a living what my grandmother did with her life.  There is nothing like that “aha” moment when you finally get it, when after three days pages become three dimensional and walk into the room.  The Bible is alive. But there is exegesis of another sort.  There are times in which God turns people into pages and writes all over them.  These a

Review of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray - A Commentary on Conscience

I think I had a renaissance at thirty. . .I think.  For some reason I suddenly became interested in art, reading and more thoughtful forms of music.  I became more serious about developing my writing skills, about becoming a better public speaker, about becoming a deeper man.  I can blame my renaissance for not only killing my online XBOX NCAA football career but also for going back to seminary.  Seminary killed the video star (only those of us who watched “Night Tracks” and MTV back in the eighties can really appreciate that line). My renaissance has also caused me to revisit all the books I was supposed to read in Junior High and High School but never actually did.  Over the last few months I have begun to explore some readings from all the classic literature I once considered about as interesting as a dead bug.  I now realize what I have missed and regret the wasted time.  Vocationally I relegated my reading to only Christian stuff, the ultra expensive shelves at Lifeway kind of

Close to Almost

I think we are all still wondering exactly what it was we witnessed with Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. Sports Illustrated has released eight frame by frame underwater shots of Phelps' final stroke to overtake Ian Crocker by .04 seconds. I am not sure any of us can truly quantify just exactly what .04 seconds is. In this case it was the difference between one more stroke for Phelps and Crocker’s instinct to stretch and glide toward the wall. .04 seconds was the difference in you and I celebrating one of the greatest athletic performances of all time for Phelps, or our celebrating Crocker’s defeat of one of the greatest champions of all time. .04 seconds sealed athletic fate. There is nothing about this thought that is original but it would be frightening to know how close to “almost” we come over the span of a lifetime. For the past several weeks I have been reading through Proverbs. Every verse is a testimony to how the decision of a moment can forev

The Meaning of Car - Illustrating the Silliness of Scientism

“Little did I realize that in a few years I would encounter an idea – Darwin’s idea – bearing an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways. Darwin’s idea had been born as an answer to the question of biology, but it threatened to leak out, offering answers – welcome or not –to questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology (going in another direction). If redesign could be a mindless, algorithmic process of evolution, why couldn’t that whole process itself be the product of evolution, and so forth, all the way down?” – From Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett [1] Alister McGrath has coined it “scientism”; the idea that science is capable of answering all of our questions, that it has no limits and will in time provide us with inexhaustible knowledge. It is the idea that “w

300 – An Open Letter to My Congregation

Dear 300, The Greek historian Herodotus has shared with us the story of King Leonidas’ 300 Spartan warriors who stood against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Book of Judges chronicles Gideon’s 300 and their defeat of the Midianites. Both accounts offer inspiring stories of those who against innumerable odds exhibited great strength and a vast amount of character. In both cases I believe the moral has nothing to do with the digit 300. The number may be simply an ironic coincidence. For me the moral is the testimony of those who stood, who did not quit, and thus comprised a meager but mighty force. I am not certain how many of us are in this moment, but it is around 300 plus or minus only a few. It is to you, my congregation, the 300, that I post this open letter to let you know that you have truly inspired me, your pastor. This Sunday we claim victory as we dedicate our new campus. The journey to this moment has been arduous to say the least. Our collective heart has be

A Dollar's Worth

I want to recommend a blog to you from a friend, current church member, and co-laborer in Christ. His name is Jason Dollar and he posts some interesting articles from the field of Christian Apologetics. Jason really stays on top of the current trends in popular thought, does a great job discerning the issues, and has a great way of communicating to a broad audience. Currently (8/11) he has posted an interview he conducted with a former Jehovah Witness leader from his hometown. Jason has put a lot of work into this one and it is a very informative read. Also, if you are looking for a great speaker I would highly recommend Jason. Although his primary ministry focuses on teens, from what I have observed of Jason he is effective in any audience setting. Youth pastors – once you get over your summer hangover and start planning for next year you must include Jason on your calendar for D-Now or camp! Access Jason’s article here .

Discerning Theological Athletespeak

I blog and I read blogs, I am blogalicious, blogocentric, a blog-a-holic to the point that one day I will probably inexplicably develop blogaphobia. The thing I love about blogs is that they give voice to actual people, which can be a train wreck, but in some sense has loosened the monopoly of information provided by the talking heads in the media. I do not read blogs about the things someone did between 3:30 and 5:00. I don’t enjoy blogs that are overly laced with how a person “feels.” That being said, over the past few years I have stumbled across some worthy blogs I read on a regular basis. I share this entry from C.J. Mahaney’s post on the Sovereign Grace Ministry blog (which I accessed via Between Two Worlds ) not primarily due to the Art Monk comment, but due to the following insight from Mahaney. “From my view in the cheap seats, too many pro athletes who profess Christ appear theologically ignorant, have little or no involvement in the local church, and have no pastoral

Dog Daze

I have established in previous posts that as a family we are connoisseurs of Saturday . A well executed Saturday can provide a man with a fine reserve of memories fit to be recalled when he is old, grey and not sure what day it is – or either just too old to care. This past Saturday did not necessarily place a memory in reserve, but instead recalled one from my childhood. But before I reveal a childhood scar, allow me a moment to set the stage. This past Saturday I worked our church booth at a local event known as Dog Daze. The name is a double entendre in that it is a southern festival that honors dogs calendared in the month of August. There is no word in the English language fit to describe Alabama in August. Thus, we grapple for words that try to get a person close to the experience: nuclear, melt, sweltering, I can’t breathe, heatstroke, and one from the Bible “Hades.” Somewhere in time a southern belle also added the word “dog days” to describe the experience. I am not

Review of "Simple Church"

Simply stated, Simple Church (B&H, 2006, 252 pages) is the millennial version of Rick Warren’s 1995 Purpose Driven Church . Another way to describe Simple Church is that it is Purpose Driven Church with really good research. Substituting Warren’s “purpose” for the more kinetic term “process” Rainer and Geiger seek to prove the thesis that catchphrases and slogans are not enough for church growth. Churches must actually facilitate a linear path that will move a person into a deeper level of commitment and service. Be a church that has made a “great commitment to the great commission.” Use a very cool alliteration to describe yourself – but find a way to implement your vision and allow those words to actually shape congregational life. Citing examples from the Google homepage to the iMac the authors demonstrate that “simple is in.” The effectiveness of the program driven church of the 50’s-80’s era has been replaced by the vibrancy and growth of churches that are able to keep i

Some Baseline Thoughts on Prayer

It is basic to the human condition to cry for help. We are born dependant. From the initial moments of infancy we begin to feel need – to breathe, to eat, to be held, to be protected, to be loved. We are powerless. As we mature our laundry list of needs mount, ever more complicated and increasingly burdensome. The very act of our birth initiates us into need. We are observers. We observe the panorama of life and intrinsically know that there are so many things that were not supposed to be like this. We know things need to change for all of us, in all of us. But change is far too great an assignment for any of us. Moment by moment we are confronted with dependence. As dependant creatures prayer is a baseline need. One would be hard pressed to find a human who has not cried out to a higher power in some way and at some time in their life. At the very least we all desire for something higher than we, the dependant, to change the current moment. Heal me. Help me. Love me.

The Year of Living Biblically

Instead of simply offering a laundry list of books I enjoyed from time to time I thought I would try to add to my blogging experiment some review on the books I read. Hopefully this will not only offer a preview before you throw down your next twenty dollars at the bookstore, but will help me better digest content. So for my first attempt at public book review I offer you A.J. Jacobs’ bestseller The Year of Living Biblically, One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible . (Simon & Schuster, 2007, 332 pages) A.J. Jacobs is the editor at large of Esquire magazine. He is agnostic, a true New Yorker, extremely secular, and Jewish “in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.” The Year of Living Biblically chronicles his participatory journey into fundamentalist Biblical literalism by trying to live every commandment, principle, jot and tittle of Scripture as closely as possible. From stoning adulterers in Central Park to being faced with administer

Daily on the Verge of Sacrifice

I am not sure what God is saying to me in all of this but it seems like I am getting a lot of news from the mission field this week, and it all relates to the incredible dangers our missionaries face. At the very least the message is clear that the people of God need to ramp up our prayer effort for those serving around the world. Here is a copy of an email I received from a missionary team from our church, Alan and Sandy Stone who are serving in Peru. You can really hear Alan’s heart in this: ___________________ Brother Brian, Pastor It has been a tough weekend and beginning to this week. Last Saturday around 2 pm one of our student summer missionaries was in a combi wreck 19 hours by truck from Lima. He suffered severe head trauma and died in route to the little clinic there. He was on our research team with two young ladies who were slightly injured. He had just graduated from Ole Miss with an engineering degree, and was a wonderful young man and a very strong Christian and witn