WHATCHU TALKIN BOUT WILLIS?

I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...



Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Goldilocks Method

You remember Goldilocks & The Three Bears, right? Let me refresh your memory:

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. 
"This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed.
So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.
"This porridge is too cold," she said
So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.
"Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she ate it all up.

Too hot... too cold...just right! Too hard...too soft...just right! I've noticed what I call the "Goldilocks Method" being employed by preacher-pastor-minister types. This is actually a very effective way of making a point. You simply paint two extremes and then position your view as in the middle. For example: Some people think baptism saves you even before you have faith! Others think baptism is merely a symbol. The Bible teaches that baptism is when God saves me by grace through my faith in the gospel. I once heard Mark Driscoll teaching on gender roles in the church and he used this very approach. I thought to myself: "Hey, he just did a Goldilocks." You probably have too. Just make sure you have truth in the middle. 

That's what I'm talkin bout!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Politics?

Some days I'm convinced that the apolitical orientation of the earliest Christians was a wise position. Jesus did say his kingdom was not of this world, right? But whether or not that meant Christians should be completely detached from government and politics has remained an unwelcome understanding, at least in the modern evangelical church. While being tempted to tune out completely I do still try to remain politically informed and I still vote regularly. Nowadays, however, I vote my conscience instead of the "lesser of two evils" strategy I use to employ. I was one of the guys who went with the GOP no matter what, but it's been a long time since I thought being a Republican was the only option for a Christian. I do understand why many Bible believers tend to orient themselves with the elephant guys, but it is a massive oversimplification to think that GOP is equivalent to a Christian political party. With that being said I'll offer my first political comment in a long time: I'm surprised by how many evangelicals are on the Newt bandwagon. I remember when this same crowd was decrying the immorality of President Clinton. They proclaimed that our leader should be of high moral character. If Hillary couldn't trust Bill, then neither could we! Then shortly thereafter came the fall of the "Contract with America" creator & leader, Newt Gingrich. I won't recount the details of his fall here as they are readily available elsewhere and well know by many. Now please don't misunderstand, I do believe in forgiveness and the ability of people to change. I just find the way we apply forgiveness, etc. to be rather arbitrary when it comes to the political realm. It seems to me that if we agree with your politics you get mercy, but if we disagree you get wrath! Newt is to the GOP what Hillary is to the Dems. Both have energetic & enthusiastic supporters and BOTH HAVE HIGH NEGATIVES. I think Newt (if he gets the nomination) will lose to President Obama. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I'm talkin bout!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Long Road...

"It's a long, hard road..." This is how Russ Taff began his cover of The Call's "I Still believe" way back in the 80's. That little intro comment set to stage for one of my favorite songs during those days. In retrospect Taff's little comment was the perfect little addition for his version of "I Still Believe". For the 25 years or so since I first heard that song it has been one long, hard road. Now let me be clear: I am not setting myself up as some suffering saint or would be martyr. I have not experienced the troubles & trials that many of you have, yet that does not erase the adversity on the road behind me. Looking ahead, what do I see? As another year approaches I see the journey before me growing shorter as the speed of time seems to accelerate. Sure, it might be a mid-life crisis. Or it might be perspective - a perspective informed and altered by my life's multifaceted experiences - it's been a long, hard road... A lot has changed since I jammed to Russ Taff in my college dorm room. I've moved around town, worked different jobs (blue collar, white collar, labor, management & sales!), had a couple of surgeries and buried my dad. I've gotten married and am now raising three terrific children with my lovely wife. I've been part time & full time in ministry. I am smarter and DUMBER than I have ever been! I've made mistakes - many of them to be truthful and I've come to clearly recognize my limitations. I've confronted the undeniable realty of aging. I've seen loyalty and too much disloyalty. I've also come to rely of the grace of God more then ever. There is a lot I would do differently but there's no rewind button in life. It's a long, hard road...full speed ahead!

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Random

Been thinking randomly lately... Some say I'm always quite random in my thinking... Just about finished a Pete Maravich biography (Great read)... Listening to several David Bercot lectures (really got me thinking)... Fell of the diet wagon, but will soon return to better eating ("soon" is a relative term)... Interested in the start of the NFL, but not really interested if you know what I mean... I haven't been shaving much lately (just on Sunday for the church crowd)... Feeling OLDER (I hurt my knee weeks ago & it still hurts!)... Got some sinus thing going  on too - no fun!... Wondering if I should pull the plug on this blog (Facebook killed the blogger?)... Well, looks like a good time to end here...

That's what I'm talking bout.

Oops!

I just realized had several comments that I'd fail to "moderate" just hanging out there. I guess my new set up didn't work as planned (I thought I'd get an email to let me know - guess not). Anyway, sorry for taking so long to approve several comments. Who knows, I may even write a new post soon!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Invitation?

I frequently hear good brethren announcing that they "always offer an invitation" whenever they preach. The implication is that faithfulness requires such a practice and to omit an "invitation" is tantamount to serious compromise. I believe I understand why men have these convictions and I am not interested in eradicating all "invitations", but I am interested in differentiating between human inventions and Biblical directives. Let's consider the "invitation time"  traditionally placed at the end of a sermon. Normally this would include a presentation of the "plan of salvation" and an "invitation song". The expectation is that anyone wanting to become a Christian would arise and come to the front of the assembly during the song in order to obey the gospel. Hmmmm. Where is exactly is this found in God's Word? I'm sure it MUST be in there because so many folks who claim to speak where the Bible speaks say it is a mark of fidelity to New Testament Christianity.

Well, actually it isn't there - not in the Bible at least. And neither is it there in the pages of early church history. It seems that history knows nothing of invitations for the first 1800 years or so of the church! It might make some uncomfortable to know that our invitation times have more in common with the "altar calls" of Presbyterian preacher Charles Finney in the 1800's than the book of Acts! Ironically a close examination of Peter's preaching in Acts 2 (the first New Covenant message) reveals that the people in the audience were the ones to inquire of Peter as to how to be saved (Read it for yourselves in Acts 2:36-38). And they did so without a standard invitation time or song. Apparently innumerable people have become followers of Jesus Christ without walking an aisle while onlookers stood singing a hymn.

(We should also consider that the standard invitation time has produced a Sunday only, preacher only evangelism system in many churches. This obviously is not the ideal. Additionally, Scripture doesn't teach that the Lord's day assembly of Christians is for evangelistic outreach. Evangelism may be a byproduct, but it isn't the expressed purpose. It seems that Christians got together  for encouragement, edification, etc. ["in-reach"], but that's another blog post for another time).

Let me be clear. My issue is not whether or not a local church offers invitations. I believe in local church autonomy but reject the idea that every practice not mentioned in Scripture is automatically prohibited.  My concern is when dogmatism clouds our handling of Scripture resulting in casting aspersions on brethren. There are many Bible verses that are twisted and stretched to produce denominational errors, so let's not do the same things when defending our traditions.

You are invited to reply but you must do so in the absence of a song unless you can sing & type at the same time!

That's what I'm talkin bout...

Monday, June 07, 2010

MS-150 (115)

I'm back and sort of rested from the weekend's MS-150 bike ride on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The event was executed remarkably well especially considering the number of participants and everything that has to be coordinated. Our cycling team (Blazing Saddles) has really grown from its beginning in 2008. This is in large part due to our team Captain's work - Lisa Taylor has really been getting it done. Our team was able to raise over $10,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It was a good time & for a very good cause. It's the third year that Tammy & I have done this ride and this was the hottest and the windiest (sp?) too. They actually shortened the ride the second day because of concerns about the elevated temperatures (110 heat index). We ended up with a total of 115 miles on the rode.

Many friends & family helped take care of our precious children and that ultimately allowed us to do this ride. We are grateful.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A DOZEN Reasons Why I Like Preaching Through Books of the Bible.

1. All Scripture is breathed out by God. Preaching through entire books demonstrates that we value every word of God!

2. Biblical ignorance. Sadly, many church goers skip & dip through Scripture and never get a good grasp on the flow of God’s Word.

3. Better at maintaining context. Sometimes hopping around Can result in out of context proof texting.

4. Cover topics that I might have avoided. Whatever is next is next!

5. Can’t be accused of picking a certain passage to go after someone or to further an agenda. (Well you might still get accused anyway! lol)

6. Safeguards against preaching what I want to preach and cherry picking verses to support what I want to say.

7. This how God’s written word was delivered to us. I highly value systematic theology, but nothing beats the power of going straight through a Holy Spirit written letter!

8. It allows people to more easily follow along with one main text for each sermon. People begin to see how things fit together and they can venture to study for themselves as well.

9. It helps show people how to study Scripture. Good preaching is a result of good hermeneutics in part and this should come through to the listeners.

10. It helps me know where I am going each coming Sunday. Cuts down of the Saturday night specials!

11. It’s cost effective when I can buy several resources for one book.

12. It places the emphasis on the passage not the preacher.

After all of that, I should note that I do preach “topical” messages and series as well. This can also be a very effective method of teaching Scripture too. It definitely has its place. And I employ this method of preaching quite often. Here are a few titles of relatively recent sermon series: American Idols, Old School, It’s All About Jesus, At Your Service, Frequently Asked Questions, The Big 10, Red Letter Questions, Heroes OT, Storm Stories, Go Fish, Faith Factor, Christ Encounters, On the Road Again, It Is About the $$$, etc.

There are a few church folks who would prefer if I moved on from the Gospel of John and that’s not surprising. People have preferences for sure, but I’m not planning on finishing with John any time soon. It’s one of only four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ we have to treasure and study. The Lord’s apostle wrote it, The Holy Spirit inspired it, and our Sovereign God has delivered it, so let’s enjoy every word of it!

That’s what I’m talking bout!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Survey

Yesterday we rolled out a survey at church. Only about 25% of the people in attendance responded which was a little disappointing. We are allowing a couple of weeks to complete this relatively brief survey, so we may get more responses next Sunday. It also could be one of the those things where most people are "okay" with what's going on and just decide to leave the survey to others. We provided a comments/suggestions section and I was frankly surprised by the lack of response. And I wasn't surprised by a few predictable comments! I'll start analyzing the results more fully next week. Interestingly 70% of those who responded indicated that they have invited someone to OCC in the past year. I admit I was stunned a bit by that. I would've had it much lower. About 2/3 of the respondents think we are "headed in the right direction." Which means 1/3 apparently think we aren't!

A good survey can be helpful, but you need to ask the right questions and, more importantly, you need to invest some effort in analysis and interpretation of your results.

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Give me the text!

When I prepare a sermon I usually read several different commentaries as part of my preparation. I also like to download a few sermons on the passage at hand and listen to them as a drive around  town or workout at the gym. I really am an auditory learner so I love my aging Ipod Nano & the podcasts, sermons & lectures that it holds. Anyway, I find it quite startling how often I will start to listen to a "sermon" based on a particular passage of Scripture only to end up skipping to something else. Why? Simply because the preacher guy is saying little to nothing that resembles the passage from which he's alledgely preaching! It really is very surprising how often I encounter this sort of thing: Read the text & blah, blah, blah. Now I realize that there may be various applications from a passage and there's a lot more truth packed in a text than one particlular sermon can highlight, but some preacher guys are just using the text as a starting place so as to say whatever thay want to say! Sometimes, as I'm listening, I say to myself, "WHERE'S THAT IN THE PASSGE?" So if you are treaching from a particular text please don't be so quick to depart from the truth contained therein. Hey, I might be listening to your podcast - so thanks in advance!

That's what I'm talkin bout!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Expanded Bible New Testament

I'm at Ollie's in nearby Hampton the other day and checking out their books (as I usually do). I came across The Expanded Bible: New Testament and remembered looking through it a few months ago. The price was right as it usually is at Ollie's so I picked up a hardback edition. I think many of you would enjoy this presentation of the New Testament. It's underlying text is the New Century Version (slightly modified I think). Now normally I wouldn't recommend this translation but in this format I really like it. The NCV is a "dymanic" or "thought for thought" translation and long way from the NASB, ESV, NKJV or even the NIV for that matter. Yes it's easy to read, but that's not enough for me. In this format howveer it is full of "notes" within the text itself and it is much more than a plain NCV. Think of it as the old Amplified version but MUCH better IMHO. You'll find brief comments, literal, traditional & alternate renderings, references, etc. in a well done approach. Some how a nice balance is struck here - not to much, but fairly hefty nonetheless. The NCV is in bold font so you can read it fairly easily if you don't want to read every additional word in between. It's actually pretty easy. Reading it out loud you'll sound like a teacher interjecting relevant information as you're reading. I suggest you consider it as a resource. You can get the PDF for free here

That's what I'm talkin bout!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Read John

I've been in a sermon series for a few months now based on the Gospel of John and I'm loving it! I know I'm the guy who thinks whatever book I happen to be studying at the time is the greatest ever, but John is truly TREMENDOUS! You can't read John and straddle the fence on the divinity of Jesus Christ (1:1,2,14a: 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.). You can't read John and suppose that all religions are the same (14:6: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.). You can't read John and conclude that Jesus was just some good teacher doling out several catchy & memorable sayings (8:24: I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."). John's Gospel is uncompromisingly in your face stuff and it resonates deeply in me with every passage. So, take a few minutes and feast on the life of Christ as recorded by the apostle John.

That's what I'm talkin bout.