Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Half of Two Cents: Random Thoughts From a Real Life Dummy

Change: Change is hard because it’s made of metal. Oh, the other kind of change is hard too.

Fundamentalism: Condemning people with scripture is probably not a good idea unless your name is Isaiah, Paul, or Jesus. And if your name is Isaiah, Paul, or Jesus I was talking about someone else.

Football: Thank you for existing and being the only good American sport left. And by “good American sport” I meant “sport”.

Liberal Theology: If your spiritual truth finds its value primarily in metaphor that is ravenously devoid of absolutes then thanks for saving the planet and feeding poor people.


Football: Fantasy Football is my new algebra. I try it again each year and never quite get it. Fail.

Tiger Woods: Congratulations on proving right everything the book of Proverbs says.

Preaching: That burdensome joy! You demand my all, get less than I have to give and yet out produce even more than you demanded.

Marriage: Isn’t it fitting that something so good and worth it would be so damn hard? And yet we are surprised by this.

Church: If it’s a drag then I apologize for the people like me who have not tended her well.

Fatherhood: If I get all else wrong, Lord, let it not be this.

Horror Movies: Since when did you start to be PG 13? Shame on you, jerk.

Excellence: Pursue it. But by all means, don’t achieve it on your own behalf. That’s just arrogance.

Mediocrity: If you are mediocre at something you enjoy- then enjoy it. Just don’t do it publically. Your
passion does not upgrade your mediocrity.

That's all folks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fear and Trembling

I sit in a coffee shop at the food court-esque lobby of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Kansas. I can see the live twitter feed from the National Worship Leaders Conference between two well-groomed faux hawks scrolling on a large flat screen TV on the wall. Brushed aluminum Mac Books as far as the eye can see. I blend in quite well save for my collared shirt and boring right to left hair-part.
A thought has been growing like seed in the bad soil of my mind since being here. And it is this: The aim of true worship finds it beginning and end in God and is concerned solely with His Glory. To that end worship is a response, not an initiation. It’s a reply to God’s perfect “Let there be… It is very good.” For worship to be an attempt at an appropriately weighty response to this GOD, it must find its birth in a true sense of our own diminishment. It is as though the King of Kings has called us into his court by name. We know we are not worthy to be there and yet there is nowhere else we can be. In front of that throne all at once we kneel blushed with shame and yet aglow with the irony that this King’s desire is to be with us. Fear and delight comingle giving way before the truth of holiness and the grace of love found equally in abundance before this triune King.
This week concern has turned to legitimate panic as I hear people speak of worship as initiative. Worship is planned for the people who are being invited to participate. The dominant concern seems to be “How can we reach the worshipper?” It seems that God’s glory has become an afterthought. We have made worship about us. People work hard at making worship palatable for the masses in the name of Jesus. Instead of humbly entering the throne room hoping to honor the king we have sauntered in with our heads high and have asked the King to play jester. Reach out to us. Bless us. Entertain us. Meet our needs.
In pawning this off as worship we sell costume jewelry to the masses and advertise it as priceless. We nibble on the scraps beneath the table calling it the banquet.
Liturgical churches do this by appeasing their masses with the comforting form of ancient liturgy seemingly unaware that we have grown illiterate to its language. Contemporary churches do this by calling "worship" something that is not much more than a marketing strategy to the masses in order to offer well intentioned help in the name of Jesus who, ironically, is the King they have just asked to play jester.
Lord have mercy on us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Re:told... A Summer Sermon Series

We’ve (the newly ordained associate pastor and me) begun a new summer preaching series. The series “Re:told” will be study of popular children’s Bible stories. Noah and the ark, Sampson, David and Goliath, Daniel and his 3 buddies… just to name a few. But we will put on our big boy pants as we look at these stories. They are memorable for kids because they are fantastic. But often, our understanding of these stories, their meaning, and their place in God’s word doesn’t grow as we do.

Did you know that of men involved in church there is virtually no discernable spiritual growth from the age of 20 to 60? This statistic is based on research (not mine) which sought to discover patterns of involvement within a Christian community or church, being proactive in spiritual disciplines like prayer and scripture study, the role of faith in life decisions, and growth in biblical and theological knowledge. That being the case, I can assume that most of the men in my church know as much about the story of Noah and what it means as the kids in our church do. And frankly, it is on me to make sure they don’t die thinking that the story of Noah is about a bunch of animals on a boat with a rainbow ending.

Basically, this sermon series is going to move our understanding from exhibit A to exhibit B. At least it will attempt to. Rev. Jon Tony kicked us off last week by teaching us that Jonah isn’t really a story about a man who got swallowed by a fish so much as it is about a God who desperately desires his creation to know him through a grace that is hard for us to live with.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Congregational Letter

To the Saints and Church Family of First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs,
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Exciting things abound in the life of our church for which those in leadership are very grateful. Many are coming to a fuller understanding of God and discovering more and more what it means to know Christ and to make Christ known. God is at work in our church!

Many of you may know too that the denomination of which our congregation is a part, the Presbyterian Church (USA), continues to struggle within itself. What some call a new move of the Spirit others deem as heretical. What some hold as essential, others see as having little or no value. There is always value in the struggle over what God’s Word says and means.

The most noticeable and vehemently debated denominational issue centers on human sexuality. A proposed change to our Book of Order appears headed for approval, which would replace our current ordination standards, requiring Deacons, Elders, and Ministers of the Word and Sacrament to live faithfully in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness. The new statement simply says that ordained persons must lead while “joyfully submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.” The concern is not in what the new language says, but in what it leaves unsaid.

These changes may garner national attention in the press because they omit a clear articulation of biblical standards concerning marriage and sexual ethics. However, these changes do not represent the conviction of the leadership of First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs or the Presbytery of Mississippi. Our submission to Scripture as God’s Word as our authority and its clear expositions found in the historic confessions of the church will continue to guide us in our leadership and define for us what it means to be the people of God in grace and truth in all aspects of our lives.

While the issue of human sexuality is in the forefront of our denominational discussion, it is by no means the root of our disunity. Weightier theological tenets like the authority and inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone have long been the points of great pressure at the seam of the PC(USA).

You can be confident that the leadership of this church remains undeterred in its goal “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We do this with an unrelenting pursuit of our mission to know Christ and to make Christ known to all people.

Many great things are happening at local and national levels with hundreds if not thousands of churches just like First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs even as we deal with this potential tear in our denominational fabric. A great thing will come of this eventually.

There are many who share our convictions and hope for the future of Christ’s bride, the church, and her part in the PC(USA). The Presbytery of Mississippi is discerning how to respond to this new denominational landscape, and many like-minded churches will be gathering in Minneapolis this August to discuss a way forward and discover together what it means to be faithful in the midst of the confusion many have about what Scripture teaches. The session decided to send Pastor Scott, Pastor Jon, and Elder Mike West to this meeting to be a part of this discussion.
In spite of this conflict within the PC(USA), we must remember that God is sovereign and works all things for his glory and the good of those who love him. God is still King, working in our denomination and calling us to faithful actions. These actions requires patience, prayer, and courage to discern God’s leading and direction for us as a church and as a denomination, as fractured as it may seem.

We are asking you to do two things as our denomination finds its way. First, we need you to pray.
- We ask that you pray daily for our congregation. Pray that through the Holy Spirit we might enjoy the unity of the body of Christ even though our denominational unity is tested.
- We ask you to pray daily for your church leadership. Pray that we might strive to listen and have ears to hear God’s direction for us in this time.
- We ask you to pray for an awakening. As we join with people and churches of similar conviction within our Presbytery and around our nation to look for a faithful way forward, pray that God would bring a fresh wind and fresh fire as the Holy Spirit moves to revive us.

Secondly, we ask you to remain committed fully to the life of our church. In staying committed to our church life as a family of faith, you are not staying committed to a denomination, but rather to a community of which each of you is a vital part.
- Stay committed to fellowship. Continue to meet and encourage one another regularly as a church family.
- Stay committed in giving of your self. Your time, your voice, and the gifts God has given you are vital to the good thing God continues to do here.
- Stay committed in your generosity and giving. We assure you that the money we receive will not go to support the denominational offices or affairs of the General Assembly of the PC(USA).

We are encouraged by your faith. We are humbled that through you the Lord has called us in to leadership for such a time as this. And it is our hope to glorify our Lord in the way that we lead this church through humble service.

Grace and truth,

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Hot Topic...

The "Family Life" sermon series I have been in for 4 weeks has garnered a lot of feedback.

Three weeks ago we looked at marriage and discussed the fact that husbands and wives are to be in a relationship of mutual submissiveness (Eph. 5:21-31). What I heard the most comments about was a statement I made concerning the wife's role. I said that the wife's place is not to approach the husband with two swatches of paint and say, "Which color should we paint the guest bathroom?" but rather to ask, "Should we paint the guest bathroom?" I closed the sermon addressing the husband's role of self sacrificing love for his bride. My two favorite comments were, "Well, you ruined my golf game this afternoon." and "I loved the first half of your sermon."

The following week we dealt with divorce looking at Matthew 19:1-9. I have never felt so uncomfortable preparing or preaching a sermon. However, it seemed to hit a spot that many needed to wrestle with. The hope of redemption and healing through the gospel was the lasting taste on the tongue it seemed.

Yesterday was the sermon on sexuality from Romans 1. This was a biggie. Through this text I dealt with a biblical view of sex. I received feedback from folks who appreciated how I addressed current denominational issues, the scars that come from sexual sin and the need for repentance and healing, premarital sex, and finally how Christian married couples ought to be having the best sex on the planet- and that there is no excuse for them not to be. My wife told me that a couple of women mentioned to her that their husbands brought up the "homework assignment" Pastor Scott talked about.

Many have asked if these sermons are on line. They are. However, the sex sermon will go up on 5/24. You can find them on our website. (By the way, our new site launches June 1- I'm so excited about it!!!)


Friday, May 13, 2011

Confessions of Orthodoxy

Being a pastor in a denomination that continues to drift further from my own theological convictions is no easy thing. On Tuesday a big shift within our denominational polity removed language that defined a sexual ethic for church leaders that was consistent with historic biblical orthodoxy and replaced it with an ambiguous statement that results in a conscience driven theology born from cultural conventions. People have reduced this shift from orthodoxy toward accommodation to being about "gay ordination." That's regrettable. But understandable.

Many within the denomination that are closer to my own theological convictions say that "we" should leave the PC(USA). Many within the denomination that are closer to my theological convictions say that "we" should stay in the PC(USA). I have no clue what to do. I just want to do what's right. But determining the right way in a sea of grey is no easy thing. Especially when no one can admit that it's grey.

To leave might mean being a part of something more pure- at least thats the way some speak of other denominational landscapes. By "pure" you mean trading our set of issues for theirs right? Some of the "leave" crowd make the pragmatic argument that they just don't want to fight about this anymore. OK. But we're still Reformed. We might as well have a pugilistic theological gene born from the loins of John Calvin. Wherever we go we fight. So give me a break on that one. Some of the "leave" crowd want to start something new altogether. A lot of them are jerks. If I start something new it won't be with you. See. I'm a jerk too. It'll never work. One good friend wants me to join the Eastern Orthodox church. No. For 7 good reasons and a couple of bad ones. A few others think that I should go independent and start my own thing by myself and just rock it solo. That actually fits my personality which, as you know, would be a problem.

The "stay" crowd that identifies with my theological convictions concerns me a bit too. Many of the stay people are within a handful of years from retirement and I know are thinking, at least in part, with their pension. I just wish some of those folks would bone up and admit it. I'm not even saying that one's pension is a bad reason for staying. I just wish you could admit it. It would help me listen to you. Some "stayers" talk about reform or restructure from within. So changing the structure within would help you sleep better at night? "OK. Let's not get divorced but you live on your side of the house and I'll live on mine. Jerk." Yeah, let me know how that works out for you. Some argue that we should stay because it doesn't really matter that much. Part of me admires their cool exterior. Part of me thinks they have gotten lazy, turned yella, and need to get out of the game because their fire went out.

Right now the song lyric "should I stay or should I go nowwwww? If I stay there will be troublllle... If I go there will be doublllle..." is going through my mind.

One of the difficult things is that I know faithful, godly people that represent each view above. None of them speaks for me. To many, their particular solution seems so simple. That alone let's me know they haven't walked a mile in my shoes.

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. I know what that looks like today. I just don't know what that looks like tomorrow.

Kyrie Eleison


Saturday, May 7, 2011


One of my preaching professors used to say "Find your voice." I understood why one would say that to a preaching student. But I never agreed with it.

The "voice" of a particular preacher ought to be subject to the ears of those to whom they have been sent. Preaching is not about the voice of the preacher but rather the hearts of the listeners to whom God has sent his Word. If I am preaching to a group of prisoners my "voice" will sound different than it does to a group of business people. In the same way that the Apostle Paul became all things to all people that he might save some, so too must the preacher.
Any given Sunday the preacher is called to be a teacher, a prophet, an evangelist, an exhorter, or an empathizer. Which one depends on what God is up to with a particular people. And to be the right one at the right time the preacher must first listen to the text and the Spirit before he imagines what it will sound like when he opens his lips. One's voice must become subject to the context of their calling.
We are not artists that choose our subject matter or presentation of it based on our whim or passion. If we do not die to ourselves before we step into the pulpit then we may have found "our voice" but have done so at the expense of the Word. Lord, save those to whom you have sent me if it is my voice they hear.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Disclaimer...

Because blogs are an insufficient medium for serious writing, please don't get on to me about grammar and spelling in your comments. Take this as a preemptive admission of 3rd grade grammatical work. In making a larger point I often forget about things like commas, I use ellipses when I don't know what punctuation to use, and my spelling died when I took phonics for 5 years in New Orleans with the Lutherans. Phonics gave me a love for words and no clue how to correctly spell them.

So, I has a grammar. It's just not that good of one. If bad grammar bugs you, this blog will probably not be your cup of tea. If bad grammar and poor spelling don't bug you, you'll probably enjoy this some times.


New Sermon Series

My new sermon series is called "Family Life". It will go for the month of May and culminate on June 5 when we celebrate Pentecost a week early and welcome new members, baptize some babies, and welcome our confirmation class into the church as members.

The series was pitched on Easter Sunday as a foot in the door with some of our C&E (Christmas and Easter) crowd. The idea is to do a short thematic series that will touch on issues affecting everyone. The Family Life series will cover relationships (May 1), marriage (May 8), divorce (Mothers Day May 15- I know, downer.), sexuality (May 22), and parenting (May 29). We are encouraging folks to invite friends who are not plugged into church to come and hear what the Bible says about these socially and culturally relevant topics.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Blog

A new blog in anticipation of a new season of life and ministry.

Rule 1. Keep it true (because the soul needs it)
Rule 2. Keep it clever (because bacon tastes good)
Rule 3. Keep it up (because that would be a first)