Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prodigal God: Redefining Sin

Here is this morning's sermon and the two graphs I used. The top graph is not original. I redid it so people could see it better. Listen here.

Here is Luke 15 from the Message:

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, "He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends." Their grumbling triggered this story.

Then he said, "There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, 'Father, I want right now what's coming to me.'

"So the father divided the property between them. It wasn't long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

"That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father.

"When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.'

"But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' And they began to have a wonderful time.

"All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day's work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, 'Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.'

"The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't listen. The son said, 'Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!'

"His father said, 'Son, you don't understand. You're with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he's alive! He was lost, and he's found!'"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Self-Disclosure, Humor, and Preaching

Self-disclosure can be way to preach in one’s own voice and a way to inject humor in a manner that is authentic. Self-disclosure is the verbal and non-verbal revelation of the speaker’s feelings, values, and/or personal experiences (Arthurs and Gurevich 215). It is defined as communication of “self-content that is intentionally directed at another person, and contains information generally unavailable from other sources” (Rosenfeld & Kendrick 326). Self-disclosure and humor can form a powerful team because some of the best and most relevant humor often comes from real life stories (Bolton 91 and Pinsky 226). Practically no part of modern life is unaffected by stories (Cahill 39). Stories have many functions including helping the listener remember important things, helping solve problems, sharing experiences with others, and creating community (Seymour 24-32). Excellent supportive material for sermons can come from our life and our observations (Willimon 56-57 and Tucker 69-71). Laughing at oneself can display that the preacher is emotionally and spiritually healthy. Haddon Robinson writes about possible benefits of combining self-disclosure and humor, "Humor at your own expense, if not used too often, can be a way of getting people to respond. We like people who laugh at themselves, because they are saying, `What I am talking about is very serious, but I don't take myself too seriously"' (Hybels, Briscoe, and Robinson 134). Self-disclosure is form of communication found in the Bible (Craddock 208) and can be an effective vehicle to share the Gospel for contemporary Christian communicators (Morganthaler 155, Moore 191-2, and Bausch 68-70).

Although self-disclosure may be present in the Bible and is present in many of today’s sermons—the use of self disclosure is a controversial issue in contemporary homiletics (Eslinger 95). David Buttrick writes against the use of self-disclosure, “To be blunt, there are virtually no good reasons to talk about ourselves from the pulpit” (Buttrick 142). He notes that self-disclosure splits consciousness, reveals character flaws, can cover for the speaker’s insecurity, and may breach confidence (142-3). Taking the opposite view is Bruce Salmon who writes, “The best help we can offer is our own woundedness and a description of what has saved and healed us” (54). Each preacher does have a personal experience with Jesus Christ and this experience is essential for the preacher who is a Christian witness (Stott Preacher’s Portrait 74). Both power and danger exist in using self-disclosure. Balance is a desirable attribute when using self-disclosure in preaching (Long 177, Brown-Taylor 79, Littauer and Littauer 104-5, Stowell 143-4, and Craddock 208-9).

Simple rules exist for effective use of self-disclosure: do not be the hero or a victim, do not break pastoral confidences, do not embarrass a friend or family member, do not over use personal interests, and do not use the sermon as a confessional (Long 177, Foss 168, Barnette 6, Brown-Taylor 79, Wilson 161-2, Arthurs and Gurevich 222-3, Morgan 109, R. Allen 30, and Eslinger 95-100). Although Buttrick’s position of using no self-disclosure in generally disregarded in the field of contemporary homiletics, an opposite danger of using self-disclosure too often can signify that the preacher is maladjusted and preoccupied with self (Downs, Javidi, and Nussbaum 139). Self-disclosure more healthy when the gospel is reported through the lens of the preacher’s life, rather than focusing on the preacher’s life (McClure 122-4).

The use of humor in self-disclosure can be acceptable and even desirable because the ability of the preacher to laugh at himself or herself shows humility (Demaray 68, Long 16, Brown, Robinson, and Willimon 51, McClure 52, Miller 57 and Gritsch 177). Humility is having a real and honest evaluation of self—not thinking more of oneself than is accurate or appropriate (Cloud 146). Humility, the opposite of pride, is central to knowing and teaching the truth (P. Palmer 108 and Piper 162-6). In addition to humility, appropriate self-disclosure can also form a type of empathy that elicits trust (Franklin 52 and Miller 56). This is important in the American culture that values personality over office as a source of ethos (Marquart 159). Self-disclosure, with or without humor, should always be presented in a manner of humility (Foss 168) that shines the spotlight on God (Sjogren 19). The point of self-disclosure must be to point others to God and not self (Brueggemann 42 and Arthurs and Gurevich 223). Self-disclosure done with personal humility is helpful in developing relational solidarity (Nash 87 and Martoia 125-27) and ethos (Collins 22-3 and Arthurs and Gurevich 220).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympics and Life

I enjoy watching the Olympics. Curling is my favorite. It is an intriguing combination of chess, bowling, shuffleboard, horseshoes, and cleaning the kitchen floor. It requires an amazing degree of precision and teamwork. The biathlon is fascinating to me. A cross country ski race with a few pit stops to shoot a rifle at a tiny target that sits 50 meters away. I can’t imagine the focus and dexterity required to have such precision with one’s heart racing 170 beats per minute. The downhill ski races are cool – especially the ones with four people racing at a time. Short-track speed skating, ski jumping, the bobsled, and hockey. I love them all.

Sports are a metaphor for life:

  • The curler has vision. The champions are thinking three to four moves ahead. And so it is with life.
  • The cross-country skier has the uphill. He or she races to the top. The breathing becomes labored. The heart pounds as the muscles cry out for oxygen. The thighs burn. The champions beat the hill. To others the hill wins. In life, we can overcome or be overcome by the hills we face.
  • Hockey is about teamwork. An assist is just as important as scoring a goal.
  • The snowboarders on the half-pipe know that by taking a risk there is a pretty good chance they will land on their butt. They also know that risk is the only way they have a chance at winning a medal.
  • The bobsledders and the lugers know that that a fast time only happens with a series of good decisions with no errors in judgment. Character and trust are like that too: they take a while to build and can be eliminated with one simple mistake.
  • The outcome in figure skating is objective and not subjective. In speed skating, the skater with the fastest time wins. The clock is observable. It is always fair. In figure skating, the results are subjective to the opinion of the judges. The outcome isn’t always fair. Sometimes life is objective. The third graders taking a spelling test is an example of this. But, life is usually subjective and therefore imperfect because the people we are in relationships with are imperfect.
Vision, challenges, teamwork, risk, integrity – this is the stuff life is made of. Sometimes life is fair. We get what we deserve. Sometimes life isn’t so fair. We get less or we get more than we deserve.

God gives us a vision for our lives. He helps us overcome challenges. He provides others for us to do life with. He picks us up when we fall and celebrates with us when we succeed. He leads us on a path of integrity. And, God gives us grace – we get more than we deserve from a benevolent God who created us, sustains us, and will save us.

The best is yet to come…


Thursday, February 25, 2010

March Bible Reading Plan

March's Bible reading plan focuses on the Holy Words from our Wednesday night worship experiences. The next 31 days will allow us to investigate God's Word and put into practice some biblical principles in major areas of our lives. I encourage you to use the SOAP method of reading the Bible found at the bottom of the page.


March 1 - Ephesians 3 – Focus on verses 14 to 21

March 2 - Isaiah 43 – Focus on verses 1 to 4

March 3 - Romans 14 – Focus on verses 1 to 3

March 4 - Romans 15 – Focus on verses 7 to 9


March 5 - Romans 3 – Focus on verses 23 to 24

March 6 - Romans 5 – Focus on verses 18 to 21

March 7 - Proverbs 1 – Focus on verses 10 to 19

March 8 - Isaiah 40 – Focus on verses 27 to 31


March 9 - Romans 7 – Focus on verses 11 to 13

March 10 - Joshua 3 – Focus on verse 5

March 11 - 2 Peter 1 – Focus on verses 5 to 7

March 12 - Philippians 4 – Focus on verses 8 and 9


March 13 - Exodus 3 – Focus on verses 7 to 9

March 14 - Psalm 146 – Focus on verses 7 to 8

March 15 - Amos 5 – Focus on verses 21 to 24

March 16 - Proverbs 11 – Focus on verses 1 to 5


March 17 - Luke 6 – Focus on verse 36

March 18 - Colossians 3 – Focus on verses 12 to 13

March 19 - Matthew 5 – Focus on verse 7

March 20 - Micah 6 – Focus on verse 8


March 21 - Matthew 11 – Focus on verses 28 to 30

March 22 - Luke 22 – Focus on verses 24 to 27

March 23 - Romans 12 – Focus on verses 3, 10, and 16

March 24 - Philippians 3 – Focus on verses 12 and 13


March 25 - Philemon 1 – Focus on the entire chapter

March 26 - Matthew 18 – Focus on verses 21 to 35

March 27 - Acts 13 – Focus on verses 38 and 39

March 28 - Isaiah 1 – Focus on verses 16 to 18


March 29 - John 3 – Focus on verse 16

March 30 - John 10 – Focus on verse 10

March 31 - 2 Corinthians 5 – Focus on verse 17

Complete the "S" by reading the scripture. Don't just skim through it, but really think about what it means. Imagine what the people involved were experiencing. Write down a verse or two that really stood out to you in your journal.

Complete the "O" by writing down observations about the scripture you just read. You may want to write your own summary of the passage, but more importantly, think about what God has to say to you through this part of his word.

Complete the "A" by writing down how this Bible passage applies to you right now, in your daily life. For example, in the parable about the prodigal son, which character do you identify with most: the loving and merciful father, the son who squanders his life and then repents or the resentful older brother? Do you see similar situations in your life right now? How can you respond in the way Jesus taught?

Complete the "P" by writing down a prayer. This is a personal message from you to God, so don't worry about getting the perfect words down. Just make it honest and heartfelt. Remember that God always listens, and already knows your needs. He just wants to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Church Leadership Stuff

I spoke at a Men's Leadership Event on Saturday. Hope you find something in here useful.
Things This Pastor Wishes Every Man in His Church Believed and Practiced
  1. No substitute exists for Christian character. It takes a lifetime to develop. It takes seconds to lose.
  2. Prayer works. We can do more with God than we can do without God.
  3. Reading the Bible gives you a Christian worldview. Read it daily.
  4. Inviting a neighbor, friend, and / or co-worker to worship, men’s group, or a serving team is the simplest and most effective way to share your faith.
  5. God wants to use you in ministry to somebody in your community and / or somebody in your church.
  6. Laughter and fun is God’s idea. Embrace it.
  7. Be a spiritual leader in your home.
  8. Give a little bit if you can give a little bit. Give generously if you can give generously.
  9. Invest in the next generation.
  10. No substitute exists for Christian character. It takes a lifetime to develop. It takes seconds to lose.
  • What on this list is easy for you? What comes naturally for you?
  • What on this list is a challenge for you?
  • Which of these items are you willing to commit to growing in the next 12 months?
  • How are you going to commit to growing in this new practice?
  • Who are you going to commit to growing with?
Things to Know About Younger Men
  1. Most younger men enjoy playing and watching sports.
  2. Most younger men are pretty busy.
  3. Most younger men are interested in spiritual things, but not interested in taking the first step to do something about it.
  4. Most younger men want to be good husbands.
  5. Most younger men want to be good fathers.
  6. Most younger men want to serve their community / church in some way, but they generally need to be asked.
  7. Most younger men want to belong to something.
  8. Most younger men want to become something.
  9. Most younger men have a certain level of discontent in their lives.
  10. All younger men long for the things that God gives: forgiveness from the past, power in the present, and hope for the future.
  • Does this list change the way that you may look at Men’s Ministry in the future? If so, how does your outlook on men’s ministry change?
  • Which of these needs is your current men’s ministry / church fulfilling?
  • Which of these needs would be easy for your church, men’s ministry, or you personally to do something about to reach out to men in your church and your community?
  • What is the next step you need to take to share your faith with a man in your community or invite a man in your church to grow or serve with you?
Ways to Make Sure You Fail in Small Group Ministry
  1. Don’t engage God. Just talk about sports, the weather, politics, etc…
  2. Don’t teach people how to pray. Don’t pray for and with each other. And definitely don’t pray for lost and hurting people.
  3. Don’t meet people where they are. Expect perfection from others right away.
  4. Get really discouraged when your group takes off slowly. And don’t be open to new people either. Your group doesn’t need any more diversity.
  5. Don’t invite new people to come. Put a little advertisement in the church newsletter and threaten to leave the church if the pastor doesn’t announce your small group in worship.
  6. Start your group with a study of something simple, like the Book of Revelation or the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism.
  7. Don’t serve together.
  8. Don’t do stuff like have lunch together or go to sporting events together. Keep church stuff separate from your everyday life.
  9. Don’t share the leadership. Do it all yourself.
  10. Don’t seek help from somebody who is a proven leader in small group ministry. You can do it all by yourself!
  • Are you in a small group? How is it going for you?
  • How have you benefited from being in a small group in the past?
  • What is keeping you from starting a small group or rethinking your existing small group?
  • What are the next steps you need to take start a small group or move your current small group to the next level?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Done

I emailed my dissertation to my mentor Friday. Saturday is was approved so I will defend it in April and graduate on May 22nd. There is still some work to do, but this is the biggest step in the process.

I mailed it to the editor today. Here are a few beautiful pictures.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Preaching, Humor, and Affective Learning

From my paper:

Affectus refers to the dimensions of emotions, feelings, and passions (Dreyer 259). Affective learning is considered a valuable stimulus for a person's eagerness to learn and utilize the material and competencies beyond the learning environment (Rubin, Palmgreen, and Sypher 81). One danger in Christianity is believing, but not practicing Christianity (Cousins 172-3). An essential goal of preaching is a deepened appreciation for God’s truth and a more faithful response to obedience to God (K. Anderson 110). Affective learning includes people's attitudes toward the recommended behavior of the sermon, the content and subject matter of the sermon, the preacher, and the likelihood of actually attempting to engage in behaviors recommended in the sermon.

Instructional communication research demonstrates a positive correlation between humor orientation and affective learning. College students indicated that they are likely to learn more from professors with high perceived humor orientations than they are from professors with low humor orientations (Wanzer and Frymier 57). Perceived high humor orientation is also correlated to immediacy, which is defined as physical or psychological closeness (Gorham and Christophel 46). More immediate teachers tend to use more humor and engender more learning (60). Students pay more attention to instructors with high humor orientation and are more likely to attend and participate in class when humor is frequently used (Neuliep 354 and Wanzer and Frymier 58). Humor is useful for facilitating student attention, motivation, and comprehension (Kher, Molstad, and Donahue 400-6) and makes learning fun (Hsieh, Hsiao, Liu, and Chang 207). Humor aids in creativity (Romero, Alsua, Henrichs, and Pearson 189 and Borgia, Horack, and Owles 46) and in making messages more memorable (Danbom 669-671). Humor is effective in clarifying material (Downs, Javidi, and Nussbaum 137). Torak, McMorris, and Lin asked the students if they learn better when the professor uses humor. 40 percent of the respondents answered “often” and another 40 percent replied “always” (15). When asked if humor frustrates the students, 68 percent strongly disagreed (15). Findings similar to the above research have led James to conclude, “Institutions need to aggressively train online teachers and, in fact, all teachers on how to use humor to their advantage” (94).

The above studies noted that most students learned better when humor was effectively used, but it should also be noted that each listener (Arthurs 37 and Jeter and Allen 5-20) learns differently, in part, because each learner and listener has a distinct humor orientation (Booth-Butterfield and Booth-Butterfield 205). Wanzer and Frymier compared the preferences and learning results of both low and high humor orientation students. High humor oriented students reported significantly higher levels of learning from instructors with perceived high humor orientation than they did from instructors with perceived low humor orientations (58). No significant difference in learning was found between high humor orientation students and low humor orientation students when the students had a high humor orientation instructor. Low humor orientation students were much more tolerant and learned more from low humor orientation instructors than high humor orientation students learned from low humor orientation instructors. Low humor orientation students preferred high humor orientation instructors over low humor orientation instructors (Wanzer and Frymier 58).

Wanzer and Frymier’s study, noted above, of low and high humor orientation professors and their effectiveness on low and high humor orientation students is important for both low and high humor orientation preachers in regards to the desirable higher affective learning and its “go and tell” and “go and do” results. High and low humor orientation listeners will learn equally well from high humor orientation preachers. However, high humor orientation listeners will not learn as well as low humor orientation preachers. Also, both the high and low humor orientation listener would prefer listening to the high humor orientation preacher. Low humor orientation preachers need to be mindful of this as they engage the high humor orientation listener and attempt to be more agreeable to both high and low humor orientation listeners. When humor is done in a way that is genuine and quality, it will most likely aid in affective learning to both the low humor orientation and high humor orientation listener.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Story of Two Sons

I talked about the parable of The Prodigal Son this morning. Barclay calls it The Story of the Lost Son and the Loving Father. Keller calls it the story of The Prodigal God. Listen here.

I didn't have any notes this here are a few pictures of our two sons both pre and post worship.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I had a great day speaking to the United Methodist Men of Nebraska at Camp Fontanelle. I'll post some notes later in the week.
Here are some pictures of the boys getting ready for the chili cook-off tomorrow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Humor and Church Health

From my paper:

Humor and Church Health

As discussed above, humor can aid in building relationships. A positive correlation exists between humor and vitality in a Christian faith community (Schwarz 36-7). Participants in participating churches were asked to respond "true" or "false" to the following statement: "There is a lot of laughter in our church." Sixty-eight percent of participants in "high-quality" growing churches responded "true." Only thirty-three percent of participants in "low-quality" declining churches responded "true" to the same phrase (36-7). In a study of how apostolic churches reach secular people, one of the principles of an outreach focused church was to speak the language of the people (G. Hunter Church for the Unchurched 161-2). A church or a preacher neglecting humor is not speaking an important genre of language. Healthy churches are led by healthy leaders. A sense of humor helps leaders understand, cope, and live through disappointments, failures, and surprises (Jones 33). Thriving teams enjoy each and laugh together (Groeschel 77-8). Sacred humor is one of God's gifts to the church.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year's income to some holy use. For Christians to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year's days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

  • If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn't, which side would get your money and why?
  • When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?
  • If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?
  • Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?
  • Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

From Frederick Buechner's delightful little book: Wishful Thinking

So, here's the deal:

Some people give up wine or soda or chocolate or eating beef on Friday. Nothing is evil about such practices. A little sacrifice never hurt anybody and the body may be grateful for a little less alcohol, sugar, or fat. But do any of the above promote lasting real life change? Probably not. it probably has more to do with obligation and ritual than it does an authentic desire to connect with God.

What do you most deplore about yourself? What is it in the next 40 days that you can do to rid yourself of these self-destructive behaviors?

That seems more beneficial that not drinking coffee.

What is it that your are so excited about and where does the world need you the most? What is it in the next 40 days that you can do to give yourself to the world and have the time of your life in the process?

That seems more exciting than not going to Sonic.

Do something that is big. Do something that will change your life!

I pray during this season that you grow closer to God and closer to the world.

In Christ,


Monday, February 15, 2010

Ethos, Humor, and Preaching

From my paper:

Ethos is the credibility, character, compassion, and integrity of the speaker (Lybrand 29, Smith 113, Chapell 289, and Marty “Preaching Rhetorically” 106). How the listener perceives the character of the speaker affects the receptivity to the speaker’s message (Ramsey 20, Heisler 83, and McClure, Allen, Andrews, Bond, Moseley, and Ramsey 136-7). Ethos is a meaningful predictor of believability and likeableness and can be measured by surveying the competence, goodwill, and trustworthiness of the speaker (McCroskey and Teven 101).

Ethos and humor orientation—which measures a person's propensity to create and understand humorous messages during personal contact with others (Wanzer and Frymier 54) —have demonstrated a positive relationship in various settings such as athletics, education, and the military. A correlation has been shown between college coaches' humor orientation and their likability (Grisaffe, Blom, and Burke 105 and Torok, McMorris, and Lin 18). Speakers who use appropriate humor in an instructional setting are perceived by their listeners to have a greater ethos than those who use inappropriate humor or no humor (Gurner 228-33 and McClure 52). A high humor orientation demonstrates a positive correlation to leadership effectiveness. In a study at the United States Military Academy, cadets were asked to recall particularly good and bad leaders and then rate those leaders on leadership and humor. Outstanding leadership and high perceived humor orientation were positively linked (Priest and Swain 169-70).

The above discussion suggests a high humor orientation is something is socially desirable and leads to a higher ethos. Instructional communication research confirms this suggestion. Possession of a high humor orientation is considered a socially desirable (Shevlin and McGee 74) since people declare a sense of humor in numbers in excess of what is possible. Three studies report between 80 and 90 percent of respondents claimed that they have an above-average sense of humor in regard to their peers. One of these studies reported that less than two percent of respondents self-reported a below-average sense of humor (Cann and Calhoun 118). In addition to an extremely high percentage of the population claiming a high humor orientation, a high humor orientation is largely recognized as a constructive public attribute (Cann and Calhoun 118). A high humor orientation has a positive correlation with extroversion, sociability, (Kohler and Ruch 363-97), and has been shown to be most strongly associated with the following qualities: interesting, imaginative, creative, friendly, pleasant, and clever (Kuiper and Martin 251-70). Humor orientation shows a negative correlation with neuroticism (Deaner and McConatha 755-63) and depression (Kuiper and Martin 251-70). The high humor orientation person can be a pleasant source of positive encouragement, with interesting and creative behaviors that are presented in a manner that is agreeable, friendly, and amusing (Cann and Calhoun 126-8).

Karl Barth argues with the assertion of the importance of ethos in the previous paragraphs. He contends that effective preaching has little to do with the ethos of the preacher. Barth argues the preacher should place their primary focus on preparing biblical messages that might speak in spite of his or her presence. Most current communication research and homiletic writing does not agree with Barth. Interest in the relationship between rhetoric and homiletics has had a major impact on the revival of ethos in homiletics (McClure 12 and Swears 113-4).

Aristotle described ethos as one of the three components of persuasion along with pathos and logos. Pathos is rhetoric's appeal based on emotion and has to do with how feelings affect the listeners’ response to a message (Allen Hearing the Sermon 71). Logos is rhetoric's appeal based on logic and reason. It is the content of the message (Allen Hearing the Sermon 43). Ethos, as noted above, is rhetoric's appeal based on character and integrity (Allen Hearing the Sermon 19). A speaker may know what to say (logos), and how to say it (pathos), but must also have the character and integrity (ethos) to give credibility to the logos and pathos (Aristotle 14). A speaker having a balance in the three areas of persuasion will create synergy that will allow the sum of the three areas to be greater than its parts (Lind Hogan and Reid 158-9). Ethos and each of its components—competence, goodwill, and trustworthiness—are non-negotiables for the preacher (Quicke 92-95, Miller Preaching 233, and Willimon Pastor 157). Preaching cannot be separated from the public, personal, and professional life of the preacher (Bailey 550, Wilson 27-31, Maxwell 29, and Brown, Robinson, and Willimon 49-50). Sermons are not just heard; sermons are also seen (Stott Between Two Worlds 271). The ethos of various preachers has been severely diminished because of moral failure in life and the use of profane humor when preaching (Grindal 243). Competence, goodwill, and trustworthiness take time to build, but can be all but eliminated in a matter of seconds. The relationship between the ethos of the preacher and the preacher’s message is an unavoidable truth (Craddock Preaching 23).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stop Acting Like a Christian...Just Be One

Here is this morning's sermon. Listen here.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’” “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” -Luke 10:25-37

Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation. –Henry Ward Beecher

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in life you will have been all of these. –George Washington Carver

If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything. –Win Borden

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. -Anais Nin

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” -James 4:13-15

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. –Martin Luther King

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. -1 John 4:4 (NIV)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Surprise Birthday Party

It was great night. Thanks to all who came!

Giving advice to some friends

Post party photo of the boys, Aunt Jane, and Hannah

The shoes

Me and Amber

Hanging out with friends

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Check out the icicle at my mom's house.
Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
-Job 38:29

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Shoes

Our eight year old son Benjamin occasionally needs new shoes. He has been wearing the same shoes for a few years now. Every once in a while we take him to the shoe store to buy the same shoe in the same color. Only a different size. Last week we took him to get a new pair of shoes and ran into a crisis of epic proportions: the cute white and blue shoes that he has been wearing for years do not come in the next size up. He tried on other shoes. He didn’t like the “N” on one shoe. Another shoe was too tight. Finally, after a little work, he found a shoe he liked. Forty bucks and a few tears later, we left content.

Just over two years ago, The Water’s Edge needed some new shoes. We grew out of our existing shoes at Russell Middle School. The move was easy. We gave everybody a few weeks notice, put up a few signs, updated the web site, and moved a few blocks down the street to Millard West High School. Some people had to drive an extra minute or two, but it was an easy move. Same shoe. Different size.

Well, we need new shoes again. The only problem this time is that the same shoe is not available the next size up.

On the last Sunday in January – between kids, students, and adults – we had 625 people present. We had no more chairs available and even if we did there wouldn’t have been any place to put them.

Our Leadership Team has been proactive dreaming about the future and doing things differently as this crowding has not been a sudden phenomenon, but a gradual occurance. We decided that doing the same thing in the same place at the same time was not an option as the simple command of God is to offer Christ to our community.

We looked at various new shoes. The most obvious shoe to try on was changing the worship venue from the Commons Area to the auditorium. We didn’t go with this option for two reasons. First, at our current rate of growth, the auditorium would have only worked for about a year or so. Because we use the screen and because of the location of the stage, we are unable to use the seating on the far sides of the auditorium. So we would have only gained another 70 to 100 seats. Second, we value the gathering time before and after worship and also value the cafeteria atmosphere before, during, and after the worship experience. The auditorium is a wonderful place to worship, but it is a much less friendly place to meet people and build relationships. Moving to the auditorium would change who we are. It was a lot different shoe.

We looked at other shoes as well. Saturday and Sunday night worship was an option. We didn’t think this was sustainable for the staff and key lay leaders. We looked at other venues. That didn’t take very long because there aren’t any options large enough in Southwest Omaha. We even looked at doing video simulcasting of the message and having worship at the same time in a different location. This had possibilities, but seemed complicated and possibly expensive.

After talking with the set-up and tear-down team leaders, the leaders of the kid’s team, and other Sunday morning leaders, we had consensus that moving to two Sunday morning worship experiences – one at 9:00 and one at 10:30 in the Commons Area – was the best alternative.

Here are some of the factors that led us to the decision:

  • Are we content with who we are right now? Or, do we want to do something really great for God?
  • If we do nothing, we are communicating we have reached all the people we want.
  • Sixty to eighty percent capacity is optimal for a worship experience. Many Sundays we are approaching one-hundred percent. Two services will give us some much needed elbow room so we can grow again.
  • We will now be able to reach new people who want to be done with worship at 10:00 on Sunday mornings.
  • We will be able to enlist new volunteers who are currently attending, but not serving.
  • We will be able to better connect with our guests in worship as the space will not be packed full of people.
  • We are not taking anything away. The 10:30 worship experience will be the same and the Frog Pond for kids will be the same as well. If you are content with your Sunday morning schedule and want to leave it the same, you won’t notice much difference.
  • It will allow us to refocus on investing in relationships with our unchurched friends and inviting them to worship with us and be part of our community as we seek God together.
  • Jesus came to seek and save lost and hurting people. This is our next step in partnering with Him in doing this.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Pray for the ministry as we take this next step.
  2. Volunteer. We will need additional volunteers at both worship experiences. Serving is a great way to meet people, be a part of a team, and serve God.
  3. Invite. Bring a friend, neighbor, or co-worker with you to worship. A simple invitation can change a life forever!
Benjamin loves his new shoes and I think you will as well! Look for more information in the coming weeks and months as more concrete details become available.

In Christ,


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Forms of Humor

From my paper:

Jokes are an important, but small percentage of the humor that is experienced in daily interpersonal communication. Recent studies have demonstrated that eleven percent of laughter is in response to jokes. This eleven percent compares to seventy-two percent of laughter deriving from spontaneous conversational humor (Martin 12). Spontaneous conversational humor, unlike jokes, is highly dependent on context. Based on a review of literature, the following eleven categories are examples of spontaneous conversational humor:
  1. Irony – Irony is literary device, in which there is an incongruity or discordance between what one says or does and what one means or what is generally understood. For example, in a confusing situation the speaker says: “That is as clear as mud.”
  2. Satire – Satire is a form of aggressive humor that pokes fun at social institutions and public policy.
  3. Sarcasm – Sarcasm is a form of aggressive humor that aims at individuals as opposed to institutions. For example, a person sits at her desk and she notices that one of her co-workers is talking loudly on his phone. When the co-worker hangs up, she says, "I think you should talk a little bit louder next time—the entire office didn't hear it."
  4. Overstatement and Understatement – Overstatement and understatement are forms of speech in which a greater expression or lesser expression is used than what would be expected. For example, a person has just finished the hardest workout of his entire life, he is a moment away fainting from exhaustion, and a friend comes by and sees him sweaty, huffing and puffing, and says, "Tired?" and he answers, "Just a little."
  5. Self-deprecation – Self-deprecating humor is humor which depends on the observation of something negative about the person delivering the observation. Many speakers use self-deprecating humor to avoid seeming arrogant and to help the audience identify with them. For example, many modern day comics build much of their acts around their own perceived unattractiveness, weight, age, and lack of appeal to the opposite sex.
  6. Teasing – Teasing is a humorous remark directed at the listener. Unlike sarcasm, the intention is not to seriously offend or insult.
  7. Replies to rhetorical questions – Rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered. Answering a rhetorical question creates incongruity and a reversal of expectations. For example, one person says, “How high is the moon?” Expecting no response and a clear expectation that the person understands what has been communicated, the other person replies, “It varies between 356,000 and 407,000 kilometers in distance from the surface of the earth, its average distance being 384,400 kilometers.”
  8. Clever replies to serious statements – These are clever and nonsensical replies to a question that was meant to be serious. For example, a talk show hosts asks an actress if her current boyfriend is a serious boyfriend. She replies that he is always joking around and is not serious at all.
  9. Double entendres – A double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is intended to be understood in either of two ways. In most cases, the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so and often sexual or inappropriate. Although most double entendres are sexual in nature, an example of a non-sexual double entendre is “Why was the garbage man sad? He was down in the dumps.”
  10. Transformation of frozen expressions – Changing well-known sayings and clichés into unique sayings. An example is when a bald man is reminiscing about life: “Hair today and gone tomorrow.”
  11. Puns – Using a word that brings up a humorous second meaning. This humor is usually based on a homophone, a word that sounds the same but has a different meaning. An example of a pun is “Immanuel doesn't pun; he Kant.” Here “Kant” is a play on the word "can't", in the name of philosopher Immanuel Kant. (Long and Graesser 35-60 and Martin 13)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stop Acting Like a Christian

Here are some notes from my sermon this morning. You can listen here. Buy Christine Caine's book: Stop Acting Like a Christian.

The church dies when the church stops being the church and just starts doing church.
If our heart doesn’t break for the things that break God’s heart, we just start going through the motions and might as well put our time, energy, and resources toward other things.
If we are not passionate about God and passionate about people then we are wasting our time.
Passion causes people to do strange things and it can cause people to do great things.
A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. –John Maxwell
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” –Luke 19:9-10
Salvation = sōtēría
Sōtēría was treated as a present experience. Sōtēría was only used twice (see also John 4:22) by Jesus. Jesus taught that when one possesses sōtēría, death brings no interruption in the individual’s community with God. Therefore, salvation is not merely deliverance from future punishment; it includes also freedom from sin as a present power.
We are the people who God is sending to a broken and needy world. We ought to be passionate about the same thing that God is passionate about – people.
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16
Who did God send Jesus to seek and save?
a. The preoccupied – The busyness of life gets in the way of life (Luke 15:3-7)
b. The abused – People who are used for a purpose other than which they are primarily created (Luke 15:8-10)
c. Those who have made mistakes (Luke 15:11-32)
I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. –John 17:14-18
A danger exists in defining Christianity by a list of things we do and don’t do.
Christianity is not an external behavior modification program.
Christianity is an internal heart transformation program. God transforms the human heart which results in people stopping dysfunctional patterns and self-destructive habits.
We should be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. God does not want us to be separated from the world. It is hard to change a world that you are not in. It is even harder to change a world that you are the same substance as.
You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. –Matthew 5:13-16
Salt and light are change agents.
Be the change you want to see in the world. -Ghandi
In partnership with God, it is Christians being Christians in a broken and needy world that will bring change to the world. That is why we “be” the church rather than just “go” to church.
Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true. –John 18:37
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. –Romans 12:2

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Thousand Words

Georgia doing her favorite thing

David playing in the snow

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thank You for Being a Friend

I always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As I pray to our God and Father about you, I think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

As I was standing in front the congregation going through one of my forty points on Sunday morning, I noticed that people started to get up out of their seats. I was thinking that maybe somebody spiked the coffee and a mad rush to the bathroom was taking place. Then I turned around and looked at one of the screens. I saw my baby picture and figured out what was going on. As the people sang happy birthday, prayed for me, and brought cards to the front, I was so grateful to be surrounded by friends. Some of the friends know me very well. Others don’t really know me, with the exception of listening to me on Sunday mornings for 30 minutes. All are friends nonetheless.

I’m thankful for so many friends who accept me for who I am and who I am not. For people who choose to be part of my life just because they feel like it. Many are older. Many are younger. Some are richer. Some are poorer. Some are men. Some are women. But in the grand scheme of things, none of that stuff really matters as far as friendship goes. Only the person matters.

I’m thankful for you as a person—your loving work, your loving deeds, and your enduring hope. You have embodied grace to Amber, Benjamin, David, and myself. Undeserved favor is probably the best way to think of grace. We don’t deserve your loving kindness on our behalf. We don’t deserve your belief that we can be better tomorrow than we were today. But through your loving work, your loving deeds, and your enduring hope – you have given us a glimpse of the face of God and a hint of the Kingdom of Heaven. And for that I am thankful.

Jesus knew a thing or two about friendship. He says: This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends. –John 15:12-15

It seems like a high price to pay. Loving each other unconditionally, providing for each other not as we would like to provide but as the other person would like, and basically giving our lives. Jesus never even remotely implied that such a relationship would even be easy, but he makes it crystal clear that friendship is worth all our efforts and then some. Thanks for your friendship—it means more to me than you could ever know.
In Christ,

Monday, February 1, 2010

Worship @ The Water's Edge

Great day yesterday. Thanks everybody for the great birthday surprise. Your kindness and generosity is a blessing beyond words.

Going through my 40 point sermon
Birthday surprise

Great crowd

This is what 500 people looks like in the Commons Area at Millard West.

Training partners Scott, Nicole, and Christy