Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Will my blog implode if I click on the new version? Why am I petrified to switch? Insecurity? Ignorance? Fear of change? Boy there's a phrase I never thought I say about myself. I wonder if God uses our techno-insecurities to keep us humble? About the time I feel cocky about my outstanding Power Point artistry, I get crushed by fear of clicking on the wrong thing. Go figure? Fear of clicking! Sounds like the makings of a new racy novel or movie. What about a mystery like Clicking On the Orient Express, or maybe that bone chilling blood-splattering Silence of the Clicks? Before you know it there will be the TV series Law and Clicking and the sitcom Two and A-Half Clicks. Then CNN will come out with Clicking: 24/7. The only thing more frightening will be the Dr. Phil daily special "You Can Master Your Click". Soon clicking will be essential for salvation!!!!

I digress! All I really meant to do with this blog is introduce to any readers who care, the new logo for our musical production this June. The Lord of the Parables is going to be a lot of fun. We had our first "are you interested" meeting and over 100 applications were picked up. I had to print up some more. We have twenty-three songs on this play. They are Broadway and oldies parodies, and some awesome praise songs. Dates are June 7, 8, 9, & 10. Come and see it if you can.

I wonder if I could write a musical....The Sound of Clicking? It could happen!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Splashing In The Shallows

We accidentally clicked onto a TV program where three people of questionable expertise and gender were critiquing the dress and accessories of the stars as they arrived at the Golden Globe Awards. Talk about "no-bodies" saying nothing, wow! How can a bunch of non-celebrities question the tastes of real celebrities who clearly have an audience and are marketable? No one in that group ever walked the red carpet to receive a national honor, yet they were experts on how stars should dress. They should at least have other celebrities doing the criticizing. Even sports commentators are usually ex-players or coaches who have "been there done that." For the few seconds we watched the show, all I could think of was "how shallow." One star wasn't wearing "her color" and another was wearing "too much jewelry." The only thing that amazed me more than the fact that anyone would care was that a group of anonymous no-bodies had TV time to air their opinions. But then again, I feel the same way when a movie celebrity presents themselves as an expert on politics. Notoriety in one area of life doesn't make one an expert in all areas of life. Stay where you're deep, thus avoiding being shallow.

All this just made me wonder if shallowness (if it's not a real word I just made it one) is subjective. I guess it has to be - you know, in the eye of the beholder, but isn't there a way to objectively know that something is indeed shallow? You have to exclude the mundane and the routine. There is nothing intrinsically deep about brushing your teeth, wishing you'd worn a different shirt, or trying to figure out were to go for lunch. But what about priorities? I know I've been shallow in my priorities at certain times of my life. Cars? Clothes? Sports? TV? Many etc...? Unless your livelihood depends on these, how important are they? The list is endless. Things that seem so important at the time, in retrospect, were a waste of energy, drive, and focus. Though it's nothing like it used to be, I still fight shallowness at times. Worrying about what someone thinks about me; "Are people going to remember I wore this last week?"; and wondering why the guy in the bathroom mirror has so much less hair than I do. Again, just to name a few. Maybe spending ten seconds wondering why some "no-bodies" are on TV is a slip into shallowness. I guess if I define shallowness as any waste of time, I might discover that there is a lot more shallowness in my life than there should be. Even Jesus said that worrying about food or clothing was a waste of time. How much does that convict us of shallowness? His remedy was to "seek first the kingdom of God." Loving God and loving one another is always deep.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I really hope you're happy!

In Westerhoff's levels of faith, he talked about "affiliative faith." It is a faith we have simply because of our desire to affiliate with certain people. People we like, agree with, or even family. We connect with them, agree with them, and have our faith supported by them. It's nice, even biblical to a point, but it's not an "owned faith." It's a faith of association, identification, and acceptance. Again, it's part of God's plan, because He wants us to be with folks who will encourage, edify, and equip us, but the goal is to have a faith that is our own - that is a personal walk with God. Look at Eph.4:11-16 again and the goal is clearly maturity, Christ-like, and the headship of Jesus.

I made the observation in a lesson yesterday while talking about Romans 1:16 (as part of a lesson on vs.8-17), that being ashamed of the gospel (i.e. being a Christian, Jesus, representing His point of view, etc.) is a good indication that our faith is affiliative rather than owned. How hard is it to have faith when you're around faithful people? How do you know that what you have is real faith? How do we know we have convictions and not co-dependency? I have struggled with this regularly through the years because I know how driven I am to be a people pleaser (yes kids, it's in your genes). When you are primarily around other Christians, and you want them to think highly of you, it gets easy to be driven by acceptance rather than a genuine Christ-likeness. If it is not real faith, we become like whoever we happen to be with at the time. On the other hand, if we do have an authentic faith, if we do sense His presence wherever and with whomever we are around - even when we are alone, then there is a consistency of life in our example, our witness, and our hearts. Can we truly say we are seeking Him if He is not the one we want to please - first? Authentic faith can only come from an authentic relationship with God and Jesus. If God is happy, God's people will be happy. Everyone else is a prospect.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Purpose Drivel Church?

In my opinion, there is no tougher problem facing any congregation of people than being honest about their purpose as a church. I can't begin to estimate how many times through the years I have worked with my church leaders to hammer out a clear sense of direction. Through the years I've been part of focus groups, planning groups, goals setting groups, and dozens of elders retreats, meetings, and workshops - all trying to clarify what the church should be doing. There were several times when I had it figures out too! At least I thought I did, with the knowledge I had at the time. It's not as easy as it sounds. For one thing, church leaders are never objective. It's rare to find a leader who can step back, look at the big picture, and dump all the extra baggage of traditions, politics, and people-pleasing. For another thing, we assume that those who've gone before us have worked out the details of "What the church is and does" and our job is to simply develop the most efficient and effective way to carry it out. I remember how dumbfounded I was thirty-five years ago when I asked, "Why hasn't anyone wondered why worship IS NEVER described, used, or performed in the New Testament like we do it today?" How could the "most important thing we do" (at least traditionally) be so "undescribed" in the Bible? Well, you get the point hopefully, without me quoting chapters from one of my books. Those who went before us DID NOT WORK OUT ALL THE DETAILS - at least not always correctly. They weren't always "restoring" as much as they were adjusting.

Today, the last thing I want to do is hammer out a Mission Statement or create a new Vision for the church. I like God's. Building a church is not always the same thing as seeking God! We get it twisted around. It's not the big church that God is looking for but the big heart that seeks Him! It's not about the church! The church is a tool to help people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus! Anything that doesn't contribute to that, is a worldview church. At the risk of being repetitious, the church exists to facilitate the building of spiritual relationships. It was never in the plan of God that the church would become the Temple of the New Covenant. So I'll close this theological tantrum with two ignored or at least diminished principles that any child of God can place scriptures to.

1. A deeper relationship with Jesus comes from having deeper spiritual relationships with one another.

2. The best way to have a deeper relationship with Jesus is to help someone else have one.

The real question then becomes: How does the church help make this happen?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ice and Nice

It was wonderful to have Elizabeth and Deborah with us for a couple days last week. They both managed to arrange for Dad's and Grannies to take care of their kids and come to St. Louis to do some serious scrapping with their mother. While I forced myself to not participate in said activity, I did join in when it came time to dine either in or out. It was really nice to spend some time visiting and not have the love-child distractions. Of course, we would love to have seen those precious grand children too, but like I always say, it doesn't matter how old they are, our kids are our kids, and it was great to share some special time with them. A huge "BRAVO" to Chad and Pat for making it possible! That was some serious marital investing!

While they were with us, we got hit by the ice storm that has been in the news for the last several days. A lot of our church family lost electricity, but fortunately we never lost ours. And, thank the Lord, the girls were able to drive home without any problems. As bad as it was, the ice on everything was quite beautiful at times. I took the picture of the cardinal from our back window. It's sitting in our backyard cherry tree. What an artist our God is!

Friday, January 12, 2007

God told me...

I know it scares people to hear a preacher (esp. in C of C) discuss God talking to them - personally, but we know/believe He answers prayer, so what makes us think He's trying to hide? I believe He talks to us through His Word, His people, and through godly thoughts. I find nothing in the Bible that says He can't or won't or doesn't put thoughts into our head. We have no problem believing Satan can! But I say that to make this point, when things of spiritual significance seem to be repeating themselves to us, could it be that God is trying to tell us something? When we pray and are patient, giving God time to speak to us, we often are surprised to see the same passage of scripture popping up, and others talking about the same topic, and our thoughts starting to clarify and focus on what the answer should be. Could this not be God's guidance? Is this one way He molds our spiritual maturity as He leads us from milk to meat? I think He does it all the time and would do it more if we were more sensitive to His presence and power in our life.

"Honest to God!" It's what some people say to support their veracity. It's probably disrepectful and flippant to say it, because no one knows if we are honest with God except us - and Him of course. I've been focusing a lot lately on talking with God (i.e. "Coffee With God" blog), because I have discovered that it's the ONLY way we truly have a relationship with Him and it's the most important way we increase our faith. It's how we develop a sense of His presence in our life - everywhere - all the time. BUT - it means NOTHING if we are not honest with Him, recognizing that He knows us better than we do, and He wants genuine love, faith, and seeking after Him.

One of the ways these things were brought together for me - by Him, was through the old story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). I see now that the lesson is not so much the story, but why He had to tell it. The guy talking to Jesus was interesting and sadly familiar. He was "an expert in the law" and he wanted to "inherit eternal life." Sounds like preacher or elder material to me! And when Jesus questioned him about what God was really after, HE GOT IT ALL RIGHT! He understood that it's all about loving Him and showing it by loving others! And Jesus told him to do it and live - thinking the conversation was over, but no! He wasn't being honest with Jesus. The Bible says, "But he wanted to justify himself," so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" It wasn't about seeking God! It wasn't about relationship building! It was about self-righteousness! Look at me! Aren't I amazing! Aren't I better than most religious folks?

On the short list of impossible things, we must add; Never play Charades with Jesus or God! If I could sit down and have coffee with God, and ask those most important questions about life and eternity, would I feel the need to "justify" myself. Not if I'm honest with Him. Not if I respect His omniscience and His desire to hold me tightly. To Him, my heart is like my wife's iced tea. He can see right through it. There is nothing to justify and every reason to glorify Him. An open heart and open lines of communication mean an honest relationship with our Father. Have you heard Him lately?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Seven in Seven?

This past Sunday I shared with my church family my personal goals for 2007. I called them "Seven in Seven" so it would be easier to remember them. They're not surprising, spectacular, or super spiritual. They are just simple common sense things that I need to remember as I build a deeper relationship with Jesus. In fact, that was the focus as I thought and prayed about these. Seeking Jesus is passionately wanting to know Him better, be closer to Him, and have a clear sense of His presence. We do that the same way we build any relationship - because we seek it - we work at making it happen. So here they are just in case you may be interested in trying these yourself.
1. Pray - 7 days a week (there is no relationship without communication so don't miss a day)
2. Read - 7 chapters of the Bible every week (at least - because we need listen to Him)
3. Encourage - 7 people every week (we draw closer to Him by helping others do the same)
4. Share Jesus - w/ 7 people this year (not set up Bible studies or baptize, but simply commit to helping 7 people have an opportunity to know Him and/or draw closer to Him)
5. Love myself - enough to live healthy, exercise, eat less, and lose weight = 7% (after all, our bodies are His temple and must glorify Him) Personally, I am committed to at least being in good enough shape to do the Race for the Cure 5k run in June.
6. Learn - read 7 inspirational books this year.
7. Relationship growth - 7 new friends (particularly church family folks I don't know like I would like to).

Granted, some of these I purposely place in the "do-able" range so others could and would join me. I talk to God all day every day and I always read more than 7 chapters of the Bible each week and 7 books a year. Still, I need to remember to be INTENTIONAL about building a deeper relationship with Jesus. 7 in 7 is not another checklist - but a way to remind myself and maybe help others. Have you got a plan?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Preachers Meetings?

In thirty-three years of full-time ministry I never wanted to go to a preachers meeting. In those early years, the only thing the area preachers talked about at their meetings was all the liberals who were "changing everything" and were leading the church down that "slippery slope" of destruction. I had better things to do. Besides, I was one of the "heretics" they were talking about. To be truly honest, there haven't been a lot of preachers that I admired and respected enough to want to meet with and share my ministry with. I've always had some "best friends" who were preachers and there have always been some incredible spiritual giants in ministry who I deeply appreciated, but they were few and far between. Unfortunately, a lot of the really good ones have left full-time church work because of - well I don't want to start down that road, but I would love to know how many of the dozens of guys I graduated with in 1974 from Harding (then College) are still in ministry. I have a sad feeling that there aren't many of us around.

I've said that to say this (how's that for a classic preacher transition?), I meet with a truly classy group of preachers here in St. Louis who have truly been a blessing to my life. There are about 18 or 20 of us who meet the first Thursday of each month during the school year. We spend time praising God, sharing our lives, and talking to our Father. I'm one of the "old guys" of the group (except for Coy of course - and Jerry Jones who comes when he can - really old guys!) and it's a joy to see the commitment, the compassion, and the seeking after Jesus that each of these men bring to the get-together. It's a wonderful church family of partners in the gospel. We're black and white, young and old(er), Christian church and C of C, large congregations and smaller congregations, from MO and IL, and all passionate about our Master. I confessed to them this week that every month I think about not going simply because I have so many "other things" to do, and then when I get with them I mentally smack my forehead and think, "Boy, I'm glad I came to this!" I think one of the best parts of the sharing is just reminding each other that we all have the same problems and struggles in ministry, and with God's help and a clear focus we can deal with anything. They are good men, and I am thankful for their friendship, their prayers, and their work for Jesus. As the years pass by, we will start hearing more people moan about the shortage of preachers and young people preparing to preach. I've been saying that for years. But for now, I want everyone to know that there are some truly amazing servants of God in our churches. Men who are desperately seeking a closer relationship with our Father and who passionately want to lead others to His Son. I thank God for each of them and thank Him for letting me get to know some of them.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Thank you for another year.

Dear Father,

Another year has ended - another gift from you has been used up. Thank you sweet Father for giving me 365 more chances to draw closer to you, to serve and glorify you. Forgive me for being so slow and so selfish. Forgive me for the years that I spent trying to impress others over you. Forgive me for the years that I took for granted and spent them like cheap tickets to a carnival ride. Thank you for being so patient and forgiving. For letting me run back to you from the pig pen over and over. Thank you for the ring that represents my life with your servant Donna for thirty-four years; thank you for the robe of family that covers me with love and wonderful times of togetherness; thank you for the sandals of service that take me in your Son's steps and keep my feet beautiful because of the message I get to share; and then, there's that calf that represents - not a sacrifice, because forgiveness was already given, but taking care of my every physical need. Forgive me for enjoy it too much. Thank you for finding us a home at Florissant. It's been two years since we arrived, immediately feeling incredibly loved and needed - wounded far more than we realized - but thrilled to be with a family so deeply in love, so united, and so happy in Jesus. Thank you for leading us to good men with true shepherd hearts. Please, please protect them from political thinking and power grabbing. Keep us all humble and prayerful. Thank you for answering so many prayers for our family and friends. Thank you for a good heart catheter last week, but even more, thank you for giving me a clean heart, with no secrets and no pretending, just an honest desire to know you more. May I do my part in making 2007 glorify you in every way possible. May our plans be your plans. Help me to be a living sacrifice to you 365 days or whatever days you decide to give me. I love you and long to be like my brother Jesus. Help me to do a better job in '07 than I have in the past. Help my life to be all about Him for there is still salvation in no other name under heaven. Jesus! Amen!