Saturday, September 24, 2011

"A God-given Rest" - Hebrews 4:1-11 - Sept. 25, 2011


(This sermon/homily is offered following a testimony by a congregation member that after the death of her husband and a season of grief and pain, God brought her a peace/rest that would sustain her, a joy that would define her, a person to share her life, and a ministry to touch the lives of others.)

There are so many voices clamoring for our attention. There are so many demands for our time. There are so many memories that fill our minds. There are so many hopes that have yet to be fulfilled. There are so many unresolved dreams that clutter our heart. There are so many tasks that wait to be done. There are so many needs that are yet to be met. There are so many unresolved concerns and conflicts. There are so many wounds we have sustained in life and relationships that we are weary. There are so many times we have failed or fallen and have gotten up, dusted ourselves off, and moved forward that we fear that the next time we fail or fall there will not be enough energy left to for us to get up again. There are so many people who want something from us – sometimes what they want is worthy, and sometimes what they want from us distracts us from where we are going and who God wants us to be. There are so many….

In the Genesis 1 and 2 story of creation we see the God institute the idea of the Sabbath. With the work of creation done, God rested and modeled the idea of the Sabbath – a time to rest, reflect and recover. It has always been God’s plan for His people to claim a God-given rest. He knew we would live lives of “so many “ that would drain us, strain us, and distract us from the kind of relationship with Him and others we were created for. We heard Katie Smith read our focal passage in its entirety. In this complex passage we hear we the story of disobedience to God and that they had failed to claim a God-given rest. What an incredible indictment of God’s people! It is an indictment we share.

Our culture blesses lives of unfettered chaos – the dead sprint of trying to fit everything in. I hear people say over and over again that they wish that could squeeze one more hour into their week. The problem is that we would probably fill that hour just as quickly as we have filled the hours that God has already given to us. Our work and our play seem to be defined by our capacity to multitask. Can we watch our kids play sports, while checking email, text our friends, and checking out the last score or movements in the stock market all at the same time? Phones are no longer defined by the capacity to make a call, but by how many apps they can hold and how many functions can the offer. We do not give our minds or our bodies any substantive rest. In an effort to keep awake and function we consume an alarming volume of caffeine intensified energy drinks. The energy drink market now tops 7.5 billion dollars a year. We seem to be trying to squeeze as much work and as much play as humanly possible into our days, with little thought of the consequences of our frenetic ways of life. As I listen to people tell their stories, the price seems to be the quality of our relationships with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, and with God. We quietly know we were meant for more. We silently wish for more.

It is not only our pace of life that threatens the kind of God-given rest God intends for us. Our woundedness and brokenness also gets in the way. We keep trying to figure out how to fix ourselves. We keep trying to fill our emptiness with something or someone. We keep trying to “get over it and get on with it” only to find ourselves still weighed down. We find ourselves stirred with heart break and emotion. We quietly wonder if we will ever be better. We silently wonder if we will ever know peace or joy again.

Our passage brings a promise that we need to hear and claim. Verses 9 thru 11 tell us; 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. The Scripture tells us that the price for rejecting the God-given rest is that we will perish. Most of us do not worry about being consumed by the shark of a grand act of evil. No, for most, the fear is that we will be nibbled to death by a thousand small obligations and expectation and consumed by the profound sense of isolation form God and others that can emerge in our hurried life styles.

We have heard in song and testimony that God offers a rest that can sustain us. We are called it remain in a Sabbath-rest; to make it a part of who we are and how we live our lives. This leads us to the promise of a Sabbath rest that brings recovery, reflection, and renewal.We have heard in song and testimony that God offers a rest that can sustain us. It is the promise of a Sabbath rest for recovery, reflection, and renewal. It is a rest for our body, our mind, and our spirit. It is a rest from our labors and the chaos of life. It is a rest that gives us real time to connect with one another and to connect with God. It is a rest that leads to real peace. It is a rest that leads to wholeness. But we must claim this rest in an act of obedience – to claim time for Sabbath and to make time in our life for real rest. This is more than taking a nap or scheduling one less thing. It is about claiming space for rest in God where God can speak into our lives – where God can shape our lives – where God can bring us peace- where God renew us. When we enter the God’s rest we thrive. When we respond in chaotic disobedience, scripture tells us we are lost –consumed – we perish.

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish. Let us make every effort to enter that rest that we might find the kind of rest in God where God can renew and restore us. Let’s not settle for less.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Forgotten Center in Baptist Life


There are times I feel alone. I did not use to feel this way. I used to feel a part of a family with a wide tent, big enough to hold a wide diversity of folks who all called themselves Baptist. It seems that Baptist have followed our national political trend of polarization. Those on the right seem to keep drifting further right. There seems to be little room in their world for anyone that might disagree with anything they think. Their truths and opinions (often they do not seem to be able to tell the difference) are absolute. Those on the left are equally entrenched. It seems that it is not enough to be given the freedom to believe as they will – to practice their faith as they will. But, they are so sure that they are right that their truths and opinions (often they do not seem to be able to tell the difference) are absolute. Those on both sides will not be satisfied until everyone embraces their way of thinking – their way of interpreting Scripture – their way of dealing with the politics of nation – their way of living life. Those on the right were so demanding that they drove many of us out of the tent seeking a new home. Now those on the left are so insistent that the tent that I moved to now seems progressively less comfortable, progressively less like “home.”

There is a part of me that yearns for the absolute certainty of those who live on my left and right. It is easier to live in the absolutes. You do not have to think as hard or work as hard because everything is clear cut. My problem is that I am a centrist. I claim the strong faith statements of traditional Baptist theology. I also claim the reality that Paul proclaims in I Corinthians 13, For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I want to balance a ministry of Word and deed, of law and grace, of justice and mercy. I want to be a Jesus person; both where that blesses and where that offends. It can be difficult to live in the theological center because it demands that I give great care to working through what the whole of the Bible says about an issue, and that I take the interpretation of the Bible seriously. I cannot allow my culture to so shape, from either perspective, what I read that I misread the Word of God. It means that my task is not driven by a poll of what one generation thinks about homosexuality, abortion, gun control, the death penalty, immigration, or a hundred other political and social hot buttons of the day; but rather what God has said to His people across the generations and across cultures. It means that when I come to preach and teach I come with the certainty of a God who was from the beginning and shall be forever; that God that is unshakable and is my refuge and strength. I teach and preach about a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I teach and preach from a Bible that is the divinely inspired Word of God, not in part but in whole. But, I also bring the frailty and the fallibility of my own perspective – worldview – and faith walk.

As I talk to other pastors and church leaders from across the nation they tell me that I am not alone. They tell me that they too are theological centrists in Baptist life. They tell me that they have also felt alone and forgotten in the emerging Baptist landscape. They tell me that they felt out of place in one tent, and progressive equally out of place in another. They tell me that their answer has been to dive in and focus solely and wholly on their local church’s mission and ministry. They are at home in the local church context and disconnected from the institutions and organizations that shape the Baptist landscape. They are old and young; graduates of the six historic Baptist seminaries and from the newer ones that have emerged over the last twenty years. They are ministers and they are laity. They long to feel connected. They long to work side-by-side others. They long to find community. They are weary of seminars that are agenda laden and publications that seem to echo single points of view. They are the forgotten center in Baptist life. I wonder where and how they might fit together and work together in the days ahead? Any thoughts?

Grace and Peace, Tom

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A House Made By God - Hebrews 3:1-6 - Sept. 17, 2011


About six months ago I began a new sermon planning process with our staff. For much of the first six years sermon titles were either drawn for the lectionary, burning issues arising from congregational life, or something that I felt God put specifically on my heart. While this has served us well, I wanted to make sure that we were addressing a passages and Biblical issues emerging from the wider breadth of God’s movement in our church family. So, I checked into how some pastors I respected developed their sermon themes and scriptures and ran across an idea from First Baptist Church, Wilmington, North Carolina. Their model was that selected members of their ministerial staff gathered once a quarter to see what passages were emerging in their personal quiet times, from across Bible study classes, from questions raised by congregations, and passages that God was placing on their hearts together as a community of spiritual leaders. This model struck me because I value the voices of our ministerial staff and thought that I could clearly see God moving in and through each of those I celebrate calling colleagues and friends. I also valued the gift of proclamation we see in several members of our church staff. I decided to approach the staff to see if they were game for this kind of process and their response was strong. You have seen the product of our first gathering over the past few months. You have heard sermons from a rich diversity of Biblical passages and have had the opportunity to hear Brad, Sarah, and Kristin find their way to this pulpit. I believe our worship has been better because of this process and that my sermons have also been stronger and even more deliberate at speaking to the heart needs of our church family.


But, there was one suggestion made in our day away that first caused me to pause with a bit of apprehension, but now brings me to you with a sense of joy and excitement. One of the suggestions made in our planning day was a sermon series on Hebrews. It is a book that speaks with authenticity about how life and faith come together, but its author is unknown and its language lacks any of those pithy summary passages that fit comfortably in a sermon format. No, Hebrews draws on a more complex sermon model born in another era and arises from the heart of those emerging from Judaism to a new faith in Christ. It is rich with images and personalities from that which lies within what we call the Old Testament, but what would have been understood at the time as the core writings of the Jewish faith. It is an important book in the New Testament and has much to offer us, but because of its format is not common sermon fodder. I believe it is worth our time and effort and can speak with meaning and purpose to who we are as a church family in this time and place. Over the next nine weeks we will move through Hebrews and hear what it has to say to us and how we might respond to God’s call in this season.


We begin with the first six verses of Chapter Three. You heard Larry Hawkins read it in its entirety earlier in our service. Now let’s take a closer look together at a passage that gives us a power picture of “A House Made by God.” There was a part of me tempted to walk out wearing a tool belt or to ask Jerry, Lee, Charles and some of the other of gifted in construction to put together a simply built fa├žade of a house, or maybe pull out one of the prop houses of the “It’s A Wonderful Life” set and put it in place. But, I am not sure any of those images would have helped us wrap our arms around the picture our passage has in mind. Our passage begins, 1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

Judaism was seen as a religion of place. The Arc of the Covenant, the priests that led them in worship, the heart of the sacrificial system, and the very seat of God was tied to the Temple in Jerusalem. By the time Hebrews was written the Romans had destroyed the Temple and the Jewish people and the Christians that had emerged out of Judaism, we seeking to understand what it meant to have a relationship with God outside of that profound sense of place. We can understand. Many of us grew up with an understanding of church that seems to claim some of that same kind of place identity. When I grew up I heard pastors frequently refer to the church as “the house of God.” I remember that as a child I thought that God lived at church. I think we adopted some of this worldview from the language of the Old Testament. I also think it was a part of what carried over in the language of the Church from the days long before the reformation. We dressed for church, because we wanted to bring our best for God. We dressed our churches with stain glass because we wanted to the church to be a place of special beauty, a place worthy of an encounter with God. On Thursday I listened to Rabbi Abby Jacobson talk about High Holy Day Worshippers – the folks who come to the synagogue when it is a special festival or major holiday. We have our own version of those – people who come to church on Christmas and Easter and in times of crisis. They come to visit God at God’s place. Our passage tells us that if we come to a place like this looking for God’s home, we are looking in the wrong place.


Our passage lifted up Moses, the very model of faithfulness to the original hearers of these words. He lifts Jesus and his faithfulness to his mission from the Father over and above Moses. While Moses was completely faithful “in all God’s house,” Jesus has greater honor for He is the builder of house. He reminds them that every house is built by some one – but ultimately God is the builder of everything. In more contemporary language, Moses had helped them live as God’s people under the law, the religion of sacrifice, of place, of priests, and Temple. Jesus is preeminent because He was at the heart all of creation – over and above all that Moses established. Instead of man building a Temple to serve as the house of God, Jesus changes everything. It is God who is the builder and the place God will call home is within his people.

The theology of place is transformed. In verse five and six makes this clear. It reads; 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. I cannot read this and not think about 2 Corinthians 16 where we hear; For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people.” The theology of place is transformed from the brick, mortar, and traditions alive at the Temple to a theology of flesh and bones. The house of God is found within the hearts and lives of the people of faith in God through Christ. God’s place becomes the middle of our lives. I know we love the beauty of the walls and windows that surround us, but if you want to see the real beauty of God’s house, look around you at the lives he is changing and hear the stories of how God is alive and at work in the people who sit next to you.

God’s plan is not for you to visit church in times of crisis praying that God will respond. God’s plan is not to wrap ourselves in personal piety and come to this building to out of duty or obligation. God’s plan is not for us to come to a building like this one to go through the religious motions trying to find some kind of connection or in a fruitless attempt to make amends for some wrong we have done another. We gather in this place so that we might learn together how we can shape our life and faith so that God is always at home in our lives, rather than an occasional guest in moments of crisis and stress. The power of this place is it where sinners and hypocrites, fallen and the forgiven, can come together to study God’s Word together so we might learn how to better grow in our relationship with God. We come to this building to worship God together. We come to worship a God who is worthy of our songs and prayers and praise because God has made the way for us to find forgiveness and redemption so we might become at home with God and that God might make His home in our lives. We gather in this place so we can hear stories from one another of how God is moving in our lives and find encouragement in our walk of faith with and from one another. We gather in this place to find a sense of community – a sense of family – with others who seek to walk with God. We gather in this place so that we might step out in mission together; living out our faith in word and deed. We gather in this place because we know together we can better understand what it means to be the people of God and to walk in God’s way. In the truest sense, God is in this place only when the people of God gather within its walls.


If you have come looking to find God in this place – while it beauty make create a positive setting for the journey – God does not live in a home of brick and mortar. God seeks to make his home in the midst of your heart – your life – and your way of life. Through faith you are the house made by God. So often when we look in the minor we see our flaws. God sees something very different. God sees the beauty in you that you were created to demonstrate. You display the beauty of redemption, more beautiful than any stained glass window. You are wonderful. You display the love of God that makes you His own. You are the house made by God that God might be on display in your life and through your faith. You see, the picture of you living for God and God being at home in your life is more beautiful than any church or Temple made by man with brick and mortar can begin to depict. It is a living story of life with a living and loving God. It is your story – it is my story – it is the story of all who come to God through faith. Thanks be to Jesus Christ who through the power of a cross and the resurrection tomb transforms the theology of place- and made the way for us to become the home of God.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Transform a City - a book recommendation

Last week I have the opportunity to get to know Eric Swanson. You might recognize his name as the co-author of The Externally Focused Church or from his role with the Leadership Network. I am glad to now call him friend. Eric has recently co-authored another important book; this one entitled To Transform A City. I want to recommend it to every pastor and church leader that desires to see God work in and through their church to begin a movement that can meaningfully impact the life of their community. The book offers several specific examples of congregations and networks of congregations from across the globe that are having a transformational influence on their cities. These examples do not “how to” guides, but rather as living narratives of what it can look like when a transformational movement begins.

I think part of what resonated so powerfully with me is that these congregations were willing to dream God-sized dreams that were only possible with the movement of God in their midst. I believe that for too long the American church have either become cultural chaplains or prime marketers of religious entertainment. I fear that too many churches have become complacent with its place on the edge of the public square or as a relish their place as part of the latest religious trend, rather than to live outs its mission as salt and light. The teen pregnancy rates, the number of children who go to bed hungry every night, the number of women whom are abused by their spouses, and the level of those addicted to drugs and alcohol that walk our streets and live next door, all speak to the reality that the Church is not having real impact in our cities. We can do better. We must do better. I believe that God shaped us to be more. This book offers pictures of what can happen when we truly endeavor to transform a city.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

6 phrases emerging from my quiet time

There are times God seems to speak in a whisper and other times God seems to speak so loudly you cannot help but hear what he is saying to you. Over the past week or so 6 phrases have emerged with clarity and power from my quiet times. As I have worked through them, I have come to believe that they describes the ethos that I pray is manifested in the life and ministry of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. I am really not sure at this point where these phrases might be shared and discussed as a church family, but I believe that they will soon find their voice among us.


Follow Faithfully
Worship Joyfully
Give Generously
Serve Gratefully
Witness Purposefully 
Live Abundantly

I would love to hear how these phrases resosnate with you and what others you might add or what alternative wording you might choose.

Listening to God's voice with you.....

Grace and Peace, Tom

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CBF and CBFO Face Leadership Transitions


A couple of weeks ago T Thomas, Coordinator for CBFOklahoma, announced that he has accepted a pastorate in the outskirts of Paris, France. This week Daniel Vestal, the Executive Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, announced his retirement. Both of these two leaders profoundly shaped their respective organizations with the heart for the Church and their missional passion. CBF owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Vestal for his season of selfless leadership. Likewise, CBFO owes a profound sense of appreciation to T Thomas helped us find our identity in mission engagement.


This time of transition offers both organizations an opportunity to build on what foundations these two leaders provided, but also offers the opportunity for CBF and CBFO to re-envision the role of that Coordinator plays in organizational leadership. When the movement was young, the need for leadership stability was clear. But, now two decades later, the time for the naming a Coordinator for life has passed. I would recommend that CBF and CBFO move toward a model embraced by many other Baptist bodies across the globe where key leadership is elected for service for a specific term of service. I would like to recommend that the CBF Executive Coordinator and the CBFO State Coordinator serve for a four or five year term with the capacity to be re-elected for up to one additional term. This would mean that we these two essential leadership roles would be elected from among the body and return to the body at the close of his/her term/s of service. This would enable these roles to remain rooted in the life of the local congregation and would speak from among its midst rather than over and above and outside of it from an institutional stance. While CBF and CBFO pride themselves as a movement of both churches and individuals, I fear that a major contributor to CBF’s ongoing financial struggles is progressively diminishing connections with local congregations. It seems that too often individual agendas have shaped discussions pushing congregations further aside.

Thank you Daniel and T for the leadership you have offered. I look forward to seeing what God will do in and through the CBF and CBFO in the days ahead.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

“Fruit of the Vine”` - John 15:1-11 - September 4, 2011

I did not realize that I was a daily participant in international intrigue rife with stories of mafia connections, global smuggling operations, and bribery scandals. Don’t worry, I will not soon appear in an episode of America’s Most Wanted or even merit a mention in the Oklahoman. I am just one of millions of consumers who like to cook with olive oil. The global demand is stretching the available supply so there is a huge international criminal conspiracy to put fraudulent olive oil on grocery store shelves. Sometimes this oil is made from spoiled olives. Others have mixed a bit of real olive oil with mixtures of oils from other sources. (1,2)In a recent government crackdown they found an expensive imported Italian olive oil actually significantly blended with cheap soy, peanut, and hazelnut oil. (3)It seems just because the bottle says it is olive oil, does not mean that it actually is.


He seems like any other passenger when he sat down beside me. I simply could have never imagined what awaited me on my flight from Atlanta to Dallas. It seemed that as soon as we had cleared the runway he turned and introduced himself to me. He explained that he was cucumber quality control officer for a pickle company. His dad had been one before him. He was raised with a keen eye on which cucumbers could be great pickles and which should be sliced up for a salad. He took better than an hour to tell me everything I would ever want to know about cucumbers and much, much more. Finally, he paused, then began to rant about a lawsuit his company was about to files a lawsuit against a competitor who had began to package and sell something called a sandwich pickle stacker. He explained that it could not be called a pickle because their product was based on something from the squash family rather than a cucumber. In raised voice he declared with a passion that only a cucumber quality control officer would know, “if it does not begin with a cucumber then it can never be a pickle!”

It was the night of all nights. The disciples had gathered in the Upper Room to share the Passover meal together. Jesus had unnerved them a bit by washing their feet when they entered. They had been troubled by Jesus’ pronouncement that one of them was about to betray him. They had struggled to understand what Jesus meant when he told them that he was going away from them but that God would provide a Comforter for them. They listened closely. They hung on Jesus’ every word.

Now, Jesus invites them to claim a picture that would have been a common sight for them. He used the everyday image of the vine and its branches. But, as he had done so many times before in their walk with Jesus, he talks this ordinary everyday image and transforms it into something sacred. He tell them to think of God as the vine and that they were the branches and they were to bear good fruit. But he tells them if they are to bear good fruit, if they are to know the joy that God intends form them then there is something they must do. When we hear Jesus’ words of instruction in the New International Version we hear Jesus teach, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Older translations like the King James Version and more literal translations like the New Revised Standard Version use a different term. In them we hear Jesus teach, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.”

Abide is a word that has been virtually lost in current common English. It is our loss. It better captures the essence of what I believe Jesus was trying to teach his disciples. “Abide” speaks to both a place and time relationship. (4) “Abide” is a “where.” You do not abide in a hotel; you pass briefly through its halls. You abide where you reside – where you settle in – where you are you with no pretence – where you are at home. Jesus wanted them to know that they needed to make themselves at home in the presence of God. “Abide” is also a “when” word. The “when” is always! Abiding is about an ongoing, never-ending, no time-out, settling in -not just passing through- kind of relationship. Abiding is about being at home in the presence of God and rooting ourselves in to the will and way of God. If you listen to what Jesus is saying in John 15 it is clear that he wanted them to understand that the only way that they could bear fruit that would bring glory to God; the only way they could know the kind of joy that God intended for them; the only way they could know what it was to be sustained by God’s love and word; would be to abide in Him.

I think one of the reasons that this word, “abide”, has almost vanished from our language is not that the word is archaic, but that the very idea has become foreign to our contemporary way of life. We live in a very temporary disposable kind of culture. Football coaches, CEOS, and politicians understand that they have to be successful NOW because way we measure success is not with a long term view but rather with the resounding question, “what have you done for me lately?” A life time pledge of commitment has become reworked as a commitment until one of the two don’t feel the same quality of passion any more or feel they have “outgrown” the other. The career of a missionary that was once measured in decades is now most often measured by whether they served three, five, or seven years. The employee’s commitment to the company and the company’s commitment to the employee that was once measured by generations is now defined by “until something better comes along” or “until there is a shift in the economic conditions.” It seems that our understanding of forever is progressively shorter and shorter and shorter. Jesus is trying to help his disciples, and those like us who followed them, to understand is that our relationship with God is not supposed to be for a season, but is to be the kind of relationship that defines us today, tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that.


Extra-Virgin Olive Oil can only be what is promised if that every drop comes from olives. Apparently a pickle can only be a pickle if it begins with a cucumber. Nothing else will do. If we are to be the people in God we are intended to be then we must find our nourishment and our identity in the vine that is God. We are just the branches that spring from God’s love and God’s word. We can only bear fruit if what courses through us is the way and will of God. Anything else would be a poor substitute. Anything else would be scandalous. Anything else would cheat us from knowing God’s joy. Anything else cheats God of the glory that is due him. We are to be a people who abide in God, nothing else will do. Jesus teaches, This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


There is an uncomfortable part of this passage. It tells us that if we do not abide in God – if we choose our own way rather than the way and will of God, then we are of no value and are cut away from the vine and casted aside. This is a picture that I can hardly put my hands around. God invites us to His side with love through Christ. God’s desire is for our redemption and our joy. Why would we settle for anything less?

What claims your attention? What stops you from abiding in God? What kind of fruit are you producing and what kind of reflection is it on the love of God? Make this the day you choose to claim a defining relationship with God. Make this the day you choose to make a commitment to spend real time with God. Make this the day you choose to set anything that that gets in your way aside and choose to abide in God. Life, real life in and through God, awaits you.

Note: Focal passage was sung in its entirity as "Scripture in Song" by our Sanctuary Choir

(1)http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12571726

(2)http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mueller
(3)http://www.cpbn.org/article/olive-oil-fraud
(4)Influenced by http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=678