Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some Random Thoughts on a Variety of Issues

There have been a few things rolling around in my head lately that I thought I would throw out there for thinking and comment.

1) The state of NC has asked public schools to give back $58 million because of statewide budget shortfalls. As I watched a news story about cuts that schools are having to make because of this demand from the state, the next 2 commercials that came on immediately after the story were commercials for the NC "Education" Lottery. Some people oppose the lottery for religious reasons, some because they think it basically amounts to a tax on the poor. For me, the issue is that NC sold a lottery to the citizens in that this would benefit schools. They were helping schools by buying lottery tickets. However, anyone who was paying attention at the time could see that there were some pretty tight restrictions on how that money could be used. It is great that schools have been able to use money to build new classrooms. Too bad that the state is taking back the money that could be used to pay teachers for those new classrooms.

2) Would people please stop saying that Texas deserves to be in the national title game because they beat Oklahoma? If you are going to make that argument, then you have to say that Texas Tech has to be there because they beat Texas. Then you have to say that Oklahoma has to be there because they beat Texas Tech ... I know some folks say that the fact that Texas Tech got blown out by Oklahoma disqualifies them from having a place in this argument. Sorry, don't buy it. Texas Tech played 1 bad game. Anybody who watched the Texas-Texas Tech game could say the same for Texas. Anybody who watched the 2nd half of Texas-Oklahoma could say the same for Oklahoma. In other words, I am going to watch my Richmond Spiders play in the national semifinals Saturday against Northern Iowa and wonder why it is that the big boys of college football can't figure out that a playoff system makes sense.

3) One more college football thought ... Tim Tebow may end up being considered one of the best college quarterbacks of all time, but it is a shame and a crime that Graham Harrell didn't at least get an invite to the Heisman ceremony.

4) A great gift to give this Christmas: the movie "The Ultimate Gift". Very well done.

5) My new year's ministry resolution: get out of the office more. I have let myself get caught in the game of "I have too many things to do to go out and visit people." No more. There is a lot to do, but not so much that I can't get out regularly visit homebound, shut-ins, and folks in the community.

If I don't talk to you before Christmas, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Open Letter and an Open Response

Last week, at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the Convention adopted an amended proposal from the Giving Plans Study Committee that did away with the multiple giving plans of the State Convention in favor of a single giving plan with options beginning in 2010. During the discussion, the proposal was amended, removing the option that allowed local churches to designate a portion of their offering to go to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Below, you will find an open letter sent out by Milton Hollifield, Executive Director - Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. I received this letter via email on Tuesday, November 18. Below Mr. Hollifield's letter you will find the response that I sent back to Mr. Hollifield via email on Tuesday, November 18.

An Open Letter to North Carolina Baptists from the EDT

November 18, 2008

The 178th annual session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) was an occasion for encouragement in many ways and for many reasons. Messengers observed a gracious spirit of unity and resolve to press forward together as a denomination committed to missions. I communicated in my address to the messengers that we could no longer move forward with a business as usual mentality. The messengers also recognized anew that the energies of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina reside in her churches as fellow believers view one another as "partners in the gospel" ministry (Philippians1:5).

A dynamic of Christian fellowship emerges from a relationship rooted in our love for and obedience to Jesus Christ (I John 1:1-4). As a result, every initiative and ministry of BSCNC must now be carefully reviewed as to its viability in service to local churches across this state. We have taken great leaps forward to prayerfully position the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as a servant to local churches. North Carolina brims with change as the state's population increases with people from other nations and cultures. It seems that God is bringing the world to our doorstep, and we must learn to live as missionaries in our own state.

This reality was clearly seen in our resolve to usher in a new day of unity through an increased emphasis upon missions and the subsequent approval of the proposals which the Giving Plans Study Committee (GPSC) recommended. Allan Blume, President of the BSCNC Board of Directors, appointed a group which represented all facets of North Carolina Baptist life in hopes that a consensus could be achieved regarding our future together. The recommendations of the study committee sought to simplify the multiple Cooperative Program giving plans which currently facilitate the cooperative ministries budget of many churches with differing perspectives. The Giving Plans Study Committee sought to facilitate a way whereby the strength of the Cooperative Program might find new ways of accomplishing the desire of the majority of North Carolina Baptists - convictional cooperation through the extension of denominational support. It was a move which had been prayerfully sought by many and endorsed widely by Convention leadership.

The discussion surrounding the five recommendations of the study committee and the subsequent amendment revealed both the strength and weakness of Baptist polity. Any messenger at any time may question anything for any reason. This is a hallmark of our life together that no Baptist should seek to diminish. However, despite the unanimous approval of the Giving Plans Study Committee report by the BSCNC Board of Directors in September, an amendment was proposed from the floor on Wednesday morning, November 12 and approved by the majority of messengers present. This amendment removed recommendation #3 from the final GPSC report. The original recommendation #3, if approved, would have simply included a convenience for churches to designate 10% of their gifts to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship by selecting a box on the remittance form.

This action of approval by the Convention establishes direction regarding this matter. I am disappointed that the rhetoric emerging from both perspectives during the discussion on the convention floor and in subsequent conversations may have rendered our corporate Christian witness as something not honoring to the Lord Jesus. It is our prayer that in future days all conversations which take place as a result of this action will be done seasoned with respect and grace.

Each member of the Giving Plans Study Committee was committed to strengthening trust in the overall ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and they represented the finest our churches could offer. They were respectful of each other; prayed for each other; talked with each other; and worked to advance the issue forward with no false caricature of the other's position. At no time during their deliberations did anyone ever feel demeaned or personally disrespected. There were and are differences of opinion. Yet, the report sought to forthrightly reconcile the procedural and financial requirements currently in play with the over 80 possible combinations of the giving plans.

The committee was commissioned to study the giving plans and recommend any proposed changes to messengers regarding their findings. This they did with excellence. In no way did they seek to serve as referee of various theological perspectives or dare to speak for any local congregation. The confusion which has followed the passage of the amendment has been to such a degree that I must inform North Carolina Baptists of the facts this change renders to the report and the recommendations. Following this letter are the Giving Plans Study Committee Report FAQs.

As we press forward together, it is my prayer that we will allow the love of Christ to motivate us and renew our efforts to fulfill the great commission and the great commandment.

May Jesus Christ be glorified through our lives, our churches, and our Convention.

In His service,
Milton A. Hollifield, Jr.
Executive Director -Treasurer
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

Giving Plans Study Committee Report FAQs

1. What was the amendment which was passed by Convention messengers?
On Wednesday morning November 12, 2008 a messenger stated "I move to remove the CBF from the giving plan as proposed." The effect of the amendment is the removal of recommendation #3 from the Giving Plans Study Committee proposal. All the remaining recommendations were approved by the Convention.

2. Did the amendment to the GPSC proposal change in any way the relationship of cooperating churches with the BSCNC?
No. A church's cooperative relationship with the BSCNC is based upon their financial support of the Cooperative Program, and their desire to participate in the missions and ministries efforts of the Convention (Article VI. A. 3 BSCNC Articles of Incorporation). The autonomous decision by any church to direct a portion of its missions budget, whether through use of the remittance form or through direct contributions, to organizations outside of the BSCNC does not result in a change of relationship with the Convention.

3. What is the impact of the approval of the four remaining recommendations of the GPSC on churches supporting missions through the Cooperative Program?
Recommendations approved by the messengers do not take effect until 2010. The four Cooperative Program Giving Plans, known as Plans A, B, C, and D remain unchanged for the remainder of 2008 and all of 2009. All churches currently in friendly cooperation with this Convention who desire to continue their voluntary association with the various outreaches, ministries, programs, institutions, agencies and financial support of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina are encouraged to continue their support through the Cooperative Program. The Convention has given the Budget Committee a framework upon which to build the 2010 budget. This budget must still move through presentations to the Executive Committee, the BSCNC Board of Directors, and ultimately the Convention meeting in annual session.

4. Were the members of the GPSC, the Executive Committee, the BSCNC Board of Directors, and those messengers who voted against the amendment to exclude CBF from the new remittance form supportive of liberal theology and unsupportive of the doctrine of inerrancy?
No. A vote against the amendment was not a vote against inerrancy. A vote for the amendment was not a vote for inerrancy. The GPSC report was never intended to be a referendum on inerrancy.

5. Why was an option to include a check box allowing the 10% designation to CBF in the GPSC recommendation?
The GPSC discovered in its research that 40% of NC Baptist churches utilize one or more of the alternate giving plans (known as Plans B, C, D). Survey data identified a great desire from North Carolina Baptists that any changes to the alternate giving plans provide some measure of options for churches to designate their giving. The recommendation of the GPSC removed the CBF allocation from the convention's budget and returned the CBF funding decision to the local church.

6. Does the amendment's passage prohibit any church from affiliating with the BSCNC?
No. The amendment effectively removed a checkbox from the remittance form that was provided by the GPSC for churches who desired to designate 10% of their gifts to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The amendment does not impact church affiliation with the BSCNC.

7. What is the value of continuing to cooperate with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina?
For over 175 years, this state convention has stood as a testimony to the faithfulness of local churches to intentionally, passionately, and effectively cooperate together in impacting this state and the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through many trials, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina which presently consists of more than 4000 local churches and 80 Baptist associations has emerged resilient and capable of extensive ministry and mission outreach within this state, throughout North America and in numerous countries through church planting and the mission boards which provide for career missionaries all across the world.

This is my response

Mr. Hollifield,

I have just finished reading and re-reading your open letter to all North Carolina Baptists. I want to thank you for taking the time to address the events of Wednesday, November 12 publicly. I am sure that you have spent much time in recent days considering the most appropriate response to these events and their impact on Baptist life in North Carolina.

I am a pastor of a church that decided several years ago to no longer align with the Southern Baptist Convention on a national level. This church made the choice to partner instead with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Though this decision was made before I became the church’s pastor, I wholeheartedly support that decision. The theology and polity of the Southern Baptist Convention no longer represents this church. While this decision was not an easy one for this church, it was decided in a spirit of prayer that CBF not only represented a better theological partner for our church but also provided a relationship that would allow us to focus more on serving Jesus Christ and building His kingdom and less on denominational politics. The church desired to maintain a relationship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and our local association because of a desire to continue to cooperate with local churches to reach our state with the love of Christ and the gospel of grace and salvation. At that time, our partnership with a national organization like CBF was not deemed an obstacle to these other partnerships. This message was most clearly communicated through the existence of the multiple giving plans of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

I will be the first to admit that the multiple giving plans were confusing. I know many people right here in my own church did not necessarily understand the difference between Plan A and Plan C. I recognize that having to develop 4 different giving options was a difficult task for the Budget Committee every year. Therefore, I was not opposed to the Study Committee’s recommendation of a single giving plan that sought to maintain the options that the multiple giving plans embodied. I feel they did the best job they could with the circumstances they had to work with, and I commend them for their efforts.

Last Wednesday, as I listened to the motion that was made to remove recommendation #3 from the Study Committee’s report and the discussion that followed, I found myself both hurt and angered. CBF was portrayed as unbiblical and un-Baptist. In these comments, people may have thought they were talking about some faceless organization. However, as I sat there and listened, I saw the faces of my congregation and my peers in ministry who selflessly serve and give and pray and witness and minister for the glory of God and nothing else. These people trust in God’s Word as Truth and authority in their life. They read and study Scripture to allow the Holy Spirit to mold and shape them according to His will. They hold strongly not only to the authority of Scripture but also the priesthood of the believer, the autonomy of the local church, and the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. These are the people who were called unbiblical and un-Baptist.

In considering the question, “Does the amendment’s passage prohibit any church from affiliating with the BSCNC?” you answer a definitive “No.” Mr. Hollifield, I believe that this answer ignores the greater issues that came to a breaking point last Wednesday. This is not just about money or messengers; this is an issue of respect. It is clear to me that the Baptist State Convention does not respect me or my church because of our affiliation with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

For several years, I carried the anger of a controversy that I was too young to really have participated in. I refused to have anything to do with anyone connected with the SBC because of that anger. However, God used a friendship with a minister in Virginia to teach me that what defines us as Christians is not denominational labels but the heart of Christ beating within us. I came to see that the SBC does not 100% speak for those who affiliate with the SBC, just as CBF does not 100% speak for those who affiliate with CBF. These relationships are true partnerships we choose to enter; they are not determinative of who we are. In the ensuing years, God has blessed me with other relationships that have taught me to respect a person not for what denominational organization they affiliate with but for who they are. Last Wednesday, I left Greensboro with the message that my church is not respected by a convention that we have supported faithfully for 60 years.

In recent years, we have been told that the portion of plan C that went to CBF was not counted as Cooperative Program giving, though money that went to the Southern Baptist Convention was counted as Cooperative Program giving. Now we are being told, “The amendment effectively removed a checkbox from the remittance form that was provided by the GPSC for churches who desired to designate 10% of their gifts to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.” Just a checkbox, nothing more. My question is this: why is their no checkbox for SBC? The message over and over again is that churches that partner with CBF and not SBC are viewed differently by the state convention. Would those who say that we are just talking about a checkbox, that we are just talking about a convenience, be preaching the same message if the name next to that checkbox was “Southern Baptist Convention”? I sincerely doubt it.

You say, “We have taken great leaps forward to prayerfully position the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as a servant to local churches.” Yet the Convention cannot seem to be bothered with a checkbox that might serve some of its local churches. The Convention can’t be bothered to save a local church an extra check and stamp. I’m sorry, Mr. Hollifield, but these don’t seem like “great leaps forward”.

If the decision that was made last week by the Convention had been made for the expressed reason that the Convention wanted to be partnered exclusively with the Southern Baptist Convention, I could have lived with it. I wouldn’t have liked it, but I could have respected that decision. However, that was not the case. Instead, the point was argued on grounds that CBF is unbiblical and un-Baptist. This is the accusation leveled against my church. How is my church to believe that the Baptist State Convention wants to work with us, wants to partner with us, when this is what the Convention seemingly thinks about us? How was the silence of the Convention serving us in the AP story about last Wednesday that focused so heavily on homosexuality, an issue that I don’t recall ever coming up in the debate last Wednesday? Why did your letter condemn “… the rhetoric emerging from both perspectives during the discussion on the convention floor and in subsequent conversations ...” without also condemning an AP story that, in my opinion, unfairly portrays CBF and its partner churches? (I would here reference the FAQ section at

Mr. Hollifield, I understand that my church and other churches were not officially “kicked out” last week. However, I hope that you understand that the message many of us heard last week is that we are not true North Carolina Baptist churches and are not desirable partners for the Convention. While your letter may address the technical details of what happened last week, I feel it does little to address this deeper issue.

Your letter is an open letter, and my response will be the same. I will be posting this letter on my personal blog along with your letter – For the sake of full disclosure, I will also tell you that I posted a blog entry last week on the CBF blog - - entitled “Demons” that shared my immediate feelings about the events of last Wednesday. I feel all of this is important to say because I want you to understand that I am not writing this letter on behalf of my church or any other group. These are my personal thoughts. I do not yet know what my church’s response to the events of last week will be. As a messenger of the church, I will report to them what happened. I will share your letter with them, and I will share my response with them. Ultimately, it will be their decision, and I will follow the will of the congregation as the Lord leads them.

I agree that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has made a great impact in this state and around the world for Jesus Christ. My prayer is that it will continue to do so. However, I fear that it will have to do so without some churches who have been long-time partners with the Convention in its work unless something is done to address the deeper issues that I feel your letter did not address. Though I am usually an optimistic person, recent history indicates to me that this will not happen. Perhaps there is nothing to be done; perhaps this cannot change; perhaps SBC and CBF cannot work together. I, for one, do not believe this. However, it seems the Convention does.

I appreciate your efforts to inform and hold together the churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. May God give you wisdom and guidance for this herculean task.

In Christ,
Rev. Mark Mofield
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Elon

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What is Worship?

I know this gave me something to think about!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Great Post on Church & Politics

I love this blog post by John Voelz on why his church doesn't get involved with politics. I couldn't make the case any better!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Give Me Your Eyes

Saw this video on Great song!

Brandon Heath - Give Me Your Eyes from Brandon Heath on Vimeo.

The End of the Culture War?

I was listening to my NPR Religion podcast (see my last post) and it included a story about a survey done by Faith in Public Life. The NPR story focused on the differences this study revealed between older Christians and younger Christians on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage in relation to the upcoming election. The study found that more than half of young evangelicals favored civil unions or marriages for same-sex couples, while most older evangelicals were opposed to such unions. 60% of young Catholics said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In describing these results, one researcher said of the younger Christian generation, "This is not the culture war generation."

Or perhaps what we are witnessing is a change in the battlefront. When asked to identify the most important issues of the 2008 election, evangelicals identified the economy (78%), terrorism (76%), energy/gas (74%), Iraq (67%), and health care (61%) as issues in this year's election. Abortion was identified as an issue by 57% of respondents, almost tied with poverty at 56%. Same-sex marriage (49%) finished ahead of only the environment (44%) at the bottom of the list. In younger respondents, abortion was an important for 62%, while same-sex unions were an important issue for only 44%.

Abortion and homosexuality have long been at the forefront of the "culture war". When I look at these survey results, I wonder if the "culture war" is moving to the battles that are being fought in our own backyard. There are probably a good number of evangelicals who do not confront issues involving homosexuality or abortion on a regular basis. However, many people are dealing with medical bills, putting gas in the car, and keeping their job everyday. Since 9/11, I think a lot more people have had their eyes opened to the "If if could happen there ..." type thoughts. Could it be that Christians in general, and younger Christians in particular, are becoming more concerned with the issues that they are more likely to face in the immediate today and tomorrow? Maybe it is not so much that this is not a "culture war generation"; instead, this is a generation redefining what the culture war is being fought over.

I have never been comfortable with the "culture war" concept, especially in connection with political elections. Do I believe that my faith impacts and guides how I vote? Certainly. However, I think the church made the mistake of giving up its own voice on societal issues by trying to get government to make changes it wanted made. Righteousness and holiness have never been issues that could be legislated; they are only brought about by changed hearts and spirit-filled minds. That is not the realm of politics and government; that is the realm of faith. I am sure that some folks are going to read these statistics and bemoan that Christians are compromising their values. I am more concerned that we too quickly compromised our identity and role as the body of Christ in order to become political action groups.

When I look at these statistics, what I see is a desire to change the world rather than fight a war. It is a shame that the word "change" has become so politicized. Because I think the only change that will last will come not from whoever is our next President but from Christians fulfilling their call as disciples and seeking the provision and grace of God for themselves and for our world. Perhaps the culture war is now moving from a war against the culture of the world to a resistance against what the culture of Christianity had been.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Podcasts I am Listening To

Thought I would take a selfish moment to share what podcasts I am currently subscribed to. Somebody else may enjoy listening to these as well. Feel free to post comments with other suggestions.

1) PTI - ESPN's Pardon the Interruption is the best sports news show, period. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon mix the right blend of humor and smarts to comment on the sports news of the day. I was bummed a couple of years ago when ESPN stopped reairing the show later at night when it was more convenient in my schedule to watch. That is why I was so pumped to be able to get it in podcast format.

2) ACC Nation - Check out It is a great blog about ACC sports. They record a radio broadcast twice a week, Monday nights and Wednesday nights, discussing all the different games and issues in the ACC. These guys can get a little sophomorish, but otherwise it is a great podcast with great interviews of ACC broadcasters, writers, announcers, coaches, and players.

3) The Dave Ramsey Show - I just got turned on to Dave Ramsey after one of my church members loaned me "The Total Money Makeover". I really appreciate the financial advice that Ramsey gives in the book, and his daily radio show builds on those same concepts. The podcast is not the whole radio show, but you get a good taste of the program in the 35-45 minute podcast.

4) Marketplace - This American Public Media financial program was one I subscribed to because (quite honestly) I liked the sound of the host. However, whenever I listen to, I always feel like I understand more about our nation's economy than I did before. That is important, especially in recent months.

5) NPR Religion & NPR Technology - these two podcasts are collections of stories from NPR's various shows. The technology one is OK, but the religion one is much more interesting.

6) Buzz Out Loud - This production of C/Net quickly became one of my favorites. The daily podcast is commentary on news in the world of technology. That may sound boring, but these guys (and gals) bring a whole lot of life and fun to it while also bringing some great commentary on issues like copyright law, fair use, and the role of technology in everyday life.

7) This Week in Tech - If you remember TechTV, you know who Leo Laporte. I used to love watching "The Screen Savers" and "Call for Help" with Leo. I have missed Leo ever since the demise of TechTV, but I am ecstatic to find him again at TWIT, the online broadcast network Laporte started. This podcast is recorded on Sundays and provides commentary on all the tech stories of the week. Is a little more hardcore tech that Buzz Out Loud at times, but enjoyable nonetheless.

8) The Bugle - If you watch "The Daily Show", you know who John Oliver is. The Bugle is The Daily Show made in Britain and without the pictures. It is definitely PG-13 in content, but always finds a way to produce a good laugh or two for me.

9) First Baptist Church of Elon - Some may say this is narcissistic. I say I am just making sure that the download works each week.

I am still looking for some good religion podcasts. I used to be subscribed to public radio's "Speaking of Faith", but they started doing a lot of rebroadcasts, and so I unsubscribed. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Would somebody please explain the ACC?

Florida State couldn't figure out who was on their team and who was on the opposing team a week ago against Wake Forest. Saturday, they manhandled Colorado, an undefeated team out of the Big 12.

That same Wake Forest team that looked like the best team in the ACC the first month of the season couldn't stop Navy and couldn't stop throwing interceptions to Navy.

This, by the way, was the same Navy team that Duke, 3-1 after beating Virginia, dominated in the second half a couple of weeks earlier.

Virginia Tech, who looked horrible offensively against UNC and won a game they shouldn't have, couldn't be stopped at Nebraska.

UNC, playing their 2nd string and then their 3rd string quarterback, beat a Miami team on the road that had just beat up Texas A&M on the road and seemed to be coming together.

And Clemson, the preseason favorite? They lost to a Maryland team that, in successive weeks, lost to Middle Tennessee State and beat nationally-ranked California.

I was going to fill out a power poll for the ACC Nation blog and podcast this weekend. However, I never could figure out what to put down. Virginia is clearly the bottom of the league, with NC State probably just ahead of them, though more because of injury problems than anything else. After that, how do you rank 1-10?

What is seemingly clear is that there is no dominant team in the ACC right now. That is good in that it makes for exciting games every weekend. However, I am not sure that helps the ACC in terms of national reputation. You look at this week's polls, there is not an ACC team ranked inside the top 20. That does not bode well for a supposed "power conference". I know that everybody talks about how the SEC teams beat up on one another. However, those our recognized top 10 teams beating up on one another. Right now, the ACC needs a team that can rise to the top and put attention back to the league as a legitimate power conference. It may not be as fun for the conference in the short term, but I think the long-term benefit for the conference would be huge.

By the way, did I mention that Duke is 3-1?

Monday, September 22, 2008

BSU Fall Retreat 2007

One of the Elon BSU students put together this video montage from last year's fall retreat. Really captures the beauty of the setting and comradery of the weekend. Kudos to Jackson!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just Not In the Mood

Time to share a little pastoral secret: pastors also have days where they are just not in the mood to work. I know some folks may be surprised by this, seeing as how they think pastors only work 1 day a week anyway. However, let's leave that fallacy behind and get back on the subject: there are days that pastors would just assume call in sick for a "mental health day", days they think the clock cannot move fast enough. Today is one of those days.

Am I saying I hate my job? No. I love my job. I truly feel this is what God has called me to do and that I am serving the church where God has called me to be. I love my church! I love the people! Today is just a day that I don't feel like working.

It occurs to me that God created the sabbath day as a day of rest. I wonder sometimes if we get that "I don't feel like working today" feeling because we have forsaken too long the need for rest that God recognized when He set aside a whole day each week for us to do it. Maybe the "I don't feel like working" is our body and spirit craving what they know is part of God's plan. As I look back at recent weeks, I realize that I have not done a real great job of honoring sabbath in my life. Maybe this feeling today is God's way of saying, "Time to pull back and take the time I give you to rest your body and soul in my care."

Just a thought.

New Post on CBF blog

Just put a new post up on the CBF blog entitled "Pastoral Envy". Check it out!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two subjects that really aren't related: LPGA and finacial aid for convicts

I feel moved to comment on two issues that I heard about yesterday that really are not related to one another.

1) The LPGA is going to require that all of its players pass an oral evaluation of their English skills or face a suspension of their membership. The argument is that such a move will be "good for business" (my understanding of their stated position). In a time when every other major sport seems to be talking about going global, the LPGA seems to be moving in the exact opposite direction. What seems truly ridiculous to me is the idea that the language the players speak or don't speak is the reason why the LPGA struggles for sponsors and viewers. This seems to ignore what has been a reality of our culture for a long time: women's sports just aren't as popular as men's sports. I have season tickets to the Duke women's basketball games. I love going to the games, and I love watching their games. You know what? Most of the time, the stadium is half-full. And this is for a program that over the last several years has been one of the dominant programs in women's basketball. Example #2: the WNBA. Can anyone tell me who won the WNBA title last year? The year before? Women's tennis has probably enjoyed more popularity than any other sport. But, honestly, how much does tennis move the cultural needle anymore?
I enjoy watching the LPGA tournaments when I get a chance. I have never found language to be a barrier to that enjoyment. Quite honestly, I can't remember the last time I heard a golfer not named Tiger, Phil, or Sergio speak at any length. I think the LPGA would be better served to put their emphasis in other areas to help their game grow. This approach, in my opinion, looks like a giant step back.

2) Last night, I went with a group from our church to a local prison to provide a birthday party for those inmates who had August birthdays. After the cake and cookies were served, I sat down at a table with two of the inmates and began to talk. In the course of our discussion, each of them shared with me their plans for after their release. One of the inmates, a 23-year old young man, said that he had gotten his GED while in prison and wanted to go to college after his release. However, he was concerned because he had heard that the government was talking about making excons inelligible for federal financial aid such as Pell Grants. Sure enough, doing a little digging this morning, I have found out that convicts can apply for student loans but are not eligible for Pell Grants. In my opinion, this is wrong. I can see what the thinking was when this change was made in the '90s: give people another thing to think about, another potential consequence to have to consider. However, this was a short-sighted perspective. If someone has committed a crime, served their sentence, and been released, they already will have numerous consequences to deal with. Why make it even more difficult for them to get an education that can equip them to become productive members of society? In a desire to punish, we have closed an important door for rehabilitation. As a Christian, this seems to go against every understanding of grace that I have. Is there punishment for sin? The Bible does not hesitate to talk about "the wages of sin". However, the whole message of the gospel is that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that the old could pass and all might become new. God did not punish me for my old life by denying me access to new life; should we treat convicts any differently? Especially young 23 year old men who have sincerely desire to turn their life around?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Been a Long Time

Wow, it has been almost a month since I updated my blog! Some of it, I admit, is technological laziness. However, I have been on vacation for the last 2 weeks with limited Internet access, so that is a big part of it.

I just put a new post up on the CBF blog: "Which side of the breakwater are we fishing?" Check it out at

Not a lot to add right now, but I will be putting some new stuff up soon. My favorite time of year is getting ready to start: football season!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Technology Meets Scripture - Episode 2

"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" Psalm 46:10-11

A few weeks ago I got an offer from in the mail from my cell phone carrier (let's just call them Horizon, shall we?). They told me I could go ahead and upgrade my cell phone even though I am not due a replacement for a couple of months. This was rather timely, seeing as how my cell phone battery had a life of about 5 minutes. Last week was the first chance I had to get my phone. I had decided I wanted to get a Palm Centro. I had a Palm Pilot which was years old and I was ready to streamline so that I don't have to carry 2 different devices with me all the time. My main purpose for my Palm has always been more about calendar & contacts & being able to sync with Outlook.

When I called Horizon to order my new phone, they said that I was required to get a data plan added to my cell phone service if I got the Centro. I asked if this data plan was a requirement for being able to sync with Outlook or operate the calendar function. I was told no, but that it would be required for browsing the web and checking email. I said I had no interest in browsing the web or checking email from my phone. I was told that it did not matter; I was required to have the data plan. I told the customer service rep that I would have to reconsider. After I hung up, I went down to my local Horizon store, where a sales rep hooked me up with a new Palm Centro with no data plan. I left the store happy with my new phone and irked that the phone rep had tried to force me to be able to browse the web and check email.

Of course, then I began to think, "Maybe I do need that capability."

You know, we are sold on the concept of being able to access anything from anywhere. We consider ourselve as "out of touch" when we turn off the cell phone, but we excuse checking email or checking out our fantasy football team. Yesterday, a young lady sang in church "Be Still and Know". When I went back and looked at the scriptural context of those words, I realized that the whole command to "be still" is tied to the continuing presence of God with us. I do not need to go searching for contact; God is already in constant contact. I need only be still from my searching and discover His presence already with me.

I think I need to be reminded from time to time that "being still" means getting away from searching and checking and calling and browsing. "Being still" means being open to the communication of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is always searching the deepest part of my heart and crying out with words I do not even know how to speak. In a world that sometimes wants to force us into being in constant contact, I need to be reminded to be still.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Technology Meets Scripture - Episode 1

"Universal: Fair use is still infringing" on
(Notice the statement: "... no one knows if the use is fair until a judge actually rules")

"The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?' Moses said to his father-in-law, 'Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.' Moses father-in-law said to him, 'What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone." Exodus 18:13-18

So a mom sees her child dancing a silly dance to an old Prince song she was listening to. She videotapes it (many parents would) and puts the video up on YouTube so others can laugh about it. Next thing you know, some huge studio mails her a legal warning that if she doesn't take the video down, she could face stiff penalties. Why? Because the studio didn't give her permission to use the song in the video.

First off, I think Universal is kind of missing the point. I think most people who were watching the video were watching the child dancing, not to hear the Prince song. It is not as if the mom edited the song into the movie. It was playing in the background. Can we loosen up just a little?

Now, I understand that the mom put this up on the Internet where everybody could look at it, which gets to all that fine print before sporting events and in your CD case about not rebroadcasting or retransmitting without express written consent from Major League Baseball (or whoever). From what I understand, when one purchases a CD, one has the ability to make "fair use" of the music without repercussions. So, for instance, you can make a copy of that CD for yourself in case the original is damaged. What jumped out to me as I read the story about this mom and Universal was the comment by the story's author that no one knows if the use is fair until a judge rules.

As soon as I read this, I thought of Moses sitting there, everyday, while the people of Israel brought to him their disputes for him to settle. Jethro comes along and says, "What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you." I wonder if Jethro would have the same observation today about a legal system that is being asked to determine whether or not it is fair use for a mom to post on the Internet a home video of her child dancing to a Prince song. Is this really what our judges should be concerned with?

Jethro's solution to Moses was that Moses should appoint other judges to help him with the smaller issues and bring to Moses only the really important cases. As our technology changes, maybe it is time for our legal system to begin to change as well. If these kind of issues are going to have to be settled by legal means, then there should be an established system for separating out the small stuff (moms shooting home movies) from the bigger issues (people selling pirated copies of movies and software for profit). That way, you take the big, scary stick out of the studio's hands where it is not needed, and you better educate the public on policy.

Or maybe we should all learn to chill out, use some common sense, and just be able to laugh at a child's silly dance.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What I Am Up To

I thought I would just share for a few minutes some odds & ends of what I am involved in right now. Perhaps other folks might be interested in some of this.

1) I am reading an awesome book right now, John Swinton's Raging With Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil. One of Swinton's arguments is that Christians have gotten too caught up in the wrong questions when it comes to responding to evil. We often try to come up with defenses of a loving, caring God. Unfortunately, most of these defenses create their own problems without dealing with the actual suffering that evil can cause. This is a very readable book so far, no real deep unfamiliar theological terms. To check out more on Swinton, click here.

2) I have been invited to be a part of a panel discussing collegiate ministry and churches on Saturday, August 9 at First Baptist Church of Greensboro. This is part of a larger conference being provided by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of NC. The conference is 10-2:30. I have attended this conference in the past and found it to be a worthwhile opportunity to interact with other people who have a passion for ministering with college students. For more info, you can go here.

3) The next meeting of the Religious Community for Public Transportation is this Thursday at 7 PM at First Baptist Church of Elon. This is a group of religious leaders who are coming together to discuss the need for an expansive public transportation system in Alamance County and how churches can be a motivational force in this movement. I would encourage any pastors in Alamance County to come out Thursday night for this meeting.

4) Not only am I on Twitter ( and Facebook, but I am also using FriendFeed now ( There has been a lot of discussion online about FriendFeed replacing Twitter because of a slew of technical problems Twitter was experiencing. I for one am not sure this will happen. For one thing, Twitter has been much more stable in recent weeks (maybe feeling the pressure from FriendFeed?). Second, I think they serve 2 different purposes. The brevity of Twitter is perfect for sharing quick thoughts and updates, while FriendFeed is a much better option for more involved interaction with ideas. I invite you to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed. I am not posting directly to Friendfeed much yet because no one is following me there. However, as I add users, I will begin putting more there.

5) Finally, on a technical note, I downloaded Firefox 3 a couple of weeks ago. Can I just say that I absolutely love it! If you are not using it yet, it is definitely worth downloading if for no other reason than some of the addons are great. I especially recommend Yoono, an addon that compiles and updates Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, and all kinds of other social services.

Talk to you later!

Monday, June 30, 2008


"I recognize a dynamic at work in some of them that the blogger is so intent on establishing herself or himself as a person of significance and all his or her ideas are so important that the communication comes off as nearly yelling. There is quite a bit of emotional exhibitionism going across the Ethernet."
- Bill Tillman, quoted in a story on

I looked at my blog today and it has been 21 days, exactly 3 weeks since my last blog. I don't like for that much time to lapse between blog posts. I feel like, if this is something I am going to do, I need to be committed to doing it on a regular basis.

So why has it been 3 weeks? Well, 1 week I can explain away in that my work computer was not connected to the Internet last week while it was being used for Vacation Bible School.

But I still have a computer at home. And that doesn't explain the other two weeks. OK, for 5 days I was on vacation, but still, what about the other 21/2 weeks?

I came across this quote today from Bill Tillman and it got me thinking about why I do this blogging thing. It started as part of my sabbatical as a way for me to share some of my sabbatical experiences with others while I was away. But the sabbatical ended months ago, and I kept doing this. Why?

I would like to believe that I do this because I do believe I have important ideas. Tillman's quote makes it sound like this is a bad thing. Now, if it leads to crass behavior and unChrist-like attitudes, I wholeheartedly agree with Tillman. However, I do think there are plenty of individuals who have very important ideas. If the Internet is accomplishing anything significant, perhaps it is that people can share important ideas that might get overlooked by traditional outlets that are looking only for the big names, the "proper" credentials, or the celebrity status. You do not have to be Bill Gates, Bono, or a presidential candidate to have an important idea.

However, if I am going to argue with Mr. Tillman in one area, I have to be convicted by his words in another. There should be blogs for the sharing of important ideas. (Maybe that was why there were no blog entries for 3 weeks). However, I must admit that there are moments where I feel like I should blog so that others will think I am someone important. Here is where John the Baptist becomes a helpful model for blogging: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30). My worth or value is not tied to blogging. If the Internet indeed allows for the free sharing of ideas, then it is the ideas that should be the focus. My goal as a blogger should be to state my ideas clearly so that the ideas can be understood, not so I will receive attention for myself.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Faith Community for Public Transportation

I have attended several meetings recently of a group that has come to call itself Faith Community for Public Transportation. This is a growing group of ministry leaders in Alamance County who are looking for ways to work together to bring affordable public transportation to Alamance County. In the coming months I will probably devote several blog entries to this topic, starting with this one. I thought I might share some of the reasons why this group believes that affordable public transportation is necessary in Alamance County.

1) Socio-economic justice.
17% of Alamance County is living at or below the poverty line, and that number could be low. Many of these folks do not have ready access to a car, a luxury many of us take for granted. Because of this, it is difficult for them to get to job interviews and to work daily. The Alamance Rides program costs $8 one way, which means $16 round trip. For folks who are living on the edge financially, that is too steep a price to pay. A good public transportation system could provide easier access to jobs for those who need those jobs the most.

2) Faithful care of the elderly.
Most of the elderly in our community live on fixed income. However, most of their costs are not fixed. Between the rising costs of healthcare and medication and the rising costs of fuel and food, more and more senior adults are finding their finite resources pinched. A good public transportation system could provide a great aid to an ever-growing senior adult population.

3) Environmental issues.
Regular use of public transportation could decrease the number of cars on the road. Concerns about the ozone and global warming often cite an overabundance of cars as one of the primary factors.

4) Dependence on Oil.
In this day and age of fast rising gas prices, we are reminded of how dependent we have gotten on other countries for our oil. Perhaps a well-run public transportation could reduce our demand for foreign oil, and thus help reduce our obligations to outside interests.

5) The Middle Class.
All of these issues are becoming concerns not only for a few or a select group. More and more of the "middle class" are being pinched by and growing concerned about all of these issues and are looking for alternatives. A good public transportation system could be just such an alternative.

6) The Effect on Local Ministries.
Churches and other local ministries are affected by rising gas prices and limited access to transportation. How can a family needing food get to the local food pantry without a car? Some of these types of ministries offer delivery options, but even those options could be cut back or done away with because of rising fuel costs. Several churches are already discussing cutting back on ministry programs because of a concern that their members will have to reduce their activities to compensate for rising fuel costs. An affordable public transportation system could be a tool to allow many ministries to continue to meet the needs of people in our county.

I just wanted to introduce some of these concepts. Look for future posts that explore these ideas in further detail.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Get It To The Table

Last night Amy and I watched a designer cake competition on the Food Network. We have watched these things before, but honestly I had never paid close attention until last night. Last night, the competitors were making cakes based on Disney Pixar movies.

What stuck out to me last night was one of the most important parts of the competition, something so simple that I really took it for granted: carrying the cake from the kitchen to the table. Remember, these cakes are several feet tall and several feet wide and held together with far less than super glue and caulk. I never would have thought that carrying a cake to a table was a big deal. However, when I saw one man's cake that he had been working 7 hours on fall apart as soon as he moved it to the table, I realized how important this final step was. You can work all day in the kitchen baking a cake, but if you can't move it out of the kitchen and to the table where everybody can enjoy it, you have wasted a day.

Ever since the show ended, I can't stop thinking about that cake. I keep thinking about my ministry, about the ministry of my church and of every church. Eddie Hammett constantly chides the local church for being too inward focused, forgetting that the Great Commission is a call to go out into the world. Last night, I realized the church is a lot like one of those designer cakes. You can spend hours, days, weeks, years getting it decorated and looking nice, but if you can't carry the church and its message to the table for everybody to enjoy, you have wasted a lot of time and energy.

There have been a lot of ideas kicking around in my head lately. I think last night God may have given me a focal point to help pull these ideas together: Get It To the Table. I want to see First Baptist's ministry and my ministry grow and develop, but I want to make sure that all of us are as focused on getting that ministry to where all can benefit from it as we are on building the ministry. It would be a shame to expend a lot of time and energy and watch it all fall apart.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


This morning I went on a hike with a friend on one of the trails at a local park. The trail took me near a little river that was rolling over some rocks. We just stopped at that spot for about 10 minutes to enjoy the beauty of the scene.

I have come to the conclusion that I love water. I love to sit on the rocks by a river and dangle my feet in the cool water. I love to sit on the beach and listen to the waves roll in. I love to watch the rain fall outside my window. So often for me, I find myself encountering God in these moments.

As I stood by the this little river this morning, with the sound of the water rolling over the rocks, I couldn't help but think of the words of the prophet, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream." As I thought of those words, I contemplated on the peace that I felt there by that flowing river. I think that is part of the prophetic message: when God's justice and righteousness flow in a current that cannot be stopped, the result is a sense of peace for those who gather in His midst. How desperately we need that peace as a world.

Indeed, let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Post at CBF Blog

Just put a new post up at the CBF blog. Click on the title of this post to check it out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WHAM! - the sound of my head hitting the wall

There was a time when I watched "American Idol" just about every week. I have lost a lot of interest over the years, but Amy still watched a little bit. We watched the last 30 minutes of the finale to find out who won more for information sake than anything else - I didn't really particularly care for either David. Anyway, we are sitting there and out walks George Michael to sing a song entitled "Praying for Time". You remember George Michael, former member of Wham!, huge pop star who then found himself in a disgraceful sex scandal. Anyway, I listen to him sing this song as Paula Abdul sways and cries to his little ballad. By the time he was done, I was crying too - becaues I had just lost 4 minutes of my life to listening to this song. My critique is not at the quality of his singing, but the song itself. The song either is nonsense or hypocritical, depending on which verse you are looking at. If you missed it, allow me to share the lyrics (acquired off of Yahoo!) with some of my own commentary (in italics) alongside:

Oh yeah OK

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
The open hand? Whose open hand? Is this a reference to the poor in the world? I can go with you there, but the line "They will not be the last"? They aren't the first either. Jesus himself, 2000 years ago, said, "You will always have the poor with you."
Look around now, these are the days
Of the beggars and the choosers
Who are the choosers? Is this a reference to the rich and hoarding (referenced later)? Odd place to drop this reference with where the song is getting ready to go next.
This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses
This may be the only section of this song that, I think, makes sense and makes a good point. Only one question, Why is this year the year of the hungry man, as opposed to say, the year George Michael sang on "Feed the World" or the year George Michael sang on "We Are the World"?
At this point, I am thinking, OK, 21st century protest song. Not my cup of tea, but alright. George is trying to get people motivated to make a difference in our world.
The rich declare themselves poor
Can somebody help me out here? Who are these rich people declaring themselves poor? If that is the case, Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world could be misinformed.
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much but we'll take our chances
'Cause God stopped keeping score
Huh? What is it that God stopped keeping score of?
I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back on all God's children
Crept out the back door
Hold the phone! So now the fact that the some unknown rich are declaring themselves poor is evidence that God has abandoned creation? Poverty and hunger is God's fault? Never mind Jesus' command to the rich man to give all that he had to the poor, never mind Jesus' challenge that at the final judgment, believers will stand before God and he will ask what they did to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and welcome the stranger. (Please don't miss the sarcastic tone in this next sentence) Yeah, that really sounds like God just turning back on needy people in the world.
And its hard to love, there's so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say its much too much too late
Nope, not a protest song. We are in complete universal self-pity. Nothing good in life, no hope of anything changing, too late to do anything.
Well maybe we should all be praying for time, oh yeah
Umm, didn't you just say a few seconds ago that God had left? Exactly then what is the point of praying if God is not around to listen? A tad hypocritical, it seems.
These are the days of the empty hand (There's that anonymous empty hand again)
Oh you hold on to what you can (I thought the hand was empty?)
And charity is a coat
You wear twice a year (Christmas and ...?)
This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there
Is over here
??????? I can't even understand it, let alone critique it.
So you scream from behind your door (Wow, you could really hear me screaming? I thought sound only came out of the TV)
Say what's mine is mine and not yours
I may have too much but I'll take my chances
Cause God's stopped keeping score
OK, think I see here that the "empty hand" this second time around is maybe referring to people not offering help to the needy - their hands are empty. OK, so this is supposed to change things how? I mean, if God's not keeping score, then why should anybody help anybody? I never knew how to put a defeatist attitude to music. It's like Eeyore went pop.
And you cling to the things they sold you (Who sold me what?)
Didn't you cover your eyes when they told you?
That he can't come back
Cause he has no children to come back for
What? OK, make up your mind! Did God choose to leave or was God forced to leave? Why aren't we his children anymore? We were a little earlier in the song.
It's hard to love, there's so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it's much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time, oh yeah
Ok, now the whole "praying for time" line really doesn't make sense. Not only have you just said God left, but that God can't come back and do anything about it anyway. So what exactly is the point of praying?

I obviously have some serious theological issues with George Michael here. Beyond even the flawed view of God that I think this song is based upon, I still find it hard to address those issues because the song just doesn't make logical enough sense to even form an argument against. I am sure that someone, somewhere, will proclaim that this song makes some kind of beautiful and/or powerful statement. To me, it is nonsensical nihilism. Give me somebody like Bono anyday - someone who has proclaims the difficulties of the world and challenges, even dares, folks to step up and make a difference.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Playing Amateurs

Yesterday I was listening to an interview with Karen Armstrong, the author of A History of God. In the interview, she mentioned that the word "amateur" comes from a Latin word meaning "one who loves".

This got me thinking about sports. I know, kind of an odd jump from theology to sports. Amazing how God wires our brain together.

Recent stories regarding former USC basketball star and future NBA lottery pick O.J. Mayo have raised questions regarding his "amateur" status and, therefore, his eligibility to have played for the Trojans this past season. What I find almost laughable is that there would even be questions about his "amateur" status in the first place. People have been talking about O.J. Mayo's basketball skills since junior high school. I think I am safe in saying the only reason we can talk about O.J. Mayo as a "former USC basketball star" is because the NBA forced athletes to wait 1 year after their high school graduation to enter the draft. In short, it was a foregone conclusion years ago that O.J. Mayo was going to be a professional basketball player. That was his plan and his purpose. So when exactly was it that Mayo was playing simply "for the love of the game"? His eyes have been on an NBA paycheck for awhile.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that Mayo is wrong for this. If he has the kind of talent and skill that would allow him to enter the NBA and that is what he wants to do for a living, then I fully support his ability to do that. My point is that I think that elite athletes stop playing simply "for the love of the game" well before they sign a professional contract. Is it therefore appropriate to call them "amateurs"? For the NCAA to be involved in this discussion is ludicrous. College athletics is "amateur" only in the sense that the athletes aren't paid. However, the institutions receive millions of dollars every year from the efforts of these athletes. Add to that the level of exposure college athletes receive and the celebrity status that they can enjoy, and it gets hard to tell where college ends and professional begins.

I know that I am speaking generally here, that there are more anonymous athletes than there are stars, that there are plenty of men and women playing sports that will never get coverage and never sign professional athletic contracts. These are true amateurs, people who are playing their sport because they love to play. Yet what I find amazing is that there are hundreds of NCAA regulations about what scholar athletes can and can't do, and I would argue none of those regulations are about these true amateurs. They are there, instead, to regulate the handful of athletes who are looking to play not only for love of the game, but for the gaining of personal wealth as well. Why are true amateurs forced to follow rules probably not written with them in mind, and why are we trying to force a label of amateur onto a handful of athletes who don't want it in the first place?

I am all for encouraging young men and women to get a good education. I think that professional sports, especially the NBA, has been weakened by the years of bringing in players who had professional talent but not yet professional physical or emotional maturity. However, I also think that the ideal of amateur athletics left harbor a long time ago, maybe when recruiting rankings for high school freshmen started coming out. If there is such concern for the integrity of amateur athletics, then perhaps it is time to stop trying to force athletes who have no interest in being amateurs to "play" amateurs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Interesting Op-Ed

In light of my sermon series "Sitting in the Kitchen", I thought this was an interesting Op-Ed piece in USA Today. Thanks to Erick for sending me the link!

Aid to Myanmar

Last Thursday, CBF sent out an email with an update on their response to the crisis in Myanmar. CBF is going to concentrate their efforts on recovery rather than rescue. They are partnering with several other organizations, including the Virginia Baptist Mission Board and Baptist World Alliance, to respond. Rick Burnette of CBF had already planned a trip to Myanmar and will be going on May 15. He will be connecting with representatives of the Myanmar Baptist Convention to assess the situation. Along with our prayers, other possible opportunities for assistance are:

1) Donation of funds. You can go to and click on the donation button in the middle of the page.

2) Volunteer. If volunteers are requested, those interested in serving can contact Nichole Bulls at or 800.255.2428, ext. 7242.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Pastor

I have watched with interest the storm of controversy regarding Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. To me, it is an interesting story not only because of the political issues but also as an examination of the relationship between pastor and congregation.

As a pastor, I am called to read and interpret the Scriptures each week from the pulpit. This is a huge responsibility that cannot and should not be entered into lightly. The purpose of the preaching ministry is the proclamation of the gospel, the equipping of the body of Christ, and to speak a prophetic word of repentance. I have a responsibility to God to make sure that each message is true to His word and will. However, is the sermon only an act of the preacher?

Just about anyone who preaches on a regular basis has had the experience of someone in the congregation discussing their sermon and finding a meaning that was nowhere in the stated message of the sermon. Sometimes this can frustrate a pastor, making them feel like no one is listening. Perhaps, instead, such experiences are reminders that the sermon is not just the proclaimed word, but the heard word as well. A sermon is not just an action of the preacher; it is an action of the congregation as well.

Scripture says that each Christian, minster or layperson, is a member of the "priesthood of the believers." As such, it is the calling of each Christian to study and interpret the Scriptures under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit. I believe that, with this in mind, the sermon should be an opportunity for the congregation to enter into Scripture and read and interpret God's word. The sermon should get people thinking about what the Bible has to say to us today and inspire them to continue to study God's word in the days that follows to find continued meaning for their lives. I think too often the sermon is seen as "the last word" on a topic. Perhaps, instead, it should be the first.

I disagree with a good amount of the things that I have heard Rev. Wright say. However, in hearing them, I have been forced to think about why I disagree with them. There are some who argue that Obama should have left this church when he heard Rev. Wright proclaim such words. Why has no one said that perhaps he should have gone to Rev. Wright and shared with him his disagreements and why he disagreed? It occurs to me that this is the more Biblical model for dealing with disagreement (Matthew 18:15-16). I think we sometimes take a very childlike approach to church: if somebody says something that upsets me or that I disagree with, my first response is to just pick up all my toys and go home. I remember reading a very interesting article in Christianity Today several years ago where the author encouraged people who were in a church that they disagreed with some of the things that were taught to stay in the church rather than just pick up and leave. The author's point was that, by staying, you would probably grow more in your faith because you would be more likely to search and study the Scripture in a church where not everything that was said was what you thought.

I do think that each person should find a church where they feel best able to grow and serve. Certainly that will require you to find a church where you feel you are able to stand in unity with the congregation. However, unity will never be uniformity - God has created us to be unique individuals. If we leave a church everytime the preacher says something we disagree with, we could be looking for a new church every month (or every week for that matter!). Perhaps there is an opportunity here for the church to think about and discuss anew the purpose of the preaching ministry.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sitting in the Kitchen - Faith vs. Reason

Well, this is the final installment of the "Sitting in the Kitchen" sermon series. This has been an amazing experience just preparing these messages. Honestly, it has also been a mentally draining experience as well. I am kind of glad that I don't have to write a sermon for this Sunday - give my brain a chance to rest. I am starting to get excited about the next series of sermons that will be coming this summer focusing in on the fruits of the Spirit. More details coming later.
Anyway, here is the outline of some of the key points from this past Sunday's sermon on the conflict between faith and science and reason. You can listen to the whole sermon online at

1. The debate of "How can you believe that ...?" Faith asks how you can believe in evolution and Big Bang; reason asks how you can believe in intelligent design and creation. Faith asks how you can believe in theories; reason asks how you can believe in miracles.

2. Matthew 22:37 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

3. We are called not just to love God in our mind, but with our mind. Our mind is to be actively engaged in our devotion to God.

4. We engage the mind in devotion to God by searching to understand - Proverbs 30:1-2, 24-28. Wisdom is gained by observing even the tiniest creatures and learning from their behavior. Isn't that what science and education are all about, observing life and understanding what we observe?

5. There is a limit to what we can understand - Job 42:3, 1 Corinthians 13 ("now we see through the mirror dimly"), Isaiah 55:8-9 - the presence of mystery.

6. Hebrews 11:1 - faith is born when we encounter the things that we cannot fully explain or prove but know to be true.

7. Reason is not the enemy of faith, but can be a tool for enhancing and building faith. Reason cannot replace faith because faith is what guides me through the things I cannot understand or explain.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sitting in the Kitchen: Homosexuality

This week's topic is an especially sensitive topic for a lot of different reasons. I would echo again that my approach has been to deal with all of these issues from a biblical perspective and that I am not trying to convince everyone to agree with me. Instead, I am trying to generate a biblically-based conversation on these issues. If you would like to listen to this sermon, you can go to It will be available online by Monday afternoon. Anyway, here is an outline of some of the points of my sermon.

  1. Romans 1:18-2:3
  2. I understand Scripture to teach that homosexual behavior is a sin. Romans 1:18-2:3; 1 Timothy 1:10-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Jude 7
  3. Romans 1 identifies homosexual behavior as sin because it is an act of living by one's passion and lust rather than the revealed will of God.
  4. Jesus' silence on the issue of homosexuality can be interpreted as acceptance of already biblically established standard of homosexual behavior as sin. Leviticus 18:19-30; Leviticus 20:13
  5. Romans 1 identifies plenty of other sins that are a result of living by one's passion and lust: envy, murder, disobedience of parents, gossip, etc. While it is biblical to say homosexual behavior is a sin, it must also be considered that it is not "the great sin" or the only sin.
  6. John 8
  7. Is it judgmental to say that homosexual behavior is a sin?
  8. Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery: he states clearly that she has sinned, he acts in a way to open the door for repentance and new life, he speaks from a position of humbleness.
  9. We should not respond to homosexual behavior as if the homosexual is the only sinner. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." We must deal with the sin in our own life before addressing the sin in someone else's life.
  10. We should not destroy the sinner with the sin. We should minister to any sinner, including ourselves, in a way that holds open the door of repentance and new life.
  11. "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saves a wretch like me." Why does the church often feel it must choose between a message of God's grace or a message of the reality of sin. We need to reunite these two messages.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Featured Blogger for CBF

I have been invited to be a "featured blogger" on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's blog, "The Fellowship Portal". I will be submitting at least 2 posts a month along with several other bloggers from around the country. Check it out at

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sitting in the Kitchen - Separation of Church & State

Week 2 of the "Sitting in the Kitchen" series deals with the issue of separation of church & state. If you would like to listen last week's sermon, go to After listening, I invite you to post a comment on the topic of illegal immigration in my last blog post.

This week's sermon will be online by Tuesday. In the meantime, here is an outline of some of the key points from this week's sermon.

1. People can be uncomfortable talking about religion or politics; they can be very uncomfortable talking about the intersection of religion and politics.

2. Senator Chuck Grassley's probe into "prosperity gospel" ministers. For more on this story, go to

3. Separation of church and state was originally, in America at least, not an issue of government or law but an issue of faith - Roger Williams' "wall of separation between the Garden of the church and the wilderness of the world."

4. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

5. 4 Biblical Pillars of Separation of Church & State
  • Our primary citizenship is in the kingdom of God - Philippians 3:18-4:1
  • As citizens of God's kingdom, it is Christ that makes us free - John 8:34-36; Romans 8:1-5
  • Our freedom in Christ does not isolate us from society - Galatians 5:13-14; 1 Peter 2:16
  • The government is unable to legislate matters of faith - Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:29; 1 Peter 4:15-16

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sitting in the Kitchen: Illegal Immigration

Each week during the "Sitting in the Kitchen" sermon series, I will be posting on my blog some of the key points from my sermon as well as various Scripture passages related to that week's topic. I invite comments and discussion regarding these ideas and the sermon. You can listen to the entire sermon at

Now, on to this week's sermon introducing the concept of the series and discussing the issue of illegal immigration.


1. Scripture is still a relevant and powerful tool for understanding and addressing modern day issues. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Illegal Immigration

2. The issue of immigration, even illegal immigration (from a worldly perspective, at least) is an issue which Scripture is very familiar with. Genesis 12; Numbers 21:21-25.

3. The issue of illegal immigration spawns questions regarding border security, immigration laws, economic forces, educational systems, medical care, and welfare. It is difficult in a sermon to deal with all of these questions, but perhaps a "broad brush" approach to the issue can provide some helpful thoughts.

4. Christians are called to obey the laws of the land; and governments have a God-given responsibility to be a servant for their citizens' good and punish wrongdoers. 1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:3-4.

4. The issue of illegal immigration is fundamentally about people, many of whom are seeking to escape very difficult circumstances and find a better life. Christians have an obligation to not mistreat the alien and to serve their needs, not turn their back on them. Exodus 22:21-23; Matthew 25:31-46.

5. Micah 6:8 - "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" In seeking to pull together the first two ideas, we should begin with the third.

To walk humbly with our God is to seek His justice, which does not distinguish by prejudice like our justice can do. Galatians 3:28.

To walk humbly with our God is to realize that we are not only givers of mercy but needy recipients as well.

To walk humbly with our God is to see beyond the illegal immigrants living in our country and see the need and desperation that drove them to come here and say, "Here am I, Lord, send me." Isaiah 6:6-8.

To walk humbly with our God is to recognize that we were once aliens to God's kingdom, and only through Christ's grace and sacrificial love have we been made citizens of His kingdom. Ephesians 2:17-22.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I returned Saturday from a mission trip to Grifton, NC. I went with the Baptist Student Union on their Spring Break Mission Trip. It was a really great week for a very unexpected reason. In talking about the trip, we had been expecting to be working in the community. This is an area where there is a great amount of poverty, and large numbers of families are living in substandard housing. The Grifton Missions Ministry, which started as disaster relief following Hurricane Floyd, seeks to help people improve their living conditions at low and no cost. However, our team was asked to work on site at the ministry center. We were charged with building a covered shelter that could be used for outdoor eating and group meetings. The director of the ministry shared with me that there were going to be several large groups coming to Grifton during the summer. As they are currently organized, there is not enough space for them to provide to groups to meet in. Our work would hopefully provide some more space for them. I think some of us were a little disappointed that we would not be getting out into the community. However, as we worked on Wednesday, I thought about the passage in 1 Timothy 5:

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,' and, 'The laborer deserves to be paid.'"

I have always heard this verse quoted in regards to salaries for ministers. However, I came to realize that this passage really spoke to me and our group. The GMM pours almost all of its resources into meeting the needs of the community. We had a chance, with our work, to honor those who would not honor themselves. We were serving the servants. We talked about this as a group, and I think we came to realize that what we were doing was just as valuable a ministry as what other groups were doing out in the community. On the last day we were there, Billy, the director, challenged us to think about the work that was accomplished that week not so much as our work but as God's work through us. I really am glad that I had the opportunity to be used by God in such a meaningful way.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Final Four Picks

Well, I have put together my bracket. My Final Four:

1. Tennessee. Before anybody accuses me of just not liking UNC, let me state my case. I have UNC losing to Tennessee in the Elite Eight for 2 very good reasons: Chris Lofton and inside depth. UNC's biggest chink in the armor has been an inability many times to defend the perimeter. Christ Lofton is the kind of player who can make you pay for that mistake. In recent games, teams have figured out how to defend the UNC interior without fouling a lot. Tennessee has the athletes and depth inside to cause Hansbrough to work real hard. It will be a real good game, but I think Tennessee hurts UNC in enough places to squeak by.

2. Kansas. Too much talent, plain and simple. I think this could be a cake walk.

3. Texas. If March is truly about guard play, then Texas is in great shape. I don't see them having a real struggle until a possible meeting with Memphis in the Elite Eight. Memphis' horrible free throw shooting finally will catch up to them.

4. Duke. OK, I'm a fan boy, I'll admit. However, I think this team might have one more run in them. They will play some tight games, and UCLA is the big monster on the block. However, I think Kevin Love, while extremely talented, is not quite the same kind of interior threat that somebody like Hansbrough. I think Singler handles Love straight up, and Duke guards well enough to pull out the upset.

Championship Game: Kansas vs. Duke. Duke & Texas would be an incredible matchup. I pick Duke just because I want to. However, to go back to an earlier statement, Kansas is just too talented. Kansas cuts down the nets.

The madness begins tomorrow. I can't wait!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Theological Struggle

I am having a little bit of a theological struggle. I was reading this morning in the book of Numbers, Numbers 31:17 to be exact. To set the context, Moses and the children of Israel are at camped by the Jordan River. God commands Moses to send the Israelites into battle against Midian because Midian had sought to curse and defeat Israel on their journey to the promised land. The Midianite women had also sought to seduce the men of Israel, and in doing so to sway them from worshipping God to worshipping false gods. Israel's army goes and completely destroys the Midianites, and the army carries the women and children of Midian back to the Israelite camp as captives. We now reach my struggle.

Moses said to them, "Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam's advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the LORD in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him." - Numbers 31:15-17

So, here is my struggle. From a strategic standpoint, I guess I can understand why Moses gives the order - prevent boys from growing into men who will seek revenge, the women had not just been innocent bystanders but part of the plot against the Israelites. However, I guess I still find my stomach churned by this order, especially in regards to the children. I find it interesting that this is not one of those situations where "the LORD commanded Moses to say". God is actually silent in this portion of the story. What are we to make of God's silence? God has not shown reluctance to contradict or reprimand Moses for orders in the past. As I read the story, I keep waiting for God to cry out here, kind of like in the story of Abraham and the binding of Isaac. Instead, nothing.

I welcome any comments or thoughts. In the meantime, I guess I will continue to struggle and pray on this one.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Baptist Student Union - cool!

I spent last night in the home of Anne Smith talking to one of the women's missionary organizations at First Baptist Burlington about the ministry of the Elon University Baptist Student Union. I really appreciated their time and interest. BSU is a ministry that I am very glad that I have a chance to be associated with. It was a huge part of my college experience and probably the primary reason why I remained true to God's call to enter the ministry. BSU is a great place for students to continue to nurture and grow their faith among a community of fellow students who will show them great love and acceptance. I am really excited about the opportunity to go with the BSU on their Spring Break mission trip in a couple of weeks. We will be going to Grifton, NC to help improve housing for families who live in poverty. If you are a student or a parent, make sure you check out the Baptist Student Union when you arrive on campus for the first time.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It's Been a While ...

OK, a month is a loooooong time to go between posts. Sorry about that for anyone who is reading (is anyone reading?). Things have been a little busy, and I just haven't had much chance to sit down and blog the last few weeks. Will try to do better.

To make up, here are some random thoughts and experiences from the last few weeks.

1) This year, I have found myself following the race for the White House unlike any other time in the past. It is not because I have any particular rooting interest at this point - I still really have no clue as to who I am going to vote for - but just because the whole process is fascinating me. On the Republican side, you have John McCain, a guy who has never seemed to fit in as a stereotypical Republican. People wonder if he can move the far right of the party. He may not have to, in my opinion. If Hillary Clinton gets the nod on the Democratic side, I think her presence in the race would move the far right for McCain. I have always thought that the far right's support for Bush in 2000 was as much a reaction against the Clintons as it was support for Bush. On the Democratic side, there are a number of interesting issues developing. Could Obama and Clinton really share a ticket after some of the bitterness of recent weeks? Will Michigan and Florida suddenly become players again after first being told their delegates would not be seated at the convention? I have wondered if Obama was similar to McCain in the sense of not completely having the support of the Democratic "establishment". If the presidential race were to come down to these two, is there a lesson to be learned by their respective parties?

2) Duke-UNC Round 2 is Saturday. Yes, I know Ty Lawson is back. Yes, I know Tyler Hansbrough is the clear POY in the conference (can't say nation as confidently - have you seen Beasely play?). However, the game is in Cameron. If last night is any indication, the 3-pointers are starting to fall again. UNC still has problems defending the perimeter (Tyrese Rice 40+ points, Jason Rich almost 30 - and that is just the last 2 games). I think this game could be even better than the first game. I could see it coming down to one final shot, and I think Duke hits it. Gerald Henderson drive to the basket, just to really go out on a limb.

3) I have not been able to get a quote out of my head. William Wilberforce once wrote, "No one expects to attain to the heights of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory without vigorous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverence. Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry." Wow! He wrote that back around the turn of the 19th century. I can't help but think that his observation is still just as true today for Christianity in America as it was for Christianity in England. If you don't think so, maybe go check out the video at If there is one lesson I learned out of my sabbatical experience, it is that I cannot expect to grow in my faith if I am not willing to take responsibility to do so.

Just some random thoughts!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Duke vs. UNC - Part 1 of 3 (at least)

Watched the big game last night, and yes, I was very pleased with the final score. To be totally honest, I did not expect Duke to win, even with Lawson out. UNC still seemed to have too much, especially inside. I had told someone that Duke's only chance was to hit from the outside, and boy did they! GO BLUE DEVILS!

Some other thoughts after last night's game:
1) Tyler Hansbrough is the player of the year in the ACC and the nation, no questions asked. NUMEROUS TIMES, he scored over top of 2 or 3 Duke defenders. When he wins, I as a Duke fan will still have to applaud what is turning out to be a terrific season.

2) Billy Packer kept commenting last night how different the game would have been if Wayne Ellington and Green had been scoring as they usually do. He mentioned several times that both players were having "off nights". Could it be that they were having "off nights" because Duke was playing some very good perimeter defense? How about a little love for the Duke D!

3) Based on what I have seen of Duke and what little I have seen of Memphis, how fun would a match up between these two teams be?

Part 2 in Cameron Indoor Stadium March 8. I can't wait!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Frozen in Time

My question: if you knew at a certain time you were going to suddenly stop moving, would you work to make sure you froze doing a specific act, or would you simply "go through motion" and see what happened?

I think the reaction of the crowd says it best: it is kind of cool (they applaud) but I am not really sure what to make of it.

Connect the Dots

Just thought I would share a couple of ideas that emerged out of my quiet time this morning. It was amazing to experience how my mind and spirit connected the dots and the picture that I ended up with. Maybe your picture will be the same or different. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

"But you [Aaron] and your sons with you shall diligently perform your priestly duties in all that concerns the altar and the area behind the curtain. I give your priesthood as a gift ... You shall have no allotment in their land, nor shall you have any share among them; I am your share and your possession among the Israelites." - Numbers 18:7, 20

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." - 1 Peter 2:9-10

You are my supply
My breath of life
Still more awesome than I know.
You are my reward
Worth living for
Still more awesome than I know.

And all of you
Is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with your love
And all I have in you is more than enough

You're my sacrifice
Of greatest price
Still more awesome than I know.
You're my coming King
You're my everything
Still more awesome than I know.

And all of you
Is more than enough for
All of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with your love
And all I have in you is more than enough

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me.
More than all I know
More than all I can see
You are more than enough for me.
- Enough, by Jeremy Camp

A Truly Super Bowl

Wow!! What a game last night! I still am in some shock this morning that the New York Giants actually won. I know Eli won the MVP, and he certainly had a good game and a great second half. However, the MVP of last night's game was the entire defense of the New York Giants, especially their D-line. They had put so much pressure on Brady in the last game of the season, I thought there was no way they would be able to repeat that performance. They didn't - I think they exceeded it. I think most people thought the Giants would have to win a shootout. To win by dominating the Patriots with defense was never in the discussion!

You look at what the Giants have done to close the season in beating what many considered the 3 best teams in the NFL - Dallas in Dallas, Green Bay in Green Bay in some of the most difficult playing conditions ever, and a dynasty team that was having one of the greatest seasons ever - and they certainly deserve the title of champions. As for the Patriots, I don't feel too bad for them. They should have just as strong of a team next year (assuming that Moss re-signs). I also wonder if the cloud of Spygate would have hung over this team if they had won and finished the season 19-0. Somebody said last night, "You don't remember who lost the Super Bowl". In the Patriots case, perhaps that is a good thing. If they were to come back and win next year, without a Spygate accusation, you still would have no argument with calling them one of the great, if not greatest, dynasties the NFL has seen.