Monday, December 31, 2007

PM Worship Service

I submit for your approval a sermon I preached yesterday for New Year's. I wouldn't necessarily call it a homerun, but I feel safe saying that I thought it was an extra-base hit. Its not too late to challenge your church for the New Year. If there's anything in there that helps, or even if you just want to preach from that script, have at it.

I want to ask this question: where did PM worship service come from? Who was the first guy to say, "One worship service on Sunday isn't enough. We need two."

I love Mike Cope's joke about PM worship service. He calls the AM service the "Varsity" service, and PM the "JV" edition. Varsity comes out in the morning; they have the nicer uniforms & the bigger audience. JV comes out at night. To most folks, they care about the Varsity team, but they could care less about JV. I even recognize that most of my better sermons are the ones I preach Sunday AM.

I fail to understand why someone once felt the need & decided for the church to come together, worship, leave, then come together again, and rehearse from the same script what we did on Sunday morning. If its the Lord's Supper people need an extra chance to take, we could have a dedicated Lord's Supper Service. However, I've just gotta say that the church's antiquated system of PM worship service is redundant (and so not attractive), inconvenient, and (frankly) ineffective on many levels.

I love the idea of coming together on Sunday for a 3-4 hour block of time... having bible study, having worship, sharing a meal, and then going home. Or having worship Sunday AM & having cell groups in homes at night. Those ideas make sense. Can we say the same about the idea of PM worship service?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My New Drug

I've been meeting weekly with a group of local friends in ministry for encouragement & accountability for over a year now at Starbucks. I'm not a coffee drinker, though. I tried a couple frappuccino's, and they were ok but didn't really blow me away. For over a year, I've been lobbying the guys to pick another place to meet because I just don't really care for the Starbucks experience.

Starbucks Logo
The charming Starbucks logo with the enchanting Siren of Greek Myth
While I don't care for coffee, I am a sweet tea connoisseur. As we all do, I keep mental notes of the pluses & minuses of local restaurants, and one of the more important factors that I keep track of is "the Sweet Tea test." Is good? Is it bad? Is it too sweet? Is it not sweet enough? Is it not fresh? Is it watered down? If I'm with a group who is deciding between two different restaurants, I'll often vote for the one that doesn't have bad sweet tea.

So while at one of our ministry gatherings at Starbucks a little over a month ago, I was thirsty, and I thought I'd search the menu one more time. Specifically, I hoped I could get a sweet tea. To my delight, I noticed that they had shaken iced teas. But there was only green tea, red tea, orange tea, and black tea. The sweet tea that I normally drink is golden brown-colored, so I asked the guy behind the counter, "Do you guys have regular sweet tea?" He told me that that was black tea, and I nearly jumped for joy. "I want one," I declared. "Large!" Amused, he replied, "That would be 'Venti.'" It was $2.24, and I handed the man a twenty-dollar bill. "$17.76 is your change, sir." Ridiculously expensive, but with that total, at least I feel strangely patriotic. And then, it was so good that while we were there for a couple hours, I indulged with two refills.

Starbucks Logo
I love me some Tea
So, since that day, my new drug is the Starbucks Venti Tazo® Black Shaken Iced Tea Sweetened. It is SO good! It may be the best sweet tea ever. Whenever an errand takes me to that part of town, I drop by & order TWO! I do that because I usually suck down the first one because I enjoy it so much. And the second tea is the one that I savor. And then I spend the next few hours going to the bathroom, but its WORTH IT! I think that there are three key elements that make this tea great. First, it is fresh tea. I can make fresh tea at home, and its almost as good, but it takes half an hour. Second, the sweetener. I don't know what it is... I don't want to know what it is... it is euphoric... its probably a narcotic. Third, the most elemental ingredient, water. The water is soft, not hard, and it hits the pallet just right.

O Starbucks, just like the logo on the side of your cups, you are a seductress.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Links

The Essentials
If you read nothing else, click on these links

I don't say this lightly: if you minister to people, you need to read this entire article. Matt Dabbs, given his considerable psychological experience, is exempt. ;) The Zoloft Dispensation: Pastoring in the Meds Age.

Not sure if this news event registers on many of your radar screens, but former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation. If a major presidential candidate who was running against an incumbent was assassinated in U.S. 11 days before elections, I can't begin to imagine the damage that would do to our republic, much less their fragile one! As per the play-book, the 2008 Presidential Candidates picked up the political football & ran with it.

The Frivolous
Some guy in Indiana paid for a new pickup truck with loose change. Me, I'm one of those annoying "Use your change as you go" guys who is digging in his pocket for another nickel & dime to pay the cashier in exact change while you stand behind me just waiting to make your order at Starbucks.

From the "What in the WORLD?!?" Department, Man nails Santa to a cross in protest.

Have you found Jesus yet? All you need is coordinates...

A bunch of priests brawl in Bethlehem. Even though we are not Greek Orthodox or Armenian, the un-churched links us with them. I hate news like this, because events like this don't help the effort for evangelism.

Interesting article from CNN/SI about how some guy got to go one-on-one with Obama. He appears to be a very balanced person.

Lots of talk by college football analysts & commentators about how revolutionary the new spread offenses are with mobile quarterbacks. Well, the next generation football offense is already here, and its laboratory is Alabama High School Football. It's called the A-11 offense, for "All 11" players being eligible to touch the ball. What a mess to try to defend. Here's a video of the offense in action.

College Football Players rack up during bowl season. Sound systems, Nintendo Wii's -- these guys get taken care of.

You thought you had a crappy Christmas...

Some kids develop late, and others figure it out early. This little girl early has a head start on the world...

With apologies to ESPN's Bill Simmons (a.k.a. The Sports Guy) & his links column, this is the Best Wedding First Dance Ever...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Perfect Storm = Bad Form

A side note before I allow you to take a dip into my cynicism...

Anyone who is dissatisfied with the lack of "spirituality" in this blog lately may want to sample some of the sermons that I've begun posting on-line at The link is a button (looks like this --><--) on the side panel that is listed under "Elsewhere," which is a collection of links to my other virtual presences on this tangled world wide web that we weave.

Since I have the weekly opportunity to share Christian messages from Scripture every Sunday, I typically exhaust most of my theological reflections at that time. Given that fact, I'm simply not as motivated to opine spiritual opinions in this forum for all 2 of my readers. That does not necessarily mean that this blog will be completely void of Christianity. Simply, I'm serving notice for each of you in case you're wondering why a preacher's blog isn't more preachery.

So, if getting a glimpse of what I share on Sunday's is your cup of tea, feel free to help yourself in that regard by checking out what I post there at

As evidenced by a previous blog entry, I tend to be particular, and sometimes ornery, about how we use the English language. Has anyone else seen the new IBM commercial where a group of co-workers go to some business conference & during one of the sessions end up playing business buzzword bingo? Its hilarious. It's a play on how there are certain buzzwords & phrases that are over-used. They are words that are often peppered into a speech, and the speaker intends for the buzzword to have gravity & carry deep meaning. However, a word's effect is lessened each time it is used, thus "buzzwords" end up becoming annoying utterances that effectively make the speaker appear shallow.

I'm sure that some of my regular Sunday listeners could come up with a good list of words to play buzzword bingo with. When it comes to contemporary churches, it seems that you aren't a hip church unless you have one of the following words in your title: Fellowship, Grace, or Community. And if your church is named "Grace Community Fellowship," then you're probably at the hippest church in town.

Well, the well-worn phrase that has drawn my ire lately is "perfect storm." It is everywhere. Whenever folks intend to describe a confluence of events that returns a negative result, they say, "Its a perfect storm." From the situation in Iraq to the current political climate to the crisis in sports concerning a lack of loyalty between coaches and institutions /organizations, it seems that I hear or read it more than I go to the bathroom. We're really wearing it out, America. I urge readers everywhere to limit how often you use this phrase.

Anyone else wish to share any buzzwords or phrases that grate against their language sensibilities?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The 12 Pains of Christmas

Well, it's nearly over, but I thought I'd share my favorite Christmas parody of all-time. I believe it was originally recorded by Bob Rivers. Anyway, enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Smoke and Mirrors

Well, good for Clemens. Being interviewed by Mike Wallace is the closest thing to testifying under oath or submitting to a polygraph. Only it is NOT those things. This is undoubtedly a dog & pony show to pull a confidence scam on the public, trying to convince folks that he is telling the truth & McNamee is not. Are we supposed to believe that McNamee told the truth under oath about Andy Pettitte, but LIED about Roger Clemens? Are we supposed to believe that he NATURALLY stayed remarkably healthier in his later years than he did in his earlier years? What a joke!

As someone on an internet forum posted about a former incompetent University of Alabama official, I believe my sentiments regarding Roger Clemens may be summed up by the lyrics of San Quentin by the venerable Johnny Cash:

(Roger Clemens), may you rot and burn in hell.
May your (records) fall and may I live to tell.
May all the world forget you ever stood.
And may all the world regret you did no good.

Well, maybe hell is too strong. May he rot & burn in baseball purgatory. How's that?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

REVIEW: The Bourne Redundancy

The Bourne Ultimatum

Just Watched:
The Bourne Ultimatum

My Rating:
4 Stars

This one was very good.

Ultimatum returns to the familiar feel of Identity in this film. From now on, when you look up "thrill-ride" in the dictionary, there will be a scaled down picture of the movie poster for this film (just like the one above) next to the definition. Most good action movies take you for a ride and keep you in a constant state of suspense because you don't know what's going to happen right around the corner. The poor movies don't do this: the movement is plodding, the plots are set-up cheaply & are wholly predictable, and the entire experience is just stale. Not so here. Remember how fun Identity was the first time when you could hardly remember where you had just been, could barely figure out where you were at the time, and had no idea where you were going??.... but you couldn't wait to get there! This movie does that, too. If it is an experience you seek, this is your film.

Now, I'm about to get really critical. I may be splitting hairs here, but that is what separates the magnificent works of art from the "very good" films.

Scoping His Prey
Bourne, Bourne -- he's our man! Why don't we send him to Afghanistan!
The first thing that holds me back from letting loose the coveted "iii 5-star rating" is the same thing that held back Identity: QUESTIONS. We are left with more questions than answers. Hopefully without giving too much away... why is Julia Stiles' character so drawn to Bourne's? Why was Bourne so willing to forget his former identity in order that he might be conditioned to become Jason Bourne? Could Jason Bourne kill both James Bond & Jack Bauer? The artist, I'm sure, would say that this is merely true to life: our's is an existence that asks many questions & answers few of them. Poppycock, I say! Art imitates culture, sure, but I also look to art to make a point, portray a view, answer a question. Supremacy didn't do this. Minus ½ a star.

Another redundant feature of this movie was our final view of the character of Jason Bourne as a tragic figure who is asked to sacrifice too much for the cause. I really didn't enjoy this theme the first time I saw Matt Damon portray it in The Good Shepherd. I really didn't care to see him emphasize the point again. Apparently our culture is supposed to be one where no one gives more than society's arbitrary standard of self-sacrifice allows. (As an aside, perhaps the scandal of the cross in contemporary culture is the very simple notion of self-sacrifice. I'll be meditating on this, & I'll probably be preaching on it soon, as well).

Finally, and once again from the Redundant Department of Redundancy, the architects of this film reach back to the trusty & reliable first in the trilogy for a theme: identity. In a deleted scene, before a Senate committee in a hearing, the director of the CIA explains the primacy of ethics in espionage relative to the USA keeping its identity as a noble nation. In the film, Jason Bourne relentlessly chases clues toward the end of discovering his identity. Other agents furiously chase other clues toward the end of discovering exactly what the CIA really is at the tip of the sword. The entire trilogy is somewhat of a morality play about how it is what you do in life that defines you. Wait a minute! That was Batman Begins! Minus another ½ a star for lack of imagination & theme infringement.

Matt Damon even joked about the repetitive nature of this film franchise, joking as a guest on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" that the fourth movie would have to be named "The Bourne Redundancy." Some clever people have already filmed & released the trailer for the fourth Bourne film.

Four stars. Not great, but very good. It is certainly a must-see.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Links

A couple of blogs that I frequent often post a series of links that are of general interest. Since I've picked my blogging habits back up, I've stumbled upon a few things that I reckon some of you might be interested in as well. So, without further delay & in no particularly reasoned order, I present you with "The Links."

A powerful Christmas Message today from Preacher Mike Cope. No one better presents the "Already, But Not Yet" element of the Christian Faith than Preacher Mike.

The Dabbinator and friends ruminate upon how Christians should deal with retirement in contemporary, 21st century America.

I must give credit to Jordan on this one. The Shawshank Redemption came to life this week.

The New Batman Trailer. Ooooohh!

MSNBC has determined the Most Peculiar Stories of 2007. When a man having sex with a dead deer rings in only at number FIVE, you know it has to be a good list.

The Tribune Company owns the Chicago Cubs, and also Wrigley Field. The Tribune Company recently underwent an ownership change, and the new owner wants to sell naming rights to Wrigley Field.

Lots of talk following MLB's Mitchell Report about records, awards, & legacies, and the revoking of some of these for users of performance-enhancing substances. I tend to agree with Mr. Araton of the NY Times when he argues that meeting out justice for those times is too complex for surgical procedures (e.g. stripping someone of their Cy Young Award(s), wiping records or placing asterisks in the record book, etc.), and that we can do little more than acknowledge that the entire era is permanently stained. An excerpt:

Like it or not, the era is what it is. It is naïve to the point of absurd to believe it can be partly revised or rewritten to meet some arbitrary standard of tolerance. Based on what we know, it stands to reason that on a percentage basis in every way possible, cheats won, even when they squared off.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle looks through the veneer of the public statements issued by MLB players through their lawyers and sees half-truths & misinformation. It is completely transparent how these statements are merely an attempt to redeem their public image.

Tim Sullivan notes that Roger Clemens' former trainer & accuser told his tale under oath. If we're to believe the tale that Clemens spun, Sullivan says that The Rocket should argue his innocence under oath, as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hall of Fame Dad

Go grab the kleenex's. Don't say that I didn't warn you...

"You were never too tired to play catch. On your days off you help build the Little League field. You always came to watch me play. You were a Hall of Fame Dad. I wish I could share this moment with you.
Your son Pat"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blog Version 2.0

The Governator
That's right, boys & girls. iii is back.
What up, gangsta's. Glad to be back. During this football season, I spent my blogging time thinking through the Crimson Tide's issues out loud on an Alabama football forum. I earned a reputation as sort of the "forum pastor." They look to me for theological wisdom related to ebb & flow of Alabama football. Its cute. SO, anyways, at least between now & fantasy baseball season, I'll probably be spending my extra internet time here.

In the last few days, I've made some upgrades to the blog & I thought I'd fill you in on each of them.

  • I added a few cool links to the "Other Links" section of the left panel. If you're not familiar with sites like Craigslist or Political Fact Check, you must check them out.

  • I've added buttons that syndicate my blog to RSS readers. Personally, I highly recommend Bloglines. One of my frustrations with blogging in the past was clicking on everybody's link just to check to see if there was anything new. Now, if any new content is posted, I am alerted immediately via the Bloglines notifier.

    Anyway, I love my new buttons. They feel like scout badges, and they inflate me with a false sense of importance. (G)

  • Under the "Elsewhere" heading, I posted links to other places on the web where I have a presence: my MySpace page, Sitemeter statistics for this blog, my future record on Xbox Live, my sermons on SermonCentral, my Pandora internet radio station that is personalized to my musical preferences, and my Netflix movie choices. Feel free to connect with me or get to know me, or stalk me for that matter, through these links.


My favorite Conan clip EVER! I remember seeing another skit like this, with different scenarios, and it ran for like 3 or 4 minutes. Every time that guitarist did his thing, the funnier it got. And, of course, Conan has the whole late night "I'm so delirious anything is funny right now" thing going for him. But I still find this laugh out loud hilarious.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Sin of Acha... Israel

The story of the sin of Achan has been one that has always disturbed my sensibilities on many levels. Really, I still have more questions than I do answers.

  • Here, you have a nation that shows such faith in God as to send only a few thousand men to conquer Ai, yet He didn't bother to warn them at all about the licking they were about to receive at the hands of their enemies & the loss of 36 lives.

  • Further, it says in verse 1 that "the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things" -- because of the actions of ONE man the whole is judged unfaithful.
  • In verse 10, we're left with the notion that God doesn't want Joshua to pray any longer about an event that had to be extremely disturbing to the Israelites. When coupled with another passage, I get the distinct impression that God gets tired of our blubbering after a while. There comes a point where supplication is rendered void & action is required. Sure, that makes sense, but given all the other eccentricities of this passage it is still unsettling on some level.

  • Once Israel narrows it down to Achan, he confesses that it was indeed him. Hey, at least he didn't pull a Rafael Palmeiro or a Roger Clemens. Or pull a Pete Rose & try to benefit off his "confession," if you can call it that after YEARS of categorical denials only to finally tell the truth by releasing a book to make money off of it (... what a sleazy guy!). Achan is a man & at the least owns up to his sin. And for this, he is stoned.

  • And not only do they stone Achan, but his family with him. And we have no idea whether or not they were even complicit in Achan's deed. Or even knew about it!

I was listening to some Randy Harris from the Tulsa Workshop today, and he took on this passage. He expressed experiencing many of the same troubles that I listed above. Usually, when I think this passage or preach it, I talk about sin. And I talk about how serious God is about sin, holiness, etc. But that's not what Randy addressed.

Randy said that our main problem with this passage that we've never expressed is how sickeningly community-oriented the Israelites were... at least, to us. We embrace such an exorbitant individualism and it is such an epidemic in our culture that the implications of living in community appear almost perverse to us. The therapists among us might even call it "unhealthy." There is spectrum of dependence vs. independence, and we must seek to strike the "healthy balance" of interdependence. At least, that's what I was taught in Christian Home at HU.

God holds the entire nation responsible for the actions of one man. ONE. We don't take responsibility for the deficiencies around us, do we? MLB Commissioner Bud Selig refused to apologize last week for his culpability. A culture of rampant illegal drug usage spirals out of control on his watch, but it was the fault of the individuals who made those decisions. No one has even begun to lay blame at the feet of simple fans like me, even though I continue to purchase apparel, subscribe to each season, and play fantasy baseball. I continue to support a dirty sport, and have not done my part to hold the leaders & participants of the sport accountable for their misdeeds. No, rather, fans like me are either too apathetic to care or too cynical to think anything can be done, so we settle for a synthetic product.

How about more life applicable examples? Abilene Christian University recently apologized to African-Americans for how that institution & its supporting churches treated them in generations past. Why did they do that? Scarcely anyone that is a part of that institution today played a role in that. But at least on this issue, ACU gets it, because they are promoting a sense of community that even shares the responsibility of the misdeeds of their predecessors.

Randy Harris asked if we take responsibility for what's been happening in Sudan? Or all the turmoil of the Middle East, or previously, Eastern Europe? Because we all constitute "the nations."

This contemporary Evangelical business about our "personal relationship with God" that is buoyed by hymns with lyrics like "My God and I walk through the meadow's hue" & "He walks with me & He talks with me"... it's a little off-center. We would do well to re-examine the sense of community promoted within Scripture & the implications that holds for ourselves and what we teach.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Power 12

I could sound all snooty & say that I am rating the top twelve college football teams of the 2007 season after the dust has settled from all the wild weekends we had this season. Truth is, I simply took a break from blogging & didn't care to update all of you on my opinions of college football teams.

So without further ado, the 2007 Pre-Bowl Power 12...

2.) Ohio State
3.) LSU
4.) Oklahoma
5.) Southern Cal
6.) Georgia
7.) West Virginia
8.) Missouri
9.) Kansas
10.) Virginia Tech
11.) Florida
12.) Illinois

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Did A-Rod Lie to Katie Couric?

Ever seen the movie, The Negotiator? It stars Samuel L. Jackson as a City Police Hostage Negotiator who is framed & takes hostages for himself. Thriller!

Anyway, in that movie, Samuel L. Jackson's character interviews a man who he thinks aided in framing him, and, in the process of interrogating him, accuses him of lying:

Turn Your Volume WAY Up

If you couldn't make out what he said, in essence, Samuel L. Jackson's character calls the guy out on a lie. The way he does this is by watching his eye movements when he answers questions. The way you can tell is this: if the subject of a question shifts his eyes to his left, he is accessing the portion of his brain reserved for memory. Thus, he is telling the truth. If the subject shifts his eyes to his right, he is accessing the portion of his brain for creativity. Thus, he is making up what he says.

This website confirms the information from that movie scene. It further breaks down the eye movements into 6 directions, but the basic right/left distinction remains. Also, this phenomenon is BACKWARDS (e.g. eyes to the subject's right for memory & eyes to the subject's left for lying) for people who are left-handed.

And now to our feature presentation: Alex Rodriguez. On Thursday, mere moments after the release of George Mitchell's Report on Performance Enhancing Drug Use in Major League Baseball, Katie Couric interviewed A-Rod for a piece that will air tonight on the CBS Weekly News Magazine, 60 Minutes. Take a look at the clip that is linked for you below and, in particular, pay attention to the movement of A-Rod's eyes when he answers Katie's question regarding whether he had ever been tempted to take any performance enhancing substances.

So what do you think? Was A-Rod, who bats & throws right-handed, accessing the section of his brain where creativity takes place before he answered that question? Was A-Rod lying?

Another plausible theory goes like this... A-Rod is very concerned with his reputation. He wants people to like him, almost too much. Almost to a fault. He's giving an interview that will go a long way toward forming people's opinions of him, especially of people who don't watch ESPN, listen to sports talk radio, or follow sports closely. You could almost see him asking himself in that moment, "What answer should I give?" Or, "What's the best way I could answer this so that people don't hate me?" Thus, if A-Rod was really thinking such thoughts, he wasn't so much concerned with concealing past steroid use or desires as much as he was giving an answer that made people like him or look up to him.

I know it's a stretch, but this admittedly-biased baseball fan is gonna chalk this one up as circumstantial evidence of lying about PED use. Almost everyone that slime-ball Jose Canseco has named has been outed as a user or corroborated as an alleged user by other accounts. His accusations look more & more credible as time passes and more evidence surfaces. And he continues to be adamant that A-Rod is, or was, a user. And in the court of public opinion, sometimes accusations & circumstantial evidence is enough. We're not trying the man for murder. We're merely judging his athleticism, Hall of Fame credentials, and place within history. And in the absence of a perfect system to catch those who seek to gain an unfair advantage, we fans are forced to form our own opinions. I've formed mine. What is your's?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Why College Football is King

Written by a sports writer named Travis Reier:

The Best Thing About College Football?

Is that it's not pro football. At least, it wasn't as of midnight, when Missouri and West Virginia returned to their pumpkin statuses. But there is good news on the horizon for the ever-growing faction of college football fans who seemingly want to NFL-ize the Saturday game. With club seats, luxury suites and multi-million-dollar head coaches with Power Ball buyouts becoming a permanent part of the landscape, major college football is taking on an uncanny resemblance to the no-personality horsecrap we see on Sundays.

So I must be opposed to a playoff, right? Not necessarily. An eight-team format would allow the regular season to retain a shred of integrity while also identifying the nation‘s top team. Anything more than that, though, would be another ill-advised step “forward” for the game. A 16 (or more)-team format would admit three-loss teams to the party, watering down the importance of September games in the process.

See, I like that Georgia fans tonight are mourning a home loss to South Carolina from nearly three months ago all over again. Same for USC (Stanford loss). And while they may not realize it right now, the fear of losing even one game and the haunting consequences of a week two defeat is why we travel to Nashville to watch a game involving Vanderbilt instead of the Titans.