Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: Saint Francis by Robert West

Book Review: Saint Francis by Robert West: Thomas Nelson Christian Encounters Series

(I really need to be more creative in my book review titles, don't I?)

Saint Francis (Christian Encounters Series)

I've had Saint Francis for more than a month now and haven't gotten around to writing the review. Sorry about that, folks, but it's been a little hectic. Plus, I had a few reviews with timetables, so those got advanced on the calendar.

This little book seems to be quite well written. Robert West writes with an engaging tone, drawing the reader into the story of the life of St. Francis. The book is, obviously at 230 pages including footnotes, too short to give every detail of that life.

One of the features of this book is that West offers the miraculous events in Francis's life without commentary. Rather than analyze whether or not a vision was real or imagined, the event is recorded as factual, with the reader left to make his own decision about the veracity of the events. This is also the pattern taken to report the legendary events as well, such as Francis preaching to wild animals that reportedly sit and listen attentively.

By presenting the book in this fashion, West avoids trivializing the events, but it does leave the reader with questions about the work overall. That Francis heard the audible voice of God is presented as factually as that Francis traveled to Israel during the Crusades. The credibility of the whole book then becomes a potential issue, for some readers will struggle with the idea of audible voices or flaming chariots.

That would include myself, though I'll give Francis the benefit of the doubt that he, at least, thought he saw and heard such things, and his life lived out in response to them. West's presentation of those events then comes into context, when one considers that he is striving to portray Francis the way Francis would have presented himself.

In all, this work fits well with the Christian Encounters Series from Thomas Nelson: it's a short biography, provides a reasonable introduction to the life of a person important in Christian heritage, and is easy to read. Naturally, the serious student of Franciscan history will need to find the books cited as sources or listed in the biography, but for the casually interested, this makes a good primer on his life.


I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher. No money or influence was exchanged. For more details, read Disclosures! or go to for details.  Oh, and yes, that's an affiliate link up there to  Why?  I have no idea.  No one ever uses them, but it's there.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stewards and Kings

“Thine office is not ended, do now thine office...” Aragorn to Faramir, J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King.

I'll try to summarize, very briefly, for those of you who haven't read or don't remember reading The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn and Faramir are two of the major characters. Faramir is from the family of the Stewards of the City, while Aragorn is from the long-lost line of Kings of the City. What's been happening for many years is that the City has been ruled by the Stewards, because the last king they knew of had ridden off to battle and never returned. He left no heir, and the people didn't realize there was another family line that could take the kingship. So, they simply let the Stewards rule the city “in the name of the King.” This went on for quite some time. The Stewards passed on their office from father to son, and ruled as if a king, but never sat on the king's throne, and always claimed to seek the returning of the kings.

Now, there was a little bit of breakdown in this, and you can read that in the book. However, as the book works towards its happy ending, Faramir is the Steward, and Aragorn shows up to claim his role as King. So, Faramir stand before the people and Aragorn and states “The last Steward begs leave to surrender his office.” Aragorn gives him the response above: you're still the Steward. You have work to do, and you should do it.

Why do I regale you with this tale? Here's what I've been considering: what things am I a steward of? I'm a steward of my family, the church I serve, the resources God has given me, the freedom I'm blessed with, my own life, well, there's a great many things in the 168 hours a week. Essentially, I'm supposed to be the steward of those hours. As a steward, though, I rule not on my own accord, but in the name of the king. In my case, I should see it as in the name of the King of Kings. I'm not to rule for my own benefit, for my own fame, but rather for the King's benefit and fame.

Of course, what benefit can I offer the King of the Universe? It's not likely that I can increase His wealth or dominion, since He holds all as it is. The benefits I can offer are:

      1. Knowledge of His Kingship: I can benefit my King by pointing out to others that He is the King. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, there is no doubt that King will return, there is no doubt who He is. So, I can benefit my King by helping others be ready for His return, helping them to embrace His kingship, that He returns, not in wrath, but in joy.

      2. Contending for His Kingdom: I can benefit my King by contending for His Kingdom, but there's a major danger here. Actually, two major dangers: 1.) That I confuse contending for His Kingdom with contending for my own personal glory or benefit. This is unacceptable, for perhaps my King has a plan that brings glory to Himself at the cost of my own glory? Who would I be to go against His wishes? 2.) That I contend with methods unfit for my King. The means are important for Christians. Why? Well, the ends are already set: Jesus Christ returns, vanquishes evil, and it's all over with. All we can address are the means we use in our stewardship of the life we have. Let me not contend badly, even if for the right purpose.

      3. Honoring His Kingship: This ties in closely with the second danger under contending, but it broadens beyond the role of contender: I have a responsibility to see to it that I do nothing to embarrass my King. Now, sometimes I will do so, but I must consider His reputation in all I do. Note, also, the assumption of action: if I'm not doing something, I'm probably not being a good steward. Even times of recreation and rest have a purpose, and action for its own sake is as destructive as sloth, but there should never be only intentions. Actions are necessary.

Now, as Aragorn regained the kingship, the Steward role shifted: the King was there, and his law and rule were apparent instead of having to be discerned. The resources of the King were available, and the Steward no longer had to question whether he was doing right, yet he remained as steward. To me, this pictures, though imperfectly, eternity. Here on earth, there are ways in which the will of the King is not abundantly clear, and I, as steward, must do the best I can to understand what His will would be, and do it. Eventually, though, the King will be visible and apparent, and my stewardship will become much more simplified: He'll be visible on the throne. I'll still be the steward of the life He has given, but there will be no missteps to make there.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The occasionally posted link list

I realize that my posting is a little sporadic these days, which is partially driven by a lack of internet connection at the office and adapting to new responsibilities.  Then there's the Bart Barber hypothesis, which will be linked to in this post, that perhaps blogging isn't the most important thing in ministry.

However, I do want to throw a few links out there for you, because if you need good blog content daily, there are people that can provide it:

(These are in no particular order)

1.  Michael Hyatt's blog: He's the top dog at Thomas Nelson Publishers, and I get free books from his company, but he doesn't have any idea that I (or my blog) exist.  So, this is a legitimate endorsement.  He's got a lot of good posts on leadership and reading, with a good habit of linking to great resources.  He does, occasionally, give away books he likes. Try not to enter those if I'm after the same book ;) (just kidding.)

2.  Joel Miller's blog: Miller works at Thomas Nelson, but I've mainly become interested in him through a couple of books he wrote, and that I reviewed on this blog, The Portable Patriot and The Revolutionary Paul Revere.  Both were quite good read, and Portable Patriot should be in every homeschool family.  I've noticed in his blogging that he references early church and Eastern Orthodox stories, which are lesser known and well worth knowing.  I occasionally click from his blog to his wife's, but I'm not super familiar with her writing and style, so I won't give a separate link.  Besides, you'd think I was getting paid by the Thomas Nelson family.

3.  Emil Turner's blog.  This one's not daily, it's every Friday, but well worth it, whether you're in ministry or not, although it's generally more applicable to Christians than non-Christians.  Dr. Turner is a friend, and has raised some good points on his blog.  Plus, I have it on good authority he wears bunny slippers when he's writing.

4.  Ann Hibbard's blog: someday, I will be half as good a writer as my wife.  She's more diligent, more disciplined, and more insightful than I am.  Plus, she hardly needs a spell-checker or a grammar checker.  I, on the other hand, graduated in the PCSSD.  Seriously, if you want some good, mostly daily, short and long thoughts and blog posts, tie into her feed.

5.  Occasional reads: Because they don't post often: Bart Barber is a Baptist Preacher.  Read his post on "Why he doesn't blog often anymore."  Larry Romack and Larry Linson are also Baptist Preachers.  Romack was one of my influences as a youth, and Linson is my parents' pastor.  Gene Clyatt goes by the unlikely name of "Squirrel" and his posts reflect something important: pastors have normal lives too, and he's worth the read when he posts.  Joe McKeever doesn't have an RSS feed, so he's not a subscription, but I check his blog when he puts a link on Facebook, and then read what I've missed.

There's 5, and that should hold us for another few months.  If you want my whole Google Reader/RSS Feed list, I'll send it to you.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Went out from us….

Warning Concerning Antichrists

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.

1 John 2:18-20 (ESV)

A few thoughts here:

1.  "Antichrist" means, simply put, "opposed to Christ."  We're not specifically talking about "The ANTICHRIST!" here, rather those who are opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ.  That being said:

A.  The opposition is not, necessarily, violent.  It's just opposition.  It may not even be antagonistic.

B.  The opposition is not all that obvious, either.  John highlights that it took the departure of those who were anti-Christ to make plain their position.

2. Those who were opposed to Christ, who had become anti-Christ (probably a better rendering of the idea), left the church.  This is a good thing:

A.  The departure revealed who was against the teaching of the Church.  And don't be confused here: the Church exists to exalt Christ as Savior and Lord, and this requires that we teach about Christ. So, if there were those who didn't want to have Christ taught, they left.

We see similar things today: there are some who have left churches because those churches teach the doctrine of Christ.  Others have left churches because those churches practice Biblical ethics as Christ taught them: love, sacrifice, discipline, compassion, and faithfulness.  To leave over teaching what Jesus taught, teaching about Jesus, or teaching to do what Jesus commands we do, shows a decision to be against Christ.

B.  Purity in a church is a necessity.  There is one goal of the church: exalt Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.  If there is discord about the purpose, if there are cross-purposes at work, then the church will not succeed in its goal.  Now, there can be a diversity of opinion of how to reach that goal, but there can be no discord that the church is about the Lord Jesus Christ. Exalting anything or anyone else, especially the preacher, blemishes the purity of pursuing Christ.

3.  Notice: John writes that the church has been anointed and has knowledge.  Catch the importance here:

A.  The church, the people that are the body of Christ has the ability to discern right, wrong, the actions of God, the actions of men opposed to God.

B.  Inherent in this is that the church is responsible to use that ability.  Seriously.  I am amazed at the number of people that complain that the pastor of a Baptist, congregational church is abusive of his power or not right in the pulpit, and then they let him stay there and do it.  I'm not for the ambush business meeting over missing Aunt Sally's toenail surgery, I'm talking about people that honestly, based on Scripture, have a real issue with their pastor, and much of the church does, and they leave him alone.  Or with a Sunday School teacher, whomever.

If you are clear through Scripture that someone is leading the church you attend in a blatantly anti-Christ manner, you are responsible to act, and if you get booted from the "church" what loss is it to you?  Find true followers of Christ to associate with. The church should be self-error correcting.  Now, what should happen, based on what you see here is this: the church holds the line with the Truth, the Gospel, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who teach, lead, desire anything else pack it in and go away, and show their anti-Christ nature by doing so.

However, if they don't, and turn the church from being a church, go forth and establish or join a church that actually honors and exalts the Risen Christ. You have the ability, be responsible.

C.  Seriously, church leaders, we need to remember: we're not the only anointed ones.  Go to bed at night reminding yourself: "I'm special, just like everyone else."  God is working in and through you in one way, and in and through others in a different way, and your way isn't better. It's just different.  The Sundays I get over myself and preach with a fear of the Lord and a fear the people will catch me in error, I preach better.  When I lead from a consensus of the people, helping them get where they see in Scripture they ought to go, guess what?  That's great. 

That doesn't mean we don't call out sin and unbelief, but let's leave sin and unbelief to be applied to sin and unbelief, not to disagreements with us.  Sin is an issue with God, not me.

Well, that's what I've got today.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 Sermons

Text: John 1:6-8; 19-23: Audio Link here

Theme: Picking a preacher

Date: September 19 2010 AM

Location: FBC Almyra

  1. These verses are like John the Apostle's endorsement of John the Baptist

    1. Almost like he's recommending to a pastor search committee

    2. He's giving reasons why John the Baptist is worth listening to

  2. However, realize this:

    1. John only presents JTB in a minor way compared to the Lord Jesus Christ

    2. The first step in picking a preacher:

      1. KNOW the Basics of the Gospel yourself\

      2. Worlds of trouble can be avoided if we, as individuals, will:

        1. Eliminate our own Biblical Illiteracy

        2. Work to help eliminate Biblical Illiteracy in our churches

        3. Note that the world doesn't need this: the world needs the Gospel, not a comprehensive systematic theology.

      3. If we as listeners do not understand the Gospel, we will struggle greatly to find preachers and teachers

  3. So, what makes JTB an eligible preacher?

    1. It is not that he:

      1. Was a successful businessman

      2. Had an eminently suitable wife

      3. Was highly educated

      4. Had a great face to look at

    2. It was that he:

      1. Knew who he was not: v. 19: freely confessed, “NOT THE CHRIST:

      2. Knew who he was not: Great prophets: Elijah, the Prophet

      3. Knew who he was: only a single voice, testifying to the Light

  4. Practicality for us:

    1. John the Baptist isn't preaching much these days

    2. However, there are many ways we are exposed to preachers these days:

      1. In person: church and events

      2. In media: TV and Radio

      3. In print: books and magazines

      4. Internet: blogs and podcasts

    3. Are we being diligent to make certain our influences are more focused on Christ than on themselves?

    4. Do we understand the Gospel for ourselves?

      1. That we were in darkness but....

      2. Christ came to be the light?

      3. That the price for our sin was paid

      4. In His sacrifice for us


Well, Sunday night, there is no outline.  Sorry about that.  However, the Audio Link is here.  Of course, dear reader/listener, you could outline it and put it in the comments, for the sake of others if you wanted to.

Yeah, if y'all have time for that type of thing, some week I'll post the audio, you can listen and write your own outline, then I'll post mine and we'll see if you and I agree!  That would be interesting, to say the least.



Thursday, September 16, 2010

A few more words on Sermons

After yesterday's long commentary about preaching, I thought I'd add a few more thoughts:

1.  Length: guess what?  Most of us are not good enough preachers to preach an hour.  And if you look back at yesterday, and avoid those pitfalls, guess what?  Your preaching will be shorter too.  Preach as long as necessary to make the appropriate point, but, and this feeds into the next comment: keep the point calm enough.

2.  Points: The Gospel should come out in every sermon.  Other things and parts of theology do NOT have to.  In fact, if you're going to preach everything this sermon, what will you preach next time?  Don't neglect the leadership of the Spirit of God, but don't kid yourself, or overestimate your importance: while some may never hear you again, is your theological viewpoint on economics what they need?  Or do they need to hear that Christ Jesus lived, died, and rose according to God's plan for their, and your, redemption.  Further:

3.  Expository preachers: I am, generally, one.  I take the text, and preach what's there.  This guides topic selection.  However, sometimes, we need to pick shorter sections of Scripture.  Really, do you need the whole chapter?  Break it down, if the section demands an hour to preach, can you preach it in two sermons? Chill out.

4.  Final comment related to length: The mind can only absorb as much as the other end can endure.  I know the arguments about attention spans and how we'll watch 2 hour movies and 3 hour football games.  Personally, though, I don't sit in silence at either.  I rarely go to the theater, but when I do, I've got snacks, and whisper to my wife.  I'm not quiet at ball games, and one of the joys of movies at home is that we can talk, pause, rewind, etc.  Want to build a 3-hour worship service with a couple of 30 minute preaching spots?  That could work, especially with an intermission for a restroom run, but most of us are not really being right when we preach that long.

4 a. (corollary) There are some people that will sit through and demand longer or pontificate how holy they are for the length of time they are in church or at Bible study.  Quick question: We are God's people, we are "the church" 168 hours a week.  How many hours are you spending isolated "at church" and is making a difference in the other hours?  I'm all for regular Christian worship, and I'm for it a scheduled, predicable times, but I hear people talk about spending 10 hours in church service type activities every week, and then their Saturdays are no different than mine, their cities no more won for Christ than mine.  Why are they bothering be in church twice as much if it doesn't make twice the difference?

5.  Get over the compliments and the criticisms.  Guess what?  The lovely church member that said he couldn't help think about you when he was listening to ____(Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Billy Graham) could be half-deaf.  He could be thinking how much he wished he could stay home from your sermon to watch more _____.  Or he could be being complimentary.  But don't preach for that person.  And don't preach to copy _____ except that you copy their passion for the lost and the Word of God.  As to criticism: I've received mistimed criticism, but I don't know that I've received undeserved criticism.  The sermon I heard it after may have been great, but there have been some turkeys that no one mentioned.  So, learn from it, evaluate what good you can take from it, and move on.

6.  Grow.  There are seasons when I'm a better preacher than other times.  Some of those times are predictable, but others aren't.  It is ok to make your best effort and have not much from it.  Just don't ever not make your best effort.

7.  Find honest critics, but listen to yourself too.  I, occasionally, go back and listen to the content and style of my preaching.  Usually, I listen to make sure the audio podcast worked, then I turn it off, but I sometimes make myself listen.  It helps me grow, but I'm frequently very shaky the next time I preach, because I think I'm awful.  By contrast, your mom probably thinks you're the best preacher in the world.  Seek people that help you balance.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thoughts about preaching 9/15/2010


I'm slowly, very slowly, reading through Eric Metaxas's biography of Dietrich Bonheoffer.  Why slowly?  A couple of reasons: 1.  I know how it will end, but, I'd really like to hope if I put off reading it, the end will change.  It's a vain hope, but still.  2.  There's some weighty stuff here, and I think that, while America is not headed down an identical road to the Weimar Republic, I think many of the religious and theological issues are similar.  As such, I want to learn and know more, much more.  So, I read slowly.  3.  I have a decent amount of other responsibility, and much of it requires reading, study, and writing.  So, that comes first.

Anyway, I'm kind of stuck on a quote from Bonhoeffer that is cited in the book, so much so that I added it to my daily list and am probably going to print it out, laminate it, and stick it to the pulpit at church just to make sure no one forgets it:

The Church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Metaxas, p 138. I don't know if the translation is Metaxas or if the quote was in English.  This is a blog, not a dissertation.)

Now, every preacher in America needs this, and needs to remember it.  I need it.  We are far too quick to neglect the truth that is reflected here.  Some quick thoughts about ways I've learned, typically the hard way, that I have missed this point:

1.  The pulpit is not for politics.  First off, Christians are subjects of the Heavenly King before they are citizens of anywhere else.  If it's about earthly politics, it's out of place.  If it is about being a proper subject of the King of Creation, the Lord Jesus Christ, then it is appropriate.  Issues, yes.  Sometimes individuals, but almost never parties, and always it must come back to Scripture.

1a.  (corollary): There are politics internal to most Christian organizations.  This applies here as well.  Can you do discuss it?  Should you? Absolutely, if it is about how the church is involved in spreading the Glory of God.  If it's about proper stewardship of God's resources He has entrusted to the church.  If it's about power and control, which belong to no man in the church but to God, then check it.

2.  The preaching of the Gospel is hindered, nay, stymied, by preachers maligning individuals or groups from the pulpit.  Be they his opposition, his critics, a competing church or denomination, those the church classes as enemies, or even those opposed to the purpose and plan of God.  Here's the reality: I'm up there to glorify God.  Shine the light brightly, and the darkness will scatter, or the obstacles to light will show up by contrast.

2a. (corollary): There are appropriate times and ways to identify those issues and people. However, it should involve real quotes or verified actions and a direct explanation of how the behavior is inappropriate.  Vague innuendos or junior high insults have no place in the pulpit.

2b. (further corollary): Be careful with humor and phrasing.  I once used the comment "for those of you who aren't too good with math" after setting up a math problem, I think it was about the number of seconds you have in a week, and I had the answer already.  A few people took offense, that I was insulting or calling people dumb.  At first, I thought this was being hyper-sensitive, but I can see the point.  I've used the illustration again and said, instead that "I've done the math early, because I can't do that in my head." People understood the point, no one was offended, and we felt the common kinship of not being able to do multiple sequential multiplication problems in our head. Even if a math expert had been present, she would have only felt sorry for my shortcoming, not insulted for her superior math skills.

3.  The pulpit, and preaching, is not the time and place for self-defense.  This is a hard one for many of us.  Guess what?  Preaching is about God.  Not about me, the preacher, nor about my aspirations, dreams, desires, or the knife in my back from someone I thought I trusted.  It's about the will of God, the best interest of the church, not about the career of the preacher. 

Now, some of these things have their place, but some, like insulting people, have no place in the lives of any believers, especially preachers.  The pulpit, the sermon, the worship service that is oriented toward God, is not the place for it.

Another great man that has long influenced me taught me, and it's based in Ecclesiastes, "There is a time and a place for everything."  This frequently followed by "This is not the time" or "not the place" for whatever it was.

Keep your preaching where it belongs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday Sermons from September 12

Text: Psalm 119:9-16 Beth

Theme: purity

Date: Sept 12 2010 PM

Location: FBC Almyra

  1. What is the key to purity?

    1. We live in an impure world, just as the Psalmist did

    2. The questions are the same:

      1. How about personal purity?

      2. How about business purity?

      3. How about purity of worship?

  2. The answer is the same:

    1. It's not by hiding ourselves completely and becoming an impenetrable holy huddle, rather it is by:

    2. By living according to the Word of God:

      1. In our personal life

      2. In our family life

      3. In our business life

      4. In our church life

      5. In our national life

    3. By teaching according to the Word of God:

      1. We cannot fail to teach our children about God's Word

      2. We cannot fail to teach ourselves more about God's Word

      3. We cannot fail to teach in our church about God's Word

    4. Realize: it's not hypocrisy if your every endeavor is to get it right and you fall short. It's hypocrisy if you have no intention of following it!

    5. We must, with a loving heart, reach out to win the world for Christ

    6. Then, as we grow disciples, we will see an expansion of purity

    7. However, it cannot be done just out of a personal desire for purity:

      1. It's not about the eyebrow piercing or the tattoos

      2. It's about the love of Christ and the love for Christ

      3. We must love and teach all, equipping them to search the Scriptures themselves

      4. Even if that means they never reach identical conclusions.

Evening Sermon Audio Link: Click here to listen to the Evening Sermon

Text: John 1:1-4

Theme: Creation

Date: September 12, 2010 AM

Location: FBC Almyra

  1. All things

    1. Come into being through Him

    2. Recognize that:

      1. Everything you see

      2. Everything you don't see

        1. Natural

        2. Supernatural

    3. Not a bad spot to stop and consider the marvel of Creation

  2. No things

    1. Come into being without Him

    2. Remember that all creation came from Him

      1. Even those things which are now evil

      2. Notice also: this isn't limited to 6 days: has come at any point.

        1. This means you.

  3. Life originates with Him

    1. We would do well to keep this strongly considered

    2. What truly matters originates within the Word of God

      1. What makes mankind truly different is our ability to respond to what He says

      2. Don't be to wrapped up in what others tell you life is about

      3. Allow the Word to drive your understanding

  4. Only HE can bring life

    1. We cannot find life apart from Him

    2. We need to understand that those apart from Christ are lifeless

      1. And that dead acts dead

      2. And smells like it too

So, what should we learn?

      1. Be reminded of the eternal pre-existence of Christ

      2. Be reminded of His work in Creation

        1. Any effort to remove God from creation is not a good idea within our faith

        2. Since sincere science deals with observable fact, there can, at the core, be no actual contradiction

So, what should we do?

      1. Accept life from the life giver

        1. Man was created with physical life and spiritual life

        2. without Christ, one cannot get spiritual life back

      2. Live!

        1. We are not made to live just for this world, but for eternity

        2. We are made to embrace and follow Christ.


Morning Sermon Audio Link: Click here

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

Ok, I've got one last Booksneeze review to hit you with this week, and then the book reviews will settle down a bit.  I've got schoolwork to do, so I won't be taking on quite as many, although I do have St. Francis left to handle.

On to the book:  First of all, if you're familiar with Max Lucado and his style of writing, you'll find nothing all that different here.  If this is your first pick up of one his books, this is typical of his style.  You've got various illustrations, some from Scripture narrative and some from people's life narratives.  These are backed up with explanations of the principles that are illustrated. 

I find this an excellent teaching technique.  I can see this as being effective when he preaches, though I've never heard him preach or teach.  I can easily see sitting by the fireplace, listening to a patient tutor trying to explain, just one more time, what he's trying to say.

As far as content goes, I can't say as I enjoyed this book.  Seriously, if anyone can claim that, as they sit comfortably at home, with a roof and a light, food in the kitchen, and say they enjoyed this book, they weren't reading.  This book is a challenge to all of us that live comfortable lives, focused on our own good.  We cannot keep living this way, not if we want to acknowledge and reach past our life span.

Lucado puts the fine point to it, especially to those of us that claim to be followers of Christ, that we cannot keep this up.  Our purpose is greater than just to live this life and go on.

Who should read this book?  Everyone.  Every Sunday School member, every church member, every staff member, every pastor, and everyone living smooth, comfortable lifestyles, putting Bibles on a shelf, and patting themselves on the back for their wonderful accomplishments in life.

We're at a crossroads of decision in Western Christianity, and Lucado helps illuminate the decision: put up or shut up.

Well worth the reading.



And on the put up or shut up: 100% of the author's share of income from this book is going, primarily through World Vision, to the cause of fighting poverty and hunger in the name of Christ.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Freedom of Speech, Religion, and Stupidity

Remarkably, we're having to have this blog post today, because this should be self-evident after years and years of dealing with varying degrees of stupid in America.  Yet, somehow, we still feel the need to have uproars over everything.  Here's a summary statement, and then we'll go from there:

The freedom we have in America, freedom of religion and freedom of speech especially, includes the freedom to do and say things that are patently offensive, morally repugnant (if not illegal), completely disagreeable, and inherently stupid.

That means that if Muslims would like to build a mosque and community center at the edge of Ground Zero in Manhattan, whether it's insensitive or not, they have the to do so, because it's their property. 

That means if this pastor in Florida wants to burn Qurans, Talmuds, NIV Bibles, or copies of my book (once it's written), he can.

Look, we've had court cases determine it is legal to burn American Flags.  We've had court cases determine you can't discriminate against building churches.

Whether we like it or not, freedom only exists if it exists for those who are rude and insensitive, who are offensive and disagreeable.

That being said, burning a Quran ranks up there with burning any other book: all you're doing is creating publicity that makes the other side look smarter than you.  We have had conservative Christianity rail against Harry Potter, did it help?  Nope.  Probably would have been better otherwise.

Building a mosque where people don't really want one isn't exactly a flying start for "community dialogue" or whatever the aim is.  You can exercise that freedom, but it will likely backfire on you.  Especially true in New York.  New Yorkers, from all I can tell, don't like to be told what to do or not to do, so I'm curious how long it will take for a hot dog vendor to set up on the public sidewalk by the Park51 building.  How long will he be extended freedom and tolerance to sell pork products?  Just wondering…

As to restricting speech over "this will cause an international backlash and put our troops at risk by offending Muslims:" every ounce of freedom in America is offensive to the Taliban.  From voting to women wearing pants to eating bacon, these folks don't like us.  If it wasn't this, it would be something else, even if it wasn't true.  To restrain free speech, you have to give a better reason than "perhaps there might be trouble."  Our country was founded by people who gathered and made speeches that caused trouble.  Had King George III individual locked up every person who spoke in a way that endangered Redcoats, we'd still sip tea and say "Your Majesty."

Now, I think that we should do everything we can as Americans at home during a war to protect and support our soldiers fighting to secure our freedom, and I think this guy is stupid and wrong for doing this.  However, to bring to bear the weight of the US Government against him to pressure his speech to stop is also wrong.  Do you want the government telling you to shut up because you might cause harm?

As to the question of is burning a Quran the way to show Jesus' love to the world? No, of course not.  That's not this guy's goal.  His goal is to show the world and America how bad he thinks Islam is. 

Finally, and this is as much an internal question for myself, but I think it applies to true Christians at large: with this nut in Florida and the fruitcakes in Kansas at Westboro, you have no more than what, 150 people?  Why do 100 million or more American Christians have to respond to everything these idiots do in the name of Christ?  Given that it's obvious even to the non-Christian world that they are wrong, can we not ignore them, stop giving them publicity, and take away their motivation for this stupidity?

Really, do we see the Pope apologizing for fringe, Pope-ignoring groups that claim to be Catholic?  Heck, the Park51 Mosque/Community Center Imam won't even call Hamas terrorists when they blow up grocery stores in Israel.  Why do we feel the need to insist ordinary Baptists come up with anything to say about this stuff? Westboro, the folks in Florida, all they really want is the publicity.  Quit giving it to them, even in "condemning" them, and they will go away.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: The Butterfly Effect

Since I started doing book reviews through Booksneeze, Thomas Nelson Publishing's free books for blog reviews program, I've read some books I would have never considered reading, and I've come to like some authors I've never heard of, or would have never heard of.
Some of which I really like.  One of those is Andy Andrews.  What was then the Thomas Nelson Publishers Book Review Bloggers program (and is now Booksneeze, a little icky sounding but easier to type!) offered his book The Noticer and I requested it, read it, and loved it.  Since then, I've read his books The Traveler's Gift, The Lost Choice, and Island of Saints. (I then posted a review when that was re-released as The Heart Mender).
I've given each of those books as gifts to others, including last year's graduates at the church I was pastoring.  My hope is they'll grasp the idea behind The Traveler's Gift and take ownership of their lives and change the world.  The Lost Choice was given to a young lady who was showing a tendency to drift rather than choose, and one copy of The Heart Mender was given to a dear friend who I hope will continue to allow forgiveness to help her grow forward in life.
So, you see, I'm responsible for any changes the world sees through these people, because I gave them the book, right?
Or maybe Andy Andrews gets credit for writing the books.  Perhaps credit goes to Michael Hyatt for being the CEO that suggested the blog review program.  Maybe it goes to Lindsey Nobles for doing the actual work of making it happen!
And so on, and so on….Actions have consequences.  Good ones and bad ones.  This is the point of Andy Andrews' little book The Butterfly Effect.  It's not big, it's not long, and it's not new.  If you've read The Traveler's Gift and The Lost Choice, you've read more details of the history given in this book than you'll see in this book.
Don't let it stop you from reading this, though.  In fact, don't let it stop you, if you have the resources, from buying a box and handing them out to groups of people that think they don't matter.  Use this book to challenge people that they do matter, and what they do matters.
Now, we could haggle out the issues of theology and causation all day long with this book.  I will say this: For me, as a Christian, the only book completely accurately reflecting theology is the Bible.  Nothing else will accurately give the whole picture, and I shouldn't expect it to.  Andrews doesn't stop and give credit to how it was God at work in the lives of Chamberlain or Borlaug.  He talks about their actions.
This is how it should be.  We cannot be responsible for the actions of others, even the Almighty, unless we know our actions will provoke a specific result.  We are responsible for our own actions, and Andrews is striving to challenge us to go ahead and act.
In all, this is worth the read, and worth the giving.  It will probably go out from my shelf and sit where someone can just pick it up and peruse it when they've got a few minutes.  Hopefully, that flap of the wing will be a good change…


I've also noticed several reviews decrying the shortness and "gift-book" style format.  While it's legitimate to dislike the style genre of "gift-books" keep in mind: this book is marketed as one.  It's not meant to be a long read, it's meant to be a short inspirational moment.  That's the apparent purpose, and it fills that purpose.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Prepared for the days….the OBU Blogabout

I nearly forgot that I was committed to something on this blog today.  What is that something, if you may ask?

It was to say a little about where I went to college.  You see, today is Founders' Day for Ouachita Baptist University, where I went, and graduated from, about 10 years ago.

So, what should I say about Ouachita?  Well, first of all: "Wash-it-aw," ok? Not "O-u-a-cheet-ah" or any other strange pronunciation.  Got it?  Good.  There's a few other observation to make, so I'll compile them as a list:

1.  There is another school that claims to be "OBU" and it's in Oklahoma.  However, the internet directs to Ouachita.  As clearly as the ending to Miracle on 34th Street, where the Post Office clearly identifies Santa Claus, so the Internet identifies OBU as a school located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  The other is clearly OKBU.

2.  One of the best things about being an OBU Alum in Arkansas is that we wear Purple and Gold and shout "GO TIGERS" and it has no bearing on our feeling towards the Razorbacks.  People do look at my Tigers hat funny, though, until they see the big "OBU" on it.

3.  OBU, as a college, actually doesn't have that many buildings.  Sure, there are a lot of names on 1 building, but if you know your way, Lile, McLellan, the Evans Student Center, and Mabee Fine Arts buildings are actually connected, so that's just one big building.  I still think there are tunnels connecting the rest, but I never found my way.

4.  OBU, and this may be true of other schools, but I don't know, is a great shared experience, and fellow alumni are more like distant relations than strangers.  We went to OBU Night with the Arkansas Travelers, and the general greetings involved an exchange of names and graduation years.  Beyond that, there was a mutual bond that you felt.  Odd, though, is that I don't really remember that going to school, but I see it, and feel it now as an alum.  I feel it in the jealousy that a fellow alum here in Almyra has for my OBU license tag (I have an actual OBU tag, the extra cost above the Arkansas State Tag Fee goes to the scholarship fund), because you can't get them, apparently, in Arkansas County. 

We share a special place in our memories, and have room at the table in our hearts for each other for sharing it.  Did we save the world from there?  No, but for many of us, OBU was the place where the world was saved for us.  It was the place where we learned that our faith in Christ and academic excellence weren't contradictions, but rather two ideas that reinforced, even demanded each other.  We learned to interact with people, whether they were very different, like my summer roommate from Kazakhstan (whose dad ran a vodka factory), or very similar, like Frank, who I went to high school with (who, finally, thanks to OBU and the US Army, graduated from OBU, having finished while deployed to Iraq).  We learned to deal with each other's bad days and good days.  We learned, sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully, that both actions and ideas have consequences.  We saw that other people sacrificed for us to gain knowledge and experience, and we learned to treasure the wisdom we saw.  We also knew we had to commit ourselves to sacrifice for the good of others.  It truly was the preparation for the days ahead.

5.  OBU will always be special because it's where God used to connect me with my wife.  I went to OBU on a scholarship, stayed there when my parents moved from Arkansas to Georgia, and, in the process, met many people.  One of them was a year ahead of me, and she was a Missionary's Kid at OBU because, at the time, OBU had a financial aid package that covered 100% of MK tuition, room, and board.  So, here were two people at a college neither could afford, thanks to the generosity of others.  One day, after 3 years of passing acquaintance, same church attendance, and a few false starts (on my part), we came to realize our path from OBU led the same way, and that we should walk in it together.  So, for 12 years now, we've been together. 

We've just recently started being able to go back for OBU activities like Homecoming, and I've been at the OBU Pastor's Conference the past two years (probably miss this year's, but that's ok).  The grounds have changed.  A lot.  Some of the faculty have changed.  Dr. Vang went to Florida.  Dr. Buckelew went to eternity.  Dr. Westmoreland went to Samford (nice place, I was there last summer).  Walt (from the cafeteria that's been bulldozed) went to eternity as well.  The students sure look younger than they once did, and the football team seems better than it was.

Yet Ouachita is still a place of preparation, and a place dear to my heart.  My retirement plan is to someday, after completing an advanced degree to qualify for it, to find my way to an office in Verser, in the Speech Department, and live out my days helping students.  Helping them overcome their fears and anxieties, their pride and their stubbornness, and help them to become who they were created to be.

Each year I'm gone, I realize what a treasure my OBU days were.  I hope that others will find their way to OBU.  It's not a bubble or a cocoon, but it's a place where preparation for the days ahead are there for you.



Sunday September 5 Sermon Outlines

For those of you who have tried to read through my sermon outlines before and been frustrated by the audio player, I'm going to try something else.  There will be a direct link to the audio file that you can click to open in your browser or right-click it and download it. 

Audio link here for Sunday Morning Sermon here:

Sunday Morning Outline:

Text: John 1:1

Theme: Beginnings

Date: September 5 2010 AM

Location: FBC Almyra, AR

Book Title: The Gospel According to John:

Notice that a man is explaining, but the Gospel is a static idea. The idea in the titling (yes, added later) is that this John's viewpoint on the unchanging Gospel.

I. John: tradition establishes John the Apostle as the author. There is no sound reason to abandon that tradition. We'll see continuing evidences as we work through John in coming weeks.

  1. In the beginning

    1. In his first phrase, John uses a phrase that will gain the attention of both the Jew and the Greek

      1. Realize that, at the time, you were really dealing with only 2 divisions of people: Jews and Gentiles (or Greeks)

      2. Most societies over the ages have viewed the world that simply: “One of us” or “NOT one of us”

    2. With “In the beginning” John addresses:

      1. The Jewish Reader: In the beginning is not just how the 1st book of the Torah begins, it's the title: “Berē'shiḥ”

      2. The Greek Reader; “Archē” (beginning) represented whatever was there at the start of creation/existence. It was actually a frequent debate: “What was first?” (kind of like the chicken or the egg discussion.)

      3. So, John sets out to parallel the Creation account for the Jew, and answer one of the questions of existence for the Greek

    3. We are seeing an explanation of “pre-existence”: before humanly measurable, there is the Word and God, together

  2. So, what's there? What's the beginning? The Word.

    1. The Word: But not “a word”: The description here shows that “The Word” is special, unique: “The Word”

    2. The Word: But not alone: with God. Not an ideal or a principle that simply exists, but capable of relationship

    3. The Word: But not apart: was God: Not to be confused with other ideas, John points out that the Word is both with God and God. This is important

  3. Why does this matter?

    1. We should know:

      1. God has always been there

        1. Philosophies change and change

        2. Science comes up with new and different ideas

      2. God has always planned on the Cross

        1. Adam and Eve didn't sneak one in on Him

        2. Our Creator knew the price of Creation would be the Cross

    2. We should do:

      1. Trust God's Word:

        1. The changes of time do not erase the stability of the Timeless

        2. Accept His understanding of us: sinners in need of a savior, weak in need of strength

      2. Learn to explain God's Word His way:

        1. Understand other viewpoints but be committed to showing what you are FOR more than what you are AGAINST

        2. Hold the Word in ourselves to be ready to share it


Sunday Evening Audio link:

Text: Psalm 119:1-8

Theme: Blessedness

Date: September 5 PM

Location: FBC Almyra

  1. Text: Psalm 119:1-8

  2. Authorship: A. Nonny Moose

  3. Structure: Acrostic Poem

  4. Content

    1. Blessed: Happy, but not the fluff happiness of the world

    2. Way: habit of behavior

    3. Blameless: complete in honoring the Lord God.

    4. Seek with all our heart: not partially obedient

    5. Aspects of the Word

      1. Law---usually singular: refers to the whole of the counsel of God

      2. Testimony---refers to the prior actions and works of God

      3. Precept---refers to the principles God has given

      4. Statute---refers to general rules for living together

      5. Commandment---refers to specific actions for individuals

    6. Judgment: Righteous: not ever wrong

    7. Request for mercy

  5. Response:

    1. Determine our goal:

      1. Should be blessedness

      2. Should be unashamed standing before God

    2. Determine the path:

      1. Know the Law

      2. Follow the Law

      3. Summarize:

        1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36)

        2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)

      4. How to follow?

        1. Commit all we have to God

        2. Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

          1. Are we going to eternal punishment?

          2. Is our neighbor? Do we not love them enough to tell them?

          3. Do we recognize, as taught in Luke 10:30-37 (Good Samaritan)

    3. Determine to be grateful:

      1. Thankfulness of heart:

        1. at the decisions of God

        2. at the righteousness of God

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2 Peter 3:3-6

3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

2 Peter 3:3-6 (ESV)


Ok, we recently took a look at verses 1 and 2, and now let's go on to these 4.  Here we see a few things to be aware of:

1.  Scoffers will come and scoff.  NASB has mockers and mock, but either way it's the same basic meaning: people will come and say mean things.  In fact, they'll say mean things with the explicit intention of hurting your feelings.  Guess what?  You will not stop them, and you should expect them.  These folks are following their own desires.

2.  These scoffers will come at your most preciously held ideas.  For the early church, I think that the most encouraging thing they held to was the Return of Christ.  I would be inclined to believe that when the Church is truly persecuted, the hope of heaven is a major highpoint in their theology.  (side note: easy Christianity like we have in America leads to nonsense like prosperity preachers.  More on that elsewhere.)  So, where do the scoffers in Peter's day attack? Right on the hope of eternity.  Right on the hope that God will come in mercy and justice.  Where is the day?

Likewise we see today that scoffers and mockers come after God's people: "Where's God in this tragedy?"  "Where's God when this happens?" "Where was God on 9/11 or in Katrina or during your heart attack or your bankruptcy?"  "Where was God when your pastor failed or sinned or treated you sinfully?"

Guess what?  These people aren't really looking for answers.  Some of them might listen, and might be moved by the answers, but they're mainly trying to derail you.  Provide an answer based on your faith, and move on.  Don't argue, and don't wallow in it.

Notice this also: they fail to notice contrary evidence.  Now, we have to be careful to avoid the same thing, and cannot cavalierly dismiss legitimate questions or doubts, but many who attack people of faith have no interest in evidence.  They want argument, they want bickering, but they don't want debate and evidence.

So, don't be shocked when mockers come.  Don't be shocked when they miss your point.  But don't let them derail you.  Challenge, yes.  Help you to grow, yes.  Just don't let their failure to notice the hand of God in the world cause you to miss Him.


Friday, September 3, 2010

2 Peter 3:1-2

The Day of the Lord Will Come

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

2 Peter 3:1-2 (ESV)

Ok, I'm back.  Hopefully for good.  I've got some book reviews to drop on you in the next few weeks, and I feel like you should get some more original content and not just book commercials.  I'll try to get a post updating you on life here in a day or two, but for now, I wanted to share a few thoughts from the above verses in 2 Peter.

Peter here shares that he's writing to stir up his audience.  He wants them not just to learn, not just to sit and listen, but to respond.  Now, to be stirred up can be good and it can be, well, not-so-good.  Consider this:

1.  Stirred up hornets: not-so-good.  They are agitated and vicious.  I'm sure Peter sometimes stirred up people like hornets get stirred.  Now, if the hornets need to be moved, it's a necessary not-so-good.

2.  Stirred up chocolate milk: good. Otherwise, you have powdered NesQuik on the bottom, and weak flavor throughout.  Sometimes, we need stirred to blend in the things that have been added, to put them to good use.

3.  Stirred up casseroles: not-so-good.  If it's supposed to have layers, and you stir it, you can mix what shouldn't be mixed.  It's not totally destructive, but it can cause a few problems.  Of course, in the end, you can't eat it without mixing it, so you're going to stir it some.  Just realize, stirred might be practical, but it isn't pretty.

4.  Stirred up rice: good.  If you don't stir it, it sticks, the bottom burns, and the whole thing is wasted.  Guess what?  Sometimes we need stirred so that we don't burn on part of us and waste everything.  Same thing holds with a church as a group.

Now, that's some thoughts on stirring things up.  Two other things to consider:

Peter refers to the readers' sincere mind.  He doesn't seek to create waffle-minded folks.  He's not out for flimsy efforts.  He's out for a mind, a will, that is sincere, resolute, committed to the task.  That is what he wants stirred up.  Let's stir up sincerity and commitment in ourselves.

The other is that he is writing by way of reminder.  This is something that I need to keep on my daily list.  I'm not supposed to be creating new as a preacher so much as finding ways to help people remember what God has said.  It's important.  Why?  Because life isn't really about reminders.  I have an application on my Blackberry that serves to remind me what I need to get at Wal-mart.  I use it, it helps.  Do I celebrate the reminder program? Not really, I celebrate what it helps me remember: the things Ann wants me to get.  It strengthens my relationship, which is what matters.

The same way, I want to preach, write, teach, and live so as to be a reminder of who Jesus Christ is.  I want to stir up the will of people to be sincere in their following of Christ, and then fade, knowing their focus is on Him.



Sermon from May 19 2024

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