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