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  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 1

    Sunday, June 8, 2014
    11.3 miles to Plumorchard Gap Shelter

    Woke up about 6:45 AM at the cabin. I slept on the top bunk and hit my head on the (moving) ceiling fan on my way down the ladder. Ouch! Any remaining cobwebs in my head were blown out by the cold shower I took after bumping the ceiling fan. No need for coffee, I was awake! We ran into town to get a biscuit and coffee at Hardee’s.

    We drove to Amicalola State Park and registered. I was section hiker #1380. We walked around the visitor center looking at AT maps and souvenirs, when, through the back glass doors, I saw the start of the Approach Trail and the iconic archway. I stepped out and walked towards the archway. It didn’t seem real. I had seen dozens of pictures of thru hikers standing under the archway. I didn’t take any pictures because this is my finish line. I will be back there in 8-10 days.

    I did have two section hikers ask me to take their picture under the arch. They were headed up the Approach Trail.

    My friend Gabe drove us into North Carolina and then down the winding gravel road to Deep Gap. I got my picture taken by the first white blaze I saw and then we got a group picture…then we were off to hike the Appalachian Trail!

    We headed south on the AT and passes about a dozen or so hikers going northbound. The first guy we passed looked like a real hiker. He had a full beard and REI gaiters. He just had the look of a real hiker. We asked how he was doing and he answered with a smile, “Living the dream!” I smiled in return and thought yeah me too buddy, I am loving the dream. We ended up passing a dozen or so hiker who were heading North. I passed one guy and we both stopped and chatted for a moment. He was from “up North,” which turned out to be Tennessee. He asked me what brought me out to the trail and I said that I was hiking the Georgia section for my 40th birthday. As I walked away, it hit me, I was really doing this. I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I was nearly overcome with emotion.

    We stopped for lunch at the Muskrat Creek Shelter. We talked to Donna a seasoned section hiker, about gear and life in the trail. We also talked to two guys who were recovering alcoholics hiking the trail to stay sober.

    After lunch we headed out and soon made it to the North Carolina / Georgia border. We stopped and took pictures by the “NC/GA” sign and rested on some rocks. We hiked the final 4 miles to the Plumb Orchard Gap Shelter. The hiking had some nice heart-thumbing climbs, but nothing to difficult. We had our last climb up and over As Knob and I hiked ahead of John and Jeff. I made it to the shelter by about 6:15 PM.

    We gathered water, I set up my hammock and tarp, and we talked to Paul, a carpenter from Wisconsin, who was staying at the shelter. We ate and talked about the day as the sun was going down. We hung our bear bags before dark and John was snoring in the cabin before Jeff and I got in bed. I made my way into the hammock by 10 PM. It is much cooler than I expected, probably in the low 60s or upper 50s. I did get a cell signal and was able to call Jenni and pray for Dylan as he was going to sleep. We talked for a half an hour. Now I am typing out this blog and getting ready to dream about tomorrow.

  • Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 0

    The day before the hike
    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Driving to the airport in the rain and I have a strange mix of emotions. I am excited, no doubt. This trip has been two years in the making. I think I have literally thought about the trail everyday over the last twelve months. So I am thrilled to be a day away from this adventure but I am also wrestling with a little guilt. I have never left my family for this long to do something I wanted to do. I have gone on mission trips, camps, conferences, speaking engagements, BUT I have never asked my wife to bear the full responsibility of the family so I could go on a little 10 day adventure. She is so gracious to let me go, but I here this nagging voice in my head saying, “This is wrong.” I know it is true but it has my heart tied up in knots.

    And I feel a bit sad. Dylan, my four-year-old and my youngest wants to go with me. How do I tell a four-year-old with his arms wrapped around me, “You can’t go with Daddy on this trip.”

    “When I get way big?” he asked.

    “Yes. When you get way big we will go hiking together.

    I will miss him. I will miss all the boys…and Jenni too.

    I read Becoming Odyssa by Jen Pharr Davis on the flight to Georgia. I started it this winter, but didn’t get very far. I restarted the book at the terminal waiting on my flight. I have listened to Jen (via podcast) talk about her adventures on the trail so I here her voice in my head. She is a good writer. Very descriptive. I hope to finish the book on the return flight. I liked what she said about hiking the trail as a bear (a Christian) among the squirrels (non-Christians). She writes, “They kept their distance and feared I would eat them, when really I just wanted to dine on berries and live peaceably in the woods.” (pg. 68). Ha! I agree.

    Jen struggled on what to write in the register at Springer Mountain. She ended up writing “I’ve always heard New England is nice; look forward to being there this summer.” It made me think about what I may write in the register when I make it to Springer towards the end of my journey. Maybe: “Best of all — the God of the trail is with is.” Or maybe: “You are a collection of the stories you tell. Make your story one to remember.”

    She wrote a particularly beautiful passage in Chapter 9 describing her experience on Little Hump Bald in Tennessee when she was overcome by God’s beauty and shouted “Praise God” and then felt like a “dork” (her words). Then she writes: “The mountains were singing the praises of God beautifully and without shame. I wished I could be more like a mountain” (pg 88).

    My friend, Gabe Theiss, picked me up at the airport and we headed to Ellijay, Georgia. He has a friend with a cabin just outside of Ellijay and offered to let us stay there for the night. We ate some good southern BBQ for supper and got caught up. I hadn’t seen Gabe for nearly two years. He was planning on hiking with us but has to back out due to a foot injury. We started watched Forrest Gump on VHS waiting in my brother Jeff and our mutual friend John who are hiking with me.

    They showed up to the cabin by 9 PM and brought donuts. Score! We ate donuts and watched the rest of Forrest Gump while going over our gear. Jeff brought some extra suppers from Pak-It-Gormet. I substituted stovetop stuffing for some gumbo mix and I added some bean burrito mix. I also added some instant pudding mix. Triple score!

    Looking forward to starting the hike.

  • I Tremble at the Thought of Belief

    I tremble at the thought of belief. To look past our opinions and passing thoughts and to explore our beliefs, the ones nestled deep in our hearts, is to see the hidden secrets forming our identity as human beings. To believe is to be human. We are becoming formed quite literally by what we believe. This is not say that we can be anything we want to be if only we “believe in ourselves.” I cannot become a professional basketball player, simply because I believe I am a pretty good athlete. Such dreams and fantasies are the substance of childhood wishes. Rather our beliefs shape us into the people we are. If we believe things that are not grounded in reality, then we become distorted human beings. Nevertheless, the capacity to believe is a universal human experience.

    It is not only religious people who subscribe to certain beliefs. We work in vain when we attempt to divide people into two groups: believers and non-believers. Religious groups often employ the language of “non-believers” to describe those who do not subscribe to their specific moral/religious code. In doing so, they create a false category. There are no non-believers in the human family. We are all believers in the sense that we all live, move, and have our being in some kind of system of beliefs. We may not all believe the same things, certainly not. Many of the struggles within human society erupt when our alternative beliefs come into direct conflict with one another. History is full of stories of clashes between groups who vehemently disagree on issues of politics, religion, social norms, education, art, etc. None of us can rightly be called “non-believers” as if we believe nothing and doubt everything. Even those who are known primarily for expressing doubts are believers of one kind or another, because every doubt is based on an alternative belief ( See Tim Keller, The Reason for God).

    While our beliefs may be expressed verbally leading too often to conflict when faced with a contradictory belief, they find their home in our hearts. To be a living, walking, feeling, loving, thinking person implies the presence of a certain set of deep-rooted, core beliefs. These beliefs define who we are. They give us a since of identity. Our beliefs order our values by establishing priorities in our lives. Our beliefs shape our worldview, that is how we view life, God, relationships, and reality. They guide our reasoning and ability to think, influence our decision-making, and dictate how we treat other people. And Christian belief, as summed up in the Apostle’s Creed, enters the conversation to challenge every other system of belief, which in turn challenges everything in our lives and in human relationships. This is why I tremble at the thought of belief.

  • Oral Roberts: A Complex Legacy

    I was in my office last Tuesday, when I heard the news that Oral Roberts had passed away. I saw it on Twitter first, a tweet from a nationally-known leader and author. I quickly goggled it and found it to be true when I read the official press release on the Tulsa World website. I knew this day was coming. Oral Roberts had been retired from his service as president of ORU when I attended seminary there from 1996-1999. I felt the loss as did the rest of the ORU community and the many people who had been impacted by the life of Oral Roberts.

    I located “The Forth Man“, the one lone Oral Roberts sermon in my iTunes and began to listen and reflect on the man, his ministry, his message, and his impact on my life.

    While listening to Oral preach, I saw (again on Twitter) that Al Mohler was going to discuss the life of Oral Roberts on his radio show. As I pulled up the live feed for the radio show, I saw their call in number. So I called. I told the guy on the other end of the line that I am a pastor, an ORU graduate, and I have done some research in the area of Pentecostal/charismatic history and theology and I had some things to share with Dr. Mohler if he was interested. The guy put me on hold and then quickly came back to say that Dr. Mohler wanted to talk with me on the air. Talking about Oral Roberts and his influence with Dr. Mohler was a highlight of the day.

    I ended up putting my two minute conversation with Dr. Mohler on YouTube as a tribute.I had much more to say, but time was limited.

    Al Mohler said to his radio audience that Oral Roberts had a complex legacy. I cannot disagree. As ORU President Mark Rutland said at Oral Roberts’ Memorial service, Oral was not a perfect man, but he was a giant. As I have reflected on this giant of the faith, here is what I will remember about his complex legacy:

    1. The Pentecostal/charismatic tradition

    As I look back at my own spiritual journey, Oral Roberts has been one of the Pentecostal/charismatic voices that has influenced me. Oral Roberts’ own life dipped into the three waves of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement: (1) the classical Pentecostal movement, (2) the denominational charismatic renewal, (3) the non-denominational charismatic renewal. He has been an influential figure in each of these “waves” of charismatic renewal. He is a historical giant in the history of Pentecostalism and my faith has been enriched because of him.

    2. Great faith/passion

    The Bible encourages us to imitate the faith of our leaders (Hebrews 11:7). Oral Roberts made mistakes during his life. There are things that he did and said that I do not agree with. I am not trying to imitate his way of doing ministry. I am not trying to imitate his style, his way of teaching, his philosophy of ministry, or his spiritual journey. I am, by God’s grace, trying to imitate the faith of Oral Roberts. One of the things that made Oral Roberts such a dominate figure in my mind is that he was unique. Before he started his healing ministry under the “big tent,” Oral felt directed by the Lord to read through the Gospels and Acts on his knees and God would show Oral how to heal the people the way Jesus did. Oral put his trust in God and became a forerunner in the area of healing evangelism. His passion for Jesus and his passion to carry on the ministry of Jesus captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands.

    3. Christ-centered

    Oral Roberts loved Jesus Christ of Nazareth (as he was known to call him). His entire life was given to Jesus and Oral saw himself as a true disciple of Christ. He sought to love and minister to people like Jesus did. Oral Roberts never intended on building some great “Roberts” empire as his critics claimed. He lived to worship Jesus, preach Jesus, and serve as an instrument for Jesus to heal others.

    4. Obedience

    In his memorial service, his daughter Roberta shared just a few things she learned from her dad; one of those things was obedience to God. Regardless of how he would be perceived, Oral Roberts obeyed what he believed to be the voice of God. Oral deeply believed God called him to take God’s healing power to his generation. He obeyed and spent more than a decade traveling preaching the gospel and praying for the sick under the “big tent.” Oral deeply believe God called him to build God a university on “God’s authority and on the Holy Spirit.” Oral obeyed and Oral Roberts University has graduated over 20,000 students who have been sent out into “every person’s world.” Oral recklessly obeyed when he believed God directed him, no matter the cost.

    5. Healing ministry

    The name “Oral Roberts” is synonymous, in my mind, with “the healing ministry.” He was quintessential Pentecostal in his approach to the healing ministry. He believe that the healing ministry that Jesus began nearly 2,000 years ago continued through the life of the Church today. God used Oral Roberts to communicate this message to those outside of Pentecostalism in a way that was clear, compelling, and biblical. One of the things I picked up from Oral Roberts is that God does desire to heal people and it doesn’t matter if his healing comes through miracle or medicine. My own theology of healing is slightly different than Oral’s, but I share with him these basic truths: God is our source of healing and our God is a healing God.

    6. The Holy Spirit in the Now

    Through the 1970s, God used Oral Roberts to give clarity to the ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout the Church in its many denominational forms. He did these through conferences called “The Holy Spirit in the Now.” In doing so, Oral helped many confessing Trinitarian Christians to become experiential Trinitarians. All Christians confess a belief in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but so many had only experienced the Father and the Son. One of Oral’s memorable phrases was “When you receive the Holy Spirit, you are receiving more of Jesus.” How true!

    7. ORU

    Oral Roberts University, the liberal arts Christian university that bears his name, will be one of the lasting legacies of Oral’s ministry. ORU has had its ups and downs, but I believe the greatest days for the university are still ahead. I am so thankful that I spent my first seminary experience there. It literally changed the course of my life. Oral’s vision was for “whole-person education” emphasizing strong academic education, physical education, and spiritual/moral education.

    8. Prosperity

    Perhaps Oral Roberts’ most well-known statement is “Something good is going to happy to you!” Oral Roberts believed that the goodness of God was not reserved only for “rewards in heaven,” but that God’s goodness could be (and should be) experience in this life. For Oral Roberts, God’s blessings included financial prosperity. This became the most controversial part of Oral’s message and one of the reasons that Oral Roberts’ legacy is so complex. This message of prosperity has caused Bible teacher and author John MacArthur to say at Oral’s passing: “Oral Roberts’ influence is not something Bible-believing Christians should celebrate.” I find MacAruthur’s statement despicable and a complete misunderstanding of Oral Roberts, his life and ministry. I have more to say below.

    9.”Seed Faith”

    Tied to his message of prosperity was his message of “seed faith” which contained three points 1) Believe God is your source, 2) Plant a seed of faith, 3) Expect a miracle. Because this very simple and biblical message has been tied to fund raising and financial prosperity, let me make a few comments about Oral Roberts and the issue of prosperity. Oral Roberts raised money with the purest of motivations. I find John MacArthur‘s comment: “(Seed faith) was a simple, quasi-spiritual get-rich-quick scheme that appealed mainly to poor, disadvantaged, and desperate people. It generated untold millions for Roberts’ empire” to be offensive, maligning, disrespectful, and unhelpful. I agree that the teaching of “seed faith” has been used by unscrupulous men to do unthinkable evil in the name of Jesus, but this was never Oral’s intent. I do believe Oral took a biblical truth and over-extended its purpose. We need to rethink the message of prosperity and “seed faith” in the light of sound biblical/historical study. However we do not need to smear Oral’s reputation in the process.

    10. Expecting miracles

    The third component to the message of “seed faith” was to “expect a miracle.” This was the title of Oral Roberts’ 1995 biography. When Al Mohler asked me to sum up Oral Robert’s life, I talked about Oral’s reminder that God is Father, Son, AND HOLY SPIRIT and that Oral Roberts gave us the hope to expect God’s power to break into our daily lives. And I am thankful he did.

    Oral Roberts University was founded on the words Oral Roberts believed God spoke to him, words that I believe did indeed come from the Lord. I am thankful to be one of “his” students, carrying on a small part of his legacy. Here are the words: “Build Me a University. Build it on My authority, and on the Holy Spirit. Raise up your students to hear My voice, to go where My light is dim, where My voice is heard small, and My healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Their work will exceed yours, and in this I am well pleased.”

  • White Paper Bible

    I am always looking for creative ways to engage in the truth of Scripture. God has given his Word to us for nourishment for living in his kingdom. We do not use the Scriptures as much as we eat them. They feed our hearts with the life of God in order to live for God as human beings who are fully alive. The challenge with regularly eating God’s book is an over-familiarity with the Scripture. I love spaghetti. We eat a lot of spaghetti in my home, for obvious reasons: it is quick, easy, and everyone in the house eats it without (much) complaint. I love spaghetti, but I don’t want to eat it every day. I need a little bit of variety. Most followers of Christ like sitting down, opening up the Scriptures and reading from a leather-bound copy of the Bible, but if we are honest, it can become such a routine that we become bored. I know I do.

    A friend of mine has just launched a new user-driven website designed to give us a creative way of entering into the Scripture— www.whitepaperbible.org.

    Here is how it works: Users register and log in and create a “page” that is added to the White Paper Bible (WPB). A page is a list of verses around a certain theme. Users give each page a title, description, and the list of verses. All verses are from the ESV. When creating a page you only need to list the Scripture verse reference. Once the page is created, the site populates the entire verse with each reference.

    You do not have to be a registered user to use the site. You can search by topic or keyword and go to a page where you can quickly find the verse that speak to the specific subject you are interested in. This is an incredible quick way to begin to meditate on the verse you need. I am looking forward to the iPhone app, which is under development. (I will download it to my iPod touch. I still do not have a iPhone, because they have not opened it up to the Verizon network. I am patiently waiting for Verzion to pick up the iPhone, but I digress…)

    WPB is a great entry point into the Scripture, a great way to enter into the text and allow it to enter into your heart, put I would offer a word of caution. There is a subtle danger in collecting together a list of Scriptures. The danger is two-fold.

    First, it is easy to misinterpret a single verse once you remove it from its context. It is possible to pull a verse of Scriptures together and make the Bible say just about anything you want. So as you are compiling a list of verses for a new page, make sure you have read each verse in context so that you are linking together verses that are speaking about the same concept. Make sure you understand the meaning of a single verse in the context of the verses around it.

    Second, when you compile a certain list of verses on a subject you are deciding NOT to list other verses. There are editorial reasons why we do that, but those editorial reasons can be caused by theological biases. We all have biases, but we should not let those biases keep us from hearing the Scripture speak to speak to us in its fullness. We all have a favorite verses of Scripture. The ones we copy and hang on our refrigerator or we highlight in our Bibles. We need to be careful not to ignore the verses that are not underlined in our Bibles. For example, if you are creating a new page on the love of God, it is easy to list the verses that speak of God’s love for us. The temptation is to ignore the verses that define God’s love as following his commands, you know, the verses that demand something from us.

    These are not arguments for why we shouldn’t compile together verses, but a friendly reminder that as we use the WPB to increase or meditation on God’s word that we allow Scripture to speak for itself. We should pursue to know God through the Scripture as he has revealed himself to be by reading Scripture verses in his context.

    Great web tools like www.whitepaperbible.org are great ways to enter into the Scripture, God’s story and so we should use them as just that, entry points into God’s great big, over-arching story, of which we play minor characters. As soon as we begin to view the Scripture as God’s catalogue of promises we miss the point. The Scripture is not a shoppers catalogue as much as it is a pilgrim’s daily bread.

  • Writing a Book

    “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” – Paul Valery

    I am writing a book. I stopped all outside reading (except for sermon preparation) and I am not going to do much blogging until the book is done. I signed a publishing contract with Word and Spirit Press, to self-publish the book. I am also shopping around a book proposal to various publishers to see if I can get picked up by a standard publisher.

    The book is a popular version of my Trinitarian vision of spiritual transformation, i.e. the work of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Jesus for God the Holy Spirit. It includes themes I worked on in my doctor of ministry dissertation and themes I have preached on in the last few years.

    I hope to have the book in print by the end of September. I am working to get the rough draft finished by next week, so it can go through the editing and refining process. Writing is hard work. And writing is almost never finished. A good poem is never finished. It is only abandoned. You can say the same thing about any kind of writing. Good writing is never finished. I could keep writing and rewriting and editing and rewriting and it would never end! So I have a due date and I am working hard to get the draft done.

    A friend emailed me this, while I have been furiously writing:

    “How to Write With Style”
    by Kurt Vonnegut

    1) Find a subject you care about
    2) Do not ramble, though
    3) Keep it simple
    4) Have guts to cut
    5) Sound like yourself
    6) Say what you mean
    7) Pity the readers

    Good thoughts. Especially “have guts to cut.” That is not as easy as it sounds. Also “sound like yourself”…very important.

    So with the writing deadline and my preaching schedule, I may not have enough time to blog. I am preaching twice this week. On Wednesday night I will be preaching on “Is Jesus the Only Way” as a part of our Wrestling with Doubt series and on Sunday, I will be preaching from Philippians chapter 3.

    I really want to read The Shack and blog on it. Maybe after the book is sent off to the publisher. I will try to update the blog with updates on the writing process. Until then pray for me!

    I have been listening to Dylan Blonde on Blonde looking for inspiration for a poetic title for the book. Nothing yet! But this song is sheer poetry

    Visions of Johanna
    Bob Dylan (1966)

    Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
    We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
    And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
    Lights flicker from the opposite loft
    In this room the heat pipes just cough
    The country music station plays soft
    But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
    Just Louise and her lover so entwined
    And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

    In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
    And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
    We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
    Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
    Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
    She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
    But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
    That Johanna’s not here
    The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
    Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

    Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
    He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
    And when bringing her name up
    He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
    He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
    Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
    How can I explain?
    Oh, it’s so hard to get on
    And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

    Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
    Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
    But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
    You can tell by the way she smiles
    See the primitive wallflower freeze
    When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
    Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeeze
    I can’t find my knees”
    Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
    But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

    The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
    Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
    But like Louise always says
    “Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
    As she, herself, prepares for him
    And Madonna, she still has not showed
    We see this empty cage now corrode
    Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
    The fiddler, he now steps to the road
    He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
    On the back of the fish truck that loads
    While my conscience explodes
    The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
    And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

  • Creeds

    I’m walking through the summer nights…jukebox playing low…yesterday everything was going too fast…today, it’s moving too slow.

    Bob Dylan
    “Standing in the Doorway”
    Time Out of Mind (1997)

    I finally feel like I have a moment to post something meaningful. The last few yesterdays have been going too fast. The family and I spent the week at the beach, lots of fun and lots of sun. Well, not so much sun for me. I have learned to spend most of my time at the beach under the shade of an umbrella. Spent the week reading through, Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. I like Keller a whole lot. He is one of the growing number of “Reformed charismatics.” He esteems the values of the Reformed tradition and the charismatic renewal (in its most biblical expressions).

    Wednesday while at the beach, I got a call informing me that Jeffery Cox, one of the teenagers in our youth group, had been killed in a car accident. The family asked our church to host the funeral service. Under other circumstances, I may have needed to cut my vacation short and come on home, but because of the wonderful servant-minded people we have in our church—the church was able to put together the funeral service and care for the family until I returned home on Friday.

    We rolled into town Friday night. I quickly changed clothes at made my way to the visitation. I talked with family and friends and listen to stories about Jeffery. There were a lot of tears and hugs that night. I hammered out some notes for the funeral Friday night when I finally got back home. Saturday morning I was back to the church preparing for the funeral and spending time with the family. After the funeral, I headed home to finish my sermon for Sunday morning.

    This morning I preached on humility & Jesus from Philippians 2:1-11. This passage includes one of the more important passages on Jesus in the writings of Paul. Some commentators consider verses 6-11 to be an early church hymn, although Gordon Fee says it is doubtful. (IMHO, Fee is the authority on the writings of Paul.) Here are the verses:

    [6] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. [8] And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! [9] Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, [10] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    These verses made me think about the importance of the ancient creeds.

    The Apostle’s Creed is the oldest and perhaps the most often cited creed, but I find the Nicene Creed to be the most helpful in thinking about the person and work of Jesus. The Nicene Creed, originally established at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and then expanded at the Council of Constantinople in 381, served to establish the truth of who Jesus was/is in the context of Trinitarian faith.

    In churches like mine–young, hip, contemporary, and charismatic churches—creeds are normally ignored. We eagerly and somewhat arrogantly proclaim, “We have no creed but the Bible!” However, we are grossly mistaken if we try to interpret the Bible without the help of the creeds. Furthermore, it is naive to think we were the first generation of believers to know, worship, and preach Jesus.

    John Wesley rightly pointed out that our work of theology is built on four pillars—Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. (This is called Wesley’s Quadrilateral.) Scripture by far is the source of truth, but tradition, reason, and experience provide lenses in which to interpret Scripture. The creeds were called the “rule of faith” in the early church. They served as boundaries for righty believing (orthodoxy) about God, Jesus, faith, etc. in contrast to false doctrine (heresy).

    The creeds deserve a sacred part of our devotion and discipleship. Whether they are a necessary part of Christian worship or not is a matter of tradition. Nevertheless, all Christian tradition need the creeds to help shape how we think about truth and reality. Consider the following:

    I think that the Christian creed enunciates a powerful and provocative understanding of the world, one that ought to scandalize a world that runs on the accepted truths of Modernity. There is something in the creed to offend virtually every contemporary sensibility. At the same time, it communicates a compelling vision of the world’s destiny and humanity’s role that challenges the accustomed idolatries and the weary platitudes of current worldly wisdom. Christians who say these words should know what they are doing when they say them and what they are saying when they mean them. This is the precondition to their celebrating a specifically Christian conception of reality, and the presupposition for their challenging the dominant conceptions of the world.

    Luke Timothy Johnson
    The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Is Important

    In a time when evil is alive and well and truth is being challenged on many fronts. We need to allow our reading of Scripture to be guided by the creeds.

    Nicene Creed
    381 AD

    We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
    he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.

    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
    He has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
    and the life of the world to come.

    Amen.

  • The Catholic Church becomes media savvy

    Pope Benedict XVI is on his US tour.

    He met with the President. Apparent President Bush said, “Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome Speech.” [Video] He said this after a papal address at the Whitehouse. I love the W. The Pope held an open air mass with 45,000 in attendance at the Nationals Baseball stadium in Washington D.C. He has visited with victims of clergy abuse and offered prayer and encouragement. He even visited a Jewish synagogue. He is now in New York. He addressed the UN and will pray at Ground Zero. The Pope’s visit to the US has come at a good time for Catholics in the US. The clergy abuse scandals over the last years have stirred resentment towards the Catholic Church. The scandals continue to fuel Protestant distained for the Catholics in general and the Catholic Church in particular.

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is hoping the Pope’s visit will help in priest recruitment. The number of young men entering the priesthood is down in the US. For example, St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers outside of New York used to have hundreds of young men in preparation for the priesthood. Today there are only sixty in the seminary and only six will be ordained into the priesthood this year.

    To bolster recruitment, the Catholic Church in New York has launched a website www.NYpriest.com . The Website includes video clips, moving pictures, and the slogan “The World Needs Heroes.” It looks like the uber-traditional Catholic Church is using the strategies of ultra-contemporary churches by partnering the Pope’s visit with cleaver marketing and high-quality media. When are they going to start a podcast? I wonder if the Pope has a facebook account???

    Source: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/19/wpope119.xml

  • Heroes

    I missed the NBC series Heroes. We are waiting for it to come out on DVD. I have been thinking about heroes a bit today. We had our first every English/Spanish service this morning and it went well….really good actually. We had a packed house…ran out of bulletins and sermon notes…it was great. We had three songs in English…three songs in Spanish. I preached with an interpreter. All was good, except when I messed up the Good Samaritan story. I had the Samaritan on the road to Jericho….I had to rewind the story and get it right! It was funny, but all worked out.

    In the beginning of the sermon, I said that I wanted to talk about my hero. I talked about how some people have heroes who play sports or star in movies or TV, but my hero lived 2,000 years ago. My hero is Jesus.

    All of the “hero talk” came from Bob Dylan. In 1987, Dylan began his concert tour in Boston I think. One of the songs he did was “In the Garden.” His 1980 gospel song about Jesus. The lyrics are here: http://www.bobdylan.com/moderntimes/songs/garden.html

    Before he started the song, he said:

    I’m gonna sing a song about my hero. Everybody’s got their own hero. I don’t know who your hero is, maybe Mel Gibson . . . maybe for some people it’s Michael Jackson . . . or Bruce Springsteen . . . Anyway I don’t care nothing about none of those people. I have my own hero. I’m gonna sing about my hero now.

    Who ever said that Bob abandoned his Christian faith?
    Here is the video from that 1987 concert. The audio is a bit rough, but it is good. Check it out.

  • www.derekvreeland.com & dissertation update

    My blogspot has now been pointed to my domain.

    This means that my blog which is hosted by www.blogger.com can be accessed at www.derekvreeland.com. So if you have www.derekvreeland.blogspot.com bookmarked as my blog, you can change that to www.derekvreeland.com. You will still be able to access the blog from the blogspot.com page, but it looks much cooler when my blog is on my domain!

    I am waiting for my dissertation to come back from the editor. When I get it back, I will edit it for the LAST TIME and then will have a .pdf copy online if you would like to read.

    I am also sending out article proposals to a few magazines and journals to publish my findings. Pray for God to open doors!

    Derek