Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's Labor Day all about anyway?

But Monday already is my day off. Oh well.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dear George

The following is an email I sent to my father-in-law in reference to Sen. Obama's "Call to Renewal" speech in June, 2006. What do you think?


Dear George,

I've never been much of one for political discussions. Politics do interest me, but I'm driven by a different passion. I do applaud your mission to "educate the masses"; we could always use a greater dose of education.

When I first heard about Sen. Obama's "Call to Renewal" speech I only picked up on the news story that it had offended some in the evangelical camp, particularly Dr. Dobson. I happen to be one of those "Dr. Dobson doesn't always speak for me" people so I paid it little attention. However, your email and referenced video clip intrigued me to take a deeper look.

My first reaction to the video was it was disturbingly agenda driven. I don't care to engage those who are unable or are unwilling to take an objective look at things. The beauty and curse of today's internet media such as YouTube and the blogosphere is that anyone can say anything without any real sense of accountability. These are opinion pieces, not news; people often confuse the two.

So my next step was to look at the speech straight from the horse's mouth (regardless of who was the horse.) I found a copy of Sen. Obama's speech on his website ( I quickly discovered that the video was a bit edited and somewhat taken out of context. Here is the paragraph that the video referred to:

"Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles."

What is to be made of Sen. Obama's remarks? First of all I would tend to agree with his statement that "we are no longer just a Christian nation"; I would argue that we never were, but that's a debatable point depending on one's definition of the term "Christian." That response belongs to another discussion.

Second, if I understand his point correctly, I agree that we are on shaky ground to blindly adopt one leader's version of Christianity. I often encourage my congregation never to believe something because I said so, but to believe it because that's what they see to be true from the pages of Scripture. I am simply the messenger-and hopefully an accurate one.

Third, I whole heartedly agree with the last two sentences that "before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles." I agree with this not as a blanket statement, but as a pretty fair generalization. Of course we could argue what he meant by this; that what he meant by "read our bibles" is different from person to person. Nor do I claim to know what goes on in the private devotional life of every American. In my experience I have found that many Americans are simply biblically illiterate. I would guess that the percentages are only slightly better among regular church goers, but again I can only assume based on personal observation.

Perhaps a better way of saying this is that folks do not understand their Bibles. As a "professional" as you've so kindly deemed me, I believe that this is where I come in my role as a pastor-teacher. It is what I spent four years in seminary training to do. I am a tour guide for biblical wanderers. I want people to understand God's Word.

The first key is that the Bible is meant to be understood as God's Word not words about God. Again this is a debatable point, but one of my fundamental beliefs (I guess that makes me a fundamentalist) is that the Bible was revealed to us by God himself. I do not believe the Bible is merely a collection of men's thoughts and reflections upon God. Where one stands on this point I believe shapes every other view they might hold, i.e. it is fundamental.

The second key is that the Bible itself helps it's readers to know how it is to be understood. We are not permitted to put our own framework on the Bible to understand it as we will. I believe God has built into the Bible his own framework for understanding biblical truth. Most of us "evangelicals" would say that Jesus Christ is in fact that framework of interpretation. Here is what Jesus said about himself as that framework:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18)

The way we understand those "strange" passages in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and the Sermon on the Mount (which by the way is the context in which the above passage appears) is through the lens of their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Men much wiser than I have written volumes on these things; I hesitate to say much more and will instead yield to their expertise. This however is where I believe Sen. Obama and others who follow this line of thinking have taken a wrong turn. It is not only a lack of biblical knowledge on our part; it is also a lack of biblical understanding.

Unfortunately the challenge doesn't end there. The Bible describes itself as spiritual truth. The difficulty with spiritual truth is that it can only be understood by spiritual people. Many people describe themselves these days as "spiritual" but I would argue that relatively few understand what it means in the biblical sense. To be spiritual means to posses the Holy Spirit within. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired men to record the Scriptures in the first place, therefore anyone who does not have the Spirit can not understand spiritual truth. Only those who by faith in Jesus Christ through his saving work on the cross are given the Spirit of God. That may sound like an arrogant statement to some that we Christians have some sort of monopoly on truth. By God's grace all people have some knowledge of truth; they just fail to fully perceive it on their own.

You can understand then how difficult it is to ask the question "which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy?" We have access to truth to guide us, but many are incapable of knowing what do with the truth when they get a hold of it. We can attempt to guide our nation with Christian principles, but apart from Christ we will always come up short.

I imagine you weren't expecting a theological treatise when you sent me that email. My apologies; I'm a preacher, it's what I do. Like the old Resees commercials, your chocolate found its way into my peanut butter and we ended up with a mixing of our two worlds. Thanks for the opportunity to think through these things in words. Hopefully I've been able to return the favor after years of enlightenment from Professor George.

Take care,



If you can read this then I've managed to get w.bloggar to work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Between Two Worlds: Matthew/Mark Cornerstone Commentary: Free

If you use Libronix Bible Study software (or if you don't you should) you'll want to check this out. Between Two Worlds: Matthew/Mark Cornerstone Commentary: Free In case you missed it, the key word here is FREE!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

You can't be FAT without "T"

This past Sunday I preached from Proverbs 12:15-23. Just for a change of pace I thought I would share a few points on the blog this week based off of that message. The sermon audio is usually posted by noon the Tuesday following the message.

If you've been around Christian circles long enough, especially when there are discussions related to Christian leadership, you've probably heard the concept of being a FAT Christian. FAT stands for faithful, available, and teachable. It may sound a little corny but I've found that it is actually a very helpful model for understanding the qualities of good leaders.

Proverbs 12:15 (ESV) says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."

A wise believer is teachable. We are in great danger if we become so closed to what others have to say that we never allow ourselves to be challenged. Growing in wisdom is a process that is continually being formed and reformed in us. It is not a surprise that Scripture calls the one who thinks that he can go his own way independently of others a "fool". We need to be open to those whom God brings across our paths as teachers without prejudice lest we be found foolish.

In the book of Proverbs, the fool is one who is character is consistently stubborn, irrational and often lacking in moral character. How easy it is to find ourselves traveling down the way of the fool when we for example are locked into our particular theological system, or become prideful in our "superior" education, or simply find ourselves convinced that we've arrived and others have yet to catch up.

Lord, give us eyes to see and hears to hear what your teachers are trying to say to us. Grant us the wisdom to know the difference between what is right and what is right in our own eyes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

web 2.0?

Just like my last post, I'm wondering what some of your favorite Web 2.0 sites are. It seems everyday I stumble upon a new one. Today I found Remember the Milk, a task tracking site. Hmmm....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

which RSS reader do you prefer?

I'm just curious which RSS reader people prefer. Right now I'm using Google Reader and really like it. I'm wondering what others use and if there are features that you really like. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Like most people this week we've been watching the Olympics every night. It's amazing what these athletes are willing to do just to compete at this level. My own athletic career was hardly worth mentioning in the same paragraph. It was just something to do in high school. So I don't know if I'm impressed or mystified by the fact that these athletes eat, sleep, and breathe their sport every day. Sure, most of them are in their teens or twenties and they have their whole lives ahead of them. But personally I can't imagine devoting four, eight, even twelve years to one single task. I know competition is what drives them, but then what? When it's all over what comes next? Yes, they do what I could never even try, but given the chance I'm not sure I would. It seems that there is so much more to devote one's life to. Anyway, I think more swimming is on. Got to go.

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