Thursday, November 29, 2007
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
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
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.
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
Crazy about you, and waiting to hear from you,
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
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'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
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
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?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
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
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.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
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.