Surf or Swim?


Your computer probably is twice as fast at everything that one you owned a few years ago.  The capacity of your computer, tablet, smart phone or other device increases by about 100% every two years.

Your brain works at about the speed that the human brain has always worked.  This is why the amount of information available is not necessarily making us smarter.  We can access more information with more speed than ever before.

Very often we are only riding the surface, not experiencing the depth.

Suppose you were in a boat off of a tropical island, you would see lovely blue water.  It would only be when you stayed in that location but dove below the surface that you would see the very busy world of life below.

Bible study can be done by surfing or swimming. You can listen to the radio, or read the web, or down load pod casts without end.  Almost every church posts the pastors message these days, even we do!

I advocate that you stay longer in a good location and dive in deeply.  You will learn more if you concentrate for a significant time on a single chapter, or psalm or book of the Bible.

The Lord made your mind for swimming, not for surfing.  You can not really take to heart everything you hear.  You can take to heart that which you explore deeply.

This summer, pick just one chapter, or Psalm or one short book and dive in.  Spend the whole month of July with a short passage and see what you will discover in its depths.

Suggestions:  Psalm 32, 104, 139; Matthew 6; Romans 8, Isaiah 40, Job 28.

Sexuality in the Bible

I have been part of discussion over same gender relationships and marriage equality for a number of years.  Below are two articles.

Sexuality in the Light of Christ is a publication that we make available at the church.

Asking the Right Questions was a longer piece I wrote as part of an inter-church dialogue on the issue.

I have observed over the years, since I was at University that the arguments have migrated regularly.  Some of what I wrote is thus dated, but the Biblical portions remain my view of the texts in question.

Finally, Biblical passages that pertain to Sexuality.

Discipline – Not a Fan!

PEI am old enough to remember when gym and shop teachers competed for the most impressive “hack paddles”.  Yes, they actually used physical punishment in those days. As one wag put it: “We have to apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge.”

Hebrews 12:11 says that no discipline seems pleasant at the time.  We often read this chapter on the value of discipline with a jaundiced ear – as when our parent said, “This will hurt me more than it hurts you.”

Yet the discipline in Hebrews 12 is not physical punishment. It is more like the discipline of a successful athlete. Actually it is like the discipline of a successful (fill in the blank).

How can I say that?

  • The root of the word for discipline comes from the word for child.  (paideia/pais)  It carries the idea of teaching a child.  It is in this sense that we have the English word pedagogy 0r how to teach.
  • The context of the passage speaks of athletic completion: Run the race in v. 1, with the idea of casting off excess weight and endurance; v. 7 says “endure hardship as discipline”; Father’s discipline and God’s discipline is not limited in the text to physical punishment.
  • The individual in v. 1, the Lord in v 2-3 and the “son” in vv. 4-11 are all motivated by a positive goal (finishing the race, the joy that Christ anticipated and a harvest of righteousness).
  • BAG Lexicon defines paideuo: bring up, instruct, train, educate; correct, punish.  So it has a range of meaning that includes punishment but also includes training and teaching.

So when Mr. Hahn, my Junior High School PE teacher, who was rumored to be an ex drill sergeant, pushed us to run faster, climb higher and play harder he was teaching discipline. When he called us “hamburgers” for running our laps slowly and when he pulled out his “hack paddle” made of a piece of rubber gym flooring material, he was also disciplining us.  We found all of this unpleasant, but he was attempting to accomplish something.

No only when the dreaded words came, “assume the position”.

Gotta go, need to run some laps…fast!

Harmony Circle –

block party

    Tom and Beth lived on Harmony circle in a quiet and friendly neighborhood.  It was the kind of place where the neighbors kept an eye on each other’s kids when they were playing outside or in the cul-de-sac.  They held a block party every 4th of July weekend.  They grilled their food and lit their fireworks. There was Harmony on this circle until it all fell apart.

This is how it happened.  Al and Des lived two houses over.  Al was a contractor and his garage had every tool and gadget that a man could love.  Al was hard to shop for on Father’s day, he didn’t need any of the tools that they advertise and he never wore a neck tie.

Tom asked if he could borrow Al’s chop saw so he could use it to build a deck.  Al agrees and even brought over the new contractor quality saw.  He joked a bit by saying that the tool makes the carpenter – usually.

Tom started to work.  Things when south fast.  He decided to use recycled lumber and as he was cutting, he hit a steel spike.  In a shower of sparks the blade was as dull as a butter knife.  Tom was not put off by that so he continued to work with the dull blade and did not notice that the saw overheated from the extra work and starting to smoke.  “Oops” he said then it stalled out.  I guess I better take it back to Al.  So he took it over and put it by Al’s front door with a thank you note. He did not replace the blade or admit to the error.  And it rained that afternoon. Al came back to a broken tool that was soaking wet.   Tom was a Lawyer, very successful, so he could have bought a couple of saws, but he did not think about that, or even of replacing the blade.

Al was pretty nice about it.  He just said, “Hey Tom, I guess you owe me a new blade.”  Tom said, “What?’ and walked away.  Then next day Al got this note in his mail box from Tom.  “Dear Al, thanks for the tool, though the blade is not very sharp. You really ought to replace it. Your friend, Tom.”

Al decided to keep his distance from Tom and not to lend him tools any more.  When Tom asked about a power nailer, he just said his was not available.  Tom looked kind of mad.

A little later Tom decided to see for himself.  He noticed that the garage door was not shut and he went in. There was the nailer.  So he took it.  “I won’t say anything and he won’t miss it.”   While he was at it he also borrowed with a shop-vac and a power painter.

Al called the police thinking he had been robbed.  This makes Tom laugh and he decided to play along.  He thought, “If Al gets the insurance, I’ll just keep the tools. Well the police simply followed the scrape marks that the tools made as Tom dragged them from Al’s house to his.  So they came and took him in for questioning.  He had to pay bail and hire a lawyer for a $10,000 retainer.

A funny thing happened.  Harmony Circle became Security Circle – the neighbors became worried. They beefed up their security.  Some put up cameras and one got a pit bull.  Another family moved away.  The Kids started to get into fights over name calling. It went like this: “Your dad is a thief.” “Well, your Dad is a wiener.” “Oh yeah”, “Yeah…”  The barbecue was canceled.  In the end, no one talked to each other; they just drove into their garages and shut the doors with their automatic garage openers.

This story illustrates the decline into chaos that can occur with our neighbors. It is written to illustrate the five prohibitions in Proverbs 3:27-31 (NIV)


27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
when they have done you no harm.

31 Do not envy the violent
or choose any of their ways.


`In the story and in the verses the progression is from withholding good to envying the violent.



Two Sinners in the Prodigal Son Story – Luke 15

The-Prodigal-SonThere are three characters in the Prodigal Son parable.  Most of the attention goes to the younger son, but the story is about the Father and his TWO lost sons.

Younger:   And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.   Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

This son is one kind of sinner.  He thinks about himself and his desires.  He does not care for the teaching he received. He does not care for tradition. He does not a care for doing the right thing.  He breaks all the rules and eventually he finds himself facing the results.This kind of sinner plants trouble and ends up getting more trouble

I do not think he knows about forgiveness.  He believes that he can make a plan to work for his father.  The last thing he expects is to be forgiven.  He knows his father is fair – he would do the right thing to give him a job.  He does not know that his father loves him enough to forgive him.

Older:  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,   but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.   But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

The older son is a second kind of sinner.   Yes he is a sinner.  He is lost .The younger son was lost because of his selfishness.  The older son was lost because he kept the rules.  He did not know his father or  his father’s live. He only knew the rules. He only understood that you earn your way by your work.

The Father: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

When the son returned, the Father saw him first.  He was waiting for the time when the son was ready to come back.  God is also looking for people to return home to him.  You may be far from God.  Maybe you know someone who is far from God.  God is looking for those who are far off to return.

The Father ran and gave a robe and a ring and a party to his son.  In the same way, when we return to God, he gives us many gifts.  We are received as his children, we are forgiven, we are given an inheritance.  God desires to welcome people back because he wants so pout out his live on us.

Literary Notes:

Luke 15:1-2 shows that “sinners and tax collectors” as well as “scribes and Pharisees” interacted with Jesus.  the Sinners were drawn to him but the religious were offended. They were offended that Jesus accepted sinners into his company

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” v. 1-2

The Father went out to both sons to welcome them home from their estrangement:  The Younger son as he returned from the pig pen. The older son who stood outside in anger against his Father and judgment against his brother.

At the end of the story, the younger son returns but the attitude of the older son is left unresolved.

Worksheet: Forgive.luke15

Seeing with colored pencils




In the first Bridges over the Yahara River watercolor class, we were looking at Psalm 1.  I showed the group the use of colored pencils for marking words and observing the structure of the passage.  So there we were under the overhang at Tenney Park, waiting for the rain to subside, huddled in blankets and LOOKING at Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

In out group of 7, at least three started to take the colored pencils and draw a tree (v. 3).  Yet that was not a distraction, but seemed to help in processing the words.  When we shared our observations after about 20 minutes, there were some profound insights into context, shape and content of the psalm.  Perhaps because we were in an artistic mode, and because we had planted ourselves by a stream of water (the Yahara River), the text came alive to us.