Archive for September, 2004

Students of the Word

Posted: September 28, 2004 in Everything

My eyes have glossed over many interesting words the last few weeks. One of the constants of graduate school is that you have more to read than you ever could. This is even more true when, like me, you are simultaneously serving a church full-time. But, alas, reading is part of the game when you enter ministry–what Fred Craddock called, “a lifetime of study.”

Interestingly enough though, much of the reading done in theology isn’t at all about upholding the Bible. In fact, much of it seems determined to disprove the claims of the Biblical text. Fair enough, believers need to be capable of mounting a rigorous defense of their faith. But what astonishes me is the copious amount of writings concerning the faith have so little faith themselves.

Guess what Mr. Dr. EgyptologistArcheoligistTheologianExcavationist, I never thought you COULD historically prove every event in the Bible. I never would have tried. Perhaps I’m naive, but I have always thought that faith actually meant FAITH. I’ve believed that at some point all of us–even those who choose not to believe in God–have to have faith that there was something in pre-existence. I’ve come to believe that trying to explain God, lessens Him. And it can’t help but lessen our experience of Him.

I think more students of God’s word would be wise to take head of these words of warning from Soren Kierkegaard: “If you are a scholar, remember that if you do not read God’s Word in another way (a faith full way), it will turn out that after a lifetime of reading God’s Word many hours every day, you nevertheless have never read–God’s Word. Then make the distinction (in addition to the scholarly reading), so that you will also really begin to read God’s Word or at least will confess to yourself that you, despite daily scholarly reading of it, are not reading God’s Word, that you do not want anything to do with it at all.”

My Personal Jesus.

Posted: September 24, 2004 in Everything

Today in history, Laszlo Toth, a 33-year-old Australian geologist, slipped into St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome as part of the crowd attending the Whitsunday Mass. As the faithful waited for the Pope’s blessing, Toth dashed past the guards, vaulted a marble balustrade, and attacked Michelangelo’s Vatican Pieta with a sledgehammer, shouting “I am Jesus Christ!” With fifthteen blows (one for each minute of his fame), he removed the Virgin’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids.

This bit of news reminds me that all of us, at one time or another, wants to be our own personal Jesus. Not many of us would be crazed enough to attempt to destroy a priceless piece of art. Or would we?

I wonder what it means when we try to run our own lives, to live as if we are the ones in charge? What damage do we do to ourselves and others, when we try to manage and control life, hoping that the world will bow to our will. I don’t know about you, but when I have tried to run my own life, the results have not been that good. I have often chiseled and hammered away at the people and things that were meant to bring glory and beauty to my life. Too many times I’ve tried to be my own personal Jesus.

When God created us, he did create a work of art. The apostle Paul, commented that we are God’s “workmanship.” The Greek word is “poiema,” which can be translated “work of art.”

The wonder of Michaelangelo’s Vatican Pieta is that no matter how chiseled and damaged, it remains a priceless piece of art. In the eyes of the world, the damaged caused by Laszlo Toth, has not diminished the Pieta’s beauty.

Fortunately for us, the damage we cause ourselves doesn’t change the way God sees us. We are still His work of art!

Now That’s A Wedding!

Posted: September 22, 2004 in Uncategorized

You gotta love Britney Spears. I have always had a special place in my heart for Britney. I’m not sure why. Sure she dresses a little, um, risque–what my mother-in-law would call “trashy”. And it’s obvious that the girl has never sang a live note in her life–she’s taken lipsyncing to a new level. I even saw five minutes of concert footage of her sitting behind a piano. We all know she can’t play the piano! But her weekend wedding is the best thing she has ever done!

She, and new hubby, Kevin Federline–who has recently had a child with another woman–were married this weekend in a quickie ceremony in the house of her wedding planner. (How much do you get paid to plan THAT?) In the wedding, the bride wore a strapless satin gown and the groom wore a traditional tuxedo. But that’s just the beginning!

After the five-minute ceremony, Britney’s maids donned hot-pink track suits emblazoned with “Hot Mama” on the back. Not to be topped Federline, and groomsmen draped on their own tracksuit which read “Pimp”, with Federline’s reading “Pimp Daddy.” And just when you thought the jumpsuits were the best part, for the reception, the couple served chicken fingers and ribs.

That’s AWESOME! It all goes to prove: “You can take the girl out of Louisiana…”

Don’t get me wrong, I was raised, for a while, in Mississippi. I’ve been to luxury occasions. Luxury meaning chicken fingers and ribs! I know where Britney is coming from. This is a wedding I can relate to.

I cannot, however, relate to her first wedding earlier this year. If you remember, Britney and Jason Alexander (a hometown friend, not ‘George’ from Seinfeld) were married in Las Vegas after a night of drinking and stupidity. 55 hours later the union was dissolved. At that vaunted occasion the bride wore a baseball cap and torn jeans down the aisle.

I know what you’re thinking: “Britney is classy.”

Oddly enough, though, Britney’s weddings makes me think of our relationship with God. One of the strongest metaphors in the Bible is that of God romancing us and taking us as his beloved. Unlike Britney, though, it is not a casual affair. He knows that we will not always take him seriously. He knows that we will turn and leave and run to other lovers. He knows that sometimes we make commitments to him, only to want to escape them 55 hours later. Yet he remains steadfast. He remains faithful, even when we are not. God is madly in love with you. He has chosen to be–to keep the metaphor–“married” to you.

I love these words from John Eldredge: “God created us for intimacy with him. When we turned our back on him he promised to come for us. He sent personal messengers; he used beauty and affliction to capture our hearts. After all else failed, he conceived the most daring of plans. Under the cover of night he stole into the enemy’s camp incognito, the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn…What he is after is us–our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our fears, our heart of hearts.”

Isn’t that incredible? God wants to be with you, not for what you can do, but just for you.

Now that’s a wedding!

Blog! Blog! Blog!

Posted: September 22, 2004 in Everything

Okay! I know, I know. I need to blog more often. For a while, I stopped writing as frequently because I thought no one was reading. Then some odd things began to happen.

First, I started to get emails from people regarding the blog. They were actually reading it! And they were responding to it. I thought the clicks of my keyboard formed words that slowly dissipated into an internet worm-hole. Who would have guessed that people were reading? I was really blown away when I began to hear from people that I did not even know. Talk about cranking up the pressure–now I had to write AND say something constructive!

Second, I was visiting with a group of ministers and they began to tease me about how seldom I wrote. Some told me that they referred people to the site. I was floored by that too. I thought, my mother doesn’t read the blog often, who else would?

But finally, last week took the cake! I was speaking at a church across town. I left early anticipating typical Houston traffic. Fortunately, I arrived on-time, early in fact. As I entered the building, I saw a bulletin board in the hallway leading to the worship center. There was one, lone posting on the bulletin board. You guessed it, it was an article from my blog. I joked with the worship minister that they had just put the article there that day, since they knew I was coming. He said, “Oh, no. That’s been there for a while.” “Wow!” I said to myself, “Okay, God, I get the message. People are reading this thing, so I need to write.”

So here’s my pledge. I will try to write more often, if you all continue to read. Don’t be bashful about dropping in a comment or sending me an email. Those things let me know that you are out there reading. Just be nice. On the occasions when my mother does read the blog, she should see good things about her son. A few times a week I while try and let the blog community know what I’m thinking and praying about. Feel free to share yourself too.

I hope you are all blessed by the use of this internet space. And I pray that God continue to touch your lives.

In Earnest

Posted: September 10, 2004 in Everything

Well, football season begins in earnest tonight. Sure there have already been a bunch of college games that count, pro-football too. The New England Patriots pulled out a great win against the Indianapolis Colts last night, but football really starts tonight!

“What’s happening tonight?” you ask. Florida State goes against the Miami hurricanes in the Orange Bowl (7pm Eastern). Those who know me well, know my great love for Florida State football. They are my team! Growing up on the coast of Mississippi there were two great things to root for: the Atlanta Braves–who were brought to us nightly courtesy of TBS The Superstation–and the closest good college football team, the Florida State Seminoles.

I been with FSU through a lot. We’ve won National Championships together, and we’ve lost them together. I will always remember FSU’s national championship win over Nebraska and unfortunately I will always remember the loss to Oklahoma. The one constant through the ten plus top-ten season finishes for my Seminoles has been head coach Bobby Bowden.

Some people criticize Bobby. They say that his Southern Baptist, grace-orientation allows his players to be too free and they wish he had a tighter clamp on his students. Others say he doesn’t really coach and that he’s really the CEO of the ‘Noles. Still some believe that he’s getting too old to coach a bunch of teenagers and young twenty-something. But I don’t! I love Bobby Bowden! Well, at least as much as you can love someone that you don’t really know and have never spoken with.

I was reminded of my affection for Bowden this last week. As many of you know, the state of Florida has undergone a massive torrent of rain, storms, and hurricanes over the last month. At present, hurricane Ivan is bearing down on Florida. If it hits Florida, it will be the third hurricane to make landfall there in just over three weeks. I can’t imagine the devastation and loss of property and life Floridians have experienced. Bobby Bowden can!

Coach Bowden lost his grandson, Bowden Allen Madden, last week in a hurricane related accident. Bowden Allen and his father–Bobby’s former son-in-law, John Allen Madden–were killed in an auto accident. They were hit broadside by a utility truck on slippery Interstate 10, skidded across the median, and slammed into on-coming traffic. Both were immediately killed. The grandson, Bowden, shared his grandfather’s love of football. The 15 year-old student played center at Chactawhatcee High School.

Unfortunately, it often takes devastating events like hurricanes to help us put life into perspective. I’m not sure how much the Bowden family cares about another win tonight as Bobby quickly approaches the college mark for the most wins. I’m not sure that I care either. I like football, but it is people we care for in earnest. Tonight, I will be once again cheering for Coach Bowden as I have done hundreds of time, but in a different way than I ever have before.

Tonight, not just my hopes, but my heart will go out to the Bowden’s. And regardless of which team you cheer for, I hope your heart goes out to them too. Go ‘Noles!

Lies We Believe

Posted: September 7, 2004 in Everything

I recently read this quick thought from Marsha Marks’ book, If I Ignore it It will Go Away and Other Lies I thought Were True. I thought you might enjoy it. The chapter is entitled “If God is pleased with me, I won’t have hard times.”

“A man named Jesus said he was God’s son. And once, when Jesus was on earth, people saw a dove come down from heaven and go to Jesus and a voice said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And it seemed to everyone who reported the story later that God was saying Jesus was very pleasing to him.

Yet, Jesus, as it is written, was mocked, spit on, beat down, and homeless, and he died in a place usually reserved for criminals, so I think that pretty much shoots down the lie that God won’t allow hard times to come to those who please him.”