Thursday, December 27, 2007

How the world sees "Evangelicals"

Hello amigos,

I've been out of circulation for a while, what with Christmas services, tryptophan-induced naps, and overdosing on eggnog. But I'm back now, and rearing to go. By the way, what does that mean anyway--"rearing to go"? I think it must be some kind of equestrian reference, but I'm not sure.

In my recent reading I have come across several articles that show evangelical Christians in a very negative light. This to me is a serious issue, and it gets me hopping mad. Of course, I do not really expect the world to like us. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would, in fact, hate them. That has proven true down through the centuries.

However, I'm an eternal optimist and I keep holding out hope that we will at least win their begrudging admiration. I keep wanting to believe that non-Christian people will see some consistency between our walk and our talk and start to connect up the dots to see that evangelical Christians have something worth investigating.

The problem is that there are lots of very visible bad examples on so-called "Christian television," and those wing-nuts and moon-bats end up giving every Christian a black eye. The world has a hard time sorting out the wheat from the chaff when the chaff have their own TV shows on TBN, and they call themselves, "evangelical Christians." Makes me never want to use that word again to describe myself.

This is a comedy clip that you may or may not laugh at. It's funny, because it is so ridiculous. But it is sad, too, because these people have millions of brain-dead believers who keep them on the air by sending in their nickels and dimes. I think it's time to starve them out and get them off the air. That's my opinion, for what it's worth.

Still crazy, but not crazy enough to send any of these crooks any money.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's A Girl!

Hi everybody,

Today our son, Chris, sent me a text message that simply read, "It's a girl!" He and Luciana had just left the clinic where they found out the gender of their baby. They were both very excited. Lu is due to deliver the little bundle of joy on April 27th. This is happy news for our whole family, because we are weighted heavily on the male side right now. Making it even better, our daughter, Simoni, is also carrying a little girl, and she is due to be born on February 12th. What fun! Two little girls showing up within two and a half months of each other. Josh and Simoni are thinking of calling their little girl Michaela Renée, but haven't decided for sure. Chris and Luciana don't have a name picked out yet, but I'm sure they will be combing through the name books to find a good one.

But what's in a name anyway? In many ancient cultures and in some cultures still today the name given to a child is very important. It represents the hopes and dreams of the parents for that child, and serves as a picture of what they hope the child will become. In western culture, however, we have largely lost this concept. People in this country especially, choose names more for the pleasing sound or the rarity of the name, wanting their kid to have a moniker that is distinctive. Failing that, they play around with the spelling of the name, coming up with something so oddball that it will complicate the poor kid's life all the way to the grave.

But I think we need to be more careful about the names we give to our children. I think we need to give them names that they can grow into--names with real meaning.

When I was born my mother named me Michael. It comes from the Hebrew name מִיכָאֵל (Mikha'el) which means, "who is like God?". This is the name of one of only three angels actually mentioned in the Bible, and the only one specifically identified as an archangel. (The other two angels named are, of course, Gabriel and Lucifer, who we usually call Satan.) In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament Michael is portrayed as the leader of Heaven's armies, and thus is considered the patron saint of soldiers. Nine Byzantine emperors and a czar of Russia bore his name.

My mother and I both almost died while she was carrying me in her womb. In spite of the fever, when I was born without brain damage or birth defects it seemed to her to be a fitting name. While I was growing up she often reminded me that I was a gift from God, and that she had offered me back to God to serve Him all the days of my life. That has always stuck with me, though I have often failed to live up to that high standard.

There is a verse in the Bible that has always intrigued me. It is found in Revelation 2:17, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." This verse has puzzled commentators for centuries. But I believe that what the apostle John was saying is that when we get to Heaven and stand before the Lord, He is going to call us by a new name, a name that reflects who we truly are in His sight.

Many people hate their given names and are forced to go through life with handles they would have never chosen for themselves: Irving, Herbert, Agnes, Tiffany, Percival, SummerDawn, Edith, Archibald, Burgandy, Billy Bob, etc. But when Bubba finally kneels down before King Jesus, the Savior is going to press into his hand a beautiful white stone on which is engraved a name, a new name, a beautiful and powerful name, a name that tells how Jesus sees him on the inside. That name will have meaning. It will bring joy, not embarrassment. It will be the name Jesus will use every time he meets Bubba on the streets of Heaven. He will lean over and whisper in Bubba's ear, "My son, you are ________, and you are Mine." Bubba's face will light up every time it happens. At least, that's what I think the verse means.

One thing is for sure--the Lord knows the names of all those who belong to Him. He has our names memorized. And the Bible says that our names are inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life. At the end, when the angels check the long lists of names they may have trouble pronouncing some of them. They may stumble over Giuseppa, Franstziska, Bhaskara, Themistocles, and Ruairidh. That's OK. Jesus is going to give each of us a new name anyway.

Crazy...especially about little baby girls,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

An American Kid

Hey y'all,

This video is by the Christian group, Go Fish. They sing a lot of acappella music and also do a lot of kids' concerts, but this is a wild, toe-tapping, flag-waving song that I really liked. I hope you like it too. Turn your speakers up real loud and get ready to boogie to the music! For you who do not have high speed internet service, I know it bugs you to have me put up a video because it takes so long to load. Believe me, I understand. I have dial-up service at home. But what you do... start the thing downloading, go in and fix yourself a nice strong cup of Earl Gray tea, watch TV for a while, and then come back and watch this video. It's worth the wait.

Crazy about you, America, the flag, and kids

Friday, December 14, 2007

"They Sow the Wind, and Reap the Whirlwind"

Hello friends,

Many people who use the quotation in the title of this posting do not know that it comes right out of the Old Testament book of Hosea, chapter 8 verse 7. It basically means that the evil we sow in this life will come back on our heads and result in a harvest of evil. The apostle Paul says the same thing in Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." This is a divine principle, an eternal truth not bound by time, place, or circumstance. Moreover, I believe it applies to nations as well as to individuals.

I subscribe to an Internet newsletter called the Church Leaders Intelligence Report. It often has interesting and usful pieces of information. Here is a brief article about China that I found enlightening:

China has too many men. Today, roughly 120 boys are born in China for
every 100 girls, perhaps the worst gender imbalance in modern human history.
Within 15 years, the country may have 30 million men who cannot find
wives. Households have preferred male children because men are viewed as
better able to support rural families, and boys inherit the land.
Infanticide has often resulted. China's one-child policy motivates couples
to abort until they have a boy. This will turn China, by 2030, into a
grayer society than the U.S. Single young men are far more likely to commit
violence than their married peers. Even young criminals often give up
crime when they marry and settle down. Today China is experiencing rising
crime waves. Cities with the most unbalanced sex ratios have some of the
highest crime rates. China's State Population and Family Commission admits
“the increasing difficulties men face in finding wives may lead to social
instability.” (Taken from the Church Leaders Intelligence Report,
compiled and edited by
Gary D. Foster. Original article from LA Times, 10/21/07.)

It seems to me that this article provides us a perfect illustration of the principle found in Hosea 8:7 and Galatians 6:7. China is reaping the whirlwind. They have been murdering baby girls for years. With their one-child policy and their forced abortions they have slaughtered millions upon millions of their most innocent and most helpless citizens. But they are not the only ones. India is in the same boat. According to a recent report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India' s population as a result of their systematic gender discrimination. In most countries in the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males. In India however, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population. The accepted reason for such a disparity is the wide-spead practice of female infanticide. They simply murder their baby girls. By avoiding a girl, a family will avoid paying a large dowry upon her marriage. According to UNICEF, the problem is getting worse as scientific methods of detecting the sex of a baby and of performing abortions are improving.

But in this country, the good ol' US of A, have we not done the same thing? Since the Roe V. Wade decision came down to us from the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973 we have been murdering babies (boys and girls) by the millions. In fact, while the number of abortions nationwide is reported to be on the decline, the total figure of abortions since the landmark 1973 ruling continues to climb and is expected to reach 50 million by 2008. Did you hear me? 5o MILLION! There are many countries in the world that do not have 50 million citizens. Let's think of a few:

Myanmar 48,798,000
South Africa 48,577,000
South Korea 48,512,000
Ukraine 46,205,000
Spain 45,116,894
Colombia 44,057,232
Tanzania 40,454,000
Argentina 39,531,000
Sudan 38,560,000
Poland 38,125,479
Kenya 37,538,000
Algeria 33,858,000
Canada 33,087,000
Morocco 31,224,000
Uganda 30,884,000
Iraq 28,993,000
Nepal 28,196,000
Peru 27,903,000
Venezuela 27,657,000

It hurts me to say it but this nation, in my never to be humble opinion, is as guilty before God as the worst genocidal regimes in history. Hitler murdered six and a half million. Stalin murdered 39 million. Pol Pot slaughtered about 2 million Cambodians. But we have murdered nearly 50 million BABIES, for crying out loud. If God does not judge this nation for our sins then He will have to apologize to a few other countries that He utterly destroyed for their wickedness.

Maybe I sound like a fanatic to you. I admit it! I am a fanatic about this. I may not be able to do much to stop the slaughter, but I refuse to be quiet about it.

Crazy with righteous anger over the killing of the babies,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Real Meaning of Christmas

Here's a video clip that I think you'll like. At this time of year it is easy to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. This Christmas song, "It's About the Cross" is by the band, Go Fish (, and is set to images from The Passion of the Christ, the Jesus Film, the Gospel of John, The Nativity Story, It's a Wonderful Life, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other productions.

Let's remind one another throughout this Christmas season that it's all about the cross.

Loving Jesus and you,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jogging With Jesus

Hello again,

I've been very busy but brain-dead, so haven't taken the time to write. Sorry about that.

However, this morning I was reading in Isaiah 40:29-31, "He [God] gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."

So what the heck am I doing wrong? I haven't been doing a lot of "mounting up" lately. I get winded just from walking. And I'm pooped from running! If life is a race I feel like I'm always at the back of the pack looking at everyone else's south side. I'm breathing heavily, my chest feels tight, my legs are like rubber, and yet I'm running as fast as I can.

So what's wrong? Looking back over this passage I think I may have found the answer. It's in verse 31: "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength." That must be it! But what does it mean to "wait for the Lord"? I hate waiting...for anybody, even God. I want what I want right now!

I suspect however that there is a deeper meaning here. I have a hunch that the psalmist was trying to say the same thing when he wrote Psalm 46. Let me dip in there for a minute: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear... The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold... Come, behold the works of the Lord... Cease striving [KJV= "be still"] and know that I am God." I think that sometimes I forget that life is not a sprint but a distance race. It is not about burning out for the Lord, or beating anyone else to the finish line, but about finishing strong, right alongside my Team Captain, Jesus.

"Wait for the Lord." Maybe this life race isn't about how fast I run, but how well. Maybe I'm tired because I'm running faster than the pace car that Jesus is driving. Maybe I need to slow down and smell the flowers more. Maybe I need to worry more about being a godly man and less about accomplishing more stuff in 24-hours. Hmm...could it be?

The apostle Paul talked about his race in his last letter, II Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course [race], I have kept the faith." He finished strong, too. But he wasn't a sprinter. He just kept at it, jogging along with Jesus day after day. He tried to stay in step with the Spirit, not running ahead or lagging behind.

"Cease striving and know that I am God." I've discovered that I'm a striver, always striving to be the best, the fastest, the most efficient, the biggest producer. My daughter, Simoni, tells me almost every day, "Dad, don't work so hard. Relax. Go take a walk." I think she may be on to something.

Lord, please help me to stop striving. Help me to learn to wait on You. Keep reminding me that life isn't about filling my days with activity, busy work, but about seeking to know You, whom to know is life eternal. Help me to stop substituting busyness for meaningful, lasting things. In the end it's all about knowing You, and enjoying You forever. Help me to keep jogging along at a steady pace, fast enough to make progress, but slow enough that You and I can still talk along the way.

Crazy, but still moving forward

Friday, December 7, 2007

I Smell a Rat

Hello my faithful friends,

I kid you not, we have a rat problem at our church. I've known it now for a few days. Two Sundays ago early in the morning when I was opening up the buildings I heard something scurrying around in the ceiling of the annex room. It sounded way bigger than a mouse but I didn't know what it was. Then this past Sunday I went in there and flipped on the lights and there was the hairy monster sitting there staring at me. He's a honkin big wharf rat with a body about 10 inches long and a tail about the same length. I quickly went looking for something to clobber him with, and when I came back he was still there, waiting for me, daring me to do anything. I took a swipe at him but missed, and he took off running and hid under a couch.

We've had traps out for him all this week but so far he has managed to steer clear of them. But I know the furry little bugger is still in there because he is leaving his "calling cards" all over the place. In one sense I feel sorry for him. It's cold and wet outside and here we have this cozy place out of the weather, with food for the taking. It's a great gig for a rat. But he is not welcome. We don't want him here, and are determined to get rid of him one way or the other. We can do it the easy way or the hard way, if you catch my drift; the choice is up to him.

Now for the spiritual part. In the Bible we are told to go and learn from the ant. And Jesus constantly told stories using ordinary things to teach eternal lessons. This morning I was thinking about that darned rat and realized that he is kind of a picture of sin in my life.

He showed up without being noticed at first. I don't know how he got in. There must be a gap somewhere, a hole where he gained access. That's how sin works too. We have gaps, unguarded places in our lives, where sin can get in and gain a foothold. We have to be careful, always vigilant, mindful that sin can get in through what seems like a very small opening.

He's dirty. Rats urinate constantly. They leave stinky little scent trails wherever they go. And they leave their little poop footballs all over the place. Sin is dirty too. The Bible speaks of sin in such terms as, "impurity, unrighteousness, iniquity, wickedness, and filthiness." Sin is ugly and nasty from where God sits. I think I need to begin taking it more seriously too.

Rats destroy whatever they get close to. This rat chewed and scratched his way into a closet where we keep foodstuffs. Everything will have to be washed and a lot of stuff will have to be thrown away. Sin is destructive too. It eats away at us from the inside, in the quiet and in the dark. It gnaws and chews and destroys whatever it gets close to. I think one of the reasons why God hates sin so much is that He knows how destructive it is in the lives of His children. Because He loves us so much, He hates anything that injures us in any way.

Rats are embarrassing too. I was reluctant at first to tell anyone about the problem. Last Sunday morning all through the adult Sunday School class I kept staring at the couch behind John Wold, the teacher. What neither he or his class knew was that the rat was under that couch, sitting there looking out at us with his little beady eyes. I'm just thankful he didn't scurry out and scare the bejeebers out of the little old ladies. But sin is also an embarrassment, or it should be. Unfortunately, many times Christians seem content to do nothing about sin in their lives, and even try to justify its presence, even though it always destroys stuff and leaves stink trails and poop balls.

The Bible says in Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Sin is a disgrace, it is an embarrassment, it is shameful. We need to see it that way so that we begin to develop an intolerance toward its presence in our lives. I'm embarrassed that we have a rat problem at our church. I don't want anybody to know about it. And I'm committed to root the nasty critter out of there, dead or alive. We need to have this same intolerant attitude toward sin in our lives.

Well, that's enough preaching.

Here's a little something that I thought was cute. I'm so glad that I was born into an English speaking family because I don't think I have enough brains to learn this stupid language the way immigrants do. Check this out.

The Wild and Wacky English Language

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
But the plural of ox became oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice;
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are really square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea, not is it a pig.

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up while it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

Why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham?

Some more reasons to be grateful if you grew up speaking English:
The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was a good time to present the present.
At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
I did not object to the object.
They were too close to the door to close it.
After seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Crazy about killin' rats,

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Good Prayer

Hello on this rainy Tuesday,

A good friend sent me this prayer. It touched my heart. I hope it touches yours.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me remember that the "jerk" who cut me off in traffic last night may have been a single mother who worked nine hours that day and was rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Jesus, help me to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man this morning at Seven-Eleven who couldn't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind me, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that I can only imagine in my worst nightmares.

Father, help me to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking my shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they get to go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind me each day that, of all the gifts You've given me, the greatest gift is Your love. Help me remember that it is not enough just to share that love with those I hold dear. Open my heart to share Your love, not just with those who are close to me, but to all with whom I come in contact. Let me be slow to judge and quick to forgive, showing patience, empathy, and love.

For Jesus' sake, Amen.

This time of year is especially challenging for us to keep our perspective. The streets are packed. The malls are overcrowded. The stores are loud. The lines are long. It's like a huge commercial feeding frenzy. But in the middle of all of this craziness is the truth...That God loved us so much that He sent His Son to Bethlehem, to be born of the virgin, to become flesh and dwell among us so that we could see up close and personal the glory, and the mercy, and the love of God. That is the miracle of Christmas--God with us, Emmanuel.

Still loving you,

Monday, December 3, 2007

"I'm Gonna Use That Some Day"


It's Monday morning. The weekend is over. Now it's back to work, back to the office. I came in this morning with the intention of going through and sorting out a bunch of stuff that has piled up on my desk and a few other places. I read somewhere that you should always sort through your mail from a standing position. As you look at each piece of mail you are to determine right there and then what to do with it. If you know darn well that it's junk mail you should immediately throw it in the recycling can. If it is important and needs attention, do it immediately, before sitting back down at your desk. This is a way to force yourself to deal with things as they come up--bang, pow, it's over.

Sounds good, but I am a ponderer. Having just a touch of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) I agonize over ever stupid piece of mail. In the end, in frustration, I lay the mail back down in a pile telling myself that I'll look at it again later when I'm in a better frame of mind to make a decision about it. That's what's known as "mental gymnastics." And it's not just mail that piles up, either. It's all kinds of stuff--sermons I've preached that need to be filed, great articles that I can't bear to throw away, Leadership Journal magazines that I plan to read, newspaper clippings that people hand me, copies of music that need to go back in the file cabinet, etc. It's nuts!

That's not all. I have a couple of shelves full of notebooks from conferences or seminars I've attended. Some of them are overflowing with wonderful, inspiring, soul-stirring material, powerful stuff, that I'm sure I'll use some day. On top of that I have a couple of large file cabinets--one with three deep drawers, the other with two--both full of wonderful information that I seldom or never look at, but that I tell myself I'll need some day. Can you relate to any of this?

And books...don't even get me started on books. I have books that I will never read, never use. But I love books, and can't bear the thought of getting rid of them. I already had a very large theological library. Then, after my dad died, I inherited his books too. I gave a bunch of books away then, but it nearly killed me, and I kept way more of his books than I should have. They are currently sitting in boxes in the room next to my office because I don't have enough shelf space to put them out. But even if I did, I probably wouldn't use most of them either. They would just sit there gathering dust like most of the books and other junk that already owns me.

Where am I going with this sad confession? I am coming to realize that most of us humans spend most of our lives either looking back at the past or trying to second guess what's coming in the future. We aren't so good at living in the present, enjoying the moment, making the most of who and what we have right now. For example, my filing fetish is about not wanting to lose something that I worked so hard on in the past ( my sermons, articles I've written, meeting minutes, planning sheets, etc.). Something in me makes me want to preserve that junk, though I know in my heart of hearts that most of it just ain't that good. On the other hand, I also file stuff I might possibly need in the future (illustrations, great stories, funny emails people send me, etc.). The sane part of my brain, however, tells me that I almost never dip into that stuff anyway, and that now with the Internet I can get more information than I can use with one click of a mouse, any time, from any place on the planet.

I want to learn to live more in the here and now, the only piece of time that I own, that I have any control over. The past is gone. I have some snapshots and some memories, but I can't change anything. The past is a done deal. Likewise, the future is yet unwritten, a blank scroll. I have some hopes, some dreams, some desires. But the future is in God's hands. Every beat of my heart, every breath I take in is a gift from Him, and He has already determined my timeline. It doesn't make any sense to worry about tomorrow.

But I have right now, today. Today I can tell people that I love them. Today I can encourage someone, and tell him how much he or she means to me. Today I can share with someone about God's love. Today I can do one of the tasks I have been putting off. Today I can spend some time talking with God and getting reacquainted with Him. Today I can write a letter to a far off friend telling them what their friendship has meant to me over the years. Today I can take a walk and enjoy God's handiwork.

It's been nice visiting with you. If you will excuse me though, I have some things that I want to do today. I think I'll start by tackling that pile of mail. I may throw out some of those old seminar notebooks too. And I'm going to fill up a couple of boxes with books to give away to someone who might use them.

Crazy, but cheerful

Thursday, November 29, 2007

J. Vernon's Legacy

Hello my friends,

I have my clock radio set on KPDQ, 93.9 FM, a Christian radio station here in Portland. As I'm waking up and getting around every morning I especially like to listen to Jim Dobson's "Focus On the Family" and "Through the Bible" with J. Vernon McGee.

Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting J. Vernon...several times actually. My parents knew him, and he used to visit them at the Christian Servicemen's Center in Hawaii when they ministered there. He was a gracious and charming man, very humble, with a funny sense of humor. He has always been one of my heroes.

This morning as I was listening to his voice coming out of my radio I found myself thinking about the legacy he left behind when he died and went to be with the Lord. Even long after his death, his love for God and his commitment to God's Word are still bringing people to faith in Jesus around the world. For decades he poured out his life in service for God. He not only proclaimed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he lived out his faith, both at home and in public. He left a wonderful legacy for his family and for all those of us who loved him.

But then I began thinking, "What kind of legacy am I leaving behind? What will I be remembered for after I'm gone? What have I done that has really made a difference?" This may sound to you at first like morbid thinking, but I don't think it is. I heard Howard Hendricks give a message 3 or 4 years ago entitled, "Finishing Strong." He pointed out that many men, including pastors, drop the ball in the last years of their lives. They go off the rails after money, or women, or pleasure. He challanged all of us at that men's retreat to consider how we were living and what sort of legacy we were leaving, especially to our wives, our children, and our grandchildren. I've thought a lot about that question.

After I'm gone, I want my legacy to be one that blesses my children and makes them smile every time they think about me. I want them to remember my love for God, for my wife, and for them. I want them to remember that I hugged them often, told them I loved them, believed in them, and supported them no matter what. I want my grandchildren to remember that I played with them on the floor, gave them their first fishing pole, and took them fishing. I want my wife to remember that I loved and honored her exclusively, above every other woman on the planet. I want her to remember that I was always faithful to her and never strayed into the arms of another woman, either physically or virtually. I want the people I led to Christ and/or pastored over the years to never have to be ashamed they knew me. I want my teaching and preaching to wear flesh, in the form of people who grew in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ through the things they learned from me.

These are the kinds of things I want to be remembered for. But here's the kicker... to leave that kind of legacy, I have to lead that kind of life, every day, all day, with no days off. I want to finish strong. I don't know how many years I have left to do the job right, but I want to make every day count.

I think that was what the apostle Paul was thinking too when he wrote these words in I Corinthians 9:24-27. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." He was thinking about the legacy he would leave behind.

Old J. Vernon finished strong. He left a great legacy. I hope to follow his example.

Crazy, but still moving forward

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Video Worth Watching

If you've never seen Andy McKee play the guitar you've missed something. Check out this video of his song, "Drifting."

Crazy for guitars,

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some Rules For The New Cat

Hi again,

We just got a new cat on Saturday from the Vancouver animal shelter. He is orange and white with a distinctive marking on his side, so we named him Patch. He is three months old. Ramel and I are both cat people and have had several neat pets. They are good company. Boots and Angel were wonderful but they have both passed on to their reward. After Angel died we got a little black and white female named Sassy. She is 7 mo. old and tries to live up to her name. Now with this new guy we have double the trouble, so I think it's time to establish some house rules. Below are the guidelines that I've come up with.

A Letter to My Cats

Dear Sassy and Patch,

When I tell you to move, it means to go someplace else, not just to switch positions with each other, so there are still two of you in the way.

The dishes on the floor by the refrigerator are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The hallway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack, for crying out loud. Beating me to the back bedroom is not the object. Tripping me doesn’t help either, because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a queen-sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Cats are supposed to curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm. Neither is it necessary to curl yourself up around my neck and breathe your fishy breath into my face all night.

For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, and try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years--feline attendance is not mandatory.

The proper order is kiss me first, and then go smell the other cat’s rear end. I cannot stress this enough!

And to pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

Rules for Non-Pet Owners Who Visit and Like to Complain About Our Pets:

1. They live here. You don’t.

2. If you don’t want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (By the way, that’s why they call it “fur-niture.”)

3. I like my pets a lot better than most people. To you, they are just animals. To me, they are more like adopted children who are short, hairy, walk on all fours, and don’t speak clearly.

4. Cats are actually better than kids...they eat less, don’t ask for money all the time, are easier to train, usually come when called, never drive your car, don’t hang out with drug-using friends, don’t smoke or drink, don’t worry about having to buy the latest fashions, don’t wear your clothes, and don’t need a gazillion dollars for college. And if they get pregnant, you can sell their children. It’s a win/win deal.

Crazy for cats,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Comments Welcome

If anything you read on one of these posts resonates with you, either positively or negatively, please hit the little comment button at the bottom of the article and tell me what you think. You don't have to be a member of Google or Blogger, and you don't have to agree with me. My skin isn't that thin. But I look forward to hearing from you. It's the only way I'll ever know whether or not I'm scratching where you itch, if you get my drift. Feel free to agree, disagree, harangue, bloviate, comment, or make constructive suggestions.

Crazy about you, and waiting to hear from you,

Books You Love to Hate

A while back, while waiting for my son-in-law, Josh, to come out of his doctor's appointment I went across the street to a Goodwill store and bought a used book. The title caught my eye - The Way Church Ought To Be. It was written by a guy down in Albany, Oregon by the name of Robert Lund. A take-off on Luther's 95 Theses idea, it is Lund's top 95 pet peeves about everything that he thinks is wrong with the "institutional church." The book is actually quite well written, and has been interesting to read, but it frustrates me to no end. After I read it for a while I end up walking around the house talking to myself in a loud voice, scaring Ramel and the cats, and generally ranting like a loon. That is because the author makes big sweeping statements based on what I believe to be some incorrect presuppositions, and he goes too far in his criticisms. Personally, I think we need to be very careful in how we find and express fault with Jesus' Bride.

My purpose here is not to critique Lund's book or analyze his arguments. However, I find that I share some of his frustrations with the modern church, especially here in America, though most if not all the problems exist other places as well. In 2,000 years of history the Church of Jesus Christ has come a long way from its humble beginnings. It has evolved into something that the first Christians would find hard to recognize. The Early Church portrayed in the Book of Acts and in the Epistles is a far cry from the institutional church we have come to know and accept as normal. Of course, we know that over time humans naturally form customs, traditions, and habits . That's not a bad thing in itself. However, some of our ways of doing things in the modern church are actually antithetical to the pattern layed down in God's Word, and are thus detrimental to fulfilling our mission.

I think that if the apostles were to come back and sit in on our Sunday services and observe our business meetings and small group gatherings for a few days they would be very perplexed indeed. For example, the New Testament describes a Christianity where every believer is a priest, a minister of God. The division between clergy and laity is totally foreign to the scriptures. Moreover, the form of worship that we have adopted, where an elite few perform before a passive audience of onlookers is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Without a doubt our overemphasis on music would throw them for a loop. They would undoubtedly be amazed and disheartened at how much importance we place on church buildings and property. The role of a "senior pastor"/CEO/buck-stops-here decision-maker would leave them scratching their heads. And the idea of "mega-churches"-- I don't think they would buy that one at all, ever.

The good thing that has come to me while reading this nutty book is a clearer mental picture of what I think the Lord had in mind when He said, "I will build My Church." Even before buying this book at Goodwill I was feeling very uncomfortable with the modern paradigm we see repeated nearly everywhere.

For most people the Sunday morning service is the most important gathering of the church. It is the high point, the BIG DEAL. The small groups that meet during the week in homes for Bible study and prayer are seen as mere feeders to the large Sunday gathering. However, from my study of Acts and the Epistles I think we have gotten the thing turned around backwards. I think that the house meetings are supposed to be the BIG DEAL. I believe that we need to form what are essentially "house churches," each led by godly, mature, servant leaders (what the Bible calls elders/overseers). These small "churches" should worship together, study the Word together, pray for one another, hold one another accountable, serve together in meaningful Kingdom-building ministries, eat together, play together, etc. These house churches should be the primary entry point for unbelievers to be impacted with the Gospel. These small groups should be the places where new believers are nurtured, and loved, and assimilated into the larger Body of Christ.

Then, on Sunday all these "house churches" come together to celebrate, to worship, to sing their brains out, to share what God has been doing throughout the week. It should be a joy-filled room with every person anxious to share what God has been doing in his/her life. There may or may not be a sermon. Most of the teaching would go on in the small groups. Sunday would be for sharing, and testifying, and praising God.

Think about it! Wouldn't that be a cool church to be a part of? I don't have all the details worked out yet in my mind, but I'm excited to see what God has in store for us. Right now at Sellwood we only have three small groups up and running, and none of them is functioning yet as a "house church." I'm hoping we can move them in this direction. Moreover, only about half of our people are plugged into a weekly small group. That means that half of our folks are not really "in" the church. They are basically spectators, on the outside looking in, missing out on the most precious part of being a Christian; namely, the connectedness of being a beloved, useful, participating member of the local church family.

I wonder sometimes what Jesus thinks when He looks down from Heaven to observe what we are up to. I'm so glad that He is patient and long-suffering with us. But He must say to Himself, "I explained it to them, I gave them the Book, I gave them My Spirit, I sent them the Apostles to lay the foundations... and they still can't seem to get it right." But we will continue to press on.

Crazy like a fox,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thinking on Thanksgiving

Hello again,

It’s about 7:45 AM on Thanksgiving Day. When I hear myself say that it sounds funny to me. Next week we are going to have Joy Day and the week after that we will have Kindness Day, and we are planning for Long-suffering Day sometime in February. Hmm… might not be a bad idea.

Of course, I’m being facetious. I know the history behind Thanksgiving and love the traditional celebration with all the trimmings. Our tribe is gathering today across the river at Jonathan and Sharon’s house in Vancouver, and we are going to have a wonderful time. But I was just thinking… for us Christians, shouldn’t every day be thanksgiving day? Gratefulness to God should permeate every day. But we get so busy with our frenetic lifestyles we forget to stop and express our thanks, both to God and to other people.

I’m as guilty as the next guy. I stumble through life like poor Martha in Luke 10, “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made… worried and upset about many things.” I’m embarrassed to admit it but that’s me, most of the time. Then all of a sudden something happens that reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for; thankful to God for all His grace and bounty and blessings, including the wonderful people in my life.

I am getting so tired of saying goodbye to friends. Yesterday we buried a dear man of God who lost his battle with cancer. Pastor David Yoon was only 47 years old. He left behind a sweet wife, Esther, and two fine sons, both still in their teens. But as I sat in that service I gave thanks to God for David’s life and for his example of dedication and love for God. He will be sorely missed.

But I am also grateful today that death is not the end. The God I serve is greater than death. In Isaiah 25:8 my Bible reminds me that the day is coming when “He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces.” This promise is repeated at the end of the Book, in Revelation 21:4, “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain: the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, my friend David is seeing Jesus face to face. He is walking among angels, strolling through Heaven in wide-eyed wonder, seeing with his almond-shaped Korean eyes all that God has prepared for those who love Him. David was a man who was always quick to say, “tank you.” That’s not a misprint. Like most Koreans, he couldn’t pronounce our “th” sound. I can imagine him walking around Heaven, bowing and shaking hands with people and saying, “Tank you, tank you so much.” David, being Korean, didn’t know much about Pilgrims and turkey dinners with cranberry sauce, but for him this really is Thanksgiving Day, probably Thanksgiving Week, maybe even Thanksgiving Year.

I think I’m a little jealous of him right now. Oh well, one day soon we too will get to see what he is seeing and be reunited with our loved ones, nevermore to be separated.

In the meantime, we must stiffen our spine, breathe through our nose, and soldier on. There is turkey to be eaten, pie to be devoured, naps to be taken, and football to be watched. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you dear people. I love you, and am truly grateful to God, and to you, for the many ways that you have enriched my life.

Thankful, but still crazy,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm back...

Hi friends,

I've been putting out the proverbial brush fires and fighting alligators for the last couple of days so I haven't taken the time to write. Besides, my brain tank was empty. It has had a slow leak for years anyway, and if I don't watch it closely it leaves me stranded by the side of the road, if you get my drift. Unfortunately, they don't make my kind of replacement parts anymore so I just have to live with the problem.

I am pleased to see how many of you have logged in to read this blog. That is encouraging. I will try to make it a worthwhile read.

Speaking of that, here is a great video for those of you who have a high-speed Internet connection. Hill Song Church is a huge church in Sydney, Australia. You may have seen some of their services on TV. It is the church where Darlene Zschech is one of the worship leaders. She is the one who wrote the worship song, "Shout to the Lord."

I've got to run. I have a funeral to attend. Pastor David Yoon went to be with Jesus and we are going to say goodbye to him for a little while. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Our hope is in the Lord.

I love you all,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Getting Ready For Thanksgiving Day

Hello again,

This is the time of year when we find ourselves sitting down to some impressive feasts. For example, this Thursday our whole family will be gathering at Jonathan and Sharon's house in Vancouver. The house will be crowded but we will have a great time. We will have turkey with all the trimmings, plus loads of desserts and other delightful goodies. It will be a table fit for a king.

There are basically two attitudes we can adopt toward these feast days: (1) we can fret and sweat about pounds and calories, and worry ourselves sick about cholesterol and the toxic effects of tryptophan and candied yams, or (2) we can relax and enjoy the day guilt-free, with all it brings, and take our little nap in the afternoon during the football game while the womenfolk clean up the kitchen. OK ladies, back off! I was just kidding about that last part.

This second attitude is beautifully illustrated in the following, which was sent to me by a friend who was thinking only of my welfare this Thanksgiving. One of the problems with me being a crazy person is that most of my friends are wingnuts too. Princess Carolyn, the one who sent this to me, definitely fits into this category.

Any More Questions?

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a
good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you
100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO! … Cocoa beans ... another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! Round is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets, and remember, life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Coca Cola in one hand - hamburger in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming – “WOO HOO! What a Ride!”

Still crazy, but not as crazy as Carolyn

Friday, November 16, 2007

Another Rainy Day In Oregon

It's early on Friday morning. I'm at home sitting in our computer/guest bedroom looking out the window at our backyard. It is rainy and wet out there, cold and gloomy. The sky is dark and overcast. Just another normal Oregon winter day.

We have two beautiful red maple trees in the yard and one of them is just outside the window. In the summer it has lovely broad red leaves that provide cooling shade, and its branches are home to many little birds. However, right now most of those red leaves are on the ground, blown all over the yard, covering the grass like a wet red and gold carpet. It reminds me that I have to get out there and rake them up before they kill the grass.

I love Fall, at least the early part of it, but I'm not a big fan of winter. I am one of those people who is impacted by gray skies and lack of sunshine. My daughter, Simoni, on the other hand, actually likes these dark days. I tell her that she is nuts. She just laughs at me.

I try not to let the weather outside control my moods but it is a struggle. Intellectually I understand that winter is just part of the natural life cycle. It is necessary for the plants and trees. This cold, wet time is their resting period, when they restore their strength so that they can once again come out in all their glory in the spring. That knowledge is what makes winter bearable.

But it reminds me that our lives also have seasons. We enjoy the days of sunshine, when things are bright and beautiful and everything is going smoothly. On those days we can easily forget what winter feels like. But God knows that we too, like the plants and trees, need down time. We need the dark cold days that drive us inward to sit by the fireplace. When the cold days come, the days without sunshine, we go looking for heat and light and a cozy place. We go looking for God, the Light of the world. It is in the hard times that we seek Him. At least that is how it works with me. When everything in my life is on schedule and running well I sometimes forget how much I need Him. That's when He lets me have a couple of rainy cold days as an attitude adjustment and a reminder that "I need Thee every hour."

Now, for something different, as Monte Python used to say... My daughter-in-law, Sharon, sent me the following. It made me laugh, and I hope you will like it too.

Finally…a workable solution

My mailbox, like yours, is being flooded almost every day with mail concerning gas prices and illegal immigrants—about boycotting oil companies, or not; about providing amnesty to illegal immigrants, or not, etc.

Since I have become jaded to the various solutions proposed by the Republicans, Democrats, Sierra Club, ACLU, etc., I have elected to solve these problems as they affect me personally. My response solves both my gas and my illegal immigrant problems...

I’ve decided to start hiring illegal immigrants to push my car. They are plentiful, and it will be cheaper than buying gas. Then I’ll pay them in Mexican Pesos, so they have to go back home to spend it.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Still crazy,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

With fear and trembling...

Hello family and friends,

Today I'm launching out into the deep, so to speak, and starting something new. While this blog has existed for a while, in it's construction phase, I haven't been brave enough to tell anyone about it until now. Today I've sent out emails to let people know that we are officially "on the air," or whatever the heck it is blogs travel on :). So... TAH DAH!!!

For several months I've been thinking about starting a blog as a way of reaching out a little beyond my current arm's length in order to connect with younger folks in our community who are more in touch with what has been termed, "the new media." I'm hoping this will be a way to connect with new people, and also to relate in a deeper way to the folks I love and serve at the church where I am a pastor [Sellwood Baptist in Portland, OR].

A friend in Hawaii who has been coaching and helping me along sent me this cartoon about blogging. I thought it was worth sharing.

I can't guarantee the quality control of the things you will read on this blog. Like the heading advertises, these are the ravings of a lunatic, so "buyer beware." I will try my best, however, to share some good things along the way, too--funny things to make you laugh, devotional thoughts to help you grow in your walk with Christ, personal observations about life in general, and, of course, embarrassing facts about many of the people I know.

Just kidding! I was just putting you on about the personal observations about life in general.

Today is Thursday, and I have worship team practice tonight to get ready for Sunday. I always look forward to Thursday night practices because the group functions like a small group fellowship. For the first few minutes we share what has been going on in our lives and then we take some time for prayer--for ourselves, our families, friends who are going through trials, and people we want to see come to faith in Christ. I feel sorry for Christians who are not plugged into some kind of small group. It is there, more than in the Sunday morning setting, that we learn what it means to be a Christian in community.

You see, God never intended for us to live out our Christian lives in isolation from other believers. He intended for us to experience real family and friendship in a setting of genuine love and acceptance, but that can only happen where we allow people to know us in an intimate way. Loving, satisfying relationships require pushing past our fear of rejection and taking the risk of letting people know who we really are, behind the masks that we wear so much of the time.

If you are not part of a regular small group fellowship, I urge you to get plugged into one, soon. We have several at our church now and plan to start more in the near future. If you would like to host one or be a part of one give us a call and we'll help you get connected.

I've gotta run. Give me some feedback if you have helpful suggestions for this blog. On the other hand, if you are one of my moonbat friends or relatives who just likes to kibitz, stow it!

Still crazy, but I love you...

P.S. If you notise eny misspellinggs, you have my ful apollogies. This edittor doesn't havee a spelcheker and I fell so losht without won.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clutter, Noise, and Hurry

This morning, as I was trying to shut out the world and have my personal devotions, I found myself frustrated and reflecting on how hard it is for me to truly concentrate on God and His Word, even for a few minutes. My thoughts scatter so easily. Why do I find it so hard to stay focused on eternal things? Why does my mind constantly want to drift from the important to the trivial? Maybe you too have asked these questions.

There are so many things that compete for our attention every moment of every day, but there are three things that plague me the most--clutter, noise, and hurry.

Clutter. I'm talking about the junk that we pack around, that we live with. I'm talking about the material things that we buy, or acquire, or are given that multiply in the night and end up owning us. In Luke 12:15 Jesus told His disciples, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." That message goes against the "wisdom" of this age. Many people around us apparently think that material possessions are what life is about. For me, they become like lead weights tying my soul to this earth, diverting my eyes off of His Kingdom. Lord, please cut the cords that hold me to my stuff, and help me remember that life is not about possessions.

Noise. We are surrounded by sounds. It is nearly impossible to find a quiet place. We get so used to hearing background noise that if we do happen to find ourselves a quiet spot for a few minutes, the silence becomes deafening. I was reminded the other day that most of the world's classical music was composed in near silence. Many of the great composers lived in an age and in settings where the loudest thing they might hear in the course of a day were the blacksmith's hammer or the sound of a horse's hooves on cobblestones. Yet out of their silence came the world's greatest music. In the KJV translation of Psalm 46:10 the Lord says, "Be still and know that I am God." It is not easy to be still, to be quiet, even for a few minutes. The NASB translates the verse as, "Cease striving and know that I am God." It is not easy to cease striving, to quit squirming, to stop wrestling. Lord, help me to calm down and listen for Your voice, even in the midst of the world's noise.

Hurry. We all have a million things to do today. It seems like I live my life running--probably you do too. At the end of the day I often find myself reflecting on how much was left undone, how many things I didn't get accomplished. But then I think, "This is nuts! What is wrong with me for crying out loud?" That is because I know that this is not how God wants us to live. God is more concerned with our character than He is with our accomplishments. He is all about my being, not my doing. But I keep getting my priorities fouled up, going back to the mistaken idea that busyness is next to godliness. Lord, please help me learn to slow down and step out of the world's crazy fast lane so that I can see You, and hear You, and walk in step with You.

Still crazy,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A happy bunch of crazies...

Here we go...

Hi friends,

This is a first for me. I've been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time but up until now haven't had the courage, for several reasons. For one thing, I wasn't sure that I had much to say that people would want to read. That may in fact prove to be true :). The other reason was simply that I wasn't sure I wanted to be tied down to writing every day. However, a friend encouraged me that the blog doesn't have to be updated daily. I can write when I want, when I have something important I want to communicate.

I've also been looking for ways to better stay in touch with the people in our congregation, Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. I'm hoping that this will become one more way to be connected to the people I love and serve.

Be patient with me. I'm not completely tech savvy and am feeling my way along in the dark here, but I look forward to hearing from many of you and sharing thoughts and ideas.

Still crazy,