Thursday, December 25, 2008

Romans 6

I am really wanting to get into Romans 6 with the guys at The Village. I was reading it tonight and so much stuff was jumping out at me. (Reading back over what I have written here, I want you to know that what I talk about in the next to paragraphs are not the main things I want to teach the guys at The Village, though the importance of baptism and sanctification are subjects that I expect to come up.)

First, the importance of baptism in the believer’s life was so obvious. Of course the denomination I grew up in teaches that one is not saved unless he is baptized and this nifty NIV Study Bible study note on Romans 6:3-4 says, “In NT times baptism so closely followed conversion that the two were considered part of one event (see Acts 2:38 and note). So although baptism is not a means by which we enter into a vital faith relationship with Jesus Christ, it is closely associated with faith. I look at that and say that those verses in Romans 6 and Acts 2:38 sure do make good cases that one is not saved if he refuses baptism and even further, the case that one is saved at the moment he is baptized and not before. The bottom line for me is that my teaching on salvation is going to come from the NT examples. So, if after I talk to someone about becoming a Christian he decides he wants to become a Christian yet doesn’t inquire about when he will be baptized, I need to go back to the drawing board and figure out where I went wrong. I guess I just picture it to be like when Phillip was teaching the Ethiopian Eunuch. After being taught about Christ from Isaiah 53, as the Eunuch saw water he wanted to be baptized.

The second thing that jumped out at me was the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Romans 6:10 clearly states that Christ’s death to sin was once and for all and Romans 6:11 clearly says that we are to count ourselves dead to sin IN THE SAME WAY. So, that leads me to think that it is once and for all. I have been struggling a lot lately with this doctrine. Some of my friends present the logical argument that if there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation then there is nothing we can do to loose our salvation. I do agree that it is not on the basis of doing good things of following the law hat we are saved and neither is it on the basis of doing bad things or breaking the law that we might possibly pass back from the kingdom of light back to the kingdom of darkness. I do think that we have to accept the gift of salvation and I tend to think that just as we can accept it we can later reject it, saying we never really accepted it in the first place or maybe we did accept it but now we don’t want to have anything to do with it. I feel like my friends would say that person never really accepted Christ in the first place but only tasted of salvation and it was like seed scattered on rocky, shallow, or thorny ground, it was never going to produce fruit. Maybe they are right about that, so I think that there needs to be balance. People that don’t believe in “once saved always saved” need to quit acting and living like their salvation depends on the last prayer they said rather than on the saving work of Christ on the cross that stretches forgiveness all the way to the beginning of my life and all of the way to the end of my life. It doesn’t just wipe my slate clean and it doesn’t just obliterate my slate. It obliterates my old slate and then gives me a new one that has the righteousness of Christ written all over it so tightly that there is no room to write any sins on it. My sisters and brothers that believe that all saints will persevere to the end need to be real with people who show no signs of sanctification in their lives. People who show no signs of sanctification in their lives need to be told that a person who is justified shows signs of the Spirit’s work in his life and if you are showing no signs that you intend on following him, especially if you outright reject his saving work, you might not be a Christian (and I guess they would follow it up by saying, “and you never were one”).

The connection between Psalms and Romans 6, especially what I want to teach the guys at The Village out of Romans 6, is the connection of sin mastering a person’s life that is found in Psalm 19:13. I want Psalm 19:13-14 to be the theme of this group. I love that paragraph, Romans 6:11-14. I think that is the elaboration of "live a new life" in Romans 6:4, even though the NIV Study Bible note says Romans 6:8-10 is the elaboration of "live a new life." I think Romans 6:8-10 is the elaboration of "as Christ was raised from the dead."

So, my blogging friends, do you agree or disagree with me on my Romans 6 thoughts on baptism and the perseverance of the saints? What do you think about the connection between Psalm 19:13 and Romans 6:14? Thanks for walking this road with me. We need Jesus and he has given each of us deposits of His Spirit. Therefore we need each other. We cannot travel this journey of faith alone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Romans 1

Having read Romans 1, I think Romans 1:1-2 really describes what we are trying to do at Tapestry. We try to show the good news of Jesus from all of the Scriptures. I recently had a friend from work come to Tapestry and he said that he had been to several churches lately and one thing that was different about Tapestry was that he heard a lot of hope in the sermon. That made me smile because I thought, “Hope is our middle name baby,” even though it is our last name. Another one of my friends from work was somewhat contemplating whether or not he was going to come to the sermon on divorce since he had recently been divorced and, I agree, he didn’t need to hear another “sermon” on divorce. The thing about Tapestry is that as I was talking to him I was able to certainly guarantee him that we weren’t there to shovel shame on sinners but to give all of the comfort and grace that Jesus offers. As a matter of fact, Tal had specifically told the rest of the worship planning team that he wanted comfort, comfort, comfort after the sermon. Now this doesn’t mean that we don’t call a sin by its own name. We do. But we also are transparent about our sins and our total dependence on the one that has put us in right relationship with the Father and is putting our lives back together as we continue on our journey here in this world and the good news that God loves you and that even though it may be difficult, he has a plan for your life. I am so happy to be in a church where I can be certain that hope in the good news of Jesus will be preached from every portion of the Bible. I love that hallmark of Tapestry. I just wish it wasn’t a hallmark of Tapestry but a regular part of the church as a whole. Romans 1:20 really stood out to me. Is that the cut and dry answer to the skeptic that asks, “What about the Crackatoans that have never heard about Jesus?” The cover story in the latest Newsweek is Lisa Miller’s article, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” She quotes the Anchor Bible Dictionary as saying that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women. Well I think Romans 1:26 is referring to sex between women. Is it not? Anyway, I'm not trying to jump on a bandwagon, I’m just telling you what I'm reading. Probably the most convicting verse of this chapter was Romans 1:32. It seems that it is worse for someone to approve of these kinds of wickedness than to actually engage in them. My prayer is that I never applaud, but always regret my sins and the sins of others. Are all of my sins, past and future, removed? YES. Even though God can use my most wicked actions for His glory, I still wish I had not sinned in the first place. One of my friends said he does not regret anything he has done. I wonder about that. I think there are things I wish I never had done and hope I never do again. Do I sit around and think about my sins all of the time? NO. I don’t live in the shadow of sin and shame but in the shadow of the cross where all shame is dispelled.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Religionless Christianity

I was talking to Casey earlier about this paper he is writing, which I hope he shares on his blog when he is finished with it...although his publisher might not like him giving it away for free. We were talking about Bonhoeffer looking forward to a “religionless” Christianity. In this religionless Christianity there would not be special words than only Christians understood and only used when talking with their Christian friends. I think a lot of times Christians say these religious words without giving any explanation as if no explanation is needed. I think people that just say it instead of explaining it in beautiful ways in which people that have never heard of it can grasp it really don’t grasp it themselves. Now I do realize that there are people who grasp it but never explain it in ways in which someone who doesn’t understand it, or has little understanding of it can actually grasp it too. These people need to wake up and realize that not everyone has had their noses in theological textbooks for the last 30 years of their lives. At the restaurant I work at, I can mention foie gras, show you that it is available as an appetizer and how it is part of the duck cassoulet but, if I cannot explain it to someone in a way that is going to make it appetizing to him, he isn’t going to buy it. The same is true for terms like “justification.” I can mention that in a sermon but if I never explain it in a way that, as one preacher says, brings the cookies down to the bottom shelf, people aren’t going to be really amped up about it nor are they going to be able to live in light of it or understand how sanctification is different from it. So, is a term like justification just religious talk? Can we find a word that embraces all that is true and good about “justification” but looses the technical term that so many people don’t understand? The thing is, computers have technical terms that have to be explained and medicine has technical terms that need to be explained, so maybe theology has technical terms too, terms that aren’t going to be understood unless you explain them and the thing to do is not change the term but just make sure you explain the term to people so they aren’t afraid of theology. I hate it when people say they hate theology. I especially hate it when pastors say, “I'm not theologian but…” Give me a break. All Christians should be theologians of some kind. I love what Vintage Church is doing with this concept. So, I think we should remove the technical terms as much as possible, realizing that they are not always helpful, but also realizing that sometimes removing the technical term is less helpful than keeping it. In those cases, the goal is to talk about the concept in a way that is inviting and creative and then say… “and that, my friends, is (insert your favorite theological term here).”

Why is this on my mind? This not only comes from the conversation with Casey but from reading some in McLaren’s a Generous Orthodoxy, especially the epilogue where he talks about not wanting to be called an Evangelical but rather an evangelical and chapter 19 where he explains why he is Emergent. More to come on those two things later…

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Theology on Tap last night

Life at Jackson’s Bar & Bistro is great. We have our worship planning meetings there, Becki and I meet Tal there for our counseling sessions, and of course we have “theology on tap” there. Good theology, good fellowship and good beer are what you can expect when you come to theology on tap. When we started going there about a year ago, we never thought it would turn into this. Almost every member of the front of the house staff comes up to our table on Tuesday nights to see how we are doing. Brett, Jessica, and Charles update us on their lives and they seem to really appreciate us coming in there every week. Brett even remembers when we put up the "free beer for your story" sign, something we havent done in quite a while. Last week the weather was great and the patio was packed. This week it was freezing cold…literally in the thirties…so the patio only had a few random smokers who would bear the cold to get that nicotine fix. We actually had to break up in to two tables last night which was what we knew we would have to do because it is so loud inside that having a discussion would be impossible. This week we hit excerpts from Penses by Blaise Pascal. He is already under suspicion just for the simple fact that he is a math genius but to top that off, he is French. Despite that, God has used him to kick us all in the nuts with words that were written down almost 400 years ago.

Foster sums up the chapter by saying that Pascal basically says that there are two contradictory principles at work in all of us: the greatness we have because of our creation in the image of God and the wretchedness we have because of the fall. He says that only Christianity adequately explains the contradiction and only Christ can lift us above our pride and lust.

Could it be that pride and lust are at the center of all sins? What do other religions have to say about our pride and lust? I don’t think they have much to say that is helpful. Buddhism basically says for you to get rid of all of your desires which as soon as you desire that then you have failed because you still have a desire. That’s a little like saying that there is absolutely no absolute truth. Islam gives you list after list of things to do in order to conquer your desires. Why are we full of pride and lust? It is because we are broken, busted people that are enemies of God just because we were born into it. The good news is that even though we are enemies of God, He still loves us and hung in there all the way through death in order to save us from ourselves. Though we still have to go down the road of sanctification, Christians can be sure that we are united with God and that is something the Enemy can never take away.

That is some of the conversation that went down last night. I thought it was a great night and I am so appreciative of the guys that were at my table. This is the most honest group of fellow travelers I have experienced. I love these guys. More of us Christian men should tell our brothers that we love them. Paul wasn’t embarrassed of it and we shouldn’t be either.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday night update

Check out Roger Cullins on NoiseTrade. He has a really good sound. I am really digging “Who Can Know Your Ways”

I just posted a bunch of Disney pictures on Facebook. Check them out and comment on them.

Part of fulfilling Beeson’s ministry internship requirements includes setting learning goals and having my mentor take me through certain action steps to show that I have made some tangible progress in these goals. One of the goals I picked was to work on my attitude. So, my mentor lowered the boom. He said that this is going to be an ongoing battle for me. He said that I will many times come across as arrogant and derogatory even if I don’t mean to. Well I guess that explains all of the times I thought I was being so innocent and Becki thought I was just trying to cut her down. And all of this time I thought the problem was with her. Imagine! The problem was actually me. I know this may come as a shocker to some of you, but we are going to just have to accept this and move on. So what do I do? I need to be intentionally watching for that. I need to get people in my life who have permission to let me know if my attitude is getting too sarcastic. You would think I would be offended at this but I totally wasn’t. It is a lot easier to accept criticism from a mentor when he admits his own faults and is as transparent about his fears and faults as Tal is. He even said he knew he could get too sarcastic and too far off making fun of people and that created an atmosphere, especially between me, Casey, and himself of being cliquish and arrogant at times.

Thanks for taking time to read.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ministering in the restaurant (part 2)

In the last restaurant post, I said that there was someone who I could really say was my enemy. I mean it. This guy seemed to be doing whatever he could to make me look bad at every turn as if it was his personal agenda for the day to make me have a bad day. I had been praying for him because Jesus says to pray for our enemies but then the craziest thing happened. All of the sudden we started getting along! He was super nice to me, we would actually have conversations, we would help each other out. People’s heads were turning. They couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. He started asking where I was when I was gone and even telling people that he liked me. It was crazy! A few weeks later I realized that I had stopped praying for him. Now he was just a coworker that was nice to me just like most of my other coworkers. Tonight changed all of that though. I don’t know what happened. It was like a switch was flipped. Man, this guy was all over me tonight. I made a mistake. It wasn’t a big mistake, as a matter of fact, I think it is a mistake that is made often but he was making a HUGE deal out of it. And of course, I was in one of those moods. I wouldn’t back down. We had it out in front of everyone. Well later, one of the other cooks was saying how he couldn’t put up with this guy and just wanted him to get out of his face tonight. Apparently my enemy turned friend had told this other guy that the Bible is…cover your ears children…this isn’t G rated…Bull seit. Replace the e with an h of course. This guy was all mad that he had said that. Now, I am objectively out of the situation and I am able to tell him that he needs to have patience with doubters like that. I am telling him that there are plenty of people that don’t believe the Bible is true and we have to be willing to be used by Christ to win them over to God. I told this guy that my enemy turned friend would probably be most affected by his witness so he needed to remember that. My how patient I am. All of this conversation is taking place in the back of the kitchen. When I go up to the front of the food window again, my enemy turned friend (I guess turned back to enemy) jumps my case telling me that I had made the same mistake again. He told me that I was a dumb ass and that I needed to learn how to do my job right. So, I told him, “I am going to pull out this ticket and we are going to see who is a dumb-ass.” So I pulled out the ticket showing that I had done right and he says, “well then someone back here is a dumb-ass because they didn’t tell me that this ticket was up.” Then he tells me that I was a dumb ass earlier because of the mistake I made. So I told him to look at the ticket and tell me who was a dumb ass now. All of that after encouraging this other guy to be patient with my enemy. And all of this in front of the other guy. Well, I guess he is back on my prayer list. Christians in the restaurant industry know how dark of a place it is sometimes. Almost anyone in the restaurant industry knows how dark it can be sometimes. We Christians have to be praying for each other and encouraging each other everyday. It is a high stress environment but we need to know that people are watching us to see where our hope lies. Do we get just as stressed out as everyone else? Where is that peace that passes understanding the Bible talks about? Do we get pissed when a table leaves a crappy tip? What does the Bible say about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil and what does it say about not worrying about what you will have tomorrow? If you are shining like a city on a hill then your light cannot be hidden.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Im not together but Im getting there.

I went to Chattanooga this weekend (unfortunately did not get a chance to visit those two beloved places, Ruby Falls and Rock City) because Tal was doing his porn presentation with Ruth Graham and Friends. He doesn’t like to travel alone, which is a really good idea because women at these conferences hit on him even though he is admitting his sexual sin. I guess somehow that turns some people on. So, Casey “Sea Bass” Hobbs and I went with him and I had a great moment with God as I read Thomas Merton’s book Spiritual Direction and Meditation later Saturday night in my hotel room. One of the most important things Tal talks about when he talks about the recovery process is accountability, which naturally includes the discipline of confession. I do not remember hearing much teaching, if any, on confession as I grew up in the church. There was not very much openness and honesty in the church I grew up in. Many priests and pastors have neglected this practice and do not have any practical understanding of how to take confessions or give spiritual direction to the penitent in order that he may avoid sin. As a pastor I want this to be one of the distinguishing marks of my ministry, that I not only preach and teach, but that I am loyal to receive confession from people in my church, am able to give direction and counsel for living in light of the gospel of Christ, and that I go into other churches and teach willing and able Christians how to give this kind of spiritual direction. So many Christians and even leaders are living a meaningless pantomime of perfection. This is precisely why so many sins have gained such a foothold in our church members and leaders today. The sin is kept secret and the secret feeds the shame and the shame feeds the addiction and the cycle goes round and round. How I wish this cycle would be broken and I believe the type of transparent spiritual direction Merton is advising, especially with novice Christians, is essential to robbing these secret sins of their power to perpetuate that cycle.

On page 27, Merton says, “ Even for a superior (What Merton means by superior is someone who has been maturing in the Christian faith for years, as opposed to someone new in the faith) a timely conference with a good director may resolve many apparently hopeless problems and open one’s eyes to unsuspected dangers, thereby preventing a disaster…In many cases the absence of direction may mean the difference between sanctity and mediocrity in the religious life…good directors are rare…If we really desire spiritual directors for our communities and for others, let us seek them. We can at least pray for this intention! He will raise up priests who will desire to give themselves to this kind of work, in spite of the difficulties and sacrifices involved. But there is always a danger that the priest qualified to seriously direct religious will be overwhelmed by the demand for his services.”

As I read Merton’s words, my heart was burning inside of me. I want to be that kind of director. Then it hit me that Tal is exactly that kind of director, even the completely overwhelmed part! God has me at Tapestry to learn this kind of ministry and to be able to go out to be this type of minister that is greatly needed. This ministry is not the glam youth ministry at a mega church that I wanted to do for years. At the Ruth Graham and Friends conference, Tal had 33 people in the first workshop and 36 people in the second workshop and that is if you count Tal, me, and Casey in both of them! Our church has about 30 people coming to it and Tal’s cell phone rings at all hours of the day with some addict he has never met and is probably going to lie to him for half of the conversation. And, he gets paid squat! In case you don’t know, squat isn’t a lot of money in Alabama. The conversion rate isn’t very good here.

I have been struggling for a few weeks about my position in ministry, my role at Tapestry, what I'm going to do when I graduate from Beeson and get married, and how the church down the road is swelling by the minute and Tapestry is barely filling the preaching lab. But this weekend, I laid in my bed thinking about our church, how Kellee McCoy was going to lead worship on Sunday, and how Tal wants to train me and Casey to do the ministry he is doing. I was thinking about how Kellee told me that he finally realizes what he should have realized all along, that he isn’t worthy to be leading worship. I started thanking God for that and then talking to God about how I'm not even worthy to hold the doors open as these wonderful, confessing, broken-but-in-repair people walk in the doors to our worship gathering. I said that I certainly wasn’t worthy to be breaking the bread and pouring the juice and praying over the communion element like I get to do so often. That’s when I started crying. God was giving me a wonderful, humbling vision for ministry and I think it is beautiful. It isn’t anything like what I thought it would be when I was going to Bible College and it certainly isn’t what I thought it would be when I was in high school but it is awesome and I'm so happy that I'm in the ministry position I’m in.

Monday, October 06, 2008

TOH Worship Gathering

Last night was amazing! I love being a part of this church. The whole night was a night of prayer, using the model prayer as a structure. We opened with some basic instructions, letting everyone know that we would be using the model prayer as a structure and telling them that after the Scripture was read to meditate on the phrase from the model prayer and pray out loud a prayer along the lines of that part of the model prayer if they wanted to. We used songs that went along with that section of the model prayer as bridges between the sections. There were some amazing responses to this. During the time of praying "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" conviction and repentance swept over that room like I have never felt before in any room. People were crying out for forgiveness and confessing failures. Tal challenged people to ask God to bless certain people in our lives that had wronged us. People all over the room were asking for strength to forgive people that they had been mad at and had been withholding forgiveness from for years! I was crying all night long. Some of the raw honesty that came out of some people broke my heart. As you will see in this lineup, we took sections from the Sermon on the Mount to go with each line from the model prayer. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the foundational texts for TOH.

Here is how we broke it down.

Song- Come and Listen (Marc always does a great job with this one.)

Our Father in heaven hallowed be Your name
Matthew 5:43-45
Time of Meditation
Song- How Deep the Father’s Love. (Alyssa Adalpe goes yard on this one everytime.)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Matthew 5:2-12
Time of Meditation
Song- Mighty Fortress (Casey and Jeanette stepped up to sing on this one.)

Give us this day our daily bread
Matthew 6:25-34
Time of Meditation
Song- The Air I Breathe (play through communion)

Communion Marc spontaneously sang a verse from Amazing Grace here. We always use the words from the book of common prayer as we explain the bread and wine. I normally say something about communion not only being a way to remember Christ but a way for us to realize our commonality in the body of Christ across the room, around the globe, and throughout time. At TOH the communion table is open to all who follow Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation. We tell people that they dont have to be a member of this church of any specific denomination but just be a follower of Christ to partake of the Lord's Supper. The one giving the Communion devotional says that in this we proclaim the mystery of our faith. And we all say together, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." There is a great song by Charlie Hall on his new album that says "Celebrate His death and rising. Lift your eyes. Proclaim His coming." I love that.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:14-15
Time of Meditation - As I said earlier, this was a deeply confessional time of repentance for many in the room.
Song- Jesus What a Friend for Sinners (A great hymn. We just sang the first verse and the chorus.)

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
Matthew 5:38-42
Time of Meditation
Song- Feels Like Redemption (A Michael English song that is right in Marc's wheelhouse.)

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever amen.
Matthew 5:17-20
Time of Meditation
Song- O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (DC*B arrangement)

I think this was "a very Tapestry" worship gathering because we were seated in a circle with the communion elements and the cross at the center, we had a lot of overlap between songs and Scripture, we heard the gospel proclaimed in many different ways from many different voices as different people prayed and different people stepped up to the microphone to read the portion of Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount, and there was a single thread of thought that ran through the whole gathering.

This was an awesome night where I was just so honored to see God through the things we had planned. I really think God uses our worship planning team when we get together and focus and pray and seek Him on what to do for the week. Before we got together Wednesday, none of us had ever seen this done or had any idea how to pull it off. Now, I think it was one of the most meaningful worship gatherings I have been a part of. I love this church and I am so humbled that God would let me be a part of its leadership team.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little Joke...Little Laugh

My buddy Travis sent me this. I thought in light of the recent happenings in the nations economy, we should be aware of these stats.

If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now
be worth $49.00.

With Enron, you would have $16.50 left of the original $1000.

With WorldCom, you would have less than $5.00 left.

If you had purchased $1000.00 of Delta Air Lines stock you would have
$49.00 left.

If you had purchased United Airlines, you would have nothing left.

But, if you had purchased $1000.00 worth of beer one year ago, drank
all the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling refund
you would have $214.00.

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink
heavily and recycle.

This is called the 401-Keg Plan.

Tuesday at Jackson's Bar & Bistro

The weather was great tonight on the patio of Jackson's Bar & Bistro. I enjoyed a Good People Brown Ale and half of a steak sandwich which I only got because Rob was raving about how good it was. Our topic of conversation tonight was from Gregory of Nyssa's chapter in Devotional Classics. It is an excerpt from his most famous work "The Life of Moses." One of his main points was that we are to look at the people in the Bible and take encouragement from them, seeing how they lived the virtous life. I guess if they can do it, we can to it. One of the greatest comments tonight came when we got on the issue of living a perfect life. Some guy had asked Greg what he thought the perfect life is. Greg hem hawed around and finally got to the point that it is impossible to attain perfection since perfection is not marked off by lmits. How would one arrive at the sought for boundary when he can find no boundary? So, someone asked if we can live a day without sinning. Of course, this question has bounced around in my little head before because, coming from the CofC, there is some tendancy, especially in those who are very rigid, to believe that we indeed can purposely and knowingly live without sin for a period of time. One of the verses used to back up this position is 1 John 2:1 where John says that he is writing these things so that they may not sin. Even just looking at it just then I think the context is obviously showing that John wanted to warn people against a particular sin, that partictular sin being (ironicly enough) saying that you are without sin. As we kicked that idea around a little at Jackson's, we said that there would be no way for you to even go about that with the right motive. As soon as you set out to go a day without sinning, you have already sinned because you are wanting to put the spotlight on yourself and your ability to go without sinning for a day. So, you lost before you even get to the starting line (Tal quote). We talked about various other things such as fearing the Lord and the responsibility of teachers of the Word and what to do when someone asks you to pray for him. I love this group. We missed a few folk tonight but hopefully they will be back next week. Pray for me as I contemplate starting my own TOH men's group and look to encourage some female to start a TOH women's group.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Christianity Worth Believing 3

Chapter 14 was short and sweet. The main point I gathered from it is that all of us are at some point no longer integrated with God because that is what comes along with the territory of living life on earth but we should not be defined as people by the misdeeds we do and our disintegration from God but we should live to be fully integrated with God, eradicating any sin that springs up in our lives because we can.

As I read this chapter over again I see so much Tapestry of Hope stuff in it. On page 169 he says, “When we think of sin as disintegration, as the unraveling of life and goodness, we hold on to the hope that there is healing and integration, that a life can be woven back together from the threads that remain.” YEAH! I fully believe that. Going to church with registered sex offenders, a guy currently out on bond on a sex crime charge, pornography addicts, and alcoholics, I have seen God do just that. He has taken us, and not only woven my threads back together, his threads back together, and her threads back together, but he has woven my threads with his threads and her threads and we as a faith community come together as a marvelous display of God’s beautiful restoration and creativity.

So, once again I really like where Pagitt gets with this chapter (the main point as I gathered it) but I still don’t see why depravity theology gets kicked out. I think depravity theology is straight up theology from David in Psalm 51 and from Paul in Romans. I'm not one of these guys that believes in the five points of Calvinism or the million points of Calvinism (a la John Piper) but this is one of those things that seems to me to be too straight forward to ignore.

On 163 Pagitt says that hope is missing from the legal model. Whenever he talks about the legal model I think about the metaphor of the judge who steps out from behind the bench to pay our debt. I totally see hope in that. I hope in the fact that because I am an adopted son that the judge is my father and he actually already has paid the price for my sins when Jesus went to the cross and I don’t have to do anything to get him to come out from behind that bench. All I have to do is accept the payment and I get to live a life of freedom. That sounds pretty hopeful to me. If one is seeing (in that metaphor) that the payment is not being made until after we die and are in some kind of cosmic courtroom waiting to see if we are really going to make it into heaven and escape the flames of hell then I think that person is really missing the point of the gospel. I, unfortunately, thought like this for years but like I said in the last post, Jesus didn’t come to give us a get out of hell free card. He came to be a savior once for all and today. He came to give us a live life to the fullest invitation.

Pagitt, you make me think. On page 165 he says, “We were talking about how the story of fallenness would suggest that Alice, even in her sweet little four-month-old body, was capable of only evil because she had not been baptized, but that Laura, who had been baptized and was an active believer in Jesus, would be thought of as the one who was less influenced by sin.” On first reading I thought, “That is ridic! I don’t know anyone who thinks like that!” But I read it again and actually that is certainly how our boy Augustine put it and it seems to be the way it gets taught a lot today. That is a good one for me to chew on. I immediately think of how when the Israelites rebelled in the wilderness only the ones over 18 were sentenced to not enter the Promised Land. So, somehow the evils committed by children are not as offensive, or at least don’t get the same punishment, as evils committed by adults? I have been thinking here for a while and this is a pretty big hairy deal. Basically the way I see it is that I am created in the image of God but because I am a son of Adam there is no way I am not going to be disintegrated from God, no matter where I live or who I grow up around because I am sinful from birth.

I don’t see babies as full of evil and myself as freed from sin and growing in goodness. Obviously Jesus saw children as a role model of faith so there is something that even believers can look up to in children. The thing I disagree with is the thought that we could possibly avoid a kid being screwed up by sin. I believe we are screwed up by sin from birth. The systems, hurts, and patterns of our world do create FURTHER disharmony with God and one another but I think we are already in disharmony with God from the time we are born. Illness and sin are here and get more and more prevalent as we continue to live our lives in our decaying bodies but I don’t think living life on earth creates illness. Certainly it can but illness is found even in babies before they are born.

I love everything in the rest of that section (166 and 167) and I love the stories about Chico but just because I still see some truth and worth in the judicial model and I believe in the fallenness of mankind doesn’t mean that I think it is unchangeable or that humanity should be pitied. The legal model doesn’t drive me to despair and self-loathing or improper fear of God(I do think there is some proper fear of God. Is it because I hold to some of the legal model and some of the disintegration model that I feel that way? Am I cherry picking the legal model and therefore think it’s not all that bad?

In the end, I believe that we are more than our misdeeds and struggles. We shouldn’t say that humanity sucks because we were made in the image of God and God said it was very good. We all need to remember what it feels like to be the sad and the bad and minister from our wounds. Through Christ I can be who I was originally created to be – the wonderful, valued, image-bearer of God.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Christianity Worth Believing 2

So, I wake up this morning and see that I have a response to my blog post from last night. Either Mr. Pagitt himself has somehow found my blog or someone is playing a great trick on me. Wow, what an honor to have the author of the book I am blogging through comment on my blog. I guess I found a couple of people to dialogue with. Thanks.

I am just going to jump right into chapter 13. You aren’t going to understand any of this if you aren’t reading the book yourself. I'm not taking time to set up my comments for those who aren’t reading the book. Here goes…

“There is a debt to be paid, so Jesus comes along and pays it on our behalf. This blood atonement is the restitution laid out for our crimes. For many Christians, this is more than just a metaphorical way of understanding sin; it is a synopsis of the gospel” (150).” That is a really unfortunate place to be in. When we put rules over relationships like the Pharisees did with the Sabbath, we have taken God’s law and made it into a rod to beat people down rather than something to revive the soul.

I agree with Doug on page 151 when he says that he is not convinced that the judge stepping out from behind the bench metaphor is the best model for understanding the way sin affects the relationship between God and humanity. But I ask if we should totally get rid of it. For starters, I don’t see that it hamstrings God. Different from judges in America and different from city councilmen, the laws God is following were created by him, one who has infinite foresight into the future outworking of these laws and infinite goodness so that he is not making these laws for the benefit of some and the detriment of others like so many zoning laws do. Really, I don’t even think God is following rules. He is just being himself but we can’t understand someone being himself and being that unchanging because the only time we are that straight is when we are following the rules perfectly. So, we assume he is following some cosmic rules that are above him when he in reality is just being himself. No doubt that some people, even though they would never say they believe this, are living in theological constructs that are outworkings of a thought that makes God subservient to some cosmic rules. I can totally see the danger Doug is talking about here. If the gospel I am preaching starts and ends with God as a judge, then I am not giving the whole gospel. I am leaving a lot out. I love the quote from Willard about vampire Christians who need Jesus for his blood and nothing else. Christianity as a pessimistic, evil-obsessed religion of sin management is not Christ centered, God partnering, life at all. In fact, it is very self-centered. At our church, we say all of the time that Jesus did not come to give you a get out of hell free card. He is a savior once for all and today. I love the way a video (Welcome to our church) we show sometimes says it. That video says that Jesus didn’t come to give us a get out of hell free card but that he came to give us a live life to the fullest invitation.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is suggesting a different way of living for his followers but I don’t see it as having nothing to do with the legal system I think it is showing us that following God’s laws is about what is going on in the heart because what happens in the heart is what dictates what happens in the hands. This doesn't negate the legal system but gets us to the roots of our problems before they become full blown ourworkings of our hands. The religious leaders in Jesus' day (and today)were so worried about what the hands were doing and they paid no attention to what the heart was doing. When we focus totally on what the hands are doing is when we begin to get out our point scale for sins and this is where things begin to really get nasty.

When people talk about point scales for sin (making some sins count more than others) I think they have gone into the territory of the Pharisees, thinking that some people are beyond God’s usefulness and forgiveness. But this is where I begin to see beauty in the doctrine of depravity. In it, there is no point scale for sin. It’s not the individual sins that make us enemies with God. It’s the fact that we are sinners that makes us enemies with God. There is no point scale for sin. No matter what the sin is, no one is ever beyond God’s usefulness or forgiveness. I think Jesus hung around the prostitutes and tax collectors for many reasons. He wanted to show the Father’s compassion on people that the Jews seemed to have little compassion for. He was living out Micah 16:8 by showing justice, mercy, and humility. Among many other reasons, I think a huge reason he hung around them so much was that they were crying out that they needed God in their lives because without him they were hopeless wrecks.

I think that one of the metanarratives of the Bible is that we are hopeless wrecks and we need God’s help and grace in our lives. I see this especially in Genesis 3. Humanity had one rule. ONE. What did we do? We broke it. We are helpless to do it on our own. We need God.

On a separate point, what do we do with Romans 5 saying that we were once God’s enemies? I think humanity was created to be God’s partners but we became God’s enemies. God was not slow in showing us that we had become his enemies but just as quickly as he showed us that we were his enemies he showed us that we didn’t have to stay that way. He offered a way for all of humanity to be blessed and he used Eve to give humanity that blessing. There is a relationship between God and humanity that is not broken. The Holy Spirit works on our hearts to pull us closer to him. The Holy Spirit shows us our sinfulness but he also shows us the path to righteousness and life in the kingdom of heaven.

I agree that its not the breaking of some code that is the problem of sin. It is the twisting and distorting of humanity’s relationship with our creator that is the problem. Like Switchfoot says, “We are meant to live for so much more.” It is because God is not distant and far off but intimately calling me by his Spirit that I know that. The point made on 158 – 160 is beautiful stuff. We can envision life without sin and that is why it frustrates us so much. I never thought of it that way. This is it. Life as a Christian shouldn’t be thinking about punishment for those who we have fractured relationships with and who have fractured relationships with God. Life as a Christian should be about seeing how God is going to use me to repair relationships with others and repair their relationship with him.

That’s funny. I like the overall point Doug is got to in chapter 13 but I don’t like some of the things said on the way there. Doug seems to be fine with the end result of the desperation for God created by the theology of depravity but he doesn’t like some of the things done along the way (and hey, I'm with you. I don’t like some of the things in the heavy Reformed circles either).

A Christinity Worth Believing 1

I just finished page 144 of A Christianity Worth Believing. Pagitt says some wonderful things and some things I really have questions about. Hopefully I can find someone who will dialogue with me about this book. It seems like the main point of this chapter is to leave “the depravity” version of the creation story (The version taught by most Protestant churches, the more Reformed the more prominent, that says that because of Adam’s sin we are separated from God and out of relationship with him) and embrace the hope filled version of the creation story that he sees (God created man in his image and lives in relationship with his creation, longing to see them partner with him in his work in the world and that did not change after Adam and Eve ate the fruit.)

As he talks about what did happen as a result of the fall he says on 135 “Their state of being did not change; their DNA didn’t change; they were as naked as ever, but suddenly they saw it as a problem.” If their state of being did not change then why does Romans 5 talk about the rest of humanity being screwed because of Adam’s sin? If noting changed inside of them then why are they now going to die a physical death? I think humanity’s state of being is very different than it was in the Garden of Eden. I don’t think God is on the other side of the chasm waiting on me to come to him either. I fully believe that God is using all kinds of people, even people that do not want to be used by him or even believe in his existence. It feels like Doug is saying that I cant believe that all humans still have the image of God just like Adam and Eve and still believe that we are seriously flawed and messed up and different from Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit.

I am also very concerned about this whole language of partnering with God. At firs it was ok but as he continued to hammer it in chapter 12 it looks more and more like business partners with equal investment and power. I believe that all in the kingdom of God are to be carrying out God’s mission in the world (being creative, spreading his love, sharing the fruit of his Spirit). I just believe that it is not me + God doing these things but God through me doing these things. It is God carrying out these wonderful things. Not me. Romans 15:18, 19 and 2 Corinthians 2:14 seem to be clearly teaching that it might be my physical mouth or hands doing a good deed but it is actually God who is doing it.

He says at the end of the chapter that chief end of man is to live like God. He says this in opposition to the statement that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Is living like God different from being like God? It seems as if Adam is banished from the Garden because he is being too much like God. Too much and not enough at the same time. Even so, I still see living like God as a means to the end of glorifying God. I agree that we need to be like God in many many ways. We are living as his sons and daughters. I don’t think God would use that metaphor to describe our relationship if he didn’t want us to grow up to be like him.

So, I have said these many ways in which I question the point Pagitt is getting to but I do want to say that I am really enjoying this book so far. He is saying some really beautiful things and he is saying some really insightful things. I am really excited about the Church Basement Roadshow coming to Birmingham. In case you don’t know, it is Saturday, July 26 at Disciple’s Fellowship. It is 10 dollars in most cities but it is being underwritten in Bham so its free!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Light of Christ in the Darkness of the Restaurant Industry 1

For years I have been struggling to live as a Christian in this world, especially in the particular industry I have chosen to make a living in while I go to school, the restaurant industry. We are a different kind of people. Most of us stay out late, party a lot, drink a lot, and do a lot of drugs. Notice the consistent use of the word a lot there without much variation. The movie “Waiting” pretty much sums it up. It doesn’t matter if it is Macaroni Grill where we had 30 servers or Brocks where we have five servers, we are pretty different from your average 9 to 5 bunch. Scott, one of the chefs I worked under at Brocks, said that the restaurant work is one of the toughest environments to stay pure. I am not quoting him exactly but I wish I was. He was such a quotable guy. In my first week of work there he said, and I do quote this from memory even a year later, “There are some necessary evils in the world and my mouth is one of them.” I laugh out loud again just thinking about that day.

So, hopefully this will be the first of many posts about what life is like trying to follow Christ as I work in the restaurant industry.

I was listening to Rob Bell, one of the most fantastic preachers I have heard, from his sermon posted on iTunes on 4/26/2008 and just got smacked. It is good when God smacks you with something good like this. I recommend this sermon to all of my Tapestry people (because this is just great Gospel driven stuff) and all of my Beeson friends (because it is great Gospel driven stuff and I think he is preaching up your alley), especially those who like to throw my boy Bell under the bus. Mars Hill Bible Church MI is going through the book of Philippians, VERY SLOWLY. Its great!

In this particular sermon, Rob is preaching on Php 2:3-4 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. He is hitting on some great stuff, but at 28:30, after talking about the trinity loving together and being in harmonious creativity inviting us in, literally pulling us into it, he starts really getting into this word, “others.” He says, “Its not look to those and serve those who you like, those you normally hang with and its kind of fun to serve them. Essentially the flow of the argument Paul is making is that the one soul, spirit, love, and mind will be encountered in orienting yourself around others. If the trinity orbits and encircles each other and serves each other, then we should serve others in the same way. We should mimic this serving in the trinity by serving others.” He then throws out the name Karl Barth (this guy can hurt your feelings, or simply make you have a man crush on him) and quotes him as saying, “What Paul is getting at here is that the strange, the different, the unintelligible, the subjective aspect of my neighbor, is the garment in which the one thing meets me.” As Rob goes along, he asks if I have anybody in my life that matches the words strange, different, the unintelligible (the person who drives you barking mad), the subjective aspect of a neighbor (man you have to be a German to use a word like that. This person doesn’t know how I set things up to operate and does not function objectively how he universe is supposed to work).

Immediately someone from work pops to mind. There is this guy who I feel like makes it his personal goal for that day to make me wish I had never come to work and maybe wish I had never come to life. Its always something with him. He talks about me nonstop and nobody can or does do anything about it! He breaks down teamwork more than anybody I have ever worked with and he drives everybody crazy. And to top it all off, this guy’s name is the name that Becki wanted to name our first boy. Get that for irony. But then, it hits me. Ugh. Rob explains, “The one thing he was referring to is God’s grace. If you want to truly understand what it means for God to have enveloped you in his grace, peace, forgiveness, hope, and light, then orient yourself around the strange, the different, the unintelligible, the coworker, the person who absolutely sends you out of your gourd. Circle around them and in your frustration and pain of trying to serve them and love them well you will be face to face with what it means for God to have embraced and loved you in all of your strangeness, difference, and unintelligibility. That person who most gets under your skin may in fact be the garment of God’s grace that is coming to you to bring you more fully into the love of God. If I could actually even learn to take one step to circle the interests of that person it would be a step into understanding more fully what it means for God to love and accept me. If I could learn to not hold their past against them, maybe I would come to understand what it means for God to not hold my past against me. Maybe if I could take one lap around them with all of their flaws, I would better understand the God who embraces and loves me in spite of all of my flaws. The OTHER, the one in your midst who most rubs you the wrong way may in fact be the grace of God coming to you, saying I drive you nuts and I am an invitation for you to understand the Trinitarian nature of the universe all the more fully my friend.”

Rob continues to quote Barth, “The claim my neighbor makes on me, on my patience, attention (“oh not again”), consideration (“I would prefer to ignore this”), on my love, is the claim of the one thing. We discover respect for each other, not on this ground or that, perhaps without any grounds, counter to every ground, simply because we are bidden when looking at our neighbor to think of the one thing, of grace.” Rob says, “It is the most frustrating and maddening dimension about this person that is God’s invitation to enter more fully into the grace and peace that God has extended to me. The degree to which this person draws out of me and demands of me things that absolutely infuriate me may in fact be the claim of the one thing and may be God’s grace.”

Wow. So, there it is. The big old gauntlet thrown down by a one two punch of the Holy Spirit brought to me complements of the tag team of Rob Bell and Karl Barth (those two should never be allowed to team up again). There is unmistakably a person in my life who is my “other” to a T! So now I start praying for God to allow me to show him mercy and grace and for me to get the benefit of experiencing his mercy and grace more fully. I have some more thoughts on how this is going but I will save that for my next work post. Surely we can change something.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Well, as i typed in the address ( I thought to myself, "Im not really that much of a blogger." But, I will tell you that I have been reading a lot of blogs and I even got my feet wet by subscribing to some blogs and putting them into my google reader which I can easily access from my Blackberry. So, blogging world here I come...again. This Sunday at TOH we are going to be continuing in our series on Questions and Doubts with the question of what to do with anger at God. Tal and I had a really good conversation about that today. I will probably wait until after Sunday to post the contents of that conversation because (not that I really think anyone is reading this) I dont want to let the cat out of the bag as to where he is going. I really had that about the deductive preachers that hand you an outline (especially those really predictable fill in the blank ones where you can get an 8/10 before the sermon even starts) and then give you a mini version of the sermon during the first five minutes. Im sitting there wondering why I should listen to the rest of it if I have already heard a five minute version and I have the outline which tells me all of the important stuff anyways.

What do you do with your anger toward God? Is it ok to be angry with God? Is there a difference between being angry at God and hating God?

Check out this picture i will probably use as a graphic during the sermon.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Questions and Doubts at Tapestry

Hi everyone, I posted an episode to my podcast, Tapestry of Hope.

Click this link to check it out:
I Sometimes Doubt God Even Exists

- Tapestry of Hope

Friday, May 30, 2008

more of you in my life

this phrase kept coming out of my mouth as I prayed tonight. I got up, googled it and found this video. It really ministered to me over just what I was praying about. I hope it ministers to you.

In case you missed it, the quotes on the screen were from Smith Wigglesworth. Have you ever heard of Smith Wigglesworth? What have you heard about him? Let me know in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keeping busy

That sounds like such a noble statement doesnt it? Im just trying to keep busy. Or, you have to keep busy. Of course we have all see those stupid...well I shouldnt call them stupid...just poorly misled...bumper stickers that say, "Jesus is coming so you better look busy." That is the thing...we are all too busy. On Memorial Day I was too busy playing with my new Crackberry to spend time with my girlfriend and friends from church who were just a few feet away from me. Too busy. And its not just Crackberries that keep us busy. We have been too busy for years. Even the great Jonathon Edwards talks about the business that was abundant in his life time when he says, "When we look at the world we see that people are exceedingly busy."

So, people were busy in the early 17oo's and we are still busy today. What drives all of our business? Edwards says it is our affections and I tend to agree with that. Our affections have gone astray and we have gotten busy with lesser things. Like CS Lewis says, its not that we dont have enough passion but our passions are too low! I dont even know what affections have been leading me but I do know this, in the last week I have been reminded of the fact that my affections are way out of kilter (whatever that means).

My friend John Robert Dobbs passed away last week in a tragic accident. He was a kid in the first youth group I was youth minister over and his Dad, John Dobbs, is the person who hooked me up with the Presidential Scholarship to Magnolia Bible College (I must give some thanks to my boy Gary Kirkendall too) which is what has led to me now working with Tal at Tapestry of Hope and finishing my M.Div. at Beeson instead of going down the road to pursuing my BA in finance and my MBA. So, I have a lot to be thankful to John for and we used to be really tight buddies.

As soon as I heard the news I sent out an email to about 30 people I thought to be people of prayer and I started praying to God (the God of all comfort) for him to give comfort to John and his family. I realized at this point just how disconnected I had become from my good friend John. And I thought to myself, "I should go down there for the memorial service." But I didnt. I should have, but I didnt. I dont know why. I have read blog posts by people from Tulsa, OK who were there but I didnt make the trip from Birmingham.

John Robert was a wonderful kid. Most of my memories of him are from when he was a young kid in the 5th grade. Some of the pictures I have seen of him are of him leading worship and he looks so different, so grown up. I hate that I missed all of those years with him. I really hate it. It is truly my loss. I dont want to loose the precious time I have with those who love me, those that I love. God has given me the gift of friends and I need to invest in that gift wisely. Its not that Im asking for more time with them, Im just confessing that I have wasted the gift of time God has given me. I dont want to be wasteful anymore.

Where have my affections gone? I dont know, but I know I dont like where they are. I love this man (John Dobbs) and I hope I get to spend some time with him really soon. I hope God opens up that door for me. I need to be asking, seeking, and knocking which is what Im going to do right now.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

April 6, 2008 at TOH (Clean Sweep)

We talk a lot about addictions at Tapestry and we believe that a lot of us (maybe every one of us) are addicted to something whether we admit it or not. We might not look like it like the bums (that are bumming off of other bums) in 5 points but us folk (me included) that live in the Bluff Park suburb of Hoover have addictions too. At Tapestry, we believe in the validity of the 12 step program for addiction recovery and on the first Sunday of every month this year we are taking a biblical look at one of the 12 steps. This being the fourth month of the year, we are looking at the fourth step which is "taking a fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Here is some of the stuff you wouldn't know just by listening to the sermon.

We have this idea that people need a place where they can settle down and connect with God. At TOH we open the doors to the worship space at 15 til but we ask that people enter in an attitude of prayer and meditation. We have the foyer area set up with coffee and snacks as an area for people to hang out and talk about what is going on but we ask that every one keep their conversation outside when they enter. This is something we have been trying for a few weeks. Some weeks I feel like it goes over really well and some weeks I wonder if anyone saw the sign or cared about the sign. On the days when it happens I really think the room feels different and worship just seems...well...better.

Propmtly at 5:05 we started it if off with a TOH classic video "The Breastplate of St Patrick." Next, yours truly, that would be me, played what might go down in TOH history as one of the worst vids yet. Notice I didnt say graphics...I said videos. Ok ok...I thought it was funny when I saw it on Youtube...and I thought it was funny the second time I watched it...but it just didnt fit after having everybody enter in a spirit of worship and meditation. I dont know what I was thinking. Teresa Prince did the welcome (excellently) followed by reading Psalm 111.

Marc Phillips brought this awesome violinist with him that rocked the house. This week we put four songs together with this video in the background. Next, we had three people stand and read Scriptures (Jeremiah 17:9-10, 1 John 1:8-10, and Psalm 4:4)back to back. We really believe in the value of the public reading of Scripture. This is something that is every worship service we have. We are kind of liturgical in that way. Marc led us in one more song and then we showed "Spoken Word: Woman At the Well."

During the sermon I showed several pictures from If you havent been there, check it out and check out Drew Marshall's interview with the creator of postsecret. Be careful. Some postcards you might think are OK to show probably arent. If you are like me...or if you ARE me...get a censor for this.

Tal led us in a time of reflection, beginning to make that moral inventory and then we focused on the forgiveness that we have in Jesus as we moved into communion.

This being my first time at writing about this I probably didnt do as good of a job as I wanted to do. But it is what it is.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


No Country For Old Men got me. It got me more than any movie has gotten me for a few years now. When I say it got me I mean that I have been seeing images of the main villain in my head. One time when I was walking to the steps of my basement to go back up to the kitchen I imagined that Chigurh might be standing there waiting on me. (I know that sounds freaky…but hang with me) For some reason he didn’t have either of his trademarked weapons with him when I imagined him. I imagined asking him why he didn’t have his weapons with him. Then I realized this wasn’t a conversation I needed to be having so I put him out of my mind. I can’t remember the last time a movie got to me like that. This movie got Becki really good too but I can remember the last time a movie got her that good…movies do that to her. I can normally realize that movies are just fictional stories, especially when I know the actors in it but there was something just too mysterious about Anton Chigurh (played by Javier Bardem). I thought at first it was something about the fact that I have never seen Bardem in a movie and so his character seemed more like a real person since I didn’t know anything of that face other than the character Chigurh. After watching the bonus material I realized that a big part (probably the biggest part) of the fear that Chigurh incites comes from his mysteriousness. We don't know where he came from, exactly why he was there, or where he is going to. One of the most interesting takes on Chigurh is when someone called him a homicidal lunatic Sheriff Bell said he wouldn’t describe him as a lunatic but as a ghost. Why did he describe him as a ghost? I think It’s because Chigurh was unlike (not just unlike but way beyond) any earthly evil he had experienced before. In one of the few dialogues of the movie, an old man in a wheelchair (Ellis) asked Bell why he was quittin’ from being the sheriff. Bell's response simple. He was overmatched. Was he overmatched? There’s no doubt that Bell was overmatched. His entire staff was overmatched! There was no way they were going to catch Chigurh or stop him from doing whatever he wanted to do. Sheriff Bell...I know the feeling. The Bible makes it clear that we have an Enemy that wants to take us down and take us out (1 Peter 5:8) and that this Enemy is more than even the angels can handle (Jude 9). So to say that I'm overmatched by the devil is an understatement. I’m way in over my head. I can’t fight him on my own or even with my accountability group but that’s what I do and I get bloodied up every time. Some feel so overmatched that they may want to retire from this world because this world is no place for any men (old or young). Because you are putting your body and your soul at hazard when you say, “OK. I will be part of this world.” Alone, I know I'm overmatched. But guess what…(whispering voice)…I'm not alone (1 John 4:4)…and really…when all of the chips are pushed forward…my soul is just fine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Free Beer For Your Story!

Last night was great! The “Men O’ Tapestry” finally put up our “free beer for your story” signs. Why did we do that? We did it because people want to tell their stories, even if it is to a stranger, and we at Tapestry want to hear their stories because we believe everybody’s smaller stories are part of God’s larger story and we want to help people see that and start living for the larger story. The first two times I said to someone, “Tell me your story”, we got into really deep stuff and I had a great opportunity to tell them about the Gospel. Of course this time I was hoping for “greater things than these.” Last night was different though. Last night we just listened. There never really was that wide open door to share the gospel but we are laying the foundation. We heard three real stories (mainly surface stuff) and one outrageous story about the time this guy got drunk at Tiki Bob’s, walked six blocks back to his car (where he passed out laying across the driver’s seat and the passenger seat with his feet hanging out of the driver’s side door), and woke up in the fetal position in the passenger seat with a homeless person driving him around Southside. From now on, as we are doing our study of Blue Like Jazz, I think we are going to have the "free beer for your story" sign up and anybody that wants to can come over and share their story at anytime. Next Tuesday, Casey and I are going to stay at Jackson’s until we close it down. Last time we did that we talked to “the couch surfer” whose real name I can’t remember right now...probably because it wasnt nearly as interesting as the fact that she surfs couches. That was the first time Sea Bass and I really teamed up in a conversation for the Gospel and it was beautiful. If you know Sea Bass you know that we pretty much only agree on one thing…Jesus…anything else is uncivilized. Oh the hopes for the future of Tapestry...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Theologians Dont Know Nothing About My Soul

Monday night Sea Bass and I went down to Mob town to see WILCO! We first heard about them in Blue Like Jazz...and let me say...TY very much Donald Miller for introducing us to them. One of my favorite Wilco songs is Theologians. Most of us at Beeson Divinity School are aspiring young theologians, to use a term I first heard eight years ago in Kosciusko Mississippi and only this year did I realize that the beloved Helmut Thielicke was the one who wrote the book Coker and I got that term from. It used to be said that the main function of the preacher was the cure of souls. Are we still in that business? Do we know anything about souls - let alone the cure of souls? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what the Lord has prepared for those who love him.” So, obviously nobody knows anything about what God is going to do in the lives of people, so no one knows anything about the cure of souls. Wow. That sure sounds hopeless. But, look at verse 12. But. Now this is a really big but. I love that word, especially when Paul uses it. Almost every time Paul puts his big but in the middle of a sentence things turn out good. I mean, it looks like it is going to be bad, really bad, and then Paul sticks his big but in there and says, “God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” This word search can mean to search out or to investigate. When used in the sense of animals it means to sniff out. This is probably why many have called the Spirit the hound of heaven. The hound of heaven is sniffing out your soul but the question still remains. Do we theologians know anything about people’s souls? In Revelation 2:23 in the NIV Jesus says, “I am he who searches hearts and minds.” That word the NIV translates to “minds” (and know that I'm an NIV kind of guy…so I'm not bashing on them) is only found once in the NT. In the LXX (The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) it is found several times, most commonly translated as “kidneys” (Ex. 29:13; cf. 29:22; Lv. 3:4, 10, 15; 4:9, Dt. 32:14). It is translated metaphorically in PS 138:13 as “inmost being”. This is not the brain that the Lord is searching but something much deeper. One writer said that the kidneys are where we filter things out and this filtering system is the part of us that the Spirit looks deeply into because it determines what stays and what leaves our bodies. We have the Spirit of Jesus living inside us, the same spirit that Paul had but what are we doing here to grow in that? Because as I see it, any class here that has the word Spirit in it is pushed to the realm (the ever shrinking and hard to get into realm) of “electives.” Electives? If the class has the word grammar, syntax, translation, exegesis, history, or theology in it, it gets pushed to the front and center and made a “requirement” and a “prerequisite.” I don’t think I want to be known mainly as a theologian because as Wilco says, “theologians don’t know nothing about my soul!” I want to be known as a curer of souls! What do you want to be known as?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

One of my profs said today, "I dont celebrate those Roman Catholic Holidays...just to show how Protestant I am." Do you think that'll go over well with Becki? haha. Well, this Valentine's Day I dont have to go to work (for like the first time in like 5 years) but Becki and I are not doing our big Valentine thing until next week. You see, the first few years I couldnt do something with Becki on Valentines Day because I had to work at the restaurant...well...lets just say my little girlfriend didnt like not celebrating the traditional lovers day on the traditional lovers day. But, by the third year, we had established our own tradition...that we would celebrate Valentine's Day the week after Valentine's Day. So, a new tradition was started. But this year, when I told my love that we could actually go out on THE ACTUAL VALENTINE'S DAY what did she say??? She said, "Thats not our Valentine's Day. Our Valentine's Day is the week after." So, I have set the reservations for next Wednesday and tonight we dine at Chic Fil A. I gotta love my little "STJ". Here is a vid from the great people at We run some PS stuff during the our worship gatherings at Tapestry sometimes...and it can get a little dicey. Have a great Valentine's Day and dont't forget to call 1-800-1BISHOP Sunday, March 2 between 8:00 and 9:00 central standard time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Office

Since the strike is still on full force, why not admit that you reall are addicted to the office and join this group for addicts. It is not really a recovery group per se, but a way for you to feed your addiction until it takes over even more of your life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Leader Of Our Company

Thank goodness it is not Ossama Barack or whoever it is...haha...inside joke. Oh boy...the joys of the first day of school. I just sat through a class where we actually read out loud the entire syllabus. I stayed up really late last night studying for a Hebrew quiz and we didn't even have the quiz today. Doesn't that suck!? I did get a free lunch in the Global Center and carry the flag in the processional for today's service of chapel. Man I looked like a tool. No pictures were taken...sadly.

Time at Starbucks and O'Henrey's has been good. Now on to Jackson's for a little Blue Like Jazz! How I go to church w/o getting angry.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Do do da-do do da-do do da-do-do...

My Dad will probably tell me that I am going to burn out from blogging to much. He is probably right. My lovely gf and I watched Juno Friday night after we ate at Prairie Fire Grill. That link I gave sends you to the IMDb site but you should really check out the official movie website too. There are some super sweet things on there for you homeskillet! Oh man...and check out wikiquote's Juno page! Juno was great. I think I give it a 5/5 stars. I say "I think" because this whole stars thing is new to me. I quickly give it 5/5 because I'm already ready to watch it again. Be watching for a future post on how the gospel is portrayed in that movie.

School starts back Tuesday and I have'nt touched Hebrew ANY over the Christmas break. OUCH! But, to easy my pain I get a free meal (since im in the SGA) tomorrow night with the newbie Divinity Schoolers. Possibly a few future Tapers of Hopestry in there...who knows?

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Lot of Trouble (I Got Trouble All Over Me)

Im listening to Wilco, Sky Blue Sky right now. Good stuff and hopefully I will see them in Mobile (my hometown) in a few weeks! So, last Sunday I preached at Tapestry. That was a scary thing and an awesome thing. I didnt have my boys Tal and Casey there with me but I had the support of my wonderful gf, Becki Moseley, and my boys Clint, David, and Kaelan (still celebrating 27 years of Kato). I must give kudos to Clint for doing a good job keeping up with me as he went through the Mediashout presentation I made, Becki for doing a great job with the welcome, Kaelan for doing all of those little things that Casey normally does, and Steve Wingo (Wingo Star) and full band (featuring our very own Barry Paige (possible sp)) Here are some of the things I did with the sermon, including the pics and vids for you listeners that want to know what was going on.

You can listen to the sermon in several ways but the best is to go to the sermon page on Tapestry's website. From there you can download it into itunes and listen to it from there.

I got this video from It ran during the introduction and as the background to the three Scripture readings we had (Matthew 25:31-40, Luke 5:27-32, and Mark 10:17-22) and the Scripture references during the sermon. I felt like this was a good video to get people thinking about what title they give Jesus. As I started my sermon, this video was playing and whenever there was not anything else I wanted up there, I had this playing. One of the biggest things I wanted to get across in this sermon is that some people (probably everybody at some time or another, even me, even dedicated Christians) come to Jesus as just a teacher or someone who has a quick fix for their problems but we need to come to him, falling at his feet, as the ONE we have waited for, the ONE with all of the solutions to the trouble we face.

This is the Derek Webb video I showed at the beginning of the sermon.

This is the picture of Becki's nieces I showed

This is the self portrait I showed

This is the Tomlin vid I made to close the sermon and move into communion.

Communion is a very important part of what we do at Tapestry every week. We are kind of traditional in that way. It is probably one of the only ways we are traditional. I love that community and we would love for you to come be a part of what is going on there.

How do you see Jesus? Who are you waiting for? How can you be part of God making everything right on the earth?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Great Day to be Alive

Today has been a great day of relaxation. I REALLY slept in today. I guess that means I will be up really late tonight. I watched three more episodes of Six Feet Under which I still love then I went over to Becki's and we watched Home of the Brave. Home of the Brave was OK. I guess I give it 2/5 stars. It's main strength was the portrayal of how the different characters were getting back into the patterns of normal life after their tour in Iraq. It really makes you think about how tough it is when soldiers come back from war. Last night I watched Death Sentence. I think a lot of people will not like this movie but I really appreciate the honesty that is in it. A lot of stuff is really stretched, like how all of the sudden Kevin Bacon's character, Nick Hume, goes from being someone that knows nothing about guns to being a tactical genius that can chase down people while reloading his shotgun and spitting BA lines of intimidation at them The honesty is over the fact that revenge gets you nothing. All of the paths of revenge that the people took in this film just led to their own destruction. That is totally the Bible's teaching on revenge. For some reason, as Tal always says, we don't trust that God is going to take out the vengeance on evil that He promises to take, so we don't let Him do His job. The vengeance I can take out on someone will never be as full or redemptive as the vengeance that God takes out on evil. I am on my way to hang out at J Clyde's with some buddies. What things do you not let God handle and in doing so ruin everything in your own life? Can you connect Kevin Bacon to Six Feet Under and Home of the Brave in six steps or less?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I will be preaching this Sunday at Tapestry! What am I going to preach on this week you ask? The same thing I always preach on! I will be using a video from Sermonspice in the sermon and I look forward to using more vids from them. This website is a great place to go for a wide range of videos from a wide range of producers. I will let you know how Sunday went.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Is He present in a very real sense in my life?

I just read a great article in Golf Digest on Tiger Woods that has a lot of commentary on his father’s role in his life and what has changed after his father’s death. The author, Jamie Diaz, quotes several times from Neil Chethik who says that after a father’s death, sons that were close to them start to do things to connect themselves to their fathers and integrate their fathers inside themselves so that the father can still be around. Diaz says that in Tiger, Earl Woods is still around in a very real sense. The first thought in my mind was how our Father in heaven lived through His Son and how after Jesus’ death the Father can live through us who have His Spirit. Chethik said that sons do things that connect them to the memory of their father. They wear their father’s old clothes, use their old tools, read their favorite books, and listen to their music. What am I doing to connect with my father? I ask that question thinking about my earthly father (who is still alive and well) and my heavenly Father (who BTW is very alive and very well too). According to Chethik, men who were close to their fathers often achieve their greatest accomplishments after their fathers are no longer physically present. This happened in Jack Nicklaus’ career and it is happening in Tiger’s. The Bible is satiated with statements of the superb things we will do with the Spirit’s presence in us. The sad thing is that I really resonate with what Chethik says when he says that the process of connecting to the father is a healthy process that tends to wane in intensity in about 18 months. 18 months huh? That’s 540 days. I normally wane in intensity in about 5 days and I know I'm not alone. My Father lives through me and I can do great things because of that but I need constant encouragement to be doing the things that connect me to Him so my communion with Him is deeper (same goes for my communion with my Dad in Jackson, AL). Diaz sees Earl Woods’ presence in a very real sense in Tiger’s life. I pray that people see my Father’s presence in a very real sense in my life. So...may the heavenly Father’s presence be very real in Tiger’s life and in your life and in my life.