Friday, June 29, 2007

That's A Mouthful

Enough of this mushy-gushy-lovey-dovey-family-and-friends stuff! Let's get dangerous and radical again! Time for another Top Ten list! I actually jotted this one down a long time ago so I could think and pray about whether or not I really wanted to do this - and, OF COURSE I WANT TO DO THIS! So, let me say at the start that we always walk on dangerous ground when we label anyone. As I've said many times, labels are so relative that they become nonsensical and meaningless (is that redundant?). Because we always start with ourselves, and we, of course, are the norm - the logical - the correct, so everyone else is either to the right or left of us - except for those few we feel truly understand and agree with us! What is a modern day Pharisee? Here are some identifiable suggestions.

You know you are a modern day Pharisee if...

1. You have to really "break" your own piece of Lord's Supper bread.

2. Everything is permissible - AFTER the magic closing prayer.

3. Real repentance only happens when a person "walks the aisle".

4. You believe a baptized twelve year old suddenly can't be taught anything from the Bible by a woman.

5. You think faithfulness is best defined by church attendance.

6. If you believe man was made for the assembly rather than the assembly made for man.

7. If you think Paul's call to follow traditions included those started in the Twentieth Century.

8. You believe every member must sing every song.

9. If every new idea makes you see "a slippery slope".

10. If a Christ-like attitude in areas of opinion is optional.

I'm glad the grace of God covers all who seek Jesus - even when we tend to be Pharisaical. Maybe the worst kind of Pharisee is the one who thinks he is better than the Pharisees. That's kind of sad - u - see. Sorry - habit!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Reunion and A Review

We truly enjoyed having our good friends Don and Kathy Rose visiting with us this past weekend. We spent a lot of time Friday evening sharing pictures of our trip last year to Australia & New Zealand that we took with them and it brought back a lot of great memories. It was an awesome trip that was made even better by sharing it with good friends. As you can see in these two pictures, we visited old town St. Charles on Saturday and had a lot of fun walking around visiting all the shops and checking out the historical stuff, like this old train station and the Lewis & Clark statue on the riverside. This was one of their stops (L&C that is) on their famous trip across the country two centuries ago. We also had lunch at a restaurant named for them, which I feel confident wasn't around when they came through. On Sunday, after church/family time and lunch, Don and Kathy had to head back to Nashville. We are so thankful that they found the time to come visit. We stayed up too late talking and playing cards, and we ate way too much, but -hey - that's what you do with good friends. We can't wait for the next vacation we get to take together in June of '08. They've been with us on every group cruise we've taken, and a big reason why each one has been so much fun.

Donna and I went to see Evan Almighty this afternoon. I hope you get to see it and enjoy it as much as we did. Sure it's unbelieveble and I know several people who will be "punching holes" in the theology that's presented, but let me encourage you to just relax and have fun with it. It's warm, encouraging, pro-family, and even pro-God - and how often does that come out of Hollywood? The CG stuff is better than the earlier movies about the original story! Call me crazy, but I like Morgan Freeman as God. His comments to Evan's wife, when he appears as a waiter in the restaurant she's eating in, are awesome. It sounds exactly like something I'd expect God to say. There's plenty to laugh at and the "good vs. evil" part of the plot is shallow and predictable, but that's okay because I love happy endings! And speaking of endings, don't jump up and run out. There's a little dance video/out-take thing during the first half of the credits that's neat. Oh, check out God's waiter name-tag in the restaurant. Go see it!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Like Dean Koontz

About a month ago I read a Dean Koontz book, The Husband, and really enjoyed it. I've been thinking about some way to apply it to something in my life and haven't hit on the right thing yet. It's not one of his usual "weird" books about mysterious happenings that have a logical or supernatural explanation. This is a survivor theme. One of my favorite. No blood & guts, no sex or lots of vulgarity, just a story about a humble hard working guy who loves his wife and is a really good person. Then his wife is kidnapped and he is told to do some evil things if he wants to see here alive. It's not what you think and I'm not going to tell you what happens. The point is - what would you do to save the one you love? Could you justify doing something that totally violates your principles of life - your values? What would it take to make you compromise your faith? It's not like we don't do it regularly. Anyway, it's an interesting trip into the world of rationalizing and survival. Now, how does that apply to going on an Alaska cruise that you can't afford? Oh yes! It's all for my wife - yeah - that's the ticket! Now for a survival theme...let's go with...SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A BREAK!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Planning Ahead

This is the Coral Princess. Lord willing we will be on her decks for a seven day Alaska cruise this time next year. Actually, a year from this Saturday, the 23rd. For the last ten years we have taken a cruise vacation once every two years. It's not so much a matter of planning ahead as it is saving to pay for it. I'm pumped today because we have finally been able to book this trip. They won't let you book the Alaska trips too far in advance. Anyway, if you are interested in going with us, we'd love to have you. This is our only repeat cruise because we liked it so much. The last trip we took to Alaska, was on a different cruise line and believe me - Princess is awesome. This will be our sixth cruise, but our fourth Princess cruise and we like the quality of everything they do. Last time, in 2000 we had 38 people in our group. So we have them holding twenty rooms for our group and they will hold them for the rest of the summer, through August. We are taking the Northern trip, from Vancouver to Whittier (south of Anchorage) and will probably add on a pre-stay in Vancouver, because we've never been there, and a post-cruise trip to one of the Princess wilderness lodges. We haven't decided which yet because you can add that stuff whenever you want to - as long as they're not booked up. And that's "us" personally. You can decide for yourself if you want to add anything to the seven day cruise.

Anyway, if you want more info, you can contact us or our travel agent June Webster at Damar Travel (800-999-6101 x414). It's only twenty-five dollars per person (refundable) to reserve a spot. If you want to check it out for yourself, simply go to and click on "Find and Compare" then click the Alaska, June 2008, Coral Princess, 6-8 days - places and it will bring up the cruises. We are on the Vancouver to Whittier - embarking June 23, 2008. From there you can check itinerary, excursions, pricing (w/o tax, port fees, transfers, etc).

It's tough to wait two years to take a really nice vacation, but it sure is fun when you finally get do it and get to share it with lots of special friends. We really love cruising because it's a total package and it's all first class. Everything about it is an exciting experience, especially when you have neat stops and neat people to be with. Frankly, my favorite stop is the dinner table - where "people we know" have actually ordered multiple entrees and desserts - just to try something new. But I'm not revealing who "they" might be - yet.

Anyway - this is not a commercial, just an FYI. We like to take vacations with friends and family. It doesn't even bother me to be sailing on a "Princess". At least it's not pink!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Passion and Programs

It's good to be able to talk normally. I had such strong feelings about the lesson I preached yesterday, that all I could think of was, "Thank you Lord for letting me speak for you." I still can't speak with a lot of volume, but hey, that's why we spend big bucks on mics and sound systems. Still, I wanted to be a lot more forceful when a made a couple of points in the lesson. Is it okay to be greedy when you're sharing the Word of God? I am so grateful for a smooth sound again even if I couldn't shout. Part of the problem was that the lesson was about having a passion for the lost and it's hard not to be passionate when you're talking about passion. Paul's feelings in those first five verses of Romans nine are striking. His passion for the souls of his fellow Jews came from his passion for Jesus. This was my "Bottom Line" purpose statement at the top of my outline: There is no passion for the lost when there is no passion for being saved. Paul's passion came from his relationship with Jesus not because the church had a dynamic outreach program. Isn't it astounding to realize that the great commission is never repeated in the epistles? How about the fact that churches, even those with serious problems like Corinth, are never told to be evangelistic, form an outreach ministry, or even to focus on reaching the lost? That can't be true! We've used outreach as our permanent guilt trip forever! Yet I've never seen an outreach program that either worked or lasted long! As I pointed out yesterday, because we've institutionalized the church, we've institutionalized obedience. So now worship, learning, and outreach are ministries, programs, and functions of the institution. Until we grasp the fact that we meet together to help each other develop a deeper relationship with Jesus - and it's only when we have that relationship with Him that we witness for Him, we will continue to fail miserably at outreach and continue to define "church" by numbers rather than intimacy with Jesus.
I baptized three people yesterday afternoon. Three members of a family representing three generations. What drew them to Jesus? The very thing He said would attract people - "They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." The great-grand mother of the youngest (so it's four generations now), was baptized just a few months ago, and she couldn't stop talking about Her Lord, and her church family. That's what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9 ("I become all things to all people that I might by any means save some.") and in Romans 9 ("my heart's desire"). The institution can never provide that kind of passion. It can only come from people who are overwhelmed by his love and his grace.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wrap-up and Racing

I'm relaxing after spending the morning in my first Komen Race for the Cure. It was hot! Still, it was totally amazing to see so many people getting together to do something good! They say nearly 70 thousand were in it this year. Wow. That should be worth a couple seconds on the News rather than war, woes, and weirdos. I can't explain how incredible it was to wait 45 minutes at the front of the race after the "Start" whistle blew, and seeing ten's of thousands of people go past us before we jumped in - AND there were as many behind us as in front of us! We had nearly a hundred in our group from Florissant and sharing the experience was wonderful. Even the short devo in the parking lot of the church building at 5:30 AM was fun. I like devos when I have a mug of coffee in my hand. Other than Donna trying to faint in the jam-packed Metrolink and having to sit on the floor for a few minutes to stop her head from spinning and get some color back into her face, it was a great experience.

We had our final cast dinner last night. We had a great meal and all watched a "rough" copy of the DVD for the play. It was so fun to see things that you miss in the live performance. As usual, there was a lot more "hamming" than I realized, but that's the way it is with live performances and grace-driven-directors. They were an incredible group to work with and I am really proud of their dedication to quality and everyones focus on glorifying God. They honored Donna and I with some nice/thoughtful gifts. A gift card to our favorite Mexican restaurant, and a beautifully inscribed storm lamp (that's actually electric) and will be in an obvious spot in our house. So come see it! I told Donna as we drove home last night, I really feel like it's over now. And yet - we have several hundred families to follow up on! The show must go on! Besides, I have already started on next years play. Jonah and the Pirates of the Mediterranean. Sounds like a fish story to me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Four Nights of Sharing

The whole cast and crew of "Lord of the Parables." God blesses us with excellent crowds each night and each night everyone did an tremendous job with the play. We had somewhere around 1800 total in attendance and have registration cards from over 350, who signed up to receive a free DVD of the play. I am very proud of everyone who performed or helped in any way. I am especially proud of the high level of dedication to the mission of Bible Action everyone had and the total focus everyone had on glorifying God. We are all tried, but satisfied that we "had fun, did our best, and glorified God." What a neat thrill it is for me to see what started in my head last fall, show up on stage exactly like I imagined it. God is good.

The Jews singing the famous "When you're a Jew you're a Jew all the way, from that first little snip, to your last Oy Vey!" One of my favorite lines.

This is the "Sams" doing the Samaritan song to the tune of "America" in Westside Story.

Unity at last - both groups sing "One Hand One Heart" the old fashion way - no instruments!

The bridegroom, with back up flock, sings, "Who Put The Bop"

The Foolish Maidens sing "Aint No Mountain High Enough" - Supreme's style.

The Wise Maidens sing about the Bugle Boy From Company B - played for Abraham of course.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Top Ten Surprises At Judgement

I don't know if I'm TOO comfortable where I am or if I lack imagination, but my Top Ten list of places I want to see before heaven has only two places on it so far, and they're both hunting opportunities. I usually keep a couple Top Ten lists going in my journal, and since I have a couple minutes between the three thousand things going on in my life right now, let me share a new Top Ten list.
This comes from that old church joke about people lined up at the Pearly Gate and a cheer comes down the line; "They're not counting Wednesday nights!" I always loved that one. So, I wondered.....what else might not be counted.
Top Ten Surprises at Judgement:
1. Gopher Wood was a "generic" word for any hardwood (check your c of c theology)
2. Being "The Lord's church" has nothing to do with the name on the sign out front!
3. Cain married his younger sister! (And yes, Adam had a belly button!)
4. There was nothing prophetic about Revelation!
5. Mark 16:8-16 was added later but is not necessary to prove baptism.
6. Communion was always intended to be part of a fellowship meal on any day!
7. Growing in love was the only real reason God wanted His people to assemble.
8. Every person in heaven got there by grace! So who will be surprised to see you?
9. Seeking God with a pure heart is more important than doctrinal correctness.
10. God has a sense of humor - Heaven will have closing announcements after all and Just As I Am really does have fifteen verses.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Last Regular Rehearsal

This was last nights rehearsal. Our last regular rehearsal, because tonight we do dress rehearsal and then Thursday night is the first show. It's really looking good. I'm very proud of the dedication of all those in the play - both cast and crew. This is the on-stage-all-the-time-chorus that is part of the whole play.

This is Act three when the prodigal is confronted by the Wild Women.

Here is the prodigal with the pigs. One of my favorite parts.

This is in Act two after the Foolish and Wise Maidens, with attendants, make there grand entrance singing "Going to the Rabbi, and we're gonna get married."
I'll get some pictures of the actual show sometime over the next four night. Pray for God to use this and touch many hearts with the stories of His Son.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Edge of Normal

It has been hard to be patient as my voice has gradually been coming back to normal. It has been eleven days since the botox injection into my vocal folds and I have spent most of my possible talking moments either silent or whispering. For the first time in my preaching career, I was "in-town" and had to have a replacement do the sermon yesterday (and Jerry did a super job too). The voice is getting better every day. I listened to just a few second of my sermon from May 20th and was totally amazed at how terrible my voice sounded. If you have a few seconds, just click on the church web page at and click on listen to a sermon - hit the May 2oth and hear for yourself - just a couple seconds and you'll see. Wow, the old voice had really gotten worse in the last four months - even though I've probably had the spasmodic dysphonia for maybe twenty years. I am really anxious to hear how my "normal" voice is supposed to sound. I really did use to be a baritone.

I've said all that to make a simple point. I'd be lying if I said I've never thought about what would happen if I lost my ability to talk - to preach - to do the thing I love most in life. But I haven't worried much about it. God made me and He can remake me any time He wants. I feel so blessed to have had thirty-something years of preaching, sharing, and growing in Christ as I helped others do the same that- well, how could I possibly feel cheated if it all stopped today? I can't ask "Why me?" or "How can you let this happen?" I've had more than I deserve - and that was true thirty years ago!

Isn't that a metaphor for life - and death? How many years do we deserve? If we've enjoyed God's blessings and lived thankfully, how can we fee cheated if it all comes to an end today? We didn't deserve the first year let alone the years- in my case - almost 56, he gave us! Maybe the real secret to joyful living isn't so much looking forward to what we think we deserve as it is recognizing what we've had. Living thankfully is the only way to live for the moment. If this world is such a wonderful place to live, why didn't Jesus wait until He was seventy to die for us? I bet there's no spasmodic dysphonia where He lives!