Friday, March 30, 2007

Bono...almost a Jedi Knight

Read this on the other night, I laughed when it wrote that Bono is a Knight! Enjoy...

Bono a British knight; Don't call him 'sir'
POSTED: 9:26 a.m. EDT, March 30, 2007

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Irish rock star and global humanitarian Bono became a knight of the British empire Thursday -- and joked that his youngest son thought he was about to join the Jedi order instead.

"You have permission to call me anything you want -- except sir, all right? Lord of lords, your demigodness, that'll do," Bono, 46, told reporters after he was crowned a "Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" in an informal, laugh-filled ceremony in the Dublin home of British Ambassador David Reddaway.

Reddaway paid tribute to Bono's work as a campaigner against poverty and disease in Africa -- but first asked whether Bono was disappointed that becoming a knight no longer involved a sword or kneeling.

"Please, I wasn't expecting you to kneel," Bono said, his hand on the ambassador's shoulder.

Accompanying Bono were his wife, Ali, their four children -- Jordan, 17; Eve, 15; Elijah, 7, and John, 5 -- and two of his U2 bandmates: guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton, both of whom were English-born and retain British citizenship.

Bono's two boys sat cross-legged on the floor throughout the ceremony. Bono said John was disappointed that his dad was not presented with a Star Wars light saber.

"He thought I was becoming a Jedi," Bono said.

Because he is an Irish citizen, Bono is not entitled to be called "Sir." That honor is reserved for citizens of the United Kingdom or British Commonwealth countries. Ireland left the Commonwealth when it became a republic in 1949.

Bono has been criticized in some Irish nationalist quarters for accepting a British honor at all.

But the Dublin-born singer, whose real name is Paul Hewson, dismissed this as ridiculous, given the unprecedentedly warm relations today between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

"I think Great Britain is great," Bono said. "And Irish people support British football teams. And Irish bands sign British record labels. And Irish people speak English.

"And we even have one (Englishman) in our band," Bono said, referring to Clayton, who came to Ireland at age 5 but retains something close to an English accent. The Edge, real name Dave Evans, came to Dublin from London at age 1.

Bono -- who sported lapel pins for two of his previous European government awards, the Legion d'Honneur from France and the Order of Liberty from Portugal -- said such official accolades "really help me get through a few doors I wouldn't get through. And that's the truth; that's the way the world is."

Bono said he originally was not planning anything special for the day he received the knighthood. But he said Monday's surprise power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland between Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had inspired him to throw a party at his billionaire's-row home in Killiney, south Dublin.

"I wasn't going to have even a bit of a do. I was going to slip in, keep it very quiet," he said. "But when I saw big Ian sitting down there with Gerry Adams I just thought: This is the end of an era but the beginning of a much better one."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Here's Eli!

Here's a handful of pics at Dupont Hospital with some family.

Finally, the three of us can cuddle together! We've waited what seemed like a long time to hold Eli in our arms.

Emma, Levi and Isaac love their little brother, Emma is showing Eli the card she made for him.

Eli is a very peaceful sleeper, especially in the arms of his Daddy and on the shoulder of his Mommy.

This is our family! On Tuesday morning I brought Emma, Levi and Isaac up to visit Momma and Eli. It was an interesting visit, but that story is for another post. Papa Ger and Grandma Rozer joined us for the morning, and later on Uncle Jerm, Aunt Maria, Eva and Lydia stopped by for a bit.

This is the coming home outfit we bought for our little guy...except it's already to short on him. It's a premie, which was plenty long for our other kids. Poor Eli is scrunched in what is otherwise a very cute fuzzy outfit.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Welcome to Our World, Eli!

Today we celebrate the birth of our baby boy, Eli Martin Hallman!

He was born early this morning, March 26, at Dupont Hospital in Fort Wayne, 12:40am - he weighs 7lbs 11ozs, and is 21in, and has lots of black hair like his daddy and big sister!

Tara did wonderful, she is so strong and determined; delivery went quick and everything went well.

Emma, Levi and Isaac are glad for their little brother, and they look forward to teaching him lots of stuff...

Eli shares a middle name with his Daddy; Martin is my grandfather's name - I never met my mom's dad, he died of a heart attack while mom was a student at Huntington College. But I hear lots of stories about him, about what a great dad he was, especially after his wife Verona died while mom was in high school. We wanted to honor him and his impact on my mom's life, and my life.

Eli also shares a birthday with his Uncle Matt. Eli will only know his uncle through stories, just like me and my Grandpa Stucky. We love to tell stories of my brother Matt, and now it will be even more fun to celebrate his life, as we celebrate the birth each year of our son Eli on Matt's birthday. He would be 29 this year. Miss ya Matt...miss ya Ben...

I'll post pictures later tomorrow, or later in the week.

Thanks for the prayers and love and support!

Welcome, Eli!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Note from Tabbie

Here's a note that one of our missionaries sent us. Tabbie serves in Vietnam teaching English. At the end of the note is some pics that she sent of herself with some friends.

If you don't currently support a missionary, and you think God is prompting you to do so, please contact me and I'll help you get set up to support Tabatha or one of our other four missionaries.


Hey Tim,

Thanks for the words of encouragement. They really are appreciated. I learned recently that I feel the most loved when I have words of affirmation from those around me. Techniqually you aren't around me, but you get the idea ;)

Things to convey - There are really so many things I could say, but there are just four main points to express.

One - I am so thankful for the support that I already have from Anchor as a whole and from the individuals. My Anchor family has been with me from the beginning and has always been an encouragement.

Two - I am where I am called to be. He has put the people of VN on my heart, and it has only become more and more clear - the longer that I've stayed.

Three - I couldn't be here without His hand guiding me along the way. He is my reason for being.

Four - I need more people joining me and my vision to be here. VN doesn't know about Him, and that's the reason I'm here. I can only stay - if people join me and Him where He has placed me to be.

Thanks Tim. I also attached a few pics from over here. I titled them reasons - 'cause these are the people who have touched my heart and increased my desire to stay in this beautiful country I love so much. I hope you continue to have a blessed spring! I'll talk to you soon.


In Him,

Tabatha M. Lamb
Team Vietnam -- Thai Nguyen

(Please remember the Correspondence Guidelines when replying back to me)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sunday Sermon Notes - 3.25.07

Pride & the Seven Deadly Sins

This has been the most personal of the deadly sins. Preparation for it has been unnerving. Pride has tenacious tentacles in my will and eyes. So much so that I went to a counseling appointment this Monday with Dan Boen (see link in sidebar - CCCOI). We talked about my irritation with people who bug me. We ended up talking about my pride. Ouch.

In preparation for this sermon I read C.S. Lewis' famous chapter on Pride in his potent book: Mere Christianity. I probably underlined half the chapter - he has great insight into this deadly sin, and it resonated with me...he was speaking about me. Ouch.

Here's some of his stuff on this stuffy sin:
"There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.
There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconcious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others."

"Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison; it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind."

"Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive - is competetitive by its very nature - while the other vices are competetive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest."

"If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."

Here is one of my favorite paragraphs - it describes the opposite of pride in a man:
"Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do not dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all."

If you think you are conceited, come on Sunday and join a bunch of other conceited followers of Jesus. Maybe together we'll learn to be humble, like Jesus.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jesus the Underdog

Luke 2 is the second part of Luke's background story. It is really quite fascinating how Luke builds up to the last story of this second chapter. Chapter one ended with two thrilling songs - one by Jesus' mother, the other by his uncle - shouting out his thanks for his newborn son, John. And then Luke switches gears, shifting down from highspeed emotion to grinding historical detail. We catch our breath, read about the timing of the Lord's birth, and then Luke starts shifting up again, ever so gently.

First we read that pregnant Mary must make an ardous journey cross country.
Then we read that Jesus is born in a manger because his folks were too poor, too shunned to find a home in which to stay (they went to Bethlehem because its his ancestral town...somebody should have let him in to their house...but the scandal of Mary's mysterious pregnancy was too much for these folks).
Jesus comes from such humble beginnings that his birth is announced - not to kings, generals, senators, and wealthy landowners...but to lowly shepherds. Who spreads the news amongst the townsfolk? The kings heralds? The centurion's armorbearer? The town mayor? No, the lowly shepherds - men of ill repute and foul smell spread the gospel.
When Jesus receives his name after eight days, there is not citywide celebration. It goes unnoticed. When they go to the temple for Mary's forty day purification, they are met, not by temple authorities, religious leaders, or famous scribes - they are met by a righteous old man and a aged prophetess from an obscure tribe of Israel. And then they return to the no-good town of Nazareth.

So now Luke has perfectly set up his story about Jesus getting lost in Jerusalem during the Passover feast. This no-account Jesus, born in scandal and alleged illegitimacy, from a no-good town, heralded by filthy shepherds, welcomed by no one famous or now in the temple courts stunning the teachers and lawyers with his perceptive questions and and astute answers. He's just shifted into high gear, and we've just got our head jerked back...

Who is this kid?

He is the underdog. He is Lord of the Underdogs.

This Underdog would grow in brilliant wisdom, healthy stature, and controversial favor with other underdogs and the Creator and King of the Universe...who at times comes across as an Underdog.

Do you ever feel like an Underdog? Like your background, your past, your situations might keep you from overcoming all that is wrong in your life? Jesus is Lord of the Underdogs, and if you let him lead you, he can bring about redemption. And he can then use you to bring about redemption with the underdogs in your life.

Wouldn't you like that?

What is Undivided Love?

This morning's devotions from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer included these quotes:

"What is undivided love? Love which shows no special favor to those who love us in return."

"We can love our kith and kin, our fellow countrymen and our friends whether we are Christians or not, and there is no need for Jesus to teach us that."

"But he takes that kind of love for granted, and in contrast asserts that we must love our enemies."

"Thus he shows us what he means by love, and the attitude we must display toward it."

- from A Testament to Freedom 320 (A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

For all the enemies we have in society, could a person from the outside looking in describe our treatment of criminals, outcasts, perverts, warmongers, bullies, thieves, liars, murderers, rapists, molesters, etc as one of vengeance and vendetta, or love. Some Christians might defend our prison system or capital punishments laws as tough love. I wonder if Jesus' command to us about loving our enemies is more rooted in restorative justice and redemptive love then tough love.

And what about our military machine...and our response to enemy dictators and violent religions...does our hate, fear and contempt for those nations/peoples who threaten our way of life the best response for Christians? I don't know how to love my enemies. I just know how to be quiet, shy, timid and afraid of conflict. Loving my enemies is not absence of some bad quality. It is action which sacrifices, gives generously, acts with no favoritism.

Who will teach me to love my enemies?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What Is True Worship & God's Will?

Romans 12 is one of my favorite chapters in the Scriptures, I could devote a whole month of blogging everyday to this chapter and still only scratch the surface of its brilliance and wisdom.

My first sermon was based on the first two verses of this chapter. Donnie Gentry, currently the senior pastor of New Hope UBC in Camden MI, and I tag-teamed on a sermon. We were to split a thirty minute time slot, he would preach first and I second. We met a week in advance to work on our sermons (mind you, the very first sermon I had ever prepared...a little bit more pressure then a speech given in English class). We didn't get much work done. So we decided to wait till the next Saturday to prepare the hard could it be to pull together a fifteen minute exposition of God's divine Word by which people come to salvation? Ten hours just wasn't enough time for us amateurs. Needless to say, we'll never forget our first sermon...the memory keeps us very humble.

But I'm still enamoured with this two verses. I spent quite a few years avoiding them, especially right out of college. So many other people seemed enamoured with them as well, and I'm not one to be caught up in a fad. Everybody else's understanding of the two verses just didn't seem to sit well with me - they always used these verses to talk about "real" worship, and "knowing" God will (like which college should I go to, who should I marry, where should I work, etc).

My enamour with these verses has resulted in a hesitancy to dive into them...I don't want to misuse them anymore. I want to rightly understand them without any flippancy. Here's my position on them now. The two verses should NOT be used to talk about what is true worship or knowing God's will.

Here's my reasons:
1) "in view of God's mercy" is a reference to Paul's use of mercy in chapter nine, when God's mercy is referenced in the context of who God elects/calls. Paul's point is that only by God's will/choice/desire/mercy/compassion have we obtained righteousness.

2) "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is true/your spiritual act of worship" is a reference to chapter eleven, when Paul uses the Elijah story it illustrate once again God's choosing of a remnant, people who had "not bowed the knee to Baal". Paul is urging the Roman Christians to not be proud of their righteousness, but remember that it is by God's mercy that they have been chosen, and like the minority Israelites roughed up by Jezebel, stay true to God by worshipping/kneeling/bowing only to Yahweh. The verses have more to do with remembering God's mercy then "right worship".

3) "able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will" is not supposed to paralyze people's decision making process. Some Christians get so paranoid that God has only one/perfect spouse for them, and if they marry the "wrong" person, they are outside of God's will and totally messed up for life. Or the one/perfect job, or church, or number of kids, or whatever. Paul is not talking about God's one perfect will for your whole life. The word will can be translated wish, desire, choice, want. And again, the refernce is back to chapter nine, when Paul is teaching about God's mercy is the basis for his choosing us - and his compassionate election of us is good, pleasing and perfect.

That's my brief exegesis now of those two verses. The issue is not about worship and will, so much as humility, remembering, mercy and election. Way off from what I preached at New Hope with Donnie in 1991. But everybody has to start somewhere. So I continue to try and live in view of God's mercy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

God Will Come w/ Save You

Isaiah 34-36 makes a transition from lyrical damnation of those who are destroyers, betrayers of what is good, beautiful, and true. In ch.34 we read about the judgment against all nations, in ch.35 we read about the coming joy of the redeemed, and in ch.36 we switch from poetry to narrative, and we have the initial account of Assyria's king assaulting Jerusalem. The switch happens almost too fast. The juxtaposition of texts is difficult to adjust too. God is talking about ending an exile, ending their pain, ending their desert-like experience before it has even begun, and then the next story is about a threat which would bring about exile, pain and a desert experience - but it gets thwarted...odd arrangment of texts.

In prior chapters we've read about the coming vengeance of God against Israel (27), leaders of Ephraim & Judah (28), David's City (29), Obstinate Nations (30), Those Who Rely on Egypt! (31), Women of Israel (32), Sinners in Zion (33), All the World (34). Pretty much everybody has done something to offend, hurt, anger, wound, wrong God. And he can only take so much of it. God used Assyria as a tool of vengeance against Ephraim (Northern 10 Tribes of Israel), the captivity and destruction finalized in 722BC. God used Babylon to complete the captivity and devastation of Judah (Southern 2 Tribes of Israel) in 586BC. Since the time of David (ca 1000BC) God had been warning his people to obey His commands, delight in His presence, love their neighbors, be a light to the nations - and if they obtusely and obstinately refused to do this, He would remove them from the land. This promise actually starts with Moses (ca 1500BC), you can read about it in Deuteronomy.

So, about 800, 1000 years later, God actually removes everybody from the land. I believe "patient" would be a good word to describe God. Loyal. Forgiving. One who seeks Reconciliation.

God wants all the world to walk on his Way, he wants to rescue all the nations, he wants gladness and joy to overtake all peoples, he wants sorrow and sighing to flee from all cities...but only those that refuse foolishness and evade evil will want God to direct them to His Way.

Refuse foolishness with all your heart, evade evil with all your strength.

Monday, March 19, 2007

T'was a Fun Winter

We had fun this winter playing in the snow. This was the first year the guys were really able to get out there and enjoy the white stuff. As you can tell...

Grandma Karen bought us a new sled...thinking all three of the little tykes could fit on it at once - apparently I'm supposed to be able to pull them all indefinitely through eighteen inches of thick snow! Fortunately for me, and too bad for Emma, only two kids at a time could get hauled up and down the sidewalk.

Levi was busy shoveling the driveway. He didn't have time to sit on a sled when there is work to do...he takes after his mother!

Emma was glad to sit in the sled, but she only had time to pose for a picture, the sled didn't move fast enough.

Isaac loved his new snowpants and jacket. The problem was that with all that thick layers, he couldn't walk through the snow! Daddy had to shovel out paths throughout the backyard in order for the brothers to get from the patio to the playset. Which ended up being a lot of fun. I dragged them on the sled through the paths in the backyard, much to their delight and my sweat.

I love being a dad!

A Story of Death & Redemption, Love & Royalty

Ruth is a short story, but brilliant. In a few words it is able to spin a love legend of beautiful complexity. It rattles/expands our notion of God and who he will use for his redemptive work. The story sets up the tale of King David, for Ruth is his great-grandmother. In a sense, this compact story should be titled Naomi, for she is the other main character - the woman whom we first meet and whom we see last.

Interestingly, God doesn't have anything to say in this story, though he is very present and much acknowledged. In fact, God is not well liked for the first half of the story, Naomi has a grudge against Him. The raw honesty of this book ought to be comforting to all the women in this world who have gotten the shaft, an unfair shake, the cold shoulder, a slap in the face. Naomi's name means "pleasant", but she insisted that she be called Mara, for her life had become "bitter". That could be the story of a lot of women.

Boaz is the main man of this little book, a man whose name means "strength". If God had taken human form in the story, to be the man to deliver Naomi and Ruth, he would have looked like Boaz. Boaz was an elder in the town, in the second half of life, wealthy and overseer of many fields. He worked hard, was well-respected, and honored God. And through a man like that, God was able to turn Naomi's life around, to draw out the bitterness that had infected her heart, and pour back into her the sweet pleasantness that she craved.

What's your purpose in life? What if you won't know it until the second-half of life? What if you have to wait a long time before you are the main act of the play? How will you conduct yourself in the meantime? Ruth was married for ten years, her womb remained barren and then she became a widow. Naomi despaired, but Ruth didn't. What if Ruth had given up? What if Boaz, in his old age, became crusty and resentful of beautiful Ruth, and lusted over her rather than protect her as a daughter?

When is it okay to give up on God? When is life so bad that trading pleasantness for bitterness is the wisest move? Can God deliver you? Are you willing to walk through hardships for a decade or two? Do you trust that God could bring a Boaz into your life if you stay loyal long enough?

Because Boaz stayed faithful, true, and honorable for decades and decades and decades, at just the right time, God used him to begin what would become a dynasty of kings. Because Ruth stayed faithful to those she loved and trusted in God over the long haul, she finally became a mother of a son from whom would come royalty. But more then kings and royal dynasties, Boaz and Ruth endured hardships that are still common today, and they kept waiting for God to redeem their situation while they worked and trusted. Is your life hard? Are you feeling bitter about your lot in life? Is your hope fading?

"Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I Will Always Obey Your Law... and Walk in Freedom


Sixth letter of the Hebrew alephbet

What an uplifting song, this sixth poem the extols the unfailing love of God and his delightful commands. Only in the Scriptures do you put those two words together: delightful & commands. I don't know about you, but I have an intrinsic resistance to being commanded to do anything. People can suggest stuff to me, they can instruct me, they can influence me, they can explain to me, they can try to convince me, but once they try to TELL me what to do...I put up my wall. But this poet says that he delights in God's commands/decrees/law.

He makes, what seems to be, a contrasting point: within God's laws/commands I can experience freedom. Huh?

The working definition of freedom that I live/breathe is: I can do whatever I want. No boundaries. Have it your way. Break the rules. But this author asserts, from a much deeper, authentic reflection: freedom can't be sustained in that kind of abyss. Even as I write this, I wince. It is hard for me to conceive of freedom as something I experience because of commands, not outside of commands.

Maybe another way to conceive of freedom is: able to live a kind of life with just one master who loves loyally. The implication is, that without having one master that we choose, we end up having multiple masters we don't choose, and thus freedom becomes an illusion, rather than a limited reality. Freedom under God's rule may not seem to be as boundless as what advertisers promise their product can deliver, BUT freedom does not come based on the next purchase we make, but on the ONE purchase that God made on our behalf. God purchased our freedom from the enslavement of sin, and bought us to be not his slaves, but his sons and daughters. That is the kind of freedom we can have, and we learn how to live within that freedom through His instructions in Scripture.

Ah LORD, I do reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees...for then I will be able to walk about in freedom.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Watch Your Mouth!

Luke 1 is loaded with songs, angelic messages, miracles, pregnancies, virile expectation, and celebration. It's a long chapter, but it sets the tone for the rest of the gospel. Here are some observations about the interesting text.

Luke (who is identified as a physician in Paul's letter to the churches in Colossae) is writing an account based on eyewitness accounts for a friend named Theophilus (whose name means "loved of God", or "God-lover"). This makes Luke's gospel unique - it is written to a particular person for a specific reason.

Luke begins his meticulous account with his thrilling opening scene based on his interviews with Zechariah and Mary. It is interesting that both Zechariah and Mary are given a message by an angel, both of them question how this can be (Zechariah states that Elizabeth is too old, and Mary says she is a virgin), but Mary gets a blessing and Zechariah gets his mouth taped shut. Very different response, very interesting. The age of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth ought to remind you of Abraham* and Sarah. Their son of promise (Isaac) was the beginning of the fulfillment of God's pledge to bless them, to make them a blessing, and to bless the whole world through them. John will fulfill a similar role, and so will Jesus.

Both Mary and Zechariah pour forth two potent, beautiful songs - their best response to the mysterious, fascinating, disturbing events in their life. Here, in one extended family, two sons will be born through which God will bring about forgiveness of sins (end of the exile) and salvation (the second exodus) which will result in peace/shalom with God, one another, and their oppressors.

Mary's song is chock full of victorious praises, God will defeat the oppressors, God will fill the empty bellies of the children, God will remember his promise to Abraham* and blessings will begin again.

Zechariah's song exudes gratitude for God's coming rescue to his exiled people, his gracious forgiveness of sins, and then he references three famous texts one after another in a crashing crescendo of delight: Isaiah 9 (a light shines into the darkness), Psalm 23 (walking out of the valley of the shadow of death) and Psalm 119 (walk in the path of the LORD).

The songs of Mary and Zechariah reveal their heart, and it reflects their response to Gabriel's message to them about a coming son who would be a servant of God. Reread the dialogue between Gabriel and the humans, and then reread their songs. What did the coming of God's deliverance mean for 1st century Israel? What does 21st century America's deliverance look like?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kierkegaard on Preaching

In my prior post about envy, I shared that I am often envious of other preachers. Here are some quotes by Kierkegaard on preaching that were encouraging to me as well as challenging (envy is now least of my worries).

"It is absolutely unethical when one is so busy communicating that he forgets to be what he teaches."

"It is existence which preaches, not the mouth. What my existing says is my sermon."

"To preach from the pulpit means to bring charges against oneself."

"A speech expert is just as suitable for proclaiming Christianity as a deaf-mute for being a musician."

"The punishment I should like the clergy to have is a tenfold increase in salary. I am afraid that neither the world nor the clergy would understand the punishment."

"The greatest possible error arises when we reduce the clergy to teachers. Imagine that the police, instead of acting, began to teach about thievery."

And last one for today...
"As a career man and job holder the pastor proclaims Christianity. He says: My job is to proclaim Christianity - I am hired simply to preach. And so it is with the pastor's proclamation. The congregation on the other hand excuses itself from doing what the sermon says by declaring: We have so many other things to take care of; such a stringent Christianity can be required of the pastor, the man of God. And thus we arrive at the result: Christianity - but not Christians."

- pgs 350-358, Provocations: spiritual writings of Kierkegaard

Sunday Sermon Notes - 3.18.07

Envy & the 7 Deadly Sins

James 3:13-18 is a classic text on envy. The brother of Jesus invites us to not deny the truth about the envy we harbor in our heart.

I wonder how autobiographical was that tidbit of instruction. In that same sentence he also addresses selfish ambition, a evil practice about which one should not boast. Growing up as the kid brother of the Christ must have been hard on the ego.

James is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Jacob. Jacob was the younger brother of Esau, and Esau possessed the birthright as the eldest brother, and also the accompanying blessing. They were two objects worth envying over. Envy is bad for the soul and for relationships, as the story of Jacob and James recount. Fortunately both men were able to be reconciled to their brothers later on in life, though they both had to travel hard roads to get there. Envy is not purged easily.

Solomon Schimmel, a brilliant Jewish psychotherapist and professor of pscychology writes this about envy:

"Envy is the pain we feel when we perceive another individual some object, quality, or status we do not possess."

"Envy is particularly malicious when the envious person seeks to deprive the envied person of what he has, even though if he succeeds in doing so the desired object, quality, or status won't thereby be transferred to the envier."

Envy is nasty stuff, and it infects almost everybody.

Here is how it can often affect me, for I often get envious - it is usually a mild case, but annoying enough.

I am often envious of other preachers who I feel are better at their craft then I am. I hear them preach, I see the results of their ministry (through my limited and tainted eyes) and I then compare my results. I overexaggerate the strengths and achievements of the preacher I envy, and I downplay my achievements and then bemoan my utter failure as a pastor all together. Pathetic, I know...but all too common.

Come Sunday for more ugly insights on envy. And some antidotes to this vice.

God Have Mercy On Us All

Romans 11 is the concluding chapter of Paul's doctrinal exposition. His letter to Christian house churches in Rome is meant to outline his preaching points for his mission to Iberia, to explain his core doctrines as well as do a little educating to his new sponsers. It's a brilliant book, which means that it may not make sense in the first reading...or the second or the third. Which is one reason why Paul ends this chapter and this section with burst of poetic genius:

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths byeond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?

Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?

For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be the glory forever!


The immediate context of his letter that prompts this moving prayer is his explanation about Israel's role in the gospel coming to the Gentiles (nonJews). He starts the chapter by referencing 1Kings and quoting Deuteronomy and Isaiah, noting that just when it seems that Israel was abandoned, God revealed that he had chosen a remnant (by grace) who would worship Him, and that there were those whom he had hardened their hearts and darkened their eyes (this is a hard teaching to accept...Luther contends that only very mature believers should delve into this doctrine).

But Paul doesn't stop there, he goes on to use the metaphor of an olive tree to explain how the Gentiles and Jews are bound together. The disobedience of the Jews has resulted in salvation for the Gentiles. Paul makes much of this fact, he even says that he hopes that all these Gentiles getting delivered elicits envy out of the Jews, and that this will provoke them to obedience and salvation. (I'll never forget the first time I read this passage or heard it preached on, it was with Dennis Miller, sitting in the olive grove outside Jerusalem, in the area where Jesus was alleged to have been crucified and buried...a powerful moment).

But Paul doesn't stop there also, he writes that the Jews will have hardened hearts until the full number of Gentiles "has come in." And then he says that through this, all Israel will be saved. What? He ends this section with this phrase: "For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." Who is he talking about? He just opened the chapter by describing the elect/chosen status of a remnant and the damned. Now he is saying that all will receive mercy?

Rather than expanding on that even more, he breaks into his poetic prayer.

Without delving in too deep, I think that Paul is attempting to do at least two things (he is writing to a Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian church): affirm the Jewish Christians their special place in God's will and work, to help the Gentile Christians see their place in God's will and work (hence the use of the olive tree). Paul also wants to highlight the role of grace/mercy in the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. For the reason of why some people just won't respond to God's grace/mercy, Paul uses the language of "hardened, darkened, etc." Some people just won't let themselves be redeemed. But for those who do, we can all sing together Paul's eloquent doxology.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy 4th Birthday, Emma!

Yesterday - Tuesday, was Emma's fourth birthday!

Emma, you are a delightful daughter, we are always glad for your smile, your abundant enthusiasm, your silliness, and your thoughtful concern for others.

We had fun celebrating the day with Emma. First thing in the morning Tara pulled out her wedding dress for Emma to wear, and then the photo shoot began! It's a fun tradition, and each year it gets more and more special. Emma looks so cute in the flowing white gown.

Then she opened a gift & card from her Mommy and Daddy, a Precious Moments figurine, and four tickets to the book fair that night at her pre-school, she could pick out four books for her special day. Oh Joy! Emma loves reading.

Mom and Dad went to work and then after the weekly doctor's appt. at the end of the day, we came home and whisked Emma off to her bookfair and carnival. Clifford the Big Red Dog was there, they had all sorts of games, including one where we raced on tricyles (Emma won, of course!). After the carnival we picked out some books, including a very, very funny kids book called "Bad Kitty"...did I mention it is clever and hilarious?

Following the bookfair/carnival, we headed to DQ for a tasty treat, and then off to Dupont Hospital to visit new Baby Hannah Jo Saleh! She is so cute! And now Emma and Hannah are birthday buddies (they also share that day with Uncle Dave!).

We got home late, got ready for bed, read one of our new books, and then prayer, hugs/kisses, lights out.

What a wonderful birthday for a beautiful Emma!

A Tasty Soup Supper with our Presbyterian Neighbors

Sunday evening featured our third church hosting neighborhood congregations for tasty soup and plenty of great desserts - oh, and real warm hospitality as we get to know each other better. Grace Presbyterian on Fairhill Avenue hosted, and it was very enjoyable. I've not known many Presbyterians in my life, but Barb and her church are very likable folks with a wonderful committment to Jesus and blessing the neighborhood with the Gospel. It is refreshing to sup with believers of that calibre.

I walked away from the evening encouraged by their solid roots, but also impressed by their ongoing creativity and eagerness to partner with other churches, to reach their neighbors with the love of Jesus, and to have such a gracious spirit about them. Hence their name, I guess! Anchor will be a better church because of Grace, and I hope the relationship is mutual; and not only between our two churches, but all five churches involved. But this is not only for our sake, but for the sake of those who don't follow Jesus yet, for those that will get to know Him because of what He is doing amongst us and through us.

Here's some pics at Grace - mostly of some Anchorites!

Shalom for your Home

Isaiah 31-33 includes one more Woe, wrapping a series of four Woes against God's People. This last one chides the children of Israel for relying on Egypt for military assistance, economic benefits, daughters for kings and royal officials, and ideas for religion and morality. Israel was delivered out of Egypt, they were not to go back. They traded the LORD - the One who delivered to the Promised Land, for Egypt - the ones who enslaved and abused them for centuries. Israel was fearful of the new superpower Assyria, so they sought to shore up their defensive strength through a shaky and unreliable partner in Egypt. Why do people do that?

But God, in his loyal love, shouts out to them: "Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against." What kind of God is this, who wants back those who betray, neglect and disdain their Sovereign? Grace, that's what it is.

In this section, Isaiah also has a few choice words for the women of Jerusalem, for those who felt very secure in their city, so secure that they paid little attention to God and his requests and commands. They had Egypt's pledge of support, who needed to head down to the Temple for the sacrifices? And these disdainful deeds reveal the condition of their heart: God was only minded when he was needed. God desired their hearts, he wants them to delight in him - and they don't.

So God casts a vision for them of what he can bring about through them, if they will go along with him, respect him, honor him, obey him. For those that give God loyal love, he will bless, but for those that disregard him, who pour out profanities against their fellow neighbor, those whose arrogance and disdain for their fellow neighbor is unending, for those that pay no attention to God or the consequences of their deeds upon Creation...God will have to discipline and bring about justice.

He would rather see all his people, the whole world dwell in homes of shalom. So he works to bring this about. Yet some resist His Way, which is to their own restlessness. But God preseveres, working through His people yet today to bless the world and bring shalom to each home. Keep letting him bring shalom into your neighborhood through your home.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jesus Barabbas & Jesus Barabbas

Matthew 27-28 wraps up the Gospel according to Matthew the Tax Collector. Though I've read through this book quite a few times, and the last chapters every spring, I noticed new details today - it's always fun when that happens.

For example, in my TNIV of the Bible, it gives the full name of the criminal that Pilate released at the request of the crowds: Jesus Barabbas. In the footnote at the bottom it states that many manuscripts do not include the name "Jesus" with Barabbas. But Barabbas is clearly a last name. It means "son of a father". What is so interesting is that Jesus of Nazareth could have just as easily been known as Jesus Barabbas of Nazareth: everyone in the hometown knew that Joseph son of Jacob son of Matthan desecendant of King David was NOT Jesus' who was? According to one legend a Roman soldier named Pantera was the father. According to Matthew's Gospel, the Holy Spirit caused the conception. No human father for Jesus, at least one the locals could not identify, and this could have very easily lead to Jesus of Nazareth also having the last name of Barabbas "son of a father somewhere...".

So Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Barabbas are going to trade fates. What a fascinating piece of the story.


Another tidbit that intrigued me: the last pericope of the gospel is known as the Great Commission. The eleven remaining disciples have travelled north from Jerusalem for several days to the mountains of Galilee. While waiting around, Jesus walks up to them - and the gospel records "when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted." I've read that before and wondered at the honest entry, but today I read it and wondered how that reaction shaped the commission that Jesus offered.

It didn't seem to phase Jesus any that some of his disciples still doubted him (Thomas did and got to poke Jesus... was he back to doubting again?). Jesus went ahead and still gave the instruction. As worshippers and doubters, go and make disciples. Go as you are - I'll be with you, I wouldn't leave you alone to disciple the nations! For the worshippers, the ready believers, he gives them direction by which they can channel their enthusiasm and energy. For the doubters, he affirms for them his authority, his presence till the End of All Things, and his identity with the Father and the Holy Spirit - he's not just any Barabbas - he is THE Son of God who is the Father and Creator of the Universe!

I'm a doubter. I'm glad that Jesus will still walk with me through this life. He's open to you walking with him if you want. Do you want to?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

That is the phrase that came to mind as I finished up reading the book of Judges. The two concluding stories of Micah and his silver idol/mercenary priest, and of the renegade Benjaminites are weird. And sad. And reflect the kind of foolishness, stupidity, brutishness, vileness and obstinance that mark the worst of human communities. Underneath the veneer of many a suburb and local neighborhood can be a seething hostility to anyone different, to anyone who threatens a preferred way of life, to anyone who prevents guilty pleasures.

This particular story reveals the wretched condition of these leaderless tribes. People were doing whatever they thought was right in their own eyes. Everybody was totally justified in their own eyes, imagine the thick self-righteousness that choked the air, the blatant perversions that prevailed because no one could tell someone else what to do.

So unlike some pockets of our world today.

The end of this story in Judges leads to the story of Ruth: the land and its people are in need of a deliverer - and Boaz will have a boy who will create a family from which God will eventually bring redemption.

There are those who bemoan how bad our world is today. And there are those who revel in it. And there are those who seek the peace of the city where they live, who seek to redeem what is favored by God, to preserve like salt what nourishes the soul, and defend the fatherless and the widows.

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done - On Earth Today as it is in Heaven.

Is Church Worth It? Part One

There is a site called "Letters from Leavers". It is a place for people to post their story of why they left the church. I posted one of the most recent letters submitted. Though it is not my story, I identify with it. Maybe you do to. I can understand why people leave the church, and their reasons deeply motivate me and shape the creation and direction of Anchor.

One who’s been on both sides…

Does the Institutional Church (IC) do more harm than good?
Published by heyrick March 11th, 2007

I hope the following is helpful to those still involved in the institutional church. I was deeply involved for the better part of my 41 years. A series of life events brought me to a place where my relationship with God grew much more intimate. As my relationship with God flourished I began to see the following aspects of ‘church’, as I knew and experienced it, as barriers to my knowing God. I left seven years ago and my relationship and desire to be the church has grown exponentially. If you’re interested in how my family and I are the church now, I’d be glad to share.

1. IC’s by the nature of their buidlings and their venacular say to the community and their “members” both verbally and non-verbally; church is a place, a location, a building…even though we know it’s people.

2. IC’s by nature of their programs and scheduling say that “church” only happens only at their services, whatever day(s) they hold them…rather than all the time, everywhere with everybody.

2. IC’s by their format, programing and tradition separate children from their parents when communicating the most foundational truths of life (ie sunday school, training union, big church/kids church). And “most” parents rely on the IC’s teaching without adding their own…So kids are taught, by the nature of the program/format, that “other people”, who know more than mom & dad, will teach me about God.

3. IC’s separate the giver (tithing or otherwise) from the actual recipient of the gift by teaching old covenant giving (ie bring the tithe to the storehouse which they define as the church). This process says to the receiver that the church (ie the IC) is the “giver” and to the giver it says “we know what better to do with your tithe/gift than you do….they may not say this out loud but it’s the message the process sends. The method also complicates the process of getting the gift to the person in need. Finally, the giver and receiver don’t get to communicate the reason they give or the thanks for the gift…both of which God uses to “do” something within them….they “see” the need and they “see” God. Giving to whom God directs, when God directs is much simpler and effective.

4. IC’s, because of the buidling, paid staff and programs, only give 10% (I’m being conservative here probably more like 2%) of their budget, in ministry, to their community & the lost. The community looks on at all the “extravaganza”, without the ministry, and see’s church as a glorified country club…the members do too.

5. IC’s establish a hiearchy within the church. Paid staff know the answers and the average Joe believer takes their orders from them. This communicates, to Joe believer, an inability to make “spiritual” decisions on their own….We do all have the same Christ living within us. It also is a “pride” danger for the staff, as all the Joe believers come to “them” for answers.

6. IC’s focus on growing larger by far outways the need to grow in depth. think about all those pastor’s going to conventions and saying, “my congregation is only 50 but they are they have incredible relationships with and understanding of God….yeah right.

7. IC’s by their size, even with small groups, prevent deep relationship from forming within the body of Christ. Too many programs, events, meetings tie up all the bodies descretionary time. Programs and the many areas of service “jobs” orient members discretionary time to service where they receive cudo’s, rather than building relationships which develop community.

8. The casual nature of IC relationships and the standard of behavior that is rewarded and approved, limits open sharing of lifes troubles and trials to empty phrases “How are you doing? Great…and you?” Sharing real needs, trials and struggles receive punishment and the boot.

9. IC’s teach by the nature of the services that worship happens on Sunday morning in the “worship center” and while sittin and standing singing praise songs with our hands up or stoically with our hands folded.

10. IC’s teach prayer as a mechanism to prod God into action on that which we deem important. They teach that the number of people praying has more effect in motivating God into action.

11. IC’s substitues good marketing for the work of the Holy Spirit.

12. IC’s promote believers to identify themselves by what they “do” at church and assign value, higher and lower, to their areas of service. A praise singer is awesome while a stage hand is trivial. They may say that “all” service is equally important but they treat them with high/lower values in mind.

13. (Lucky number eh?) At IC’s, the implicaton is the person who dresses nicer, attends more services & activities, prays out loud in front of others, gives the most money, quotes scripture, sings or teaches for the stage, holds more “jobs”, wins more people to Christ, has a daily “quite time”, has well behaved children, has no bad habits, is more spiritual than the one with less of the above.

Go to this link for the original site:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How Can They Hear Without Someone Preaching To Them?

Romans 10 contains a variety of gems, including some scintillating comments on preaching. Since I'm a preacher, here is some reflections on comments that cut close to my heart.

Paul is working through the implications of his own preaching ministry. It is key to recall one of the major purposes of this letter: to raise funds and friends for his ardous missionary adventure into the Iberian Peninsula. Basically Romans is a classic missions support letter which always request two things: Prayer (it must always be stated first and identified as the most important kind of support...) and Money (the second thing listed, which is the real purpose of the letter, but is piously positioned as second to prayer...). Paul needs the Roman church to finance his ministry, to be a homebase from which to launch an ambitious missionwork. And here in this part of the letter about preaching, he is reminding them of how they came to faith/trust in Jesus - through preaching: which is what Paul wants to do in Iberia. The Spaniards have yet to hear the Gospel, and how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

Paul has an interesting play on ideas: he is an apostle - the title means "sent one", he writes this, " can anyone preach unless they are sent?" He is inviting the Roman house churches to unite together (another purpose of this letter) and help the famous, formidable, fascinating Paul live out his calling as an apostle/sent one. He really can't go unless they pony up the resources.

Which then helps me think through my place as a preacher in my community of beleivers. Paul was preaching the Gospel, a missional task to bring News to a people who knew nothing, or the wrong stuff about God and His Creation. Paul wants to introduce these people to Jesus, who is the Way to the Father and Creator. And preaching is key. So when I preach, who is it to? What is it for? To comfort and aid those who already trust? Rather, it is to connect those who have not yet heard or understood the Gospel with Jesus. And, it is to help the Born Again Trusters to help others connect as well.

Paul quotes Isaiah in describing the work of a preacher: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News." Being a preacher is a full-time ministry. All of life goes into a message. In fact, often my life is the message. But I'm not the only preacher in my community of trusters. Everyone is preaching something about Jesus. My responsibility, as the lead preacher, is to help each of my fellow trusters preach what is beautiful and good about the News of God and his Redemption of All Things.

May our feet become more beautiful as more and more trusters join us on the Way...

Cry For Help!

Isaiah 28-30 contains some graphic, beautiful, blunt, inviting poetry. Read this section from chapter thirty (TNIV) as an example...

"People of Zion, who live in Jeruslam,
you will weep no more.
How gracious he will be when you cry for help!

As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
your teachers will be hidden no more;
with your own eyes you will see them.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
'This is the Way; walk in it.'

Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver
and your images covered with gold;
you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth
and say to them, 'Away with you!'"

It is important that these people are in a covenant relationship with Yahweh, they are to follow his Way, and he is to Bless them. But if they cry to idols for help, God will respond to their blatant rebellion with punishment, as a good Father would discipline his wayward children. They brought their bruising and wounds upon themselves, and God promises to heal and bind up all those that will seek him for the restoration. What kind of God loves in this Way?

Jesus comes to mind in meditating on this poem. Jesus comes to the covenant people of Israel as well as the created humanity of the earth: Walk with me, go my way. Our way in this world results in destruction at every level. God is at work in the destruction, bringing righteousness as a response to the wicked, but bringing restoration to the repentant.

May your cry for help be from a penitent heart, and may Jesus respond to it with deliverance from the destructive forces in and around you.

For There I Find Delight


Too often the Mosaic Law is percieved as archaic and burdensom. The way some reference it, we should be relieved that we are set free from these commands. But I can't get over how this poet of psalms again and again articulates his blatant delight in this Mosaic Law.

"Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight."

It's an interesting phrase: God must direct my steps so that I will attain what is delight-full...on my own, I am unable to gain what is most gladdening. This poet finds delight in both in the experience of being directed, and also in the place he finds himself having walked the way of the Creator and Father.

There is this ongoing appeal to desire and delight in the OT. For as much as we find the OT cumbersome, the unwaveringly appeal to what is most beautiful about God's Way as revealed in Deuteronomy. Ironically, I don't find many people delighting and celebrating the Gospels...rather they are picking and pulling what they like out of it justify their own ways, or using it to burden others. Which is what happened with Deuteronomy and the rest of the Torah. Interestingly, Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it...why? Because it is so preserves life and through its fulfillment in Him he will produce in us abundant Joy, a life that overflows with contagious love, hands that serve with such skill and beauty that Creation, rather then always groaning under the weight of our sins, begins to sing with us about the coming redemption of All Things.

Jesus, may you give me understanding that I may have the delight you promised to us...a delight in your instruction which I will follow to the End of All Things.

Cause Me To Understand...For You Have Set My Heart Free


Apparently this poet is having a bad day, "I am laid low in the dust...". We all have days like that sooner or later. This poet, though, prays that God will be the one who gets him through the day (as opposed to a stiff drink, a violent movie, a extra scoop of ice cream, etc.)

As the poet is scrolling through his recent past, trying to get a grip on why things came to this difficult situation, he finds a gaping need for God to instruct him about reality.

And then he states this fascinating request: "Cause me to understand the Way of (Jesus) your Precepts...that I may Meditate on your Wonderful Deeds."

Cause me to understand...what does that imply? Life is difficult and the link between our actions and the resulting consequences is often obscure - and God is mostly unseen and very mysterious. There is much that does not make sense of this life. That doesn't stop me for straining to understand it, hence my interest in philosophy, history, theology, culture, etc. But all this seeking will be in vain if I'm trying to understand God's reality independent of God's help. The scientific method may not be the most valid form for understanding the LORD, though it is really helpful when it comes to his creation, in a limited sort of way (which is inherent in the method). So God, please keep causing me to understand you and your Reality.

Why receive this understanding? So that my heart can be set free. What is the link between God's caused understanding and a free - heart? Understanding God's Way is also referenced as Remembering God's Wonder-Full Deeds. To remember the good God has done - in you, around you, to you, through you - is to reflect on it, its impact on you and the world around you. What is the good that God has done/been doing? Only God can help you discern, and in the discerning you discover that your heart has become free from the dark despair that has infected this beautiful world.

God, cause me to understand how good and great and glorious you are in this Creation - and set my heart free to run your Way.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sunday Sermon Notes 3.11.07


Our fourth deadly sin is one of the most common, and it goes by many names: ire/irate, wrath, fury, rage, temper, and hot (any other synonyms?).

I don't like to think of myself as an angry person - though I know of some people who do... - but when I'm honest with myself, I get angry more easily then I realize or am willing to admit.

Anger is a funny emotion - it is so just happens before we realize it. And it often feels good - there is something satisfying about being angry. But after too long (or not too long) I don't like how I feel, I don't like what it does to me. I start out angry at somebody "out there", in the car that passed me, on the customer service phoneline, etc. But then, if I nurse that anger a little too long, I get snappy with the people real close to me, and they get a dose of ire that they don't deserve. I don't like that.

This week's message takes a look at the life of Cain, the first son of the earth. There is this interesting progression of anger in his life - that in this case leads to a killing, anger is a deadly sin. Cain offered some of his harvest to the LORD, Abel followed the example of this older brother - but he offered up the fattest sheep in his flock. The LORD was pleased with young Abel's offering, and displeased with calculating Cain. And this made Cain angry. The LORD really likes Cain, he shows up later and talks with him: if you do what is good, I'll be pleased with you, beware of your anger, it is like a hidden dragon, a crouching tiger ready to destroy you - be the master of your evil desire.

Jesus, in his famous teaching on anger in his Sermon on the Mount, I think references the story of Cain. Jesus instructs us on the progression of anger - first is anger, then is contempt, then is cursing.

Cain was angry with Abel, his pride was wounded. By nursing that anger/wound, he begins to feel contempt for his younger brother - who does he think he is?!?. Cain spits at Abel...when the kid is not looking. But the contempt grows worse, Cain begins to hate Abel, for getting what he didn't deserve, for taking away what was rightfully Cains...and so Abel begins to curse him in his mind/heart - that stupid, frickin jerk.... You get the idea.

Jesus' antidote to anger is empathy...acts of reconciliation instead of angry contempt; letting your anger go cuts you off from God and makes a mess of your life. You can't stop yourself from getting angry, but you can kill the hidden dragon, you can kill the crouching tiger before it leaps to infect you with contempt and cursing - kill it with love for your enemy/annoying neighbor.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Anchor and Money

Our church is not composed of many wealthy people. Though everybody has discretionary money, not many people consider themselves to be people of means. And I could take this as an excuse to not expect people to be generous. But I don't.

I am convinced that people at Anchor want to be generous, in fact many of them are - more than they realize.

Often people need a compelling cause, a specific need, towards which they can lavish their generosity. You would think that with all the non-profits out there, people would already be convinced of places/people to give towards. I heard today on NPR that the average American gives about 2% of their income to "charity"...I've heard that stat before, and apparently, when compared to the rest of the world, 2% is alot.

One time I guesstimated the level of giving at Anchor, and I think it settled somewhere around that number. But I keep inviting people to generosity. God doesn't call us to 2% giving. Nor 10%. He calls us to the kind of generosity that he pours out on us...!

And God keeps giving us really neat opportunities to be generous.

Our church is helping families and individuals get great Christian counseling. This is expensive ministry, but it has very rich rewards. But it takes money. Generous amounts.

We have five missionaries we support. And more possibly on the way. What a beautiful opportunity - all these missionaries are beautiful, engaging, Christ-following single women who have become apostles - "sent ones" for the sake of the Gospel - Macau, Azerbijian, Vietnam, Haiti, Peru - and possibly Uganda and Russia. And they need generous amounts of money to do their amazing ministry.

We have families in dire need for home repairs, car repairs, health needs and crisis help. And those responses, while requiring empathy, time and energy, also require money.

And Anchor could really benefit from hiring an Associate Pastor to really help care even more deeply for those in our neighborhood, helping more and more people follow Jesus and his Way of life. But that would take money.

Maybe Anchor should just accept the fact that we don't have much money at our disposal, and do ministry/life accordingly, live within our means.

But I have this strong sense that God is giving us opportunities to be sacrifically generous - in order that great things might be done by Him through us. And I know that I am resistant at times - too many times - at being sacrificial or generous. But there are those moments when I am - and others are - and we feel really really this is part of what is best about following Jesus.

Anchor has opportunities to help more people follow the way of Jesus - and our generous giving of money will reveal our trust in God, our compassion for our neighbor, and where are treasures are stacked up.

So where are your treasures, Tim?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Father to Daughter Quotes - 1

The title is from a little book Jan Clark gave me when Emma was born, the rest of the title: Life Lessons on Raising a Girl by Harry H. Harrison Jr.

Here are some of my favorites - they come out of my delightful experiences with Emma who will be four in the middle of March.

#8 Take part in her life now. Don't wait until she's 15 to try and develop a relationship.
I took this to heart - I've regularly changed diapers, fed in the middle of the night, done bathtime, done the bedtime routine, made meals, etc. We go for walks, we talk about the day, I answer every "Why" question as honestly and understandably as possible. It helps that Emma is a quick learner!

# 20 Give her baths. Do not leave this to Mom alone. It is pure magic.

#16 Make her part of your world - let her see you shave, work, read, and relax. She'll love spending time with you, no matter what you're doing. Enjoy it while it lasts.
All the kids love to watch me shave my face...I always tease them that I'll dab their cheeks with the shaving gel - which they squeal whenever I get it too close. What fun!

#23 When she babbles at you in baby talk, always respond with a positive: "Yes." "Of Course." "You're right." Soon enough you will be telling her "No" all the time.
This was really helpful...and very prophetic!

#28 Emotionally, phyically, and spiritually healthy girls are raised in a loving atmosphere. Do all you can to create a tranquil, harmonious home.
This was/is such good insight that should seem so obvious...

The Real, Messy, Legends of the OT

Judges 7-12 essentially contain the stories of two judges: Gideon and Jephthah (though Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon get a mention).

These are two fantastical stories - while reading them, at several points, I found myself snorting incredulously - "How could this have happened? This is ridiculous/outrageous/unbelievable."

Which, if this is my reaction, it has been the likely reaction of many others...which is probably one of the reasons that they have endured through time...they are the kind of stories you don't forget...they are messy stories - not fairy tales. Since truth is stranger then fiction, I don't lightly dismiss these legends as fictitious. These stories were passed on generation by generation orally, so there is likely some form of story alteration that has occurred. In our culture we are obsessed with accurate details down to the nth degree, in their culture the focus was on the event that happened, not on recounting all the small details of the story accurately. Nowadays we might call it exaggeration, in their day they called it storytelling.

All that to say, I believe these stories really are rooted in real life, but they are on such a grand scale that they have taken on legendary status - which means that people all over the world, in different ages can read it and see themselves in the story, they can see the humanity of the story, they can see God's real interaction with complicated men and women.

In reading the the legend of Gideon, I am struck by his vanity, his Moses-like doubt, his delegating of executions, his idol-bashing and idol-erecting, his bad son Abimelek (whose name could be loosely translated "my father a king").

In reading the tale of Jephthah I am struck by the details that are given about his life: his mother is a prostitute, his half brothers kick him out of the village, this family requests him to come back when they need a military leader, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon him (like it did Gideon) and he is victorious in battle (like Gideon) - but he makes a stupidly rash vow. This vow is very controversial - he said that he would offer as a burnt offering the first thing that came through his front door if God did indeed grant this victory to him. (As I write this I find myself getting very angry at this man - what the heck did he think would come out that door other then his ONLY daughter? His pet dog? His little chickens? His waddling ducks?...)
His daughter comes dancing out that door celebrating his victory - and Jepthah is crushed...and in the end kills his one and only beloved daughter. How stupid.

And then I think of Ted Haggard. Jimmy Swaggert. Jim Bakker. And all the other Christian leaders that have had the Spirit of the LORD upon them, only to do something really really foolish, stupid and harmful. Apparently being chosen by the LORD for a special task doesn't keep you immune from idiotness. Why did God choose these kind of men to lead his people?

Monday, March 05, 2007

So You Want to Hear a Prophet?

A blog entry by the same name at a blogsite I frequently visit posted a YouTube video of Bono's speech at the NAACP awards the other night.

Visit the site and watch the ten minute prophetic call...

While there may be stuff to quibble over in regard to Bono's theology...he's making the call for true religion (aka James).

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Slaughter of the Elephants

This picture can be found at the link below:

National Geographic regularly reports on the status of elephants in Africa, reminding the world of the gross genocide of these beautiful beasts. Click through the other pictures in the gallery to have your heart saddened. This tragedy moves me on several levels. I think of St. Paul's words in his letter to Christians in Rome, he writes that the Creation groans as it awaits redemption, the removal of evil. Every innocent animal that is needlessly, illegally, greedily slaughtered - the Creation and its Creator groan. If God is saddened by the death of a sparrow, how he must weep at the herds wiped out by ivory-hungry blackmarket barons.

Pray for those who risk their lives to protect the pakaderms, who frustrate Evil, who attempt to relieve the groans of Creation. Who will stop the slaughter of the elephants? Who will rescue them? Who will redeem those who slaughter? Come, Jesus...

Does the Way of Jesus include hearing the cry of the oppressed elephants?

The Sensual Second-to-Last Supper

Matthew 26 is one of the longest chapters in the Gospels, it is the prelude chapter to Jesus' cruel crucifixion.

Being so lengthy, the advantage is that its chock full of tragic tales and bigger then life accounts.

Take for example the Sensual Second-to-Last Supper. We know so much about the Last Supper, it is a compelling story in its own right, but the Last Supper before the Last Supper is just as compelling, if not more so.

The chapter essentially opens with this fascinating feast, Jesus is in a suburban village outside of Jerusalem, hanging out in a home of a leper...did you catch that? Of course, by now, Jesus eating with forbidden folks is almost old hat...but don't miss this point: he is eating (a sign of union and eternally bonded friendship) with a despised, unclean, death-bound Leper. So there is that interesting background detail. In the same opening sentence, Matthew reveals to us that a woman (a socially outcast human who was to remain unnoticed) comes to Jesus with a purposeful stride, softly bearing "an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume...which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." Whoa! What a whiff of devotion, desire, and delight!

And Jesus takes it - he revels in the overbearing scent as it soaks into his beard, it drips down his dirty hair, as it stains his smelly garments. The woman may have approached him out of a longstanding resolve to express her love for him, but once the alabastar jar was empty...then what? There must have been this tender moment where her gut gets queezy, she is very vulnerable at this point - maybe she is clutching the little vase to her throbbing chest...looking with eyes wide open, hoping for an expression of reciprocal love. Jesus' eyes lock onto hers, but before he can utter anything...the disciples burst out with protestation! How scandalous! How wasteful! Our meal of mutton and goat-cheese is ruined! Oh man..... The tender scene is trampled upon by the bufoonery of the Jesus followers...except maybe Simon the Leper and Judas Iscariot - they knew better then the other men what was really going on. But their resulting reactions to it led to two very different results.

This sensual supper is beautiful, it is full of bravado and brazen love, it is the kind of delight for which God has always yearned and we have been to tentative to pour out. This supper is so much more wonderful then the Passover meal, which is full of impending doom, woe-full misunderstanding, and lonliness. This is the story which essentially begins the end of Jesus' life - the one last beautiful moment with humanity before they turn on him in betrayal, denial, hate, fear, and cruelty. She is what is best about those who sin, she is the vision of a redeemed humanity, she is the reminder of why Jesus wants to rescue us. Will we remember her?

Any Day Could Be The Day - Part 2

Matthew 25 has three parables that Jesus uses to follow up his chapter twenty-four sermon on the End of the World.

The first parable is about a bunch of virgins awaiting the groom to arrive for the big wedding day. These beautiful friends of the bride were to welcome him and guide him to the celebration. The story stresses two things: no one knows when the party will begin, so use wisdom (not foolishness) as you live and wait.

The second parable is about some servants who are supposed to double the master's wealth in his absence, and the master has given them what he think is a doable task. The story stresses two things: stay faithful and do good while the master is gone, he will return and expects obedience and wants to celebrate with you.

The final parable is about a rancher seperating his goats from the sheep. The sheep are going back out to pasture, they are going to have a pleasant life of munching and producing soft fluffy fleece for the rest of their life, no mutton chops coming from them! The goats, on the other hand, are headed for the slaughter house, somebody somewhere is getting the grill ready for goat fillets.
The story has a different twist than the other two: here the master/groom is amongst the people - undetected, it is as if never really left. It's as if he charged out the city gates on his steed, and then when out of sight beyond the hills, doubled back at dusk, slipping in by the guards disguised. He spends the next months moving throughout the city streets, experiencing the hostility and hospitality of his "flock".
Sheep share with those in need, Goats are greedy and look past the needs of others. What is interesting is that the "sheep" are praised for their feeding of the hungry, and these sheep are shocked when they discover that it was their master/groom/shepherd/Jesus they were helping. They didn't feed/clothe/visit because they thought the stranger was Jesus, they did it because it was the good/faithful/wise act to do.

Jesus, in one sense, is telling his disciples: I will go away, and you will wait for my return; my return will come when not expected, and I will return and be amongst you before you realize it. So while I am gone, be wise, be faithful and good with my Creation, take care of the least of these. Any day could be the day to do good, act justly, walk humbly with the least of these. Who will you be feeding, visiting, clothing, hosting when Jesus comes back?

Any Day Could Be The Day!

Yes, I'm talking about Tara and our little baby...our entire household lives under this imminent coming of Baby Hallman. Everytime Tara feels pressure in her belly, or some discomfort...we wonder: could this be the hour? It is a fun time, the anticipation keeps us smiling...and we keep talking about it with the kids. We have the bags packed, the clothes washed, the coming home outfits are ready to go (boy and girl), the nursery is stocked, and now we wait...we're hoping to wait another week - minimum, at least get through Emma's Bday on the 13th...that will give us some time to relax before the storm!

Today Tara is scrapbooking all day, that is my bday present to her. Thursday was her bday, March 1st, she is 33! She wants time, so I give it - and she's trying to catch up on two years of ambitious...part of why I love her so!

Happy Birthday Tara...and Baby Hallman - hang in there for another week, okay?!?!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Kierkegaard on Purity

Sincerity is not a gift but a duty.

There is only one end: the genuine Good; and only one means: to be willing only to use those means which are genuinely good.

No matter how much of all the earth's gold hidden in covetousness may amount to, it is infinitely less than the smallest mite hidden in the contentment of the poor!

When a book has become old and shabby, the binding separates and the pages fall out. Similarly in our time people are disintegrated; their understanding, their imaginations do not bind them in character.

We can flee evil out of fear for punishment - like slaves, or out of hope for reward - like hirelings, or out of love of God - like children.

- pages 359-362, Provocations: spiritual writings of Kierkegaard

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sunday Sermon Notes - 3.4.07

Week three in our series about the Seven Deadly Sins - Greed.

Our OT story (Joshua 7) is Achan whose coveting of a forbidden Babylonian robe which was a violation of God's command got him killed. Greed is a deadly sin.

It is clear how coveting killed Achan, but how does greed gouge out our life in this age? Achan was given a clear command, and he knew it - he fessed up when confronted. He saw the items, he coveted them, and took them into his own possession, a robe, silver coins and a bar of gold. In this case, Achan coveted forbidden items, and that transgression resulted in his stoning.

We covet, but not necessarily forbidden items. Our greed doesn't normally get us killed as quickly as Achan...but our greed is still deadly, if only in degrees rather then kind when compared to Achan. His story is so tragic because he comes across as just a regular guy...we could be him...what is sad is that out of the tens of thousands of soldiers, he is the only one that gave in to his greed. Nowadays it seems the opposite percentage, now it seems like there is only one in tens of thousands who does not give in to greed.

Jesus (Luke 12) instructs us about greed, rooted in a real life situation, dealt with in a vivid parable, followed up with a revolutionary way of living.

Two men, brothers, are arguing about inheritance, and one of them implores Jesus to convince the other one to split it evenly. Jesus avoids getting snaked into this thorny issue, and thus reprimands the brothers for their blatant greed. He implores them:
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

He says, guard against all kinds of greed...what are those? The ancients and the moderns understand greed through words like: avarice, covetousness, theft, cupidity, hunger, anxiety, dread, fraud, sleeplessness, thriftiness, miserliness, cheating, treasuring...these are a few "kinds". One ancient writer caricutured the "kinds" with these words: "the brood of their mother Greed's black milk" - (Tickle, pg26-28).

You can be greedy and not know it! One of the first steps in breaking away from the deadly vice-grip of sin is to Name It.

How do you know if you consider life to consist of abundance of possessions? How do you know if you are greedy? And if you are greedy, what can you do about it?

Do you have more then you need? Do you have a two car garage, with two cars, and one has to be parked on the driveway? Do you rent out a storage unit? Do you worry about theft? Do you worry about your retirement plan? Do you love shopping for "stuff"? Do you resent others' purchases? Do you buy compulsively? Do you have trouble sharing? Do you pity the poor?

If you are a Protestant Christian (meaning you are not Catholic or Orthodox), then you are part of a tradition that gave birth to Capitalism. If you are a Protestant Christian residing in a Capitalistic Economy (like North America...), you are part of a system where greed is necessary to our understanding of a healthy national GDP. Greed is actually considered good in our capitialistic society, for it is what fuels our business production, greed compels us to purchase and thus keep our neighbor hired. We are so enmeshed in greed, it seems almost impossible to not act out of greed in any part of our purchasing life.

It is almost too hard to watch pro sports where players can sign 100 million dollar contracts; to hear about oil executives dole out about a billion dollars in profits to themselves, too painful to watch so many Hummers and BMWs pass by on the other side.

Our American Dream is partially a contributer to our complicity in greed: the dream is that each generation would be better off then their folks, we'd own more, have better, more convience, better luxuries, more wealth, better does that not foster greed?

To be ungreedy is almost to be unAmerican. What to do?

Any suggestions?