Friday, August 31, 2007


The new "worship center" church sign in town really turns my giggle box over, as my grandmother used to say.
Don't fit a big God in a small dream.
It sounds like a name it and claim it kind of thing to me. If you aren't receiving enough (or an abundance), then you are claiming too little.

Though the second one is simply an announcement on one of the local rural churches, I had a vision of dismembered kids flying everywhere (sorry, I do have a sick sense of humor sometimes).
Saturday August 25th
Back to School Youth Explosion!
Not to mention the sign is outdated, a no-no in all the church sign manuals.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

sbc Impact!

I have always remained a rather quiet voice in the Southern Baptist blogging scene. I have read many Southern Baptist blogs, commented on a few, and unfortunately, flamed out on a couple. It REALLY caught me off guard when blogging buddy Geoff Baggett emailed me about an exciting new venture he was praying about and asked that I might join him on this excursion.

After twenty-four hours of prayer, reflection, and emailing some of my good blog friends (you know who you are and I am grateful to you all), I decided that I would join Geoff and several other contributors on a collaborative blog entitled sbc Impact! The bar is raised really high for this blog. It is envisioned to become an open forum for safe, courteous, humble dialogue about a multiplicity of issues with not just Southern Baptists but prayerfully Christians of any stripe, without degenerating into the fire-fights characteristic of some blogs.

I am grateful to be included among the likes of Geoff Baggett, Rob Ayers, SelahV (aka Hariette Peterson), Bowden McElroy, Roger Ferrell, Les Puryear, David Rogers, and Cyle Clayton. Lady and gentlemen, please know I am praying for each one of you in this venture. May it bless God, be a benefit to Christian readership, lead us to a deeper and more committed relationship with Christ, and a greater level of service and ministry.

I would like to invite you to the site to check it out. I am humbled by this opportunity and pray that I will perform adequate to the task and bless many people, and that I might grow a bit on the way, too. The official launch is Saturday, September 1. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lousier and Lousier...

While in Richmond, I spotted a church sign that made me laugh out loud after my initial thought. My oldest daughter thought it was right funny, too.
Play it Safe
Take God on Vacation
Yeah, but how do you get Him to fit in the suitcase?

This one was found in town. Sound bytes are our culture's way of communication now and though nothing is inherently wrong with the sign, even being theologically correct, it aggravates me nonetheless. It sounds like a lazy preacher's Saturday night special.
Life is Short.
Death is Sure.
Sin is the Cause.
Jesus is the Cure.
And if you take 3 nails and add 1 cross you get 4-given. Lord, deliver us from church sign lunacy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Banner Report

It has been a booger of a week. Hospitals; surgeries; a stressful in-home visit; preparing three messages and a Bible study; homeschooling; plus spending the night in Richmond away from family (though I had my oldest daughter with me).

In the thread of my last post, a few readers requested that I share a bit about how my preaching engagement went at Banner Christian School. Everything went spectacular and I was immensely impressed with the school. Banner is an actual school, not one of those where they stick a DVD in and a proctor circulates the room. I had a great time meeting the kids, sharing with them, and preaching the Word. I was afraid that a group of 6th - 12th graders would be unruly and I would not be able to keep their attention but they were genuinely interested in what I had to say. Don't get me wrong, they were still a group of obnoxious teenagers!

The day was tailored to foster an environment of unity among the young people. A neighbor Christian school had closed their doors and Banner subsequently picked up about fifty new kids. Afraid an "us/them" mentality might develop among the student body, the faculty discussed and approved the idea of a field day centered around a common theme: unity.

The day began with praise and worship at 7:55 (yawn, I'm a preacher; everyone knows I don't get out of bed until 10:00). At 8:15 I shared a message from Ephesians 4:1-3 and my outline was clever: If you walk as Jesus walks, you will act as Jesus acts and you will love as Jesus loves. I could not believe it, but they listened better than my Sunday morning crowd!

After a brief time of prayer, the kids went outside and had a field day of sorts, all the games team games; no individual competitions: tug-of-war and the human knot were notable. After a packed lunch provided by our hostess (it was the first time I had eaten a fruit cup in years) we gathered back in the sanctuary for another time of Scripture and Bible study. I had been asked to share something about myself during the second study session, so I shared my testimony of how I came to Christ. At the conclusion, the kids applauded and several of the teenage boys in the back pew rolled their fists in the air, vintage Arsenio Hall, grunting "Oooh, oooh, oooh!"

I focused on John 13:34-35 during the Bible study and the radical new standard that Jesus placed on loving one another and how it applies even to teenagers. Afterwards, my daughter and I stayed around for skits the kids had prepared on 1 Corinthians 12. I left much more blessed than those kids. I saw the fresh look of God on their faces and it was a blessing to me to encourage them in their walks with the Lord.I begged them to walk humbly among one another and to look for opportunities to minister to one another. Stick up for one another; defend one another; don't allow the devil an inch in your walks with Christ nor with one another. Avoid cliques; and I assured them that, yes, kids your age can and indeed should minister.

It was exciting to me to be near a group of kids genuinely interested, hoping, and praying God will work through them. I also encouraged them to see the minister inside of them; that it is not a cheesy thing but something God honors. I prayed with them before I left asking that God's hand of blessing would be upon their school and each one of them.

So, like many of my visits with my congregants, I leave having intended to be a blessing but rather come away blessed. Odd, huh?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Prayer Request

I have been invited by Banner Christian Academy of Richmond, VA to come and preach at their inaugural chapel service this Friday. I actually have to speak twice in that day, two separate messages, one in the morning and one that afternoon, but to the same audience. The school has experienced some varied transition over the past year and the principal asked me to speak on a particular theme: unity.

The unity of God's people has always been near to my heart. I would appreciate your prayers as I prepare to address several hundred 6th - 12th graders and their faculty. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Thank you!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Leah's Pony: A Word on Community

The ladies at our local library love to see us coming. The reason? We check out lots of books (typically about twenty at a time, not including momma and daddy). This last time we stopped in, my six-year old found a book with a horse on the cover; obviously that makes it worth checking out. The story contained within however, led me to tears for what the church is, and what it has become.

The book she found was Leah's Pony, by Elizabeth Friedrich. The story is set in the 1930's in the Great Plains. Leah has a pony given to her by her daddy. Proudly she rides it until the Great Depression sets in and ransacks the family finances. Add to that a drought as well as an infestation of locusts that finish off their meager corn crop and the family is broke. In order to save the family farm from foreclosure, several items necessary to their livelihood are to be auctioned off by the local bank.

Determined not to let that happen, Leah goes to the local mercantile and offers the owner the opportunity to buy her pony. He does and with the squalid amount she received, prepares her heart for what was to come next. Knowing the tractor was essential to the family's life, Leah bravely makes the first bid.

"One dollar," she said, timid as a mouse. The only one offended by the leanness of her bid was the auctioneer himself, as he scorns her bid, "That tractor is worth five hundred dollars!" However, what happened next is what caught me off guard, my heart genuinely unprepared for what was about to happen.

All eyes were immediately upon Leah as she clutched the ransom price for the family farm, having traded her pony for beans. No one bid against her. Reluctant and renitent, the auctioneer received one dollar for the tractor. As other items were auctioned off, neighbors bid on the family's things for nominal prices and after paying for them, turned them back over to the family.

This is a story of loving, caring community; a story of sacrifice; a story of placing others over oneself; a story of giving. A story of solidarity.

We seem horrified to break into the lives of others, into their pain, into their sorrows and griefs. We become so wrapped up in our own problems, however insignificant they may be, that they eclipse the needs of others; the forest for the trees. There seems to be a gap governed by politeness that keeps us from other people. You don't bother me with your problems and I won't bother you with mine.

And sometimes we rationalize and think to ourselves, "Well, I don't want to be a nuisance; they have enough problems as it is without adding mine." The fact is, the church has become abysmally deficient in developing genuine community among her people. Our cult of individuality and "do it self" mentality holds community at bay. We convulse at the notion that we cannot do it ourselves.

And sometimes, we just don't want to be saddled with someone else's troubles. So what do we do? Offer a half-hearted smile, breathe a good word about God, mouth support, and tuck tail and run. Let's face it: a supportive community is an intrusive community.

By intrusive, I don't mean that you are all up in everybody's business. Having the heart to look in on people that you know are in pain is what makes Christian ministry Christian. And then shouldering that burden, owning that pain with them, and letting them piggy-back on your faith is what fosters genuine community. The pain of life sometimes simply cannot be shouldered alone.

Leah's one small sacrifice led to many others also sacrificing. When the opportunity was there to take advantage and reap a benefit at someone else's expense, her sacrifice emboldened others to do the same. That is a genuine community, a community Christ honors.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Movie Recommendation: Flywheel

This movie is from the same production house that brought us Facing the Giants, Sherwood Pictures. The movie casts Alex Kendrick, who played Coach Grant Taylor in Facing the Giants, as Jay Austin, a slick talking used car salesman who cannot turn an honest deal. He falls prey to his own deception and eventually cannot stand to even look at himself in the mirror. Ostracizing his co-workers, his wife, and lamentably his son, a turning point must eventually come and it does.

While having a classic Triumph convertible repaired, Jay becomes disgusted with himself and embarks on a journey of confession, heart-felt repentance, shame, and reconciliation. The movie has a powerful message of the transforming and life-giving power of the Gospel. Kendrick is believable as the distant, self-centered husband; almost too believable. He verbally berates his wife, ignores his son, yet his staff pseudo-respects him because he has taught them how to line their pockets with dishonest money. The turning point comes in a gripping scene where he rips his pastor off and the pastor prays with Jay before he leaves the lot. "Lord, I ask you to treat Jay the same way he has treated me in this deal."

Jay enters a spiral of self-abnegation that climaxes in a happy ending for all. Two thumbs up for the feel-good aspect of this movie! Unfortunately, as well as things turn out for Jay's family, things almost turn out too good. The climax is highly romanticized, everything perfectly orchestrated to save Jay's hide. I found the same weakness in Facing the Giants, almost a sense of entitlement that since NOW the lead characters are faithful, God will bless. It seemed to be a veiled prosperity message, that God blesses contingent upon the amount of faith you exercise. Nevertheless, Flywheel has some particularly funny scenes and the reconciliation between he and his wife was powerful, bringing tears to our eyes.

Sherwood Pictures turns out quality films on a low budget and the Christ-centered, believable, ordinary stories more than compensate for the poor acting on account of some. The film is unrated and has no questionable elements that would hinder you from watching with young children.

Image courtesy of Christian Cinema.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lousy Church Sign

I know, I know, don't say it...I found this one in town on the new "Worship Center" church (name withheld because, well, you know why.)
Don't get into debt
Act your wage
Clever! The principle is a good one, definitely, but is this the message of Christ to an unbelieving world, to get out of financial debt? I guess we are all confused as to the purpose of church signs. Scheduling? Announcements? Scripture messages? Or cute, clever tripe? It is as elusive as the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. Such as this really compromises the effectiveness of a viable point of contact with your community.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Official "I've Been Blogging a Year" Post

It seems after you have been blogging a year, it is obligatory to commemorate the event with an official post. So this is mine with a few musings about this journey, a journey I have enjoyed immensely. Today marks the anniversary of my first post. Its not a big deal to most and I will forgo reposting some of my old posts as commemoration. Its like the audio visual guy once said about four years ago; "Hey, Tony, I've got some old tapes of your sermons I am planning on throwing out. Do you want them?" Are you kidding me? Why would I want to listen to those? No way!!!

My first muse: don't expect everyone wants to read what you have to say. I expected the blog to blossom into some kind of ministry though not sure what that would look like at all. (My first post detailed that aspiration.) I don't post thematically enough, nor frequently or consistently enough really to warrant that. Plus, expecting certain posts to resonate with others is often too high an expectation. Just because something interests me doesn't mean others will be. The posts I thought would have received several comments usually molded; the ones I asked, "Why am I posting this?" generated a heavy response. Go figure. So, the blog is more of an outlet for me and a chance to make friends, grow a little, and be challenged.

Secondly: grow a thick skin. Blogging is not for the over-sensitive. I learned that quickly. There ought to be understood in good-natured debate an anticipation of passion and heated discourse without having to say over and over, "I apologize for x, y, and z." I learned to make my case, say it pointedly, not to expect the bloghost or fellow commenters to agree, and say it mannerly and courteously. Then move on.

Third: sometimes its best to say, "This isn't for me." This goes for my blog, too. I've gotten into my share of firefights. There are a plethora of opinions and I certainly have had to learn that it is better to exercise a bit of discernment and say, "This isn't for me" and move on.

Fourth: get to know bloggers before engaging them regularly. Drive-by commenters and the occasional blast from anonymous really annoy me. I think its best to try and get to know somebody first; drop a few positive comments before saying that what you think they wrote is the stupidest thing you have ever read.

Fifth: since I have been away from regular posting for a few weeks now since my son (!!!) was born, it has given me some much-needed time to think about blogging and the format I have grown accustomed to. I enjoy writing about ministry, theology, homeschooling, society and culture, contemporary Christianity, and faith and politics; a bit broad. Well, too broad. I have tried to cram too much into one blog and many of my regular readers and friends just do not know what to expect when they drop in. One of my goals for the blog has been that whenever someone drops in, that they know what they are here for. One blog has been too constricting to share all my thoughts. Some who expect theological ruminations show up on a day I have posted on faith's intersection with politics and it has hindered some from participating regularly. I don't want that!

I enjoy interacting with news articles, political machinations, and culture; basically where faith and society coincide. Plus, those comment threads tend to be pretty lively and I greatly enjoy the discussions (though some don't). So, whenever I post a response to a news article, a response to another blog post about faith and politics, or culture in general, I will use my new blog, ingeniously titled The Rambling Prophet 2. I am going to give it a try and see how it works. Perhaps this will help in expressing myself and I can write some quality stuff regarding theology and ministry here at The RP. Like a good friend from college used to say, "If the shoe fits, wear it. If it don't, kick it off and keep on goin'." I hope that you will update your blogrolls with this new blog, put it in your feeds as well as my old blog, and please, read and respond regularly.

I will continue to talk theology, ministry, church issues, and the occasional homeschooling post here at the Rambling Prophet (1?). My prayer is that both blogs will be challenging and prompt us to think more coherently about what it means to serve Him, in church and out. Moreover, both blogs will give me a better way to express myself, I think. I hope you will drop in!

To all you readers out there, thanks for a grand year.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Some More Lousy Church Signs

I know, I should consecrate a blog just for lousy church signs! These are HORRIBLE!
Do you have a G P S?

God's Plan of Salvation
For those who aren't techno-savvy, a GPS is a Global Positioning System. They are small, electronic devices that communicate with a geographical satellite to let you know your position literally anywhere on the planet. I would hazard to guess that out here in Mayberry, most folks just would not get the connection. (I mean, I post on DIAL-UP.) Got to realize your audience, folks!

The second one is one of these, "you think its hot here" signs. Temperatures soared into the mid 100's here yesterday, so the framers of this sign must have thought it apropos, though I just haven't wrapped my brain around the significance of the number yet. I post it as it is on the sign. Any ideas?
Hell is 539 deg hot.
Funny, funny stuff!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Pastor Got "Creamed"

And thus, Vacation Bible School comes to an end.

Each year during Bible School, there is a contest between the boys and girls to see who can raise the most offering. If the boys give the most, the VBS director gets a pie in the face; if the girls give the most, then yours truly gets the pie. Its funny how every summer the girls give the most (I think the contest is rigged, personally). This year, the VBS director had the great idea you see below in lieu of the yearly pie. Given that our theme was Lifeway's "Game Day" all of the offering, a few cents shy of $300, went to the county Special Olympics. All in great fun!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Two More Lousy Church Signs

In the absence of being particularly inspired to write anything of any substance, not to mention that my brain has felt like Jello since our son was born (so it isn't necessarily a lack of inspiration but rather inability) I continue to offer more local church signs that egregiously undermine the Christian message.

This one was spotted on a UMC church sign:
I guess there is a multiplicity of messages inherent here. Perhaps we should trust God simply because it says it, right there on the dollar bill (whatever the denomination). Perhaps trusting God is just as secure as "money in the bank." Perhaps there is some patriotism here that we should cling to, that the God of America is better than, say, the God of any other particular geographical region, as if God plays favorites. Or perhaps we should just ignore this sign altogether. That seems to be the wisest course of action.

And this one is for all you Arminians out there. Or Calvinists. Or, phooey, I don't know, I just cannot seem to understand this sign.
God's will is imperfect without you.
This one reminds me of the tired, old, "What's missing in CH_ _CH?" sign. If you can make heads or tails out of this one, please let me know, I'm dying to find out!