Wednesday, January 31, 2007

God Is Closer Than You Think ... When You Really Mess Up

Here is the last sermon in the current series. The sermon is based on Psalm 51 where David pours out his heart to God following his sin with Bathsheba.

Just click play

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

2 + 4 from 24 (11am - 12 pm)

2 Observations:
1. Observation: There are often weeks when it feels that the show is really setting up the action for the next week. For me, the last two weeks have both felt that way. If history holds, that probably means we are in for an exciting ride for the next few weeks. (One other note -I have come to have a love/hate relationship with the previews for next week. I cannot help but think that last night's preview gave away too much for next week, just as the week before ruined the meeting of Jack and his dad for this week.)

2. Quote of the Night: "I am glad that we can all finally put our cards on the table." (Graem to Jack and his dad revealing who was in charge of the situation)

4 Questions:

1. Is Jack's dad really that clueless about Graem?

2. When will Karen Hayes get her revenge?

3. Is Walid alive?

4. Who is the mole inside CTU? (This is 24 and there has to be one)

What were your top moments of the night? Favorite Quote? What questions do you have remaining?

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Super Bowl for the Glory of God

One of the most interesting storylines for the coming Super Bowl is that both of the coaches are African-American. Michael Smith of ESPN.COM argues that it is the character of these two men that truly sets them apart. He states,

Dungy and Smith are Christian men who serve the Lord first and spend nearly as much time serving their communities. Doesn't prevent them from winning. And often. In just three seasons Smith, last season's Coach of the Year, has helped build the Bears into a league power. Dungy has won more regular season games than any coach since 1999. Where does color factor into that?

After they won their conference championships, you heard Smith talk about his "being blessed" and Dungy give thanks to God. That isn't just lip service with these guys. As Christians they believe it is their responsibility to let their light shine whenever they're in the spotlight. Just as they have a game plan for each other come Super Bowl Sunday, both plan to use the global platform that the Super Bowl provides to speak words that could make an impact beyond football.

For the rest of the fascinating story, click here.

You Tube Friday - U2 Super Bowl - "Where the Streets Have No Name"

As we get ready for the Super Bowl, here is a video of U2's halftime performance at the 2002 Super Bowl. The game was played following 9/11 and this performance of a song about Heaven paid tribute to those who lost their lives.

One of the most interesting parts of the video is Bono uttering the phrase "O Lord, open my lips that I may shout forth thy praise," (starts about 1:20 into the video). Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

2 + 4 from 24 (10 am - 11 am)

Format Change. I will now make two observations (surprises, quotes, or theories) and then ask four questions that are lingering.

2 Observations:
1. Surprise of the Night: Bluetooth Guy from Season 5 is Jack's brother. That is one revelation that makes me want to go back and watch last season to see if there is some tipoff to that last year or if they decided it this year.

2. Quote of the Night: "Trust me, I'm not." (Jack to his brother when Graem says that he is already hurting him)

4 Questions:

1. What country (or countries) is funding Fayed?

2. Why has Jack not spoken to his dad in 9 years?

3. How much do Jack's dad and brother know?

4. When will the other detainees realize that Walid is wired?

What were your top moments of the night? Favorite Quote? What questions do you have?

Monday, January 22, 2007

God Is Closer Than You Think ... When You Feel Unimportant

How do you like yourself? Or more importantly, what does God think of you? Looking at Psalm 139, we are reminded of some facts about ourselves.

Just click play.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

On the Links

Here are some links from the previous week:

- For those interested in more information on 24, here are a couple of resources - A New York Times review and discussion of the show and an extensive amount of information on 24 Wiki.

- With the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship this weekend, here is a great article about former Florida and Saints quaterback Danny Wuerffel - "Wuerffel Ministry Works to Rebuild New Orleans"

- I don't see how this can end well for either the Falcons or Vick - "Off-field Problems Erode Vick's Image" and "It's Time to Let Vick Go"

- An interesting look at young Muslims in the United Kingdom - "Radical, Moderate Muslims Battle for Young English Minds"

- Here is a site of some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's sermons and speeches - Voice of a King

- An article in the Tennessean about the trend for muscially credible people doing children's music - "Rockers Now Play to Sippy Cup Set"

- Probably not the smartest criminals around - "Shoplifters Ignite Chemicals at Stockbridge Wal-Mart"

- It is amazing how fast Hollywood jumps on stories - "Depp to Make Film About Poisoned Ex-Spy"

- A Shopping Gene? - "The Voices in My Head Say 'Buy It' Why Argue?"

Friday, January 19, 2007

You Tube Friday

Here is a trailer from the upcoming movie "Amazing Grace." The song in the video is a song by Chris Tomlin that reworks the classic hymn. You can find more information about the film, song, and a project to end slavery in our time at the website here.

Take a look and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Championship Picks

Playoff Record So Far: 6-2
(4-0 last week)



Monday, January 15, 2007

2 + 4 Questions from 24 (8am - 10 am)

One of the things I like about 24 is that it raises difficult ethical questions. What I like even more is that it never suggests that the answer is obvious or easy. Tonight those choices were woven throughout the show. Wayne Palmer negotiated with Fayed and gave into his demands in an attempt to save American lives. A father did the bidding of the terrorists and even killed a man in an attempt to save his own family. The president chose to give a full presidential pardon to a known terrorist. Walid seems to suggest that the "illegal" capture of the Middle Eastern men is a good thing because of the lives it might save. Curtis cannot stand to think of Assad being released, so he takes matters into his own hands. And finally, Jack choose to save the life of a known terrorist over Curtis.

Now on to the questions:

1. How many are dead in Los Angeles?
2. Is Jack in the radiation zone?
3. Where are the other 4 "visitors" and when are they scheduled to be used?
4. Can the other 4 "visitors" be reconfigured without Hasan Numair?
5. When will Jack and Fayed meet?
6. Will Walid gain the confidence of the terrorists in the detention center?

God Is Closer Than You Think ... When You Are In A Crisis

Here is the sermon from Sunday morning based upon Psalm 23 :
(Just click play)

2 + 4 Questions from "24" (6 AM - 8 AM)

Following each episode of 24, I will post 6 intriguing questions left unanswered (2 + 4).

1. Is Jack back?
2. What was the price for getting Jack back from the Chinese?
3. Can the guy from Ghostbusters really be that slimy all season?
4. Is the President's sister's boyfriend on the up and up?
5. What is in Ahmed's package that is so important?
6. Who is dying tonight?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Around the Web

Here are some links from the past week that I did not get to post: (some sites may require registration)

- Einstein was disorganized and that's okay - "Chaos Rules"

- An interesting article in the New York Times about how knowing too much can be harmful to your health - "What's Making Us Sick Is an Epidemic of Diagnoses"

- A story of how the friends and co-workers of Steve Irwin finished his last television special - "The Final Hunt"

- The inventor of one of the greatest products of our time (especially for college students) died last week week - Momofuku Ando dies at 96

- A story about President Ford by Chevy Chase, the guy who played him on SNL - "Mr. Ford Gets the Last Laugh"

- The national obsession returns next week, apparently with some changes - "All the Right Grooves"

-The world's largest aquarium in Atlanta lost another animal this week - "Aquarium Looking for Cause in Whale Shark's Death" (with gallery here)

- Now you can own Jack Bauer - Here and Here

- Looks like another good round of press for us in the SBC - "Tell-all Paints Ugly Portrait of Baptist Covention Leader"

- An interesting article about the "No Child Left Behind" law that Bush instituted early in his presidency - "How Bush Education Law Has Changed Our Schools"

- Your current world maps are only good for a few more million years - "Long-term Global Forecast? Fewer Continents" (Thanks:BEL)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Division Playoff Picks





You Tube Friday

I am planning to post a video from the web on Fridays. This week we start with a trailer mash-up of Finding Nemo and Mission Impossible III.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Six Months and Counting

Six months ago today, the Lord blessed us with our second son, Luke Jett Larson. Luke was literally a miracle from God. It is amazing to wake up each morning and be reminded of God's power, mercy, and love in the face our son.

That is not to say that it is always easy. Even at six months, Luke is still not sleeping through the night. But no matter how long you have stayed up in the night, or how many times you have been spit up on, or how weak your arms get from carrying him around, it can all be made alright with one simple smile. On the two occasions that I came home today, I was greeted not with just an ordinary smile; I was greeted with squealing laughter. No other sound in the world could have made my day any better.

Happy 6 month birthday Luke. I love you.

Rick Warren - Prophet or Pariah?

I occasionally read an article or letter that I wish I had written myself. This week I saw an editorial that fits that description.You see it has become popular lately to bash Rick Warren. For some reason, pastors and other Christian leaders are bothered by the methods or message of Rick Warren. In a recent editorial in the Dallas Morning News, Pastor Benjamin Cole of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas discusses Rick Warren and that trend. In the editorial he titles "If We're Rick Warren's Friends, I'd Sure Hate to Meet His Enemies," he does a masterful job of talking about Pastor Warren. He states,

I may not do everything the way Rick Warren would, but I know that I couldn't do a fraction of what he does. People in my church read his books and find his insight helpful. My taxes are lower because he took a case to the highest levels of justice, not to protect his own income – which he gives away at a Bill Gates pace – but to protect the housing allowance exemption of pastors in hamlets like Whitesboro and Wolf City. My sermon illustrations are more diverse because his ministry team sends out helpful tools for finding fresh and creative ways to explain the principles of Holy Writ.

While Baptists bicker about booze, or whine about worship style, or cry over Calvinism, or tilt over tongues, Rick Warren is doing what he can to make a difference in his lifetime.

I don't personally know Benjamin Cole and whether or not I agree with him on anything else. But on the issues raised in this editorial, I firmly stand beside him.

I was also reminded while reading the article of a great interview that Rick Warren did with Charlie Rose a couple of months back. I have posted the video below. (Be advised that the second part of the show involves Gregory Boyd, a pastor with whom I do not theologically agree - particuarly the open theism debate. Dr. Boyd does, however, raise some interesting questions in this interview about the political activity of Christians.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Still In the Cards

In an offseason that has produced very little excitement for the fans of the World Champion Cardinals (I still love saying that), the Cardinals do retain one of their pitchers. They signed Mark Mulder for $13 million over two years with a club option for the third. What is crazy is that in today's market, the contract is actually sensible if not a bargain (even if Mulder is hurt right now.)

For more information, you can read articles from the Cardinals official website, ESPN, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, or a commentary from Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch.

Wait Just A Minute

Each year on Sports Illustrated's website, college basketball writer Grant Wahl lists eight schools out of which he guarantees the National Champion will come. He claims that in the last seven editions, only once in 2003 with Syracuse did the winner not come from his "Magic 8." As the article begins, he lists the names you expect to see (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina), but then comes the shock. The fifth name he mentions is Tennessee.

Now keep in mind, he is talking about basketball here. Not only that, he is talking about men's basketball. He explains his choice this way:
In last year's Magic Eight we picked an under-heralded SEC team nobody thought had a chance to win it all, and look at what then-unranked LSU accomplished, taking down Duke and Texas and reaching the Final Four. Tennessee may not be big, but Chris "The Dagger" Lofton is the nation's most dangerous shooter and Bruce Pearl's Vols are relentless on defense. We love the swagger on this team, too, which has come through loud and clear in wins against Oklahoma State, Memphis and Texas.

If you would have said two years ago that Tennessee would be mentioned in that context, I would have I called you crazy. In fact, I am still in line to think Mr. Wahl might be a litte crazy now. Here's hoping I'm wrong and he's right. I would love to see "The Dagger" light up the final four.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


"I skate to where the puck is going to be,
not to where it's been."

- Wayne Gretzky -

Today in his keynote address at Macworld 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the highly anticipated iPhone. Jobs claims that they will "redefine the phone" and compares this development to the Mac in 1984 and iPod in 2001. The device includes a widescreen iPod, phone, and internet device all controlled by a multi-touch display. I am currently in the market for a new cell phone that will incorporate all those functions. I will have to say that the pictures and demonstration of the iPhone definitely have me interested. The only problem - we have to wait until summer and the price will be high. The links above contain pictures of the event as well as guides of the iPhone.

Jobs also introduced a new device called Apple TV that integrates your computer with your television. It too looks quite impressive.

So, what do you think? Will the iPhone control the market like the iPod? Will Apple TV be the next big thing for televisions?

Update: You can now watch the keynote of Steve Jobs here.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Six Days and Counting

Next Sunday night marks the beginning of the 6th season of the Fox TV show 24. The season starts with two nights of two-hour episodes to jumpstart the adventure. Once the adventure starts, there is no stopping until the ride ends in May. And you can bet that my TiVo will be set every Monday night to catch the adventures of Jack Bauer and CTU.

To prepare yourself for the new season, you might check out the extended trailer or this interview in Entertainment Weekly.

BCS Title Prediction

Florida 24

Ohio State 20

By the way, there is great article about Tim Tebow's faith
in the East Valley Tribune.

God Is Closer Than You Think ... When You Feel Overwhelmed

I began a new series of sermons yesterday morning centered around the promise of Scripture that God is always with us. Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at specific situations when it could be especially difficult to sense God's presence.

I began the series with talking about those moments when we feel overwhelmed in our lives. Focusing on Moses' Psalm 90, we looked at six basic truths to simply and clarify our lives in those times of confusion.

Just click play to listen:

Saturday, January 6, 2007

A Passion for God's Glory

I was there in the beginning. Ten years ago, I joined a group of students from Union University and traveled to Austin, Texas to attend a conference that we knew very little about. In fact, we went to the conference mainly because of an independent band named Caedmon's Call would be playing at one of the late night events. When I left Jackson, TN, I had no idea that I was about to be a part of a truly life-changing experience.

I believe that God wants us to mark significant moments in our spiritual journey much like he asked Jacob to mark Bethel with an altar. Passion '97 is one of those moments that will forever be marked as a spiritual landmark in my life. It was at that conference that I first got a vision of what it meant to truly live for the glory of God.

I remember returning from the conference and literally being speechless about what God had done in our midst. I can still vividly remember sermons and times of worship from that event ten years ago. There were moments in Austin when I truly let myself worship for the first time in my life.

There were only a couple of thousand of us that first year, but the impact of that event is still being felt. Organizers would begin to talk about a 268 generation (based on Isaiah 26:8). Many of today's modern worship artists (Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, Watermark, Matt Redman, David Crowder Band, Tim Hughes) and worship songs debuted at or were heavily influenced by the Passion Conferences and subsequent worship albums. A generation of college students were introduced to the intellecutally taxing writings of John Piper. Those same students were also exposed to the amazing passion of speakers like Dave Busby, Beth Moore, and Voddie Baucham. Most importantly, a generation of college students have learned that our primary reason for existence is to glorify and enjoy God.

This week, Passion '07 was held in Atlanta, Georgia. Over 20,000 students joined in singing praises to God and being challenged to reach the nations for Jesus. In the next year, Passion is planning conferences in 20 cities in 15 countries next year. My hope is that their lives were and will be changed as much as this 268 Pastor.

Wild Card Predictions

Now that I have officially transitioned from winning another Fantasy Football Championship to watching games normally, here are my predictions for the weekend games:





Friday, January 5, 2007

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Change of Direction

I am finding it more and more difficult not to root for this guy:

Perennial Pretenders

The record of Notre Dame in bowl games since 1994: 0-9

Charlie Weis' record against teams finishing in the Top 10: 0-5

Best Quarterback on the Field Last Night: Not Brady Quinn

Prospects for Next Year: Shreveport

Echoes Awakened: 0

Before You Say "I Do"

"In love, as in other matters, what you don’t know may hurt you." That statement begins an article entitled "Marriage is Not Built on Surprises" by Eric Copage in a December issue of New York Times about preparing for marriage. He talks about couples attending retreats and seriously discussing issues with their upcoming marriage. He correctly points out the problems with most couples during the engagement process:
For too many couples, the spouses-to-be assume that they know each other and the ground rules for their marriages, experts say. And sometimes those heading to the altar dodge important questions because they don’t want to rock the boat.

Along with the article is a link to a list of 15 Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying that is a great resource for ministers in counseling.

I missed the article in December and am encouraged that it still ranks on the site's most popular section. As Christians, we should be encouraged by articles like this that echo our concern for the importance of the institution of marriage.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Here is my sermon from Sunday morning on looking to the New Year and listening to God's directions. (Joshua 1:1-11)

Just push the play button to start.

No Excuses Needed

For years now, I have been coming up with reasons why my desk constantly stays messy. But now thanks to the New York Times, I no longer need excuses. I can now officially mark off one of my New Year's Resolutions as unnecessary.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

A Frustrating Start - And Finish

I am sure that there are people who would disagree, but being a fan of the Tennessee Volunteer football team is the most frustrating experience in college sports. Yesterday's loss to Penn State exemplifies the frustration of the average Vol fan. Tennessee has an incurable knack for playing to the level of their competition. What that means is that they are constantly in games they should not be and are constantly letting inferior teams hang around. Penn State is a team with a lot of talented players and a coach that has been coaching since the Truman administration (literally), but Tennessee should have beaten them easily. (And by the way, I realized that Joe Paterno was in the press box from the moment I started watching, so was it necessary to show his reaction to every play on the field.)

The game followed the normal pattern of a sluggish first quarter, followed by a sluggish second quarter, followed only by a more sluggish third quarter. The sluggishness did have just enough moments of excitement in them (i. e. the Lamarcus Coker run) to make you think that the Vols would turn it on later in the game. All that led to a fateful play in the fourth quarter.

In a typical Tennessee game there is typically one play or possession that defines the whole game. In this game it came after Penn State missed a field goal in the fourth quarter. Tennessee took the ball and drove down inside the Penn State 20 yard line. It was first and ten from the 13 when Arian Foster took the ball and ran off tackle right. (Now, we could take some time to talk about how every Tennessee fan in the state knew they were going to hand the ball off to the tailback and run off tackle right, but that is for another time.) Foster looked to be stopped for a very short gain. It was such a seemingly insignificant play, that I actually walked into the kitchen to get something to drink. In my absence, I missed the fumble, recovery, and 88 yard return by Penn State that put them ahead by a touchdown. By the time I got back to the TV, the replays had begun and the score was Penn State 17 - Tennessee 10. When I reported to my Father-in-Law about what just happened, I simply said, "Tennessee just lost the game."

After the game, Foster was understandably upset. But it was not his play alone that cost the Vols the game. It was the all too common errors of the Fulmer era. It was the playcalling that turned too conservative. It was the wide receivers dropping or being dislodged from big plays. It was our inability to find our All-American receiver on anything but a slip screen or five yard square in. It was our most dangerous player touching the ball only four times in the second half. It was the lack of intensity in a big game (again). It was our defense being manhandled by a team that just runs it down your throat. It was our punt returner calling for a fair catch at our own 5 yard line. It was typical Tennessee football. I swore after sitting in freezing temperatures at the Cotton Bowl and watching Kansas State dismantle the Vols a few years ago that I would never drink the kool-aid again on a Fulmer team. This year I forgot that until yesterday.

What made this loss more frustrating than in the past is that it seemed this team might be different. There was the complete game against Cal. There was the comeback against Georgia. 2006 saw victories over Spurrier, Tedford, and Richt. It seemed natural that Tennessee would add Paterno (even if he was in the box) to that list and gain momentum for next year. Instead, we saw another bad performance by a Tennessee team on January 1st.

Next August, people will talk about how many starters we have returning. Next summer, magazines will probably pick Tennessee as a team to watch. Our quarterback or receiver (if he comes back) may end up on some Heisman watches. And next September I will begin to believe that we have a chance. But in the midst of the season, we will make some running back look like the second coming of Herschel Walker (see Tony Hunt) and some quarterback look like the next Joe Montana (see Anthony Morelli). And next January, I will remind myself to never again get my hopes up about a team coached by Phil Fulmer.

Well, thanks to Pearl, at least we can now say, "It's Basketball Time in Tennessee."

Monday, January 1, 2007

A New Year - A New Blog

I have decided that in spite of the fact that the world does not need a new blog, I am going to start one anyway. It is officially 2007 and I have decided to carve out a little area in cyberspace to share my thoughts.

My intentions for this blog is that it be eclectic just as my interests are eclectic. First, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, so I hope to bring some reflections on what it means to live as a Christian in our world. I also have a great family. I am married to Susan and have two boys: Eli (age 3) and Luke (almost 6 months). I am constantly in the midst of trying to figure out what it means to be a husband and parent.

I am also a pastor. I currently pastor Ripley First Baptist Church in Ripley, TN where I have served for 5 1/2 years. As a part of this blog, I will be posting sermons that I preach in my local congregation. While pastoring Ripley FBC, I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Church Growth and Evangelism from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Most of what is listed in my currently reading section will be reading required for the classes I am taking. Out of that experience will come many discussions and interesting questions.

Another large part of my life is sports. I am a native of West Tennessee and most of my passions in sports derive from growing up there. My favorite teams are the Tennessee Volunteers and St. Louis Cardinals. I am fortunate to have both of those teams win a championship in my short 30 years. I vividly remember watching each accomplish it (Cards in '82 and last October/Vols in '98). Although I root for those teams passionately, I am a fan of most sports. In fact, whenever a game is on the television at my house, Eli says "that's daddy's show".

My interests also include pop culture. Thanks to the wonderful invention of TiVo, I am able to watch shows like 24, Lost and Heroes.

My hope is that this blog will offer views and opinions on all of these subjects and more. And if you stayed with me to the end of this post, then maybe you will journey with me in 2007.