War & Peace: A Community Called Forgiveness

By on Nov 24, 2014

Recap For a quick recap, we’re in the third week of our series called War & Peace, a series where we’re trying to figure out what the Bible has to say about matters of violence and conflict and hostility and justice and forgiveness. And what we’ve learned so far is this. The very first and last thing the Bible has to say about war and peace is peace. Violence was not in the beginning and it won’t be in the end, because while we find violence fascinating, God doesn’t, and while we find peace naïve and boring, God doesn’t. That said, we live in a world filled with war and violence and faced with such a world, God’s peace moves forward by forgiveness instead of vengeance because God’s goal is not revenge but reconciliation. And it’s almost impossible to properly emphasize just how radical a thing this is—that Christians believe in a God who would rather die for his enemies than give...

War & Peace: The Problem with Nuremburg

By on Nov 11, 2014

So we’re in the second week of our series called “War & Peace” and the question that is driving the whole series, the question that we’re all wrestling with for the next month, is this: when it comes to war and peace—to conflict and violence and hostility and justice and forgiveness—what sort of story does Christianity tell? Over and against everything the world has to say, what does the Bible have to say about war and peace?   And so last week we started that conversation with this: the very first and last thing the Bible has to say about war and peace, is peace. Period. Violence was not in the beginning and it will not be in the end. We find violence fascinating, but God doesn’t. We find peace boring and naïve, but God doesn’t. The universe has always, does always, and will always revolve around the wild and unpredictable peace of God.   That said, we live in a world...

War & Peace: The Oldest Story of All?

By on Nov 4, 2014

Here’s the first sermon in our new series, “War & Peace”   Light Versus Dark Perhaps the best new TV series to come out last year was True Detective; a brooding, dark drama starring Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson as Rust and Marty, two detectives working a particularly sinister and perplexing murder case. And in the very last scene of the very last episode, Rust and Marty gaze up at the night sky. They’ve solved the case, but they’ve seen some terrible things. They’ve had to do some terrible things. And as they stare up at the sky, at a vast sea of dark speckled by small islands of light, Rust makes a simple but profound observation: when it really comes down to it, all of life is just one story…the oldest story of all—light versus dark. Now to be sure, life can be unpredictable—constantly changing, constantly moving, never at rest. And yet it seems...

Of Stars and Starvation

By on Oct 9, 2014

Here’s a sermon from a couple of weeks ago, addressing the why of Christian worship.     Of Stars and Starvation Why do we bother with astronomy when people are starving in the world?   Guy lies in bed unable to sleep. He is thirty years old with a Ph.D. in planetary science. He’s done post-graduate work at MIT and Harvard. He’s taught at MIT and Harvard. He’s a rising star in the world of astronomy. Every day he sees things that few other eyes will ever see: comets hurling through solar systems, supernova explosions, black holes.   He loves it, all of it, and yet there he lies, unable able to sleep, thinking about leaving his career as an astronomer because he can’t answer this question: why am I doing astronomy when people are starving in the world? Isn’t looking at stars a massive waste of time when matters of life and death press in on us from all sides at...

NFL Scandals and Hero-Worship

By on Sep 22, 2014

I love sports-always have and always will. But here are a few, brief thoughts regarding the recent NFL ethical “scandals”. ——————————- Over the past month, the NFL has faced a number of scandals involving abuse. And as I’ve listened to the endless volley of opinion responding to these scandals, there is an unspoken assumption I find puzzling; namely, that the NFL has to punish athletes severely because they set an example for the rest of society.   And so without commenting on what did or didn’t happen in the cases involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and what their punishment should or shouldn’t be, I’d just like to point out the absurdity of the notion that the NFL should be setting an ethical example for the rest of society. Really? The NFL (or NBA, MLB, etc, etc, etc) is where we look to learn what it...

Dirt, Ladders, Feet

By on Jul 24, 2014

This is a keynote address I gave at the National Association of Baptist Enrollment Professionals Conference at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor this past week. Hope it’s helpful! Intro So you’re here at this conference for a number of reasons: to learn from others, to grow as a team, to network, to develop, because your boss said so. All good reasons to be here. And yet as our theme suggests, the reason for being here behind all those other reasons for being here is that you hope to be, in some sense, refreshed. It’s been a long year for you. Some of you have done lots of traveling—lots of living out of a suitcase, lots of nights alone in a hotel, lots of time spent in front of a booth talking to sometimes pleasant but often clueless and obnoxious high-schoolers. Some of you have done lots of campus tours. Some of you have made lots of phone calls. And some of you have done...

The Fickle Security of Eternal Security

By on Jun 23, 2014

Once Saved, Always? / Function, Not Validity Once saved, always saved—so the adage goes. Depending on your theological persuasion, there are other ways to say it: eternal security, perseverance of the saints, or more straight to the point—you can’t lose your salvation. It’s an interesting doctrine because it has wiggled its way into the theological bedrock of many theological systems, some of which differ fundamentally on other matters.   But rather than examining its validity as a biblical doctrine (for a good case against see Scot McKnight’s short book, A Long Faithfulness…for a good case for see chapter 6 in Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones’ PROOF), I’d like to examine its function because I’m not convinced the doctrine of eternal security provides as much security as some think. So as to function, what kind of security does the doctrine of eternal security really...

Review: A Farewell to Mars

By on Jun 12, 2014

A Farewell to Mars (by Brian Zahnd) is a difficult book to read.   The writing is crisp, the arguments sound, the imagery vivid, but it is nevertheless a difficult read because it forces us to confront some of our ugliest demons—violence as a means to justice, our (supposed) inalienable right to self-preservation, scapegoating, and most of all, our systematic attempt to make the Bible say things about violence that it simply doesn’t say.   Brian’s argument stands (or at least seems to me) on three legs. 1.) The clear teachings of Jesus against violence and retaliation (Matthew 5). 2.) The crucifixion of Jesus as paradigmatic for Christian interaction with “enemies” and the deepest peek into the heart of God. 3.) The belief that Jesus is right now ruling and judging the world (the kingdom of God is in our midst).   It’s pretty hard to argue against the first leg, so the...