Sunday, January 25, 2009


I've moved my blog to a self-hosted domain. I'm using WordPress. I can add more files this way (like sermons and photos). I can also have more control over the functionality and look and feel of the site. I like it a lot, and I hope you'll switch your RSS feeds. The site is:

The feed is:

I look forward to continuing the conversation over there!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Better Bibles, Better People?

I just watched a couple of the promotional videos for the recently released ESV Study Bible. Everyone is raving about the book, and it looks to me like a lot of work has gone into this project. There are extensive notes, cross-references, maps, and other resources on almost every page. It is truly and impressive work of literature. I wonder if now, finally, Christians will understand the Bible enough to put what it says into practice? Will there be diagrams and maps to explain complicated and oft neglected sayings like:

  • "Love your neighbor"

  • "Pray for those who persecute you"

  • "Sell all your possessions and give to the poor"

  • "Whoever wants to become great among must become a servant"

These are the really hard parts of the Bible that Christians have struggled to apply to their lives for centuries. Hopefully the maps, cross-references, and other features will finally help us be better people. And all we have to do is buy another Bible! ;)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Undivided Eye Contact

Ever since my wife and I saw the movie Baby Mama we've joked about the scene in which Steve Martin rewards Tina Fey's good work with 5 minutes of undivided eye contact. Sometimes when Mary or I need a break from the madness that is parenting our two children, we joke that we need 5 minutes of undivided eye contact. This morning was just such an occasion.

While Mary and I were staring into each others eyes (noticing wrinkles, bloodshot eyes, and other aging blemishes) we did our best to put our kids on hold. For Josiah our three year old, this was very frustrating. He had a question that demanded answering. He couldn't deal with the attention mommy and daddy were paying to each other and subsequently not paying to him. He needed our attention because he desperately needed us to answer a very important question: "Can seals fly?"

At first it was funny because of the absurdity of the question, but it soon became hilarious as we began to wonder how many times he would ask it as Mary and I stared into each others' pupils. We counted about 15 consecutive times until he paused and stated in exasperation, "It's not a very long question." It was at this point that I lost it. I broke eye contact and burst into laughter. Our attempt at 5 minutes of undivided eye contact ended somewhere around minute 2, but it had the desired effect of bringing levity and sanity to our child-rearing efforts, which had exhausted us by 8:30 this morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I spent the afternoon cheering on the Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball team to their lopsided victory over Penn St. It was awesome! Apart from a few minutes at the beginning, they dominated throughout the game. There was no point when the Gophers hit a cold spell. There was no point at which Penn St. really got back into it. The Gophers were on a roll.

Near the end of the game, I looked up at a stat scoreboard and saw that they were shooting 67%! That's 2 out of every 3 shots that were falling for them. They were truly getting every good bounce and roll. One player in particular was emblematic of this, Devron Bostick. He shot 7 for 8, 2 for 2 from three point range, and he was 3 for 3 from the line. He was on fire.

Anyone who has played basketball competitively recognizes this as common place. Sometimes shooters just get hot. They find their stroke and their confidence soars. When this happens, they can't miss. The hoop looks seven feet wide, and everything falls for them.

There is a striking parallel to the real world. When we have confidence, things tend to go better. When we feel sure of ourselves, we can often tackle bigger problems with greater grace. When we start a task believing that we will be able to finish it, we usually do.

I'm someone who doesn't default to this sort of confidence. I've developed a more critical and skeptical attitude. It's easier and it comes across as more intellectual to doubt something than to just will confident belief. But when it comes to my spiritual growth, like in basketball, I've found this sort of doubt can be self-defeating. If I don't believe I can make changes in my life and experience real personal transformation, it's likely that I won't. Peter addresses our source of confidence for growth in the following passage:

2 Peter 1:3-9 (Today's New International Version)

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if any of you do not have them, you are nearsighted and blind, and you have forgotten that you have been cleansed from your past sins.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life..." I love that. We can have confidence that we can experience change and transformation. We can have confidence that our efforts at godliness are not in vain. We will experience growth and transformation. In the game of life, we can have confidence in our own potential for spiritual progress.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I'm not the first...

I'm preparing for the annual Evangelical Covenant Church Midwinter conference. It's a conference for pastors. They can connect with each other and hopeful be refreshed by the speakers and workshops put on by our denomination. They also run their orientation courses during this time for pastors who didn't attend North Park Seminary, the denomination's seminary. Since I didn't attend North Park, I'm taking an orientation course this upcoming February called, The Theology of the ECC.

I have completed some of the required reading for the course, and I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed it. They have us reading articles and sermons from pastors and scholars who served in the ECC over the last 150 years. What I've found surprising is how relevant the content is. I'm shocked to find 120-year-old sermons in which these pastors masterfully articulate issues that I assumed where new to our cultural milieu.

This highlighted the issue of what I'll call era-ism. It's a sort of prejudice against older eras that have gone before us--a form of bigotry that discriminates against those not found in our own generation or era. We (or at least I) at times have assumed that our technological advancements and wealth of historical resources guarantees we are constantly progressing in the ideological conversation. This means the books written this year on Jesus must be of greater erudition and therefore greater value to me than books written 100 years ago on Jesus. Or, so the reasoning would go.

But it's been refreshing to see that this is not the case. These devoted Christians writing many years ago have provided wonderfully relevant insights into my present day spiritual walk. I'm glad to have been challenged by something old. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hate yourself, Hate others

The false ascetic begins by being cruel to everybody because he is cruel to himself. But he ends by being cruel to everybody but himself. Merton, No Man is an Island, pg. 96

Merton highlights the importance of rooting the acts of spiritual disciplines in self-love not self-loathing. It's easy to allow our frustration with ourselves to drive us to work harder at self-improvement. But this only perpetuates a cycle of self-hatred which spreads to others-hatred. Spiritual disciplines that bring about the desired growth effect are those rooted in self-love. When we love the person God has made us to be and believe that we can achieve the dreams he has planted in our hearts, self-discipline finds the fuel it needs to succeed.