Thursday, December 30, 2010

Group Shot

Why I Will Never Be That Guy

We are at Xtreme Winter with a group of middle school students and based on what I always see when I come to big events like this, I am always reminded of who I am and who(what) I am not.

I am a normal disciple of Christ trying to love people and show them the grand story of life found in the gospel. I am not the "cool, trendy, hip generational minister" who tries to act younger than he really is. Let me give you a few reasons why I am NOT that guy and Lord willing never will be...

1. I don't own a Member's Only jacket (anymore).
2. I don't wear scarf's tied around my neck like a girl.
3. I don't talk like I am stoned when I am preaching. (Ro-ads scene from Black Sheep)
4. I don't own a v-neck shirt that I would wear except as an undershirt.
5. I don't want to own a pair of skinny jeans, the very thought is frightening.
6. I don' have any hair, which sadly means I can't straighten it or wear it hanging in one eye like a wispy eye patch.
7. I don't have a short, catchy last name.
8. I don't have a Mac, I don't even have a decent iPod.
9. I don't drink froo-froo coffee drinks, at least not often. In fact, the older I get the more I prefer my coffee black.
10. I wear worn out ball caps, not $20 hats from American Eagle.
11. I need multiple sets of earplugs for Christian concerts.
12. I don't put much stock into emotionally induced altar calls.

Well, at least I can take comfort in knowing that most transformation in ministry takes place in the routine and ordinariness of life. Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is bigger than me or the trendy speaker guy I will never become.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recent Books

I have read several books recently that I wanted to post about, but just haven't had the time.

Bill Leonard's recent book, The Challenge of Being Baptist is a insightful look at Baptist life of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Leonard is an acknowledged moderate within Baptist life and currently serves as Dean of Wake Forest University Divinity School. Leonard's command of Baptist history gives him insight into how best to articulate the challenge(s) of being Baptist. The subtitle of the book really captures the essence of his writing, "Owning A Scandalous Past And An Uncertain Future." "Being Baptist is messy, controversial, and divisive. Like the gospel" (51).
In writing about hermeneutics(interpretation of scripture) in Baptist life he writes, "Biblical hermeneutics is neither a simple nor primarily academic pursuit. It is a dangerous necessity undertaken implicitly or explicitly by every Baptist congregation and individual. Biblical hermeneutics sent Baptists to jail and to the mission field. Certain hermeneutics also sent them to the slave auctions. Interpreting the text is terribly dangerous then and now" (72).

N.T. Wright has republished a book of sermons entitled, Small Faith, Great God. It is like most of his work that I have read an engaging book, rich with scripture, theology, and good stories...sadly much of what he says is part of a larger thesis or presentation and not usually distilled to a pithy saying or phrase. It was a book I read during and just after having a former student suddenly die, so it was a source of great hope and encouragement for me. It challenged me to look beyond my own circumstances and life and see the sovereign God, the creator of the universe who lovingly cares for me and provides for his people in ways that we can't even begin to comprehend.

Both books are short, insightful reads.

Christmas Choir

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's Going On?

No, that's not a reference to the Marvin Gaye classic, although that's a great song. There have been several stories in the media lately about celebrities and their "mistakes". It begs the larger question of what's going on in our world, our culture...our churches?

We seem to cast blame on everyone else around us instead of taking responsibility for our choices and actions. Isn't it easier to let someone else take the fall for something you did rather than admitting that you broke that expensive lamp? We need to be reminded that we are responsible for our own actions. We need to be reminded that when we look at what's wrong with the world, that we are included in the world.

G.K. Chesterton was reputed to write the following to the editor in response to a request by the London Times for an essay on the topic, “What’s Wrong with the World,”
          Dear Sir:
          In response to your article, ‘What’s wrong with the world’
          – I am.
          Yours truly,
          G.K. Chesterton.

Taken from

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Hard Place to Be

As I have traveled the last 10 days or so of life as a youth group, church, and community has been touched by the tragedy of losing a young person I have been renewed constantly by little things that have allowed me to sense God's presence in the midst of heartache. One of the passages of scripture I read in my quiet times was from 2 Samuel, where David mourns the death of Saul and Jonathan.   
 24-25 Women of Israel, weep for Saul.
      He dressed you in finest cottons and silks,
      spared no expense in making you elegant.
   The mighty warriors—fallen, fallen
      in the middle of the fight!
      Jonathan—struck down on your hills!
 26 O my dear brother Jonathan,
      I'm crushed by your death.
   Your friendship was a miracle-wonder,
      love far exceeding anything I've known—
      or ever hope to know.
 27 The mighty warriors—fallen, fallen.
      And the arms of war broken to bits.

I admit I have waves of hope in the glorious resurrection at one minute and waves of questions and perplexity, then I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote about Corinthians,
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (2 Cor. 4:8).

As I have processed my own grief, I have had quotes from authors and musicians swirling in my cluttered, noisy head. Below are two from Bill Mallonee that have particularly been brought to the light.

From "Double Cure"
bet you all have got a story
you're just aching to tell
haven't we thrown our coinage
down the wishing well

so go and call your neighbor
proceed with all due haste
go grab your wife and sweet family
see there is no time to waste

we're gonna drink out of that fountain
on a hill called double cure
i wanna show you my allegiance Lord
yes i wanna be a son of Yours

ask me why i love Him
He gave riches to this poor
yes and i will one day see that face
over yonder shore

From "Losin' It"
climb the tower with me tonight
speak long with the wind
let your laughter drown my sorrow
let an age of hope begin

loyalty is not a word
heard 'round these parts these days
love gets drowned in a pool of tears
i'm drunk on anyway

hold me tight
God i'm losing it
hold me tight
i'm confusing it

job lost all his daughters
job lost all his sons
lost all his crops and his animals
each and every one

still i know whom i believe in
and persuaded He is able
to keep track of all the cards
laid out on my table

oh please don't get upset
you know these means of grace
have never failed me yet

I have said many times over the last few weeks, actually over the last year as we have tried to figure out life without Cyd's dad. (Charlotte saw his picture on the computer yesterday and said, "I miss Papa.") I don't understand death, loss, mourning...I know that ultimately God is sovereign and that he will never forsake his people. I cling to that promise! I grip it tighter than the tightrope walker's foot on the wire, because at the end of the day, the mystery of life and it's brevity is something than I can only understand in a limited capacity (through a glass darkly), but one day, believers in Christ will know and experience God's glory FULLY!! Until then, I know that my redeemer lives and that he alone is my source of comfort, hope, strength, and peace!

What is it that you are THANKFUL for?

Not to be to typical of the holiday week, but I have found that periodically taking inventory of the people (past and present), things, and opportunities that I am thankful for gives me a proper perspective of what life really is all about. Last night, Claire, Charlotte and I watched White Christmas together for a little bit, my favorite song is actually "Snow" but I was struck by the one that Bing Crosby sings to Rosemary Clooney when they encounter each other in the kitchen for a late night snack. "I count my blessings instead of sheep," my that's something I could do more of in my life. God has so richly blessed me with life, health, and salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ! He has showered me with people whom I love and who love me, like my beautiful wife and beautiful daughters! That doesn't even include the fortunes of a great, although slightly dysfunctional at times, family. I couldn't forget the wonderful friends that I have particularly, my colleagues in ministry at FBC Statesboro and others involved in ministry at different places. Something I have become even more grateful for is the wonderful church family, especially my students and youth parents that are so incredibly gracious to my family and a blessing beyond words! Certainly I would be remiss without acknowledging the blessing of a home and at least one car that works!

What is it that you can thank God for today? This week? Next week? Each day?

Seth Godin on Vocation

Some great thoughts about vocation/calling for anyone who is employed!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Divine Interruption

Our pastor, John Waters (see his blog Until Sunday to the right) has been preaching a series on this theme. Yesterday's sermon dealt with suffering, something very present in our church and community in the past 36 hours. One of our college students who had grown up in our church, passed away in the early morning hours of November 14, after being in car wreck. Luke Anderson, touched so many lives in our church and our community, so the entire service was incredibly timely, amazing how God works that way, isn't it.

Luke was an incredible young man, who I got to know as a student and more recently, as a friend. My heart aches for his family and his many friends. I confess this has shaken me more than I could have ever thought possible.

As I was reading this morning, I came across these words from Henri Nouwen, "Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from {the} waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, 'It's me. Don't be afraid.'...Look at him and say, 'Lord, have mercy.' Say it again and again, not anxiously but with confidence that he is very close to you and will put your soul to rest."

I miss you Luke!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What is God's Will?

That is an age old question for many people. Men, women, boys, and girls are all asking, "What does God want me to do with my life?" What am I supposed choose for a career? Who am I supposed to marry? Should I change jobs to spend more time with my family even though it means less income? Where does God want me to go to college? Who am I supposed to date?

The great question is what is God's will or purpose for my life?

After working with teenagers since I was a teenager myself (roughly 13 or so years) I can't count how many times I have heard this question or some variation of it.

In reading John Stott's The Radical Disciple, says "Christlikeness is the purpose of God for the people of God" (31). No matter our station in life, our career, our relationship status, our matter what we do, where we go, our purpose in life as Christians is ALWAYS Christlikeness!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Operation Medicine Drop

This Saturday is the first in a series of planned Medicine Take Back events entitled: Operation Medicine Drop.

Between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM you can drop off your unused, unwanted, or expired medicine at four locations. The first 20 people will be registered for a drawing for a gift card.

Prescription and non-prescription pills can be a hazard to others and the environment if they are not properly disposed of, so be sure to take advantage of this great opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet and keep our community healthy and safe!

You can drop of your medicine at the following locations:
  • McCook's Pharmacy
  • Walker Pharmacy in Brooklet
  • The Prescription Shop
  • Forest Heights Pharmacy

Please contact Spencer Beckum at:  or 912.764.9954 for more information.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Park

Beautiful day to go to the park! After I picked up the girls we headed over to slide, run, climb monkey bars, and laugh. The only problem was they didn't want to leave.

Claire's Art Show Debut

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Love and Be Loved

I had a conversation this week, with someone I consider to be a friend although life finds us at vastly different stages of our faith and life journey. As he was sharing his thoughts about a few things he remarked that we (humans) have this innate desire to be loved and to love. Jesus reminded the religious expert what the sum of all existence was in Luke 10, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself." Mark Heard, a pioneer in Christian music said, "All she ever wanted was to love and be loved."

How are you and I doing with these two things in our individual lives? What about our churches? What about our small groups/Sunday school classes? What about in our marriages and our families?

Perhaps when we realize that the greatest thing we can experience in life is God's rapturous divine love, expressed most clearly in the cross and the empty tomb can we begin to live life as God intends for us to. To love our God and to love others...deeply!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obama Post Election

I caught a little of President Obama's news conference while I was home for lunch today. It could just be my lack of political prowess, but he seemed to really sound like a Republican on many issues. I am sure part of that rhetoric was fueled by the results of yesterday's election.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

I am beginning to think that April 15 is not the most dreaded day in the lives of millions of Americans...rather it is every day leading up to election day that is inundated with political ads and promises and disclaimers. It seems the mud-slinging this year has been the messier than any of my years as an eligible voter. I will be glad when the dust settles and we can move on to complaining about how the elected officials, whichever party they may represent, are not doing their jobs!

Seriously though, I have a bumper sticker in my office that says, "God's not a democrat or a republican!" Perhaps it is a good reminder that regardless of our view of wars, economy, education, and how best to achieve our desired end, the only hope for hearts and lives to be changed is not in politicians, amendments, or anything of the sort, it is only in the person and work of Jesus! God is not a champion of one political party, He is a champion of the risen savior who holds the keys to life! May we not forget that as we watch the results come in tonight in between our favorite Tuesday night television show (slight sarcasm)!

Her.meneutics: Apple Takes a Bite Out of Sexting

Interesting news from Apple.
Her.meneutics: Apple Takes a Bite Out of Sexting

Monday, November 1, 2010


What Good Is God? Book Review

I just finished Philip Yancey's new book What Good Is God?, if you like Yancey, then you will not be disappointed in this newest offering. He delivers a powerful journalistic account of how he has witnessed the presence of God in nearly every corner of the globe and in nearly every conceivable circumstance.

Yancey's comments to students and others at Virginia Tech after the campus massacre:
I ask you to honor the grief that you feel, a pain that results from your connection to those who died, your friends and classmates and professors. Grief proves love. The pain will dull over time, but will never fully disappear. 

Cling to the hope that nothing that happens, not even this terrible tragedy, is irredeemable. We serve a God who has vowed to make all things new. J.R.R. Tolkien once spoke of "Joy beyond the walls of the world more poignant than grief." You know well the poignancy of grief. As healing progresses, may you know too that joy, a foretaste of a world redeemed. 

Finally, do not attempt healing alone. Rely on the people in this room, the staff of this church, other members of Christ's body in your hometown. True healing, of deep connective tissue, takes place in community. Where is God when it hurts? Where God's people are. Where misery is, there is the Messiah, and now on earth the Messiah takes form in the shape of the church. That's what the body of Christ means (34-35).

Yancey addressing a conference based around ministering to women in prostitution:
Our desires, including sexual desires, are not wrong. They are rather, like the rungs of a ladder that lead us toward beauty, toward relationship and intimacy, and ultimately toward God who granted us these gifts. Remove the rungs from the ladder, though, and you are left with scattered sticks of wood leading nowhere. The path to health for those of you leaving the sex trade will mean neither quenching nor exploiting desire but rather restoring it to its proper place (82). 

My friend George once said to me, "I feel caught somewhere between 'Just as I am' and 'Just as I Should be'" In fact, we're all caught there. In my teenage and college years I branded the uptight, perfectionistic people in my church as hypocrites, and perhaps they were. Now I look on them with sympathy and self-recognition. If we compare who we are to who we claim to be, we are all hypocrites, and the church provides a place where we can openly confess our failures and receive the cleansing power of grace (84)

All Saints Day

Dome of the Chapel at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Today is All Saint's Day in the liturgical calendar. I am heavily drawn to these few days because of my protestant heritage. I often think, "What would Luther's 95 Theses be today?" Today I have thought long about missing loved ones, the saints of my life who are no longer here to share the joys and the pains of life. The ones who are no longer around to enjoy a meal together, a family celebration, or just a good laugh. We are approaching the first holiday season without Cyd's dad, so I am sure that is adding to my preoccupation with All Saint's Day. I am often reminded of the "great cloud of witnesses that surround us" I picture them cheering us on, praying for us, hoping that we would live our lives in a worthy manner for the kingdom of God. The saints of years gone by and days gone by share with us who are alive, the joy, the hope, and the peace of the resurrection, may we live in the light of the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mad About You

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Mad About You. There are so many great quotes and one-liners! For instance, the episode where Paul and Jamie end up locked in the bathroom together on Valentine's Day includes the following exchange, "You woo and you woo and then you gotta go Woah!" as Paul describes his view of the romantic holiday. Although a funny line, the opposite is in fact true! The longer you are in a relationship the more you should woo your partner. Wooing your partner is never easy, but it is always worth the investment in your relationship. It's worth it because you love that person and you would do anything for them, regardless of what it is. In essence, you are "mad about them" head over heels in love with them and nothing will keep you from pursuing their love and affection, not unlike Divine Love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (The Message)

 6-9 Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

In my denomination much ink has been spilled over the authority of the Bible. Along with the loss of ink has come loss of friends, family, and organizations. I am convinced that Christians of every stripe I have encountered would do well to allow the verses above to soak into our lives and fill our hearts and conversations. I am even more convinced that if Christians through the years had done this the Kingdom would be larger than any human mind can comprehend. I must be honest and admit that more often than not I find myself talking about things less important than scripture! I am thankful for the gentle reminder that the Word has the power to transform my life and the world as the Holy Spirit works in our lives today.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Recruit Starling


Chandler's Graduation

We are trying to get loaded up and head to Parris Island, SC for Chandler's USMC graduation. Should be a great day, cool, crisp morning so far. OOHRAH!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Reformer? and the Future of a Denomination

Here is an interesting article on Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Kentucky. Mohler is someone that people tend to love or hate for who he is, what he stands for, his involvement in reshaping Southern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention. I was initially put off by the title of the article, because I thought it would be all about how great of a person Mohler is and how he is next John Calvin, but the article seemed to be a fair description of the man and his mission over the past 20 years.

There is a reaction to the article posted on Scot McKnight's blog as well that's very interesting, especially the comments section.

What does the future hold for the SBC? What does the future hold for evangelicalism? What does the future hold for untold numbers of church leaders who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the theological, political, and ecclesiastical differences found in many churches today?

For me it means moving past a 30+ year old battle and moving forward with the story of the gospel, the hope of redemption!

Friend of the Devil

The Grateful Dead have a song entitled "Friend of the Devil" that I really like. The music is rolling acoustic and the lyrics are catchy. Although the original intent wasn't what I have distilled from the song, I think there is some wisdom in the lyrics for all Christians. "A friend of the devil is a friend of mine"... How often have we seen Christians who withdraw from the world and the people who most need Jesus rather than befriending them so that we might have the opportunity to share the gospel, the greatest thing in our life, with them!

Philip Yancey has a quote that has always stuck with me..."Jesus was a sinless friend of sinners, something that should convict us on both counts."

Perhaps the church needs to do a better job at making sure that the friends of the devil are who we are befriending...after all that seems to be the model of Jesus!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Wineskins

Mark 2:22 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins."

We are going through the Gospel of Mark for our high school Bible study. One of the commentaries I have looked discussed this passage from the perspective of using new methods to communicate the ancient truth of the gospel. So my question is..."How will we "do" church in order to proclaim the story of redemption in 10, 20, 30 years?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Embracing Grace by Scot McKnight

I finished a book by Scot McKnight this week that was ho-hum to me. I really like reading his blog, so I was looking forward to reading a book by him, but I was a little disappointed. One thing that stuck out to me was a quote from Frederick Buechner that I had come across years ago but had forgotten about. It's a definition of grace. Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.

Can't you see why Buechner is among my favorite authors!

Great Weekend with Grandparents

We had a great weekend with Nana and Papa Larry this past weekend. It always seems like life is hectic and crazy for us and them so it's always a treat when we can get together even for a few days. Claire got her dose of chicken and fries since we went to Zaxby's and Dairy Queen while they were here! Although it wasn't a good weekend for UGA, Dad and I enjoyed getting to watch some of the different football games that were on this weekend. It's always a real treat for the girls when any of the grandparents come to stay with us because they get spoiled absolutely rotten, which means detox for a day or so after they leave but all in all a great weekend! Plus we were able to celebrate Claire's and Dad's birthday with them. Dad turns 63 tomorrow...hard to believe I'm old enough to have a parent that old.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Church Biker FAIL

A friend sent me this today, thought it was pretty funny. Definitely not something most "sane" youth pastors would try.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Losing a Friend

This week I learned that a dear friend in Alabama passed away. Todd Chambers was the dad to two of my students at the church I served while Cyd and I were in seminary at Beeson. The Chambers family quickly became close to our hearts, partly because Todd was the College and Career Sunday school teacher, which was the class that we went to if we weren't teaching ourselves.

There are many things I remember about Todd...he loved to ride motorcycles, in fact he and Renee would go on weekend trips together just riding on their Harley-Davidson. Todd worked for Alabama Power, which meant he often got called out when there was severe weather in the area. I also remember his quiet, gentle style of leadership. He was an incredibly humble person, who always thought of others, especially his family and church family before he thought about himself. Todd was a gifted teacher, though he never really thought that himself. There are few teachers that I have sat under in Sunday school class that have made a significant impact on my life, but Todd Chambers was one of them. He wasn't flashy, but he studied, prayed, and prepared like he was speaking to 90,000 people at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. He was faithful to scripture and faithful to life. He didn't always know the answers to all of life's questions (and in my experience anyone who does is usually fooling themselves and others)but he genuinely believed that those answers could be found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

One of the things about Todd's life that impacted me the most wasn't any of the things mentioned above...rather it was a deep love and affection for his wife, Renee and their two girls. Todd was a great source of wisdom for me in my own marriage and as I began those early days of fatherhood. The model that he set for others was truly a testimony to how he had grasped God's love for him and the necessity to pour that same love out into the lives of the people around him.

Cyd and I wanted desperately to try to make it back to Clanton for Todd's funeral but we just couldn't make our schedule and the girls schedule work. In fact, the Chambers were among the last people we spent time with at our home in Alabama before we moved to Statesboro. We still have pictures of all of us sitting around talking and playing with Claire in our den that pop up on the computer from time to time when the screen saver comes on the monitor. My mind has been utterly preoccupied with his family the past few days... I hurt for them and with them. Todd was a man who touched many, many lives for the sake of the Kingdom!

Todd, thank you for your friendship, your encouragement, and your example of a godly life, a godly husband, and a godly friend. You will be missed!

James 1:19-27

I am teaching through James this fall on Wednesday nights at The Gathering and thought I would share some of what I am teaching on here too. Here are just some excerpts from this past week: (note: nothing has been reedited from my notes)

James sees the key to being a person who doesn’t just pay lip service to Christ but a person who does what we are called to do as disciples begins with listening. Listening is truly a gift. Not everyone is great at it, but we all must develop a willingness to listen 1st and restrain our speech, if we do we will find ourselves getting along better with others.

Nobody wants to be around someone who is a hotheaded/temper losing freak all the time. Do things happen in life that make us want to scream and punch the wall, yes, but in those instances we have to remind ourselves that we must listen hard and fast before speaking, because there is the potential that we would say something we don’t really mean, hurt people we love, and sin by allowing our anger to be a stumbling block to others and ourselves.

James commands us to get rid of all the junk, garbage, filth in our lives so that we can live lives of purity and godliness as we strive to follow after him.

You ever been in the shower and the tub starts to drain slow or back up, mine does that sometimes with all the hair that gets caught in the drain! What has to happen in order for you to be able to shower without standing in water? You’ve got to pour some drano or something like that down the drain in order for it to open back up and do what it’s supposed to. The same is true in our lives, if we are going to truly live lives of committed disciples of Jesus Christ, then we must get rid of all the sin in our hearts so that we can truly seek God with our whole heart!

Reread vs. 22-25.

Have you ever been around someone who talked a lot about doing something or doing things a certain way but in reality that never happened for various reasons?

If you and I as Christians read the Bible, here it taught and preached on Sundays and Wednesdays but are never changed and don’t put it into practice then what good is it to us? What good are we to the people around us?

We can’t just be people who encounter the God of the Bible but our lives aren’t changed by that encounter. James says, that’s like looking at your face in the mirror and turning around and forgetting what we look like. Instead of encountering God through the pages of scripture and letting our lives be changed we engage God and walk away as if our lives were exactly the same.

Now I know that many of you guys spend longer than the girls in front of the mirror getting ready and then you walk away from the mirror and find the next mirror you can to stand in front of so that you can check yourself again. What’s that about? Did you forget how you looked over the span of 3 seconds? That’s what James is talking about here.

The contrast is what we need in our lives. We need to look into the perfect law of freedom and be doers of the word and not just hearers. If we hear that God wants us to love our enemies but don’t actually do it we aren’t putting our faith into practice. If we hear that God wants us to show mercy rather than justice but don’t do it then we aren’t putting our faith into practice. If we hear that we need to care for the needs of people around us, especially people who are marginalized (see verse 27, widows and orphans) but don’t do it then we aren’t being doers of the word, only hearers.

If we are going to be serious about living our lives as disciples then we have got to stop just listening to what God tells us to do and actually do it.

The tongue: vs. 26 Controlling our tongues is one of the hardest things in life to do isn’t it?

It may not always be cussing and vulgar language…it may be gossip, or mean/hurtful things that we say to others. We all need to be reminded how powerful our words are! They can build people up or tear them down in a blink of an eye.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Church and Culture Blog

One of the blogs that I get email updates from is James Emery White's, Church and Culture. It is a great site that offers great commentary and stimulating thoughts about life, faith, and culture. As long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the dialogue of the intersection of faith and culture, so I am always looking for pastors, authors, musicians, and theologians who help illuminate the discussion. The most recent entry is worth checking out for any Christian who wants to be serious about taking the gospel to the world around them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Learning From The Early Church Fathers

Great article in First Things about John Chrysostom. Truly a great preacher to inspire future generations of preachers.

Top Albums

Great post on top albums from Internet Monk. I like some of the picks, of course how can you fault someone who picks an Allman Brothers Band album for any sort of list inclusion?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Don't Have to Live Like a Refugee

Tom Petty
Listen, it don't really matter to me
Baby, you believe what you wanna believe
You see, you don't have to live like a refugee

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have
Kicked you around some
Tell me why you wanna lay there,
Revel in your abandon

Honey, it don't make no difference to me
Baby, everybody's had to fight to be free
You see, you don't have to live like a refugee
No baby, you don't have to live like a refugee

Tom Petty has always captured my attention with his barely whispered, gritty vocals and devil may care attitude. I was listening to one of his discs recently and this song stuck in my head for a few days. I couldn't move past the fact that as humans we choose to live like refugees when we live alienated from God and keep him at arms length. The good news of the gospel is a reminder that we don't have to revel in our brokenness and our sense of abandonment when the world casts us aside...truly we have the greatest hope, the greatest love, the deepest awareness of grace in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are declared righteous in God's sight no longer bound to flounder in chains of sin and death but liberated to live in community with God and his people.

Favorite Preachers

I mentioned in a recent post that one of my favorite preachers is Walter B. Shurden, this is at the end of his email signature...I love both Shurden and Buechner for the uncanny ability to dissect the human heart and shed the light of Christ on it and in it!

Even when you can't believe, even if you don't believe at all, even if you shy away at the sound of his name, be Christ. Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Chosen Debt

My own spiritual journey has been through twists and turns as God has opened my eyes to the broader work of the Church outside of my own local congregation and denomination. Part of my story is my exposure to Reformed Theology at the end of high school and on into college. Although ultimately I didn't choose to stay within those circles (please note the irony) I do owe a great deal to the people I met along the way as well as the influences of that brand of theology own my own, though I do not consider myself to be a part of reformed thinking. This was a great post about the role that reformed theology has played in many people's lives like mine.

John Calvin, above, shouldn't ever be confused with Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes) below in terms of their importance in shaping popular thought and culture. Both are equally indispensable! In actuality, Calvin and Hobbes is based on John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Listening for God

Exodus 3 (The Message)

Exodus 3
1-2 Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn't burn up.

3 Moses said, "What's going on here? I can't believe this! Amazing! Why doesn't the bush burn up?"

4 God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, "Moses! Moses!"

He said, "Yes? I'm right here!"

5 God said, "Don't come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You're standing on holy ground."

6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob."

Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

What was your burning bush encounter with God like?

Preachers I Follow....

I am teaching at class this term at Guido Bible Institute in Metter, GA on Church History. I was asked last week by one of the students who are some of the preachers I follow or listen to podcasts of...I paused for a second and rattled off one or two that I've listened to before, at least one of their sermons, but truthfully I don't listen to a lot of other preachers for a couple of reasons:
1. We have an old iPod shuffle so to put a podcast on it is hard to find and it takes up all the space that my music needs.
2. The CD player in my car doesn't work so that's not an option.
3. I could listen in my office more, but usually I am doing things that require more attention and focus so I can't listen too intently.

Truthfully, my favorite preachers to listen to and or read from aren't ones that most of the people I interact with would appreciate for different reasons, but here are a few:
1. Frederick Buechner: I haven't heard him preach, but his books (mostly collections of sermons) are among my favorites in my library.
2. Barbara Brown Taylor: Amazing, but since she is a woman most people look at me like I'm crazy when I cite her as one of my favorite preachers.
3. Calvin Miller: My preaching professor in seminary, truly a gifted artisan when it comes to the craft of preaching.
4. Walter B. Shurden: I actually haven't heard Buddy preach too many times, but I receive his preaching journal e-newsletter that is insightful and thought provoking for anyone doing a lot of teaching and preaching.
5. Cyd Pagliarullo: She is by far my favorite preacher to listen to...truth be told (I have said this before) she is the better preacher and teacher in the family. Passionate and insightful with a keen ability to speak right to the heart!

Truthfully, the "preachers" I listen to the most are gifted singers/songwriters who have an uncanny ability to dissect the human heart and shed the light of the gospel or the need for the light of the gospel in our fallen world. I love the lines from a Bill Mallonee song that seem to capture my sentiments about my favorite preachers,

today's djs on the radio say
you gotta buy this one it's a must
but the tunes that were old and beat up and wise
well they're the ones that I learned to trust
the ones all full of liars and lovers
robbers and murders and thieves
the ones all full of saints and sinners
a lot like you and me

Some of my favorite "preachers" include:
Bill Mallonee
Mark Heard
Bob Dylan
Johnny Cash
The Allman Brothers Band
Drive By Truckers
Dave Matthews Band
Patti Griffin
Indigo Girls
Nancy Griffith
James Taylor
Harrod and Funck
Waylon Jennings
and many more


A great post over at Internet Monk about Ancient-Future stream of the post-evangelical world. The more I search, read, think, and reflect the more I am drawn to the thoughts behind Ancient-Future rhetoric. A dear friend told me last night that if he wasn't Baptist, he would be Anglican...a sentiment that I have heard time and time again from others, myself included. Perhaps the biggest need in the church is for a renewed passion for what is good from the history of the faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) as we live out our faithfulness in our own traditions.

For more on Ancient-Future Faith check out:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts from Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk who heavily influenced the spiritual life of many Christians (Protestant and Catholics) in the 20th century and into the 21st century. I have a couple of his books that I have picked up through the years but they have sat idle on the shelf in our home...always beckoning me, but their voices overshadowed by others. At the beginning of the summer I began working my way through No Man is an Island by Merton. It is a deeply engaging book, one that is best read in bits and pieces because of the magnitude of his wisdom and knowledge of the devotional life.

Here are a couple of thoughts that resonated with me over the last few days...

"God who is infinitely rich became man in order to experience the poverty and misery of fallen man, not because He needed this experience but because we needed His example. Now that we have seen His love, let us love one another as He has loved us. Thus His love will work in our hearts and transform us into Himself" (291).

Don't misunderstand him to say that the only reason Christ came as a man was for a moral example for us. We know from scripture that he came to rescue us from the power of sin and death and that God sought to triumph over those things through the power of the cross. Lest we forget that the death of Christ doesn't just free us from sin but it frees us to live fully in Christ. Part of this means becoming instruments of God's grace and love in the world around us because we have been fortunate enough through God's free mercy to experience his love and grace!

"Every man becomes the image of the God he adores. He whose worship is directed to a dead thing becomes a dead thing. He who loves corruption rots. He who loves a shadow becomes, himself a shadow. He who loves things that must perish lives in dread of their perishing" (322).

And perhaps among my favorite recent quotes, "The teaching and miracles of Christ were not meant simply to draw the attention of men to a doctrine and a set of practices. They were meant to focus our attention upon God Himself revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Once again, theology is essentially concrete. Far from being a synthesis of abstract truths, our theology is centered in the Person of Jesus Himself, the Word of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (249).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

A while back I posted a review of Anne Rice's autobiography of her conversion and reconnecting with the Catholic church she grew up in. She has recently publicly renounced Christianity as her religion, although not her relationship to God as a believer in Christ. Her actions remind me that there is much about the institution of the Christian church (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) that rubs me the wrong way (our history, stance on different issues, even some of the people) but it's still the one place that sinners "a lot like you and me" as Bill Mallonee says join together not in our own strength and purpose but united in our confession of the Triune God who has redeemed us and is at work in the world to bring about his kingdom...that is what keeps me hanging on to the church with all of it's faults and failures. Rice makes some valid points, but she misses what I believe is one of the essentials of faith, unity through the power of the Holy Spirit. Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Clark Pinnock Dies at 73 | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

It would be safe to say that Pinnock has been one of the most influential theologians of the late 20th century, into the 21st century. He is revered by some and despised by others depending on where they fall on issues of Biblical inerrancy, Open-theism, spiritual gifts and other key areas in the church. While I agree and disagree with him on different points of theology...the thing I admire most is his willingness to always learn and grow and sometimes that means that one's theology will shift and change through one's journey. Perhaps I admire that aspect of Pinnock the most because I find myself in the same category when it comes to my own journey. Clark Pinnock Dies at 73 | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hell on Earth

I'm still working my way through No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton and this week I came across two selections that have been gnawing on me. My previous post dealt with the business that is life lately for us.

There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform: and often it is quite beyond his power. (166)

Jesus established a pattern of regular periods of rest for himself. A pattern that is necessary for anyone to truly be the fullest since of the word. I find in my own life that regular periods of NOT doing, what the Bible calls Sabbath rest are necessary for me to be the Christian, husband, father, friend, and minister that I am supposed to be.

The Eagles have a song that says "I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven or this could be hell." What I have been reminded of is that if I don't take time to simply BE rather than DO then I cheat myself and God out of my best. In addition to that I create my own prison in which I feel the need to do stuff all the time based on pressure to constantly look busy and feel busy and a drive for productivity. What I really need to do is break that cycle and find contentment in periods of non-doing.

Merton also had this to say, "Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth" (171).

Are you helping to create heaven on earth or hell on earth?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Week in the Life...

Since August started it feels like we haven't even had time to...well I think you get the point...Crazy, intense, madness, busy, those are just a few words that could describe the last couple of weeks for the Pagliarullos! Both of the girls are in school and we are beginning to get a handle on the schools being 20 minutes apart too! Dance started back up this week and I started teaching another class at Guido Center for Christian Training. In all of this, we as a family are learning that
8 PM can't come soon enough for the girls some nights (parents too). We are also learning to cling to a few minutes or a few hours together as a family as we invest in each other.

Spending time with people we care about has been a blessing this week. Last night we got to spend time with Mamanon, Grandmother, and Mimi...helping us gear up for Cyd's birthday and Claire's birthday that are just around the corner. Today we spent the first Saturday in a long time as a family without projects, schedules, agendas or goals. We went to Daylight Donuts, T-B-M (a feed and seed store), and the grocery store. We could dinner, complete with a peach pie with fresh peaches, and some boiled peanuts (1st time Cyd or I have ever boiled peanuts). What a great end to a great but full week!

May You Be Filled With Joy

Colossians 1:9-14 (New Living Translation)

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

I read this passage about a week ago and was reminded of a couple of things:
  • I need God's strength and power so that I can have patience and endurance
  • I long for my life to always be filled with joy, which it usually is
  • I was once a slave to sin and the powers of darkness but now I am set free by the power of the cross
  • I always want to grow and push others around me to grow
  • No matter what we go through or experience God is always with us and at work in our lives as Christians
The interesting thing is that I have had literally countless conversations and/or encounters this week with people and this passage would pop into my mind. It's almost as if God has made this my prayer for people this week...I can't seem to move past the thoughts that Paul has in mind here. I can't believe how God breaks through the ordinary and mundane of our lives to give us a glimpse of his goodness and glory!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marriage and Parenting Conference

First Baptist Church Statesboro hosted their first Marriage and Parenting Conference this weekend with Jerry and Bayne Pounds, professors at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It was a great weekend for Cyd and I to get to know other couples better, learn how to improve our parenting skills, and work on our relationship with each other. We were truly challenged and blessed by this weekend! We topped the weekend off with dinner at Vandy's BBQ, a Statesboro tradition!

Help! My Little Girl Started Kindergarten!

I can't believe that Claire started kindergarten this week! She is at a great school with a great teacher, but I still can't believe my little girl is old enough to do the whole real school thing. It scares me to death to think about how she will grow and change over the next 13 years...and thrills my heart at the same time. She has been so excited to start school all summer! The kicker was that she got a stomach bug and had to miss two days of school the first week! The bad thing about this is Monday will be like starting over for her. I pray that God will continue to grow and develop her into the woman he has created her to become!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wild Adventures: Youth Week Day 1

I know that Wild Adventures has zoo animals and a petting zoo but the wildest part of the day yesterday might just have been the restroom stop at Country Boys Mini Mall in Bristol, GA! Sketchy doesn't even begin to describe this place. You know you might need to keep driving when everyone at the "Mini Mall" is wearing less than adequate clothing or properly worn clothing and there are a gang of motorcycle riders (not the business man/weekend rider type) outside.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Youth Week 2010

I am super pumped about the "wicked awesome" Youth Week we have planned for 2010!! Josh Burnham, a good friend is going to be speaking and our worship band will be leading us in worship this week. I can't wait to hear what God has laid on Josh's heart for our students and see how God works this week. We are kicking things off with a trip to Wild Adventures in Valdosta tomorrow (how I loathe theme parks!).

Wednesday: Worship @ 5:30 PM followed by the 135th annual Redneck Olympics

Thursday: Mexican Frisbee at Mill Creek @ 9:30 in the AM (Ultimate Frisbee and lunch at El Som)

Friday: Worship @ 7 PM with game night/Lock-In to follow (Lock-In)is for Rising 7-9th graders only!

Can't wait to see God rock our faces off this week!