Quote from Rutledge’s “The Crucifixion” – Scripture

To understand the nature of gospel preaching, we need to understand the nature of the Scripture itself. There is a fundamental syntactical distinction between saying “we question the Bible” and “the Bible questions us.” It is common, in congregations, to hear of subjects like “Using the Bible in Small Groups.” But we do not “use” the Bible; if we attempt to do so, it will slip away from us, leaving something opaque and very much less dynamic in its place. Contrary to the story line in many “spiritual” journals, the biblical narrative does not tell of our journey toward God; it is the other way around. The right approach is not “What questions do I have to ask of the Bible?” but “What questions does the Bible have to ask of me?” God does not wait for Adam to start looking for him; it is God who comes looking with the question, “Adam where are you?” – the first words spoken to fallen humanity. God says to Job, “Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you will answer me.” God is the one who says, “i will shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3 KJV)

Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, pp. 19-20

I remember Boo Helfin1 , my Old Testament professor at Southwestern Seminary, stewing when he heard someone say “I teach the Bible.” He was far to kind to call someone out in public for such an unintentional slip, but he would definitely rant to us, his students, so that we would learn that the Bible doesn’t need us to teach it anything, instead it is we who need to be taught by the scripture.


  1. Dr. Heflin was also one of the toughest and most amazing teachers I have ever experienced. I made two Bs during my Masters of Divinity and OT 2 was one of those Bs. He is also the reason that I love the book of Amos 

Kicking To the Middle

I really enjoy reading and listening to Malcolm Gladwell. “Insight porn” is the name I have heard used regarding his genre of writing, since the thrill of similar books seems to be the “aha” moments that happen through such books. Gladwell references in several of his works a study1 studying what area of the goal a penalty kick is most effective and where most soccer or football players will kick a penalty kick or which area goalkeepers will dive to attempt the block. This study indicates that the most likely chance of success for a penalty kick is kicking the ball to the middle of the goal rather than to either one of the sides. Want to guess where most players kick the ball or guess where the goalkeepers usually go for the block? If you said “not the middle” then you are correct and you win the prize((sorry to tell you that there is no prize)).  Gladwell speculates that the cost of looking like you aren’t trying as hard or looking foolish is greater to the players than the reward of the increased likelihood of a goal. Therefore the players kick to the sides rather than the middle where they are more likely to score and thus do a better job.

I bring this up because I struggle with the same thing every now and then.  Sometimes I am more concerned with looking like I am working hard than actually working hard. The current specific instance occurs within one of the companies that I chaplain for, but I could also list pastoring and other situations if I felt the urge.

The best and most meaningful conversations I have in one of my companies consistently happen in the break room. I’m not sure what it is about the physical structure of the building, the culture of the company, or my own behavior but every time I take a book and sit in the break room really meaningful conversations about serious needs happens. I joked with the head of the company that I should just announce my presence and go straight to the break room instead of doing my rounds. So why don’t I do this?

Well because of my own fear of looking like I’m not doing anything. I know that I am a more effective chaplain when I sit in the break room, but I believe I look like a more effective chaplain when I am walking around the company. If I were in a signalling mindset at the moment I would say that I was more concerned with signalling that I am an busy than I was actually being effective. That’s why I am posting this here and I have discussed this with the head of the company. I am trying to be more concerned with being effective than I am with looking effective. The plan is set. All I need to do now is pick a book and go to the break room. I am going to be more concerned with being effective, than looking effective.


  1. This study is from Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame – you can hear the Freakonmics episode on this study here

Black Squirrel / Gray Squirrel

doubt that this will matter to my Wisconsin friends but I think it will be fascinating to my Southern friends, In Wisconsin (and elsewhere in the Midwest) we have black gray squirrels. They are gray squirrels that have an overabundance of melanin (basically the reverse of albinism). Thus they are pitch black rather than gray.

They are super cool.

Pam and I get excited every time we see one and we now have one living in our backyard. I like to think that they are gray squirrels that have decided to become ninjas … but I can’t verify this.

Pam posted a photo of this little guy yesterday on Instagram but this afternoon I had the chance to take a photo with little blackie and a normal gray squirrel so you can really see the difference. I mentioned to Nancy H yesterday on Pam’s photo how amazingly dark they were and thought this would do a good job of conveying how cool these squirrels are.

Stranger Things Soundproof Houses

Watching Stranger Things with Pam and one thing I have noticed is that apparently everyone else’s house is easier to climb into and much more soundproof than any that I have ever lived in. These people can have very loud conversations in their basement and nobody on the floor above them can hear a single word. Also apparently anybody can climb onto the roof of a house and sneak into a bedroom without anyone noticing. Apparently these people have some very well insulated houses. I’m not sure who built them but movie houses are either high quality work or everyone in Hollywood is deaf.

This American Life Episode on the Travel Ban

If you haven’t listened to the “This American Life” episode on the travel ban (609: It’s Working Out Very Nicely) I would recommend doing so. I believe it does a very good job of putting faces to some of those affected by the ban.

I have embedded it below.

UPDATE – so I was wrong that it was embedded. I’m presently working on fixing the link.

UPDATED UPDATE – not sure why the embeddable player isn’t working on my blog since I copied the code from This American Life’s share feature. Therefore, I am just posting a link here. Go listen to it on their site or better yet subscribe to their podcast and listen to it on your favorite podcasting app. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/609/it%E2%80%99s-working-out-very-nicely

Praying for the President

NOTE – I wrote this blog post a little over a week ago based on some struggles I had been experiencing with people who I care for. I was going to post it right after writing it, then the Executive Order travel ban happened. As a result of the ban I worried at that time because of the circumstances that my post might not be viewed I in the manner I had intended. So I postponed this post until today.

I have said before that I talk politics not politicians at church, chaplaincy, and on this blog but I’m going to break that for the beginning of this post. The reason I am going to break my previous statement is because it is necessary for the subject that I wish to write about – praying for the president.

My friend Kirby, a poli sci professor at Texas A & M, posted a Google Chrome extension (PolitEcho) that analyzes one’s Facebook “friends” and places them on a continuum of political ideology. Below is its analysis of my “friends”.

 

As you can see from the above graphic of my friends, if it is accurate, I am apparently drawn to people who have an extreme range in political thought. I know for a fact that several of my friends are having trouble praying for our current president and I also know that some other friends have had trouble praying for previous presidents. I have heard this as a friend, a pastor, and a chaplain.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 reads as follows:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

That isn’t a suggestion. It is a directive. Following that command is obviously easier when you like the president that is currently in office. It isn’t necessarily very easy if you really don’t like the president and feel like he (and thus far it has always been a “he”) is dangerous for the country.

Yet scripture tells us believers to pray for him. is a pretty big deal since Paul was telling Christians to do this during a political regime that would soon want to kill them. Yes praying for the emperor was smart. It showed that Christians, while having very different values, weren’t trying to overthrow the empire. Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire for many things but the biggest reason was that we were viewed as bad citizens for not being willing to sacrifice and worship the emperor1 . Christianity wants to transform countries, not necessarily depose kings. Praying for Caesar didn’t mean supporting what he was doing in Rome. In fact, the followers of Christ worked to change the world that the Caesars wanted to create. So Paul instructed followers of Christ to pray for their political leaders. This is usually fine and dandy with people when we like the leader.

But not so much when we don’t.

One of my favorite aspects of Anne Lamott’s book “Plan B” is her honesty in admitting that she didn’t want to pray for President George W Bush, a president that I voted for twice. She knew she needed to pray for him because she claimed to follow Christ. She knew that it is written scripture that Christians should pray for their political leaders. Of course, this didn’t mean that she wanted to pray for him. So she prayed for God to help her pray for the president. I love prayer like that and I believe God does too. It reminds me of the father in scripture who prays “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief”2 .

I’m convinced that praying for President Trump means asking for God’s best for him while also asking for the best for our country. Asking that the duties of the office of the presidency won’t destroy his marriage or family. That love in his marriage and family will grow during his time in office. Asking the Father to help President Trump to make very difficult decisions and to make the right decisions. To know when to listen and to whom to listen.  Praying for him to be surrounded by people who will offer him good advice and help him to see the American way. Praying for humility for the man who now sits in the oval office. Praying for him to be able to find ways of peace for our country in a world off war. Most importantly praying that God will make himself known to President Trump and that Donald Trump will also know that he himself is known by God. That’s actually a pretty dangerous prayer because while it is best for all of us to encounter God it also tends to flip everything one thinks upside down.

None of the above means that we can’t pray for certain of his policies to be stopped from going into action. Nor does it mean that one can’t pray for his time in office to be as short as possible. It just means that we need to be praying for him and his life. I believe that praying for our leaders affects our attitudes toward them. It might help to love him like Christ does, as a child created in the image of God no matter how marred that image might be. I can pray for President Trump while also praying for policies that I am convinced are more consistent with the American way.


  1. The Emperor Cult was a crucial part of Roman power and the witness of Christians that “Jesus was Lord” was a direct affront to the Roman thought that “Caesar is lord”. 

  2. Mark 9:24 

Two Frederick Douglass Quotes

Just read this quote from Frederick Douglass and loved it.

“Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked.”

Frederick Douglass

In addition I found the passage in the appendix of Douglass’s work “Life of an American Slave”.

I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.