Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Party Tithe

So I’ve heard (and given) quite a few sermons on generosity, specifically on giving to the community of faith that you belong to. I know that sometimes the perception of organized religion is one of a money-making business, and stories about Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple (or reading any of the prophets for that matter) help give me perspective any time I am going to talk about sharing our wealth with the local church.

But I am never going to stop talking about generosity in the context of community. I believe so much, not just in the local church, but that we are in line with the character of God the most when we are being generous.I think that’s true of our churches as well. Churches should be just as generous to the world as they hope their members are toward the church. Because I think one of the most formative thing a person, or community can do, is to give toward a common mission.


There have been times in my life when I see a Christian driving a Mercedes, or going to Hawaii, or eating at an expensive restaurant, and I’ve immediately thought poorly of them. Most of the time it’s because I cannot afford to do those things. But I would never say that. I would always say that I’m offended on behalf of the poor. There are millions of people dying because of lack of access to clean water, but go ahead, enjoy your $100 steak.

I have issues, I know.

In the book of Leviticus, God is adamant about this new group of slaves learning to party. So entire book is really a party planning manual. For every season there is a feast of celebration. But none of them are as big as the Passover. It is, after all, the time of year that they are celebrating the day that everything changed. When they said no to the Pharaoh. No more bricks for God’s people. God stood up to Egypt, and when God stands up there is no army in the world that can make him sit down. So every year, the Israelites would have a huge celebration. And if you were a Jew, and  you didn’t go to the Passover party, you would be subject to the penalty of death.

Which can put a bit of a damper on the party spirit. Continue reading The Party Tithe

Cantus Firmus


So this is one of my favorite pictures to stumble across in the past year. It’s kind of self-explanatory and kind of awesome.

Because what would make a soldier, one who’s obviously on some kind of mission or assignment, loaded to the teeth, stop to play piano?

This weekend at Highland, I shared one of my favorite Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes. It was after he had stood up to Hitler and been thrown in prison. He was awaiting execution and writing letters. And in one of them this is what he wrote:

God wants us to love him eternally with our whole hearts -not to such a way as to injure or weaken our earthly love, but to provide a kind of cantus firmus to which the other melodies of life provide the counterpoint.  One of the themes…is earthly affection…It’s a good thing that the (Song of Songs) is in the Bible, in face of all those who believe that the restraint of passion is Christian…Where the cantus firmus is clear and plain, the counterpoint can be developed to its limits…Only a polyphony of this kind can give life a wholeness and at the same time assure us that nothing calamitous can happen as long as the cantus firmus is kept going…Rely on the cantus firmus.

In the days of Gregorian chant, the Cantus Firmus was the bass line, the center, and all the parts could be added onto that. These parts could adapt and shift as long as the Cantus Firmus, the solid song, this enduring melody, remained stable.  Continue reading Cantus Firmus

You’ve Got to Fight For Your Right…

So this set of blog posts kind of goes hand in hand with the previous ones I’ve written for the past few weeks. And here’s what I mean by that.

According to James Hunter, the landscape of American politics have shaped and captured the identity and imagination of most of Western Christianity. We think often in terms of changing the world to ensure that it reflects our image on the culture. So we lobby and posture to gain credibility and influence in politics, meanwhile history proves that there are much more effective ways to enact change. And they’re a lot more fun. And a lot closer to the Gospel story.

Because at the heart of the Gospel is a story about a God who is reconciling all parts of Creation back to Himself. The young and old, the rich and poor, the oppressed and the oppressor are all going to be a part of the new thing that God is doing in the age to come. There is not a single sin or a single sinner who is beyond the scope of God’s grace.

And that’s why they call it good news.

In Luke 14 and 15, within the course of two chapters there are nine different parties mentioned. They are celebrating lost things being found, separated people being reconciled, they are eating and playing music and dancing, all to the tune of the Kingdom of God. But…If you were to just read the Gospel of Luke, and then walk into your average American church you might be a bit confused.

You might find yourself wondering things like where are the feasts? Or the dancing, or for that matter, the sinners?

I read about a survey recently that asked Americans what they thought when they heard the word “Chocolate Cake” or “Heavy Cream” When the average American heard Chocolate Cake, they immediately thought “guilt,” when they heard the words Heavy Cream they immediately thought “Unhealthy.”

But then the same survey was done with the French, and they had a very different take on these words.  When French people heard Heavy Cream they thought “Whipped” and when they heard Chocolate Cake they thought, “celebration.”

In other words, when Americans think of parties and celebrations they think almost immediately of guilt. They feel bad for celebrating. But that is a foreign idea to the writers of Scripture. Continue reading You’ve Got to Fight For Your Right…

Highland on Twitter

So this is the video we showed yesterday at Church. This was a blast to make with our staff, thanks to Suzetta, Ben, Brandon and Sarah for helping to make this. For some reason they found it very natural to act annoyed at me, I think they may be pulling from deep waters there.

Obviously, It is totally divorced from reality, there’s no way I would be this obvious about self-promotion. I’m much more subtle than this. Continue reading Highland on Twitter


So I’ve been pretty swamped this week and haven’t had much time to write. Next week I plan on starting a new blog series for a few weeks about Jesus and celebrations but for this week I’d like to share this.

This is a video that we showed at Highland a few weeks ago as we kicked off the new series EXTRAS. I read an article last year about the myriad of people who are in front of the cameras but behind the scenes in all of your favorite films and TV Shows. Most of them will never get discovered, they work hard and are paid little. And the question that kept coming back to me was…”Why? Why would anyone do this?”

So that’s what I went to find out. I’ll write more about my experience after I get further along in the series at Highland, but I will say this. I will never read the Bible the same way. There are hundred of tiny characters in the Holy plot of the Scriptures who just show up for a sentence or two and faithfully play their role to advance the story. They never knew how or if they would be remembered, but the story couldn’t go on without them.

I’d also like to point out that I am doing this series with one of my best friends in ministry Josh Graves, and that experience alone has been worth everything. There is something about having someone studying and praying and writing and dreaming together that makes ministry and its fruit so much richer. I don’t ever want to do a series again by myself. Continue reading EXTRAS

Separation for Church and State

When I was young we had a nice woman come and knock on our door campaigning for herself to be the new Saline County Treasurer. She was kind and bubbly, and she asked me if I would help her win.

I was 10.

But I said yes. Actually, my friend and I went up and down both of our streets knocking on doors and handing out yard signs and bumper stickers for her. We even had learned a few of her talking points as we tried to convince others to take up our righteous cause. It was intoxicating, to say the least. In fact, she really just got us started down the road of political action.She was the gateway politician for us. 2 years later my friend and I would get out the phone book and call every single person in the Benton area to vote for George H.W. Bush’s re-election against Clinton.

On the night of the election, we gathered with in the Republican Headquarters of Benton and waited as the results came in. We were devastated when they did. Clinton had won, and Saline County had even voted for him. Who would have thought that two 12 year old boys making un-authorized phone calls for Bush wouldn’t have worked?

And that’s kind of the end of my political activity. I’ve voted and had heated conversations just like the next person, but I’ve tried to stop putting as much weight as I used to on the political system. I’m still glad that we have public servants who (hopefully) try to work hard and honestly to serve their constituents. But I am a preacher and so my concerns are now quite different than the American government. They are much smaller, and much more important, and still somewhat tied together. Continue reading Separation for Church and State