Friday, June 30, 2006

The Allure of Sin

I've been thinking the last couple of days of the allure of sin, and I guess people could go into a whole thing about definitions of sin and how some people do not think some things are sin that other people do and perspectives and that kind of thing, but I'm just not feeling it today.

I wonder if the reason we sin is a couple of things.

1) Some of the time, it just feels good. We enjoy the feeling we get when we indulge. We are taught through tv, movies, and literature that we should really respect the rebels and those outside of the realm of the ordinary and we want that. The shame that may follow the act may be greater than the feelings we get from actually doing the act, but that doesn't stop us from doing it. It's almost like we're addicted to sin. We don't care about the consequences of doing it; we just want to have the feelings we get from it.

2) For Christians, I wonder if we sin because we don't really believe that what Jesus did on the Cross and through his Resurrection was really effective. We don't really believe that when we are reborn into being a new creation and so while we say we believe that, we don't really live as though we believe it.

It's almost as though we don't really believe that living the way Jesus exemplified for us and then achieved in his death is the better way to live. We live as though the way the world presents is really the better way, or maybe not better, but more fun.

What difference could it make if we as Christians actually lived as though we were free of sin? What difference could that make not just in our lives, but in the lives of those around us?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sermon on the Mount/Kingdom Living

I finally posted Sunday's class to the Teaching the Kingdom site. In it, we get into Matthew and the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. We got into a great discussion about the life of discipleship and the heart change that is required of followers of Jesus.

I'm out of town this weekend, so Scott Owings will be teaching the class. No recording, unless he can figure out how to manage one. Have a great holiday.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Not much to report this week. Connor was one month old on Sunday and is growing well and still sleeping through the night. Kinsey is still being very sweet to him and she's growing so much all the time. It's a good time right now. Enjoy some more pics.

A picture Sheryl took of Connor's feet.

One I took that I really, really like of Sheryl and Connor.

Already a person of prayer (or he's just asleep in a way that resembles prayer)

My current desktop at work. Beautiful shot by Sheryl.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Street Lawyer

I haven't posted yesterday's lesson at the Teaching the Kingdom podcast yet, but hopefully this evening. Time seems to be in much higher demand since before Connor...

So, since I don't have that to plug, I thought I'd tell you about a book that I just finished reading: John Grisham's The Street Lawyer. I don't read as many novels as I used to, more theology these days, but I like taking a break every now and then and reading the back of The Street Lawyer really intruiged me.

After a hostage encounter with homeless man that leads to a violent end, high-powered antitrust attorney Michael Brock develops a conscience about the plight of the homeless, quits his job, and becomes a poverty attorney. Of course, taking a top secret file from the firm that has to do with why his capturer was homeless has a lot to do with that.

The book itself is well-plotted, as most Grisham's that I've read are, but what struck me is something that struck me when I read The Testament back in England last year. Grisham's got a conscience. And a heart. In The Testament, the main character has to search for the sole heir to billions of dollars to discover she's a missionary in South America, and ultimately doesn't want the money. Here, a wealthy attorney gives it all up for helping the poor.

I think the thing that fascinated me the most about The Street Lawyer was the question that I have to ask myself everyday. Would I be willing to give up what I have now to do something like that? With my kids and a stay at home wife who works her tail off, could I do that? Or do I salve my conscience by doing Room in the Inn or giving a five to a homeless guy I see on the street. I don't know, but what I do know is that The Street Lawyer really made me think about this, and that's a sign of good writing.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Great, great discussion on last Friday's post. Thanks to everyone who commented (and are still commenting), particularly Father Thomas who made some great points about worship and glorifying God. Check his blog out at Also, John Alan Turner whose blog you can find at

Before the last couple of years, I'm not even sure if I thought that being a disciple of Jesus was an option for me. Sure, I was a Christian and that pretty much meant being saved, going to church, doing the right thing, and generally keeping my nose clean until I died and went to Heaven. I didn't really consider the idea that someone who claimed to be a Christian was truly claiming to be a disciple. I thought the disciples were the ones who followed Jesus around in the Bible. But as I've been guided in my thoughts by people like Lee Camp, N.T. Wright, and Brian McLaren, what I've started to believe is that discipleship is what Christians should be about, or rather had better be about.

Now, Father Thomas might disagree with that and say that the purpose of Christians is to glorify God. However, I don't think I see the two as mutually exclusive. I think when people follow Jesus' example and take him on in baptism and worship him, that is a part of glorifying God. This is why I think that what happens outside the walls of the church building is of much greater importance than what happens inside them. It can be really easy to be a Christian inside the walls. We're surrounded by people who believe similarly to us, generally who look and act like us. When we take our faith outside the walls outside of the homogenous existence inside, that's when the rubber meets the road. That's when we truly find out if we will follow the Way of Jesus or if we will compromise with the world.

I've been thinking a lot about the Sermon on the Mount this week, since I'm going to start talking about it in my Kingdom class at church this week. What Jesus offers there is not some pie-in-the-sky vision of how great things possibly could be, if we just happened to do a few of those things. He's offering a vision of what living as a disciple of Jesus could be like. When he calls us to love our enemies, it's not a call to be nice to someone who cuts me off in traffic. It's a call to seek the betterment of someone who hates me, simply to walk in the example of Jesus who loved those who hated him, even if that love involved turning the tables in the Temple.

What do you think? Have you experienced any such changes in thinking about discipleship? How does being a disciple of Jesus play itself out in your everyday life?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sleeping Through the Night

Yes. You read that right. Connor is sleeping through the night. Starting last Friday, he slept through the night. Thank God. Sheryl really needed the sleep.

As far as the rest of things go, Connor is doing great and growing a lot. Kinsey is still completely in love with him. Things are going very well, all things considered. So for all you family and friends here are some pictures.

Connor thinking deeply about something. Probably his diaper.

"OK, look. How many times are you going to stick that silver thing in my face?"

Happy Father's Day.

A safe baby is a happy baby. Or a slightly insane one.

Nap time.

Great Grandma with Connor.

Kinsey and Emma, dressed up

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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Intertestamental Times and the Kingdom

I've posted yesterday's Teaching the Kingdom class. In it, I discuss the Intertestamental times and how they would have affected how people heard and interpreted Jesus' words on the Kingdom of God.

I've really enjoyed the conversation in the Fixing Church post from Friday. I hope it continues. Maybe some current Otter Creek people might even post...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Fixing Church

A few weeks back, I asked the question "Is Church Part of the Problem?" In it, I gave the idea that the main purpose of the church/local congregation should be to help its members grow in the image of Christ. The responses were interesting. The four people who responded (none from Otter Creek, interestingly enough) seemed to indicate that the time of meeting together in a "worship service" was NOT conducive to their growth as Christians, but in fact it was the time outside of those where real growth happens and real connection happens. Are we missing something here? Are we getting close to the definition of insanity in trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Am I asking questions because I don't know the answers myself?

It seems that the way we do "church" is a part of a problem. It's a part of the apathy of the Christian, which should be an offensive statement. Christians shouldn't be apathetic. In fact, Randy Harris once said that doubt is not the opposite of faith; apathy is. Now, I really appreciate what goes into doing a worship service on a Sunday morning, but I think congregations and their leaders and members constantly have to be asking themselves, "Is this accomplishing the goal of forming Christ in the people here or is it stagnating it?"

Now again, I could be way off base. I'm sure there are people who get a lot out of the corporate worship setting. And there is something about worshipping with 800 to 1000 people in one place and with one purported purpose. But if attending a worship service is our primary expression of faith, we've lost something huge. We've lost discipleship; we've lost being apprentices to Jesus. And that may be the most tragic betrayal of his life that I can imagine. People who claim to be his followers, but are just punching a time clock.

So, complaining is one thing. Action is another. How do we do it? How do we make church a valuable experience of discipleship? Maybe you think we're already there and disagree with everything I say. Maybe you think we're on the right track and just need to tweak. Maybe you think the whole thing needs to be blown up (not literally) and start from scratch with Acts 2 as the template.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

5 years, 10 days and 10 years, 3 weeks

Today is mine and Sheryl's anniversary. Ten years ago today, we got married. I remember it so clearly. Seeing Sheryl walking down the aisle of the old Otter Creek building to Michael W. Smith's "The Other Side of Me." Saying our vows in front of the church and Buddy Arnold. Wondering if I could love her any more than I did then.

We spent five great years together, just the two of us. Those times are honestly very much a blur and there are times that I miss the freedom we had to pick up and just go somewhere, but I wouldn't trade them at all for what we have now.

Five years ago, we celebrated five years together. Kinsey was 10 days old. I ordered out to Princeton's Grille and went to pick up the food. We ate our anniversary dinner and took turns holding our first born daughter, laughing at the wonderful absurdity of it all. Thinking that even though we didn't know how we were going to get through everything with this crying, hungry poop machine, we knew that we were in it together.

The last five years have been great. We're figuring out how this kid thing works. We've gotten used to being Phil, Sheryl, and Kinsey. We've taken some fun trips together including to England, and worked really hard to raise up a little girl who will be polite, respectful, and fun to be around.

Today is 10 years. Once again, we have a newborn in the house, although we know a little better what we're doing, i.e. crying doesn't kill a child, just breaks a parent's heart, unless the child is crying so hard that he forgets to breathe in between cries. And now we're Phil, Sheryl, Kinsey, and Connor, but in a lot of ways, it is Sheryl and I still. I married my best friend and even though we don't always agree on everything, we do talk about it and not let things fester. And we love being around each other and walking in faith's journey with each other.

God knew what he was doing when he put us together and I'm thankful for it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Kinsey and Connor Updates

Well, Connor went to the doctor yesterday and he's gained 10 ounces in the last week. This is very good news and we're glad that he's gaining his weight back. Kinsey also had her 5 year appointment and had to get three shots. Bummer for her.

She also loves Connor unabashedly. She always wants to hold him and comfort him when he's crying. It's so amazing to watch her and even though she sometimes comforts him too vigorously or wants to be too close to him, watching her love on him is one of my favorite things to do.

She's also fulfilled another role in the family... diaper smeller. Anytime we suspect that Connor has a diaper, she runs over to smell it and tells us what it is. And she hasn't been wrong yet.So here are some pictures of the kids. I hope you enjoy them.

Connor sleeping at Nana and Papa's

Connor in his bouncy seat

Kinsey on her birthday present

Maybe my favorite picture of all Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Old Testment and the Kingdom

This week's post of Teaching the Kingdom is up. In it, I talk about how the Old Testament prefigures a lot of ideas about the Kingdom and I hit really strongly on how the Abrahamic covenant applies to us as Christians today, specifically how we are to be a blessing to all nations. I hope you get something out of it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Justified Homicide?

According to this article from the New York Times today, concerning the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
Five others died in the airstrike: Mr. Rahman, one woman, one child and two other men, General Caldwell said. The identities of the four were not known.
Simple question today. Was the deaths of the others in the house (and honestly, I'm thinking particularly about the woman and child) worth the death of the one terrorist? Was it worth it to kill four unkown peoplein order to kill one man?

Is our answer different if we think of ourselves as citizens of America first who happen to be Christians (if you're reading this and you are a Christian), rather than citizens of the Kingdom who happen to live in America?

And finally, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, does that mean terrorists too? If so, what does THAT look like?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dr. Amy Jill Levine

Last night, Otter Creek Church of Christ played host to Dr. Amy Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt Divinity School, who spoke on the issue of Jesus and women. It was a great discussion and Dr. Levine is a very skilled and knowledgeable teach that we were privileged to hear her.

She is also an orthodox Jew, which made it even more interesting. I've posted the talk at the Teaching the Kingdom podcast. Enjoy listening to it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Loss

The former student of mine, Will ClenDening, died in a motorcycle accident this last weekend. He was the student that I wrote about in January who had returned my name plate to me.

Please think of his family and offer a prayer for them.

5 years and 12 days

Yesterday was Kinsey's 5th birthday. We had a great birthday party for her on Saturday with a lot of friends from school and church. One of the things that we're trying to do with her is still make her feel a unique and special part of the family, while understanding that having a baby brother is going to take some attention away from her. Up to this point, she's dealing with this new arrival so well. Because Connor's weight dropped so much after birth, we are needing to supplement Sheryl with some formula and Kinsey loves feeding him his bottle so much. It's almost like she has her own little doll to play with. Except this one cries. A lot.

One of my biggest frustrations with babies is their crying. And Connor was especially fussy last night. The frustrating thing for me is when I can't get him to stop crying. I'm a guy, which means I'm goal oriented. Baby is crying? Do what it takes to stop the crying. Rock him. Pat his bottom. Walk around while rocking and patting the bottom. Change him. Burp him. Do the bicycle thing with his legs to work out any other gas. None of it worked. And I was getting tired and frustrated and more tired. Sheryl finally told me to just put him in his crib, let him cry, (Kinsey was asleep and will generally sleep through things like trains and 5 megaton explosions beside her bed) and go to bed (this was about midnight last night). Which makes me a bit frustrated with myself. I wanted to calm him down and soothe him. And I just didn't. It's one of those things that I need to get over, but I'll be glad when he doesn't cry as much.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Teaching the Kingdom

I have been privileged to be able to teach a class at Otter Creek Church this quarter on the Kingdom of God. It is a subject that is fascinating to me and that I'm very excited to teach, as well as a bit overwhelmed at the task.

I am recording the class and have posted it to a podcast at, much as I did to Lee Camp's class last quarter. What I did yesterday was an intro to the class and I talked about where I've come from and books and thinkers that have influenced me a great deal.

I think it's going to be a great class, and I look forward to hearing what the rest of you out there think of it.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Crazy Week

Of course it's been a crazy week. Connor, of course, is the biggest thing around right now, with Sheryl and I taking shifts at night with me taking the early (11-2 or 3, depending) and then her from then on. Next week when I'm back at work, I won't get up much at all.

He's doing great overall. Actually lost a bit too much weight this week so we're going to get him caught back up. Kinsey loves him to death and just wants to hold and take care of him.

In between that, I'm getting ready for the Kingdom of God class that I'm teaching at church starting Sunday, which will be fun and challenging. So, I wish I had deep theological ponderances to post, but all I really have is this picture of me at a week old:

When my mom showed that to me this afternoon, I told her that the likeness between me and Connor was amazing.

Well, have a great weekend. I'll try to get back on my regular posting schedule next week.
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