Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We Have Moved

The Blog is now being hosted on our church web site at

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Moving Day

The Tuck @ Denbigh Church of Christ blog has moved.  I'm still at the same place (sorry to get some of your hopes us), but my blog has moved to its new home to OUR NEW CHURCH WEB SITE. (Thanks to Will King for all his hard work in getting us up and running.)

Just click on "Tuck's blog" at the top of the home page and you can still read all new and old posts there.  All of my loyal and faithful readers (both of you) are encouraged to visit the new site.

On Justice and Leaving Room for God

Our most traumatic day as a nation since December 7, 1941 began twelve years ago today at 8:46 a.m., September 11, 2001, when American Flight 11 crashed into North Tower of the World Trade Center. Shortly thereafter, airliners crashed into South Tower, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. By the end of the day, more than 3000 people had died in the most horrific terrorist attack in history. President Bush said this to the nation—
The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. 
The word that was stressed over and over was "Justice."  Since that statement was made, we have fought two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) in which more Americans died than during the 9-11 attacks. We have launched countless lethal drone attacks and deployed teams of Special Forces warriors that led to the deaths of monsters like Osama bin Laden and many of his henchmen. But in the process, we have killed many innocent non-combatants and in the process created many more monsters. Is that really justice?

We haven't been very successful in fighting wars against unseen foes like communism and terrorism. Nor are we very good at learning lessons from those efforts where we essentially fight for a while, lose a lot of good people, kill many more people, and just quit and go home without seeing too much change. I wish someone would do a little more reflecting on that before we start lobbing missiles into Syria. I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head that sounds strangely like Dr. Phil saying, “So how’s that working for you?”

We must be a people who seek justice because God is a God of justice. The Old Testament law called for a justice of justice of punitive restitution for property crimes and an “eye for eye” reciprocity for violent crimes. Paul calls for kings to not only have swords, but use them as instruments of God (Rom 13:3-5). Jesus never doubted Pilate’s authority; he simply observed that Pilate had no power except what was given from above (John 19:11).  God created the nations and He is God above the nations.

But human justice is always a very tricky thing. Kings wielding swords in search of justice are just as likely to create more injustices. One of our congressman recently wondered if we were simply becoming too insensitive to the use of military force. That raises the question, "Have we become too insensitive to the injustices created by that use of force?" Does God care less about the children of the terrorist leaders killed with their fathers by our missiles than He did about the children who died in the September 11 attacks? Does God love more the children killed in chemical attacks in Syria than He loves the children that will certainly die in Syria if we go shooting missiles there? We may call those deaths "collateral damage," but we can't call it "justice"

OK, no pancake is so thin that it only has one side (my one political certainty). No issue is so clear that there isn't another way of looking at it. This blog started as a retrospective of 9-11 and it sorta just veered off in another direction looking for another point.  What is that point?  Ultimately, there is no real justice other than what comes from God... and sometimes we just have to wait on it. If we don't wait and leave room for God, we can mess justice up. That is why Paul warns us to leave room for God—
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19–21)
What Paul says here is directed to individual Christians (who would become innocent victims of the very king wielding that sword) and not to nations. But maybe this is a warning for our supposedly Christian nation that getting sucked into a tit-for-tat cycle of violence is a sure way to be overcome by evil. We can get so focused on justice that we become the very thing that we hate!

Friday, September 06, 2013

Be Thou My Vision

It is important for a church to have a clear vision... a vision of itself, a vision of the future and a vision of God. Churches often produce a "vision statement," a clear, concise statement of the church's identity and focus. This vision statement becomes both a target for which to aim and a means to measure progress. An old Diana Ross song asks, "Do you know where you're going to?" Not great grammar, but a great idea-- if you don't know where you're going, then how will you know when you get there? Sure, it's easier just to shoot and then draw the circle around whatever you hit. That's easy. but it isn't very productive. We need a clear vision of where we are going.

The text that is often used in vision-casting is Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). The idea here is that unless we cast a clear vision (and vision statement), then the church will die. The problem is that the verse has to be quoted from the KJV before it makes this great statement about vision casting. Look at what this proverb seems to say when read in different versions--
  • NIV: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint” 
  • NLT: “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.” 
  • NCV: “Where there is no word from God, people are uncontrolled” 
Remember Indigo Montoya's famous line, “I don’t think that Bible verse means what you think it means.” (OK, loose paraphrase).  In fact, the verse says the opposite of what we often make it to say! The vision we need is a clear vision of God and from God. It’s about following God’s revelation.  That's why we sometimes skip the second part of the proverb, "But he that keepeth the law, happy is he" (KJV) or "but blessed is he who keeps the law" (NIV).

So the point really isn't for us to come up with a cleverly worded and polished "Vision Statement" printed up on business cards and published on a spiffy new web site (OK, we do happen to have all of those). The vision to which Proverbs 29:18 refers and the vision that we die without is a clear vision of who God is through His revelation of Himself.   The point isn't for us to decide what we’re going to do in a clever way; the point is to see what it is that God is doing and join with Him in that!  It is God Himself who is our vision!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Does God Want Us to Be Astronauts?

There was a story in the news last week of a church in Tennessee that forced out of its fellowship a family who had “supported” their police officer daughter's lawsuit against the city seeking to get insurance coverage and survivor benefits for her “wife” (they had been married in Maryland). Because her parents attended the legal proceedings with their lesbian daughter, that was seen as “supporting” their daughters sinful lifestyle. The family was given the choice repenting publicly of the sin, leaving the church or being disfellowshipped. I realize that the secular press often is less than accurate when dealing with religious issues, but this story was reported in Christian Chronicle. I also realize that this must have been a very hard thing for everyone involved— the family, the church elders and the church itself. Our postmodern, post-Christian world will make these kinds of cases more common and these kinds of decisions more difficult. We want to be loyal to God, we want to love other people, and we want have a witness to the world. Sometimes it very difficult to do all these things at the same time.

 We live in a diverse, multicultural world that doesn't accept the Bible either as God's word or as moral authority for our lives. What that means is that there are any number of things that are legal in our country but immoral for Christians. We expect that to be the case, don't we? In the Bible, all sexual activity outside marriage (premarital and extramarital) is sinful. Divorce for any reason other than the sexual unfaithfulness of one's spouse is called "adultery" by Jesus Himself. Yet, there is no movement among Christians (at least none that I know about) to make premarital sex, adultery or divorce on grounds other than adultery illegal. Why not? These things are wrong if you accept the Bible, right? But then not everyone accepts the Bible, many who do accept it have wrong-headed notions about what it means ("wrong-headed" in this context means, of course, different from what I think it means).

So is homosexuality really that different? Suppose for the sake of argument that I believe that homosexual practice is sinful and that thus homosexual marriage is outside God’s desire for us. (That should be easy to imagine; it's what I believe). Does that mean I must also believe that homosexual marriage has to be illegal? Must I also believe that homosexual couples must therefore be denied legal rights like survivor benefits or insurance coverage? And must anyone who advocates survivor benefits or insurance coverage for gay couples be seen as supporting a sinful lifestyle and kicked out of the church? Someone might suggest, “But homosexual marriage is an affront and a threat to marriage as God intended it.” But cohabitation without marriage and divorce for reasons other than adultery are a much bigger threats and affronts to marriage, but no one is disfellowshipped because they hang around family members who happen to be in those situations.  And no one demands that they be illegal!

Just because something is sinful doesn't mean it must be illegal. Christians are called to a higher standard than the world, but we are not called to either judge the world or disassociate ourselves from the people in it (1 Cor 5:9-12). Paul says here that we'd have to leave the world (i.e. become astronauts) to totally remove ourselves from sinful people and their sinful choices. But it is before those people and this world that we are called to shine God’s light. If you start kicking people out of church because they hang around sinful people, the first person who will have to go is Jesus!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When All Is Said and Done...

What do Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Steve Jobs' “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” Stanford commencement speech and Winston Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech all have in common? They were all delivered in less than 18 minutes! In fact, the Gettysburg Address took just over 2 minutes to deliver! Speeches that have lasting impact don't have to last forever to get the point across. Or as someone put it, "If you don’t strike oil in 18 minutes, stop boring." Notice these three simple factoids...

  • Fact One: The greatest sermon ever preached (The Sermon on the Mount) takes about 12 minutes 30 seconds to read out loud (or about 8 minutes if you talk like I do).
  • Fact Two: The average sermon today (according to one estimate) is about 45 minutes long.
  • Fact Three: The average preacher takes 3-4 times as long to preach as did Jesus himself. 

So if you can't strike oil in 18 minutes... An article in Christian Post suggests that preachers might ought to keep their sermons to below that 18-minute mark. Andy Stanley's book Communicating for a Change which suggests "every sermon should have one main idea" and that "many pastors are guilty of trying to fulfill the 40-45 minute sermon expectation by filling their sermons with content not essential to the topic." Well, having something to say and having to say something are two entirely different things.  Having to fill time because you are expected to fill time is never helpful.  But only 18 minutes?

I had a friend who quoted am older preacher as saying, “Sermonettes are for preacherettes.” To preach a sermon shorter than 45 minutes somehow shows a lack of seriousness or maturity or creativity. I wonder if this paraphrase from the Sermon on the Mount is too much off the mark—
And when you preach, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matt 6:7, sort of) 
General attention span and audience expectation will vary from place to place. Paul evidently out-preached one brother’s attention span, and when he fell asleep and fell out a window, Paul revived him and went on with the revival!  Someone has observed that “When all is said and done, there is a lot more that is said than is done." That's really the point isn't it, not how long we preach or don't preach.  It is a lot easier to talk about discipleship than it is to live as disciples. Maybe in church and in our lives we need to say less and do more?

So how long are my sermons?  Well, Steve Job’s speech at Stanford was about 14 minutes; Churchill's greatest speech was about 12 minutes. My sermons usually combine a Jobs and a Churchill.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Faithfulness in Real Life

Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m. at our building we will say our final good-bye and pay our last respects to our sister May Rhodes. May passed away last week after a valiant battle against a host of health issues. May is an great example of someone who refused to let her struggles get the best of her, an example of faithfulness in real life.

Life was not easy for May when she was a girl or a young woman. If she ever shared her story with you, you'll know that this is a tremendous understatement. And in recent years, May's multiple health issues have been a constant and continual struggle for her. And yet, every Sunday that May could possibly and physically be here, she was right here at church, wearing her trademark hat and giving her trademark answer, “I’m doing all right.”

 At May’s side for the last 41 years were husband Gene, also an examples of faithfulness in real life. I don’t know how one holds down a full-time job and then also serves as a full-time care-giver and encourager, but Gene did. He was always here with May and always has a smile on his face, even if sometimes that smile was one of sheer exhaustion. One of the lines from the traditional marriage vows pledges faithfulness “in sickness and in health.” Gene was a man who took that promise seriously and thus provides the rest of us an example of what faithfulness looks like in real life.

How many people use problems in their past or our struggles in their present as excuses to give up on living life with joy and faith that God will make every all right? How many husbands and wives give up on their marriages because of problems and issues that really don’t look all that great when compared to those May and Gene faced every day? Faithfulness in real life is keeping your focus on God and your commitments to one another as you just put one foot in front of the other day after day. Sometimes life doesn't come easily, but God is always good. Thanks May and Gene for showing us what faithfulness looks like in real life. And may God's richest blessings be on the entire family during this difficult time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Camp Idlewild 2013

Another year of Camp Idlewild is in the books. Camp has been a labor of love for me since I went for the first time when I was 9 years old. There haven’t been too many summers in my life that I wasn't trudging around many of those 72 acres in Surry County, As I get more mature (i.e. “old”), it is harder to generate the needed energy for camp each year, but I am always glad that I went back.

The 2013 installment of Camp Idlewild was one of our best. We certainly were blessed with the best weather ever; I didn't have to reschedule a singe event because of rain or heat (first time that has happened). Our overall numbers were off a bit— 17 girls and 9 boys, but what we lacked in sheer numbers we made up with enthusiasm and volume! We did have one serious injury as Esther Stevens broke her collarbone the very first day, but we are glad to hear that she won't need the surgery they feared that might be required. In fact, Esther went back to camp this week with the senior high group.

Our theme for the week was “The Amazing (G)Race.” We looked at the "Amazing Race" we are called to
live in the Christian life and we can only live in through God's grace. Our Bible classes were based in Philippians and God’s call to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Our devotionals at night looked at the “Fork in the Road” decisions that some Old Testament characters (Daniel, Joseph, David, Abraham, and Josiah) had to make in their amazing race and how we make many similar decisions that impact our lives both now and in the future. The kids did a great job staying with us in classes and during devotionals. One highlight was when Peter Stephens and Jacob Potts stepped in to lead singing at devo after Roger and David left camp earlier Friday.

Thanks to all who worked so hard to make camp such a success-- Roger Brown (my right hand man who abandoned us a day early... though I have no hard feeling), Sean Goodyeon (our wild and crazy athletic director), David Stevens and Sarah Reasons (who did a great job as Bible Teachers), Lynn Tucker (our camp nurse), Bruce Gaynon and Scott Carr (our “Energizer Bunny” handymen who never stopped the whole week), Cindy Byrd and Dawn Tanner (great job with crafts, canteen and several other jobs), Wally Nooner (our intrepid head cook) Sara Goodyeon (Wally right-hand assistant) and Angela Johnson (who took care of the dining hall). I can say enough about the job Will Respess, Jacob Potts, Afton Adkins, Kimberly Respess and Crystal Sweatt did as my youngest group of counselors ever... and some of the best.

Thanks to everyone who made this week special-- campers, staff, our Denbigh church family... and especially thanks be to our God.