Wednesday, October 2, 2013

September Stache in Honor of Dad

Monday would have been Dad's 66th birthday! It was a bittersweet day. Several different emotions went through my mind. One of the things that helped with my grieving process was to grow out my beard, then cut everything except a mustache in honor of Dad. When I was a kid Dad had a mustache. It was the 80s and let's face it we all made bad decisions in the 80s. I won't discuss my Michael Jackson phase. Here is an old birthday picture of Dad and a picture of my mustache in his honor. Don't worry, it came off later that night.
September 30 Stache

Monday, September 23, 2013

Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology

I love to stumble across good books in obscure places like yard sales, thrift stores, etc. Last January I picked up a copy of Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology at a thrift store while Cyd and I were on the church marriage retreat. I finally got around to reading it this month. Of course many consider Barth to have been the most influential theologian of the 20th century for his course correction of Liberal theology, though many conservatives and fundamentals would contend that he didn't go far enough his correctives. I have engaged some of his writing before, but it has been several years since I have read any of his works. This volume was the result of his visit to America and a series of lectures he did at the University of Chicago.

Reading Barth is challenging because his thought process is so thorough that he makes the reader rethink everything before affirming anything. Incidentally, Barth considers this to be one of the necessary components of any theologian. A man who is most remembered for his multi-volume, Church Dogmatics, in discussing the different disciplines of theological study says that systematic theology  is a contradiction in terms. "There is at any rate no justification for the construction and proclamation of a system of Christian truth developed out of some definite conceptualization of it. What should rule in the community is not a concept or a principle, but solely the Word of God attested to in the Scriptures and vivified by the Holy Spirit" (180).

What a challenge for those of us concerned with theology to make sure that our theological systems and structures are not erected as a wall to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the will of God but that they are there as supports to the ongoing work of the Word made flesh!


Last night I had the strangest dream. I don't dream often, so the fact that I remembered the dream is amazing to me. It was among the most vivid dreams I have ever had. I awoke thinking that it had really just happened. What was it? I dreamed that I was talking on the phone with my dad, just like we had done many times before. We chatted about life. About what the kids are doing, about the undefeated Mercer football team, about what was going on at church. It was as if life was the way it was 2 years ago. It was as if nothing had changed, certainly not death. It was as if we hadn't missed a beat in our relationship. I guess that is true in many ways. Do I talk to you him now? No! Do often ask myself what he would say or do about different situations? What kind of counsel he would give me about any number of things? YES!

Yet, I can't help but sense his presence in my life through the laughter and smiles of my children. Through the reminder from scripture that I will see him again as we worship around at the feet of the Lamb (Revelation 21-22). Perhaps that made the dream a good thing for me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Family Vocation

I recently finished Your Other Vocation by Elton Trueblood. The book though dated now in some ways (it was originally published in the 1950s) has some prophetic things to same about family life. Trueblood wrote about things that the church is now wrestling with in tremendous ways. Allow me to summarize some of his thoughts. He contends that a man may change jobs, business associates, and any number of occupational components but we cannot change our children. We can always get another job. We can always make adjustments to our career. In fact the new average is that Millenials will have 2-3 careers during their lifetime. "If we lose with our children our loss is terribly and frighteningly final" (82). We don't get second chances, usually to make it happen when it comes to parenting and nurturing our children. Yet how many parents work long hours and distance themselves from their children because of their career in an effort to "provide" for their children but the completely miss the opportunity to provide what they most want...and need.

Trueblood goes on to write about how our faith must impact our family life if it is real and genuine. "What occurs at the altar is insignificant unless what occurs there is supported by what occurs in the kitchen" (82).
A challenging chapter on family, that outshines the rest of the book.


As we make our way through September 11, 2013 I am reminded of the specific context I found myself on September 11, 2001. I was a recent college graduate from Mercer University, the Harvard of the South, as one of my professors use to say. I chose two majors, both within the liberal arts school, which meant that I was largely unemployable without more schooling. After continuing to work at a bookstore I worked at as a student, I was able to get a teaching job at a small private school in the south part of Bibb county. It was a blessing. I was primarily hired to teach Government/Economics part-time, but I was given more courses to justify paying me full-time. I taught students in the 6th, 8th, 11th, and 12th grades. They were all unique with different challenges and joys. I distinctly remember receiving the news of an attack then watching with students as the second plane struck one of the towers. 

The rest of that day shifted from being about accomplishing lesson plans to counseling students about fears, hopes, dreams, and the role of faith in this event. The ones who orchestrated this tragedy were motivated by their own theology, albeit an incorrect theology in my opinion. Perhaps one of the great tragedies that ensued after 9-11 was that Christians produced a plethora of bad theology in response to the attacks. What I found myself doing was providing comfort, hope, and a truer biblical perspective of all that was unfolding in the world in relation to God's word and his work in the world. 

I have sense encountered several of those students I taught, both in person and through social media. I dare say that I would have remembered them regardless of the events of 9-11, but perhaps because of that day they are indelibly pressed into my brain and my heart. Now many of them are married with kids of their own, hopefully making a difference in the world around them. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"God is a wild old dog"

Patty Griffin has produced one of the finest "gospel" albums of recent days with her homage to her father on American Kid. There are several songs of note on the album as it weaves a story of love, family, failure and redemption. In one of the more captivating songs, she likens God to a "wild old dog, someone left out on the highway".
God is a wild old dog
Someone left out on the highway
I seen him running by me
He don't belong to no one now
He don't belong to no one now

In the lyric she captures a great truth that is often lost on religious types, especially churches and denominations who consider themselves at the front of holding forth the gospel. There is a sense in which people seem to cage God to their own perspective and ideas. They OWN God. They have him all figured out. There are no questions left unanswered, no theological ambiguity, no doctrinal conundrums, no sense of doubt. They approach God the way an animal lover might approach a stray dog and take him in and give him a sense of belonging. Who are we to think that we can ever own God or give God a sense of belonging. If we see anything about God's nature in scripture, it is that he is not given to being dictated by his creation. He is above all of the created order, thus he is free to move as he pleases like a wild old dog running along the highway. 

At times I seem to think I have God figured out. I think I know exactly what he is doing and will do. Then like a wild mutt he surprises me. I don't have a trademark or a copyright on God and neither does anyone else, so why do I try to limit what God can do in my life and the world around me. 

Reflections on Prayer in Wales

My time spent this summer in Caernarfon, Wales was formational in many different ways. First, it reminded me that people are people no matter what country you are in. Second, it reminded me that God is bigger than my southern, American caricature that often drives my understanding of God. Lastly, the impact that the trip had on my prayer life has been incredible, like the first bite of fresh Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.
The majority of the trip consisted of prayer walking for half our day. We spent time walking through all the different parts of the town and into the outskirts of the town into the sheep infested countryside. I will admit that pray has never come easy for me. It is something I have wrestled with in attempt to hear the voice of God leading me, though at times I suspect that God's voice sounds eerily like my own. My prayer walking experience opened my eyes to the need that I have for God to be present in my life as well as the lives of people I interact with each day. I was humbled by the power of simply confessing that I didn't know the extent of every individual situation and need but that God did and does.

Part of our experience was an exercise in listening prayer. I am staunchly convinced that most Christians spent time uttering prayers to the extent that we become experts at babbling and seldom practice the discipline of shutting up to listen to God. Each day I was challenged in my faith, encouraged to hold on fast to the God of my faith, and to trust in his will for me, the people around me, and the world. That sounds like, "let go and let God"...nothing could be further from the lesson I learned. It was this deep sense of trust even when I doubted the one in whom I trust. It was something akin to jumping off the trapeze platform with no net and not enough a bar. I am finding that jumping is part of what God is looking for from me.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chesterton on Life and Faith

I have long wanted to read G. K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy. This summer I finally marked it off my list. One can easily see his influence on another great thinker, C. S. Lewis. Here are few nuggets I found in my reading of the book.

"We have said we must be fond of this world, even in order to change it. We now add that we must be fond of another world (real or imaginary) in order to have something to change it to."

"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul."

"Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once."

"Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason."

"For orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God."

"Man will sometimes act slowly upon new ideas; but he will only act swiftly upon old ideas."

"But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wales Pictures

 Prayer walking


 cool cross in a cemetary

 dipping my toes in the Atlantic

 A cool church in an area we prayer walked on the last morning

 5 Americans in a phone booth

 Prayer walking

 church service

Castle Ruins from the 12th or 13th century

Wales Mission Trip 2013

 Our home for the week.

 Getting training from IMB missionary John Robinson

 Group shot on the sea wall

 View of the ancient medieval wall

 Overlooking the town of Caernarfon

 Group debriefing

Beautiful sunset over the harbor

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some thoughts on Galatians 6

When we boast only in the cross we are…
1.       Reminded of the depths of our sin
2.       Reminded of the depths of God’s love
3.       Reminded that without the cross we are hopeless

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday in Between

I have often thought that the day after the death of Christ on the cross must have been one of the scariest moments in the lives of the disciples. Yet, perhaps it wasn't...perhaps they were contemplating how their lives had been forever changed by this teacher they had committed to follow. Frederick Buechner offers some wonderful thoughts on Easter, below is one of my favorites.

Late Friday afternoon he died, and then there was Saturday, which should have been the worst day except that somehow or other perhaps it was not. If for even as much as an instant we look up into the full brilliance of the sun, we find that for hours afterward whenever we close our eyes the outline of the sun is still there as though the image had been branded on our eyelids; and so it must have been for the ones who had been present that Friday on the hill where he was executed.  Taken from The Magnificent Defeat 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Memphis Mission Trip

 We moved a lot of chairs last week as we reset their main worship room and their youth worship room.

 Prayer walking The University of Memphis Campus
 We had storage rooms and closest to clean out and organize.

A group shot with some of the New Direction staff. Pastor Karen, their associate pastor is in the front giving the deuces.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quoteable Quotes

A Christian begins with the conclusion that a good God will restore creation to its original design, and sees all history as proceeding toward that end.
Philip Yancey

God's desire is to use our powerlessness to send us fleeing back to him. Evil wants it to send us reeling to rely on ourselves with even greater intensity. We unwittingly follow evil's plan when we attempt to escape our powerlessness through martyrdom, rebellion, or disengagement.
Dan Allender

In contrast to many a preacher today, Jesus knew that "love your enemies" didn't mean "don't make any."

William Sloane Coffin

Clinging to the Light

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
'Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright

So lead me back, turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
'Cause you know my call
And we'll share my all

And our children come and they will hear me roar

These lyrics from Mumford and Sons have owned me for the past week. It seems that many I have talked to in recent days are battling so much darkness, as we all are. Darkness both within and without...sin, the results of the fall, death, decay...all lead us to groan for the redemption of our lives and our world. The hope in these words of the promise that in Christ we will be alright, that the new heavens and new earth of Revelation will be a reality for us who hope in Christ! As we battle the darkness and wage war against sin, we must cling to the light of the gospel for our present and coming salvation!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Psalm 61

Grateful for RUF and Indelible Grace Music for hymns that serve as inspiration and encouragement for sharing the Word! Big shout out to the great group of students and adults in the college class at FBC Statesboro that listened to a modified version of this sermon a few weeks ago!

Psalm 61 from FBC Statesboro TV on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rattle and Hum

U2 fans are among the most rabid fans around. There are some who believe they haven't produced a great record since the Joshua Tree, while others have loved everything they have produced since, but not the early stuff. I guess that is partly to be expected from a rock group that has spanned over 3 decades...I am a fan of several different eras in the evolution of U2, but I think I am specifically drawn to Rattle and Hum. R & H was an album that fans and critics have often cited as the worst effort by the band. To me it captures the essence of what they distilled on the Joshua Tree record combined with an homage to American music, particularly rhythm and blues and early rock icons like Dylan and Hendrix. There is something visceral about the album that captures a still young band at a crucial moment in their career. The lyrics are among some of the best by Bono coupled with the gritty, yet reflective nature of the music the band produced in the late 1980s. Listening to it always takes me back to being an early adolescent, excited about one of the first CDs I ever purchased and listening to the magic of the music of U2 and even then recognizing there was something different about this band.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Telling the Story

Richard B. Hays in his pivotal book on Christian Ethics states that the New Testament is not a unified dogmatic system of belief, but rather a collection of documents that tell and retell a common story. He summarizes the story this way...
The God of Israel, the creator of the world, has acted (astoundingly) to rescue a lost and broken world through the death and resurrection of Jesus; the full scope of that rescue is not yet apparent, but God has created a community of witnesses to this good news, the church. While awaiting the grand conclusion of the story, the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is called to reenact the loving obedience of Jesus Christ and thus to serve as a sign of God's redemptive purposes for the world.

 I often ask myself how am I doing at obeying Christ and striving to be a part of God's redemptive purposes for the world, which he loved so much he gave up his only Son!

Monday, January 7, 2013

End It Movement!

Part of what our students and 60,000 others did last week at Passion 2013!