Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And The Disciples were Concerned about Exorcists?

This from ASBO Jesus

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sermon Notes 9/27

I spoke yesterday on the passage in Mark 9:38-50. In many ways it is the most challenging passage in scripture for me. The great millstone to be hung around my neck should I lead any of the "little ones" astray. I spoke about how when I took things literally, it was very obvious just to give folks a cup of water. I told them by giving them water I had assured my reward in heaven (or been additionally blessed depending on your reading) - cause that's what it says. I then got to talking about how people really weren't taking the whole scripture literally, they were merely taking it literally as they chose. The evidence was a plain as the hand before my face. No one I knew was walking around maimed from having cut off hand, arm or eye or some other body part because it caused them to sin. I reminded them that the scriptures also tell us something deeper. The surface may be easy, but it does get harder. In that way I spoke about the passage where Jesus tells the Disciples it isn't what goes into the mouth that causes us to be unclean, but what comes out for it comes from the heart. And so it is with all sin, that it comes from our hearts and our minds. Our body parts don't cause us to sin. But, if I carry the logic out then I must cut my heart and mind out. Paul even tells us to have our hearts circumcised. We are given several commandments - the Great Commandment, and the others: to baptize, to teach them to obey, to cast out demons, to heal the sick, to care for those in prison. Water was a sign of hospitality, as are the commandments, they bring us back to community. We are not to run off those that do not do things our way, even if they are sinners to us (and yes I included adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, liars and the like by name, as well as running a denominational list before them), because Christ has called them to do things in his name as well. As long as they are doing so, they are not against us, but for us. So, if you want to take things literally, begin by giving some water.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009


I was once one of those who took the Bible literally. Pretty quickly I realized that I could not do so with any amount of integrity. I found passages that contradicted each other, and so I could justify those that directly override another passage, but then I get left with those that just plain contradict each other. (oh, gee, really, some of you want examples - sure now you throw that at me [sarcasm] I may have to come up with those for you)

But at the end of the day it was the passage from Mark 9 that talks about if your hand causes you to sin, or your leg, or your eye, then you need to remove it. Quite simply, "THAT SUCKS!" I would be a totally blind, crippled, eviscerated person by now - well, I would be quite dead by any measure.

I had to think more seriously about taking things literally. I still learn and think there is something to the surface presented, but that the power of Scripture (The Bible) is in fact that it comes together as an entire document, and find depth in each passage.

Happy reading!

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Saturday, September 26, 2009


Maybe you have noticed that most of my blogs of late would qualify as Tweets in Twitter as well. I could take the cut and paste pieces and just add the shortened URL to the post.

I still want to add content. I know of one friend who reads this blog from time to time that he has deviated from his blog content, but that his tweet rate has gone way up. The thing of it is that those tweets are not as much original content as retweets and the like.

I wonder how much to tweet - and tend to keep it about three a day (though I have started to add in about 3 Retweets per day now too). And I wonder what that means for the content of this blog.

I have contemplated the change before, and wonder what it would mean. I started out with a bit of the "Doogie Howser" in me, where I wanted to quantify and qualify each day with some sort of thought that summarized things for me. I quickly remembered why I did not get into writing screenplay or for TV. I don't have that kind of pithy commentary. Nor do I necessarily have the drive to write in earnest every day, let alone the time every day to do so.

And, so I return to the old conundrum of what to write and why. I suspect that it will be a conflagration as it always has been, of posts about what is working in the church, what causes me to stumble, sermon notes and ponderings, foodie items, daily musings, and stuff that just catches my attention for one reason or another.

You see, ultimately, it is Doogie Howser at work as it is a journal of my life. I do not write the pithy comments, or the beautiful prose of others. I don't spend the time to really work my writing over here. I express my self at the moment it occurs to me to do so. I am trying to discipline myself to write, something, anything, even if it is someone else's work, everyday, so that I can come back and follow the trajectory of my life.

I concede that this is self-serving, as so many have labelled blogging to be. I write about my life. I don't tend to focus on anything necessarily external, like my cat, my wife or my child, let alone the community I serve, but about my history for the day.

In that way I suppose I am creating a bible of my own. It is my story of my relationship with God and my fellow human beings, the creation around me and how it all ebbs and flows from one element to the next. I pull from those sources in my context that are prevalent, and occasionally appropriate them for my use, and my understanding, recognizing that for someone else they may not be the same, and may even be quite different in meaning.

I appreciate those of you that bother to come around. I appreciate your silent and spoken support. It is for this reason that I blog. I know that I need community, and I do express my self more clearly and more cleanly in this medium. I hope that from time to time you experience some benefit from my musings, my culled quotes, and even some stuff you have probably already read elsewhere, or will read later by someone who is able to write more cleanly and clearly.


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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Most Important Thing I Could Say

...belongs to someone else.

I share it anyway.

An Open Invitation to the People of the United Methodist Church

If you believe that Jesus Christ is the center of our Faith and that all of life flows from life in him…

If you believe that what unites us in Jesus Christ is greater than any difference that may separate us…

If you believe that we as Christ-followers need to recapture the gift of Christian Conversation…

If you believe that the Holy Scripture is best understood in light of the life, teaching death and resurrection of Jesus…

If you believe that we are better together than we are apart…that our strength is in unity not in schism…

If you believe that resurrection is stronger than death, that hope is greater than fear…

If you are tired of the endless arguing about who is in and who is out, who’s acceptable and who’s not…

If you would like to have a conversation about what’s right with the United Methodist Church…

I invite you to a conversation about the matters of our hearts and the desires of our faith…

I invite you to a conversation where we discover those places of vitality and strength…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thought you ought to know

Some pieces that caught my attention today.

I do love my Coldstone Ice Cream

I also love my Social Media.

I might want to do something good and productive with each.

Giving to Make-a-Wish Foundation and making the Social Media Connections work better makes good sense to me. Check the links for details


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guaranteed Appointment

I have a friend on the United Methodist denomination wide study committee on ministry. As we continue into the 21st century, [they] are evaluating certain practices. [They] hope [I] would be able to answer a couple of questions, as [they] deeply value [my] opinion:
The two questions are:

1. What is your opinion of the guaranteed appointment as the United Methodist now practices with the itinerant clergy (the clergy agree to go where the bishop sends us, the bishop guarantees the clergy a job). Would you favor keeping it or not? As much detail and perspective that you can give would be most helpful.
2. If the guaranteed appointment is eliminated, and if non-seminary trained local pastors are ordained, what would be the motivation for a candidate for ministry to pursue a seminary education (and accumulate a large amount of debt)? Recent statistics suggest that almost half of new candidates for ministry are on the local pastor track (which currently means they are not ordained).

My response:

1. My opinion of the guaranteed appointment as the United Methodist Church now practices with itinerant clergy is that we are not doing any favors to our churches, our pastors, or the Gospel. By limiting risk, and rewarding complacency (don't rock the boat) we are not creating enough discomfort in our congregations and for our clergy to effectively risk and challenge and change. I am reminded of several passages in the epistles where the Apostles have gone out and appropriated what was before, in the culture, or in the historical record of Israel and made it work differently for the immediate context they live. Jesus does this as well, accepting the discomfort internally, while creating discomfort for the people. [Luke 4:14-30] I am in favor of guaranteed appointments, with a broader understanding of the purpose of the appointment, to train leaders, to administer the Sacraments, and to serve more churches (in the style of our Circuit Riders - entire regions of several states, etc, not our Current Circuits that encompass no more than 7 churches [that was the largest circuit I heard anyone serving]) I also believe that we do not do enough oversight of our clergy as provided for in the Discipline for evaluation and removal from ministry. If we were to do the work required for oversight as presented in the Discipline I think we would not have the same issues. Paragraphs 331.5-6 (deacons) and 334.4 (elders)

2. I know the expected debt load of incoming clergy is beyond what the expected income is. This should be better rectified, with a more strenuous examination prior to entering seminary, including service in the local church. It might be that the Board of Ordained Ministry would spend time culling from the ranks of the enhanced leadership of the Local Pastors those who would be a good fit for seminary. I applaud the efforts of our local pastors, and know them to do outstanding work. I think that setting seminary trained persons as guides and trainers for service would only serve to enhance that model, as well as allow for greater lay empowerment through the entire process.

I apologize if I have been anywhere unclear in my thoughts, and I would be happy to follow up as best I can.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Worship Opportunities

I have recently been asked to help develop a worship service for Young Adults - which in this instance probably means college students.

I am excited for this opportunity, and yet feel a little out of my depth again. I know the best method for developing any worship occasion is to work with the people who you are trying to reach, and yet I am short of good young adults to ask.

[Then again maybe I ought to check in with my Facebook people]

What do you hear from young adults in your area for what they are seeking in a worship experience?

What are the places where the Young Adults in you area hang out?

What do you understand the purpose of worship to be?

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Caught up in Numbers

As of late I have been enamored of Dan Dick and the work he is producing on his blog.

This past week he posted on the metrics of measurement we use to evaluate our churches.

This particular paragraph jumped out at me, as I start to think more seriously about what "Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World" means to me.

A growing number of our churches have stopped counting those who come through our doors. They are more interested in what happens to people after they leave. I spoke to lay and clergy leaders of two smaller Midwestern congregations this week that both have goals of serving the needs of others outside the church, of equipping people to share their faith and monitor how effectively they do it, and of engaging new people in serious spiritual formation and development. They do qualitative evaluation and assessments rather than “counting.” “Oh, we use numbers,” a lay leader told me. “If we served 65 meals last week, our goal is to serve 70 this week. If we got nine volunteers to help out last week, we strive for ten this week. If we have four people equipped to teach a small group this quarter, we aim to have five next quarter. So, yeah, numbers matter, but not as much as understanding how people’s faith and lives are changing.”
The challenge is then bare before me. To build Disciples, and to find ways to measure the quality of that activity. The bigger challenge then is not to worry so much about "adding one more" but "one more adding" to the body of Christ by giving of themselves by their "prayers, presence, gifts and service"

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Question of the Day

What does it mean to you to "welcome children in the name of Jesus"?

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Getting out of the Way Pt. 2

I just wanted to add this bit from the UM Portal:

I remember one such type of gathering as part of VBS one year at Santa Barbara FUMC. While the children were all off doing their VBS thing, the adults had a regular Wednesday night Bible Study, and the Youth Group met every week on Tuesday. THis week, we all came Monday-Thursday for study and something along the lines of the regular discussion fused with VBS materials.

However, for Wednesday night, both the adult Bible study and the youth group met in the Asbury Room and shared what it was like to have been through milestone moments in our lives, like getting our driver's license, first date, etc. And then we compared notes on where we wanted to see the church go in the future.

Helpful and encouraging times. It is that kind of intergenerational interaction I want to be building into the first service at St. Andrew UMC. I have found that the best way to keep children and youth in the church when they are old enough to decide for themselves is to involve them in church from the outset, rather than shuffle them off into separate quarters before or part-way through the service.

Maybe we can make it work. My sermons may take some more energy and some better prep to be engaging for all. But, be it known here and now - I take my cues from Hope UMC in Torrance that proudly proclaims "Noisy Children Welcome"

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Getting out of the Way

Yesterday I was watching my twitter feed, and Steve Heyduck posted something that grabbed my attention. I had a gut reaction, and I failed to complete the thought in 140 characters, and digest the conversation with any real strength.

It started like this:

@steveheyduck: For the UMC to take seriously raising up young leaders, we who are 45+ will have to be willing to get out of the way. #umc

@revcamp: @steveheyduck getting out of the way only helps if you are identifying and guiding to that point #umyc #umc

I don't want our leaders now to get out of the way to take seriously raising up young leaders. To me that sounds an awful lot like "In order for our children to grow up we need to die." Now, I realize that statement may be overdramatizing the issue, but I have seen it acted out that way.

It may be that Steve means "get out of the way" in the sense of providing actual leadership opportunities, with real responsibility, and accountability for failure, accolades for achievement, and listening to our ideas as we begin to think out new plans for the future. I hope that is it.

After watching some more of the extended dialogue (durn it there are not threaded feeds on Twitter - a la Facebook and Gmail) Mike Lindstrom responded with some of these thoughts.

  1. @jereasons @steveheyduck I agree about ego - will we let younger ones cast some vision and move "our" church fwd or will we be speed bumps?
  2. @steveheyduck Okay - just want to be clear. As a soon to be 45 yo I'm passionate about moving into God's vision w/ others (I abhor ladders)
  3. @methoblog (and @steveheyduck) 45 year old clergy not ready to retire (and have vision) can work w/ yng ldrs who lead - join w/ not jump out

Which was in reference to some of these comments
  1. @mikeybob I am 45 myself - just admitting that WE can't just talk a good game about raising up young leaders.
  2. @mikeybob by "get out of the way" I don't mean retire. Perhaps climb off the "ladder?" Perhaps genuine openness to younger people's ideas?

But, getting out of the way too early is dangerous and leads to death for all. Now, I will admit I am right at the edge of Young Adults by definition of clergy standards at 35. I admit I was frustrated at times as an assistant youth leader, and as an associate pastor with being "held down" by the heirarchy of the church. Sometimes, that was saving my hindquarters from getting in some real trouble. At other times I think we missed some opportunities with our families, youth, and congregations.

I am grateful for those who said "What's the worst that can happen - we fail? All we can do is try it and see." From those statements followed the pieces that said, "Here are some things you may want to think about, and some tools I think you will need to make it succeed." If I chose to use other tools then so be it. If I thought about what was given all the better. If I decided a tool wasn't necessary and the truth was otherwise, I was usually given the opportunity to learn it for myself; when risk was too high, I was told to use that tool regardless. I was grateful for each of these.

These days I have no hierarchy to hold me back, but I do have people to whom I am responsible. The choices I make are my own, and I realize that I have an entire congregation that has its own expectations of what I am going to be. I try to honor those, as well as be myself, hold conversation as we go forward.

I wonder what it will look like to allow the current people to be themselves, as well as inviting new people into the conversation, as United Methodists, as Clergy, and as a changing nation and world. Can we provide enough leadership that those who will have to lead next will have some idea of what good leadership is, and how to enact it, or are we just turning over the reigns to the cart horse to a four year old raised in a car society?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Media Today

Thanks to Dave Delaney at Dave Made That for this one.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Prayer for the Day

The Prayer of An Unknown Confederate Soldier

I asked God for strength, that I might
achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn
humbly to obey . . . I asked for health, that I might do
greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do
better things . . .
I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty that I might be
wise . . . I asked for power, that I might have the
praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel
the need of God . . . I asked for all things, that I might enjoy
life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all
things . . . I got nothing that I asked for—but
everything I had hoped for, Almost despite myself, my unspoken
prayers were answered. I am among all men, most richly blessed.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Today while around the table with a bunch of other clergy from UMCs in the area one of the pastors asked what we were reading of interest these days.

I answered two-fold:
Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" and Terry Goodkind's "Law of Nines"

As I listened to the others around the table I heard non-fiction after non-fiction and theology book after theology book.

I began to wonder if I was the only pastor who reads fiction and Sci-Fi at that. I am excited about the continuation of The Wheel of Time series originated by Robert Jordan and being completed by Brandon Sanderson. I read through all of the works by Terry Goodkind and Terry Brooks. I enjoyed the Eragon series and several others.

I was struck if this kind of reading of Sci-Fi was the same kind of dirty little secret that reading Comics is. In particular I love those Apocalyptic literature pieces. I love the debate of theology that comes in reading folks like Terry Goodkind. I am engaged in the learning of other religious traditions that comes in reading and talking about Robert Jordan's works. Terry Brooks writes such inspiring works, and challenges my assumptions here and there, as well as suffering simple lessons in broad strokes.

All the best to you in your reading.


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Monday, September 14, 2009


I was talking with my dad the other day up the trail to Ruby Lake.

On it I had this nagging feeling of internal conflict, and I couldn't quite make sense of it. As I was thinking it through I just kept muttering "I don't know. I don't know". I guess that should be a clue to those around me that I am having some sort of conflict internally about something. Now, whether or not I can articulate that at any given moment may be a real stretch.

However, at this particular juncture I realized it was about wanting MORE. I want more. I was, and am, conflicted about what I really want more of.

I thought about the trail and the hiking. I do want to do that kind of activity more. I was thinking about the house we live in and how there are more projects I want to get done. I want more space. I want less stuff. I want more of different stuff. I want more financial security. I want to spend more.

I struggled with these conflicting emotions in my head. I rehashed several of the conversations surrounding Adam Hamilton's book, "Enough". I realized I also want to have more Discipleship, and that wanting more is not the evil that it has come to represent to many.

More education. More generosity. More kindness. More Spiritual development. More exploration of the Scriptures. More time with people. More compassion and more love. More hope. More Hospitality. These are all good things. For some they will ask more of me. For some I will have to have less.

I thought about all of this as I was considering how kind people are in the wilderness. It is impolite not to say hi to each person you pass on the trail. It is rude not to warn people of coming dangers, or that you are running them down from behind.

I want more of that kind of life. Now for the hard part - making it a reality; with MORE

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Amusements

I found these things while in my tours of the Owens Valley this past week.

A paperboard sign taped to the outside of a glass covered notice board which read, "Do not tape anything to the outside of this display"

A stretch of highway next to the Tule Elk Preserve outside of Big Pine, which is patrolled and sponsored by Davison Taxidermy

The recycling flyer detailing recyclables, stating that newspapers to be recycled need to be put in plastic bags for recycling, accompanied by the announcement that plastic bags are not recyclable and should not be placed in recycling.

Pictures of said items should probably be submitted to FAILBLOG

Monday, September 07, 2009

Quote of the Day

Allan R. Bevere Broward County Florida Schools are requiring students to listen to the President's address to school children tomorrow. No one knows the penalty for students who stay home, but the rumor is that those students will be forced to listen to the ramblings of Vice-President Joe Biden :-)


Sunday, September 06, 2009


Did I tell you I had a caffeine addiction?
I found out just how bad when I failed to drink my coffee before heading out on a hike with my baby girl this morning. I have hurt all day since, even after having some coffee later in the day.
Sleep will be my new best friend.

BTW- Cielito Lindo and Cool Hand Luke's in Santa Maria are both outstanding food.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


I needed a break. The time had come and I needed to get away from work for a bit.

Now I do know that I can't really stop being a pastor, as it is who I am much more than what I do. I just stepped away from the responsibilities in the local church for a bit. This is the time.

The benefit for you, the reader of this blog, is that I often find my Blog voice while on vacation. The things I think about when I can let go of the day-to-day of the local church empowers my internal creativity. This in turn means I have to write it down somewhere, and here seems as good a place as any.

So for now, I dissolve into space to write...or at least for the next few hours watching football and futbol.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Vitality in the Local Church

As I was sitting down to a piece of homemade chocolate cake the other night, I ran across and article reminding me that I needed to put down the cake, slim down, exercise more, and do more eating right and generally be a better person. And the writer was correct. I need to do those things.

Amazingly, that was not the force of this particular article. It was more about church health and what kinds of things a pastor was deriding in local churches, to shut them down. And I'll be honest, there have been times when I have made some of the same statements. So I needed not only to hear the "put down the cake" lesson, but also the deeper lesson of transformed churches.

The keys the author pointed to were:
-Some healthy churches need to go through decline and financial hardship to come to grips with life as it is currently. St. Andrew -Check
-For both new and old churches the primary issue is "Leadership and Vision" (I would add to that a statement that says it must extend beyond the clergy of the church, and a few select "leaders") St. Andrew - Check
-A challenge of Discipleship must be laid out and taken up with the membership, "raising rather than lowering the bar". St. Andrew -Check

And if you think (as you well should) that you need to check the facts of my edits, then go right ahead. Click here


Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Penny

Got this today. I know it seems odd to me to repost email forwards on my blog too, but this one caught my attention and rather than send another email to everyone on my address list, I thought I would pass this along here. HT: Imojean


You always hear the usual stories of pennies on the sidewalk being good luck, gifts from angels, etc. This is the first time I've ever heard this twist on the story. Gives you something to think about.

Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the home of her husband's employer.

My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the waterway, and cars costing more than her house.

The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. Her husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely.

As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant one evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband.
He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.
Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny.
He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure.

How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her Finally, she could stand it no longer. She casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?

"Look at it," he said. "Read what it says."

She read the words, " United States of America .."

"No, not that. Read further."

"One cent?"

"No, keep reading."

"In God we Trust?"


"And?. . ."

"And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin, I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him. Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray. I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!"

When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, "In God We Trust," and had to laugh. "Yes, God, I get the message!"

It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful! And, God is patient.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blog Understanding

I keep watching as friends and others I follow on their blogs do more and more with trying to track their followers, make sense of the hit counts, etc.

I haven't got much of a clue. I set up a feedburner account more than a year ago, and then never did anything with it, namely because I wasn't patient/smart enough to figure out how to utilize the tool. [I just felt like a tool]

Any suggestions for good tutorials? People patient enough to walk me through (via google talk, IM, etc)?

What a waste of good media, not to utilize the other end of the medium.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Thought of the Day

Via Bro Greg

Thanks for the reminder. And who knew scripture could be so revealing, stripping us to the core, and yet leaving us feeling like we can yet do it well and better.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:1-4 (TNIV)