Tuesday, March 28, 2006

If God is for us, what can be the odds against us?

Of the 3,000,000 fans who filled in the brackets on espn.com’s March Madness Bracket contest, exactly 4 picked George Mason University to reach the Final Four. (By the way, if you haven’t been following the tournament, GMU is in the Final Four)

Going into the tournament, odd makers had put 250-to-1 odds on GMU getting this far. As long as those odds are, they don’t even approach the nearly one-in-a million ratio from the brackets contest. I would like us to focus here not on GMU’s odds at making the final weekend, but at the lack of faith the sports world had in GMU’s Bomaking it to the final weekend.

We Christians are generally pretty good at explaining the good news of Jesus; that, in spite of our own unworthiness, God loved us enough to send Jesus to restore a relationship between us and our Creator. In theory we understand this. In practice, I believe, we do not.

My experience of going on two decades of pastoral ministry has shown me that most of us are deeply and profoundly in touch with our own unworthiness. We have no problem playing the “we’re all sinners” card if someone dares challenges us with perfection. We are so deeply in touch with our general failure, in fact, that we don’t expect anything to be able to overcome it. We still believe in God; we just don’t believe in ourselves.

From what we know of Jewish practice during Jesus’ time, if a rabbi invited someone to be his follower, it meant the rabbi believed the follower could indeed follow the rabbi. When Jesus called Peter and James and John and Matthew and the rest, then, he implicitly claimed that he, Jesus, the Son of God, believed that they could indeed follow.

In our minds, the odds of us following our Rabbi are far worse than a million to one. But let this sink in: if Jesus calls, Jesus himself believes we can follow.

I don’t know about you, but I will go with those odds!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Latest CTC Blogroll

I just did this last week, but they're still flowing in! From now on I will keep this list updated in a Blogroll off to the right. Thanks for helping!

  • David Alexander

  • Dave Brower

  • Johnny Brower

  • Justin Czimskey

  • Stephen Decker

  • Michael Honza

  • Rick Mang

  • Alan McGrath

  • Traci McGrath

  • Richard Michener

  • John Nader

  • Mike Ramsdell

  • Dale Scultz

  • Mark Winter
  • Friday, March 24, 2006

    The Years Roll By

    As of today, I am technically the dad of a 17 year old. Who'da thunk it?

    I could spend a lot of words on how fast these 17 years have past. I could reflect for pages on the changes God has wrought in me and the world since March 24, 1989.

    Instead, one of the things that strikes me most as I consider Robbie being 17 is the difference between how I perceive myself as the father of a 17 year old and how i perceived my own father when I was 17.

    I've asked several people this morning: "Do I act old enough to have a 17 year old child?" I've gotten mixed responses.

    My recollection of my own dad from when I was 17 is that he was, and presented himself as, much more mature than I think myself to be. As I recall, my dad and I had a good relationship, but when I was 17, he was (sorry, dad!) old.

    One of the differences is that I have spent most of the years since I was 17 in youth ministry. I have intentionally stayed more connected to the "youth culture" than my own father did.

    Yet I cannot help but wonder if I seem as "old" to my 17 year old as my dad did to me when I was that age. I'll ask her this evening, and I'll let y'all know.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    CTC Methoblogger update

    I woke up to an email from Mark Winter calling to my attention another Central Texas Conference blogger, Dale Schultz of St. Philips's UMC in Round Rock. Dale's blog is Together.

    We also have Mike Ramsedell, Sr. Pastor at FUMC Mansfield, with a blog called, appropriately, Thoughts from Pastor Mike.

    For a recap of the others, here is the list I posted a couple weeks ago:
    David Alexander;
    Johnny Brower;
    Rick Mang;
    Alan McGrath;
    John Nader;
    Mark Winter;
    and, of course, me. But then, if you are reading this, you already have mine. :)

    If there are any others out there, please let me know!

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Socks II

    You’re not going to believe this. I can hardly believe it myself, and I was there to see it happen.

    Of two loads of laundry I did yesterday, both containing socks, I folded and put away complete pairs of socks. No extras! No mis-matches! I must be living right!

    I promise I was no more careful than usual in sorting laundry and throwing it in the washer. I didn’t carefully count out socks, match them, attach them, then wash them. I sorted laundry and washed it, just like I always do. I really must be living right!

    I don’t really expect you to buy that the way I am living has anything to do with whether or not socks pair up coming out of the dryer. Yet, am I the only one who sometimes feels like the world does indeed work that way?

    At least since Newton’s theory of the way the universe works we have tended to understand even God’s involvement in a somewhat mechanical way. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thus, my socks matching up must have been a reaction to something, right?

    In the days of scripture such a mechanical understanding of the way the world works was prominent among pagans, not among God’s people. One of the radical differences between the God of Israel and other gods of the times was that our God did not have a mechanical, and thus manipulative, interaction with the world.

    Rather, our God had, and was interested in deepening, an actual personal relationship with God’s people. The God who created the world and each of us invites us to know Him, speak to Him, listen to Him. God is not interested in manipulating our lives.

    God no more matched my socks this time than He unmatched them last time. Such things happen. Whether my socks match up coming out of the dryer or none, God still loves me; and for this I am grateful

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Simply Amazing - so, is there a lesson here?

    If you see my daughter, don't tell her, but her birthday present arrived via FedEx this morning. She will turn 17 a week from tomorrow.

    I ordered the gift by phone Monday evening. The FedEx tracking page says "Package data" was transmitted to them at 9:48 am on Tuesday. The package left Shanghai that day at 1:18 pm (I presume local time). The package was in my hands a little before 10 am this morning (local time)

    WOW! When I placed the order, I was told delivery would take place within 4-8 days. It took 2. From Shanghai!

    The second thought I had on the promptness of shipping and delivery was that the USPS could perhaps learn something from this company. It seems that I remember that FedEx's founder presented this business plan to the Harvard School of Business and was told it would never work. It does work!

    The first thought I had was: what can the church learn from this kind of service?

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Historical, not Hysterical, Perspective

    How large is your rear-view mirror?

    I’m not thinking about your car when I ask that question, but let’s start there. All our cars have mirrors installed so we can see behind us. We cannot imagine, though, driving based only on what we see in the rear-view mirrors. We were taught in Driver’s Education always to keep our eyes moving, to be constantly checking our mirrors and the entirety of the view before us as well.

    Can you imagine driving a car with more than half of the forward view taken up by the mirror? Would you be willing to attempt to drive a car that has only a rear-view mirror and no windshield?

    Several people in different settings have said to me in the past several weeks what a tragedy it is that so many people today don’t seem to know anything about our history. I believe it was George Santayana who said that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Last week a study was released that claimed today’s American citizen knows The Simpsons better than the Bill of Rights. Surely we are historically challenged.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that all some people see is the past. It really isn’t that I am tired of hearing about “how things used to be.” But, since I am old enough to personally remember the 60’s and 70’s, I find it interesting that life really wasn’t as fine and dandy “back in the day” as some would have us remember it as being.

    Are there lessons to be learned from our past? Certainly. I think it is important, though, to remember that the proper sized rear-view mirror does not block one’s ability to see forward.

    Sunday, March 12, 2006


    I saw Crash this past Friday night. Not only is it one of the most intense movies I have ever seen, I really enjoyed it. No, "enjoyed" cannot be the right word. Crash grabbed me and would not let go for quite a while after the credits had rolled.

    Crash, if you don't know, is about race relations, stereotypes, and the tradegy we live in called the United States of America. Paul Haggis wrote a story that paints an unrelenting picture of urban American society.

    I wish it was just urban society, but the tension and uncertainty between racial and cultural groups is no stranger to small town America, like the town where I live.

    I found it interesting that Crash manages to portray none of us as heroes or above the fray. Unlike some "race" movies, the white people aren't the simple minded, prejudiced idiots while everyone else is whole and well-adjusted. Simple minded prejudice idiocy comes in all colors and blends.

    For my "position" on race relations in the US, see my post here from January 17.

    See Crash. Don't expect to be comfortable.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Stuff I am listening to.

    I'm getting all into podcasts... there is some GREAT stuff out there! My current fave is Erwin McManus at Mosaic. I just had a friend sign me up for Asbury Seminary's Chapel podcasts here. One of the best sources for insightful, inspiring messages, though not a podcast, is Rob Bell's at Mars Hill.

    If you've found one I don't know about but that I would like, let me know!

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    OMG! what now?

    Since my Tuesdays begin with a group study at 5:30 am, if I am to hit the gym on Tuesdays I do so during the lunch hour. As I changed clothes to get ready for my workout, I realized I had not matched my socks early this morning.

    Since I theologize everything, I couldn't help but wonder: why did God have me wear mismatched socks all morning? What was God's plan for that?

    Ok, honestly, I really didn't examine the metaphysical or theological implications of my wearing socks that don't match. But I am concerned that some of you would think that way.

    You very likely won't admit that you would ponder prayerfully over sock selection, but an awful lot of us Christians seem to think we are or ought to be robotized when it comes to those important "spiritual" matters. Many of us apparently think that God decides our careers, our lifestyles, and especially our mates, why wouldn't God be interested in choosing my socks.

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Monday Morning

    I woke up asleep this morning. It had been a long weekend.

    One voice in my head immediately began telling me “You don’t have to get up. You worked hard yesterday; you had a meeting most of the day Saturday. Roll over, go back to sleep for awhile. You deserve it.”

    The other voice started out less clearly. This voice acknowledged that it had indeed been a busy weekend. This was not the expected workaholic voice, however. It did not start laying out a list of things I really ought to get done today. Nor did it begin to criticize me for thinking I could sleep in.

    This other voice simply reminded me that my days go better, and that my life is both more productive and more peaceful, when I get up and get going.

    I had slept long enough to wake up without an alarm. Though I wasn’t sure I felt well rested, I began to remember that on days that I just get up and start moving, within an hour or less I feel wide awake, totally alive, and ready to face the world.

    Sometimes our spiritual lives are much like my morning started today. We think our two options are either avoid all the issues or jump in to things as though everything has to be done today. If we stumble, we retreat back under our spiritual blankets, roll over, and dream of starting again tomorrow.

    I truly believe that what God has in mind for us is neither rolling over and ignoring life nor pressing ourselves to be spiritual redwoods by the end-of-the-day. What God wants of us and for us is that we simply give him this day, and having done that, we step into the day knowing we are not in it alone.

    Some days we have to remind ourselves of this before we can get out of bed. This is going to be a good day!

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Me and My Lincoln

    I didn’t need to apologize, but I found myself doing so anyway. Repeatedly.

    I did some travelling and preaching recently, and to save mileage on my car I rented cars each time. Both times I reserved a basic “full size” car. Both times they were out of full size cars when I arrived to pick mine up. Both times they upgraded me, at no extra charge, to a Lincoln. Though Lincoln will always be my favorite president, I had never planned to drive one of his cars.

    I mean Lincolns are driven by better, or at least wealthier, people than me. Who am I to drive a Lincoln? (I don’t mind telling you it rode smooter, especially on the trip to Amarillo and back, than my honda would have)

    I spent the weekends with lots of youth and other “church professionals” all of whom seemed incredibly impressed that I was driving a Lincoln. They seemed a little too impressed, so I apologized.

    Then I realized that I have always known folks who drove “nicer” cars. The ones I knew were always the exception to the stereotype, though; they were pretty much just like the rest of us. In fact, the more I think about it, the more generally that is true; as I get to know people, almost no one fits very well into whatever stereotype I place on them from first impressions.

    Why are we so quick to divide people into “us” and “them”? We do it not just with what kind of cars people drive, but with favorite teams, accents, skin tones, hair styles….

    Here is some good news for you: even though we seem so quick to stereotype and differentiate, God is not! Jesus said in John that he came not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him!

    While we have a penchant toward prejudice, God would rather not have anyone perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

    That’s good news; I don’t care who you are. Or what you are driving.