Monday, October 31, 2011

Martin Luther and Halloween

On October 31st, 1517, a German monk protested the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church, indulgences that would allow the "donor" a free pass for himself or someone else.  The saying of the time that is sickening and jarring said, "When the coin in the coffer rings, a soul into heaven springs."  Instead of the Pope using his personal wealth to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, indulgences were sold.

And Martin Luther couldn't stand it.

So he mailed a letter to a supervisor and posted a statement (later known as the 95 Theses) on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  It sparked such an uprising and grew in such popularity that the Roman Catholic Church of the time had to deal with it.

They called Luther on the carpet, asked him to recant his writings and teachings.  He asked for more time to contemplate all that was before him.  A day was given.  The following day, he was asked again to recant his writings and teachings.  He famously replied...
Since your Imperial Majesty and Lordships demand a simple answer I will do so without horns or teeth as follows: Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Scripture or by evident reason - for I trust neither in popes nor in councils alone, since it is obvious that they have often erred and contradicted themselves - I am convicted by the Scripture which I have mentioned and my conscience is captive by the Word of God. Therefore I cannot and will not recant, since it is difficult, unprofitable and dangerous indeed to do anything against one's conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
May God raise up more people willing to stand in the face of persecution, armed with the Truth.  May I be one.  May you too.  The world needs people like that.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 10.30.11

Here is this Sunday's sermon notes on Philippians 4.4-7.  Sometime midweek, you can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  The sermon audio is also available via our podcast on iTunes.

A Different Kind of Reasonable
Philippians 4.4-7

The Lord is near.
  • This is great news for all sorts of people.

  • The repetition is for emphasis – rejoice in every kind of circumstance.
  • This is joy in the Lord – a joy that comes from knowing and walking with Christ, His own joy in us.

  • In light of who God is and what He has done, we persevere under distress.
  • “A humble, patient steadfastness, which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace and maltreatment without hatred or malice, trusting God in spite of it all.” ~ P. O’Brien
  • The repetition is for emphasis – we talk to God about items of mutual concern.
  • Thanksgiving helps keep perspective in our petitions.

  • The kind of peace that comes is a byproduct of seeing His majesty and sharing His friendship.
  • The kind of peace that comes does not reside in our understanding but our hearts.
  • The kind of peace that comes protects our hearts and minds from anxiety.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Fail

From the funny guys over at

Need a date?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Voting Against?

If you're this person, I'm positively not mad at you.  I love that we live in a country in which we can argue, discuss, disagree, and still live freely and friendly with one another.  Feel free to send me an email or comment here.

This has shown up on Facebook...

And I'd just like to point out that voting against someone is just about the exact opposite of what the democratic republic in which we live requires of its citizens.  Even if you have a lesser-of-two-evils choice, you vote for someone.  Even if you don't agree with everything they're shilling, you vote for someone.

Voting against someone means that you'd take anyone who's not that guy.  The current president and I have significant policy, political, moral, and theological disagreements.  But voting against him?  No.

If you need proof that it's not a great idea - look at your current mideast situations.  Arab Springs (voting against) have led to a likely Islamist state in Tunisia (which was once a secular, not-anti-West country) and the likely execution of Khadaffi.

Voting against?  Not a good idea.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Emotions: Guides or Companions?

If you've been around me much and heard me talk about spiritual formation and how we grow in Christ, inevitably the role of emotions in the life of the believer comes into play.  And inevitably, I bring up a statement I heard from Dallas Willard:
Emotions are great companions but terrible guides in life.
You don't have to think very long about that to see the truth in that statement.  Let me try to give a brief word picture.

I have a "check engine" light on my car.  It comes on when something is wrong with the engine.  The problem is, I have no idea what's really going on under the hood.  It could be my oxygen sensors are on the fritz (happened once).  It could be that a fuel issue is in play (happened once).  It could be that a wire came disconnected (happened once).  Or it could be a hundred other things because the engine of my car is pretty dang complicated.

Emotions are like the warning lights on the dashboard.  They tell us something is happening in the engine of our soul - whether it's good or bad, something is happening.  The soul is a complex system and there are lots of dynamics at play.  Just looking at the light on the dashboard does us no good in analyzing what's really causing the problem.

But emotions are the layer right underneath actions in our personality.  Thus, often we spring into action before we realize what's really going on.  Living with them as our guides in situations like this causes friction between ourselves and the outside world, especially relationally.  Words get said.  Actions get taken.  Offenses are taken up.  And off we go...

The better play is to see them as a great companion, letting you know something is happening in your soul and going from there into the engine diagnostics.  Why do I feel this way?  What's happening to me?  You can't always do this quickly or easily.  But it's almost always worth doing.  I say "almost" because some emotions can (and should) be put away depending on the event that caused them - like entitlement.

And like my motor, I need help in diagnosing the issue sometimes.  So a good conversation with a friend, mentor, or even a professional is a wonderful tool God has provided for us.

Remember:  great companions, terrible guides.  You don't have to be ruled by your emotions or defined by them.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Brennan Manning

A long time ago in a blogosphere far, far away, I announced I was trying to read more biographies this year and I'd post some thoughts along the way.  This has not happened.  Well, at least the last part.  I have read some tremendous biographies this year.  But I have not commented on them.

Today, that changes (at least in part).

I read in a single night Brennan Manning's All is Grace:  A Ragamuffin Memoir.  I have no idea if you have interacted with Manning or not or have an opinion on him or not.  Most people who have interacted with him also carry a pretty strong opinion.

Typically, the doctrinally tight-fisted (and that's not derogatory in my mind) don't like him because he's not a systematic theology kind of guy and he's messy and all over the map and quotes people who you may not want to be known for quoting.  The rest of the folks love him because he's messy and all over the map and quotes from people who you may not want to be known for quoting - a little more like their own lives.  And in case you're wondering if you've ever quoted someone you may not have wanted to quote, can you name any songs you know and sing along to that you wouldn't sing in front of your kids?

I consider myself a pretty doctrinally tight-fisted kind of guy.  I know what I believe and I'm a fan of certainty.  I also know I'm messy, all over the map, and played Toby Keith's I Love This Bar one time as a sermon illustration.  No kidding.  The reaction, shall we say, was mixed.

The short:  Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest, left the priesthood to marry, got divorced, travelled the country speaking on behalf of Christ and His love, wrote some incredible books, and did all this while an alcoholic.  Messy.  All over the map.  Etc.

When I was reading the book, I found myself so grateful.  Profoundly grateful.  Shed-a-few-tears grateful.  Put-the-book-down-and-give-thanks-grateful.  I had moments like that when walking through this man's life in words.

I was grateful for his authenticity.  Rare is the writer who doesn't give a @#$% about what people think of him and shares from a place of humility.  Plenty of people do that from the place of pride.  Manning's not one of them.  And if you're offended that I typed @#$%, this book is probably not for you.

I was also grateful for the picture of God represented.  A God of immense grace and immeasurable mercy ravished Manning with His love and it messed him up in the best of ways.  Beautiful.  Living authentically in this river (Ez. 47) is Manning's testament to the world.

And lastly, I was grateful that if God could use Brennan Manning, He might could use me too.  I'm no better.  I'm different.  But I do want to be used.

So pick it up and enjoy.  Grab a friend for a great conversation afterward.  And celebrate the God who takes ragamuffin's like us and does something incredible with them.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Give a Little Thanks

Interestingly enough, I just finished up a conversation with my wife about promoting gratitude in one (or all!) of our kids.  It fits perfectly with what I wanted to say in today's entry.  To quote the theologian Hannibal Smith, "I love it when a plan comes together."

For my birthday, my wife conspired with our Associate Pastor, Finance Team, and Building & Grounds Team at church to surprise me by putting new floors in my office.  When I say "new floors," you need to understand that the old floors were blue industrial carpet that had been there for some time.  It's not that I couldn't live with them, they just weren't the most attractive thing ever.

So my wife pulled this off without my knowledge and after a few books given away and several more moved coupled with some hard work from my friends Philip and Carlos, I have new floors in my office.  They're beautiful laminate oak colored floors.  The Children's Minister even commented that now my office looks like a "big boy" office.  No kidding.  She said that.

Here:  you can be the judge...

And the blog entry today is a reminder to be grateful for the little things.  There are a ton of them in your life and mine that deserve our gratitude, from office floors to hot coffee to after-bath baby smell.  For all these things and so many more, give thanks to God.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sermon Notes from 10.23.11

Here are the notes from Sunday's sermon on Philippians 4.2-3.  You can find these sermon notes in PDF and the sermon audio by visiting  Also, the sermon audio is available on iTunes via our podcast.  Both should be available by midweek.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Philippians 4.2-3

What was happening?
  • There was a disagreement between two women in the church.
  • The disagreement was not a matter of sin but of preference.

Is it okay to disagree?
  • Yes:  over clear Godhead and Gospel issues.
  • Yes:  over clear ethical and moral issues.
  • Yes:  over preferences, as long as they don’t become distractions.

What was the big deal?
  • The unity of the church was threatened.
  • Preserving unity in the church obeys God’s command (Eph. 4.3).
  • Preserving unity in the church brings God’s blessing (Ps. 133).
  • Preserving unity in the church speaks to the world (John 17.20-23). 

What was the solution?
  • For someone spiritually mature to offer help.
  • Remind them of their history.
  • Remind them of their future.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Weather issues

Apparently, the church forgot their sign said this.  Please tell me the church forgot to change their sign.  Or there was a sudden warm front that came in and wrecked a perfectly cute message.  Or a group of Boy Scouts shoveled the mounds away from the church's property.  Something had to happen like that, right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spiritual Growth, pt. 4

To close out the series, I'd like to introduce a little figure that I adapted from Dallas Willard that helps me understand and communicate the practical aspects of spiritual growth.

It's all founded on the precepts and promises of God's Word.  You will not grow without a consistent intake of the Scriptures and (this "and" is very important) a steady faith-filled obedience to them.  I point you to 2 Peter 1 where we learn that through these we become partakers of His nature.  When you obey the precepts (even when you don't feel like it), you are living according to what God says is best and will be able to experientially testify to that.  When you believe the promises of God (again, even when it's so foggy there's no way to see how they'll come true), you are banking your life on the steadiness and goodness of the Almighty and will outwit the promising-but-false temptations of the Enemy.

Another piece is the practice of the disciplines.  Without a regular rhythm of disciplining yourself for the purpose of godliness, you will not grow (1 Timothy 4.7-8).  This includes prayer, fasting, Scripture memory, serving, worshipping and many other disciplines.  They are like tools in the toolbox - not everything is a nail in need of a hammer.  With wisdom from those who have gone before you and experience in the disciplines themselves, you will grow to know what you need when you need it.

The final piece is perseverance in the trials of life.  These can be everyday trials like parenting or overwhelming trials like cancer.  No matter which version or any in between, persevering yields character that is proven (Romans 5.3-5).  Perseverance means having the sense that God is with you and for you, even in the midst of the trial, and keeping going in light of that.  Interestingly, trial and temptation are one and the same word in the NT.  Every trial has in it the temptation to "curse God and die" (Job 1).  And every temptation is certainly a trial.  Both can be spiritually beneficial when we bear up under them, knowing God's faithfulness and looking for His provision (1 Cor. 10.13).

One last word on this:  they stand and fall together.  We can major on one and miss the others and actually find ourselves stunted in our spiritual growth.  As you live in this, watch how the Spirit works to bring you into Christlikeness.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spiritual Growth, pt. 3

So with a principle and a dynamic in place, today I'd like to clarify the goal of spiritual growth.  There are plenty of things that substitute for spiritual growth that might be related to spiritual growth but are not the essence of it.

Theological or spiritual knowledge is one of those substitutes.  The more theologically astute, the more mature, right?  Well, not really.  In fact, a lot of my YRR friends can learn from this critique (and if you don't know what YRR is, don't worry about it - seriously).  Theology matters, don't get me wrong.  But a heart formed by that theology matters even more because that is where character resides.

Spiritual competencies is another substitute and can go one of two ways.  They can reflect spiritual growth as in the case of blessing those who curse us or praying for those who persecute us.  They can also help us get to spiritual growth, as in the case of the spiritual disciplines.  But neither are spiritual growth.

Lastly, spiritual activity can also be the reflection of spiritual growth.  But it can be a cover up for the lack of it as well.  The person who has the busiest church-life calendar may indeed be the least Christlike.

And there's the goal - Christlikeness.

Consider Ephesians 4.13:  ...until we all reach the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...

Are you kidding me?

God gives gifts to the Body of Christ (v.11) to train the Body to minister to one another (v.12) so that we can grow up into that?  Who in the world can grow up into that?  What kind of goal is that?  How insane is that?

But that is God's goal for us.  There is no other way to define it, no wiggle room out of the huge, transforming goal.

You may get smarter.  You may get better.  You may do more.  But becoming like Him is the only goal.

So what does Christlikeness mean?

You will become like Him in His character, quite literally taking on His holiness, mercy, righteousness, etc.

You will become like Him in His thinking, seeing and interacting with the world like He does.

You will become like Him in His actions, doing what He'd do if He were in your shoes.

You don't do this solo.  But you can't settle for any other goal.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spiritual Growth, pt. 2

There is a dynamic at work in the human heart that I'll term the Allegiance-Affection Dynamic.  Essentially, I understand this dynamic to display for us how the two (allegiance and affection) play off one another.  I'll state the relationship like this:
Allegiance determines affections.
Affections promote allegiance.
I'll take the first one and point you to Matthew 6 where Jesus states, "Where your treasure is your heart will be also."  Do you see the principle in that verse?  Where your treasure is your heart is.  Where your priority is your passion is also.  Where your allegiance is your affection will be.  Whatever you give yourself to you will have affection for.

Admittedly, some want to say that you live according to your passions.  That's true in this sense:  if you worship your passions, appetites, desires, or longings, you will live according to them.  And whenever you see people "following their passions," you can be sure that their allegiance is to seeing those passions fulfilled.  Even then, their allegiance to themselves has created affection for themselves.  But it begins with allegiance.  You don't wake up one day with passions and affections.  They are created as you follow your allegiance.

On the good side of that, I'll point to people who have walked through horrendously hard times in marriages and because of their allegiance to one another have affection for one another on the back side of it all.  I can think of two couples in our church who have lost babies and despite the statistics being against them, are still together and have wholesome, healthy, affectionate marriages.  Allegiance determines affections.

And affections also promote allegiance.  They don't have the determinate power that allegiance does over affection, but there is the prominent work of promotion.  Think of meeting that guy or that gal.  You have a few laughs and make a memory or two on the dance floor.  And then you go home and cannot quit talking about them to your roommate, friends, and everyone else who will listen.  You spend your time thinking about them and planning to see them again.  Your affection has promoted your allegiance.

On the spiritual plane, this is why we determine to do whatever it takes to follow Christ after a great camp or retreat experience.  The mountaintop high that is the fear of every student pastor actually can promote greater allegiance in the student.  The heights of that marriage retreat and the closeness you feel there can make a difference in the level of commitment once you get back to the warp and woof of life.

I wrote yesterday on the need for Jesus to be the treasure of our lives.  That's the allegiance question we must answer multiple times each day.  But what about affections?

Let me ask you two simple questions.  What is it that stokes your affections for Christ?  What is it that douses your affections for Him?

For me, it's pretty clear.

Affection killers:  not enough sleep, too much TV and internet and general "entertainment," and not enough eyeball to eyeball time with my wife.

Affection lighters:  consistent time in the Scripture, experiential worship, good books, a solid conversation (especially with my wife), an inspiring story, and watching kids play.

The good part is that when you identify them, you can go to work on them.  And avoiding the killers and engaging the lighters is the right prescription to see the Allegiance-Affection Dynamic work.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spiritual Growth, pt. 1

I'd like to do some thinking this week on the dynamic of spiritual growth.  My hope is to lay out a couple of key principles and, in doing so, encourage anyone and everyone in their pursuit of what's ultimately true, good, noble and right.

So right out of the box on a Monday morning, I want to point to the foundational principle of it all:  Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure you'll ever gain.  Matthew 13.44 speaks about a man who is walking a field and stubs his toe on something on the ground.  After he's done saying all the bad words we all say when we stub our own toes, he looks down to see what Lego some kid left in the middle of a field (admittedly, I'm interpolating this a bit).  Instead, he finds what looks like the corner of a box.  He pokes around a little bit, digs a little bit with his hands, and figures out that it's a good sized box.  Having dug enough to crack it open to examine the contents, he realizes he has stumbled upon a treasure of immense worth.

Now, if you and I were in this position, what would we do?  Would we call a lawyer (what they tell Lotto winners to do)?  Would we call our financial guy?  Would we hire a mule or rent a UHaul to get the box back home, essentially stealing it from the person who owned the field?

This guy was different.  He went and sold everything he had.  I can only imagine what the conversation sounded like at his house that afternoon as he puts a FSBO sign in the front yard.  Did his wife think he was crazy or look at him with some innate sense of trust?  Did his kids run down the street to tell their friends to come watch the meltdown in progress or tweet to their friends that their dad was at it again? #myparentsarecrazy.

He not only sold everything he had, he did so with joy.  And he did so with purpose.  He bought the field with the treasure.  All the "loss" wasn't really "loss" at all.  It was gain (cf. Philippians 3.7-11)

And there's the principle:  Jesus is the greatest treasure you'll ever gain.

We have to make this decision over and over and over and over again in our spiritual journey.  We have to decide if He's better than superficiality, unforgiveness, lust, anger, a new shiny fill-in-the-blank, the approval of that person, or any other number of the thousands of distractions and deceptions that come our way.

(And here's an encouraging hint about spiritual growth:  like the guy, it's for our joy not our drudgery)

The bottom line is that you will not grow spiritually unless you affirm and reaffirm the value of Christ in the daily choices of life.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sermon Notes from 10.16.11

Here are the sermon notes from this Sunday's sermon on Philippians 3.12-4.1.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also find the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 9 – Pressing On
Philippians 3.12-4.1

Pressing on (v.12-16)
  • Pressing on means forgetting the good and bad behind you.
  • Pressing on means fighting to know God.
  • Pressing on means clarity of the goal:  knowing God.
  • Pressing on does not mean you don’t have questions.
  • Pressing on does not mean you surrender in order to explore.

Walking Example (v.17)
  • We receive instruction from those who walk as examples.
  • We receive inspiration from those who walk as examples.

Enemies of the Cross (v.18-19)
  • An enemy of the cross has destruction as their end.
  • An enemy of the cross has their desires as their god.
  • An enemy of the cross boasts about what they should blush about.

Heavenly Citizenship (3.20-4.1)
  • We wait for our appearance of our Savior.
  • We wait for the completion of our transformation.
  • Until both happen, we stand firm.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

I know this is a week late and after most of the world has moved on.  But I have been holding on to my thoughts on Steve Jobs' passing into eternity.

I type this from my MacBook Pro.  My wife's beside me editing pictures on her MacBook Pro.  Earlier she answered a call on her iPhone.  I listened to some music today that I downloaded from iTunes on my old-school iPod.  Four of the six staff members at church have Macs.  Two have iPhones.  One has an iPad.

One particular pastor wishes he had one...but I digress.

His genius in both form and function is unsurpassed in our generation.  Some have compared him to Edison.  He might be more like Eli Whitney, since he revolutionized not only an industry but radically impacted the culture in which that industry functions.  Theologians call that "common grace," the kind of grace from God that comes when it rains, when someone's smart enough how to transmit electricity to my house, when the sun shines on blue sky days.  Through Jobs' brain, we have experienced God's common grace.

His personal life was one of triumph in the midst of trial.  NeXT.  Pixar.  Apple Computer.  Apple, Inc.  Cancer.  Liver transplant.  Battles in board rooms.  But he also missed his kids along the way, claiming one of the reasons he wanted a biography written was so his kids would know him.  Wow.

And his spiritual life seemed to be all over the place, primarily the Gospel of Me.  Call it Buddhism or something eastern or whatever, it wasn't about exalting Jesus and giving Him praise for the creativity and genius and breath.

The world will never be the same because of him.

But it's a reminder that Paul counted everything loss in order to gain Christ.  What he had he found to be trash in light of the surpassing worth of Christ.  If we get to the end of our lives and we can say we knew Christ and knew Him well, we succeeded.  If not, we failed.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thinking about Robert Jeffress

Well, pastors sometimes say things they shouldn't.

Are you surprised that I would admit such a thing?  You shouldn't be.  I've been guilty of such a thing.  And when I do, in the back of my mind comes that little-addressed verse in Matthew 12:  we will stand to an account for every careless word.  Wow.

And now along comes a pastor who tells his people (and the rest of the world, since he was standing in front of media cameras) to vote for evangelical Christians and not cultic Mormons.  Well, what's wrong with this?

First, President Obama is a Christian, though not necessarily what you would call evangelical.  So, do you vote for him instead of Mitt Romney, even though Romney more aptly and ably represents the conservative side of the political aisle of which you are so fond?

Second, Mormonism isn't a cult.  It's a separate religion.  I don't know of many cults (in the classic sense, not the TV camera sense) that have opened a major university with a fairly renown faculty.  Certainly, Mormonism and Christianity are separate religions - they share a common language but NOT a common theology.  Mormons are not Christians.  Don't confuse that.  But neither confuse a cult for a religion.

Third, where does the boy get off telling me how to vote anyway?  I think it was Luther (someone correct me) that said he'd rather have a competent pagan than an incompetent Christian in public office.  God can (and does!) give common grace through all sorts of people (Steve Jobs, anyone?).

Lastly, out of all the things to say in front of the camera, that's what you're going to say?

If you would've asked me, I hope I would have said this:
I'm for electing competent leaders who can get us out of this mess that we're in.  We need social help.  We need economic help.  We need moral help.  And it'll take real leadership to do that.  But honestly, my hope isn't in any politician from any party.  My hope is in Jesus Christ who gave His life for individuals who needed help and is in the business of transforming them to bring His kind of help to the rest of the world.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Idolatry of Religion (pt. 2)

Yesterday I posted about the idolatry of religion and how it leads to pride and fear.  I'd like to pick that back up from the other side of the coin.  Because there's an idolatry of religion that irreligious, a rebellion against religion that leads to the same outcomes:  pride and fear.

You think about the college student who, once out of the house, goes on a hedonistic rampage.  Anything he wants, he goes after.  Whatever her heart desires, she tries and then tries again.  Prodigals who find a distant country so inviting and so exciting that they throw their lives away, often until they hit some sort of rock bottom.  You know people like this?

We all do.

Maybe you're one of them.

But just like in yesterday's Pharisee, pride and fear are the outcome of the Prodigal too.  And they keep that person from God.

Pride shows up when they want to make it up to God in some way.  It can also manifest in the refusal to turn to God because you're going to get yourself all cleaned up before coming back home.  But let's face it:  we all stink and we all stink at this.  We smell like a dead skunk covered in cow manure.  And there's no way we can get it off of us to pass as socially (much less spiritually) acceptable in the presence of someone else.  Isolation (with its root in pride) is often the wretched rose that follows.

And fear?  That's an easy one to grasp.  When you stink that bad and are that bad, you don't want to come home for fear of what someone might say.  You can play the tapes in your head of predicted messages:  oh sure, now he wants to come home; well it's about time a girl like you came to her senses and cleaned up her mess.  On and on they could go.

But great news.

Jesus died for Prodigals just like He died for Pharisees.  And He rose again to give them both a new kind of life, far from the putrid poignancy of religious idolatry.

There's no need to run anywhere but into His waiting arms.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Idolatry of Religion (pt 1)

There are two ways to be a religious idolater.  Many voices throughout the history of the church have pointed this out.  In our day, no one has been more analytical, adept, or accurate as Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan.  You should check him out and get your soul fed.

The first way to be an idolater is to be a religious rule keeper.  Having just preached on Philippians 3.1-11, Paul certainly falls into this category before he came to know Christ.  He said of himself that he was a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church, and found faultless before the righteousness of the law.

In short:  he kept all the rules.

And what did it produce in him?  Humility?  Godly character?  A desire for God and the things of God?  No.  But instead pride.  Instead, sin upon sin.  Instead, a desire for self-exaltation.

And that's what this kind of religion produces in us.  Pride and self-reliance drive us to perform more and more and more.  The only relationship with God we have is the one that is mediated by the actions we take, the mistakes we make, and our promises to do more and do better next time.

Strange, isn't it?  We pride ourselves on doing good and doing right.  We go to God with those things, standing before Him like a peacock strutting his stuff.  But deep down, the question lingers as to whether or not we've done enough or done the right kind of enough that would make God happy (at best) or keep Him off our back for another week (at worst).

Pride.  Fear.  Symptoms of religious idolatry in the human heart.  And bad news when those symptoms arise.

Because the truth is that you and I could never do enough or the right kind of enough to merit God's favor.

Earning our way into His presence and pleasure doesn't come by way of our "enough."  It comes by way of Christ's declaration:  "It is finished."

We don't live in relationship with God on the basis of our sacrifice.  We live with Him on the basis of Christ's sacrifice.

Recognizing and reveling in this means pride goes away because we didn't do it.  And fear goes away because it wasn't on the basis of our "enough" that we got in anyway.  Lay down pride.  Lay down fear.  Embrace Christ.  Enjoy God.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sermon Notes from 10.9.11

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon on Philippians 3.1-11.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also get the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Crying over Trash
Philippians 3.1-11

Marks of the True Believer
  • Worship by the Spirit of God
  • Boast in Christ
  • Put no confidence in the flesh

Principle:  surpassing significance of Jesus
  • Lay down your heritage (v.4-5).
  • Lay down your accomplishments (v.5-6).
  • Lay down everything else (v.7-8).
  • This is the way you enter and live in the Kingdom of God.

Passion:  interactive intimacy with Jesus
  • It’s not knowledge about Him – theology doesn’t save anyone.
  • It’s not knowledge of Him – enjoying God’s blessings without a relationship.
  • It’s pursuing knowing God in a deeply personal way no matter what. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Snakes are Scary: for my brother

My little brother is quite literally a rocket scientist.  PhD from Texas A&M in aerospace engineering.  He has stuff he's working on that he can't tell me about I'm pretty sure.  But I know stuff on him that he doesn't want me to tell you...

In honor of Troy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How do you define success?

How do you define success?

I was asked that question by a group of people in the past couple of weeks.  It's a good question to ask someone, don't you think?  It tells a lot about who they think they are and what they think is valuable.

What would you answer?

If you were in front of a group of people who asked, what would you say?  After you envisioned everyone in their underwear or employed your favorite other trick to make you not-so-nervous in front of people, what would you open your mouth and say?

I said, "Faithfulness."

In my most important relationships, it comes down to that.

Faithfulness to Jesus.

Faithfulness to my wife.

Faithfulness to my kids.

Faithfulness to my church.

Faithfulness to my calling.

As far as I can read it, it simply comes down to that.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bill Bennett on Manhood in Crisis

This article is written by William Bennett, former Secretary of Education and is reprinted in its entirety from CNN.  Lots to think about here, folks...

For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.

Now, society has rightly celebrated the ascension of one sex. We said, "You go girl," and they went. We celebrate the ascension of women but what will we do about what appears to be the very real decline of the other sex?

The data does not bode well for men. In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%, by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two. Women's earnings grew 44% in real dollars from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men.

In 1950, 5% of men at the prime working age were unemployed. As of last year, 20% were not working, the highest ever recorded. Men still maintain a majority of the highest paid and most powerful occupations, but women are catching them and will soon be passing them if this trend continues.

The warning signs for men stretch far beyond their wallets. Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out-of-wedlock birthrate is more than 40% in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%. Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.
If you don't believe the numbers, just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up. I've heard too many young women asking, "Where are the decent single men?" There is a maturity deficit among men out there, and men are falling behind.

This decline in founding virtues -- work, marriage, and religion -- has caught the eye of social commentators from all corners. In her seminal article, "The End of Men," Hanna Rosin unearthed the unprecedented role reversal that is taking place today. "Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed," writes Rosin. The changes in modern labor -- from backs to brains -- have catapulted women to the top of the work force, leaving men in their dust.

Man's response has been pathetic. Today, 18-to- 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to- 17-year-old boys. While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families. Women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways. This has led some to ask: do we even need men? So what's wrong? Increasingly, the messages to boys about what it means to be a man are confusing. The machismo of the street gang calls out with a swagger. Video games, television and music offer dubious lessons to boys who have been abandoned by their fathers. Some coaches and drill sergeants bark, "What kind of man are you?" but don't explain.

Movies are filled with stories of men who refuse to grow up and refuse to take responsibility in relationships. Men, some obsessed with sex, treat women as toys to be discarded when things get complicated. Through all these different and conflicting signals, our boys must decipher what it means to be a man, and for many of them it is harder to figure out.

For boys to become men, they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example and correction. It is true in all ages. Someone once characterized the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them? Each generation of men and women have an obligation to teach the younger males (and females of course) coming behind them. William Wordsworth said, "What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how." When they fail in that obligation, trouble surely follows.

We need to respond to this culture that sends confusing signals to young men, a culture that is agnostic about what it wants men to be, with a clear and achievable notion of manhood.

The Founding Fathers believed, and the evidence still shows, that industriousness, marriage and religion are a very important basis for male empowerment and achievement. We may need to say to a number of our twenty-something men, "Get off the video games five hours a day, get yourself together, get a challenging job and get married." It's time for men to man up. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Religious Freedom Under Attack

This column is posted in its entirety from USA Today and was written by my friend Tommy Kidd.  It's an important read.  The implications are far-reaching (like hiring practices in churches and even Matthew 18-esque discipline of church members).  Sounds like a great opportunity to pray.

What do evangelical Christians, Mormons, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Hare Krishnashave in common? Normally, you wouldn't expect these groups to agree on much. In the Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC, however, an incredible array of faith groups — including representatives of these and other religions — have filed amicus briefs in favor of the church. Led by the non-sectarian Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Hosanna-Tabor's defenders know that a decision against the church could have terrible consequences for freedom of conscience in America.

This case — which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday — began when the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church in Michigan dismissed a teacher, Cheryl Perich, from its church-run grade school. Perich taught a variety of subjects, including religion classes, and she led students in daily prayers. She also began a lengthy struggle with narcoleptic symptoms — including unpredictable bouts of sleep — in 2004.
When the church signaled that it wished to amicably release her from her "calling" as a teacher (a congregationally approved position), Perich threatened to sue the church for disability discrimination. Her principal reminded her that civil lawsuits within the church contradicted Lutheran teachings, but Perich persisted. Hosanna-Tabor accordingly voted to rescind her call, and Perich sued, saying the church retaliated against her for asserting her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She asked for reinstatement to her position.

Honoring 'ministerial exemption'

This case could strike at the heart of the "ministerial exemption," which protects faith-based organizations from political meddling, especially on questions related to the employment of religious workers. The First Amendment's ban on a religious "establishment" assumes that politicians and judges should not adjudicate matters of faith.

But in a jarring departure from precedent, the Department of Justice argued in an August brief that the ministerial exemption, if it even exists, is exceedingly narrow, applying only to clergy whose duties are "exclusively religious" (forgetting that even ministers have many earthly duties). Justice lawyers insist that Perich's position as a Christian school teacher is not subject to the ministerial exemption.

The Founding Fathers intended the First Amendment's religion clauses to restrict the government from interfering with religious matters. Secularist advocacy groups, including those supporting Perich, always seek to restrain the government from assisting faith organizations, even indirectly. They would howl with protest, for example, if Michigan provided vouchers to help students attend Hosanna-Tabor's school. So why would secularists and their partners at the Justice Department approve of the government directly interfering with that same religious school by ordering it to hire a certain teacher?

To understand the First Amendment's context, we have to go back to early America, when mother England and most of its colonies had established, tax-supported denominations. Being a Church of England parson effectively made you a government employee, and politicians had a great deal of say over what a religious leader could teach, and under what circumstances he could be removed. Colonial authorities fiercely persecuted Baptists, for instance, because they did not accept the state church's preferred mode of baptism. (They baptized adults rather than infants.)

When framing the Bill of Rights, James Madison and the other Founders wanted the government to have no power to mandate church policies. They wanted no national denomination, either. So they prohibited Congress from making laws respecting an establishment of religion, and guaranteed churches and other religious organizations the "free exercise of religion."

The dangers
One cannot imagine a more obvious feature of an establishment of religion, or a clearer violation of free exercise, than the government dictating to a church that it must rehire a religious teacher, especially a person who has violated church teachings or behavioral codes. The Justice Department's position, if vindicated, raises the possibility that courts and bureaucrats may, in the name of contemporary norms of fairness, begin requiring religious organizations to hire any number of candidates who do not accept that faith's tenets. One could easily imagine future decisions forcing churches, synagogues, or mosques to hire employees who do not adhere to the tradition's norms of sexual behavior, for example.

Religious liberty will be severely damaged if faith groups cannot hire and fire according to their beliefs. That's why leaders from such an impressive range of religions are united by the threat of a government clearly overstepping its well-defined boundaries.

Thomas S. Kidd is senior fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is also author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution and Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots (forthcoming in November).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bemoaning politics

Well, we have over 13 months until the presidential race is concluded.  Seems like we've been in this for about 13 months now too.  Sheesh.

I'd like, once again, to beg everyone and anyone and all the other ones who will listen that we raise the level of political rhetoric in the conversations, debates, and commercials to something other than gutter level.  And it's terrible on both sides of the aisle.

Witness the last two Republican debates where a homosexual soldier was booed and another idiot from the crowd thought we should, "Let 'em die!"  Wow.

Democrats do the same thing.  Numerous examples could follow but I'll refrain.

Raising the level of rhetoric in the public square...

1.  Helps focus on issues and actually think through them.

2.  Holds in high regard the citizenry of this country and the sense of citizenship of the candidates.

3.  Keeps civility in the public eye.

4.  Demonstrates true tolerance.

5.  Sets us up for working together afterward because of the goodwill exhibited and the understanding of the other person's position.

6.  Trains another generation of debaters, politicians, and voters.

7.  Reflects the true political freedoms we have under the constitution and for which the framers and founders fought so hard and sacrificed so much.

I don't know how to make the politicians of our day do this.  But I sure wish they would.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, October 2nd

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon on Philippians 2.19-30.  To hear the sermon audio and get these notes in PDF, visit  You can also find the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.


A Tale of Two Men
Philippians 2.19-30

American Relational Ethos:
  • I’ll pull myself up by my self without your help
  • You must pull me up without my help

We need each other.
  • Everyone mentioned needed someone mentioned.
  • We need each other to become who God wants us to be.
  • We need each other to accomplish what God wants done

We need vertical relationships.
  • When older, vertical relationships give us purpose.
  • When younger, vertical relationships give us inspiration.

We need horizontal relationships.
  • People we share with and who share with us.
  • People who will bear our burdens with us.
  • People who bring us joy.