Friday, December 19, 2008


I've been doing a lot of studying lately. December is an off-month for me, which means there are no classes to teach. So I'm trying to take advantage of the downtime by preparing for the classes that begin in January. I'll be teaching Galatians, Hosea, and doing an e4 session on the Wisdom Books.

The book I chose to study in preparation for the Psalms (Just one of the five Wisdom Books) is "Praying the Psalms" by Walter Brueggemann. I chose the book mostly because it was short and appeared to be both scholarly and practical, which is the thrust of our e4 program. I should also point out that in my first e4 session I railed against Brueggemann's awful exegesis of the book of Luke, so coming back to him is a work of redemption. 

His book hasn't particularly blown me away, but I just finished the second chapter, "The Liberation of Language." I appreciate the distinction he makes between language that describes things as they are and language that creates new spaces. The Psalms fall into the latter category. These poems and prayers do not describe the world as it is. Rather, they create a space of communion between hurting people and a healing God, or between celebrative people and an overjoyed Lord. They are not the language of, to use my own experience, computer engineering. They are the language of theatre.

Psalms are words which occupy a space for which there are no words. They create a bond between creature and Creator. They give breath to both inexpressible grief and joy. In the Psalms we find a depth of true expression that we did not know existed, or did not think we had permission to speak. The Psalms set our hearts free to speak to God as sons and daughters, with all the familiarity of in-the-family language. They are the inside-jokes, so to speak, of God's household. They are our special language to him--a personal prayer language for God's children.

They are also prayers that we can offer on behalf of others. I am not always writhing in the agony of Psalm 22, but more often than not, I know someone who is. These are our prayers for ourselves and for each other. May it be so in me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Violet Christmas

It's not that I'm tired of Christmas music, it's that I'm tired of cheesy-pop-family-friendly-same-50-song-rotation Christmas music. If I ever have to listen to a radio station called "The River" again I'm going to punch myself in the face. That's why I'm so grateful to The Violet Burning for putting out a Christmas album and offering it as a FREE DOWNLOAD on their website. It's a way awesome take on Christmas songs with that usual Violets twist. Download. Listen. Enjoy [Christmas again for the first time once again all over again].

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

He Found a Rhythm

A couple months ago we were at church and I let Cyrus play the drum set. I showed him one time how to play a simple beat on the high-hat and snare, and he picked it up right away. Breena shot this video on her phone, so the image is really dark, but that's him on the drums with me in the background. (I've got my foot on the high-hat pedal to keep it closed.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sermon Audio: Outsider In

I preached at my church this past weekend, and I finally have access to sermon audio! Woohoo!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So Close

Last night I was hanging out with Cyrus and Eisley while Breena was with friends, and the kids and I were down in the basement playing. Breena's old megaphone from her cheerleading days was down there, and I started talking into it. Cyrus and Eisley thought it was the most hilarious thing ever! Cyrus was sticking his head right into the end of it and I would say, "Cyrus!" He laughed so hard, and then he said, "So loud. Why?" Why was it so loud? That's hard to explain to a 2 year old, so I just said, "physics." "Oh," he said, "physcuits." Yeah. Physcuits.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

24 Reasons I Love 24

So I just watched 24: Redemption. I love 24, and I don't care who knows it. I am fully aware of all the criticism of the show, and I agree with a lot of it. But it's a sort of guilty pleasure. It's not like Lost, where you can tell people you're a fan and feel intellectually superior to them. It's pretty much the opposite of that. But I don't really care. So, in celebration of 24: Redemption and the start of the new season in January, here is my list of 24 reasons I love 24.

24. It's shot in "real time." If that much crap happened to me in one day my circulatory system would turn inside out.
23. Jack Bauer makes carrying a manbag look totally awesome, and he's probably got lots of guns in there.
22. You're never completely dead, even after you've died.
21. No matter how many dudes Jack kills, there's always more dudes to kill.
20. Multiscreen. Yes!
19. No matter how much amazing technology is available to him, Jack can still use everyday household objects for torture. He's like an evil Macguyver.
18. It's educational. I now know that I can vampire bite a terrorist to death, or snap somebody's neck with the back of my knee. How have I gotten this far in life without this knowledge?
17. Chloe O'Brien. At first, I wanted her to die, but now I can't imagine the show without her.
16. Plot twists that somehow all work out in the end. At least, I think they do.
15. Okay, so they pretty much kill off anyone that presents a plot problem or loose end.
14. Jack Bauer is the archetypal tragic hero. How can you like this guy? How can you hate him? If you like him, then your conscience reminds you that he's killed over 200 dudes. If you hate him, you inevitably realize that somebody has to do the dirty work.
13. Mass destruction in L.A. Sorry, I'm just bitter because I live in flyover country.
12. Satellite technology. Is there anything they can't see?
11. Sex leads to death. Trust me. If any character has sex at any point during the show, they will surely die. Especially if that sex is with a terrorist posing as a prostitute.
10. The assumption that people eat meals and go to the bathroom during commercial breaks. Why waste time on reality?
9. Everyone's got secrets. I wish I could see the way my friends looked back at me as I was walking away. Then I could tell whether they respected me or were hiding some insidious secret that would compromise CTU.
8. The threat of thermonuclear war. Seriously, can you imagine this show in the '80s? The DEFCON level would have to be raised whenever it aired.
7. Money is no object. Just like going to the bathroom, eating, drinking, or killing. 
6. It's the manliest show on television, with the possible exceptions of Dirty Jobs and Project Runway. Wait, I mean...
5. Liberals hate it. Whenever I'm faced with a difficult choice in life, I always ask, "Would liberals hate this?" And if they do, I pretty much follow through on that.
4. Jack Bauer always gets his man. And after he gets his man, he takes his gun. And after he gets his man's gun, he goes and kills like twelve more dudes.
3. Everybody who wears a suit dies. Hence, I refuse to wear suits. Especially pantsuits.
2. White chicks are the worst kind of terrorist and should never be trusted.
1. UN Peacekeepers are revealed for who they really are--compromising, spineless pants pee-ers.


All season long I've been waiting for that dominant OSU performance, and I finally got it, against Michigan no less! This was the most lopsided OSU-UM game of my lifetime, and the fifth win in a row for the Buckeyes. This has been a terrible year for Michigan, and you might say that the victory means less because they're so bad, but not for me. Not after what I went through in the '90s. Not after the heartache. Not after the constant disappointment. I want to beat this team every year as bad as we possibly can. I want to humiliate them. I want to even that series record in the minimum number of years possible. I'm talking 15 straight victories, baby! O-H!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Note to Self

Invent time machine. Travel back to the '70s. Acquire typewriter. Write screenplay. Make film. Reap all the benefits.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on the Election

I'm not particularly excited that Obama won the election. I don't share his perspective on many issues, and I'm not that confident that he'll be the great leader that so many are hoping and expecting he'll be. It is probably unfair, actually, to put that much hope in one person. But, this is politics...

One thing I have been convicted of, however, is that I need to support him. I need to respect him and the office he holds. I need to submit to his leadership and not slander him. I need to obey and not rebel, because God has established him as our president. This is what Romans 13 teaches me.

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I don't want to treat Obama the way that so many have treated Bush for so long, including some very committed Christians who ought to know better. The incendiary and vitriolic hyperbole leveled at George W. Bush by my brothers and sisters in Christ is sin, and I don't want to participate in that sin, even though I disagree with my president-elect on so many issues. I want to learn what it means to submit to authority, even when I don't agree with it. I want to be humbled and submissive. And I think this may be the best way to stand up for Jesus in divisive times like these (1 Timothy 2).

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

Would I be saying all this if McCain had won? Probably not. So I'm all the more grateful that Obama won, because now I am more keenly aware of my sin. Now I have a tangible opportunity to pursue godliness and Christlikeness. If "my candidate" had won, where would be the difficulty of submission? I wouldn't even have thought about it. 

Does this make me a small person? Yes, I believe it does. Does it make me susceptible to the sarcastic blades of cynics? Of course it does. But I suppose that's the price to pay of having your eyes opened to your own wretchedness. And if the shoe fits, I gladly wear it, knowing that someday God will cause my foot to grow.

Help me, Jesus, to pray for President Barack Obama, and for my senators and representative. Help me to live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and holiness. Help me not to be a jerk about politics, religion, or even sports, because I know how much of a jerk and how opinionated I can be. I know that you can transform this jerk into a humble, peaceful man. I surrender, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Every time I log into my blog I see those numbers in the right-hand column staring back at me, mocking me, telling me, "You've given up on this, too." Eleven posts in September, and just three so far in October. But why?

The truth is I've been really busy, and blogging doesn't make it to the top of my priority list. Perhaps if I were paid to do this.... But this week alone I have to write a sermon for the high school fall retreat (done), study the historical books for an e4 session I'm teaching next Tuesday (not done), finish reading Surprised by Hope by NT Wright (done), prepare for a preaching meeting because I'm preaching at my church the last weekend of November (half done), prepare a session on Isaiah (not done), and prepare a session on John (not started). And I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Please God, don't call for a video this weekend!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Moral Differences Of Liberals & Conservatives

This is a fascinating talk on the moral differences of liberals and conservatives. As a Christian, I don't necessarily agree with his conclusions, but I found the bulk of his session extremely informative. So I've posted it here, not because I endorse it, but rather for your thoughtful consideration.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Feeling Manly

I walked out the door this morning at 6:45, jumped into the misty '96 Saturn, and *click*. The car won't start. Hmm, must be a dead battery, I think to myself. Since I don't own jumper cables, I hopped into Breena's car and was off to work. 

I finally manned-up and purchased my first set of jumper cables from Meijer after church. We've had too many dead batteries to not own a pair of those babies by now! So after a nice NFL-on-TV nap and hanging with the kids while Bree took a well-deserved extended nap, I headed out to the cars to wreak some manly havoc.

I managed to get the jumper cables connected without killing myself, which is a victory in itself. (Have I ever blogged about the first time I tried to connect a dryer?) I started up the Impala, and much to my surprise, was not electrocuted. Then I moved on to the Saturn, and *click*. Still nothing! I let the battery "charge" for a minute and then tried again. *click*. Hmm, must not be the battery.

So I carefully removed the jumper cables, again without dying. Then I stuck my head under the hood and looked around. Lots of stuff in there. All very interesting. I wonder what the neighbors are thinking? (Cars always bring out my insecurity.) For whatever reason, I popped open the fuse box. I pulled out the fuse in the IGN3 spot and examined it closely stared at it dumbly. I put it back and tried to pull out the fuses for IGN4 and STARTER. I couldn't get them out because I have fragile hands. So I just pushed them in tighter because, you know, they were probably jiggling.

Alright, time to give it one more try. I hop into the driver seat, turn the key, and IGNITION! The car started beautifully! I couldn't believe it! And I hoped that the neighbors had been watching, because it actually looked like I knew what I was doing. Hurrah! I felt so manly and when I told my wife all about it, I got a big kiss!

Actually, this whole experience was an answer to prayer. This morning I was feeling overwhelmed by the potential expense of getting the car fixed, so I just set it before the Lord. (I know, I know, I'm such an American Christian.) But we really don't have the money to invest in the '96 Saturn, and it inexplicably started, so...thank you God!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I was reading through Psalm 51 this morning and I was struck by the absolute filth and wickedness that lies behind it. This is the song that David writes after Nathan confronts him about his affair with Bathsheba and the state-sanctioned murder of Uriah, her husband. It just doesn't get much worse than what David did to that family.

I feel weird when I read
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
I just am, like, dude, you stole this guy's wife and then you had him killed. And this guy trusted you. He paid you honor and you're over here using your power as king to take his wife as your own. God didn't take his Holy Spirit from you, you kicked the Holy Spirit out!

Bathsheba must have despised him. He destroyed her family. He killed her first love. She must have hated him. But what could she do? He was the king. What a mess!

On the other hand, these are words of desperation. It seems arrogant of David to ask God to save him from this horrendous sin, and yet I would do the same. I, too, would be on my face. At least David knew that what he had done was evil, and he was owning up to it. 

There is so much evil and corruption today for which there is no repentance. And it's not just out there in corporate America or government, it's here in my heart. We would all do well to say
Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart,
   O God, you will not despise.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Like many people, the recent economic turmoil has me anxious. I'm not afraid of losing everything because I don't have anything to lose--no investments, no home, etc. My only debt is on the credit card, and the amount is significantly less than the average American household's debt. But I'm terrified at the prospect of going through another Great Depression. I'm not afraid of many things, but that is one of them. A lot of that fear stems from a consistent theme in my life of unemployment and the inability to get the job. For whatever reason, I just don't get the job. It's a miracle that I have a job now! So, now that I have a family to feed, this fear has been elevated from frustration to HOLY CRAP WE'RE ALL GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH!!!

I woke up this morning thinking about the economy. I wanted someone to blame for all this, as if that would make it go away. But that's just politics. So I resigned myself to pray for the leaders of this country, which, to my shame, is something that I haven't done very often. But that resolution didn't ease the fear in my heart.

I've been reading through the Psalms lately, and yesterday I stopped reading after 45. That means that, when I came into work this morning, I opened my Bible to Psalm 46.
God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see the works of the Lord,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
   he burns the shields with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth."

The Lord Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
God is our refuge. God is our strength. God is present. God is with us. Therefore, we will not fear. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Eisley Bree

I don't blog much about my daughter, Eisley. It's not because I don't like her, because I totally do! It's really because she's 7 months, and not doing too much yet. Maybe if she were playing the piano I would post videos of her, but she's kinda slacking at this point! But she's super-duper cute, and she totally has my heart. Her smile makes everything better.

More Baby Drumming

So of course we had to get Cyrus his own drum set. He's already managed to break it, but he can still RAWK OUT!!!

2-year-old on the drums from Andy Holt on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pro-Life and Advocating for Obama?

Let's imagine that you lived in the Philippines, and that you were extremely concerned about the issue of children being sold into sex-slavery. (Which, if you are a human, you should be!) Let's say that in the upcoming election (I actually don't know if the Philippines is a democratic country or not, but for the sake of argument...) there was a popular candidate who supported the child sex-slave trade. (Perhaps this appalls you.) Let's say that his record indicated that he supported the most extreme forms of this abhorrent act. Let's say that, despite laws that were passed in every other district of the country, this candidate opposed the same laws banning extreme instances of childhood sex-slavery in his district. Could you, as a Christian, possibly vote for him? Could you stand before God and say, I voted for the guy who supported the child sex-slave trade because I thought that, despite his record and his views, he would be best suited to somehow decrease the sex-slave trade? Could you do that? If you can do that, then by all means, vote for Barack Obama. 

Ohio's Hurricane

So a hurricane swept through central Ohio this week. No kidding, a real hurricane. And it knocked out power to just about everyone in town, many of whom don't have it back yet, including my church. If Ike did this much damage in Ohio, I can't imagine what it must be like in Texas right now. God be with those of you that were in the path of the storm. 

Our power came back on after about 24 hours, so we're doing great. Some areas near us, including a large commercial zone, never lost power. There's no telling when the lights will come back on for the church. Apparently, AEP sent a bunch of their crews to Texas to help out, but then they had to be recalled because we got hit so hard. Something like a quarter million customers are still without power in Columbus. Some friends of mine had a tree fall on their house, and all of the pastors are still without electricity. I guess we were some of the most fortunate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Jesus Judges the Temple

I've been doing a lot of devotional writing at work lately, and I figured it would be nice to post a sample here. So I did. Below. Right...there. No, that's not it. Just keep reading and you'll come to it. No, on the computer. You have to look at the computer! Just scroll down! What? I don't know. What are you--what does that even mean? Just scroll down and read! Sheesh, it doesn't have to be this complicated. It's a blog. Welcome to 2008.

John 2:12-25
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"
His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."
Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
Passover would have attracted Jews from all across the world who wanted to come to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. Because of the long journey, they would not have been able to bring the appropriate sacrifices with them—hence the availability of cattle, sheep and doves, and the presence of the money changers in the Temple. These people were providing a way for Jews to make the right sacrifices to Yahweh.

But you can’t buy worship. You can’t purchase God’s favor. Jesus was upset not simply because these money changers may have been extorting their fellow Jews; no, he was upset by the whole process of buying and selling going on at the Temple. It wasn’t merely the injustice of extortion that raised Jesus’ ire, it was the commercialization of God’s House.

In fact, by clearing the Temple, Jesus is pronouncing his judgment against it. Jesus is judging the Temple and condemning its way of worship, and he is replacing it with something else—himself. The authorities asked him, “What right do you have to clear these people out? Who are you to say that all this is wrong?” Jesus responded by saying, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The disciples only later understood that Jesus was referring here to his own body.

By clearing the Temple, Jesus is judging the Temple and its place in Jewish life, and he is setting up an alternative Temple—himself. Jesus claims to replace the Temple as the place where heaven and earth collide. Jesus is now where we go to meet God. The Temple was destroyed less than 50 years after Jesus condemned it, and it has never been rebuilt. Jesus is the new Temple. It is through Jesus, at his cross, that we go to meet with God.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kim Jong-Il is dead?

How fascinating would this be if it turned out to be true? Using look-alikes to rule from the grave--the new trend in despotic arrogance. "You can't kill me! I'm already dead!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

This Could Get Ugly

After jumping in the WayBack Machine, I've brought back another old Unbound video. I've got to admit, I get hypnotized by Corey's fleshly gyrations.

Unbound Dance Video from Andy Holt on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is It Just?

As I'm confronted more and more with the evangelical social justice movement I find myself torn between two thoughts: 1) This is necessary, and 2) This is insincere.

What is injustice? I've heard it described as the strong taking from the weak. That, I suppose, is a good enough, albeit broad, definition of injustice. Few things break the heart of God more than injustice. God, himself the strongest of the strong, wields his power with grace and humility, both of which are supremely evident at the cross. God exercises his strength in mercy and grace, and I am forever grateful for that.

The evangelical social justice movement is right to call the strong to exercise their strength in mercy and grace. This is how we ourselves should move in any strength and power that we may possess. The world needs to be a more merciful and gracious place, and who better to lead us to this calling than those who are following Jesus Christ?

But somewhere along the line this calling has become corrupt. It has become perverted in its politics.

If injustice is the act of the strong taking from the weak, then what is the lowest act of injustice? Is it poverty? Perhaps. But at least in our American, capitalistic context, the injustice of poverty gets muddy. Is it slavery? It's hard to imagine a more unjust act than slavery. What about rape? Or murder? These are all acts of horrible injustice.

But I think there is one act that goes beyond all of these. One act in which the gap between the strong and the weak is as wide as an ocean. I submit that there is no greater act of social injustice than abortion. You cannot find a weaker human vessel than an unborn child. These cannot speak, fight back, or even be seen. We don't even call them human, though what else they could possibly be has not been satisfactorily answered.

And my criticism of the evangelical social justice movement is that it cares more about a "more equitable redistribution of wealth" than the foundations of human life. It cares more about health care than caring for the least of us. The evangelical social justice movement has forgotten about abortion, and it now runs the risk of becoming merely a politically-liberal activist group.

If you truly care about social justice than you must be concerned for the unborn. But instead the evangelical social justice movement has swept them under the rug, and has chosen the praise of the liberal men and women of the world rather than the praise of God, who is concerned for the least of us. Ask yourself: Is abortion just?

To my socially-justice minded brothers and sisters, your work is important, but you are forgetting the truly least of us. The hungry need to be fed. The naked need to be clothed. The slaves must be set free. The sick must be healed. And the unwanted must be rescued. This is what we have done for 2,000 years. Let us not give up on doing good for the sake of a fleeting political trend and the ever-shifting tide of public opinion.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Future Drumming Genius

This is my 2-year-old son Cyrus rocking the drums after church a couple months back.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who Knew?

Michael Moore believes in God! Honestly, if an evangelical pastor said something like this (and some did after 9/11 and Katrina) they would be absolutely fried over it in the press. But I'm sure Michael Moore will get a free pass.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl sounded like it would be an interesting movie when I first heard about it, but given the premise, I assumed it would be full of really awkward and gross sexual content. Then my mom told me it was the most amazing movie she had seen in a long, long time. Really, mom? A guy falls in love with a life-size sex doll, and you watched this?

So we put it in the other day and I waited for the cringe moment. And I waited. And I waited. And then I finally gave up and just enjoyed the movie. How Hollywood managed to produce a clean movie about a sex doll I'll never know, but they did it. Hats' off, Hollywood. Now if you could just do something with the other 99% GARBAGE FILMS YOU PRODUCE!!!

The most fascinating aspect of the movie, for me, was that it really felt like a postmodern sermon. At the beginning of the film, Lars goes to the church, and we hear the preacher say something to the effect of, "God wants us to love each other. Love is God in action." And the rest of the film fleshed this idea out. It was a brilliant exposition.

I really don't want to give away any of the plot. So I'll just say, as odd as it sounds, I highly recommend you see this film about a man and his sex toy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Go Buckeyes!

On Monday I took Cyrus to the Buckeyes' open practice at Ohio Stadium. It was the first time we'd been to the stadium together. He learned that the big red O means "Ohio State" and he yelled "Go Buckeyes!" all night. He also enjoyed running around on the bleachers and dumping the $5.50 cup of Sprite on the ground and then playing in the mess. It's a good thing Mommy wasn't there Daddy didn't let him play in the dirty Sprite and cleaned him up right away.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cyrus' Favorite Videos

My 2-year-old son, Cyrus, is totally amped about the drums. He equates church with drums, so of course he loves going to church. He also likes to watch drums on youtube. Here are two of his favorite videos:

A vlog from MUTEMATH regarding their upcoming album

and "You give love a bad name" by Blake Lewis.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm a Grill Master

There, I said it. But anyone who can grill regular store-bought hamburgers that are still juicy and delicious out of the microwave 3 days later is an official grill master. I am that man.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Everything is the Most Important Thing in the World

When you hear about the sex trade and child prostitution, what do you do? When you hear about human slavery, what do you do? When you hear about the AIDS pandemic, what do you do? When you hear about global poverty and starvation, what do you do? When you hear about Darfur, what do you do? When you hear about our own prisoners, what do you do?

The troubles of the world are overwhelming, and I am overwhelmed by my own crushing sense of guilt and over-identification with the "failure" of the Church to respond to these crises. (A "fact" which I think ought to be open for debate rather than used as the primary construct in the strawman-ification of the Church. But as you can see, I myself am conflicted.) I can't possibly solve any of these problems, and I don't have much faith that anyone else can, either. On the other hand, I can't just twittle my thumbs, claim inability, and wait for the Lord to return and I don't have to hear about these things anymore. (Again, I'm conflicted.)

But does knowledge necessarily demand action? Does information equal responsibility? How much can I be reasonably expected to do in these arenas? Just because I know about the sex trade, does that mean I am responsible for seeing it destroyed? Sometimes it seems that everything is the most important thing in the world, and the more I know about everything, the less I'm able to do about anything.

Honestly, how can I in good conscience say no to any of these things? And if I can't say no to any of them, then I wind up saying no to all of them. The evil in this world is so overwhelming that it becomes very tempting to close my eyes, shut my ears, and sit in my own safe corner of the planet waiting out death or Christ's return, whichever comes first. (There's irony in there, to be sure.)

But what am I really saying, here? Isn't what I'm really getting at my own insecurities, and the need I feel to cover my backside? Doesn't my guilt come from my desire to stand before the harshest skeptic and say, "Well you can't say those things about me. I did it all. I did more than you. I cared more. I helped more. I served more. I loved more. I've been to more places and done more things...." Somewhere inside of me, all of this is really about me. I may not be trying to earn the favor of God--I know I can't do that--but I am tempted to earn the favor of the most hard-hearted Christ-hater.

That's a sin in me that needs to die and be resurrected. I desire credibility for myself, not glory for God. The glory of God is the most important thing in the world. Ending the sex trade, freeing the slaves, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, stopping AIDS, ministering to the prisoners, and everything else like them are important because they give glory to God. They are not ends in themselves (although they are some of the best ends I can think of), and they are not the most important things in the world. The end of all of our work, small or great, is to give glory to God. And I have to trust that, if I pursue God's glory, then he will give me, in my smallness, some small thing to do that will someday bring him great glory.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Back to Craig Groeschel's message from the Leadership Summit.

One of the questions that a leader ought to ask him or herself, Craig claims, is, "What is God trying to show me through my limitations?" This, of course, assumes that the leader is familiar with his or her limitations. Do you know what your limitations are? Do I? I have several limitations that immediately come to mind.

I am helpless in a group of people with whom I am unfamiliar. Put me in a crowd of people that I don't know, and, like water, I will immediately flow to the lowest point, or nearest corner/wall. Despite the biblical mandate that every good Christian leader feels most at home in a group of people he or she doesn't know, I just can't seem to deal with this excruciatingly uncomfortable situation. (Yes, you did detect a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence.) Now, if you put me in front of that same group of people, particularly to preach the Word of God, I am completely at home. I can say anything from the pulpit, but I can't seem to find words before or after the service. For an aspiring pastor, this is a serious limitation.

I am naturally passive. I am not a self-starter. I am not a go-getter. I am not high-energy. In fact, I can't think of a single hyphenated adjectival phrase that applies to me. (Maybe, stick-in-the-mud, or, finely-bearded.) I am not a man of action, a fact which shames me to my core. Again, for someone who wants to be a pastor, particularly a church-planter, this may well signal the death-knell of such dreams. Perhaps this is why I abandoned the church I felt God called me to plant.

I do not have a big heart. I do not love others well. People don't feel great about themselves after talking to me. In fact, I have to try very hard not to ask questions about someone else's life. I tend to be far more interested in what I'm doing than in what you're doing--and when you talk to me, you can probably tell. Of all my limitations, this is the greatest character deficiency, and the one that most disqualifies me for the ministry.

So, what is God trying to show me through my limitations? (Believe me, there are more, but this post would have gotten insanely long had I continued--not to mention what would have happened to my emotional state.) I can't even begin to answer that question until I have prayed and meditated. What I can say is that my gifts and sense of calling seem to qualify me for ministry, while my limitations and character deficiencies seem to disqualify me. Perhaps this is a common experience.

I believe that God has given me a mind (and heart) for Scripture and theology. I believe he has also given me the ability to preach and, primarily through preaching, to lead. But why has he given me such overwhelming limitations? Why does my character not match my gifting? And what is he trying to show me through this?

This, in a strong way, has been my core question for the past two years. Why am I so limited? Why is my character so lacking? The answer, I believe, is not simple. Which is why I continue to ask the question. Or rather, why God continues to press the question on me.


This morning Craig Groeschel gave a message at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit that really rocked me. He talked about it. He admitted that he didn't really know what it is, but he knows when someone or some church has it. You know when it's there, and you know when it's not. You can just tell when someone has it.

I used to have it. I used to get it. It was all that I had at one point, before my brain was filled with knowledge. (Not that knowledge is the culprit in my losing it.) But something has happened to me in the years since I had it. My life has become mediocre. My fire has cooled. My calling has quieted. Even my mind has become dull. I've become, as Craig said, "a full-time [minister] and a part-time Christ-follower." I'm not in love with Jesus like I was six years ago. I'm not in love with people like I was. I'm not passionate about anything of eternal significance.

I want it back. I can't move forward without it--I'm only moving laterally. I've grown cold and hard without it, and I want my heart to melt in the flame of God's love for me and everyone. There's nothing special about me without it. I'm not going to make a difference in the world until God brings it back. I'm a vapor without it, because it is the substance, the backbone, of my life in God.

Oh Jesus, take me back and take me forward. Bring it back--bring me back to life in you.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to Work

For whatever reason I've gotten back to work on the screenplay. I've resolved myself to the fact that this draft will be far too long, and I'll have a big editing job once I'm done. This revelation allows me to write with the sense of freedom I need to be creative. It's easier to edit after it's on the page than before.

One of the most difficult things for me to do is let my characters be unlikeable. I don't want to create characters that can be emotionally written-off because they're mean, awkward, or evil. That seems two-dimensional. But the alternative is just plain chaos. Not every character can have the opportunity to explain or redeem him/herself in a screenplay--there is simply not enough time. But, as in life, I'm having a difficult time being disciplined with my character development.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Message at Andy's Memorial Service

This is the manuscript I used at Andy's memorial service. I know several folks who couldn't be there wanted to read it, so here you go. Feel free to leave a comment, especially anyone from the class of '96.


There are two ways that I’d like to remember Andy today. The first is as a member of the TCS class of 1996.

One of the benefits of going to a small, K-12 school is that you quite literally grow up with the people in your class. Some of you went to school with Andy from Pre-Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade. Andy Zell did that and even went to college with him! So there was plenty of time for us to know Andy, and I’m sure we all have a lot of wonderful stories we could, and will, tell.

Andy was everybody’s friend. To the class of ’96, I’m sure, when you found out what happened, you explained to your family and friends, “One of my good friends from high school was killed.” He was everybody’s friend. I doubt that any of us would refer to him simply as, “some guy I went to school with.” No, he was our friend. He was my friend.

Andy transcended the drama and the social cliques that come along with high school. He fit easily into everyone’s circle of friends. He was a part of everybody’s group. He was accepted by everyone, and accepting of everyone. He cared for us all.

Andy had a quality of character and integrity that you rarely find among grown men, much less in the heart of a high-school student. He dragged me along to confront a teacher once, because he knew that the way we were talking about this teacher behind his back was wrong, and he wanted to not only apologize, but to hear the teacher’s side of the story, as well.

Andy had our respect. He was so humble and unassuming, but his character and integrity could not be questioned. When he spoke, his words were so often life and light to our hearts. He was an encourager who saw the best in us. He was the best of us. He was a godly man.

We of the class of 1996 will always remember him for his smile, his kindness, his joy, his encouragement, and his love. We say, “Thank you, Andy, for being the boy and the man God made you to be, and thank you for being our friend.”

The second way I would like to remember Andy is as a fellow minister of the Lord. Andy’s life was about Jesus Christ. Everything else he did flowed out of his relationship with his savior. Andy loved Jesus, and Jesus loved Andy. And if there was one thing that he could say to all of you, I’m convinced it would be, “Jesus loves you.” Jesus loves you.

God gave Andy a vision for the Shan people in Thailand. Andy’s heart was gripped by the simple truth that Jesus loves them. This vision to reach the Shan quickly became Andy and Susanna’s dream. But as Susanna said at the funeral, “life has a way of happening.” And life happened, and the support didn’t come in, and the dream faded into the background. But Andy still loved Jesus, and he still wanted to serve him, so he decided that the best way to do that was to become a police officer.

It makes sense. When you arrest somebody, that’s a good chance to tell them, “Jesus loves you.”

I heard a story about a guy who came to Andy’s funeral. A reporter asked him, “How did you know Officer Widman?” He said, “He arrested me twice. I just had to come to pay my respects, because he was always so kind and friendly to me.”

Andy’s life was about Jesus, and Jesus shined his light through Andy’s life. Even more, Jesus shined his light through Andy’s death. All over the news, and out of the mouths of everyone who spoke of him, came a testimony of a man who loved and followed Jesus. The name of Jesus was lifted up in the life, and especially in the death, of Andy Widman. God saw fit to take this dark and evil event, and through it to bring light and goodness. What greater good can come from your life and death than for the name of Jesus Christ to be exalted?

Andy Widman loved Jesus Christ. He spent his life in service to his savior. He may have been killed as a police officer, but I believe that he died a martyr for Jesus. As he lay on that sidewalk, with open eyes and smiling face, we know that he saw Jesus, and he sped to heaven to be with his Lord.

We loved Andy. He loved us. And he would want you to know today that Jesus loves you. Toledo Christian class of 1996, let us not forget our friend and brother, and let us not forget the One for whom he lived and died.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Catching Up

Andy Widman's Memorial Service was yesterday, and I thought it was a fitting tribute and a welcome celebration of God in the life of a strong young man. I was blessed to be able to speak a few words, remembering him both as a member of the TCS class of 1996 and as a fellow minister of the Lord. 

I was extremely nervous to speak--perhaps more than I've been in a long time. It was both like and unlike preaching a sermon. Jesus was the centerpiece, but it was Jesus in the life of my friend rather than Jesus in the Word. Regardless, I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to publicly remember such a godly man. 

I was also blessed to reconnect with many of my former classmates, their parents, teachers, and faculty from Toledo Christian. I was both flattered and frightened to learn how many people from that phase of life have been reading my blog! I didn't think anybody read this except for the few of my friends who would feel guilty if they didn't. 

It was nice to catch up with so many of the class of '96. Of course I see Nick every time I go to Grace in Toledo, but it was wonderful to see everyone else. We've all grown and matured so much. It's just so terrible that it was Andy's death that brought us back together again. May we walk as closely with Jesus as he did.


While I was talking with my wife on the ride home, I realized that I've gained 50 pounds since high school! What?!?! ...It helps that I was disgustingly skinny then. You may remember me from such infomercials as, "Feed the Children, Toledo," and "How to Disappear by Turning 90 Degrees to Your Left."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Funeral

Andy's funeral was overwhelming. As we drove to the church (the largest in the area) I was in disbelief at the sheer number of police cars outside. There must have been well over 500 cruisers parked in the lots and lawns of the church. Police officers had come from all over the state and over 100 different law enforcement agencies to pay their respects to my friend. I think Andy would have found it hysterical.

Andy and Susanna's pastor from their GCTS days gave the opening sermon and played the role of emcee. He did a wonderful job of communicating the true purpose of Andy's life--serving Jesus Christ. The Lieutenant Governor of Florida followed, and we were surprised to hear that Andy's father-in-law, also a pastor, had presided over the Lt. Gov.'s mother's funeral. He seems like a kind man, and he also professed Christ to the gathering. After the Lt. Governor, Andy's shift supervisor with the department spoke about Andy's brief time on the force. He was visibly shaken by what happened while he told us several funny stories of Andy's time as a police officer. Andy's brother-in-law, Joe, spoke for the Widman family. Joe did a great job, and continues to do well as the rock for the Widmans during their nightmare. Susanna's brother followed Joe, and it was so nice to hear her big brother's perspective of Andy. He then escorted Susanna to the podium, and stood behind her while she spoke with such tenderness about her husband. She showed a lot of strength and grace, and refused to speak out of any bitterness or anger she may have in her soul. (I honestly don't think she has any, which is remarkable.) 

(One thing of note: During the slideshow of Andy's life there was no sound other than the music and the sniffling of 2500 people crying. But at one point I heard Samuel, Andy's 4-year-old son, cry out, "Poppa!")

After the funeral, a long procession (and the word "long" cannot begin to describe it) traveled 4 miles to the gravesite. As we drove, hundreds of sympathetic mourners lined the streets to pay their respects. A lot of folks came out of their businesses and stood on the side of the road, hands over their hearts. It was a moving tribute for a great man they never knew. Thank you, Ft. Myers, for all you have done for my friend and his family.

At the gravesite, they gave three American flags--the first to Susanna, the second to Andy's mother, and the third to his son. As the bagpipes played, I stood and stared, because I thought I didn't have any tears left. But then they played the "last call." (His badge number was 413.) "Ft. Myers to 413." No answer. "Ft. Myers to 413." No answer. "Ft. Myers to 413." No answer. "Officer Andrew Widman is 10-7. Gone but not forgotten." That was the saddest thing I've ever heard. My body found the tears to release, and finds them again as I write this.

One thing is clear from Andy's funeral: his life was dedicated to Jesus Christ. The gospel went out to the whole city of Ft. Myers on Wednesday, and I think that is what he would have really wanted. Above all else, he was a man of God. That truth cannot be denied, and you can read it in every news report, and hear it from everyone who knew him.


Thank you, Andy, for the life you lived. Thank you for the kind words you have spoken to me. I will not forget them. 

You may have been killed as a police officer, but I believe you died a martyr for Jesus. 

You died with your eyes open and a smile on your face, and we all know that on that dirty sidewalk, outside of a night club, you saw Jesus.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Andy Widman (d. July 18, 2008)

Andy was a great man. He loved Jesus and dedicated his life to serving Him. He loved his family and laid down his life for his wife and three children. They had hoped to one day move to Thailand to serve as missionaries. To this end Andy was studying Buddhism, and had become quite the expert, so I've heard. He had character, integrity, and humility. He was not the kind of man the world could afford to lose.

I've known him since the third grade. He has always been a good friend of mine, even when our lives took us in different directions. After graduation in 1996, he went to college in Georgia, and I went to Ohio State. That was where he met Susanna, and I still remember him telling us about her, convinced that he was going to marry her. Of course, he did.

Our lives intertwined in an odd sort of way after college. He went off to Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, earning his M. Div in 2004 (or possibly 2003). I went back to Toledo to lead a college ministry at Grace Church. After two years I went off to Gordon Conwell, and he came back to Grace to lead that same ministry.

Andy paid me one of the highest compliments. He said, "Dude, I wish I were going to be living in the States, because I would definitely be a part of your church." When someone with that level of character says that to a young, would-be church-planter...well, it means something. It meant a lot to me.

He eventually set aside his dream to be a missionary in Thailand and joined the police force in Ft. Myers, FL. After about a year of service, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.

I know that Andy is with Jesus now, and he's probably chatting up Moses, or something awesome like that. And I know that he and his wife will see each other again. I pray that his three children will all turn to Jesus when they reach the age of accountability, and that all that is so wrong right now will be made right again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lost a Good Friend

Andy Widman was killed on Friday. He was a great friend that I've known for over 20 years. I'm still in shock.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Joys of Fatherhood

Eisley and Cyrus with Uncle Jarett and Poppy

I love my kids. Cyrus, our two-year-old boy, is a brilliant, hilarious, rambunctious little man. Eisley, our five-month-old daughter, is a happy, exuberant, and loving little girl. I think about their precious little faces and my heart melts. Every time I hold them I have to press my lips into their big, puffy cheeks. I can't help it. They both have huge cheeks! (Five years ago, I never would have thought I'd be talking about things like this. My, how things change!) Last night was a tough night with the kids, though. 

We've been trying to figure out how to get Eisley to sleep through the night. So last night we decided to swap the kids' bedrooms. Eisley has been with us, so we moved Cyrus' bed into our room, and put Eisley's crib in Cyrus' room. We thought this would help us let her cry herself back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night. What we didn't count on was how the new change of scenery would affect our son.

Cyrus was up until 3:00 AM this morning. I have no idea why. He was tired, as were we. He was sleeping on the same bed he always sleeps on. He was even asleep when we went to bed. But at 11:45, when Eisley started crying the first time, he woke up and didn't go back to sleep for over three hours. For those of you who may not have kids, that's a long time. A really, really long time.

When he finally fell asleep...well, if you're a parent, you know what happened next. Eisley started crying. One kid goes down, another one gets up. That's the law of childhood. That's what the kids talk about in their baby-language. We think it's nonsense, but it's a real language. Let me translate for you.

Cyrus: "Hey Eisley, when you cry tonight, make sure you cry loud enough to wake me up."
Eisley: "Why, big brother?"
Cyrus: "Because--oh wait, here comes mommy--ice cream, basketball hoop, baby Eisley, Veggie Tales--okay, she's gone. You need to make sure I wake up so that I can keep mommy and daddy up until 3:00 AM."
Eisley: "But why would you want to do that?"
Cyrus: "I don't know. Do I need a reason for everything?"

Because babies are out to get us cute and cuddly even when they keep you up until 4:45 AM.

Friday, July 4, 2008

It Is For Freedom...

There's just something about freedom. Paul tells us that freedom is the very reason that Jesus set us free. Redundant? Not if we understand that freedom comes from the heart of God, and as such, freedom is an end in itself. Freedom is the will of God. But do we know what freedom really is?

It seems like we take freedom to mean something like, "the right to do whatever I like." As long as what I do doesn't directly harm someone, I am "free" to do whatever my heart desires. But this is not the biblical sense of freedom. In fact, this is closer to the biblical view of slavery--enslavement to our every desire. If we are unable to say "no" to something, then aren't we slaves to it? Freedom is the power to say "no" to our basest and most destructive desires.

The freedom for which Jesus set us free is the freedom to obey. This freedom is not enslaved to the selfish desires of our wicked hearts. Rather, God's freedom is revealed in a heart that has been humbled by the gospel. True freedom comes through submission to Christ. Freedom is obedience to God.

God has set us free from sin in Christ Jesus. We are no longer slaves to wickedness. Instead, we have been set free to obey the law of Christ--something we never could have done when we were living in bondage to sin. Sin is a wicked master. But God is gentle, humble, and full of loving-kindness. He is our new master, and his love for us compels our obedience. It is only through obedience to God that we find ourselves truly free.

As we celebrate our country's freedom, I can't help but think about the freedom that God has granted me. To my shame I too often reject his freedom, and choose rather to be enslaved to the evil desires of my old self. Would that I embrace the freedom of Christ through obedience to God.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I Am Blessed

As I was putting Cyrus to bed tonight I could tell that it was going to be a long time before he would fall asleep. Normally this would frustrate me, and I would huff and puff about how he doesn't sleep even though he's EXHAUSTED, and WHY DON'T YOU JUST ROLL OVER AND GO NIGH-NIGH! YOU'RE TIRED! YOU'RE DELIRIOUS WITH FATIGUE! SLEEP IS BECKONING AND YET YOU RESIST! ALL IN AN EFFORT TO FRUSTRATE ME, YOUR LOVING FATHER!

But the Lord has been working on me, and so tonight I decided that, rather than get angry, I would pray. And so I prayed out loud. It was just the two of us in the room, and he was quiet while I prayed. I prayed for everything I could think of, and he just laid there, tossing and turning occasionally. And then, as I paused to think, he started talking.

Now, when Cyrus talks, you just let him babble on until he gets to the last word of the sentence, which is really what he has been talking about all along, and the only word you can understand anyway. So he's babbling on and then he says, clear as day, "Baby Eisley, Mommy, Daddy." He was praying for us! My little two year old son was praying for his family! How amazing is this? How blessed am I? The Bible says that the prayer's of a righteous man avail much. But what about the prayers of a little child? Even more, I suspect. I am truly blessed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sermon Manuscript: Jesus Rules

Jesus Rules

If you could believe any religion, which one would you choose? That’s kind of a stupid question, isn’t it? I mean, we’re all here at Heritage CHRISTIAN Church. Most, if not all of you, have already made your decision. You are a Christian.

But why? Why do you choose to be a Christian? It’s not exactly the most popular religion available to you. It doesn’t get good press, particularly the evangelical brand of Christianity.

If religions were nightclubs, Christianity would be where all the awkward people who can’t dance go. The cool people tend to stay away. So if you’re trying to get ahead in this world, if you’re trying to make a name for yourself, you may want to find a new place to dance.

But you know, deep inside, that there’s something different here. It may be awkward and weird at times, filled with people you wouldn’t want to be seen with, but it’s got something that no place else has, something that you would hate to leave behind.

Sometimes this thing that makes Christianity so different gets lost in the noise and clang of politics. Sometimes it’s discarded altogether and replaced with something inferior. Sometimes the very core of our belief gets trampled or trivialized. It gets glossed over. It gets forgotten. We close our eyes to it, or we roll our eyes at the sound of it. We cling to something more popular. We champion something that makes us look better. We raise the banners that play to the cameras and we turn our backs on that which makes us truly Christian.

But it’s the gospel that tells us who we are. It’s the gospel that makes us Christian. No one else has this. No one else believes it. You can’t find it anywhere else on earth but in this funny little dance hall with the awkward people that you’re embarrassed to introduce to your cool friends.

And it’s this funny little message that doesn’t make any sense on earth, but you’ve bought into it along with all the weirdos and crazies and human embarrassments. And you come to this funny little dance hall with all these people you’d never call friend but you call them brother and sister, and you dance and you sing because it’s the gospel that ties you together. It’s this funny little message that changed your big important life and now you see that it was never you who was big and important, but it was Jesus who was big and important all along. And it’s his gospel, and it’s his funny little dance hall, and it’s his people that come here to sing and to dance for his glory instead of for the cameras, and the pub, and the status, and the hollow hand-clapping of human admirers.

The gospel itself is easily mistaken for an imposter. After all, there are lots of “good newses” in the world. You’ve just won the lottery! Hey, that’s good news. I’m pregnant! That’s good news, most of the time. The Buckeyes are going back to the National Championship game! Well, I don’t know if I can handle that again.

The true gospel, the truly good news that defines Christianity, hasn’t changed since it was first preached. It’s a message that’s even older than the writing of the New Testament. It has stood the test of time. It has withstood countless attempts to change it, twist it, reshape it, repackage it, and outright deny it. It is the rock upon which men and women have broken for twenty centuries. It has offended and comforted, angered and pacified. It has been laughed at, made mockery of, and derided by kings and critics. And millions who believe it have willingly given their lives for it, refusing to deny it despite the fire, the blade, or the beasts. It is the gospel of God, and on it I take my stand, in it I find refuge, and through it I find salvation.

Listen to what Paul writes in I Corinthians 15.

1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

This is the message that makes Christianity unique among all the religions of the world. Jesus died for our sins. He was buried. And he was raised again on the third day. That’s something that you don’t find anywhere else. Nobody else died as an atoning sacrifice for your sins. Nobody else was raised from the dead. The gospel is our message. If you believe it, you’re a Christian, no matter your background. If you don’t, you’re not, regardless of how often you go to church.

The formula that I had always heard for the gospel, and the one that is probably the most popular among evangelicals, goes something like this: Jesus died for your sins so that you can go to Heaven when you die. Or, Jesus died for your sins so that you can have a relationship with God.

Now, that’s good news, right? But is it the good news? Is that the gospel as it came to Paul? It’s not, is it? Going to Heaven and having a personal relationship with God are true and good, but they are theological addendums to the gospel. They are the result of the gospel. Those things are possible because the gospel is true.

The gospel itself is news. In other words, it’s a report of the facts of what happened to Jesus of Nazareth on the days we now call Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And it is verified by the prophecies of the Old Testament, as well as by the eyewitness accounts of more than 500 people.

Jesus died. “Oh, that’s too bad.” He was buried. “I heard that.” He rose from the dead. “Wha?!?!” Let’s look at this a little more closely, and then I want to talk about what it means. Let’s look at the scripture again.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

First, Jesus died for our sins. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there is a lot of evil in the world. To put it simply, evil is what God calls sin. Most of us agree that there is a lot of sin out there somewhere, but not necessarily in our own lives. But, the Bible tells us that we’re all born into sin, and we’re all sinners from day one.

This wouldn’t be a problem for us if God were just cool with sin. Unfortunately for us, he’s not. God’s not okay with sin because he has never sinned. He is perfectly good, holy, righteous, and just. And because he is who he is, he has to judge us for our sins. We must be punished, and that punishment is death, and even eternal death in hell.

There is so much more to say about this, but I want to get to the good news. Jesus stepped between us and the judgment of God. That’s what his death on the cross was all about. Because he is the Son of God, and never sinned in any way, in his death he took all of God’s punishment against all of our sins, for all of us.

The second part of the gospel is this: Jesus was buried. In other words, he really died. He wasn’t mostly dead, he was all dead. He was dead, embalmed, and buried in a tomb with a heavy stone rolled over it. He was dead.

So far the gospel is good news for us, but bad news for Jesus. Our sins are forgiven, but he’s dead. But really the last part is the best part: On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. He died, but he was too strong for death to hold him down any longer.

The resurrection of Jesus is the victory that gives all of us hope that death does not have the last laugh. In Jesus, death died, and it doesn’t haunt us anymore because we can stare it in the face and smile, knowing that as Jesus rose again, we too will rise again.

This is the gospel. Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus Christ was buried. Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day. Receive this. Believe this. Take your stand on this. Be saved by this.

But what does it all mean? What has changed in the world because Jesus died for our sins and rose again? How does the gospel change everything for everyone? Most importantly, what do these facts tell us about Jesus? If the gospel is the story of what happened to Jesus on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, then what does that story tell us about Jesus?

I think the gospel tells us three things about Jesus. I’m certain that there are more, but for our purposes, I want to look at the following three things: 1. Jesus rules. 2. Jesus rules. 3. Jesus rules. It sounds complicated, I know, but let’s just start with the point about how Jesus rules. Flip back a book to Romans 9, and we’ll look at verses 1-5.

1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Jesus is God over all. Did you see how Paul just kind of slipped that in there? He was going on and on about Israel, then he mentions the name of Christ, and, oh yeah, he is God over all, forever praised! It doesn’t get any bigger than that.

Jesus rules. He is God over all. He is forever praised. He is the King of creation. No power can prevail against him. No plan can prosper against him. His reign is universal. There is nowhere you can go where Jesus is not king. Now there are plenty of places you can go where he is not recognized as king, but there is nowhere that he does not reign as God over all, right now.

Are you allowing Jesus to rule in every area of your life? Have you handed everything over to him, or are there things that you’re holding back? Is there anything that you’re unwilling to let Jesus change about you?

Being a nerd, I didn’t date much all my life. But I always seemed to have a crush on some girl. I always wanted to be in a relationship, but it just didn’t happen for me very often. So I started to wonder if I had “the gift.” Have you heard of “the gift?” The gift of singleness? That thought scared the heck out of me. I didn’t want the gift. I don’t like the gift. I’ll give the gift back. I’ll regift the gift.

But I came to a point where I had to say to Jesus, “If you want me to be single for the rest of my life, I’ll do that.” Thankfully, five years after that I got married. But I had to surrender that to the rule and reign of Jesus, just like I have to surrender everything else to him.

Maybe it would be helpful for you to sit down sometime and write out where Jesus does and does not rule in your life. I’m sure there are plenty of places where you have submitted to him. But if you’re human, that means you’re inconsistent, so there are plenty of areas that are not submitted to the rule of Jesus.

Once they’re down on paper then you can be reminded to submit those things to Jesus. You can look at your list and say, “Jesus, I have surrendered my television watching to you, but I haven’t surrendered my spending. I surrender my money to you Jesus.”

Jesus rules. He is God over all. He is God over all of you [plural], and he is God over all of you [singular]. You must acknowledge his rule in every aspect of your life. You must submit everything to him. You are not God. He is God. Jesus rules.

Now, on to my second point. Jesus rules. Let’s slide over a chapter to Romans 10:9.

9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

In the Roman Empire there was only one Lord, and that was Caesar. Caesar was the emperor. He was sovereign. There was no other ruler. He was it. He was the only Lord, and to claim otherwise was an act of treason. To publicly claim that somebody else is Lord could very well get you killed, or at least thrown in prison.

So that’s how you have to approach Romans 10:9. We can’t understand this verse until we understand the price you could pay for saying something as dangerous as “Jesus is Lord.” That statement doesn’t put us in any danger. But for our 100th-great grandfathers and mothers of the faith, believing this and confessing this, was likely to get them killed.

The Christians claimed that Caesar is not Lord, and that, in fact, a Galilean crucified outside of Jerusalem is Lord. Caesar is not Lord, Jesus is Lord. And there can be only one Lord, because Caesar wouldn’t share his throne with anyone, and neither will Jesus.

Jesus rules, and nobody else. There is no other Lord but Jesus Christ. Nobody else died for your sins. Nobody else rose from the dead. No other savior lives and reigns today. He alone is Lord.

Have you ever heard of syncretism? Do you know what that means? According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, syncretism is “the attempted combination of different systems of philosophical or religious belief or practice.”

When I was in college they started making this music called rap-rock. Have you heard of it? It’s rap and rock combined. Syncretism is like rap-rock for religions. You take two or more things that seem like they wouldn’t go together and you mash them up into one new thing.

Do you know who the premiere rap-rock religion artist is of our time? Oprah. Yeah, she rap-rocks, religiously speaking, of course. The religion you find on Oprah’s show is part New Age and part Christianity. It’s syncretism. She mixes spiritism, meditation, poisitivism, reincarnation, and all the palatable things of Christianity, and she offers it to millions of women every day. And it’s infectious. It sells. But it’s not Christian.

This sort of syncretistic Christianity is the religion of the day in the West. It’s palatable. It’s fluffy. It urges you to go out and do good things. It tells you to be positive. It teaches tolerance and acceptance. It teaches anti-judgmentalism. It’s easy to embrace and doesn’t demand anything from you.

It sounds great, except that it’s completely hollow. It makes no account for human sin. It rejects God. It tells you that you don’t need Jesus. It rewrites Scripture. It tells us that Jesus was a great teacher whose example we should follow every day, not the crucified and risen Lord before whom we should bow and to whom we must give an account for every careless word and deed.

Your Christianity is not Christian unless Jesus is your only Lord. Beware of the teachings of Oprah and others like her. She may do good deeds, but she does not recognize that Jesus is Lord. Before God all our righteousness is as filthy rags. You can’t do enough good to get rid of the evil inside you. You can’t out-righteous your sin.

Jesus alone is Lord. If you have invited someone else to share the throne of your heart, it’s time to give them the boot. Jesus rules, by himself. He does not share power with Caesar. And Caesar can be anyone or anything. It could be a celebrity, or a politician, or a cause, a philosophy, a desire, money. Caesar can be anything. But Jesus will not share power with Caesar. Caesar has got to go. Jesus rules.

Now, on to my final point. Jesus rules! Let’s look at Romans 11:33-36.

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
          How unsearchable his judgments,
          and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
          Or who has been his counselor?"
35"Who has ever given to God,
          that God should repay him?"
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
          To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Jesus rules! He is amazing! He is awesome! He is worthy of praise. Few things in this world are truly praiseworthy, but Jesus surpasses them all. He is great and glorious. He rules!

There is nobody like him.

He is holy.
He is merciful.
He is just.
He is righteous.
He is loving.
He is kind.
He is strong.
He is glorious.
He is understanding.
He is untamable.
He is unconquerable.
He is unassailable.
He is uncompromising.
He is unchanging.
He is all-powerful.
He is all-knowing.
He is all-forgiving.
He is all-encompassing.
He is all-surpassing.
He is all-seeing.
He is all-hearing.
He is all-being.
He is all-doing.
He is all places.
He sees all faces.
He knows all hearts.
He heals all wounds.
He answers all prayers.
He is with the lonely.
He is with the downcast.
He is with the rejected.
He is with the outcast.
He is with the prisoner.
He is with the sinner.
He is with the slave.
He is with the weak.
He is with the rejected.
He is with the broken.
He is with the weeping.
He is with the mourning.
He gives strength to the weak.
He gives hope to the hopeless.
He gives faith to the faithless.
He gives love to the unloved.
He chases the runaway.
He runs to the prodigal.
He protects the orphan.
He provides for the widow.
He houses the alien.
He clothes the naked.
He feeds the hungry.
He shelters the homeless.
He heals the diseased.
He hates cancer.
He hates AIDS.
He hates malaria.
He hates the sex trade.
He hates the slave trade.
He hates the drug trade.
He hates drunkenness.
He hates adultery.
He hates divorce.
He hates pornography.
He hates addiction.
He hates deception.
He loves truth.
He loves grace.
He loves mercy.
He loves healing.
He loves patience.
He loves kindness.
He loves gentleness.
He loves faithfulness.
He loves reconciliation.
He loves humility.
He loves redemption.
He loves sacrifice.
He loves obedience.
He loves trust.
He loves longsuffering.
He loves honesty.
He loves charity.
He loves love.
He loves me.
He loves you.
He loves us.
He died.
He rose again.
He rules.

Let’s pray.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sacred & Secular Belief (Or, Why I Am Not a Democrat) Part 4

In case you were curious: part 1, 2, and 3.

"Vote your conscience." I'm sure I've heard this plenty of times. When you don't know who to vote for, then you should vote your conscience. It's a wonderful sentiment, except that it's a terrible idea. I'm convinced that voting your conscience leads to a bloated, over-sized government with a god-complex.

Today, we look to the government for that which the ancients looked to their gods. Bad harvest? Look to the government for help. Lost your job? Go to the government. Drought? Call Washington. The Government is our Pantheon. Washington is our Mount Olympus.

The State has stepped where it does not belong. It has dangerously overflowed its banks. There is nothing for which we do not instinctively look to the government first. Elections are won and lost based on inane promises of controlling something as trivial and fickle as the market price of a gallon of gasoline. It is truly absurd.

Voting your conscience makes sense only for those who are unwilling to fulfill the calling of the Church in the world. Voting your conscience is passing the buck. You're hiring someone else to do the work you are called to do.

Teddy Roosevelt's father hired a man to fight in the Civil War on his behalf. His situation was understandably difficult. He was from New York, and his wife was from the South. How could he go to war against his own brothers-in-law. Still, Teddy never did live down the shame of his father's choice.

The same thing is happening in the Church today. We are hiring a political party to go to war on our behalf. We are turning to a presidential candidate who wants to turn the mission of the Church into the will of the State. Of all the ways the Church has prostituted herself, this is perhaps one of the most deceptive. When has it ever worked out well for Jesus when his bride has linked arms with the State? When has the body of Christ ever needed the long arm of the law to fulfill its mission?

Don't vote your conscience, obey it. Then, if you must, go and vote your intellect. Vote for the candidate who is most likely to gather the government back within its proper boundaries. Vote for the candidate who understands that the State can never do the work of the Church, and who will limit the size and scope of the State appropriately.

I've come to understand that my secular belief, my political philosophy, ought not to mirror my sacred belief. Rather, my secular belief ought to create space for the sacred. My philosophy must create room for my theology to be practiced.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Destroy God's Temple (Not that You Would Want To)

This is my really long manuscript for the sermon on community I'll be preaching on the 26th.

How to Destroy God’s Temple (Not that You Would Want To)

If you’re at all interested in history, archeology, world religions, or even architecture, then you probably get fascinated by temples. Even if you’re not interested in those things, or in other words, if you have a life, temples can still be intriguing places.

Some temples are beautiful structures, or located in peaceful environments. Even if you don’t follow this specific religion, you would probably still want to visit these places. There are other temples, however, that you would never want to visit. Like, for example, this guy’s. 

Any temple where the chief priest is holding a flaming, beating human heart in his hand is not a temple I want to be in. But, to each his own, I suppose.

The idea of a temple is pretty simple, really. It’s a god’s house. In biblical times, the architecture would often be modeled after the king’s palace, or vice versa. For the nations that did not worship Yahweh, as Israel did, their temples would house the idols of their gods.

Israel’s temple is often described as the house of Yahweh. And yet they instinctively knew that God did not dwell in houses made by human hands. So there was a tension there, that this temple is our God’s house, and yet he doesn’t live here. He is too vast and great to be confined to one small building on earth. Heaven is his throne and the earth his footstool. His house cannot house him.

But that didn’t make the temple obsolete or inconsequential. Instead, it was one of the three great symbols of Israel’s national identity, along with Torah and the land. It was the hub of her religious practice and worship.

So when it was destroyed by the Babylonians, it was a calamity of calamities. Along with being carted off into exile, it was the worst thing that could have possibly happened to Israel, and therefore to the whole world. Torah, temple, and lend were all that Israel had, and in 587 the Babylonians took their temple and their land. It was catastrophic.

After the exile a second temple was built. But it was never quite like the first one. Even though Herod the Great made all kinds of improvements to it, and made it a truly remarkable temple, it just wasn’t the same. There was a lot of ambivalence about whether or not this was the true temple.

Paul, who, as an ex-Pharisee, was a former temple advocate, declares emphatically that this temple is not the true temple. Something has caused him to change his mind. Let’s look at I Corinthians 3:16-17 together.

16Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

One quick note on the language here. These yous are not singular yous, they are plural. That’s why the NIV translates it “you yourselves [plural] are God’s temple [singular].”

The new temple of God is the people of God. The Christian community is the temple. The temple is no longer a building, it’s no longer isolated in Jerusalem. The temple is God’s people. Wherever they gather, that’s the temple.

This is a radical reinterpretation of the temple, obviously. It affirms the ancient notion that God does not dwell in houses built by human hands, and it also fulfills the ancient prophecy that God will live with his people. Immanuel, God with us. All who call on the name of Jesus Christ are part of God’s new temple on earth.

The community of God is the temple of God. This gathering here tonight is a temple. It’s a house of God. Your community is a house of God. The Nehemiah Project, when you all gather, is a house of God.

And the difference between the new temple and the old is that God actually lives in this one. The Holy Spirit lives in you. God does not dwell in houses built by human hands, but he does dwell in communities built by his common act of grace--Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. God has built himself a house, but instead of brick and mortar, he has used flesh and blood.

After I graduated from Ohio State in 2001 I moved back to Toledo to help support the struggling college ministry, which was called Unbound, of the church I grew up in. The first night that I was there we were supposed to have a service, but there was nobody to speak, nobody to do music, and we were locked out of the building. So the eight of us that were there decided to go play miniature golf. That was my first night of full-time ministry.

Over the next two years God built himself a temple. He brought some great people into the community of Unbound, and he raised up a whole lot of people from within it. We saw people get saved, and the community grew to about 75 people, with attendance over 100 several times, which is pretty remarkable considering the church itself didn’t average 300 in attendance.

God was so faithful during that time. He really was building himself a temple called Unbound. And he does some really cool things sometimes.

At one service in 2003, right in the middle of the sermon, about 10 or 12 people walked into the gathering and sat right up front. Now I wasn’t speaking at that service, so I was sitting in my seat, “Who the heck are these people? Pretty stinking late is what they are.” And then the sermon ended, and the worship music started, and then I realized why they were there. These folks who had never come before and never came again brought such an energy, as the congregation, into our worship, and our whole group was brought into the presence of God. They even impacted that band. It was amazing.

It was as though God was saying, “Unbound is not my only temple on earth. Here are some folks from a different temple, a different community. See how beautiful it is when you come together.”

I actually have a couple of minutes of video that I’d like to show you from that night. I know it’s self-indulgent, but forgive me. I sacrificed my own worship experience to grab my video camera and record it, so I think I deserve it. Here, watch this.

[I'm going to show the "We Are Hungry" portion of the video from this entry.]

Maybe for some of you that would be considered an off-night. But for us, for the congregation to be louder than the band, for that many college kids to be raising their hands at a regular worship service, that was a big deal. That was an act of God. That was a moment of temple for our community. It was a night after which we all said, “That’s why we do what we do.”

You are a sacred people. This is a sacred assembly. This community is holy to God. But it’s not because you were holy to begin with, or because you do sacred things. You are God’s temple by his choice, not by your own righteousness. You are not a sacred assembly because you do sacred things, you do sacred things because God has made you a sacred people.

God’s Spirit lives in you personally, and he lives in you corporately. The presence of the Spirit of God is what makes Christian community distinctive from every other gathering on earth. God has chosen to dwell by his Spirit among his people, and he has declared that his people are his temple. It is his Spirit that makes this community holy. It is his Spirit that makes you, as individuals and as a group, holy. He has set you apart as a people that he might make of you a temple worthy of the presence of his very own Spirit.

That’s the high calling of Christian community. That’s the glory of the Church--to be the living temple of the living God. And that’s why Satan is so anxious to steal, kill, and destroy any and every Christian community.

But we can be wise to his plans. I promise you that Satan will attempt to destroy this community this summer. He will also attempt to destroy the h2o church plant team. He will try to destroy OCF. He hates God so much that anywhere he finds a temple of God, a community of God’s people, he will try to tear it to the ground.

So, let me tell you How to Destroy God’s Temple (Not that You Would Want To). I know, it took me a long time just to tell you the title of my sermon. But I see in the first six chapters of I Corinthians six ways that Satan, or you, or I can destroy God’s temple.

The first way to destroy God’s temple is to Form Factions. Look at 1:10-12.

10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

Imagine an old temple building that has been divided into a hundred tiny rooms with makeshift walls. Is it even a temple anymore? It probably looks more like a prison with a hundred tiny cells where each little group tries to worship the same God in their own way. What is so sacred about that? Forming Factions is one of the surest ways to destroy a temple.

Factions and divisions are abominations for the Church because Jesus Christ died for our sins, and on his cross was crucified every dividing wall and every hostile attitude in all the world. Let’s look quickly at Ephesians 2:14-22.

14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

God combats factions with the cross of his Son. In the death of Jesus enemies become friends, rivals become family, the fractured become united. God loves unity. It’s who he is--the tri-unity. Factions and divisions come from Satan, but God comes against these with the very cross of Jesus Christ.

You can participate with God in his war against factions by being humble toward your brothers and sisters. You don’t have to be right all the time. You can be the first one to apologize. You can be the one to cross the barrier and say, “Please forgive me.” You can be the one to listen twice as much as you talk. You can be the one to initiate reconciliation. You can be the peacemaker. You can die to yourself. You can bite your tongue. You can give a gentle response. You can speak words that heal.

The Church is in short supply of unity these days, but it’s on God’s heart. When you stand before God face-to-face, with the light of his glory radiating over you, won’t all of your differences seem so petty? Won’t all of the arguments seem so inane? Won’t you weep over the small things that kept you apart? I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Luther, I follow Calvin, I follow Rob Bell, I follow Mark Driscoll, I follow Erwin McManus--it's all so petty. Besides, those guys would slap you if they heard you talk like that.

The first way to destroy God’s temple is to form factions. The second way is to be ashamed of the gospel. Look at 1:18.

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Being ashamed of the gospel is like being unsaved. It’s the same as not believing it. Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and now he’s the king of all creation. This is what makes us who we are.

Yes, some people will not believe it, and they will go to hell. If that makes you intolerant, close-minded, uncool, or whatever, so be it. You can’t change the gospel without making it unchristian. You can only make it more palatable by removing the key ingredients. It can only become universally acceptable if you remove the parts about sin, resurrection, and Jesus’ kingship. And then it ceases to be the gospel.

Paul says, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” The gospel is power. It defines the temple. It defines our community. If you change the gospel you destroy the temple. Don’t let the haughty skepticism of Starbucks atheists and dime-a-dozen would-be philosophers shame you into compromising the truth by which you are saved.

The second way to destroy God’s temple is to be ashamed of the gospel. The third way is it’s cousin--the desire for worldly wisdom and acceptance. Look at 3:18-19.

18Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.

Jesus is going to make you look stupid in the eyes of the world. Are you prepared to deal with that? Can you live with that kind of scorn?

Because let me tell you, you can fall over yourself apologizing to the world for how the Church did this and Christians did that, but they will never accept you until they believe. You can distance yourself from these Christians and those believers and even the Church in general, but they will not accept you until you become like them in their unbelief.

God’s way is the way of humiliation. It is the way of foolishness. It is the way of a Crucified King, a Risen Lord, and a Living God. The acceptance you so desperately want from the world cannot happen unless you compromise the God who has already accepted you, who has already embraced you, who has loved you from the very beginning!

God accepts you! Who needs the world? God has loved you from the beginning of creation! Who needs the coffee shop when you have the church? Who needs the bar when you have the temple? God accepts you. Don’t be afraid to be a fool for him.

The fourth way to destroy God’s temple is to harbor sin. Look at 5:1-2.

1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?

I mean, sometimes you’ve just got to kick somebody to the curb. Dude, if you’re sleeping with your mom, or your step-mom, or doing something that even the worst sinners would be like, “Dude,” then you’ve got to go.

In verse 11 Paul says, 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Should Christians be judgmental? Yes. Of other Christians. God’s temple is a sanctuary for sinners, not for sin. I know that excommunication has a bad reputation, but it’s biblical, as long as the intent is for future restoration.

Harboring sin in God’s temple destroys the sacredness of that place. Sin is contagious. It will infect the rest of you if you let it go unchecked in the community. Harboring sin will destroy God’s temple, and it will get ugly.

The fifth way to destroy God’s temple is to publicly dispute with one another. Look at 6:4-8.

4Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 5I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!

7The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

Suing is not the answer for Christians, especially when it comes to disputing with each other. Taking it to the press, taking it to your friends, is not the way to handle a dispute. Find an arbiter within the church. Find someone who can be a peacemaker between the two parties. Boy do we look bad when we tear each other down in front of unbelievers.

The final way to destroy God’s temple is to be sexually immoral. Look at 6:18-20.

18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Not only are you, collectively, the temple of God, but your bodies, individually, are temples of the Holy Spirit. What you do with your body matters. What you eat and drink, and especially who you have sex with, matters to God.

In fact, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. If you’re single, your body belongs to God. If you’re married, your body belongs to God and to your spouse. You were bought at a price, therefore honor God with your body.

The biblical standard is clear, don’t have sex with anyone except for your spouse. How many more churches have to be torn apart by adultery, and how many more fellowships of people your age have to be ripped to shreds by premarital sexual relationships, before we finally get this?

Sexual immorality will destroy God’s temple that is the Christian community, and it will desecrate God’s temple that is your body. Flee from it. Just run. You don’t have to fight it. Turn and run away. You can even flail your arms like a schoolgirl if it will help, just get the heck out of there.

Six certain ways to destroy God’s temple: Forming Factions, Being Ashamed of the Gospel, Desiring Worldly Wisdom and Acceptance, Harboring Sin, Publicly Disputing with One Another, and Being Sexually Immoral.

All of these things and more were happening in the church in Corinth. They were a messed up temple. The whole thing was falling apart.

Now what about you? Have you been destroying God’s temple in any of these ways? Have you been a faction former? Have you been gossiping about and slandering your leaders? Have you been compromising the gospel? Have you been harboring or hiding sin? Have you been publicly disputing with a brother or sister? Have you been sexually immoral?

Now is as good a time as any to repent. Now is as good a time as any to bring what has been committed in darkness into the light. Find someone you trust and talk to them. Confess your sins, because God is faithful to forgive them. Heaven is waiting to pour out healing and reconciliation. But there can be no healing in the darkness. There can be no redemption for what is not confessed.

You are the temple of God. God’s Spirit lives in you and among you. You are a sacred community. Will you keep it sacred?

Let’s pray.