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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Filling the Spaces of Creation

This Sunday, I will be leading our Sunday School in a discussion of Genesis. This study will last for two quarters. I am excited about delving into this important book.

The first lesson will be covering the first two chapters of Genesis. Granted, that is way too much ground to cover in one session but Lifeway's material always moves a bit faster than I care to go. Nevertheless, there is still good meat to chew on in the verses we do cover.

The outline of the message is as follows:

Value the Good Environment (1:1, 31)
Appreciate Humanity's Uniqueness (1:26-28, 2:15-17)
Respect God's Plan for Marriage (2:18, 21-25)

In looking at the first 25 verses of chapter 1 and taking a closer examination of the six days of creation, one sees not only God's awesome power in creation, but God's goodness and artistry in the act of creation. One simple example of this is the order in which God created everything and the way in which Scripture records His activity. In verses 4, 7, and 9 the author of Genesis records that God separated areas to make spaces: light and dark, water above and below creating sea and sky, and then separating land from the sea creating dry land. Only after God created all these spaces did He begin to fill them in the order in which He created. In verses 16, 20 and 24 the Bible records God filling up the spaces He just created: Sun and moon and stars to fill the light and dark, birds and fish to fill the sky and seas, and animals and plants to fill the land.

Here is a graphical representation:

Click for larger picture

It is this type of observation which manifests the design of God's creation and how masterfully Scripture captures God's work. God could not create fish with no place to put them. God could not place a cow in the sea without dry land. First spaces, and then filling them.

This is not necessarily a life changing observation from the first chapter of Genesis. But it does shows that God has a purpose for His creation and His purpose is organized, at times symmetrical, and always good for His creation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Apparently, FIFTH Time's a Charm

In my previous posts (here and here) I have chronicled my adventure in fixing my Nissan 200SX. Actually, the posts were more about me waiting for the AC Compressor from the part store than the actually fixing of the car. The four hour job turned into a seven day job. The part store actually had to reorder the part FIVE TIMES! However, I was patient and after much trouble, which I will not detail here, I finally installed the part. Rita is up and kicking again.

Things I learned:
• The location of the pully adjustments to install the belts on my car. This made the job much easier than last time I removed the belts, as you may imagine.

• A part store in town I did not know about who will do whatever they can to obtain what I need to get my car working.

• How patient I can be installing the same part several time and then removing that part and taking it back to the part store.

• There are times I wish I had more money than time.

• I am getting too old to be crawling under a car all day and not feel it the next.

• My time table is rarely on God's timetable. I am not sure why I needed to not be driving my car the last week but I am sure it is the best thing for me.

• I am sure there is more but I will stop there.

Now that this burden is off my mind and I can focus on other things, I will begin to post more spiritually rewarding posts in the future. I am planning to post on some different topics: my leading our Sunday School class in the study of Genesis, some thoughts on perparing a sermon, perparing for a religious pilgrimage class, attempting to bolster PPBI enrollment, and things like that. Right now, I am just thankful that the garage is cleaned up, and we are back to being a two car family, and my car is put back together and running.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Favorite Christmas Song



This is one of my favorite holiday shows songs. These "villians" crack me up. They're too much!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Third Time's a...Pain!

In a previous post, I mentioned some problems I was having with my little Nissan 200SX. I finally was able to begin work on it yesterday. I got the car in the garage and begin tearing it apart. First of, I will mention that it looks like they dropped this engine in from a helicopter because EVERYTHING is so crammed in there you cannot do anything without taking the car half apart. Nevertheless, I took off the tire, the cowlings, and the belts (a major feat in itself) and removed the air conditioner compressor.

It is not like I need an air conditioner right now, since it is something like 27 outside. However, as stated in the previous post, the compressor was hanging up the belt and not allowing the engine to turn over fast enough to start.

I put the new part on and it fit great but the AC lines would not fit into the new compressor. I called the part store and they told me they would have the right one the next morning (meaning today, Wednesday). So, at 9:00 A.M. I headed to the part store to exchange the new compressor with the one they have (I will not mention the part store because of what follows). When we looked at the newly delivered compressor, it was not the same compressor as the one I removed.

"We can have another one here by 1:30," the man said.

So, at 1:30, I made my way to the part store again. We opened the box, and there sat a compressor. It was not the compressor I needed but a compressor nonetheless. It looked like someone at the warehouse had placed the compressor in the wrong box because the box had the right part number on it. However, the compressor had a different part number than the box had.

"We can have another one here by Friday morning, 9:30," the mand said.

On Friday morning, I will make my way down to the parts store and take a look at the forth AC compressor delivered to me and see it if works. If it does, I will have extended a four-hour job into a four-day job.

I thought three was the perfect number.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

True Students

In contrast to the previous post about learning and students (here, here, and here), I must brag about the students of Pikes Peak Bible Institute (PPBI logo on the left). I am currently teaching a class in Christian Doctrines and we were fast coming up on the end of the class sessions. Technically, we were supposed to be completed with the class in the last week of November. However, I was a few weeks behind in my instruction and needed one more week to really cover all the material I needed to cover.

The students said to me, "Can we have the class go one more week so we can learn all we need to?"

I stood there stunned not exactly sure what to say. This was great. I have never taught a class where the students said, "We would like the class to go longer." I have to laugh about my initial response because I thought, "What is going on here? Can I do that?!? Can I schedule the class around the students' desire to learn?"

So, as you can well imagine, we are schedule to go one more week than we are supposed to go. What an amazing difference!! I can see it each week. To these students, grades are almost incidental. What they desire is to become better equipped so they can serve God more effectively. They think of their class time as a application of Ephesians 4:11-16:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.(NASB)

These are true students, those who are truly interested in learning, those truly desiring education, those longing to be equipped from ministry. I will give my life in ministry to these type of students any time, for the rest of my life.

Part 4 of 4 (1 2 3 4)

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Love/Hate Relationship with Rita

Did you ever have one of those days which did not end the way you thought it would when you got up that morning. First thing this morning I received a call from a friend whose car had broken down somewhere between Colorado Springs and CaƱon City. So I packed up my toolbox and numerous supplies, got my coffee and bagel, and got in my car to go. I turned the key and rrrrr...rrrrr...rrrrr...rrrrr...rrrrr.

"You have GOT to be kidding me, Rita!"

Rita is my car. She is a 1998 Nissan 200SX SE. Here is a picture:


This not Rita but it is the same model and color. She looks just like this (click picture to see a larger .

OK...First, yes, I named my car. I know it is corny but when we first bought it my daughter was about 12 and wanted to give the car a name (she named everything at that age, it seemed like). I chose Rita, something like Really Irritating Trashy Automobile, or whatever it was I told her to make her laugh.

Secondly, and more to my point, I have not any trouble with Rita lately. None. Then, this morning when I needed to go work on a car, she said, "nope." My A.C. has not been working and I know that probably it is the A.C. compressor hanging which makes the belt hang which slows down the engine turnover and prevents the car from starting (this has happened in the past and I am about 95% sure it is the same problem again).

So, I took our Oldsmobile (no name) and finally was able to help my friend, which consisted of inspecting the car for a while and then informing my friend that I do not think I could fix it, my friend would have to have a tow-truck come and get the car, and I do not think my friend's car would make it. Unfortunately, I was right - the engine was toasted.

When I got back, I when to a variety of different part stores in Colorado Springs (AutoZone, Checkers, Advanced Auto, NAPA, etc.) No one had the parts for Rita. So, I had to order them and prepare to work on the car on Tuesday. So, I woke up with one set of plans, and those plans were immediately changed to work on one car, which could not be saved. The day ended with an all-day date with my car on Tuesday.

So I have a love/hate relationship with my car. I love it when Rita is working well. I hate it when she does not.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.18.07

Thank you, pronouns!

Albert Andreas Armadillo, on the School House Rock DVD song for pronouns.

Same Thing, Different Setting

In my previous posts (here and here) I discussed my frustrations with my desire to teach for education while many students I have recently encountered have not wanted to learn anything but were motivated by something else. In these previous posts, the motivation was grades. However, I have also encountered a resistance to learning in the church. While not motivated by grades, there is still something that blocks these people's desire to learn.

I am the discipleship director at my home church. I provide classes which adults can come and learn more about the Christian life and attempt to implement these principles in to real life (NOTE: the issue of this not being real discipleship or if this is the best way to learn the Christian life is not really the issue here. The point here is that there were classes were learning was offered to adults students).

The last two classes have not went well. The first class was on prayer. There was a DVD instructor, group discussion, and the practice of prayer. It was not the best class on prayer I have ever seen but it was teaching, discussion and practice of the topic. Most anyone should have been able to take something from the class to implement in real life. However, regardless of my efforts to direct the discussion elsewhere, most of the discussion was criticizing the DVD and how it made prayer "too complicated."

Comments like, "We should just praise God in prayer and not worry about anything else," "I watch my 4 year old granddaughter pray and that is all I need to learn about prayer," were par for the course during discussion time.

I attempted to show them that Scripture speaks of prayer in a deeper sense. There is more to prayer than what a 4 year old knows. However, it was not well received.

The next class was on living today in light of eternity. Living each day with the knowledge that our lives today will impact eternity. I think a worthwhile discussion could come from that kind of topic. However, again, most of the discussion has been a critique on the curriculum. I would agree, it is not the best, but is there anything we can take from it to impact our lives? Is there nothing salvageable from this discussion?

The problem as I see it is a critical spirit, which is something that sounds like I have right now. But, my comments here and in the previous posts have been out of concern more than out of critical-ness. Am I failing as an instructor? This is always a possibility. Is there a critical spirit in the church which must be dealth with before people can mature? Am I attempting to "scratch an itch" in the church which is not there? All of these are things I wrestle with and I do not currently know the answer.

I know every experience as an instructor/teacher/preacher cannot be the example of what a classroom should be like. However, as a teacher, I need to see a change in the people I teach. I need to see that they have learned, which means they have implemented the material in their own lives.

I will keep teaching; I will keep attempting to improve spiritually and as an instructor; I will keep attempting to teach what I believe God would have me teach. I just pray that I am impacting His Kingdom for His glory.

Part 3 of 4 (1 2 3 4)

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.16.07

WIN A PRE-PAID CREMATION

In a piece of junk mail from the Neptune Society. Backstory: On my last birthday, I began receiving mail from the Neptuen Society encouraging me to choose cremation as the way of disposing my body after I die. Not exactly the birthday I was hoping for. I have been receiving them since. Today I received this piece of mail with the chance to win the pre-paid cremation. Technically, then, this would be the funniest thing I read to day. But I did read it aloud so it was heard. Apparently, October's "winner" was Thomas A. Malone. Not sure if I should feel good or bad for him.

Teaching for Learning...NOT Grades

In my previous post I discussed my frustration with students who are not as interested in education as they are in grades, specifically those students who have something of an entitlement mentality. I said, there argument is something like this: "I have paid a lot of money to be in this class. I have shown up every week and have stayed relatively conscious. I have turned something in every time something is due. Therefore, I should receive an 'A' for the class."

When a student says something like this, I attempt to remind them of several things:

1. You are not paying for a grade but for an education...specifically, to be taught by those who have experience and training in the field they are teaching. You are essentially paying for their time to help you become better equipped to do whatever it is you are attempting to do in life.

2. Attending class and remaining conscious in class is not the requirement for an "A." That is the minimum requirement to pass the class - which is the definition of a "C".

3. I try to explain to them that if you look at the minimum requirements of the papers and other assignments and aim for the minimum requirements, do not be surprised to receive the minimum grade you can get to pass. This really outrages them for some reason. When an assignment is given that says, for example, 10 to 15 pages with 5 to 8 sources. This does not mean that any paper which has 10 pages and 5 sources is an "A" paper. It means that any paper that falls within these parameters passes with some grade. Unless the student is an extremely gifted author, the changes are those that match the minimum requirements will not be as good as those papers in which the student has gone the extra mile, looking up extra resources, writing clear statements (which may take a bit more space), and things like that. I tell if you aim for the minimum, do not be surprised with the average grade.

4. I finally tell them, "I cannot just give you points or grades. You earn them. Besides, it is more important that you have learned something in the class and not necessarily what grade you received in the class."

Most of the time, these comments fall on deaf ears.

In one class I wrote a big "C" on the board and asked the class what this grade means.

"Average," everyone said.

Then I asked them what an average paper would look like.

....Silence....

Then I said something to this effect: "When you look at the minimum requirements to pass and aim for that, you are aiming for a "C." If you paper is riddled with APA errors (which is the convention used at this school) then that is average, because the average student will not be concerned if they have APA errors or not. The "A" paper will be one in which the student strives to find the best sources, and worked hard to fulfill the requirements prescribed by the assignment. They took time to proof-read their work and looked up how to correctly cite those sources used in the paper. That is an above average paper."

The student began to complain: "If the assignment is 10-15 pages, then anyone should be able to get an "A" for any amount of pages they write in that range!" "You are saying we all cannot get an 'A' because of averages." Etc.

I tell them, "I am not talking about grade distribution. I am not talking about the number of pages dictating the grade. I am saying that probably at this level of education, the minimum amount of writing does not produce the quality which is described as 'above average.'"

We go round and round. Needless to say, I have never be the most popular teacher at this school. But that is not why I am there. I am there to challenge these students, to make them strive beyond where they are at. I am there to help them but not pander to them. I am there to teach and not to pass out good grades. I am doing no one any good if I give out A's which are not A's. That would only be cheating the student and compromising the academic integrity of the school. And I would not be faithful to my standards.

My next post will deal with how I have dealt with something similar in the church
environment and differences that creates. For now, I would just say that I am not the world's best student. I do not pretend to have "it" all down. However, I know that the instructors which were most influential in my educations where those who were toughest on my and demanded the most from me. I learned from these instructors. I pray that eventually, my students may have the same experience from sitting in one of my classes.

Part 2 of 4 (1 2 3 4)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Grades vs. Education

One of my passions is teaching adults. In general, adults who attend a class, whether in school or in church, want to learn something. Lately, however, I have been an instructor to students who do not really care to learn but, instead, are in the class to receive a grade. More specifically, they are in the class to receive an A, whether their work reflects that level of understanding or not. This is incredibly frustrating for me as an instructor. (I will be using "this student" a lot in the next few paragraphs as I do not wish to reveal anything about the students I am talking about).

I realize that part of the problem may be the result of my inadequacies as an instructor. Therefore, I am always looking for ways to improve a class, create better assignments, and sharpen my teaching skills. However, I am seeing more and more students who are not interested in learning anything from the class but are only interested in how to obtain that all-important "A".

Case in point: I just completed an Ecclesiology class at the Colorado Springs branch of a college at which I am an adjunct professor. This is a class dedicated to the understanding of the theology of the church and how the church is governed. To begin with, there was one student who had taken the class with me before but the student failed in the previous attempt to complete the class. So this was the students second time around. I told this student, "DO NOT turn in the papers I graded last time for this class! That would be self-plagiarism and would carry serious consequences." However, by week 2 of the class, this student was copying work from the previous class and turning it for a grade...again. This student did this for almost every assignment in class. This meant that each assignment failed the meet the criteria AND I turned in the work to the center director so that they could take action on it. This student was not interested in receiving an education; this student was interested in receiving a grade with as little work as possible. This student did receive a grade but not the one he or she was hoping for.

Another student in the same class was almost panicking because this student received a "C" on a major research paper. And that is exactly what it earned. It was not above average in its observations or its errors. It was average and so that is the grade this student earned. This student nearly went ballistic when the student saw the grade and immediately starting to ask for extra-credit. This student's comment was, "I have to redeem myself. I have never failed a paper before." These comments baffled me as I attempted to explain to the class that a "C" is good grade and it is not failing. However, for many adults students there are two grades: A and F. If they do not get an A on a paper or in the class, in their minds, they have failed. I should note that after I assigned the extra-credit assignment, this student did not really fulfill the requirements of the assignment (which is technically the definition of a "D") and ended up with a "C" on the extra-credit assignment (I showed too much grace, I know). My point is, I am not sure this student learned anything about the church and I do not know if this student knows the material in the class impacts this student every Sunday. But at least this student received a "B" in the class (there were other assignments which this student stepped up the quality of work and with the extra-credit pulled a "B" out of the class - which I am sure disappointed this student).

Another student in the same class attempted the extra-credit assignment because this student was very concerned they were 1/2 of a degree point between a B+ and an A-. Now, I do believe that this student did learn something in the class but it seems to be quite a lot of work to make sure you get that all-important "A" (the extra-credit assignment was reading an 18-page article and then writing a summary about that article). When this student turned the assignment, it was almost completely plagiarized from the article. In the first two pages of the assignment there were maybe 10 to 12 sentences which were original. The rest were directly from the article with no citations.

I told this student that, first, I would not accept this paper and if I did accept it, I would have to turn it into the office for plagiarism violations. Secondly, I usually round up to the nearest whole number, which means even without the extra-credit, this student would receive an A- (the other assignments were great and I am not sure what possessed this student to do this on the extra-credit).

These students were all Juniors or Seniors when counting their credit hours and they all should have known better. I expect this type of thing from adults who have not been in school since 1974. But these students had been in this particular program for at least a couple of years.

I could go on but I will not. My point is, I have seen more and more students with the entitlement mentality.There argument is something like this: "I have paid a lot of money to be in this class. I have shown up every week and have stayed relatively conscious. I have turned something in every time something is due. Therefore, I should receive an 'A' for the class."

My next post will deal with my response to these type of students. For now, I just would like to say that I frustrated with struggle between students wanting a grade instead of an education. I know I am not the only instructor who deals with this but is frustrating nonetheless.

Part 1 of 4 (1 2 3 4)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Out of Print Gold

I have several things that have been on my mind lately. Most of them have to do with teaching and lack of receptivity in students, which I have experienced lately. I want to post these thoughts but there is some development I need to work on before I post them. However, there is one thing that I have been thinking about.

In my never-ending search for good books, I have come across some great books which are now out-of-print. It breaks my heart because they are exactly the kind of thing I would love to give every student I have in my bible classes. Here are three of them:

1. The Discovery Bible New Testament, Gary Hill & Gleason Archer, ISBN: 0-8024-4162-9

This is a resource (that is code for "book") that I use for bible study a lot of the time. It has a feature called H.E.L.P.S. in it. H.E.L.P.S. stands for Hill Emphatic Language Pointer System. In short, it is a way that anyone can gain understanding of the impact of the Greek language on a passage without really knowing anything about Greek.

The front cover is a little bland but the back shows a little how this system works. If you look at the back cover and then the sample page you can get an idea of how this book works (click on image to see a larger view). This is a great resource.

If I could find these for anywhere from 5 to 10 dollars, I would buy as many as I could and give them out to every student in the hermeneutics class I teach. If anyone knows where there is a cache of these, please let me know.

2. Strong's Concordance (Paperback), ISBN: 0-8010-8108-4
This resource is not as unique as handy. This is a complete and unabridged version of Strong's, but this is not the size of a small car, like most Strong's Concordances are. This one's dimensions are 7" wide by 9 1/2" tall by 1 1/2" thick. I would like to find these for 5-10 dollars as well and give them to every serious bible student I meet. Again, you may already have a Strong's, but this one is light, small, and easy to take with you wherever you go.


3. The Letters of John the Apostle: An In-depth Commentary , Donald Burdick, ISBN: 0-8024-2356-6
This last out-of-print nugget is not for general study but for John's epistles. I would not give this out to everyone, but I would suggest it to anyone wanting to do a deep study of the Johannine epistles. The point is, it is valuable resource which is no longer in print (Amazon used books has it listed for $109.00!! I think I got it for about $14.00!).

I am sure the valuable "out-of-print" book list would not even include these books. However, I think they are "gold, Jerry. Gold!"

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.12.07

You lousy bunch of bleeding hearts.

Juror #3, played by Lee J. Cobb, in Twelve Angry Men

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chocolate Biscuits - Take 1

My wife has many allergies which makes it hard for her to eat any pre-prepared food. So instead of getting her chocolates or cookies and things liek that, I try to show her how much I love her by making food for her. Consequently, I am becoming quite the cheif/baker/cook. She bought a cookbook entitled, "Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook and in that cookbook is a recipe for plain biscuits that I am getting pretty good at making. However, this evening, I was thinking that I would like to try to make chocolate biscuits, something that I have never heard of before. So, using the plain biscuit recipe as the base, I attempted to create chocolate biscuits with the things Rhonda can eat. Here is my first attempt:
1 cup - sifted flour
2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - salt
3 tblsp - cocoa
1/2 cup - sugar
4 tblsp - butter
1/2 cup - milk

400° for about 17 minutes (high altitude)

They came out pretty good. They tasted like chocolate cake cookies, but not really biscuits. I think I need to make the following adjustments:
• Increase flour to 1½ or 2 cups. It was pretty sticky trying to get the dough to roll out with a roller.
• Increase baking powder to 2½ or 3 tsp. They did not really rise at all. However, I am assuming that the sugar hinders the rising.

The flavor was good. If anyone out there is a baker and can give me any suggestions, let me know. I do not want a cake but something like a biscuit but chocolate.

That is "Take 1." I will adjust and see what happens.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Visual Eschatology

I have been teaching a class for Pikes Peak Bible Institute called Christian Doctrines. It is a systematic theology class. The class follows the following outline:
Revelation
Theology - The study of God
Anthropology - The study of humans
Harmatology - The study of sin
Christology - The study of Christ
Pneumatology - The study of the Spirit
Soteriology - The study of salvation
Ecclesiology - The study of the Church
Eschatology - The study of end things

I just finished the final lesson plan and found some nice graphics that summarize the different views of the Millennium and the Tribulation. I found them in Van Kampen's book, The Sign. While I do not think I hold to Van Kampen's view (I am still in the process of studying Scripture and the various views regarding end times), he does have some nice graphics which sum up these issues.

I wanted to use these in my PowerPoint slides for the class and scanning the graphs into a document would not have produced a nice looking graph. So I recreated them in Word. And I including them below.

Click on each picture to view the full size image:

Different Views of the Millennium


Different Views of the Tribulation


I will reiterate these are not original in content but I wanted to make this available to others. I hope they are helpful. You can download these graphs by clicking on the pictures above, right clicking on the image which appears in the new window, and then choosing "Save Picture As..." from the menu option.

I do not know exactly where I stand on the different views represented but at least I can share what I know about the various views.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Incarcerated Freedom

This last weekend my pastor, Ron, and I drove to Sayer, Oklahoma, to make a ministry visit to a guy in prison. It was a medium security prison and was quite an adventure. We walked up to the door in which we were to enter the prison and pressed the intercom button.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

"Ron Watkins and Rolland Kenneson to see Jason" and we gave the last name (I will leave the last name out but just know we had to tell them who we were visiting).

Bzzzz. The door began to open and we walked into a cage. The door shut and we were now in the prison system. The cage first had a mesh fence which had signs on it warning that it was an electric fence. This mesh was attached to a chain-linked fence. Outside of that was razor wire.

We walked to the other side of the cage and pressed the next intercom button.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

"Visitors for Jason."

Bzzz. We walked into a nice courtyard and into a building. After emptying our pockets, walking shuffling through a metal detector, and being padded down, we were able to go to the next door and intercom button.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

"Visitors" was what we were told to say for this door. We walked through this door and then waited at yet another door for the prison guard to open the door from the inside. This time she buzzed.

"IDENTIFY" the voice said.

The guard gave her name and we were suddenly in the visitation room waiting for Jason to be brought out to us. When he came, we spent around 4 hours talking with him. At one point, we begin to turn the conversation to spiritual issues. Jason has been taking bible classes while in prison and sounds as if he is truly being changed.

He said, "You know, if you think about it, I have been in prison since I was thirteen, when I began to drink and get into drugs and stuff. It was not until I was sitting with my lawyer as he gave me the plea bargain of my sentence that I realized I needed to change. Now I see that I needed something to wake me up. Prison did it."

I asked him, "So your incarceration set you free?"

"Yeah. I guess so."

This brought to mind two things. First, it reminds me of Romans 6:19-22, especially verse 22:
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

We all were enslaved or inprisoned from birth, not just since we were thirteen. But,
He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
.
The second thing I think of is Steven Curtis Chapman's song, Free:
The sun was beating down inside the walls of stone and razor wire
As we made our way across the prison yard
I felt my heart begin to race as we drew nearer to the place
Where they say that death is waiting in the dark
The slamming doors of iron echoed through the halls
Where despair holds life within its cruel claws
But then I met a man who's face seemed so strangely out of place
A blinding light of hope was shining in his eyes
And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said...

I'm free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I'm free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I've been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I'm free
Jesus set me free

We said a prayed and said goodbye and tears began to fill my eyes
As I stepped back out into the blinding sun
And even as I drove away I found that I could not escape
The way he spoke of what the grace of God had done
I thought about how sin had sentenced us to die
And how God gave His only Son so you and I could say...

And if the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free indeed,
Oh, You are really free
If the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free, really, really free

Oh, we're free, yearh, oh, we have been forgiven
God's grace has broken every chain and given us these wings
And we're free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we're free, yeah, the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Becayse we're free, oh, we're free
We are free, we are free
The Son has set us free

If the Son has set you free
You are free indeed


My visit was not near as dramatic as the lyrics of this song. However, the thoughts in my mind were similar. Walking out of that prison with my freedom while others trodded back to their cells to wait another 5, 10, 40 years is a sobering thought. To get out, we faced the same voice through the buzzers and were only let out because our name was on the list of those who could leave.

This is what has happened spiritually. We were in prison and God sent his Son to rescue us. In fact, the early church fathers believed Matt. 12:29 to be in reference to salvation. Jesus came into the house and bound the strongman and then led the captives free, but only those who have trusted in Him. Those who are identified as His.

How about you? Are you inprisoned and wanting freedom? Press the button and answer the question:

"IDENTIFY"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.4.07

...and if it falls out, it is free!

The Dairy Queen employee from Shamrock, Texas, in reference to her turning the blizzards upside down.

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.3.07

...and across the street you can eat at the combination Mexican restaurant/laundry mat.

My pastor, Ron, about a restaurant we saw in Texline, Texas.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Staying in Tune

The other day our daughter had a band concert. Every year Colorado Springs Christian School's High School Concert Band goes to specific high school in the area and they have a concert together. It was a really nice concert and they sounded great.

Usually, our school (CSCS) has concerts in their gymnasium, which as everyone knows are the worst kind of room for acoustics. Additionally, the band teacher forces every parent to sit through fifth grade band, sixth grade band, seventh and eighth grade band, high school band, and jazz band. The concerts are usually around 2 hours long and everyone is sitting on bleachers or plastic folding chairs. I love hearing my daughter preform but becoming crippled in the process is not the best time I have ever had. I will not even talk about when they combine all the above with the corresponding choirs (Can I get an "Amen", Mark?).

However, the venue for this concert was an old school theater. It had the nice padded seats and it was built for acoustics. The CSCS band sounded great! The other band was good but something about their performance was not as impressive, and not just because my daughter is the CSCS band. I was considering this for a while. The second band had some fantastic individual players. They had a huge number of students in the band. Their director was obviously accomplished. What was it that made the difference?

Then I remembered something that happened before each band played. When the second band got up to play, one individual played a single note and then the rest of the band played the same note. They held it for a while and then they were done. This was presumably the tuning. This is somewhat an imprecise way of tuning an entire band. First of all, it assumes the lone-note player was in tune to begin with. If this person is out of tune, and the entire band tunes themselves to this player, then the entire band will be off.

Second, it assumes that everyone else playing the note is playing to make sure they are in tune and not just playing the note because that is just what they do. I am sure someone on that stage knows that before the conductor comes out someone will play a note and I will play a note and then we will get started. I am sure the concept of tuning has been lost to this individual.

Finally, it assumes that each person has the ear to hear if their instrument is out of tune. It is hard to tune an instrument with just the ear if you are not regularly practicing how to do that and listening for the harmonics. I am not sure every one of these high schoolers had that ability.

In contrast to this, the CSCS band directors had tuners and went to each individual in the band and tuned them to the tuner. It took much longer but each player's instrument was tuned to the correct pitch. They did not have to check their tuning with the person sitting beside them because they all were tuned to the same thing. Once the individual tuning was accomplish, the director ran them through a scale. No tunings, no problem. Their scale was fantastic. Their music was the best I had ever heard them play. It was truly a beautiful concert.

This reminds me of the church. Too many times in the church we have one person blaring some discordant note and then others in the body begin to "tune" their thoughts and beliefs to this out-of-tune teaching. The leader of the church proclaims something they believe is truth but is in actuality "out of tune." Then, the entire congregation is tempted to hold to the same untruth. Then when the body stands together and "performs" for their community, it is less than satisfying.

Either that, or like the band, people just uncritically repeat what they heard. They are not worried about "tuning" but instead just make the noise when they are supposed to. They are told to play and they play without concern for the proper tone. Or, there are people in these churches who want to be in tune but need to develop the skill to do so. However, if they are never taught how, they unfortunatly never learn how to distinguish the right tone from the tone which is off just a tad.

The trend now-a-days is jettison the concept of truth out the newarest window and teach that everyone should feel free to interpret Scripture in their own context and hold to what they feel is right. This produces a noisy, off-pitch church.

What the church must do is have every individual tune their beliefs, thoughts, wills to the one true tone: the Word of God, the Truth. We are not to align our lives to match those around us but to the one true example of Jesus revealed to us in Scripture. Then when church attempts to reach out to those who are lost, they hear the beautiful melodies, the rich bass lines, and the intriguing harmonies.

Just as the note middle A is 440 hertz and not up to every musician to decide what it sounds like, truth is NOT decided on by what feels right or sounds good. Truth is what lines up with Scripture. When each believer stays in tune, that is, looks to the truth and aligns their life to its teachings, then the resultant church will be an enjoyable thing to behold.

I hope the point is not lost and the illustration clear enough. In short, I guess I can just say, there is something about the desire to stay in tune.

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.1.07

Ha Ha...wait a minute!

My daughter, Jessica, after she realized I was talking to her and not the dog.