Thursday, February 25, 2010

Church Potato?

Donna took this picture Sunday. This is how I shared my "You may be a couch potato if" list. I didn't stay like this, though it's not a bad way to preach.
So after talking about couch potatoes, I transitioned into the idea of Church Potatoes. What are they? Remember my definition of a couch potato (see last blog)? "Mindless watching while neglecting more important things." Let's see, mindless watching...? And neglecting more important things...? That'll preach! It did. Here are some of the "not so funny" characteristics of a Church Potato. (This was all just my introduction to a lesson on Mark 1:35-45)
You May Be a Church Potato if...
*'re thinking "I'm here and don't ask me to do anything else!"
* want to be entertained and not do any of that "one another stuff" - like love, encourage, forgive, etc. etc.
* like predictable formats with no surprises or challenges! (Now what's the purpose of the assembly again?)
* have no intention of doing anything like studying or praying until next Sunday!
*'ll spend more on lunch today than on your church family this whole week!
* know what you believe, you just don't know why or where to find it!
* look like church people, but you have no time to be a disciple of Jesus!
* are already counting the minutes until you can get out of this place!
* don't want spiritual meat, just comfortable milk! (see Heb.5:11-6:6)

Ouch! I'm not interested in picking on anyone or unnecessarily making anyone feel bad or guilty. I am very interesting in challenging all of us to be honest and, as I said Sunday, move from being a Church Potato to being like the Bread of Life.
I actually did have a joke about looking more like Jesus than Mr. Potato Head, but I didn't use it.

PS. FYI: If you don't get a message about our new email address, it's the same prefix but it's no longer it's

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Spud Dud

On Sunday I introduced my lesson for the morning by talking about Couch Potatoes. It's a touchy subject because we're all Couch Potatoes at certain times in our lives and would probably like to be one at times when we have to do things we dread doing. But that was my point. I defined being a Couch Potato, not by time spent in front of a TV, but by a sedentary and negligent lifestyle. My actual definition is: A Couch Potato is the mindless watching of TV while neglecting more important things. I confessed to being an occasional or selective CP, but pointed out that watching educational channels, like the History Channel, doesn't count - because it's learning and that counts as work. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Anyway, in my usual desire to keep things light so I can later on "lower the boom," I came up with ten Jeff Foxworthy-type descriptions of a Couch Potato. The point of the lesson was challenging some to quit being Church Potatoes. I'll share some of those descriptions later. They're not funny at all. Until then, I hope you enjoy the following.

You may be a Couch Potato if...
1.'ve learned to completely ignore your sore rear-end from sitting so long watching TV.
2. ...for you, every food commercial qualities as educational TV.
3.'ve completely mastered football cheerleading from a recliner.
4.'ve watch TV so long that you're starting to like the Becky's Carpet commercials. (If you're not from SL, just think about the most obnoxious local advertisement where you live.)
5.'ve learned how to mute the TV when your spouse talks to you, but you're still reading the lips of everyone on the TV screen.
6. know exactly when you will need a bathroom break during tomorrow nights TV viewing.
7. call channel surfing - exercises!
8. ...if you blame an exciting golf or bowling show for making you eat more.
9. ...during a technical problem when your TV is not working, you start feeling the need to take up drinking, smoking, or using Valium.
10. ...a recliner, a TV tray, a bowl of popcorn, and a Big Gulp are all part of your funeral instructions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Going For Gold!

Okay, I've always been a sucker for all the hype about the Olympics. I love watching highly trained competitors, who have spent years preparing for this one chance to win gold and nearly always overcoming some set-back or obstacle, throw all caution to the wind - beating all the odds - and crossing the finish line or completing their run or routine one-one-hundredth of a second or point ahead of the rest. I love it, but it really stresses me out! My stomach gets tense as I watch them compete, hoping they don't have that one slip, fall, or accident that will totally destroy all their hard work and years of preparation.
I love the passion of the Olympics too. Their desire to do their best, to represent their team, family, and country, and to stand on that metals platform is so strong that it brings out seemingly super-human performances. And when they win - wow - the joy, the screams, the cheers, the tears, and the emotions that are so strong they can't give a coherent response to the reporter who always asks the same crazy question, "What does it mean to you to win a gold metal?" Duh! They're crying and too choked up to talk! What do you think it means?
Wouldn't it be fun if Children of God showed the same passion about our victory, that means eternal streets of gold, as the Olympians show about a little gold metal on a ribbon? Someone groans, "Salvation is a lot more serious than an Olympic game." I wish more of us where even half as serious about running our race as those Olympic competitors are about theirs. And where is it written that salvation is so "serious" that outward expressions of passion are inappropriate? We've got "joy unspeakable" and "peace that passes comprehension" not to mention the fact that we "rejoice always".
I've mentioned to my church family several times that I think we're all going to be surprised to see how angels rejoice in heaven. Our reaction when someone is "born again" and added to the Kingdom of God looks like a funeral wake compared to the singing and dancing God's angels are doing in heaven.
I love to see people who are passionate about what they believe and what they do. I like to see people who are emotionally connected to God and who are emotionally overwhelmed by his grace and love. Truth be known, our inhibitions come from our traditions and peer pressure. If winning an Olympic metal makes celebrations and tears expected, how much more should victory in Jesus and receiving an imperishable crown bring out a passionate response in us?
Next time someone asks you what you're doing, tell them "I'm going for the gold! Want to join the team?" Just say it like you mean it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rust Doth Corrupt!

One of the saddest things that I have seen through the years is spiritual leaders who stop learning. While it's sad to see that in any Christian who claims to be growing, it is especially sad when it is someone who is guiding others, setting the example, and supposedly growing in wisdom. On the other hand, it's thrilling to see "older" Christians who seek out new ideas, read mind-stretching books, and go to things that will challenge and enlighten them. Show me a church leader who constantly reads good spiritual books, and I'll show you a man or woman of God who has something to give and share with others besides more tomb paint.
My son-in-law's father is an incredibly busy doctor with patients, staff, facilities, and hospital work that demands a great deal of his time, and he's also a shepherd for his church family. One of the things I admire most about him is his thirst for knowledge. He reads and studies constantly! He reads new and old books, text books, and theology books that would have me snoring in five minutes. And you know what? All their children are the same way. He knows the values of keeping his mind growing, learning, and stretching!
I share him as an example because I've always believed that the mind is like any other organ of the body. When it comes to our bodies, especially as you age, the old axiom is true - "Use it or lose it!" I recently read a great article in the latest AARP Magazine (I'm barely old enough) about fending off aging problems like Alzheimer's and other problems of dementia. Recent studies are proving, "The more you work your mind, the greater your cognitive reserve. And the greater your reserve, the greater your ability to withstand the inevitable challenges of aging." (p.48 "Boost Your Brain Health")
I especially like the statement, "...the healthy brain gets stronger with age." That says it all when you're trying to figure out why some people become smarter, sweeter, and changeable with age, while others become grumpy old men or women. What is it they say in that commercial? "The mind is a terrible thing to waste." It's even worse to let it get rusty with age!
Use it or lose it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Said It, I'll Do It!

There was a guy in the Bible who made a pretty strong declaration of dedication, but shortly after that, when it came time to follow through with consistent choices, he caved in like a stepped on aluminum can. I don't think for a moment that he was exaggerating or lying when he made the declaration, but he obviously wasn't speaking from where his true level of commitment was. Peter was like all of us. He though he was ready to follow Jesus even to death, but, well - like Jesus said that same evening, "The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak."
Here's the principle I'm thinking about: A dedicated decision, can and should remove the challenge of choices. Once you decide where you stand and what you will and won't do, the choices are made - or should be.
For me, the highlight of each day on our recent cruise was sitting down to that first class dinner with Five Star cuisine, and being surrounded by good friends to share it with. It doesn't get any better than that! (Within reason - of course!) For the first several evenings, one of the first things that happened involved one of the stewards offering us a choice of wines from the ships huge inventory of wines. I'm not anti-wine, a prohibitionist, or even a religious prude when it comes to any Christian's right to have a drink of any alcoholic beverage. For some people in some cases it might even be a good idea, but I don't need it, want it, or like it. Give me ice tea every time over sour grapes, slurred speech, and all the potential wrong things that can happen. The larger decision was made long ago, so there was no need to turn it into a choosing situation. Before long they didn't ask, the wine list was removed, and the wine glasses weren't even put on the table.
On the other hand, why is it that at every meal, and often times between meals, I find myself calculating, rationalizing, and justifying the consumption of massive amount of calories that I know I don't need and that will ultimately hurt me? And, by the way - like Peter, I've made declarations of dedication to healthy living that didn't last anywhere near as long as his did before I totally caved in. I hear the words of Paul, "Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from" making declarations that come from wishing rather than true commitment.
Truth be know, we're all probably better at making declarations than we are at committed living. I guess that is why God wants us to understand His love, His patience, and His forgiveness. With His help and forbearing nature, being a child of God and deepening our relationship with Him may be as much about "get up and keep moving" as it is "running the race set before us". As we grow in Him, the divergent lines of declaration and dedication come together, and His peace that is greater than words truly begins to take hold of our life.
Why did I write this right before lunch?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parable of the Master Mechanic

The young couple had heard all about how good and dependable the mechanic was at the little garage/gas station down the street, so they felt comfortable about leaving their car to be repaired while they shopped at a nearby store. When they returned, the smiling mechanic met them out front, and pointing to their car parked beside the station, he told them it was fixed and running beautifully. They were overjoyed and felt strongly that their faith in the mechanic was well founded. It's nice to have a Master Mechanic taking care of you. Like we've all experienced, he asked them to follow him back into the office so they could settle the bill.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so he led them through the garage area to get to the office. Once in the garage, however, they stopped as he walked on into the office. "Wow," they exclaimed as they looked at the garage. "What an amazing facility!" They just couldn't take their eyes off of the neat machines, colorful pipes, and shiny tools all around. It's like their feet were glued to the concrete floors. They were really taken with the magnificent edifice to auto repair. And then they really started noticing the tools even closer. All kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles. They could only stand in amazement thinking about how those tools could and should be used. They touched them, they were in awe of them, and they discussed, and even argued about, how they were supposed to function. They were totally happy and content just focusing on the tools and the facility. They were so enthralled that they forgot all about following the Master Mechanic. He was sadly waiting for them to get back to their task of following him. Tools and facilities are great - when used to carry out their purpose, but they are nothing when they're not used by the Master Mechanic.
Verily, verily I say unto you, to let any tool become more important than the Master Mechanic is to miss the purpose of tools. That will always make Him sad and cause the competition to cheer.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

It's Not About Numbers!

There are very few things in my spiritual and professional life, which to me are the same thing, that has evolved and changed more than my view of church growth. I have written a lot about that in the past and I don't want to rewrite it all here, but the bottom line is, I concluded several years ago that we have been seriously infected by a virus known as "the world's view of church growth." We still define success by numbers and try to rationalize it away by spiritualizing it with "we only care about numbers to the extent that it's talking about souls." That's church-speak! If we aren't adding numbers to our attendance and contribution, we feel like we're failures or uncommitted, or if we want to soften the judgement, we say we're "stuck at a plateau" and need to come up with something to "get us over the hump." We didn't get those words or evaluations from the Word of God. In fact, just writing a blog like this will cause some people to say or think "he must just be making excuses for not growing."
No, I see growth in my spiritual family like I've never seen it before because I'm looking at something different than attendance and contribution charts. I'm looking to see who and how many in my church family are becoming more like Jesus. Becoming more like Him is the ONLY church growth challenge the Holy Spirit gives us! In Eph.4:15, our job is to grow in Christ, and Peter called on us to "...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Pet.3:18) Too many of us have been trying to grow churches with little interest in helping individuals grow in Christ. We want to attract more than we want to guide. We want to invent gimmicks rather than build godliness. We want to know the secret formula that will impress others rather than follow the simple formula of loving one another!
This is what I believe causes real church growth. Four principles that are probably best seen as a cycle.
* Growth is directly related to, and determined by, congregational morale.
* Congregational morale comes from a spirit of love.
* A spirit of love comes from building relationships.
* Love is the singular quality that Jesus said identifies us as His disciples.
So, what are you doing to foster church growth? Just ask yourself, what are we doing to help our members love one another?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

From Cabo to Chilly

From this... this - in just hours. Quite a shock to the system to step out of the airport in St. Louis into cold, wind-blowing snow after spending all those days in summertime temps. But, the BIG WINTER BREAK was everything we hoped it would be. It's nice to back, even if it's sixty degrees colder.
By the way, the top picture is at Cabo San Lucas and it is the REAL "Land's End" at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Normal blogs to follow starting next week.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Last Full Day at Sea

It's the last full day of the cruise, so we are relaxing, buying the last of our ship-taken pictures, and getting ready to pack this afternoon so we can literally hit-the-deck-running tomorrow morning. The above pic was yesterday morning just after we anchored off Cabo San Lucas. It's a beautiful place, with incredible beaches and lots of water wildlife. We saw whales, dolphins, and seals, and tons of pelicans. It was so much cooler and dryer there. It's dessert all around Cabo and it's literally at 'lands end'. We really enjoyed it. Isn't she good looking?

While some of our group was on a whale watching tour, this group walked the town looking for good shopping deals. Donna, of course, is taking the picture. It was the most enjoyable place to walk and shop in on the whole trip.

This is Donna and I and a thorny friend we found in town. Speaking of whales, have we mentioned how much we've been eating? Oh my, it's been so good, but we must pay for it with exercise and diet when we get back.

Donna is not this white! In fact, she is a little sunburned. Our waiter is de-shelling her lobster and prawns - allows us to dip it in the butter faster. It was sooo good - non-fat too - NOT! Lord willing we will arrived back in St. Louis about 7:45 tomorrow night. I hear they're expecting snow and rain there tomorrow - ouch! Have I mentioned how nice the mid-winter vacation to a warm place is? We're already planning the next one for 2012 - believe it or not. It will take that long to pay off this one and save for the next, but it's worth it!

God bless. Next week I'll be back to the usual blog-grind.

PS. Spell check isn't working so all mis-spelling is the fault of Blogger - Ha!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Huatulco & Acapulco

This was right after we finished doing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k on the ship this morning. It was neat. A very different way to do this great cause than we've ever done it before. It's been a nice & easy day at sea today.

This is the harbor at Huatulco, Mexico. It's a little resort town with a beautiful beach. We did a tour their that was interesting, but not much history. Still, what a beautiful place.
Yesterday we were in Acapulco and ended a long, rather boring tour by getting to see the famous cliff divers. This is just one of our pictures of the seven guys who dove off the cliffs. It was worth the price of the tour to just see this. Awesome. Two dove from the top at 130 feet. Like I said, we were hoping for a splash and not a splat!

This is the whole group leaving for yesterday's tour -minus Don Rose who is taking the picture. It's has really been a fun group to travel with. We are in Cabo San Lucas tomorrow, so I'll try to do one last blog w/ pics on Thursday. It takes so long to down load the pictures that this blog will be one of the most expensive parts of the trip. Ha! Who cares! God bless.