Cool Jesus

Posted by tom | Aug 7, 2006

Cool Jesus was forwarded to me by an IVCF staff friend. I found this Roman Catholic angle of critique expressed much of how I would have reacted if I fallen into such a subculture:

For more than two decades Cool Jesus has been right by my side. He's got a big toothy smile, he hates my Church, and he's always telling me I've got it all wrong. But he never tells me what's right.

But, I have not and I find sermons such as the one delivered by our current local congregation, Elizabethtown Brethren-in-Christ providing the much needed structure and direction for the daily walk with The One True God. For some sermon notes which I took from Sunday are posted below . . .


You Suck which is why you need Jesus

Posted by tom | Aug 2, 2006

Finally! An evangelistic t-shirt that really engages people. -- IVCF staff friend

How true it is. I found the most convincing part of the Gospel the daily frustration w/regard to how much not only the world and relationships around me fall short, but also how much I fall short due to the sin and brokenness in my own life. As I wake up this morning and touch my feet on the floor, only Jesus provides me with proper perspective and direction for how I engage w/my own person, Theresa, our girls, my parents (w/whom we're living), the campus, faculty, students, our local congregation, my vocation, the creation, etc.


We take no position on

Posted by tom | Aug 1, 2006

Scripture or theology or morals. We are just Episcopalians. -- Donna Bott, Episcopal Voices of Central Florida. (Quote forwarded to me by an IVCF staff friend)

Brief off-the-cuff response: I am just a follower of Christ. I am simply called to reflect and share the Word who not only came in Person but continues to provide Light upon His Word through His Body, the very People of God across time and space . . . incarnated and reproduced in concert throughout the creation.

Father grant your followers as individuals and as the Body of your Son the grace to open, receive, and live in your Word by the power of your Spirit.


Superman: The 3-D Savior

Posted by tom | Jul 1, 2006

Last night, I had the opportunity w/a few friends to see Superman Returns in 3-D at an IMAX theatre (note: only 3-D for selected scenes). It was an odd rewrite of the original movie series (I won't spoil it for you), but in general I liked the film. Although the director, Bryan Singer, comes from a secular Jewish perspective, he could not help but emphasize the savior elements of the Superman ethos. The world doesn't need a savior. And neither do I encapsulates the theme of film. Although the tradition is somewhat challenged by Lois and Richard in this film, I have to laregly agree w/Peter T. Chattaway


I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal 6:17)

Posted by tom | May 10, 2006

In the Solomon Islands we have very broken English. They can't say "God bless you very much," but they say "God bless you too much," which means God bless you so much you can't contain it all so that it must run over into somebody's else life.

How can I be such a person? How can I be a living Bible? How can I exemplify the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, that when I'm provoked something worthwhile will spill out?


Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible

Posted by tom | Dec 21, 2005

The extremists talk about religion - and spew messages of hate. Religious moderates must denounce this bigotry and reclaim Scripture as the shared document of all. When flamethrowers hold up Scripture and say, "It says this," moderates must hold up the same text say, "Yes, but it also says this." The Bible is simply too important to the history of Western civilization - and to vital to its future - to be ceded to one side in the debate over values.

Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible picks up from where the author perceives Yesterday's ruling by a federal judge that intelligent design cannot be taught in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district leaves off. The author advocates placing the teaching of the Bible back where it belongs in our schools: not in the science laboratory, but in its proper historical and literary context.

I agree. And I would go further by stating that we should also become familiar with the religious works and understandings which inform other cultures in our world. Why? Because, despite the teachings of our largely agnostic/atheistic educational subculture, the supernatural and the religious matter as the Other in various forms speak through circumstances, family, friendships and shape the frameworks of understanding which guide individuals, subcultures, nations.


Evil and the Cross

Posted by tom | Dec 9, 2005

As I said earlier, I came across Henri Blocher when seeking a larger framework for addressing the question of the effects of evil in day-to-day living. I found Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain a powerful piece for directing my consideration of the topic. So when a friend asked me about theodicy last night, Blocher came right to mind (have I mentioned that I just wrapped up Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle the other day, quite helpful. More later). Below are some quotes from the conclusion that provide how to live in the presence of evil, by the grace of the cross. How applicable as we reflect upon the incarnation during the Advent season (which this year is enriched by the release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).


For the beauty of the earth

Posted by tom | Nov 18, 2005

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.


Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

This hymn comes to mind each morning I come to campus. For a few minutes I just sat in the car watching the final leaves fall off the trees on Flagstaff Hill, adjacent to CMU campus rejoicing in the splendor of the creation. While reading CMU's Tartan, I came across a piece describing How Fall Leaves Work. Enjoy.

As Psalm 96 declares (the lead into GCF's prayer time this morning) . . .

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is it;let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth

Yes Lord, come quickly! And may we be found to have ascribed worship and obedience to you alone in all areas of life (relationships, work, neighborhood . . .)

One more day

Posted by tom | Oct 8, 2005

"The truth is, Mitch, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live . . . if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die at any time -- then you might not be as ambitious as you are" (Tuesdays w/Morrie, pp.82-3).

Several people have asked me how I (Tom) carry on w/all of the difficulties we have have faced as a family. Although Morrie's encouragement to embrace our fragility is courageous, I have more resonance w/day by day dependence upon God and the people of God.

alt  alt

Dave Bailey's One More Day, alongside the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23, began to articulate this for me during Elise Faith's brief life and found an even deeper resonance during my cancer treatment. His work was birthed by living day by day in Christ through the treatment of a malignant brain tumor, click here for his bio. We would encourage you to take a moment to browse his site and reflect upon some of his songs.

In particular, don't miss:

  • Another holy Morning
  • If I had Another


May the words bless you as they do our family.  (More)

Do I open my eyes in doubt or faith this morning?

Posted by tom | Sep 18, 2005

The conclusion of the NY Times' Magazine section article Getting Religion caught my attention. After crying ourselves to sleep last night in prayer, the Father has given us the grace to open our eyes with faith this morning. As children of God who rest upon His Word and walk in His Presence with the people of God across time, space, and creation, we accept and embrace living in faith today and waiting for the grace for tomorrow. Our prayer is that we will look around and find you in part of the family of God.

I thought I was out of that business, but maybe not. It took years to acquire the education I missed as a young man, an education not only in books but in a certain comportment toward myself and the world around me. Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. In reading them, I've often wanted to ask, "Why do you care?" Their skepticism offers no good answer to that question. And I don't have one for myself. When my daughter and I discuss her budding thoughts about the cosmos and morality, or when my students come to my office inspired or baffled by a book, something quickens within me. The Greeks spoke of eros, the Christians of agape and caritas. I don't know what to call it, I just know it is there. It is a kind of care. It is directed toward others, but also, perhaps, toward that young man lying on his bed, opening the Bible for the very first time.

-- Mark Lilla is a professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His book on modern theology and politics, The Stillborn God, will be published by Knopf next year.

The Daily Gift of New Life

Posted by tom | Aug 27, 2005

These lines in his Small Catechism hit me forcefully when I was in my twenties:

In the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say: 'God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.'

Further directions follow: say the Apostles Creed, pray the Lord's Prayer. … Then you are to go to your work joyfully (Martin E. Marty in Luther: The Daily Gift of New Life).


One More Day in our Father's Masterpiece

Posted by tom | Aug 11, 2005

Below is the conclusion of a sermon I gave on the Lord's Prayer at First Presbtyerian Church in Castle Shannon on July 31. The piece on Remembering Jesus was inspired by a passage from Don Everts' God in the Flesh (IVP, 2005, p.22).

Take out a piece of paper and write upon it “Remember Jesus” . . . place it somewhere you’ll see it frequently this week. Maybe in your purse or wallet, near your computer or telephone, inside your briefcase or magazine rack. Remind one-another by a phone call, email, or note this week to “Remember Jesus.” This is not naďve, simplistic, or cartoonish, but reality. The fullness of deity dwelt in Him (Col 2:9) and we are to be preoccupied with Christ, to have our eyes focused solidly upon Him for He points us to the Father, extends His Sprit to us. He is our all in all. By living a life that remembers Jesus, we have an ear to listen to those that come across our path and extend responsible, loving action that brings hope, help, healing, and a Word from God. Not just a word for the mind, but a word about and in reality. By “remembering Jesus” we choose to run from sin and to life.


Special Needs Children

Posted by tom | Aug 2, 2005
Came across this short piece on raising special needs children and found that it rang true as we've faced various difficulties, not just w/children but in general:

Could it be that the special-needs, "imperfect" people have that balancing effect on society as a whole? How would love and compassion develop among people who were only surrounded by the lovely and intelligent? My children treasure nothing more than a smile or kiss, sometimes just eye contact, from their little brother. My nephew, who is a year younger than Michael, loves to help at his school with the class of students with special need -- or as he puts it, "the class like Michael." I see my husband kiss our son's often expressionless, crooked little face, and my heart nearly bursts with a love and joy that I can hardly contain.


Unchained Faith

Posted by tom | Aug 1, 2005

Here's a piece regarding the Unchained Faith of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and John Bunyan, where internment has been God's agent for redemption and a stirring source of literary inspiration (below is the section on Dostoyevsky).


10am Simulcast Service

Posted by tom | Jul 30, 2005

Despite our trepidation, we checked out the 10am simulcast service at our local congregation last Sunday. AND God showed up (actually God was already there)!

I must say that I was surprised that we felt at home with a live feed of the pastor and the worship team in the sanctuary. We enjoyed the informal feel of a location that was not 550+ people packed tight, an on-site worship team which led in coordination with the team from the main sanctuary, the ability for us to settle in with around 75 or so in chapel which could seat 225, and not as much perceived/real pressure for Eden to be quiet :-) Also we liked the ability to see the pastor and worship leaders life size, versus the miniature that they appear from our balcony row.


More on prayer

Posted by tom | Jul 15, 2005

Picking up the topic of prayer. . . here's an excerpt from a brief presentation I gave on prayer to an undergrad audience a few years ago. My thoughts are more fully developed at this time, but I came across this on the desktop and thought it was provoking. Feel free to send me your reflections:


But what about when life just plain sucks -- when Elise Faith [note: our first child, born at 22 weeks and lived for 8 days] died on March 8, 1999. Our request was good, the timing had passed and we could not go back, our lives were right before him. Every day, godly people are stricken with deadly diseases or rocked by tragic mishaps. Praying parents die without having seen their wayward children return to the fold. Ungodly parents abuse innocent children -- causing distress and dysfunction for years to come. The righteous suffer and the innocent perish. In the time of Jesus and the disciples, a tower fell and killed many (Luke 13:1-4), John the Baptist lost his head, Jesus was crucified, the apostle James was also beheaded, Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned for the gospel. Why would an all loving, allpowerful God deny valid requests from faithful believers? We can understand why God doesn't answer requests from those that are trying to use him like a Pokeman card, but what about the faithful?

Click here for the whole presentation


Weekly Devotional Recommendation

Posted by tom | Jun 28, 2005

Thought you'd be interested in the Worship Quote of the Week service provided by Chip Stam, Director, Institute for Christian Worship & School of Church Music and Worship . . . see

A recent one is given below

Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is another from a new book by Noel Due. Here the author suggests that God's magnificent creation has a grammar of worship.


Grammar is that which gives coherence to our language. It is the unspoken paradigm by which sentences are written and conversations held. Ungrammatical statements stand out and declare themselves as being foreign to the structure of the language. They exist, but they do not belong. They have no authentic being. In a similar way, I suggest, the creation has a grammar of worship. This grammar is found in the eternal Triune relationships of the Godhead. It is the grammar of communion, of mutuality, of self-giving, voluntary glorification of the other. It is always doing, being and saying for the other, not for the self. This is the essence of AGAPE, the holy love of God, the revelation of which in history is the manifestation of God's glory. We have been made by the Triune God to reflect his internal self-giving love, and to participate in the action of honoring him above all things. After all, God is more interested in seeing that his name is honored in the universe than we are! And as we, his creatures, share in this God-glorifying life, so we find our home. We live authentic lives, ones that share in the proper grammar of the language of the universe.

The point is this: God did not create because in some sense he needed to be worshiped, but the parameters of worship (the constitutive elements of it) belong to his own being as God. His acts of creation open up the possibility that his creatures may know the ineffable joy and eternal riches of such elements. To put the matter differently, God is to be worshipped, not simply because he demands to be, but because this is the proper destiny of his creation. Anything less dishonors him and disfigures it.

- Noel Due, from CREATED FOR WORSHIP: FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION TO YOU, Scotland: Mentor Imprints, 2005, p. 39. ISBN 1-84550-026-1 (

[Remember that there are hundreds of WORSHIP QUOTES at the quote index found at]

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or view a complete
index of worship quotes, please visit

Mt 7 Reflections

Posted by tom | Jun 20, 2005

As part of our Father's Day Celebration, the pastor of our local congregation reflected upon Mt 7:7-11 under the title, Asking for Success. As I was paging through my Urbana 96 Bible, I noticed similar notes in the margin. Here are some brief notes from a previous encounter w/the Word directed by the power of the Spirit through a human instrument:

1. Beware of morality w/o coversion, there is no Christianity w/o Christ

2. Christianity is not self-improvement, but Christ replacement

3. There are no superficial solutions for spiritual problems (Jeremiah 6:14 . . . They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace; when there is no peace').

4. Doctrine leads to conduct, nature will express itself, see II Peter 1:4 we are partakers of the divine nature, escape corruption vs. II Peter 2:20 a dog returns to his vomit, a pig to the mud

5. False prophets say the right things, but omit vital things, neglect the narrow way referred to in v.13 Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Notes from Sunday's presentation coming in the next couple of days.

The Heroic Nature of Sainthood?

Posted by tom | May 21, 2005

"Heroic virtue does not mean that the saint performs a type of gymnastics of holiness, something that normal people do not dare to do. It means rather that in the life of a person God's presence is revealed -- something man could not do by himself and through himself. Perhaps in the final analysis we are rather dealing with a question of terminology, because the adjective heroic has been badly interpreted. Heroic virtue properly speaking does not mean that one has done great things by oneself, but rather that in one's life there appear realities which the person has not done himself, because he has been transparent and ready for the work of God. Or, in other words, to be a saint is nothing other than to speak with God as a friend speaks with a friend. This is holiness.

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