Thursday, January 31, 2008

Righteous Ranting

The last couple of wednesday nights I have spent a good bit of time discussing 1 Cor.2:1-5. The two key thoughts are vs.2 "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified," and vs.5 " that you faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." I love the focus on Jesus. Oh the wasted years of studying how to be doctrinally correct, win debates, and feel superior to everyone else steeped in religious error. It's all about Jesus and what He did to save us. And, at the risk of offending the spiritually correct, there is no better example of "men's wisdom" overshadowing Jesus than our manmade dissecting of scripture with "command, example, and implied inference." The raising of example and implied inference to equality with commands is the single biggest reason for legalism and division within the church. How many times have you heard someone argue about a command? Nearly every division I can think off, within the church, as come from disagreement on binding examples and implications! How sad is that? Pattern theology is simply a form of legalism that promotes jigsaw puzzle conclusions and distracts us from Jesus. We need to quit hanging our hat on our wisdom of man, with it's manmade formula for discovering truths, and start hanging on a cross where the power of God can be found.
Do I hear an AMEN?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mini Mansion

Don't you just hate it when you see a picture of something that makes you feel guilty. Maybe it's a starving child in Africa, and you've just complained about your steak not being cooked just the way you like it, or maybe it's flood victims receiving handout clothes because they lost all their clothes - and you've got a closet full of "I've got nothing to wear." Well, that's how I felt about this picture a friend sent us of the smallest house in Toronto. It's actually cute and nicely appointed inside, but I've been grieving over how to get my basement finished since I started it almost a year ago. I've been trying to figure out an inexpensive way to get a licensed and bonded electrician to sign my permit without having to pay much for it - and it hasn't worked. We have one coming to finally do the electrical this Friday, but it aint gonna be cheap. It will however, give us more additional square footage than that little house in Toronto has and the TWO of us really need MORE elbow room in this nice big house of ours. I know, I'm really doing it for the visitors we have over- mostly room for the grand kids to play in, and it's a good way to increase the value of our house, but still- I have to remind myself that it's not that big a deal. I have a house in heaven not made with hands - I assume that means w/o an electrician too - and probably with no need for a basement. So, I'm still doing it, I've just decided that it's not worth getting uptight about. I've never even had a basement before, so I know I can live without it. I've also never lived in a house as small as that one in Toronto. How big does this "earthly tent" really need to be?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Top Ten Winter Things

It has been awhile since I thought of a new Top Ten list. But yesterday, while enjoying a Chicken Strip Basket at the DQ - w/ extra gravy, I looked out of the window at the cold weather and jotted down the Top Ten Things I Like About Winter. I'm glad I didn't have to come up with a Top Twenty.
1. I don't have to mow the grass.
2. We get to use the fireplace.
3. Sweatshirts become a primary clothing item.
4. You need MORE calories to fight off the cold - at least that's my story.
5. Hot Chili, hot soup, and hot chocolate.
6. Christmas!
7. Snow warnings. Getting excited about snow requires a lot less shoveling.
8. Extra blankets on the bed!
9. With the holidays behind us, there is a nice long stretch for the church family to just be together and focus on "one another" with few distractions that compete for every one's time and attention - not counting the occasional snow or ice storm that keeps everyone at home on Sunday.
10. Each day is one day closer to Spring Turkey Season.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's Winter, but Springs Coming!

They're back! This could be a picture from last year's ice hockey games on our back pond, but it's this year - 2008. And it's cold! I'm really not trying to have an ongoing saga of the "Pond-Out-Back", but it is one of the main reasons we bought this house. We'll never have another house build behind us - unless it's a houseboat. Actually, this picture just makes me think of change. That dirty word so many who claim to be being changed into the image of Christ hate. The pond out back changes nearly every day, depending on the weather, the critters that live there and visit, and the people who are attracted to it to "frow woks," watch the turtles, fish, or just enjoy the peaceful setting. It made me think about the inevitability of change. We can ignore it and pretend that it's not happening - but it never stops. Sometimes it just happens so slowly that you wake up one day and say, "Wow, when did that happen?" How come Joe looks so old all of a sudden? When did we stop singing those old songs at church? Why is my beard white? Why do I say "Remember when" so much?

I like to think that I love change. I do! I get excited about it - most of the time. But am I as excited about change when it's not so comfortable? When it's not what I want? Am I a selective lover of change? Why do I find myself liking the predictable more than I used to? That's scary. Like the song says, "Seasons change and so do I." So why fight it? Especially when I want to Be Real about being as much like Jesus as I possibly can be! Boy, is that ever a prescription for change! But I embrace it - long for it - and get a little giddy just thinking about what that's going to be like. Let me tell ya - that's a change in thinking that didn't happen overnight. So - yeah, bring on the next season, whatever it needs to be.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Church Plants

Each week we are exploring one characteristic of Jesus and challenging one another to "truly" follow His steps. For many, wanting to be like Jesus is somewhat like wanting to go to heaven. We want to go, but we don't want to have to die to get there. We all want - or at least say we want - to be like Jesus. That's the goal, the call, the challenge, the ideal - and all too often the theory rather than the reality. We must ask ourselves the tough questions about what's keeping us from really being like Him! We must be real about wanting to be like Him! Last Sunday the tough question was "Am I willing to care for the uncared for?" Jesus was. I compared the uncared for to potted plants. They're there, we just don't see them. It's not just the unseen, but the unloved, ignored, rejected, and the unlikable (so we conclude). I don't intend to re-preach the sermon here, but, as happens regularly, re-mention something that has been bouncing around in my brain since I said it Sunday. Did you ever notice in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus (and it is a story not a theological treatise on the end of time), in Luke 16, that the Rich man knew Lazarus' name? When he pleaded for someone to be sent back to his brothers, he also asked if "Lazarus" could deliver a finger tip of water for his tormented tongue. The poor, sore covered, dog licked, starving man at his gate was invisible because he refused to see him! How many Lazarus-types do we past every day? Every Sunday? Every congregation has them. Just look around the audience on Sunday morning and see who's sitting alone - sometimes week after week - people Jesus would walk straight to, passing up all the neat folks, the fun people, the ones who look like us. You can see them anytime - but the ones who really need the togetherness - the love - the reason for the meeting - well, they're potted plants. Marching your family over to that all-alone-child-of-God, and including them into your circle of love would be the greatest act of worship to God you might do that whole day. Are we Being Real about being like Jesus? There are no potted plants to Jesus.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Connecting Historical Dots

I had an interesting reminder last night as I watched my usual recorded copy of yesterday's Jeopardy game show. One of the questions asked about a man we met one time - thirty years ago. In 1977, we'd just moved to Fairfax, VA and we enjoyed going to a small pizza restaurant in Burke. The owner of the place was a kind Vietnamese man who would come over to our table and pick up Deborah, who was only only six or seven months old at the time, and carry her around the restaurant, introducing her to employees and customers alike. We always enjoyed going there and enjoyed the nice owner who was so friendly. Then one day my sister Becky, and her husband Mark, asked us if we recognized the man. There was something that had always seemed familiar about him, but I couldn't figure out what it was. I'd always been a news nut and never missed Walter at 6:00 every night. So when they told me he was the man in one of the most famous pictures from the Vietnam War, the old proverbial light clicked on. This was one of the shocking pictures from that war that became one of the many symbols for the anti-war folks for why we shouldn't be there. This is the guy who had been carrying my daughter around.
He was South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan and the photographer just happened to walk around the corner and snap this picture the second he fired one shot into the Viet Cong officers head, dropping him instantly. Of course, like most controversial photographs, there was more to the story than the picture could tell. The VC officer had just killed at least eight people. Just a few years later, the good general was running a pizza restaurant in Northern Virginia and holding my daughter. Isn't history an interesting thing?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wild and Random

Just some random thoughts that I can't quite figure out how to work together into one cohesive blog. So - I'll just toss'em out there.
First, after a brief discussion today with some fellow ministers about our unity with our Christian Church brethren, I kept having one thought go through my radical brain. "I will be so glad when we stop defining ourselves by our man-made Protestant mass mentality, and start defining ourselves by how much we desire to be like Jesus." There - I said it. And here's another thought to chew on. I need to start seeing my brethren as any honest seeker of Jesus. If that's not part of Hebrews 11:6, our view of faith will always be enslaved to legalism.
Secondly, one of my sub-points in my lesson last Sunday, upon reflection and prayer, has come back to haunt me as another one of those incredibly powerful moments of clarity that I can only call a "God-moment". In discussing the need for us to BE REAL and be willing to go to a cross and sacrifice ourselves like Jesus did - because the goal it to be like Him - I stated "It's all about the will not the work!" The revelation was simply that this sums up what the church has been doing wrong for centuries. The institution promotes work, uses work to define faithfulness, and measures itself by that same work. It hasn't been very effective and is rapidly becoming even less effective. We must affect the will! Is there a desire to be like Jesus? If classes, sermons, small groups, ministries, and whatever else we do isn't bringing people into a deeper relationship with Jesus - which increases the desire to be like Him - then we're still trying to grease the machine.
Thirdly, why do I want to see Green Bay win it all? I think I just really want to see Brett win. I like his style.
Is that random enough for ya?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Last Hunt

My little el-cheapo thermometer was reading 30 degrees, but it was protected from the 15-20 mph wind that was cutting through me in my tree stand yesterday afternoon. But hey - I had to be there! It was our last chance to hunt before the IL bow season ends on the 17th. So - cold weather and wicked wind - I laugh at! I also nearly froze to death. I really wanted to get another deer - a nice fat doe - so we'd have plenty of venison to share with the rest of the family. The buck I harvested last month was big, but not big enough for a big family that truly loves marinated and grilled venison like we do.
"Are we having fun yet?" I said that to myself several times yesterday. My stand was in a narrow patch of woods - thirty yards wide - running up between two long fields of winter wheat. The place is covered in buck rubs and scraps, and there are always deer out in the field eating. I just needed them to cross through the woods right where I was. But, even though it was a low draw between the two fields, my stand, which was about 20 feet high, was up level with the tops of the fields and got the full force of the NW wind. Yeah, it was still fun because I saw several deer and four huge Toms. Unfortunately, as two bucks and three does moved out into the field - away from me - I got my camera out to get a picture of them and...

...something spooked them and they ran strait into the woods, right under my stand. This picture is where they stopped - just ten yards below me - me, with camera in hand and almost no cover and leaning back into the tree so I'd appear like the proverbial knot-on-a-log. I even squinted my eyes when they looked up so they wouldn't see the whites of my eyes. They never saw me, but then again, it's hard to shoot arrows with a camera. Still, it's been a wonderful season and I'm thankful for every minute I got to be in God's creation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Life if full of tough questions. We can ignore or postpone answering them, but that lack of action is usually already an answer. Followers of Jesus, who want to truly be like and draw closer to Him, can't do it without asking themselves some tough questions. Call it soul-searching, spiritual grieving, self-examination, "testing the spirits," or just tough questions - we need to know where we need to go. For me, the most challenging question over the last several years has been "What's keeping me from being like Jesus?" Or, like that unfortunate Rich Young Ruler we don't want to identify with, "What lack I yet?" It only matters if I'm Being Real about wanting to be like Him. And if I'm Being Real - I have to be honest about wanting an honest answer. Ouch!

Last Sunday we devoted our Adult Bible Class time and our sermon time to "If I'm Being Real about being like Jesus, am I willing to wash feet?" I think the pictures and lessons I have in my head of Jesus washing His apostles feet makes it one of the most precious and challenging events of the Bible. I rate it right up there with His crucifixion and resurrection in terms of giving us the essence of Jesus. It never ceases to convict me about some aspect of Jesus that I desperately need help with. This lessons this time were no different in their power to touch me. The lesson of humble service is so obvious that's it's "in-your-face" how can you miss it - be like Jesus stuff! Again, ouch! But I have to say, the point that has been haunting me since God gave it to me a week and a half ago, and especially since I preached it last Sunday is this: We're not like Jesus until we wash Judas' feet. Like I said Sunday, everyone has a Judas, and every one's been a Judas.

It's real easy to climb on that spiritual cloud and see yourself washing the feet of friends, family, and even strangers, and visualize them being touched by your servant attitude. See them convicted by your example. Knowing how impressed they are with your spiritual journey. Then I see the feet of someone who betrayed me. Touch them? I don't want to think about them! But Jesus would - and I must. It's comfortable to be forgiving at a distance. It's amazing how free of spite and vengeance you can be when you never have to see your Judas. But seek them out? Wash their feet? Reject theoretical humility for the real thing? Yes, yes, and yes! There is NO alternative Jesus-like way to deal with our Judas. Have I said "Ouch" enough yet? Pardon me while I go get a towel.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Let's Do Lunch

It's hard to not become personally attached to someone you've observed on screen or read a lot of their work. Don't you have a list of movie and TV personalities that you'd just love to meet, get to know, and just spend time with? People who seem to be the kind of folks you'd love to have as friends? And how many times have you been disappointed to discover that the truly wise, decent, and kind celeb is a true egotistical idiot in real life? Still, I'd love to sit down and chat with Selleck, Hanks, Leno, and several others who have always seemed to me to be interesting folks. The same thing is true about authors. I don't feel that way as much about the fiction writers I've read through the years, but the inspirational/devotional authors, the ones who really speak to me personally with their pen and ink (okay - bites), they're the ones I'd really love to visit with. I have talked with Max (If you have to ask which one GET A LIFE!) and he's truly a the kind child of God you'd think he is. But I've got to tell ya - the guy I'd really love to get to know - because I think we'd really hit it off - is John Ortberg. I love his stuff. One of his early books, The Life You've Always Wanted, is still one of my favorite. And his classic, If You Want To Walk On Water, You Have To Get Out Of The Boat, is wonderful too! I just finished When The Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box and it's rich with thoughtful insights and challenging calls to keep our priorities right. At the risk of sounding terrible - I love guys who say things I've been saying. It was shocking to me, how many times during the Myth series, I would make a point that I'd read that next week in his book. No, I didn't steal it, because I said it before I read it. Hmmm - I just realized how that sounds then for me to call him brilliant. Oh well, I'm just trying to make the point that I'd love to meet him. If you haven't read the book yet, I recommend it highly. He follows my simple rules for preaching and writing - be simple, logical, and biblical - and fortunately he's tremendously readable, practical, and fun. Maybe I could help him discover some shorter titles for his books.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


This is a picture of tonight's sunset. Wild new year! The first week of '08 started out with single digit nights and today it was almost 70. I like variety - especially when it's Arctic cold! I took this picture because the windows all across the back of our house were literally glowing with this bright golden sunset. Doesn't God do some awesome work? This past week I was reflecting on my real obsession in life. Family and friends (and I) make fun of my pretend obsessions - sometimes referred to as OCD, and that really is a joke. I do like things organized, together, and in there place, but many times I'm just too lazy or unmotivated to really make it happen. That's hardly obsessive! But I am honest enough to realize that what really "pushes my buttons" and makes me get obsessive is avoiding "dumbness". That's right! I can't stand knowing I did something wrong, improperly, the slow way, or just generally the "well everyone knows it's done this way" kind of thing. I don't know where it came from, but I will spend more time thinking through how to do a job effectively and efficiently than it would take to just do it - even if it wasn't the BEST way to do it! It needs to "make sense" and "be logical" and it absolutely has to be the "right way" to do it. I don't want to look back, slap my forehead, and say, "Boy, that was dumb!"
Then I wondered, "What does God consider dumb?" Probably not what we think. He's not always interested in efficiency or effectiveness, and He certainly isn't interesting in impressing anyone with His intelligence. That's a given! We're too self-centered - He's not! We're too interested in achievements and image management! He's not! But as I looked at His sunset - I remembered. "The fool has said in his heart there is no God." Now that's being dumb!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Myth Christmas

Since several have been keeping up with my Myth America Contest series, I didn't want to leave out the last one. Last Sunday I shared some thoughts about Myth Christmas. The following are my central points. Hope they help and bless.

Myth Christmas


A. Two of my favorite Christmas movies are The Grinch... and the musical version of A Christmas Carol. Mostly for the songs in each - "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" and "Thank you very very much" - I love the singing and dancing on Scrooges coffin as they talk about "the nicest thing that anyone's every done for me." Odd mix of movies.

B. Odd mix of partners = Christians and anti-Christians who are both anti-Christmas.

C. Some like to be known for what they are against, but what really counts is what you are for! Jesus?

D. My official theological response to the anti-arguments is "So What?"

E. What would Jesus say about what He saw? Would He see Scrooges or servants? Whiners or singers? Getters or givers? Stressed or thankful?

F. For one brief moment, most of the world thinks about Him! Praise God!

1. Christmas is not a holiday, but a holy day! (Yes I know that's redundant)

A. We are called to be holy - 1 Pet.1:16-17 Things of God are holy. Can people declare something holy? Yes, but only if it glorifies God!

B. What makes a day holy? Glorifying God! Which one's aren't holy? Many have one - PTL!

C. Special days? Wonderful tools from God. Even Jewish feasts were tools not laws!

D. Romans 14 - Paul settled the problem by saying the only thing that matters is giving thanks!

E. Holy? What does Christmas do to help you think about God?

2. Christmas isn't about gifts but love!

A. In the midst of life's difficulties we throw the stress of Christmas (big list).

B. Nothing compared to the difficulties of the first one (bigger list)! Still, all about love!

C. Makes John 3:16 truly special.

3. Christmas? Commercial or spiritual? How do you know?

A. Results! More focus on Jesus?

B. One woman's Christmas - John 4 - nothing ever the same again!

Conclusion: Christmas may be man made, abused, ignored by some, and have no spiritual significance for some, BUT God can use anything as a tool to help us draw close to Him!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome to Weird 2008

Happy New Year! What an incredible year 2007 was. God gave us every minute of each of those 365 days and each was a beautiful gift that I pray was used to glorify Him. Now we've been given another one. It's 2008! How weird is that? I remember talking about 1958! Granted, I was only in the second grade - Mrs. Sidnores class, but I remember it. In '68 I hitch-hiked through Florida that summer and came home to Washington, D.C. to find soldiers and tanks still in the streets after the riots. In '78 we had two small daughters and were working with a small congregation in Fairfax, VA - but it didn't stay small long. By 1988, we had three assemblies, 850 members, so busy that I resigned after eight years of being a volunteer Police Chaplain for the Fairfax County Police, and even our youngest, Jonathan, was eight years old. In '98 we finished up an eight year ministry in Texas, moved to Nashville, had all three kids graduated from High School and in college and the oldest one married. Deborah and Pat will have their tenth anniversary this May. Wow! And what's happened in the last ten years? Two more weddings, five grandchildren, and now starting our fourth year at Florissant. I am overwhelmed with how blessed we are. It keeps getting better. In the Fall of 1968 I preached my first sermon at a little church in south Georgia, and now the Father has us working with the most incredible church family we've ever been part of. They've all been great church families, but there is something very special about Florissant. We thank God every day for bringing us here and I'm more excited about the coming year than I've ever been before. So, yeah, 2008 sounds weird - but wonderful! I'm excited about what God will do with us and through us in next 365 days (not counting today - and yes - it is a Leap Year).