Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 FBC Graduates

I really can't believe that another school year has come and gone, which means another graduating class. Sunday we honored our grads during one of our worship services. It's amazing see how God works in and through teenagers!

The Atonement

I respect Phillip Yancey and his thoughts on just about anything. When I saw this recent article from Christianity Today I was intrigued. Yancey has such a way of putting things together in ways that summarize but don't reduce theology down to a skeleton of its former self. Here is the link

Saturday, May 23, 2009


For many in our postmodern culture Godology is most often like mixology. Like a bartender making concoctions people pick and choose the aspects of Christian belief and every other religion and worldview and mix them together to have their own signature beverage. Christian George is a writer who is in touch with the current trends of culture enough that he sees the need for a resurgence in the way the church does theology. This resurgence isn't rooted in fads and trends but in the historic orthodoxy of the Christian faith. In his latest book, George muses on the Doctrine of God while including sound bites from The Office, The Simpsons, DC Talk, martial arts, chocolate indulgences, and the list goes on. The strength of this book to me is not just the exploration of doctrine but the application of doctrine. Each chapter begins with thoughts on different aspects God and ends with an succinct introduction to historic spiritual disciplines (including meditation, fasting, and labyrinth walking). George has a way of making the ancient, fresh. He also has a way of connecting with younger generations that many Christian authors just don't possess.

Here are a few of my more memorable passages:

Christ loves crude prayers more than crafted ones. p.22

No matter how many times we drop the ball, God still controls the game. His plans are etched in marble, not pencil. His love is carved in stone, not Styrofoam. Humans are not tall creatures, but we do worship a tall God. A venti God, if we're ordering at Starbucks. Most of us can't even bench-press our own weight, much less hoist ourselves to Christ. But God lowers Himself to us. He secures us inside His vault and throws away the key. p.31

Spurgeon was once asked how he reconciles God's sovereignty and human freedom. He responded, "I never reconcile friends." p.32

And then God spoke. Perhaps a word, then a sentence. From the same throat came three chords-Father, Son, and Spirit-a holy harmonic. p.39

What does it mean to be holy? Holiness is to be set apart. It's the lone Kit Kat bar in a bucket of Butterfingers. p.66

God doesn't want diluted worship. He wants it straight and strong. p.73

God has a passion for broken things. He collects, polishes, and perfects them. p.80

When God purchased us, He didn't keep the receipt. p.86

But we don't just go to church to get our God-fix. We go to church to fix our eyes on God. And the whole world is watching our watching. p.101

We can win the world for God not by merging with it or emerging from it, but by transforming it with the power and clarity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. p.102

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Tonight we are saying "goodbye and Godspeed" to our seniors. In this group of graduates I see a lot of myself as a senior in high school, some good and some bad. I've known most of them for the full three years I have been at FBC and so I am humbled to have been a part of their lives. My prayer with all of the students who I have met and been a part of their lives over the years is always that the gospel would be at the center of everything I do and say. I'm not perfect, most people who know me can tell you that, but I pray that I have been as faithful as possible to proclaiming the gospel, but more importantly putting the gospel into action for my students. I came across this passage from Dallas Willard the other day that reminded me of why I do what God has called me to do. "Does the gospel I preach and teach have a natural tendency to cause people who hear it to become full-time students of Jesus?" (The Divine Conspiracy p. 335)

Friday, May 15, 2009


Can I just say that the recent U2 release is AMAZING! I can't stop listening to it. I used one of the songs for our Bible study time at The Gathering the other night. I don't usually post what I preach and teach about to this blog but I thought it might be worth sharing, if nothing else to reflect on pop culture and the way that we see glimpses of God's truth everywhere we look, if we open our eyes and ears.

Magnificent Lyrics and Music by U2


I was born
I was born to be with you

In this space and time

After that and ever after I haven't had a clue

Only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue

Only love, only love can leave such a mark

But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born
I was born to sing for you

I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise ...

Only love, only love can leave such a mark

But only love, only love can heal such a scar

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify

The Magnificent


Only love, only love can leave such a mark

But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent


Below are my notes and thoughts that I used to teach from. They are not complete nor spell checked but perhaps it will stimulate some thoughts for you.

By U2

Listen to song.

Ask for initial reactions to the song, the content, etc.

I was born, I was born to be with you
Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue
James 1:13-15
13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Foolishness of sin, sin is fun for a season then it creates such havoc with our lives.

Only love can leave such a mark, only love can heal such a scar
1 Peter 2:24-25
24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Christ’s love for you and me takes the scars left from our sin and brings comfort and healing as only Christ can.
God isn’t distant and unconcerned with our lives and the pain that we have endured. No he longs to wrap us in his arms and bring healing and tenderness and wholeness to our fragile lives.

I was born to sing for you/ I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up/and sing whatever song you wanted me to
Psalm 40

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

We were born and created for intimacy and relationship with God our creator. We have been given a song to sing when we’ve been recreated by God saving us and becoming a Christian.

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify, The Magnificent

This statement sums up our purpose and identity in life. A group of Presbyterian believers a couple of centuries ago created a confessional document, a paper, that stated what they believed. They did it by asking questions so that it was easier to teach and learn. The first question of the catechism is “What is the chief end of man?”
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

1 Cor. 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Rev. 4:11
"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."

Psalm 73:25-26
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Our greatest purpose, our greatest calling is to live our lives for God’s glory.
We are to reflect God’s glory-part of fulfilling being made in the image of God. Getting all the possessions we want or the education we want or the job we want or the cars or clothes or houses is not our ultimate goal/purpose in life.

We are supposed to reflect God’s glory and to enjoy a relationship with him. Savor our relationship with God like a favorite food or drink.

The Magnificent is Jesus Christ the one and only one who is worthy to be called, the Magnificent one.

He alone is worthy of our praise, our honor, our life, our complete devotion. Are we doing that?

Are we giving our life completely over to the Magnificent One?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mother's Day

We had a wonderful Mother's Day at the Pagliarullo house. Since Sunday's are crazy days for us, we celebrated on Saturday. The girls and I cooked Cyd breakfast in bed complete with a homemade card from Claire and a rose from one of our rosebushes. We even let her sleep in a little bit, though that is very difficult in a house with a 3 year old and a one year old. Sunday was a wonderful day as we got to have Cyd's parents, my mom and my grandmother over for lunch. Cyd cooked made from scratch pizzas for everyone, too many combinations to list here. It was so nice to sit around the table and visit and watch the girls enjoying being with grandparents.

On Monday I was cleaning some files out in my office and I found this poem I had used for a Mother's Day emphasis a few years ago.

Mom thank you for being you
In all the little things you do.

The way you reared me
Instead of fearing me.

The love you have shown me through the years
Amidst the joy and tears.

Your faithfulness to God
Even when sometimes life seemed like a dense fog.

You never failed me yet
You certainly won't if I had to bet.

Thank you for it all
The really big and the small.

My love an respect for you
Can't help but shine through.

The life I live and lead
I thank my God for a mother like you.

Under the Knife

I am working on a sermon from Matthew 5 where Jesus tells us to lover our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Sunday I preached a sermon on turning the other cheek and loving people into the kingdom with how we respond to their violence and aggression. I have been dumbfounded at the way scripture does surgery on my heart and life when I allow it to speak to me rather than trying to strain a nugget of truth out of it. God has reminded me that I have a lot of room for growth in this area of loving my enemies (and my friends)and responding to people out of the overflow of God's love for me rather than the reserve of my human capacity for love. I came across a quote from St. Augustine that challenged me so much I haven't been able to get it out of my head. "Many have learned to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they were struck."

Friday, May 8, 2009

All Joy, Hope, Peace and Love

I have worked with teenagers in some capacity for over 12 years. Teen culture has changed dramatically over the course of those years and the locales that I have been. It seems to me that one of the few, perhaps only consistent thing in teenagers is their inconsistency...yet I have found that many of them are wrestling with some of the most difficult and complex issues that 10, 20, 30 years ago only adults struggled with. They are bombarded by ideas from different people about who they are and who they should be as they genuinely grapple with acceptance, love, death, and depression both in their own self and the others around them(including peers and parents). The tragic thing is that if someone doesn't speak truth into their lives they become adults with the same nagging questions about life, faith, love won and lost, and promises made and broken. I have recently been reminded yet again of the frailness of the human condition, not just teenagers, through a couple of different scenarios. At the same time I am reading the new book by Brennan Manning that someone passed along to me that speaks to the heart of all our issues...realizing the genuine acceptance and love of God just as we are with all of our faults, failures, cracks, and questions. In the back of my head for the last week or so a Bill Mallonee song has been playing. He played a version of it when he did a show at FBC Statesboro nearly 3 years ago. The lyrics are posted below from
The Kidz on Drugz (or Life) Year: 2004 | Run Time: 5:42

Written by Bill Mallonee for CyBrenJoJosh (BMI) ©2004

i dunno if the kid's on drugs or life
why should that come as a shock
life hasn't fallen out just quite
in those neat suburban boxes

and i wonder about the conversations that you're having
you know the ones with yourself
where you feel like a failure yeah and you're losing heart
and that race has barely gotten started
and you wanna ask God about things like cancer
but you don't think that you'll get much of an answer
i hope you will find and i pray you will see
all the joy that your life brings to me

and the baggage that we all carry around
has this way of dragging you down

and there is no map for this growing up
it's just a street through a town called weird
and you never do feel like you'll arrive
with a destination so unclear
ah but i met this girl with the Holy Ghost
hey she turned me onto the Clash
we made love all night long to Love Tractor and Pylon
but in the morning we played Johnny Cash

and it really shouldn't be so hard
to get yourself free
but with all these lines in the sand and love with its strings
God fear is such a funny thing
I dunno if the kid's on drugs or life
maybe it's a little of both
i know love has this way of holding the day
like that girl with the Holy Ghost
Did You Know?

Bill has said this is one of the hardest songs for him to sing because of the "heart-breaking content." He says, "that song was loosely about a number of kids I've met (and the kid in us all perhaps) who don't have a clue... they come into life with a lot of strikes against them, start trying to awkwardly 'figure it out,' and sometimes get sidetracked for years in the process... I was such a kid... Me? I got lucky: I found the 'Girl with the Holy Ghost who turned me on to the Clash,' as it says in the tune... one of my favorite lines ever."

Disclaimer: The girl with the holy ghost, was Bill's wife, Brenda.

There are days in talking with people that my heart bleeds for them like this song says. "I hope you will find and I pray you will see all the joy that your life brings to me." I'm not 100% sure what the songwriter's intention was, but the more I listen to this song the more I hear the voice of God speaking in those words to all of us who are broken, hurting, struggling, doubting, and questioning. I see that a lot in many of the students I work with and the hope that I have in the cross and the furious longing of God to live in relationship with me is what keeps hoping against all odds that somehow, someway God will speak truth, his truth, his LOVE and ACCEPTANCE into the lives my students and anyone else I come in contact with for that matter.

If the gospel of grace is true, which I firmly believe, then the very heartbeat of God seems to be echoed in the words "all the joy that your life brings to me." God delights in his children, he loves us immeasurably!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Word from a Ragamuffin

Brennan Manning, the once Catholic priest, alcoholic, influential author always challenges me to rethink my theology, my concept of God, my understanding of grace and salvation. I ran across a quote again today that reminded me about the understanding of God's grace found in Titus 3.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Manning writes, "Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace? Are you moody and melancholy because your are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don't have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?" (The Ragamuffin Gospel p. 195)

The Apostle Paul and Brennan Manning seem to be on to something here...grace, God's grace truly is greater than all our sin!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Younger Evangelicals

I finished a book that I have had on my list of must reads for quite a while. I have grown very fond of Robert Webber and his voice within the Evangelical community. His writing has made me realize that some of the thoughts, frustrations, hopes, and concerns about Western Evangelicalism that I have had for the last decade are not the isolated, misguided thoughts of a cynic. In fact, Webber reminds his readers that the shifts in culture have also caused shifts in the way people of faith see themselves in the story of God. Although the themes of his book are covered in many of his writings he gently encourages the younger generations of Christians to not settle for the status quo in matters of faith and to reclaim the full historical expression of orthodox, catholic faith, the one Lord, one faith, one baptism that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4. The following excerpt gives you an idea of who the Younger Evangelicals actually are: The younger evangelicals who are neither traditional nor pragmatic evangelicals. They share common elements of the faith such as the authority of Scripture, the affirmation of the trinity, the deity of Jesus, the efficacy of Jesus' death and resurrection, and the affirmation of the church as the body of Christ. But they differ with both the traditionalists and the pragmatists on how Christianity is presented and practiced in a twenty-first-century culture (p.41). I'm not sure that all those who Webber lumps into that category I would find much common ground with, but their is certainly an appreciation for a broad spectrum of belief and practice and a desire to be rooted in the ancient story that doesn't change in order to do ministry in an ever changing postmodern culture.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I have been doing a three week series on Titus with our students on Wednesday nights at The Gathering. The study and preparation have been challenging and encouraging for me as I have tried to allow scripture to read me rather than reading scripture. Good commentaries are always helpful to me as I prepare sermons and lessons. I have a few favorite series that are always insightful. I couldn't get the volume for Titus in those series as quickly as I needed it, so I ordered Volume 46 of Word Biblical Commentary. I have been most pleased with the scholarship and the surprising application of this commentary. It was written by William D. Mounce who wrote the Greek grammar book I used in seminary. I thought I would pass along the information in case you happen to need a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles.