A Dose of Kryptonite

I think some part of each and every one of us wants to be something other than an ordinary, vanilla mortal. It's why fairy tales and comic books appeal to us all, why we all dress up and run around in masks on Halloween, why fiction books sail off the shelves. We all want to be "more than": more than a desk jockey, more than a factory worker, more than a whatever-we-are-now. Our imaginations take a look at ordinary life and decide we'd rather be Superman. But even Superman has to worry about kryptonite. We'll never be perfect this side of eternity. We'll never have superpowers, whether they're leaping tall buildings in a single bound or being able to talk to fish (although being able to perf

The B-I-B-L-E

You probably own a Bible. If you're like me, you own several Bibles in a multitude of translations. There's an entire shelf in my office lined with them and a matching shelf at home. I have a Bible in almost every room of my apartment so I can easily get to one if I need it. When I read, I underline and make notes in the margins (and thus most of my Bibles becomes annotated study Bibles). When I'm preparing a sermon or otherwise doing a bit of research, I flip back and forth rapidly between passages -- to the point of tearing some of my Bibles apart. That convicted me this week. In the midst of hunting up verses about the afterlife, I inadvertently pulled an entire sheaf of pages loose from

Look! A Distraction!

I grew up with a guy with whom I remained friends through college. He's very much the joker type, and there was always some sort of prank to be played on someone, whether it was re-recording their answering machine message in Gregorian chant or telling his roommate he'd unlock the door for him, crawling through the window, and opening the door from the outside (while standing beside said roommate). But one of my favorite things he did was when he would want out of a conversation and simply point and yell, "Look! A distraction!" Everyone -- including me -- fell for it. We were all distracted by something blatantly called "a distraction" long enough for him to escape. Life does that to us a lo

Churches, Like Restaurants

I am a creature of habit. Take me to a restaurant, and I will almost always order the same thing every time. To be fair, it changes based on the restaurant, but I have my standard order for them all. I know there will be other good options on the menu; some of them may even be more to my liking than my usual. That knowledge, however, still doesn't stop me from ordering the same thing time after time. It's safe, it's comfortable, and I like it. Why change? Sadly a lot of us share my restaurant mentality when it comes to church. We want to sing the same four or five songs (all in the same style) and hear the same three or four sermons (all from the same New Testament books) week after week and

Spring Cleaning

Come Sunday, you will notice a number of rather large changes have been made to the church. OK, half of them aren't particularly noticeable, but they're there. Over the past few days, the Building & Grounds Team has gone above and beyond the call of duty. In an effort to make the church a safer place for everyone, all the locks have been changed, and getting keys will require a signature. This way we can keep track of who has access to our church building and offices. Speaking of offices, our crack carpentry team (Roy and Kelly) have replaced panels in both my office door and the youth minister's office door with plexiglass. This will allow me and the future youth minister to carry on closed

The Angry Prophet

We all know Jonah as "the reluctant prophet." Instead of doing as God told him to do, he literally ran in the opposite direction. Clearly Jonah didn't want to be a prophet to Nineveh, and it took a storm, a whale, and liberal amounts of ambergris to get him to change his mind. While Jonah may have begun as the reluctant prophet, he ends as the angry prophet. After he finally preaches God's message to the Ninevites, they repent -- everyone from the king on down. For whatever reason, Jonah is upset at having an effective ministry and grows angry God didn't smite them -- even though he knows God is a forgiving God: "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD

The Power of Story

One of the more recent trends in theology is the idea of narrative theology -- the notion that story plays an important role in our faith development. It's not just what the information says; it's how it's said. For us as Christians, the big idea is the Bible is a book which tells us a single grand story from cover to cover: God loves us enough to act in history to bring salvation to those who believe. And it's true: that's the great message the Bible tells us from Genesis to Revelation. God has saved people throughout history: Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, David, Jeremiah, the list goes on and on. And finally He came down in the Person of Jesus to bring salvation and deliveran

Nightfall

There's a novel (and short story) by Isaac Asimov called Nightfall. The premise is a world lit by multiple suns which only sees the stars every thousand years or so when each sun gets totally eclipsed at the same time. The people of the world experience true darkness for the first time in their memory, and they go mad. Only a secretive cult is prepared for nightfall, and they alone begin rebuilding the world time after time. It says a lot for the battle between science and "religion" and the virtue of preparedness. We, on the other hand, get to experience night, well, nightly (unless you're in the polar regions). We're all used to the daily fading of the light and the emergence of the stars.

An Eternal Change

One night in college, a bunch of us got together and watched The Number 23. It wasn't my favorite movie for many reasons, but I still got sucked into it -- so much so, in fact, that, like the main character, I started seeing twenty-threes everywhere. Almost any number or significant word could somehow get converted into a twenty-three. This went on for a couple of weeks, but then my life returned to normal. The only lasting effect seems to be my memorization of the last half of Numbers 32:23: "You may be sure your sin will find you out." Many things in life impact us very strongly for only a short while. New habits are formed, new routines established, only to fade after days, weeks, or a fe

Why Philemon?

Of all the books of the New Testament, Philemon is the one I understand least. I mean, I get it: it's a letter by Paul, and so it's in the Bible. But why? At first glance, this is just a letter to a slave owner asking him not to punish the slave Paul has had with him. Paul never even explicitly asks Philemon to free Onesimus (it's implied, but never actually stated), and that fact was exploited by slave owners for many, many years. So why include this letter? Why Philemon? There are a few things we can say about Onesimus himself that may point us in the right direction. For starters, he was useless to Philemon, "but now he has become useful both to you and to me" (v. 11). We are all useless

Christian the Grouch

It probably says something about me that my favorite Sesame Street character growing up was Oscar the Grouch. I even dressed as him for Halloween one year. Living in a garbage can looked fun, I admit, but I really had to admire someone who was so openly grumpy. That's why I became a pastor. (That's a joke.) In vacation Bible school one year, a song of ours was "The Grumpy Christian Song." It boils down to "Christians aren't grumpy; they say 'Hallelujah!'." (You can find it on YouTube here.) While all Christians are always free to grieve, to lament, to "anger but sin not," the song nevertheless has a point. As children of God saved by a crucified and risen Lord, we shouldn't be a grumpy peopl

A Time to Hate

Anyone who knows me knows I love books. Anyone who knows me well knows there is one book I despise so much I destroyed my copy rather than sell it or give it away: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. To put my hatred of this book into perspective, I still own copies of The God Delusion and God and the Gay Christian (stamped "HERETICAL GARBAGE: FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY," mind you, but they're still on my shelves). But not One Hundred Years of Solitude. Never One Hundred Years of Solitude. We all have something we loathe. As Christians, we must never hate anyone. Every individual is loved by God and created in His image. All of them -- all of us. Never should another hum

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