Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What uncertainty should do

Despite winning the last two games in a row (I guess that's as good a winning streak as we hoped to see this year), Buccaneers football coach Raheem Morris has had to field questions about his job security. There are many rumors suggesting the Bucs are interested in bringing in Bill Cowher, former Super Bowl winning coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Raheem has repeatedly confessed he is simply going to work as usual and will coach as though he'll be around longer.

This is really the same kind of attitude Christians are to have in regards to the Return of the King (Jesus). In regards to when Christ will return, since we'll know neither the day or the hour (Matt 25:13), we're to be busy discipling others (25:15-ff) and working hard in our jobs.

Uncertainty of the future shouldn't make us stop working, become slothful or sensational, but keep working hard until the end. Even though I'd love to see Cowher, Raheem does set for us a great example.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Goldman returns

A little while ago I wrote an article for the Bradenton Herald about David Goldman and his quest to bring his son back from the Brazilian captivity. Well he finally brought his son back (this picture is way old by the way). In an interview today on "Today," he called his son's return a "Christmas miracle," and that "somebody's definitely up there." He's right. Someone is definitely up there, and finally brought justice to this complete travesty of justice, much less travesty to common sense.

Apparently his son, still doesn't call him "Dad" yet, which breaks my heart. But the kid is now 9 years old (been away for 4-5 years), and
David believes it will take a little time.

What a good example of the pursuing love a Father has for His son, even when the son doesn't seek him out or even call him "Dad." He just never gave up no matter how bleak it seemed. I don't know David Goldman, but I sure would like to meet that joker and rejoice with him. Maybe we could talk about God's pursuing Fatherly love (which I reflected on in the article which is lost in the Bradenton Herald cyberspace). Since Amy and I have been following this story, we are really stoked about this homecoming. If you read the article here, I think you will rejoice and also want to pray imprecations on these Brazilians (but please resist because Jesus says we can't!).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Me and Bono on Christmas

I think I'm going to make it one of my Christmas traditions to reflect on this quote from Bono. I put it up last year, but to me it never gets old. Just like the Christmas story. Every part of it seems counter-intuitive to me: God in flesh, the use of shepherds (sketchy fellows), magi (also sketchy), that Jesus was laid in a manger. How crazy is that? Where dirty animals feed. The king of the universe laid where animals feed. I hope we never fail to realize how crazy that is. Blaise Paschal hit it on the nose in his Pensees (I'd love to give the reference but all the books are packed up!) when he said it is not that God has hidden this message so high so that folks can't understand it, but so low, as many will look over it.

Here's Bono's quote:

“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw…a child… I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”

Xmas or Christmas: Feel free to save space

Yesterday I saw a church marquee marquee that reads, "Merry Christmas, not Merry Xmas." Now that is by no means in the same category as this "Eat me Jesus Hater's Trollcat (that's seriously what the picture is called!). But I have recently noticed a bit of confusion on the origin of Xmas from a number of well meaning Christians. Or I should I write "Xians" to save space? I can.

In fact that's what I did on my resume to save space. During one of my interviews, one woman actually asked me why I put on my resume "Xmas" instead of "Christmas" to refer to my "Xmas Outreach parties" that we hosted at our house.

Now I found it incredibly counter-intuitive (to put it nicely) to think I was embarrassed to put Jesus name when it was He who our youth would be proclaiming during the gospel presentations! Needless to say, all doubt was removed in regards to my desire to not work for this church.

I explained to her that "Xmas" saved space on a one page resume, and that "X" is the first letter in "Christ" in the Greek spelling of it. Here's a helpful explanation by R.C. Sproul of why you may with good conscience write "Xmas" to save space on a resume or Xmas card. It is not dishonoring to Jesus in the least.

So please don't put "Xmas" in the same category of the I-don't-want-to-offend-anyone-"Happy Holidays"-even-when-Hanakah-is-over category.

On a side note, Good Morning America introduced the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir this morning as singing a "Holiday Medley." The beautiful irony of it all was that "Holiday" was said not to offend anyone, yet the choir sang nothing but Xmas carols, and concluded with a singing something to effect of "I'm not ashamed to proclaim His name...Jesus, there is no other..." I love irony!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Neighborhood Xmas Pageants and Contextualization

Just about every year for the past 20-25 years or so, my mother has put on a neighborhood Christmas pageant. Now my folks and I have lived in 4 different neighborhoods since the onset of the pageant, so the play has changed a bit over the years. At times, there were animals like sheep and donkeys, and at times there were professional musicians (of course no one could forget my "Silent Night" on electric guitar where I missed every other note). While the central message of the drama doesn't change, lines have been tweaked and added/subtracted throughout its, and my lifetime (I'm only several years older than the pageant myself).

Last year Connar was baby Jesus, but this year he outgrew the part and my brother's son Ben starred as the Savior. Having been to nearly 15-20 of them, I routinely notice line changes. The story is always first contextualized with narrators, and then the drama unfolds. And this is the part where I could tell my mother changed some lines up.

This year's pageant began with 2 kids at the bus stop fretting over their 401 K and homeowner's association (this one can be extremely anal and "fine happy" at times). Then it ended with the same conversation continued, where one kid said to the other, "That's why we can have hope despite what may happen with our 401 K and association issues. But I still wouldn't open that envelope till after Christmas if I were you!"

Everyone laughed. But it was more than funny. The gospel story was connected with real life, offering real hope, to real problems. It wouldn't have been nearly as funny with our first neighborhood in South Tampa. Different audience with no strict HOA and different socioeconomic group.

This is a fine example of healthy contextualization. The message doesn't change, but what parts of the gospel are emphasized (new record, new heart-in this case it was "new heart" and the ability to live at peace in an unstable world-new world, new family......) will and must change to reach different people.

My Mom will be on TV this Wed on CTN at 1 pm to discuss the neighborhood pageants and will have some pictures of the most recent one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dealing with Cousin Eddies and Yourself

Here's a challenging blog post on relating with extended family during the Christmas season. For those of you reading this blog who happen to be my extended family, please know that you're not the reason for the post. Regardless, I found it a helpful look-at-the-plank-in-your-own-eye-first type attitude we all need to embrace when interacting with believing, unbelieving, or nominal extended family (a different dynamic than spending time with friends).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Good Advent sermon

I just heard a great advent sermon while working out this week. Martin Ban, pastor of Christ Church Santa Fe, illustrates well and only preaches 25 minutes, so he's easy to listen to on the computer or I-pod. He is mesmerized how God used those quite unqualified in constructing the Xmas story. Zechariah (unbelieving priest) Elizabeth (barren woman probably in her 50's), John the Baptist (not yet born though rejoices over the good news), and Mary (a young unproven inexperienced girl) all make for a quite a cast. Ban is amazed by the fact that God had all this time to plan His entrance and this is what we get! It encourages us to know what kind of people God uses. Click here and listen to "Advent Series Part #3."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good news for the Bucs

Good news for Bucs fan. The only way we can get a new GM and a coach more than 6 months older than myself is for the old coach and the old GM to find new jobs. Well today, we got one out of two. Bruce Allen, signed on with the Redskins. Since he's been a GM for Gruden's team twice, here's hoping we can say goodbye to Raheem the Dream Morris!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas isn't about Jesus....

Michael Scott (Steve Carell) of NBC's "The Office," in a powerful soliloquy, had this to say about Christmas: "Christmas isn't really about Santa Claus, or about Jesus....It's about family." Sounds a bit over the top, but at least this lovable goofball said what so many folks think. At least our actions or thoughts prove that in some way many of us believe this.

Sometimes it takes a bold statement like that to get our attention and realize that when Christmas isn't about presents, the default mode goes to family. Christmas is about family spending time together. The number one idol of most church folk like me.

This was a good reminder to be thankful for family, but to find refuge and celebration in the Savior who will return one day to finish what he started. Celebrating Advent, regular scripture readings, pageants, manger scenes, and even birthday cakes for Jesus (Amy saw one today that was amazing!) are all tools which can help us avoid substituting family for Jesus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gruden and humility

I've been very uninspired to write lately. Perhaps my muse was assassinated last month. Perhaps getting the house ready to sell and trying to figure out what life will look like in WV has left me "speechless." Perhaps it's due to being a laid-off pastor and I don't think cyber-pastorally much anymore. Whatever it is, it took Jon Gruden to get me back on track.

While watching Monday Night Football, Jon Gruden, former Bucs Coach and now Monday Night Football commentator, spoke about the difficulty of coaching in the NFL. He noted that you can't simply be up in the standings with 4 games to go and relax. "We were 9-3 and we were coasting. Then we lost the last 4 games and I lost my job."

And he said it with a smile on his face. I think the other two guys in the booth were taken by surprise. Jon wasn't afraid to talk about his failures.

Largely blasted for his super-sized ego and alleged mistreatment of players through dishonesty and deception, he showed some real maturity. Maturity in the form of humility.

The ability to admit and even laugh about your failures is something that ought to characterize the life of the Christian. The security found in the gospel-that we are loved and provided for despite our sins and failures-allows us to regularly admit our failures to friend and foe. And yes, at times, even to a national audience.

Jon, if you're reading this, thanks for the reminder of how Christians should live if we truly believe the gospel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stopping by the Woods' on a non-snowy evening

You may have heard of Tiger Woods traffic violation heard 'round the world. If not, click here. His crash cost him a fine of 165 dollars. My going 30 mph in a 20 mph school zone Tuesday on the way to fish will set me back 156 dollars! Only 9 dollars difference for those keeping score at home. Doesn't seem to add up if you ask me. But I'll take the fine over speculations (actually recorded voicemails) of infidelity and getting beaten by your spouse!

Are such things true about Tiger Woods? Possibly, but no one knows. No one really knows Tiger, since he has done a nearly impeccable job of staying out of the public when not on the PGA Tour. He's definitely no Kardashian.

Now there's no escaping the media. He's probably fortunate to escape more than scrutiny, as the investigation has ended and no medical records of what really happened will surface.

This incident reminds me of Jesus' words to the Pharisees in Luke 12, when he warns us against hypocrisy. The private life will not always be so private and one day all will be disclosed. Whether its dirt on Tiger, you, or me, all will eventually come out. A sobering thought which makes me run to Jesus, hold on to him, allow Him to be the judge, and trust that my dirt leaves no stains, nor does it disqualify me from a big old hug one day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

God's Word and beatdown

Last year before the national championship game I blogged about Tim Tebow's eye black scripture verses, and how I wasn't really a fan of Phil 4:13 due to its chronic mis-intrepretation. Now my blog readership is quite small, but that post did actually get me interviewed by a big time newspaper writer for the Kansas City Star. Unfortunately I wasn't quoted.

While I may not have been a fan of the use of Phil 4:13, I am a huge fan of Tebow's scriptural accouterments. Each time he plays, thousands of people google those things-and I'm assuming these are people who don't have bibles or who don't use them regularly.

Anyhow, during the blowout win against FSU, the CBS announcer actually read the scripture verse Hebrews 12:12. It actually seemed to go well with Tebow's fumble. The only problem was that Tebow had "Hebrews 12:1-2." Some 10 minutes later, the CBS announcer apologized and read Hebrews 12:1 to all the viewers! Now he skipped verse 2, which mentions Jesus by name, but hey, not bad. All because of his eye black.

I'm not a Gator fan to put it mildly, but at least I heard God's Word read while I watched a terrible FSU beat down. Could have been worse I guess....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Non traditional takes on traditions

Once again, another Thanksgiving. And once again much to be thankful for. And once again, one thing NOT to be thankful for. The now surging 2-8 Detroit Lions, coming off A victory in which they lost their starting QB and WR, will probably once again grace America's living rooms with another terrible Turkey Day football game.

The Lion's players don't like playing on Thanksgiving (though their owner does); America doesn't like seeing them play, so why this match from Hades? The answer can be summed up and read, or sung, with one word: "tradition." That's it.

Sometimes traditions can be quite helpful and bring people together. I'll always fondly remember our family Xmas tradition of going to get a Xmas tree and then going to eat at the same Steak-N-Shake where my mom met my dad when she was on a date and the dude ran over his foot.

But sometimes traditions need to be changed (I love our fake tree and I think my parents love their fake tree now as well), and this is one of them. When a tradition's sole reason for existence is simply that it is a tradition, it might be a good time to tweak it or scrap it and start another.

I'm looking forward to starting some family traditions with Connar and Amy. However when a tradition outlives its usefulness, I hope that I don't give the same answer to Connar that America gets when we ask why we get stuck with watching another terrible Lions game: "because it's tradition."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Patience in Tampa?

10 days before the Bucs started this miserable season, they fired the offensive coordinator. 10 weeks into the season, they demoted their defensive coordinator. The only one on the staff with head coaching experience. I think someone with the patience of a toddler is running this organization. I could see Connar firing the defensive coordinator and replacing him with someone else with ZERO NFL play calling or head coaching experience. But an adult?

Patience is definitely not natural, but it is the fruit of the spirit (Gal 2:22). I need to learn from the Bucs and repent regularly when I expect myself, others (including Connar) to change immediately. This is one year, I don't want to emulate anything the Bucs are doing.

Fortunately for the believer, we don't get demoted, fired, or kicked out of the family. Trying to be a more patient person doesn't work; it never has. However, reflecting on this truth has helped me in the past and is a well that we can't run to enough.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Agassi "Opening up"

Confession can definitely be cathartic. It feels good to get stuff off your chest. In Andre Agassi's new book Open he confesses to a lot of things like doing Crystal Meth, and wearing a wig. I'm still bummed that hair wasn't real. And unless he apologizes to me personally, I shan't forgive that one!

Part of the reason he confesses is that it is cathartic. He mentioned as such on a Jim Rome interview. But part of the reason he confesses is that such confessions sell books. No one wants to read a book about someone if they're not going to confess something juicy. We could all fill a book with secret confessions that would either sell like hot cakes or make people think we should be shot. I, like Steve Brown, who recently preached at Hope, won't pick up another biography unless there's some dirt revealed. Otherwise it's just not believable.

Anyhow, here's some thoughts I have on Agassi's Open, which does sound like it would be a good read-and there's plenty of dirt. I wonder how cathartic confession really is if there is no One in specific to whom you're confessing...I wonder how cathartic it could be if there is no One who can declare that you are in fact forgiven, and no one else gets a vote...

Now I'm not expecting Augustine's Confessions, but I would be interested to know the answer from Andre to these questions. Should I buy and read the book, I shall definitely see and post how he may answer them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good questions

I've been know to ask a dumb question a time or two in my life. In high school chemistry class I was actually limited to 2 per day. But good questions can be quite helpful, especially in trying to understand, interpret, and apply scripture. Here are some helpful questions to ask when looking at a passage of scripture.

The benefit of losing

Tony Dungy is known for a number of things, but losing isn't really one of them. In fact, even in Tampa, he had only one losing season and a .500 season. But most people probably don't realize that before the Bucs had their big turnaround (of course now they've done another 'about face' at 1-8), Dungy was winless for a while, and if memory serves me correctly, he was also 1-8.

So he knows what it is like to experience losing. The experience of losing qualifies him to be an affective mentor to other losers. In fact it has even led winless
New Mexico head football coach Mike Locksley to seek Dungy out as a mentor. Allegedly there was some physical alteration with another assistant coach. New Mexico has had some violence issues, as you may remember, with New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert's "rough play."

Losing (game, jobs, family) stinks, but one thing it does is qualify us to minister to others who can't say, "You don't know what I'm going through." Losing qualifies us to minister to other losers. And even when we can't empathize perfectly, we can point them to a high priest who can (Hebrews 4:15).

Back in the saddle, I hope

It's been a long time since I've blogged here due to several reasons, one being that we were in West Virginia interviewing here for an assistant pastor position. I hope to be back up and running this week at full steam.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In the Navy

Today Jim Rome interviewed Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo, due to it being Veteran's Day, and the fact that they just came off a win over Notre Dame. Obviously the latter assured him an interview with Rome. After hearing the interview, it would be hard to see how anybody couldn't be a Navy fan.

The coach's highest praise for his team came not from their stellar play, but their character. Apparently just before the interview, an underclassmen starter wanted to make sure that all of the senior back-up players (who would otherwise not be privy to some of the benefits of starters like hotel time) were able to taste such benefits before graduating. The coach mentioned that this kind of attitude and concomitant behavior-though he didn't use that 'c' word exactly-routinely flowed from one teammate to another.

It reminded me of the attitude which Christ produces in the church, where through Him, we are to regard one another as more important than ourselves (Phil 2). Particularly those 2nd and 3rd string linemen those whose gifts may find them more behind the scenes than at the center of the play.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jellyfish from Hades

As an avid angler and lover of the sea, I've been stung by jellyfish on several different occasions. Never been a fan of them. One of the reasons I like sea turtles so much is that they eat these cnidocytes. On some occasions growing up in Tampa Bay, when I actually used live bait, they would get stuck in the cast net and sting me while trying to take out the bait fish. For one Japanese fishing boat, a number of large jellyfish did a lot more than sting them or make fishing hard. They ruined the day by sinking the boat. Check it out here. Crazy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Orange you glad the Bucs wore Orange?

Well today I can proudly wear my Bucs shirt to the gym. They finally got off the snide, ending their 11 game losing streak, by beating their former hated rivals the Green Bay Packers. Literally when Tampa used to win a game against any team, people would drive down the street, honking their horns, yelling, "Green Bay stinks (although they wouldn't use that word)!" So obviously it was nice to beat the Packers, who haven't won in Tampa in a number of years. Not only that, but they did it wearing their ugly throwback creamsicle orange/white/red uniforms. It was one win, and they are now 1-7. But at that moment yesterday, they might as well have been 7-1. A comeback, a blocked punt for a touchdown, a 2 point conversion, a 4th down touchdown to take the lead, an interception return for a touchdown to end the game. A special day indeed.

Looks like Coach Raheem Morris' "union with Josh" may have afforded him another year of coaching. But then again, it's one game. Teams will now have film on the 21 year old QB. But then again, the whole town had forgotten what it's like to win a football game. Now we remember.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soccer punching

Soccer can be quite a violent sport. It really can. Of course most of the real violence, like killing people, is left to the fans. But women's soccer? Yep, on the field at least, it can be even more violent. If you've not seen these highlights of New Mexico defender Elizabeth Lambert, whose smile belies her aggressive play, click here. This is quite amazing. Sometimes I wish I would have had the talent to play college sports. But then I watch this video and am thankful I didn't; I'm sure this would have been me instead on SportsCenter.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yankees and playing sports against girls

Well the Yankees won another world series. I guess it had been a few years. But when you go out in the off season and spend nearly 450 million dollars, you OUGHT to win. Players on a team like that ought to feel a little weird. It's kind of like a guy playing basketball against a girl. If he wins, he really can't feel all that proud of himself; he ought to have won. No glory in that. And if he loses, wow, he lost to a girl; that's worse than just losing. With no real pride and the possibility of deep shame, it's really a no-win/break-even situation. I think it would feel a little weird suiting up in the New York pin-stripes. Go Rays.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Freeman or Free men: Union with Josh or Jesus?

Well the Bucs are now the only team without a win, and at (0-7), I'm liking their chances to be the only team to go winless besides the Detroit Lions last year (0-16) and themselves during their inaugural season in 1976 (0-14). The only hope, if you can call it hope, is that they are starting their 1st round draft pick Josh "soul-glow" Freeman this Sunday against the old rival Green Bay Packers. The main problem with this situation is that Freeman isn't good. He wasn't very good in college, and that tends to not bode well for a good pro-career. Usually it works that way.

But the other problem is for the head coach and general manager. They have bet their future, perhaps their very future in coaching and general managing, on one man: Freeman. If he succeeds, they will have jobs for a while. If he fails, they will be out of a job. Perhaps this year, or perhaps next year. Their fate is forever linked with his.

This is reminds me of a term theologians call "union with Christ." In a nutshell, our past, present, and future are so tied to Christ, that his life, death, and resurrection in someway become our life, death, and resurrection. He died on the cross, so our sins were nailed with him on that cross (Col 2:13). He bodily rose from the dead, so that we will one day bodily rise from the grave (I Cor 15). His death and resurrection also means that presently, we have died to sin, and now no longer are slaves to sin (Romans 6). We struggle, but we are free from slavery. We Christians who are in Union with Christ, are freemen and free-women.

Now when it comes to Josh Freeman, I think the coach and GM are slaves to failure. I'd definitely be worried about being "in union" with Josh Freeman. Fortunately the one who is in union with Christ, has no insecurity. For Christ has already succeeded and we can presently live in that victory. If only I/we would believe this more!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Roman Halloween

I was reading in Romans 14 and 15 this week and found it apropos for Halloween. The book of Romans deals with what God requires to be in a right relationship with Him (faith in Christ alone), as well as how to live in a right relationship with others in the church (faith in Christ alone results in charity and graciousness). There were Jews and Gentiles in the same church, each carrying their own cultural and religious baggage. Instead of giving the "right" answer, he instructs both parties to not look down on each other. He reminds both parties that whether they eat/don't eat food sacrificed to idols or whether church is/isn't to be held on Saturday or Sunday, everything is to be done in faith. If an action is not done in faith, THEN it is sin. So whether you feel God's pleasure on you while trick or treat with neighbors, wait for them to come to your home to meet some new faces, or simply turn out the lights and read a book, do so with faith. Don't look down on others who by faith partake or by faith choose not to partake! The church will always be filled with people of different convictions; it has since God decided to include we Gentiles. Let us love one another in our differences, free to dialog, but never dogmatically looking down on one another.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Zorny situation

Few teams are as bad as the Bucs this year. Few teams are in as much disarray as the Bucs this year. Few teams have as poor management skills as the Bucs this year. Enter the Washington Redskins. Of course the Redskins do have 2 more wins than Tampa does this year; but then again if Tampa could play itself, and the winless St. Louis Rams, I'd imagine they'd have the same record.
To make matters worse, the owner wouldn't allow Zorn to call plays, but instead brought in Sherman Lewis, who was as recently as a few weeks ago, calling Bingo. The head coach has been relieved of his play calling duties in favor of a retiree/bingo caller. So he's there almost as a puppet, simply to decide whether or not to go for it on 4th down.

Now I don't feel sorry for the coach in the sense that he has a job for now. But as a leader, it is kind of sad. He is a leader who cannot lead. He is a leader who does not have the support of the management, so how can he rally the players around a vision?

Now fortunately for pastors, there is no one who owns the church and can tell us what and how to preach-I guess that would be similar to play calling. But I wonder how many pastors in a very real way feel like Jim Zorn. Many can't lead for fear of losing people to another church or denomination. Many probably feel as though they don't have the support of the "players" (congregation). Many probably don't feel like they have the support of "management" (whatever governing leadership the church has.) In a sad way, they have now have some fellowship with Zorn.

Now there is no solution for Coach Zorn. He will be getting fired at the end of the season; in fact the management seems to actually be trying to make him quit. But just as Seinfeld's George Costanza remained with the company that tried to make him quit, Zorn isn't giving them the satisfaction.
What's the solution for pastors? Support from management is crucial. Pastors can lead best when management is on the same page, and thus can feel freedom to lead-even when leading is outside the box. If the management and the head coach are on the same page, we can expect to see turn-around's such as Miami Dolphins a few years ago: from 1-15 to 11-5 the next year. The same things can happen in churches.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Connar's Amen

I'm anxious for Connar to talk. Why? I guess so that we can communicate. But when he does talk, he'll be able to express himself verbally and not simply run around in circles acting excited and making talk-like noises. He'll be speaking and not expressing himself like we're accustomed to seeing him express himself. I'll definitely miss that.

But one of the "words" he spoke last night really got my attention and is to this day the coolest word I've heard him speak since "Da." He had a hard time going down to sleep, so I volunteered to go survey the situation: usually it simply involves picking up his blanket which he regularly throws out of the crib. So I gave him back his "comfort item" (why he throws out his "comfort item" when it does in fact provide him comfort-he can't sleep without it-I'll never know), and found out that he simply wanted me to hold him. Definitely a rarity at night. So I did and said some prayers with him.

When I finished and said "Amen" (which is roughly the equivalent of "truly" or "I believe that," not simply an "I'm done" as we usually mean it), Connar echoed the "Amen" right back. Now it was something like "Mo." But he's been doing this immediately following our prayers, so much so, that I think he's beginning to say "Amen." That was way cool for me to hear.

How cool of an opportunity parents and all those in the church have (the local church is a cov't community without "god-parents" b/c we all play a role in raising kids) to teach kids about Jesus.....I hope we all can see it as such.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mascot apology

Every now and then mascots for sports teams cross the line. When they cross the line by making fun of athletes in prayer, should they apologize? The University of Minnesota might have set the precedent for what to do in the future when this happens. Hopefully Goldy the Gopher will exercise "appropriate religious sensitivity in the future." Check this story out here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What good will it do?

I've been reflecting on my article on Favre and pragmatism lately. Since I'm super practical, I wonder how much I've incorporated this philosophy into my ministry and life. There have been occasions where I've wanted to tell someone ___________, but I've often been hindered by the "What good will it do" thought. Now I'm not saying there's wisdom in considering possible responses, or in considering the motivation behind telling someone something hard. More often than not my motivation is not based out of love and truth but anger. So then I need to shut up.

But I wonder if the "what good will it do" philosophy should always reign supreme. And is it really the right way to think in regards to relationships within the body of Christ. The OT prophets probably felt like saying this to God on a number of occasions. But at Ezekiel's call in chapter 2-almost as in anticipation of this "what good will it do question,"-he says that whether they listen or fail to listen, "they will know that a prophet has been among them."

Ezekiel probably wanted to say throughout his ministry, "What good is this doing?" But at the very beginning God clearly explained the answer to this fair question. The good was that folks knew God cared about His people through the presence of His prophets, regardless of whether or not they turned and trusted in Him.

Sometimes the "good it will do" in lovingly and graciously delivering a hard message, is to make people aware that God does care about them and their situation. Now they may not like the message, like you, or like Jesus. Nevertheless, God's people are always to speak truth in love to those in His church, not being hindered by the philosophy of "what good will it do?"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Magna Doodle Dandy Devotions

I don't really know who this dude Doug is-I found him on one of the Acts 29 church planter blogs I foll0w-but he sure offers a nifty and creative way to do family devotions. The Magna Doodle appears to be some sort of "tricked out" Etch-a-Sketch (not sure if those are still around). Looks like the kids are drawing some of the bible stories and then discussing them with a parent. It seems like a really cool idea for family devotions.

Connar isn't quite ready for this yet-we're fortunate when he can finish a meal without wanting to run around-but when he is, I'm going to try this out for sure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Herald Article

Here's my most recent Bradenton Herald article called, "Was Brett Favre the Right Decision?" In it I discuss the role of pragmatism in big decision making.

If you read the comment section, you'll see someone misunderstood my point completely and wondered why I can't just "enjoy Favre." Perhaps the title misled him, and if so, that's my fault. Unfortunately I'm not registered so I can't comment back. I'll do so here.

My point of this article is that while most-some would argue all-football decisions should be based strictly upon productivity, I don't believe strict pragmatism morally suffices for life's decisions. Enjoy Favre if you want to, but you won't find me rooting for him!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bad Bouginvillea but good neighbors

Whenever it comes time to actually sell our house, I'm going to make the neighbors a major selling point. Two days ago I was trying to trim, with hopes to destroy, the devil's bush: the bouginvillea. This beast of preposterous proportions has simply been growing and growing and has taken over a large portion of my backyard.

So I decided to put my foot down and get physical with this feared and thorny monster/bush. While walking his dog past my yard, my neighbor saw my feeble efforts and asked me if I needed any help. He's probably seen many young folks lost to the dreaded Boginvillea bush over the years, and didn't want to see another young whipper-snapper go down fighting alone. I took him up on the offer as he promised to bring his trimmer the next day.

The next day came, and in order to stop the bees from swarming on me (they were just buzzing by my head at first so as to drop hints), I asked to borrow some real bug spray from another neighbor. This young man also volunteered to tackle the beast with me, bringing a trimmer, machete, and chainsaw.

By dark, with all three instruments working-I took the machete and unfortunately wasn't wearing long sleeves-the once fearful beast lay slain. Now to get rid of it...

Can't beat neighbors like that. If only I were as neighborly as to volunteer for such a task!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Even the Losers, Only the Losers: A New Kind of Sports Talk Show

While listening to Jim Rome's radio show today, I had an interesting (well at least to me) thought for a radio show.

Every time Rome interviews someone, he will precede the interview by saying, "Ranked in the top 10 in the coach's poll, or coming off their series sweep of the Rays, or first place in the NFC East, here is........" Rome only interviews winners, or at least people who are winning at the time. He once interviewed Kurt Warner when he played with the N. Y. Giants. They were 5-2 at that moment, and then pretty much lost the rest of the games and Warner was benched. He obviously didn't come on again that season. That would have been an interesting interview.

So I won't hold my breath on having any Buccaneers players on the Jim Rome show this season. But these are exactly the kind of guys I'd be looking for if I were to have a show. So are the Tennessee Titans, and the Cleveland Browns. Even the hated Panthers would be welcome. All are currently losers at 0-4. "Even the losers," as Tom Petty sang, would be welcome.

But even more than that. If I were a sports talk host, I would only interview the losers. Of course the show probably wouldn't last long, and I'd have losing sponsors like Circuit City and Boater's World. Winning is easy. I don't want to ask them how they feel at the top of the division. I already can figure out that one pretty easy.

I want to hear how someone is dealing with losing. Is it easy to follow the coach's leadership when decisions, or plays, or schemes or their ideas aren't working? Do you expect to win? What are your goals when you realize you can't make the play-offs? What motivates you?

Those are the kind of questions I'd ask. I want to hear from the losers. Because when we lose, we leave ourselves wide open for the gospel to do a great work. I think this would be the kind of sports talk show Jesus would have, because he seems to do his best work under those conditions.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Helpful model

When you look at the evangelical church as a whole, it is important to learn from this diverse body of believers. That's one of the reasons why I subscribe to Outreach Magazine. At the same time, it is also necessary to critique-though in critiquing, you are also learning. If you simply choose to follow the newest and biggest out there, you will err on the side of naivete, and simply copy what others are doing. And you may be copying something that is sub-culture/geography specific, perhaps not all that beneficial, or simply leave with an incomplete perspective.

On the flip side, if you only look at what your particular denomination or "camp" (mega-church, Reformed, non-denom, etc...), you will become myopic and not learn from the wisdom God has granted to others outside your camp. Different camps have different strengths and provide great value when we interact with them.

Tim Keller provides a model (borrowed from John Frame) to help us see exactly where one or one's church fits in the stream of evangelicalism, and how we can learn/critique others and ourselves.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Suing Old Ladies

The Bucs are going to play the Redskins this week and probably end up 0-4. The only consolation is that the Skins are 1-2 and just lost to a previously 0-19 team (combined from last year to this year). Still, may the worst team lose...

The Bucs have made a number of bad management decisions lately (of course this is only my opinion, but it's hard to argue with the product), but at least have stopped short of suing old ladies. Yep,
check this out from the Washington Post. The Redskins are suing their fans! I don't think our owners have sunk this low yet; however, notice I did say the word "yet!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Worse than losing

3/16 way into the football season, the Bucs are tied with several other teams for the worst record. Sitting there at the bottom of the barrel are teams like Miami and Tennesse, both of whom won their division and appeared ready to repeat. But there are also teams like Tampa, which basically has no shot of winning more than a few games-and even that number is optimistic. One such team is the Cleveland Browns. Its players not only dislike their coach but have actually begun filing grievances against him with the Union. There have been 1000 dollar fines for not paying for a water bottle at a hotel. Losing is one thing, but not trusting (or being able to trust) your leadership often proves to be a sure sign the losing culture in Cleveland or any organization with a losing culture, will not change any time soon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A good ending to a bad beginning?

I saw a church marquee near me the other day which read, "A good ending to a bad beginning." Now just how early the Fall (the bad) came about, depending upon your interpretation of Genesis, is somewhat immaterial. Regardless of time-line, there was indeed something good before the bad. In fact, everything was good, including men and women. Immediately after the Fall, sin sure did affect men and women and began to affect all aspects of creation. But we cannot begin the story at the Fall. We need to begin the story-duh-at the beginning: Creation.

Let's begin the story at the beginning now. God created us in His image. Work was good, and so was rest. So was relationship.

Then comes the Fall, but soon after the Fall, God promises redemption through the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15-first promise of Redemption). Ultimately that points us to Jesus who brings His Kingdom to Earth and will complete it (Consummation) when He returns.

Now you may think that this is just theological nit-picking. But I assure you that its not; I'm far too practical to be bothered about beliefs which don't have connection to life. Let me give you a few "for instances" of what happens when you live out this story of redemption minus the whole creation part (the good beginning).

1.) You skip the part that men and women are created in the image of God, and despite the Fall, they can still say true and helpful things in philosophy, politics, psychology, and medicine.

2.) You don't care about the culture or environment being because in the end neither matter. You forget that they once did matter to God (and still do for that matter) in the good beginning.

3.) You begin membership vows to your church with an immediate affirmation of being a sinner without any mention of being made in the image of God (this was a professorial pet peeve, but I think he does have a point).

Sometimes we forget that there was indeed a good beginning, there is a hard but hopeful middle, and will be one heck of an end. All parts of the story are important. Ignoring any part, especially the beginning will lead us to live contrary to the great story and not consistent with it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fasting During Ramadan?

I came across a well written and fascinating article on Christians fasting alongside Muslims during the month long fast of Ramadan. Check it out here. It seems to me that this practice has at its roots a desire for the blurring of a Christian distinction among the major three faiths.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pitbulls and Humans

One way to defend the faith is to do the best you can to provide "evidences" for why we should believe in Christianity. Things like the empty tomb, the rapid spread of Christianity, the reliability of the bible, etc...This is called evidential apologetics, and I do believe it has a place.

But another type of apologetics (defending the faith) is called pre-suppositional apologetics. Basically what you try to do here, is to gently show how the unbeliever already believes to some agree, but simply is suppressing that belief (Romans 1). So one would seek to find ways which the unbeliever's beliefs and actions are inconsistent with what they say the believe, and are more representative of what Christians believe.

One example that I've used before is the fact that all people deem human beings more important than animals. This is because God has made us in His image. At some level, everyone does believe this, though not everyone of course profess this. In fact, folks will certainly say-and rightly so-that if there is no God, then there is no way that you can say a person has worth more than an animal, or mosquito for that matter. Human beings don't have an inherit worth because we all come from the same place.

However, no one really lives this way, because at some level, they don't really believe this. I've often said that if a pit bull and person are each fighting for their lives, guess which one will be shot first? The pit bull, because dogs have less value than people. Most likely, even a PETA member would shoot the dog before it killed the person.

Here's a story where this just happened. Unfortunately the dog wasn't shot earlier, or better yet, the dog wasn't the family pet, so the woman wouldn't be in critical condition with the prospect of losing her arm.

Now does this "prove" anything? No it doesn't necessarily "prove" anything. But it is an indication that folks can't really live out a Darwinistic world-view. Folks in some way do believe human beings are in some way created in the image of God and have inherent worth.Link

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

idols and spray paint

One of the things God has been teaching me lately-the Rays 11 game losing streak has been one of the vehicles-is to care less about the outcome of sporting events. Here's an example of some fans going a bit overboard after a loss, seeking retribution against the very player that cost "them" (as though they were on the team) the game. They've not attained to the level of soccer fans yet (they would have killed the poor lad), but certainly display for us a clear picture of hearts worshiping the wrong god.

When something blocks (in this case a fumble) us from getting what we worship (victory in football), we get angry. Sometimes we spray-paint, sometimes we bottle it up. One way to diagnose our idols is to examine what gets us really angry or depressed, regardless of how we act on it (cussing, spray-painting, harboring grudges, etc....). That anger or depression is often a sign that our life-line to the idol is being blocked.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

They need to hear this message! Should we pray for others?

The other day I in church I heard the word preached and found one small part of the message to be very suitable to a specific individual or two in the congregation. So I offered up a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit. I really desired for the parties to be convicted and return to the stream of living water instead of fetching water from broken and empty wells. Was this a wrong thing to do?

You may have heard it said before, "Don't think THEY need to hear this message, because YOU need to hear it."And that is true, but it is only partly true. It is true because I need to hear the gospel and its applications every week. But again, this is far too simplistic.

For instance, if a pastor is preaching on the importance of being regular in corporate worship (which we'll always preach b/c to be among God, His Word, His people is absolutely necessary-you won't grow if all three aren't in place), and someone who doesn't value coming to church hasn't heard this, then we ought to wish, pray for, and follow up with them. Or there could be someone involved in adultery, stealing, lying, and we should pray briefly for them.

Now here's the danger.

The danger in thinking that someone else needs to hear a message is that you can tend to think ONLY someone else needs to hear it, but that YOU don't need to. Even if I'm not literally unfaithful to my wife, I still commit adultery in my heart with lust, and all sin is described in general as spiritual adultery (Ezek 16:2, Matt 12:39, James 4:4). I should pray for myself when I pray for others.

One way to avoid what Jesus called "plank-eye"-at least I think he probably would have been cool with that terminology-is to see our own sin as of equal or greater value (sounds like a coupon doesn't it?). You may not be living in an adulterous relationship, but you do lust-you need prayer as well. You might be regular in worship, but that very often has nothing to do with Jesus-you need prayer as well.

So I think I was right in briefly praying for a specific conviction for a specific party while the word was being preached, because I also prayed for my own heart at the same time. If I had prayed for conviction for that party and NOT my own sin, then I would be guilty of Plank-eye.

So in summary, I believe it is OK to pray for conviction and for the Word to pierce the heart of those in the congregation, provided you also pray for conviction for yourself in that or another area.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Minor league manager and unselfish love

I would love to blog about a FSU victory over Miami today, but poor time management and a last second drop precludes me from doing so. Nothing redeeming to speak of about that game, nor the Rays who have dropped 6 straight games.

But I did hear a redeeming interview from the Rays Triple A Durham Bulls (minor league) manager Charlie Montoyo on Saturday. Managing a Triple A franchise involves a special kind of touch, since everyone who is playing for you, doesn't really want to be there. Their goal is to play in the big leagues, not one step below it.

Yet you could tell that the manager really wanted these guys to succeed. Success means advancement for one party, and loss for the other. What I mean is that to success means they no longer play for him and help his team go the Triple A play-offs 3 years in a row. Success means his players getting called up to a more glorious situation than being stuck in Durham.

Still, he found joy in their successes, even though their successes would cost him. That's love. He would be losing not only their relationships, but their skills, and they would receive joy and all of the benefits of playing in the big leagues.

That's the kind of love the gospel can produce in us: instead of jealousy, we begin to rejoice with others in their successes, even when it means loss to us. If ultimately one has already showed us love by taking on great cost in order to see our paramount "success/promotion," we can rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).

This minor league manager can teach us a lot about love.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Big vs. Small church? Not that simple

Recently Barna did a study on small churches vs big churches in regards to how orthodox each side really is. His results revealed mega-church members had more orthodox professions of the faith. However, here's an interesting blog post responding to the Barna study (from the pastor of a healthy small town church which has had huge affects on its community). In my opinion, Barna clearly has biases (house church), and I've heard him say he's really not a huge fan of the church in general. I think they really come out to play here, and this small town Baptist church pastor Chuck Warnock definitely agrees. Of course he posted first about this study, so I guess I'm the one agreeing with him.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Affirming and Critiquing Dawkins

We just finished up a video debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox in our community group. I asked everyone to think of at least one positive thing about both the atheist and the Christian. Fortunately we were able to generate a lot of positive things about Dawkins instead of just blowing him off because ultimately we weren't "pulling" for him (though he did have better arguments). It was a helpful exercise for our group to affirm what we could, before critiquing what we couldn't. We all concluded that Lennox probably would have been more affective if he adopted this approach.

Anyhow, click here to see a short video interview of another atheist who seriously critiques Dawkins and the new atheists.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Connar V. Ryan

Last week Amy and Connar spent a week in Virginia with her family. Here's a little snippet of what I missed while staying in Bradenton. Watching this makes me feel, just a little bit, like I was there. Connar dares to take on his cousin Ryan in an age appropriate U.F.C., 2 minute match for the ages. Check it out.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quarterback battle and the Sovereignty of God

Due to the fact that the Buc's offensive line did not protect my preferred QB Luke McCown at all on Thursday night, we'll be seeing Byron "the Statue" Leftwich as the starter on week 1. If we're going to lose all but 4 games-which is generous-I'd rather see this guy behind the line of scrimmage. Check out this snippet from his interview on dealing with the disappointment of losing out on the starting job:

"It is not easy, but again you guys know me. My faith and my opportunity lie in a sovereign God. That he has a plan for me specifically, and I'll lean on that. That makes it easy for me to go out and have fun, and have a great practice, a good practice, and be at peace with the decision. Because I feel like it is God's decision for my life. It is not really, not necessarily, me not winning the starting job it is just what God has for me right now. That makes it is easy for me to go out with peace."

My prediction (not something I'd prefer happen) is that "the Statue" will be hurt by game 4, and McCown will get a chance. No Buccaneer QB has started all 16 games in the last 7 years, so I believe he'll get his shot to start soon. I'm not a fan of his poise on "the pocket," but I sure am a fan of his faith.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Shipwreck Sovereignty and Responsibility

I was reading in Acts this morning and came across yet another passage in scripture which included the paradox of God's Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. Even though this dynamic doesn't fit neatly into our little logical grid-neither do the Trinity and love for that matter-we see these two truths affirmed throughout the bible.

When Paul sailed to Rome they hit some rough patches on the sea, and many thought they would die. So Paul affirmed them of God's Sovereign plan to save them:

"... For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.....(Acts 27:24-26)

So while they were affirmed of God's Sovereign plan to save them, Paul still gave them instructions which needed to be followed.

"Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.' Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go. As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. It will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you (vs. 31-34).

While God affirmed them of their ultimate safety, they still had to play by His rules. Since they hadn't eaten in 14 days, and would be soon swimming to shore after a shipwreck, they would likely not have had the strength to get to shore. I can't imagine doing any exercise after not eating for 14 hours, much less 14 days.

Yet another mix of Sovereignty and Responsibility that moves us to gratitude and rest as opposed to arrogance and fear, to action and inclusion as opposed to laziness and fatalism.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sin is more like Stallworth than Burress

I've already blogged on the seeming unfairness of Plaxico Burress's punishment of 2 years in prison for carrying a loaded unlicensed weapon. Most people who feel this punishment doesn't fit the crime tend to view this crime as only hurting himself, especially since Donte Stallworth got 24 days for actually killing a pedestrian while under the influence. However, Burress' crime was not shooting himself but carrying the weapon without permit, and one could argue that he truly did put others in danger-especially because the gun just "went off" (why the safety wasn't on, I don't know). Others could just as easily been shot.

Regardless where you end up on this issue-if you even care about the issue-it does remind me of the way many view sin. If sin does hurt someone, it just hurts yourself. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But sin always has communal effects, even those which never "leave" your mouth or body. When I harbor anger, I demonize my enemy and ignore a litany of his/her strengths. I also can't love my wife well and listen to her because of my anger.

When we lie to each other, we deceive and push our family and friends away. When we lust or engage in pornography, we are one step further in the direction of alienation to our spouse and brothers/sisters in Christ.
We value our spouse's and community's bodies and intimacy less because of our sin.

Isolation from community and the church, (the sin of "my religion is private" and I don't need to be a part of a church) sins against others by depriving them of your spiritual gifts, encouragement, and challenge. And you are depriving others of their opportunity to serve you with their gifts.

Ultimately, sin is far more than shooting ourselves in the foot, it's shooting others as well. It's more like Stallworth than Burress.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Would Jesus discriminate? Bumper sticker thoughts

I'm fascinated with bumper stickers. I wonder how much they really do say about someone. I don't know if I'd go with a bumper sticker again (I did have a cool Christian one in college) and a big redfish sticker-though the Christian bumper sticker included fish as well-that supported F.C.A. (formerly Florida Conservation Association). Fellowship of Christian Athletes people didn't really like that one.

However I digress, as usual. I saw a "Would Jesus discriminate" bumper sticker the other day and it did what I think bumper stickers are supposed to do: it made me think. Does Jesus never discriminate? If he does discriminate, on what basis?

Well certainly Jesus wouldn't discriminate today and show favoritism between rich/poor, Jews/Gentiles, men/woman, sick/healthy, self-righteous/"sinners." He didn't do it then. What a great reminder to all of us.

In fact, folks (I put myself in this category) who are often drawn to the fact that Jesus condemned self-righteous thinking and behavior often forget that Jesus still mingled and ate with such folks. He did not in some ways discriminate or separate or consider them not worth his time; instead he went to their houses for dinner (Luke 7). Yet we who disdain self-righteous thinking/behavior can quickly become self-righteous about not acting self-righteously, which results in discriminating against and withdrawing from those we consider as such. That's self-righteousness.

However on an ultimate level, Jesus does discriminate in some ways. He said that anyone who has the Son has life and anyone who doesn't have the Son receives God's wrath (John 3). And near the end of his ministry we see him pointing to the end of the age, where He will separate the sheep on his right and goats on his left. The sheep will inherit life, for they by faith have concerned themselves with those in need, and the goats on the left will receive judgment for they by lack of faith have ignored those in need. That's definitely discriminating.

Judging by other colorful bumper stickers on this person's car, I would dare say the latter discrimination may not have been considered. However, it is mandatory to see how
Jesus goes farther in not discriminating than we think, and farther in ultimately discriminating then we often think as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shooting yourself is worse than killing someone else

If you're like me at all, you want to see justice and punishment that fits appropriately with the crime. And you want to see lengthier prison time for worse crimes. Lately there have been several instances with NFL players, where punishments seem to me a bit flip-flopped at best.

Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the leg with an unlicensed handgun at a night club, and goes to jail for 2 years. Donte Stallworth kills a pedestrian while drunk driving and goes to jail for 24 days. Now different states, different lawyers, different judges lead to different conclusions. It just makes you long for a justice system with A fair judge, and A good lawyer, in a A good world with A good conclusion.

Twitching Leg, Ken Burns, and Spirituality

My left leg has been twitching every night for the last 4 or 5 days so I've been up a good bit later than I like to be. Since there was no cheesy SCI-FI movie on the SCI-FI channel (they're so bad they draw me in), I flipped through the channels and locked onto Letterman.

He had director Ken Burns, who has a documentary about the National Parks system coming out on PBS Sept 27th. It didn't sound as interesting as The War, but his comments were definitely thoughtful.

This joker seemed like someone I would definitely want as a friend. Nice guy, at least during the interview. Anyhow, he poetically spoke of the spirituality of the Grand Canyon as you "See the hand of God, as the river has been carving the canyon for a billion years." It reminded me of Psalm 19, where the heavens declare the glory of the Lord, and the skies the work of His hand.

Nature truly does point us to the God who created it (not the God who is in and a part of it, called pan-en-theism). Burns really challenged me to think more poetically about creation, and he's following good biblical precedent.

In addition, Burns mentioned that its not just about individual spiritual connection, but about sharing that park experience with others. Life experiences are meant to be shared, how much more should our spirituality be shared in corporate worship and in community groups? Nice common grace insights from Burns.