Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mission and the Church

"It's not so much that God has a mission for His church in the world, but that God has a church for His mission in the world."
- Unknown

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Real Show

Tonight we went to the fall festival at Lakewood Baptist. I was kind of stressed beforehand because Billy and I had promised to play music for an hour during the festival. I enjoy playing, but it was still just one more thing on my to-do list. It turned out that I actually really enjoyed getting to play music with Billy again.

Before the "show," we went into the school office and rehearsed. No one knew it, but that was the real show. Just one empty room, two friends, two guitars, two voices, and an audience of Three.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days when I question how much weight I can handle before the levee breaks. I feel as though I have no life, and when I do stop to enjoy it, I wake up the next day feeling even more pressed to meet deadlines. All I do is work, it seems, from morning to night. I can understand why our culture has drifted so far from God. It takes a lot to stay focused under growing work loads and stress. This is only temporary, but for me it will get worse before it gets better. Next semester will have me taking four classes at CSU rather than three. It's not the classes that bother me. It's the combination of those four with my Veritas four. Eight classes.

I don't want to complain. I am blessed to do what I am doing. It's just hard right now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wild Things

I got my wish. After Katie and I went to the wedding on Saturday night, we went to the late showing of "Where the Wild Things Are." I was really looking forward to this movie. And it was worth it.

WTWTA is basically a movie about a book about a kid, only made for adults. It is a movie about childhood and what it's like to be a child. It's really fun to watch Max and the Wild Things, but it's also dark and messy in many places.

The thing about children is that they are such a beautiful mess. They are so innocent and playful, yet in the next moment they can be utterly selfish and foolish. I wonder how much of this we really grow out of as adults. Just because we become more socially conscious doesn't mean we don't throw our own adult kinds of pity parties and temper tantrums. We all have a bit of a wild thing inside. Maybe the worst part of growing up is that there is no one to tell us "no" anymore. You want too much chocolate cake? You want to spend all your money in the wrong places? You want to stay up past a reasonable hour? Go ahead. Who's stopping you? Let the wild romping begin!

But we are forgetting something. We still live in our Father's house. We will never get out from under His roof. And for the wild thing, this is a problem. He will not be allowed his selfishness, his foolishness. Or either he will be allowed it, like a whole pack of cigarettes at once, until he is sick from all of it. Then he will get tired of being a wild thing, cross the sea back into the kitchen, and finish his supper.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Will Do My Part

Katie and I went to a wedding last night. It was a friend of hers from high school. I think it was one of the better weddings I have ever attended. The service was a bit long, but it was very beautiful and deeply personal. The couple and the ministers really highlighted the communal aspect of marriage with the language and arrangement of the service. After all, marriages are about more than the husband and the wife. Marriage involves the whole community, which is why you invite friends and family to a wedding. They are witnesses of the founding of the marriage covenant and are thereby participants in its keeping. When marriages break apart, the whole community is splintered.

I appreciated that one of the ministers officiated the wedding (there were two) explained the meaning of a covenant as opposed to a contract. A contract says, "I will do my part as long as you do your part." Perhaps this attitude works well in business, but it works terribly in marriage. Instead, a covenant says, "I will do my part whether you do your part or not."

I know a man whose wife has been unfaithful to him. This has been very public and humiliating for him. The community of people surrounding this couple have tried to bring this young woman into account. This is only right. Remember, marriage between two people is also a communal thing. However, this woman has failed to show any public remorse for her actions. This has caused frustration within the community. Still, the man has accepted her and has accepted the consequences of her actions. Why? Perhaps he is being a push-over. Perhaps he should not let her off the hook so easily. Or perhaps he is saying, "I will do my part whether you do your part or not."

The marriage covenant is not for the weak, the selfish, or the faint of heart. Rather, it is in the marriage relationship that we learn the true meanings of strength, selflessness, and courage. As Christians, who have been on the grace-receiving end of the New Covenant in Jesus' blood, let us remember the sanctity of marriage and faithfully display to the world this picture of the covenant love of Christ.

God bless John and Erin.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meatballs and Blessings

Last night Noah and I had some guy time. I took him to Wendy's and then to the movies. I wanted soooo badly to see "Where the Wild Things Are," but all the reviews I saw said that it was not so much a movie for kids. Noah wanted to see "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" in 3D, so we did. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the film. It was quite humorous and had a neat story. It also turned out to be a movie with a father/son theme, so that's another reason it turned out to be good for us to see together. Plus, it had Mr. T.

I am proud of my son. He already has so many good qualities, and I look forward to seeing what God will do with his life. The main character has a father who has trouble expressing these types of feelings to his son. I think I do okay in this area in general, but there is a related matter I think I have neglected lately. Father James at Gethsemani said that my children need to hear a blessing from me every day. They need to hear, "I love you," but they also need to hear, "The Lord bless you and keep you."

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Pledge Allegiance

If you have ever been to a Vacation Bible School, you know the pledges. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America..." "I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands..." "I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word..." The pledges are usually done in that order.

For a while now, I have had some reservations about pledging to the Christian flag. Not that I do not pledge allegiance to the Savior and His Kingdom. But a Christian flag? Where did this come from? It seems to me that the Christian flag is only used so that we can salute the American flag in church. Think about it. When have you ever saluted the Christian flag without saluting to the American flag first?

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the Veritas chapel service. I noticed as the children did the pledges that they did them in the reverse order. They pledged allegiance to the Bible first, the Christian flag second, and the American flag last. I thought this was brilliant.

Before I explain, let me say that I am not anti-American. I love America. I love living in America. I just think that the Kingdom of God is a bit more important than the USA, and I assure you that those two are not synonymous. (I recently saw a t-shirt that said "JesUSAves." Yikes.)

Now think about this. Which is more likely? 1) Pledging my highest allegiance to America makes me a better Christian, or 2) Pledging my highest allegiance to Christ makes me a better American.

I think we need to seriously consider the nature of our patriotism within the church. It is backwards for a Christian to pledge allegiance to America before the Kingdom of God. It is a shortcoming when we remember the fallen from U.S. wars, but forget the blood of the martyrs who passed our faith along to us and who continue to die for the faith even today. We must not drape our crosses with the flag of any earthly nation, and we must reserve our highest allegiance to the King and the Kingdom that will reign in the world without end.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This looks interesting.

Doug Wilson sounds familiar, but I think this is the first I have read of him. Here is an excerpt of a piece he wrote for The Huffington Post. I think it is brilliant.

"So if the universe is what the atheist maintains it is, then this determines what sort of account we must give for the nature of everything -- and this includes the atheist's thought processes, ethical convictions, and aesthetic appreciations. If you were to shake up two bottles of pop and place them on a table to fizz over, you could not fill up an auditorium with people who came to watch them debate. This is because they are not debating; they are just fizzing. If you were to shake up one bottle of pop, and show it film footage of some genocidal atrocity, the reaction you would get is not moral outrage, but rather more fizzing. And if you were to shake it really hard by means of art school, and place it in front of Michelangelo's David, or the Rose Window of Chartres Cathedral, the results would not really be aesthetic appreciation, but more fizzing still.

If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature. The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist's case for atheism. The atheist gives us an account of all things which makes it impossible for us to believe that any account of all things could possibly be true. But no account of things can be tenable unless it provides us with the preconditions that make it possible for our "accounting" to represent genuine insight. Atheism fails to do this, and the failure is a spectacular one. Nor does atheism allow us to have any fixed ethical standard, or the possibility of beauty."

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Kingdom of Conscience

"I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe."
- Martin Luther on trial

I teach Church History at Veritas Academy in Phenix City. I let the class watch a movie this week called "Kingdom of Heaven," starring Orlando Bloom. The movie is about the conflict between Christians and Muslims between the 2nd and 3rd Crusade.

The main character, Balian (fictionally based on a historical figure), begins a reluctant hero, but soon becomes the defender of Jerusalem against the beseigeing Muslim army. Balian's arch-rival, however, is not Saladin, leader of the Muslim forces. Rather, it is Guy de Lusignan, the leader of the Knights Templar, who is determined to start another holy war against the Muslims. Guy is married to the princess of Jerusalem and is biding his time until her leprous brother, the king, departs to leave the position vacant.

(Spoiler alert)

At a key point in the movie, Balian is in a position to have Guy and his cohorts put to death. Bailan would then marry the princess and become the next king. Not only would this prevent Balian's own death, but also the impending holy war in which Jerusalem is sure to fall to Saladin. It is but "a little evil to accomplish a greater good." Taking his knightly oath to heart, Balian refuses to take part in such a scheme. When prodded to reconsider, he nobly speaks of the kingdom of heaven, "It is a kingdom of conscience, or nothing."

The movie raises a good question. Is it ever right to do wrong for the greater good? Or do we spoil the "greater good" when it is acheived by the wrong means? As I watched the film, I wanted Balian to kill his enemies. It would have spared the pain and destruction of thousands of Christians and Muslims alike. But I was wrong. That would have been the easy way out. Balian's way was unquestionably and incomparably more arduous, but it was pure. And though the battle was indeed lost, by God's grace many people were spared. And so the question for me is this: would I ever be willing to sacrifice my conscience for the "greater good"?

I pray not, though Jerusalem fall around me. When that time comes, may I be able to say with Balian the words that would later come from Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God. Amen."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Herald (n.): a) an official crier or messenger; b) one that precedes or foreshadows

"And for this purpose I was appointed a herald..."
- Paul (the first letter to Timothy, chapter 2, verse 7)

It's funny how one little word can pry open doors in your mind that once had blocked beautiful ways of being. Given the new responsibilities and challenges of our house church plant, I found myself turning to the book of 1 Timothy for some wisdom. There I ran across a word I had been recently exposed to in my reading of Beeson Divinity School brochures: herald. It's not that I had never heard of the word, but I had never seen it used in quite the same way. Timothy George, dean of Beeson, says that, as preachers of the gospel, we are heralds of another world. We bear the message of the gospel and of the age to come.

I can't quite explain it, but something about this wording is very meaningful to me. I've understood that we are stewards of the Good News for some time, but this is something a bit more. A person with the knowledge that they are supposed to share the gospel is one thing; a herald, however, cannot help proclaiming this news any more than the angels who sang of Christ's birth. This is what I want to be.

I am a preacher of the gospel. I am a herald of another world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

All Shall Be Well

"All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."
- Julian of Norwich

I love being surprised by hope. In the midst of our wrestling, in the center of our struggle, like a light in the darkness, hope appears, incredible and believable at once. I say it "appears" because it has been there all along. Only now, it has had enough of our flirtation with despair. It rises, bold as the morning sun, demanding to be seen and believed.

Andrew Peterson sings:

"And the night can be so long, so long
you think that you'll never get up again
But listen now, it's a mighty cloud
of witnesses around you - they say
'Hold on... just hold on...
Hold on to the end'

'Cause all shall be well
All shall be well
Break the chains of the gates of hell
Still all manner of things will be well"


Monday, October 12, 2009

Our David

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."
- Michelangelo

Rob Bell told a story last week in Atlanta that surfaced in our discussion during worship this past Sunday. It's been on my mind ever since.

Two groups of artists participated in an experiment in which both groups were assigned the task of forming artwork from clay. One group was asked to focus on quantity of artwork while the other was asked to focus on quality. The results were interesting. The quantity group produced, in the end, quality art. After each piece was shaped, the group learned from their mistakes. They adapted their art-making, improving upon each piece. The quality group, on the other hand, sat around theorizing about the best way to make the art. They may have had some great ideas, but we will never know. After all their discussion, all they produced was a dead lump of clay.

This served as an example as well as a warning to our faith community. We can spend our time deconstructing the ways mission does not work. We can even theorize about ways to promote the good, the beautiful, and the true. In the end, however, what matters is that we get our hands dirty. May God guide those hands as we construct and mold and chisel whatever piece of His Kingdom it pleases Him for us to shape.

Only now, let us begin. After all, our David is somewhere inside the slab.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Divine Discontent

Divine discontent is the invitation to wait on God to do it better.

What is the next right thing?

Stop. Don't move a muscle.

Prayer is your work now. Move. Sweat. Trade calloused hands for calloused heart.

Listen. Do not write another word, except...


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bit and Bridle

When I was a teenager, I once went horseback riding with a friend. They say that horses can tell if you are intimidated by them. Well, why wouldn't I be? Have you ever climbed upon a horse? They are huge, strong animals. Anyway, the horse I happened to be riding was the most ornery of the bunch. When I pulled right, it went left. When I said to stop, it wanted to go.

Eventually, the road we were traveling ran beside a large pasture. What I did not know at the time was that on the other side of this field, through a small grove of trees, were the stables. My horse, fully equipped with this knowledge, large muscles, and the fear of its rider, made the decision to call it a day. It bolted across the pasture with me holding on for dear life. It was upon the failure of my "whoa!"s to convince the horse to stop that I noticed the wooded area we were approaching. Like a familiar movie scenario, I imagined entering the woods and being clothes-lined from the horse by a tree limb.

I needed to act fast. Think, Brad, think.

I had two options:
1) Jump from the horse. I looked down. Okay, what was the second option?
2) Cover the horses eyes with my hands. It works in the movies. But if I let go of the horse's neck, I might as well choose option one.

While I deliberated on the least potentially fatal action, option three appeared. My friend, the girl who owned the horses, charged her horse up beside mine like Indiana Jones, grabbed my horse's bridle, and coerced the beast to a stop. No later than when we slowed to a trot did I put two feet on the ground. I traded horses with Ms. Jones.

"Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding,
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you."
Psalm 32:9

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Death of Comfort and the Life of Suffering

I went to see Rob Bell in Atlanta last night with some friends. It was Rob's "Drops Like Stars" tour. He spoke about suffering and its role in shaping us into works of art. He reminded us that if you ask someone to describe events that have shaped their life, they probably will not say to you, "Last month I bought a new car." They will probably say something like, "The diagnosis made me consider what was really important in life." Or, "When our relationship tragically ended I was forced to reevaluate my whole future."

I wonder if I am too quick to run from suffering.

Rob pointed out that there is one kind of death in suffering, but there is another kind of death in comfort and complacency.

I wonder which death I am dying.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Michelangelo and Me

I went to the doctor's office today to have some lab work done. Hanging on the wall there in the waiting room is a large close up of the hands at the center of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting, "The Creation of Adam." Adam's hand is on the left; God's is on the right. Their fingers almost touch... but not quite. I've always loved that painting, but today I noticed something about the hands that I had never noticed before. It seems like the fingers could touch.

They could touch, and yet they do not. Why? God's hand and entire arm is outstretched toward Adam. Adam's hand is ever so slightly limp. They could touch, and yet they do not.

I am so like my father, Adam.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I have been avoiding this blog topic since it entered my mind Saturday night. However, it won't leave me alone, so here it is.

Saturday night I watched an excellent movie called, "The Great Debaters." It's about a debate team from a small black college in Texas back in the 1920's. Their success grants them the opportunity to debate white college teams, and they eventually defeat the national champion Harvard debate team. Of course, similarly to "Remember the Titans," it was set in time of much racial tension. Those movies always get to me.

It reminded me of a scene from my childhood. I rode the bus most of my school years, and while most bus-drivers are notoriously bad-tempered, our bus driver, Otis, was a kind and friendly man. Otis also happened to be a black man. And there was one bus ride with him that remains in my mind to this day.

It was tacky day at Smiths Station Elementary School. I don't remember what I was wearing that morning when I stepped onto the bus, but it must have been interesting because Otis gave me quite an astonished look. I playfully responded to his inquisitive glare with, "It's tacky day, boy."

This was quite innocent. My friends and I had been calling each other "boy" for days until it became a regular part of our speech. I thought nothing of it. Yet when Otis dropped me off at my stop that afternoon, he stopped me. He gently explained, "I'm not a boy. I'm a man."

It hurt to be misunderstood. I hadn't meant the word literally. I thought he would have known that. It wasn't until years later that I realized how Otis must have heard my comment. It was a racial slur. Not too many years back, black men had been regularly and systematically called "boys." That Otis would have heard my comment this way makes me sick to my stomach.

Racial reconciliation is a matter that I feel deeply and strongly about. Working with teenagers, there have been many times I have had to condemn and correct common racial slurs or jokes. With adults, it is harder to do. I would ask everyone to consider your words and the impact they have on others. Language that is racially divisive is wrong whether it is in the form of a slur or a subtle implication. This type of language reveals more about our own hearts than the character of another ethic group. We can and we must do better than this. Love, on the other hand, is not rude. It does not delight in evil. It does not consider others as lesser, but greater. And I submit that this ability to love another, even those who are not like us, with even our private language is what truly separates the "men" from the "boys."

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Keeping with the theme of marriage, I thought I'd post some lyrics I wrote a few months ago. Our family was going through some rough times, and things were pretty insane around our house. I would never want to go through it again, but one good that came was that Katie and I really had to rely on one another. I know that I could not have made it (and kept my sanity) without her.

On the monumental television series, Lost, a character by the name of Desmond finds himself waking up to different decades of his life. With some help, he discovers that the only way to hold himself together and survive this chaotic and traumatic experience is to find a "constant." That is, he needs to find something common to every point he flashes to and find his center in that thing. Desmond finds his constant in his fiancee, Penny. Because of Penny, Desmond eventually pulls through. I think we all need that person who stays with us through the hard times. We need a constant so that we don't give up amidst the ever-changing madness.

This is a song I wrote for Katie.

London bridge is falling down
Rome is burning to the ground
Above it all without a sound
A diamond sky

The flower blooms and fades away
Never a joy without a pain
But even in the dying of the day
And in the night

You are like the starry lights when all the earth is raging 'neath its view
When everything is crumbling, you remind me some things never do
You are my constant, you are my constant

Jesus spoke into the blast
Found myself on a sea of glass
I might look down, but I can't look back
'Cause you caught my view

And if it looks miraculous when walking on the water's what they see
You are my reflection in the water when I lose my faith in me
You are my constant, you are my constant

The tide returns and it leaves again
A looping rhythm without end
And you can't get out where you got in
But when I'm lost, I find...

You are my constant, you are my constant
You are my constant, you are my constant

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I went to my cousin's wedding today. Now, weddings are not my favorite thing, but they are usually good medicine for those who have taken vows and need reminders. I don't mean that those in bad marriages need reminders; I mean that we need reminders so that we won't have bad marriages.

During the exchanging of the rings today, it occurred to me that the ring you wear as a husband or wife is not a symbol of your love and commitment to your spouse. It is a symbol of your spouse's love and commitment to you. Doesn't the giver say, "With this ring I pledge to you my love"? This is obvious, but I have not been accustomed to seeing it this way. Whenever I consider my wedding ring, I usually think about my commitment, not Katie's.

In a sense, this is right. I need to reminded of the vows that I made to her. But this reversal is so much more meaningful, I think. When I look at my ring, what I should be thinking of is Katie's love and devotion to me. When I think this way, my vows seem less like duty and more like joy.

This standpoint is also more faithful to the gospel of Jesus, which is what marriage ultimately points to. The covenant relationship between and man and wife is a pointer to the covenant relationship between Christ and the Church. The ring is the symbol of the former; the cross is the symbol of the latter. When you look at the cross, what do you think of? Do you think of how it symbolizes your love for God? I hope not. I hope we would look at the cross and think of God's unmeasurable love for us. When we see the cross this way, our love and devotion to God can only deepen. And so it is with marriage.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So Help Me God

Today I was "sworn in" for the first time in my life. "Do you testify that this document contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" "Yes." And that was it. I am on the record. The documents were warrants for the arrests of our burglars.

This struck me on two different levels. The situation aside, it was quite a meaningful thing to give my word in such an official way. Those documents are official based on my word. It reminds me of one of Jesus' teachings: "And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes,' and your 'no,' 'no.' Anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matt. 5:36-37) Our word and our character go hand in hand. Too often, I am guilty of telling someone I will do something only to shirk off the responsibility later. Yet how good it is to tell someone "yes" and follow through! It is better to say "no" up front if we already know it is not likely that we will carry it out.

The other thing is that, at the end, the clerk said, " help you God". Now, I realize that God permeates, to the chagrin of some, the legal language of our nation, but the wording still gave me pause. The Old Testament is full of people who, when giving their word, would say, "May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I [fail to do what I have promised you]." These people were willing stake personal chastisement from the Lord on the keeping of their word. This is something like our "so help you God," I think.

The point is, as good as it feels to give my word in such an "official" way, my word should always be official. Here is where I need work, so help me God. Help me to let my "yes" be "yes" and my "no" be "no." Anything more (or less) is of the evil one.