Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Riding and Praying

As I rode around the back roads and neighborhoods of Rockwall county today, I paid special attention to those roads that appeared out of the way, that weren't on the way to anywhere else. When I ride down these roads I like to look at the houses I pass and wonder who lives there, what their life is like and if they are experiencing the grace of God. It's a means of praying for the community surrounding our church, asking God to set up the moments when I can meet these people and find out about them. It's a blessing to go riding, but at those times it also becomes a time of meditation, worship and prayer.

Shark hunting

In the movie Jaws, Quinn describes going "shark'n." He alarms hearers in the film and audiences alike with a image of hard work, perilous danger and uncertain outcomes. "I value my neck a lot more than $3,000," he asserts. "I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him and kill for ten." Such are the intense times awaiting the Shark hunter in that context.

Going into these Western Conference Semifinals, I had no expectations for the Dallas Stars. I knew that battling the Sharks would be difficult and fraught with struggle. However, now they're up 3-0 in the series. If they win tonight the Sharks are done for the season and the Stars will advance to the Western conference finals - to play the Red Wings. Ugh!

Yesterday I bought a t-shirt for Naomi and the Stars' Fan Shop at the American Airlines Center that simply says "BELIEVE." We wore our Stars shirts last night as the Stars beat the Sharks 2-1 in overtime. It was so exciting. It's so fun to be a hockey fan.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Will the pastoral/prophetic voice be silenced?

All of the controversy over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and his affect to the presidential campaign for Senator Barak Obama, has caused me to reflect on the prophetic voice that pastors should responsibly exercise in society. Because of the pastoral responsibility to expound truth from the Holy Scriptures and see it applied to contemporary society, the modern pastoral function is the most closely one can see the biblical office of "prophet" approximated. I say "approximated" because pastors are NOT "prophets" in the sense they are biblical defined. However, the prophetic function in biblical times was to declare either the divine view of how things will either someday be, or how they are right now. In the Old Testament, it was a prophetic function to tell Israel, "Here is the expanse between what the Law of the LORD requires and what you're doing now." It was not merely to foretell what God will accomplish in the future; it also was to forth-tell what God requires now.

In biblical times, no inaccuracy in prophets could be tolerated; such was the certainty that the prophet spoke for God. Any inaccuracy was appropriately viewed as revealing the so-called prophet's phoniness. To fraudulently impersonate a prophet of God was a capital offense.

Now, however, certainty is not placed in "prophetic" men, but instead in the writings of the apostolic men who completed the Holy Scriptures for us in the 1st century. As a result, we do not now have "prophets" in the sense meant in biblical times. Be rightly wary of anyone claiming to be one. Typically they're claiming this so as to eventually have as many wives as their base instincts desire.

Nevertheless, though no "prophets" occur today on par with those in biblical times, the pastoral responsibility of preaching has some similarities to the prophetic functions of old. Holy Scripture still foretells what God will accomplish in the future, as well as forth-tells what God requires now. To the extent that pastors preach what the Scriptures teach, they fulfill a kind of prophetic function for society, though admittedly not functioning fully as a "prophet."

I bring this up because I have a concern that the societal/political experience with Jeremiah Wright may have adverse effects of people's receptivity to that pastoral/prophetic voice. Will societal critiques that surface through the exposition of the Scriptures be discounted because people's rejection of such critiques was developed in the process of rejecting Wright? Will pastors shy away from preaching biblical critiques of our own society for fear of sounding like Wright? If a pastor mentions a political issue during preaching (that the biblical text demands he raise), will he get his lunch eaten in the public square? Should we pastors prepare for such treatment now?

Those who know me realize how much my political views differ with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Likely my close friends could easily identify my theological differences with him as well. However, if he truly believes the "conspiracy theories" he espouses, and is not merely a political grandstander, is he wrong for denouncing America as he has? If he truly believes that America has committed, and is committing, the sins he suggests, is he not exercising that "prophetic polemic" in his preaching that pastors should?

If I am preaching through a biblical text that calls for a critique of our society and government, and I go there, will my people dismiss it as sounding Wright-ish? Will people's hearts be hardened to appropriate biblical critiques of America because of the Wright episode in this campaign year? If that occurs, the great tragedy of Barak Obama's presidential campaign will have been the trivialization and silencing of the pastoral/prophetic voice to our society.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Woodcreek Bible Church

Yesterday, during a short business meeting following our morning service, the church voted overwhelmingly to be renamed "Woodcreek Bible Church." On the one hand, this may seem a small component of the church's overall changes and operations. However, the impact of the right name must not be underestimated. Consider the re-naming events in Scripture: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and Saul to Paul. It is not merely the changing of the name. It is the acknowledgment of changed identity and purpose. I was very pleased to see that the church vote was nearly unanimous. Such an overwhelming receptivity to the new season of life and mission that God has for this church in this time and place!

Woodcreek: This was the most appropriate and fitting geographical marker to use for a church name. We wanted something locally recognizable that communicated our sense of local calling. As a church that thinks globally, and acts locally, we wanted the name to reflect the specificity of our passion for the neighboring community around us. Certainly this passion is not restricted to the "Woodcreek" subdivision virtually next door, but this name shows our identification with local neighbors in every dirrection. And the most obvious local neighbor was the massive neighborhood nearby.

Bible Church: As was explained before, the inclusion of "Bible" in the church name was not to presumptuously suggest that we alone study, preach from and revere the Bible. It is, however, meant to convey the specificity of our beliefs in the Protestant Evangelical tradition, while reserving sufficient ambiguity for freedom of operation or worship expression. Our beliefs are very conservative, yet we're striving to be very contemporary in the expression of those beliefs. "Bible Church" seemed most fitting given the goal of that balance. The congregation agreed, and now we have a new name.

The excitement of electrifying, and we now are enthusiastically changing all of those administrative channels (brochures, cards, signs, web site, etc.) to reflect the new identity.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strategic Planning: Church Identity

This last Saturday the Strategic Planning team for our church held its first of six meetings. We have a big job ahead of us: discovering the identity, values, mission, vision and strategy that God has for us in pursuing our calling to the community we're planted in. During the first meeting we spent time in prayer, and then sought to candidly evaluate where the present ministry has come from, how it's doing and where it should go. This was a general overview that will receive much, much more detailed scrutiny as we proceed forward. However, this first meeting was a very productive time in which we unanimously agreed that the process of discovering our new direction was necessary to faithfully execute the mission for which God has brought us to this place.

As a result, it was necessary that we determine what identity label best suited the church as it presently is, and will be moving forward (i.e. a new church name). Pam, adept at creative exercises such as brainstorming and storyboarding, led us in a brainstorming session for church name possibilities. The ideas flowed out of the team members, from the very basic to the outlandish. We reserved judgment on the ideas offered until we were sure that the exercise was exhausted. Then we went through the process of eliminating those ideas for church names that we agreed did not fit who we are, or will be in the future.

Our reasoning (collectively) for advancing and eliminating ideas was based on two principles: for the church name to (1) reflect something of the specific geographical calling placed on us by God by his sovereign moving of the church to Fate, and (2) to reflect the specific and honest convictions, character and culture of the church as well. These two principles represented two columns of ideas that were written on the white-board as we threw them out into the conversation.

Many geographical names were suggested, but in the end it was agreed that the neighboring community of Woodcreek was the most obvious geographical marker to represent our local calling. In addition, many ideas were suggested to represent our convictions, character and church culture. We also considered not even having something specific in this area, but decided that keeping a generic name also does not fit our church either. Therefore, it was unanimous that we believe as, act like and most resemble that strain of churches in evangelicalism that are called "Bible" churches. This is not because we alone believe the Bible. Many church traditions do. However, there is a type of church that has inherited specific cultural and character distinctives from the "Bible Church" movement of the 20th century, while trying to progressively remain relevant to the changing culture. This type is often called a "Bible Church," and fits very well within many conservative denominations, though maintaining its unique feel and operation.

For these reasons, the strategic planning team unanimously agreed to advance the name "Woodcreek Bible Church" as the most accurate label for our church as it presently is and as it will be going forward. This, of course, awaits official ratification from the congregation, who must vote on matters which amend or alter our constitution. In addition, even after the new name is ratified by the church vote, the chores of changing documents, accounts, etc. begins also. This is no small task. But the mission of God untrusted to us in the community is well worth it.

The question is never, "Will this be a lot of work?" Of course it's a lot of work. The missio Dei is ALWAYS a lot of work. The question is, "Is this mission worth the work?" The answer is a resounding, "YES!" The work is just made all the more worth it when you know what the mission is.

Duck season is over. Who's next?

Last night the Stars beat the Ducks 4-1 in game six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. This also was the fourth game they won in the best of seven series, winning the series and advancing to the next round. The game couldn't have turned out better from a fan's perspective, but then again it was nerve racking too. The Ducks scored their goal in the first period, but the Stars scored all four of theirs in the third period. That left Naomi and I biting our nails for the first two periods. Oh man, that'll raise your blood pressure!

As I've said before, I've never been much of a sports guy. I attended, or hosted Superbowl parties as primarily a means of fellowship with friends or family. I absolutely have never been able to relate to the fan mentality that learns statistics, numbers, trades, rules and sport's history. That is starting to change for me with regards to hockey though. I find it very completing of my experience in a sports-heavy society to evolve into an NHL fan, with a particular focus on my local heroes-the Dallas Stars.

It is not yet known who they will pay for the Western Conference Semifinals, the San Jose Sharks or the Colorado Avalanche, but right now I'm content that they've made it further up the ladder this year (to the 2nd round) than they have since I become a hockey fan two years ago. Two years ago they were eliminated by the Avalanche in the 1st round. Last year they were eliminated by the Canucks in the 1st round. This year they made it to the 2nd round, and I am very excited.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Raise the Colors!

Symbols are powerful. From religious symbols such as the Cross, the Crescent Moon or the Star of David, to sports symbols such as burnt orange Longhorn silhouettes, football helmet logos of the Dallas Cowboys or my beloved Dallas Stars, all that is necessary to reference the larger entity behind the symbol is the symbol itself. Lengthy definitions aren't necessary. Just display the symbol, and with one single image you can convey support for the entire idea or organization represented by the symbol.

As a result, symbols can be highly emotional too. If I wear a shirt sporting the Dallas Stars logo, without saying a word people can tell that not only do I support them in their regular season efforts, but it's a good bet that I want them to win tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks as well. All of that is communicated with a single image, a lone symbol. Symbols are a powerful means of communication and meaning in any society. They convey pride, shame, love, hate, war, peace, acceptance or rejection. A wide range of human emotions and experiences are represented by the use of symbols.

For this reason, symbols can be very personal. Conversely, the misuse of some symbols can be exceedingly offensive to those whose passions and allegiances are represented by the symbol being misused. Nevertheless, consider how irrationally some cling to and care for the symbol that represents their loves and allegiances. We hear of soldiers "fighting for the flag" and wonder if it is not more accurate to clarify that they fight for what the flag represents. However, such a thought fails to account for how symbols work. Yes, soldiers fight for the country and idea represented by the American flag, but because of the nature of symbols and their use in communication, it is also accurate to say that they fought "for the flag." The flag does not merely represent something else larger; it is an integral part of that larger thing. An attack to the flag is legitimately viewed as an attack on the reality behind it. Likewise, defense of the flag can be legitimately seen as a defense of the reality behind it too.

This is what those at the University of Maine seemed ignorant of, who chided the war veteran for his passionate objection to American flags laid on the floor for potential trampling by students. The war veteran was told that his defense of the flag was irrational because the flag is merely a symbol. How amazingly ignorant an observation! As that veteran stood protesting the misuse of the rightly beloved symbol, he likely felt transported in his psyche back to moments of wartime when he was called upon to defend his fellow soldier, or defend a forward position, or defend the high ground overlooking an advantageous field of fire. To ask him to separate in his mind the defense of the flag from the defense of America is strikingly lacking in understanding regarding human communication and meaning.

Just a symbol? How vacuous a thought! Merely a representative cloth? A mindless view! Do not be surprised to find a veteran or patriot risk health and standing for the defense of the flag. Wipe that shameful look of shock off your face. When we raise the colors, that's not merely a symbolic cloth we fly in the wind; what waves and shakes in the gusts is a very extension of the American soul.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Politics and Stupid

"Politics 'n Stupid" sounds like an ice cream flavor. I get so sick and tired of hearing about politic candidate's view every time I turn on the radio. I find McCain boring, Clinton abrasive and Obama insulting. Take for example this notion of universal health care. For a person in my position, the ability to purchase health insurance is affected by the volunteered giving of people. At the present time, the ability to purchase health insurance yet eludes us. In response to this though, Clinton and Obama would tax from people around me that money which would pay for health insurance for me. That which I could not achieve through volunteered direct giving, they want to achieve for me through compulsory giving funneled through the federal government.

Is it not enough that generous people already give immensely to assist the poor like us. that the government must now tax them beyond what they give to make up the difference? This seems to me to engage in a perverse Robin-hood-ism: tax from the wealthier to distribute to the poorer - whether they volunteer it or not. What is also insulting about Clinton and Obama is that they expect that I would want them to do this simply because we're poorer than some around us. Their assumption must be that poverty causes one to shed principles; that because of our financial status, we would never hold to principles of limited government and personal generosity, but instead want bigger government to require compulsory "generosity." This is insulting.

I don't find McCain to be much better, but he is a little better. He still is a demeaning lurch. Remember when he was speaking in different places regarding illegal immigration? He championed the rhetoric that even President Bush picked up on that referred to people as mere "workers." When I heard Bush refer flesh and blood human beings continually to "workers," I said to myself, "spoken like a true plantation owner." The commercials I heard at the time that called for "workers" to "do the jobs that American won't do" could have ran in the 1850's and would have argued well for preserving slavery. I'm sure Jefferson Davis made a similar argument: "We have to have these 'workers' or our economy will suffer."

I'll likely vote for the Republican candidate in the presidential election, but only because he sickens me a little less that the Democratic candidate. "Politics and Stupid" sounds like an ice cream flavor.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stars Frenzy!

Saturday the Stars went Duck hunting. They beat Anaheim 5-2. I'm really enjoying this, having not been much of a sports fan before discovering hockey. The intensity of it is addictive. In reflecting on the attraction of sports, a radio commentator once quipped that it's like a dog: it allows you to express your love of it without any fear of it rejecting you. Sports teams may disappoint if they lose often, but they'll never turn away loyal fans. As a result, there's always an open door to those wanting to vicariously participate in the team's exploits.

You might despair when they lose, but you also exalt when they win. You can wear team colors, identify with a specific player (I have a "Steve Ott" jersey), paint your face and display the team logo all over your living space. You'll increasingly find Stars accessories around our house, in our cars or on our yard. It's a mystery, but the sports fan experience holds a lot of satisfying dynamics. I've been a Stars fan now for a couple of years. The last two years they have not made it out of the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. This year they're looking like they might.

...and I'm having a good time with it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Playoff fever

Last night the Stars spanked the Anaheim Ducks with an old fashioned paddle. I mean it was ugly. A 4-0 victory in the playoffs can be very, very demoralizing for the loser. Well, I certainly hope so. I want the Ducks totally distracted when they play next. Two years ago the Stars were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Denver Avalanche. Last year they were knocked out in the first round by the Vancover Canucks in game 7. Oh, man, I was disappointed. This year, I hope they take no prisoners. And last night looked like they might do just that.

Four different Stars scored goals. Marty Turco was an absolute wall, not allowing a single goal. Steve Ott was faithfully is usual agitating self. The Ducks did not disappoint. They got agitated just as we hoped, racking up a lot of penalty minutes and handing the Stars several opportunities to score power play goals. It was so fun to watch. I'll be on the edge of my seat for the next three games. Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday will be tough evenings. Can they make past the first round this year? Can they successfully defeat last year's Stanley Cup champions? Dare I believe that they can do it?

I love hockey.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who's next on the Chopping Block?

On March 27, the governing board of Westminster Theological Seminary chose to suspend tenured Professor Peter Enns because of the views he advances in his watershed book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. In his book, he explores implications of using the analogy of Christ's incarnation for understanding the nature of Holy Scripture. An incarnational bibliology can both hold firmly to inerrancy of Scripture, yet stand un-phased by studies revealing its human composition. Because this assertion fell outside of the board's view of classical Reformed bibliology, they declared Enns' views as "heterodox" to the Reformed confession, and fired him.

Let others who minister in confessional institutions remain aware, then, that the degree to which you agree with Enns view can result in a similar drastic experience. I find the proceedings at WTC very unfortunate. Enns has not marginalized or minimized the divine nature of Holy Scripture at all, only brought greater and much needed attention to the human nature of Scripture. I'm in agreement with the general direction of Enns' analysis that evangelicals have been guilty of marginalizing the human composition of Scripture to our own peril. Instead, the analogy of orthodox Christology is appropriately instructive for developing a more orthodox Bibliology.

If we examine the Christological creed of Chalcedon written in A.D. 451, we find the orthodox confession regarding the understanding of the nature of Christ that Christians must hold to now. They affirmed that Christ was indeed fully God and fully human, that he holds these two natures in perfect tension without mixing the two natures, confusing them or allowing one nature to swallow up the other. He is both human and divine. Not part human and part divine. Not sometimes human and sometimes divine. He is simultaneously fully both. This is the orthodox confession regarding the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If such is the orthodox understanding of God the Word, it is hardly a leap to have a parallel understanding of the Word of God. But many do not function theologically with this understanding. Some hold to an "Arian" view of Scripture, that it is less than divine because it possesses such human characteristics. This is common among liberal biblical scholarship. On the other hand, others can be guilty of holding a "Eutychian" view of Scripture, emphasizing the divine nature of Scripture to the extent that they marginalize its human nature. While liberals would be guilty of the former, Enns' assertion (and I think he's right) would be that Evangelicals have been guilty of the latter. What is called for then, by the analogy of orthodox Christology for our view of Holy Scripture, is to pursue a "Chalcedonian" Bibliology.

Peter Enns is not heterodox. On the contrary, he and voices like his may help us be more orthodox regarding the Scriptures than we have been. His dismissal is somewhat alarming though, for he might be the forerunner of a future line of misunderstood evangelicals who, though remaining faithful inerrantists, are not thought to be by fundamentalists. I could easily be found standing in that line. Certainly my old Bible college would think so. The ripple effect from Westminster might be felt at other confessional schools too. Dallas Theological Seminary is certainly not immune. Nevertheless, I still recommend Peter Enns book. Not only should his approach be examined and wrestled with, but his analogy of Christ for understanding the nature of the Word should be explored for further implications that hold potential for returning our view of Holy Scripture to a pre-modern orthodoxy.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Called to be "The Berserk"

Watching the Stars battle the San Jose Sharks yesterday was exciting. I was disappointed when after the first period the Sharks were up 2-0. However, my boy Steve Ott (with whom I presumptuously claim some distant relation), was up to his usual tactics of getting under the skin of the opposition and eventually had the desired effect. His intensity for the game and annoyance to the opposing team was instrumental in interrupting the Sharks focus on the game of hockey. The Sharks' concentration devolved from a focus on winning the game into a focus on dealing with him. He made himself more of the Shark's target than the goal. His disruption of the Sharks' collective focus paid off. The Stars stayed on the offensive and won 4-2. This is good momentum to take into the playoffs.

Although I have no credible relation I can claim with Steve Ott (besides the same last name), I like to suppose kindred spirits with someone who inspires intensity and passion in the team by his example. Steve reminds of the 1989 comedy "Erik the Viking" starring Tim Robbins, John Cleese and Mickey Rooney. There was one member of the Viking clan that was born and raised to be "the berserk." What this meant was that at a certain point in the thick of battle "the berserk" was to intentionally loose his mind and drop all vestiges of fear, rationality, caution and logic as he spun into a whirlwind of combative destruction. By being the designated "berserk," he was charged with not only bringing critical wrath upon the enemy at a opportune moment, but also with inspiring renewed passion and intensity among fellow Vikings during battle. A well tuned and timely "berserk" could influence the direction of the battle for the good of the clan.

For a long time I've felt called to be "The Berserk." In many different settings it seems than God bred me to bring intensity and passion to a situation or enterprise at crucial time. This played out in Kung Fu many times, but also showed itself while working in a mill in Red Bluff, CA. From working as a janitor at a church in the Northwest, to being a library aid at Dallas Theological Seminary, my function as "the berserk" was necessary at select times. Even now, some of the "berserk" role is necessary in my duties as a pastor. This has been my place in many "clans" (companies or churches).

For this reason I feel kindred spirits with Steve Ott. However, having the same last name is just gravy. It could be any name on the jersey and I would gravitated toward being a fan of "the berserk" on any given sports team. For now, an Ott is called to be the berserk on my local hockey team, and an Ott is also called to be the berserk in a local church. And I find the parallels really fun. When Steve scored the last goal, I flew out of my seat and cheered loudly. The Berserk really had made a difference this game, and I want to also.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cleaning windows

Today was a work day out at the church for me. I'm on site pretty much every day at some point, but some days require more of my time than others. Today it was window cleaning. Up until now, interior blinds (more like shutters) have greatly inhibited the amount of light that can enter. Thus sunlight has not been allowed to come in, creating a more warm and welcome environment. Therefore, the shutters had to go.

Once the shutters were down though, I saw that the windows had not been cleaned in ages. Dirt had accumulated and paint splatter had never been scraped off. It seems the shutters were hiding that fact that windows were dirty, inhibiting a clear view of the world outside. Why had the shutters been kept on? Likely because they added a comfortable homey feel to the place. However, it was this "homey" addition that was restricting necessary light from coming in, and an clear view peering out.

As I cleaning the windows inside and outside, I couldn't help but wonder what vestiges of comfort do the same to us: restrict light from shining in on us, and restrict our clear view of the world that we are called to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Cleaning windows can be highly meditative.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Christians are wonderful. Churches are wonderful. It's amazing to watch the Spirit of God work in and through his people to work out the miracles of Christ's kingdom. However, it has been my experience that though the Spirit works through human nature and even redeems human nature, he seldomly suspends human nature. Therefore, Christians who organize in churches can, at times, earn the negative baggage embedded in the phrase "organized religion." When churches organize into networks, the same is still true. Sure the mission of God as advanced through the church can find great expression this way, and fund worthy projects such as international missions, church planting and ministerial training. However, the darker side of such organizing also finds greater expression. Aided by bureaucratic buffers, human nature can become more greatly empowered. Consider the effect of Washington's "beltway" system on otherwise idealistic young freshmen congressmen. Christians can fall subject to similar "wraithing" dynamics.

I'm reminded of the memorable line from the Godfather trilogy, "It's not personal. It's business." Such is the refrain that numbs the conscience of otherwise decent folks. In the Godfather trilogy we begin with Vito Corleone played by Marlon Brando who is the patriarch of this family whose ruthlessness is fueled by the notion that they must survive against the world. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) wants nothing to do with the family business. He intends to stay straight and legit. He even assures his girlfriend that he will never be like his father. However, by the end of the first film he has not only entered into the "family business," but taken over for the sake of his father and his family. By the time Michael is taking over a Las Vegas hotel and casino in film 2, he's already comfortably fluent with inherited phrases like, "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

Michaels decent into the darkness of taking the mantle of "Godfather," though mythological, is instructive for the Church. Organizations, all of them, religious or otherwise, hold the potential to created systems that pit policy against people, shield decision from consequence and substitute freedom for the "family business." Interpreters of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings believe such bureaucratic numbing was what Tolkien had in mind when he created the Ring Wraiths in his novel. Bureaucratic networks and cubicle mentalities can greatly contribute to the "wraithing process." I have experienced, first hand, how church denominations can fall prey to this. Except, since it involves matters of faith, to say "It's not personal. It's business." would be inaccurate. It's business AND it becomes personal in a hurry.

Not that Christian denominations are as ruthless and evil as the Corleone family, but those that enter into them had better be mindful of the line delivered by Robert De Niro when playing a younger Vito Corleone in part 2. "You do me this favor," he assures a new contact, "and I won't forget it. You ask round here. People will tell you that I know how to return a favor." Other times in the trilogy find similar exchanges. "I've done you this favor. Now maybe, someday, you can return a favor for me." Better to live with honor, treat everyone with respect, but to avoid alliances from which there is no pulling out. That category is restricted to the Lord Jesus Christ.