Monday, July 28, 2008


I had to experience it first before I could try it myself. And we all have experienced it in one form or another. I got my first taste of it in my grandma's home. It was the overwhelming sense of being welcomed. It was the food that was made just for me. It was the way the beds were tucked in and the the way the whole house smelled clean. It was the jovial conversations around the dining room table after meals.

There is something magical about hospitality. My grandma showed me this as a boy. My parents showed me this after I moved out of the house. My mother-in-law is an amazing host as well. Each trip to Houston is full of good food and warm feelings. This is where my wife learned to express her gift of hospitality.

My friends also showed me the magic of hospitality with their backyard cookouts and Sunday football parties. My friends Greg Ritter and the Reichleys are especially good at being hosts. Hospitality for them is a kind of "John the Baptist." It prepares the way for the presence of God. It sets the stage of the coming of the Kingdom.

It's easy to read over parts in the bible that talk about hospitality. It doesn't seem like one of the "greater" gifts. But anyone who has been on the receiving end of it knows better. Good hospitality brings people in and brings people together. It has the power to connect one stranger to another and make them friends by the end of the night. It can mysterious make someone feel safe enough to be vulnerable with their lives. It breaks down walls and gently opens hearts.

Hospitality is the intersection between service and joy, community and celebration. It seems likely that most evangelistic gift of our generation will not be preaching or teaching as in generations past. Instead, it will be the gift of being a host. It will be the ability to invite people into our homes so that they can get a glimpse of His Kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven."

Friday, July 25, 2008

energy policy

Is anyone else frustrated that we are paying over $4 a gallon on gas and our Congress can't be bipartisan enough to pass a minor energy bill, let alone a comprehensive one?

Both parties have come to a forest fire of a problem with water pistols. The Dems talk about releasing oil from the Strategic Reserve. But this is a plan that will make us less safe in a crisis and won't put enough oil out on the market to affect the current price. Not only will this plan not really do anything in the short-term, but it hurts us in the long-term.

And the Republicans aren't doing any better. All they keep talking about is drilling off-shore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). Statistics show that opening up ANWR would give us up to one million barrels of oil. To the general public this sounds like a lot, but globally this is a drop in the bucket.

The oil wouldn't be able to hit the market until 10 years down the road and even then it would only decrease the oil we import by 2%. So for a 2% reduction in imports 10 years from now, the Republicans want us to take a chunk of the beautiful wildlife reserve the size of Delaware and turn it into ugly, polluting oil fields and refineries.

The Presidential candidates seem to have more comprehensive energy plans that include solar, wind and nuclear. But they will need a Congress who is ready to get past their little "drop in the bucket" plans. Both Presidential candidates will need a Congress who is ready to put down their little water pistols and think differently about oil.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

double negative

Decaffeinated coffee, nonalcoholic beer, unleaded gas, nonfat milk, unsaturated fat, sugar-free candy, and duty-free airport shops all have one thing in common; they are all known for what they are "not." They are named and characterized by what they don't have rather than what they do.

Christians often fall into this category as well. We are often known for what we don't "get to do" or aren't "allowed" to do. We are accused of being "unfun" and "sin-free," both of which are "untrue." Sometimes we are also known for not having things that we should have. We have a reputation for being "unforgiving," "grace-free" and "unloving." And while there is some of that in the church, it is also true that the most graceful, forgiving, loving people I have ever met have been followers of Christ.

It is true that Christians need to begin to be known for what they "are" rather than what they "aren't." We need to develop a reputation for what we stand "for" rather than just what we are "against." Jesus was good at this. People often tried to categorize him solely based on what he was "not," but he always managed to break through those confines to reveal who he really was.

If we Christians must be known for what we are "not," then let's be known for having a love for people that requires "no" hoops to jump through and "no" tests to pass. Let's be a people who's love can best be described by what it doesn't have. There was one "un-" that Jesus let stick to him. He never parted ways with this descriptor and neither should we. His love never fails to be "unconditional."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The church lets me use one of their computers. It is a silver colored MacBook Pro. And whenever I use it I always have to check the upper right hand corner of the screen.

There is a little icon up there that looks like a AA battery. Next to it the computer tells me what percentage of energy I have left in the battery. If it starts to get low, say below 20%, the icon turns red. It's a warning light letting me know that it will only last for so long unless it is plugged in soon.

Sometimes I wish we had this sort of thing in our spiritual lives. It would make life easier if I had a blinking red light at the corner of my eye letting me know when I had been using my spiritual batteries long enough and that it was time to plug back into my Source of life and energy.

I think we all do this. We get charged up spiritually and we go out to face our lives. We don't reconnect to our Source immediately because we seem to be doing ok on battery. But then we stay out there too long. Our battery runs down and we begin to feel disconnected. It's not until we reconnect with Jesus that "life" comes back to us.

While we don't have a visual icon, our lives do have warning signs. Our problem is that we usually don't see them. Our lives give us clues that our spiritual lives are running on empty. Usually, we become more susceptible to temptation. We tend to get upset faster and more often. Our mood is often bad for reasons that are not a big deal. Oversensitivity and overreactions become commonplace. We essentially become, in little ways, less and less like the character of Christ. Sometimes only we can tell that we are running low. Many times others can tell too.

Jesus didn't have battery powered notebook computers in his day, but he did have vineyards. The same principle applies to both. This is what Jesus meant when he said in John 15:

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Maybe if he were here in our day he might say something like:
"I am the power cord; you are the laptop. If a person stays plugged in they can do great things; on battery power you're toast. If anyone does not stay plugged in, they are like a 1982 Commodore 64; these kinds of computers have long since been thrown in the trash. If you stay plugged in and powered up, I will do whatever you ask me to do. This is to my Father's glory, that you have real energy to do life-changing work, showing yourselves to be real Christians."

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The language of Genesis 1 is interesting. What strikes me is how many times God says, "Let..."

If we were to read Genesis 1 closely and ask ourselves who or what created the plants and animals, we could potentially have two correct answers. God of course is the obvious first answer. But when we read the text closely we see that God said, "Let the land produce vegetation..." and "Let the land produce living creatures..." (vss 11 & 24)

So while God no doubt created everything, there is a sense we get from the text that he did so indirectly. God gave "the land" a certain amount of responsibility in the creative process. We know that the "Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" throughout the process of creation. But it seems as though he gave his own creation some freedom to be a part of the process.

This is how God is with us. We know that from conception God is "knitting us together in our mother's womb."(Jer. 1:5) Yet God doesn't just snap his fingers and make us appear. Instead, God "creates" us in the womb by using natural processes over time.

This is also how he interacts with us throughout our lives. He guides our lives and directs our paths. But he does this through the daily, ongoing "hovering" of His Spirit rather than some instantaneous neon sign in the sky.

This also seems to be how He created "in the beginning." This repetition of "Let..." in Genesis 1 seems to point to the reality that God didn't just make everything appear instantly. Instead, it points to His ongoing Presence working indirectly through natural processes that He Himself set in motion.

What's more is that science confirms this view of scripture through geology, nuclear-physics, astronomy and DNA mapping. Examining both Genesis and science together reveals that the creation process was one of gradual species modification over long spans of time rather than a seven day instantaneous event.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The bible says...

Scripture has always said:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. (Revelation 7:1)

Christians used to interpret this as:
- confirming the idea that the world is flat.

Christians now interpret this as:
- a metaphorical way of saying the "whole world," not a literal geological description of the shape of the earth.

Scripture has always said:
He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. (Psalm 104:5)
Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. (1 Chronicles 16:30)

Christians used to interpret these as:
- double confirmation of the idea that the earth doesn't move, rotate or orbit.

Christians now interpret these as:
- two poetic ways of describing God's creation of and interaction with the earth, not literal scientific statements about earth's rotation or orbit.

Scripture has always said:
The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. (Ecc. 1:5)
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Jesus' words in Matthew 5:45b)

Christians used to interpret these as:
- proof from the Old Testament and Jesus own mouth that the earth is the center of the universe and that the sun revolves around the earth.

Christians now interpret these as:
- metaphorical ways of describing the sun's apparent "movement" across the sky, not literal astronomical descriptions of the sun.

So while we as Christians understand scripture to be completely authoritative for our lives, we also must realize that our "interpretations" of Scripture often have been in error. This is especially true when it comes to scripture passages that seem to deal with truths about the "natural world."

What caused the Church to shift their interpretations of these passages? In each case, it has been honest scientific study that has forced Christians to re-examine long held misinterpretations of scripture. So let's apply this lesson learned to one more section of scripture.

Scripture has always said:
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3)

Christians used to and some continue to interpret this as:
- God created the heavens and the earth in seven literal days.

Christians should now interpret this as:
- a poetic way of saying that God created the heavens and the earth, not a scientific description of how He did it.

Just like the other passages mentioned, the creation passages were never meant to be treated like astronomical or geological textbooks. They were meant to point us to deeper truths. Genesis 1 and 2 tell us that God created. They reveal humanity as the crown of His good creation in which order, stewardship, relationship and rest are necessary parts.

But honest scientific discovery reveals that, just as in the other passages mentioned, taking these passages literally results in a misinterpretation of scripture.

Monday, July 07, 2008

the political strategies

Both of our Presidential candidates have clear and obvious strategies when it comes to making themselves attractive to all Americans.

Let's start with Obama. His over-all strategy is to run with mostly politically "left" positions while seeming more "centrist." In order to do this he includes invitations in his speeches to moderates and Republicans to join his cause. Another tactic he uses to seem more "centrist" is to criticize those who come out on the "far left" on certain issues. For instance, he criticized John Murtha's position of immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, he talks about a year-long redeployment and uses language like being "as careful getting out as we were careless getting in." His criticism of his "far left" colleagues tends to make him to appear more "centrist" than he really is.

Now let's turn to McCain. His over-all strategy is to run with mostly "right" positions even though for most of his voting history he has been a moderate, centrist Senator. For most conservative Republicans, McCain's voting record is too moderate or too liberal. So he has had to make a shift in many of his positions so that he appears to be more conservative than he really is. He can get the moderates with his voting record in the Senate but he struggles to get the Republican base. So he has tried to become more hardline conservative in his run for the White House. He hopes this will win over the red states that he needs in November.

What we see here from both candidates is interesting. In Obama, we have a liberal candidate trying to avoid the "liberal elitist" label by appearing moderate. In McCain, we have a moderate Republican trying to appear more conservative so that he too can avoid the dreaded "liberal" label.

What I find interesting is the common movement that both McCain and Obama are making. They both are trying to appeal to the general population. Usually this attempt at appearing "electable" means that both candidates try to move to the center. Usually the leftist slides to the right and the right-wing slides to the left. What is interesting about this election is that in order to appeal to the general population and to their own parties both candidates are trying to take a half-step to the right so that they won't appear too "liberal."

This seems to hint at the fact that Washington is more liberal over-all in both parties than the general public is. When both candidates from both parties have to slide to the right just to seem electable to the American people, it could be a sign that Washington continues to be out of sync with the general population.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

McCain's positions on gun control

Here is a sampling of John McCain's positions on gun control according to

On gun control in general:
- McCain is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.
- He wants to punish violent offenders for abusing that right.
- He voted for increasing punishment on gun violations.
- He doesn't want to punish citizens for owning any type of gun.
- He supports repealing existing federal gun restrictions on non-offending citizens.
- He voted against the well known "Brady Bill" which required a 5-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns.

On assault weapons:
- McCain voted against any ban on assault riffles
- He voted against a ban on armor piercing ammunitions
- He said he would be open to voting for a ban on assault riffles depending on the details.
- He fears most bans againt assault riffles are backdoor attempts at taking away the Second Amendment right.

Kids and guns:
- McCain introduced a bill that would prevent juvenile access to guns and would punish junvenile gun offenders as adults

Background checks at gun shows:
- McCain voted against requiring background checks for all purchases at gun shows
- He voted to loosen regulations regarding background checks at gun shows

Gun Manufacturers:
- McCain acted to maintain the laws that allow dealers to sell guns without a trigger lock by tabling a bill that would require them.
- He voted consistently not to allow lawsuits that would hold gun manufacturers liable for the misuse of their product/gun.

While I appreciate McCain's support of our Second Amendment right and his desire to increase penalties for gun crimes, I think McCain is not strong enough when it comes to regulation.

I want people to have the right to bear arms. I also want people to have the freedom to enjoy hunting and the freedom to protect themselves in their own home. But I don't think people besides law enforcement and military should have the right to own assault riffles and armor piercing rounds. I also think McCain was wrong to vote against the Brady Bill.

Government needs to act to reduce the chance of guns getting into the hands of children. And it needs to make it near impossible to get assault weapons. McCain's bill (the Youth Violence Prevention Act) to address kids with guns is a step in the right direction, but McCain should desire more background checks and more regulation than he does. Obama's stance is definitely more in line with what I view as a balanced approach to gun control.