Tuesday, December 16, 2008
By golly, I'm making good on yesterday's promise to write more often on my blog. I'm turning over a new leaf, as they say. Actually I know what that expression means and it has nothing to do with the leaves that fall off of the darned maple trees in my backyard. It refers to leaves of paper, which we more commonly call "pages." To "turn over a new leaf" means to make a fresh start, to turn the page of your book or of your diary to begin writing on a fresh surface. That's what I'm doing.
I recently came across something that I found very interesting yet ominously disturbing at the same time. We all know that the world is changing around us very quickly. We sense that technology is moving faster than we are. We buy a new gadget and before we manage to work our way through the owner's manual the darned thing is already a dinosaur on the market. Or perhaps you invested the time/energy/brains to take a course to learn a new software program for work. But now, after a short time, the software has been deemed obsolete and has already been replaced. Now the boss wants you to take another class to learn the new program.
Watch this video and then I'll have some comments about it on the other side.
What does all of this mean? First of all it means that our world is changing faster than we are. By that I'm saying that humans per se have not changed at all since the beginning. Our bodies still work the same way, with the same strengths and limitations. Oh we have gotten a little bigger/taller because of nutrition, but that is offset by the fact that we have also gotten fatter and are more likely to die of diabetes and/or heart disease than our forefathers. Our brains are about the same size as Adam's though we store much more trivial information in ours than he did in his. We aren't smarter, it's just that we know different stuff.
Human nature hasn't changed either. Humankind is still plagued by the sins of greed, anger, covetousness, idolatry, sexual perversion, etc. etc. There may be more of us today on this planet but we still ain't worth much, if you get my drift.
From a ministry standpoint we are still dealing with the same issues. People still need Jesus. They still need a Savior. With all our fast-paced living and all our accumulation of useless factoids, people are still afraid of death, still haunted by their past, still screwed-up by lousy families and broken relationships.
After I watched this video I wanted to scream, "Stop the world! I want to get off!" But we can't do that. The world will keep spinning. Intimidating new technologies will continue to show up. Wars will increase and nations will rise up against one another. Millions of new babies will be born to parents who have no clue how to raise them in this crazy world. We will continue to be bombarded with messages to "BUY! BUY! BUY!"
And... God's promises will still be valid, Jesus will still be seeking lost sheep who need saving, the Bible will still be true, churches will still be needed to "rescue the perishing and care for the dying" as the old hymn puts it, and those who know Christ will still be eternally saved.
It seems to me there are two possible responses...
*(1) We can become overwhelmed with the mind-blowing changes going on around us and slip into despair and isolationism, simply holding the fort until Jesus comes back. Or...
*(2) We can recognize that we are living in exciting times with unique challenges yet with all the power of Heaven at our disposal to carry out our God-ordained mission of preaching the Gospel and making disciples while there is still yet time.
The Bible makes it clear that in the last days there will be an escalation of learning and knowledge, yet without insight or godly wisdom. Sin will increase rather than decrease. Men will become more violent rather than less. The world will get worse, not better. Check out Paul's words to Timothy about the end of days (I Timothy 4:1-5; II Timothy 3:1-9).
I don't know what the future holds but I know that God, His Word, His Kingdom, His love, His promises always trump anything the world comes up with. Man, with all of his technology will never outgrow his need for God. I call that job security :).
Monday, December 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Steven Curtis Chapman has long been one of my favorite Christian singer/songwriters. He is gifted both with lyrics and with musical composition. He has had a consistent testimony over his 20+ years of ministry and his music has been a blessing to me and millions of other people.
A few weeks ago I was driving back home to Portland from a 3-day men's conference. I was on the road between Lebanon and Albany listening to a Christian FM radio station when Chapman's song, "Cinderella," came on the air. I had heard the song several times before but suddenly I heard it in a new way. For some reason it made me think of my own daughter, Simoni, who is now almost 22-years-old, married with children of her own. I thought back to all the times I was too busy for her, too busy to play with her, too busy to listen to her, too busy to give her the attention she needed and deserved. I thought of how many times I was overly stern with her, hurting her with my words and actions. I started to tear up so bad that I had to pull the car over to the shoulder of the road and park until I could get my emotions back under control. Isn't it amazing how a song has the power to touch us that deeply. The song hit me sideways and I realized that I have not always been there for my "Cinderella" when she really needed me.
I have three children, all grown up and married with kids of their own. A few days ago we took our second son, Chris, and his family to the airport. They are moving to Miami, FL. Earlier that morning as Chris and I were coming back from shuttling his car out to a friend's house in Gresham we had a while in the car together to talk, just father and son. Our conversation turned to the subject of raising children. Chris has two, Lucas (5) and Gabriela (8 months). He expressed his desire to be a good dad and his frustration about sometimes screwing it up. He asked me some questions to which I did not have very good answers because I'm still a novice in the dad business. It was an interesting moment as we shared our common desire to be good dads, to raise our children to know right from wrong and to be emotionally balanced. We have our children for so little time. Before we know it they are all grown up and gone. In Steven Curtis Chapman's case he only had his little daughter for 5 years and then she was gone in seconds.
A proud but crazy father,
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
My wife's brother, Cliff, is a retired Army guy. He now works for the State of Oregon helping vets find jobs when they get out of the service. A while back he stopped by our house and picked up some stuff to take back home for his daughter. As we were loading up his trunk he handed me an MRE pack. For all you civilian types, these are the ready-to-eat meals that our young soldiers eat in the field when they are out on missions away from their bases. They are what many of our young soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan experience every day. I promptly stuck it away in a closet and forgot about it.
However, recently my wife, Ramel, was gone for three days to a pastors' wives retreat so I was baching it at home (that's short for "bacheloring," by the way, and has nothing to do with Johann Sebastian Bach). The first night I ate some old dried out fried chicken that I found in the refrigerator. I had a can of chili the second night. But on the third night, while poking around in the pantry looking for some grub, I came across that MRE. I decided to check it out.
It turned out to be kind of a weird experience for me. As I slit open the heavy green plastic packet with my tactical knife I began to remove the items one by one. It gave me a strange sensation. All of a sudden I felt like I was looking at the scene through the eyes of a hungry young soldier. All of the individual packets inside were Army green. There was one that said, "Crackers." To go along with those there was a generous tube of creamy peanut butter. There was another packet that claimed to be, "Western Beans." To be honest the first thing that came to my mind when I read that was the campfire scene from the movie, "Blazing Saddles," but let's not go there. They turned out to be very tasty. The entrée packet claimed to be, "Steak With Mushroom Gravy." That sounded promising indeed.
In among the other things was a special plastic bag with a chemical heating agent in it. The instructions said to insert the entrée packet and then pour a couple of ounces of water down the side. Then you are supposed to fold down the flap and insert the whole thing into the little paper box provided. The instructions suggested propping the packet up against a rock while waiting for the food to heat, but I made do by laying it on the bread board. What happened was quite amazing. It started heating immediately and got very hot. Within 10 minutes the food was ready to eat. While I was waiting I mixed 8-ounces of cold water with the beverage packet that said, "Grape Drink." The instructions advised me to use only purified water from my canteen but I took a chance and used tap water.
The whole meal was surprisingly good, and my stomach was full when I finished. There were even two medium sized Tootsie Rolls for dessert. I sat there alone, thinking about the brave young men and women who might have been eating the very same MRE off in some forgotten corner of Afghanistan. It gave me a strange feeling.
But there was something else, too, though I'm not sure I can do an adequate job of explaining it. I began to think about how I looked forward with excited anticipation as I opened up each one of those silly little food packets, unsure what I would find in them. I was amazed at the little chemical "stove." I enjoyed every bite of the steak and finished off every drop of the gravy.
I got to thinking how I go through so much of my life, day after day, without noticing or appreciating little things or looking forward to new experiences. I've become sort of jaded; nothing much surprises me anymore. Life has few adventures left for me. But that is not really true, is it? That is a messed up perspective. Life, every day, should be an adventure. Certainly, with God in the picture you never know what is going to happen. He has a funny way of upsetting your apple cart. I think He has to do that sometimes just to wake us up to smell the roses.
I want to live life every day the way my little granddaughter, Natalie, does. She sits and watches everything, with big brown eyes that grow even bigger when she sees something new. She smiles all the time and laughs a lot. I want to be more like her, because I think that when we lose the wonder of life, the joy of living, we become poorer in spirit, indeed.
The Bible says that real life is to truly know Christ, "...whom to know is life eternal." We were created by God to enjoy this life and to look forward to the next.
Dear Lord, please help me to see every day as an adventure, a blank page. Help me not to grow old in my mind and in my attitudes, but to always be like little Natalie, looking at the world around me in wide-eyed wonder, always excited about what's in the next package. And help me to always remember that the best is yet to come.
Hoping for a great dessert in Heaven,
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
My heart is heavy as I write this. I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter called, "Church Leaders Intelligence Report." It helps keep me up to date on current trends and often has short, stimulating articles that make me stop and think, which is good exercise for my tired old brain. Today I got the latest installment and it had a brief news item that literally brought me to tears. Here it is...
Christians Shocked, Saddened Over Boltz's Homosexuality
There is shock and sadness in the Christian community over word that famed Christian vocalist, Ray Boltz, has publicly announced he's living a homosexual lifestyle. In an interview with the Washington Blade about the announcement, Boltz said, "If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I'm going to live…I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself." Boltz, a father of four who was married for 33 years before officially divorcing his wife this year, is well-known for his widely acclaimed songs "Thank You" and "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb." (OneNewsNow 9/15/08)
Ray Boltz has long been one of my favorite Christian singer/songwriters. His music has often touched my heart and pointed me to the Savior. His song, "The Anchor Holds," is one of my favorites. To know that he has fallen prey to the lying schemes of the devil and has now "come out" as a homosexual breaks my heart. Once again, a high profile Christian bites the dust and succumbs to the enemy.
I shouldn't be surprised. The devil is very astute and knows exactly how to take advantage of any areas of hidden sin and shame that we harbor in our hearts and minds. Any hidden sin in our life provides a playground for the powers of hell and a foothold to eventually bring our life and ministry crashing down. Our protection is not found in silence or hiding, but in dealing openly and honestly with sin. If we try to cover our sin, to keep it hidden, it just festers and stinks and eventually erupts where everyone can see it. Secret sin is like mold in your basement. As long as you provide a dark, dank, lightless, airless environment the mold will grow unchecked. You can try all kinds of methods to defeat it but nothing will work until you throw open the windows and let the sunlight and fresh air flood into the basement. You see, mold doesn't grow well in sunlight and fresh air.
Apparently Ray Boltz has been hiding his sin and brokenness for a very long time. He "came out" to his wife and children on Dec. 26, 2004 but this situation has not been publicly known until just recently. He stopped recording and touring but most people just thought he was burned out and needed rest and some downtime. Few knew what he was struggling with. That is because he chose to keep a lid on it, nurturing it in secret, letting it grow unchecked in the basement of his life. Had he dealt with it sooner, sharing this burden with someone, allowing some other Christian men into his life to help keep him accountable, perhaps this wouldn't have happened. If he had thrown open the windows and doors and allowed God's healing light into those dark corners of his life, perhaps this train wreck could have been averted before it destroyed his marriage, his family, his ministry, and a whole lifetime of built-up trust.
If you want to get more information and hear it from Ray himself, read the Washington Blade article at...http://www.washingtonblade.com/2008/9-12/arts/feature/13258.cfm. I found one quote especially telling:
Boltz declines to go into specifics about the first time he was with a man, but says he has been dating and lives “a normal gay life” now. “If you were to hold up the rule book and go, ‘Here are all the rules Christians must live by,’ did I follow every one of those rules all that time? Not at all, you know, because I kind of rejected a lot of things, but I've grown some even since then. I guess I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.” (The underline is mine for emphasis.)
Ray is doing what so many other's have done. Coming to the point where his burden of sin and guilt and pain were too heavy to carry, instead of dealing with it in a biblical way, he has simply adjusted his theology to take away the guilt. He has come up with his own definition of what is and isn't sin. But in this process he has apparently jettisoned other key pieces of his theology too. He is now involved with the Metropolitan Community Churches, an openly gay so-called "Christian" denomination.
I share this story not as gossip or as a way of making myself look holier than Ray Boltz, but as a reminder and warning to all of us. God's Word says, "Be sure your sin will find you out." Sin cannot be hidden forever. It is described in the Bible as being like yeast. It grows. It breaks out of its bonds. It slowly but inevitably works its way to the surface of our life like a weed that comes up through the cracks in the sidewalk. Frankly, that scares me clear to the bottom of my feet. Sin is a powerful deceiver. If we choose to walk afar off from the Lord and His Word and the saving power and influence of His Spirit, it is only a matter of time until we too will fall flat. And great will be the fall.
Profoundly saddened but warned,
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
It has been said that parenting is not for the faint of heart. I can say a hearty "AMEN!" to that. But it is also a wonderful adventure and well worth the effort. The big payoff, of course, is grandchildren. They are really cool, and I ought to know, I have a boatload of them and they are all great kids.
Here is a YouTube video I came across a while back that made me laugh out loud. The singer's name is Anita Renfroe and she is a well known Women of Faith singer/comedienne. Anita calls this piece, "Momsense." Here she has boiled down into less than three minutes all the things the average mom says to her kids in a normal 24-hour period and has set them to the tune of the William Tell Overture. Enjoy.
In all fairness Anita wrote a second song that she calls, "Dadsense." I thought that was very sporting of her. Moreover, I'm sure that after you watch this second video you dads will agree with me that she has done a fair job of summing up what many of us dads say to our kids in the average day. This is funny but sad at the same time. I just got back from a great men's conference where we were challenged from God's Word to become better husbands and dads by putting our wives and children on a higher priority level, by loving them more than we love ourselves and our own interests, and by getting more deeply involved in their daily lives. After you watch this second video you will see more readily why this is important. Too many of us have been using the "too busy" excuse for way too long. That's not "dadsense." It's Godsense.
Crazy about being a dad and a grandfather,
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Well, Labor Day has come and gone and school will soon be back in session. Where has the summer gone? I recall the days of my childhood when summers seemed to pass very slowly. But I've learned that time is very elastic, or at least our perception of it is certainly flexible. For someone flat on his/her back in a hospital bed time passes very slowly. However, while on a cruise up the Southwest Coast of Alaska time passes very quickly. Of course, time itself didn't change, only our perception of it.
In II Peter 3:8 we read that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. That just means that God is outside the box, outside the framework of time and space. He lives in the realm of the eternal where time is nonexistent or at least inconsequential. He sees as completed what we see as process. He knows the end when we are barely able to grasp the beginning. When I try to mentally lay hold of this concept I feel like David in Psalm 139:6 who says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it."
Many years ago one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Jim Croce, wrote a song called "Time In a Bottle." In it he talks about the frustration that all humans feel about time. The words go...
If I could save time in a bottle the first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day 'til eternity passes away just to spend them with you.
If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true,
I'd save every day like a treasure, and then, again, I would spend them with you.
But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.
I've looked around enough to know that you're the one I want to go through time with.
The moment you were conceived in your mother's womb you became an eternal living being, destined to live forever someplace. God's plan and desire is that we spend eternity with Him in the place He has prepared for those who love Him. It is called Heaven. But those people who reject His gracious offer of salvation are no less eternal beings. They too will spend eternity somewhere, in a place the Bible calls Hell. It was not created for man, it was not designed for humans, but many will go there and will remain for all eternity. The thought is sobering.
Another songwriter, Pete Seeger, back in the 1950s wrote a song he called "Turn, Turn, Turn." It later became a hit when it was recorded by The Byrds in October of 1965. Check out their classic version on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNopQq5lWqQ. But you may or may not know that Seeger lifted the lyrics for his song straight out of the OT book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Those verses tell us that for everything and every event under heaven there is a divinely appointed time--for birth and for death, for weeping and for laughing, for mourning and for dancing, for war and for peace, just to name a few. But immediately following that passage just down in verse 11 we read, "He [God] has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart..." I really like how the verse reads in the New Living Translation: "God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."
"God has planted eternity in the human heart." That is a thought worth contemplating. But what does it mean? I believe that every human has a notion of eternity hardwired into his head, into his heart. Those people who insist that they don't believe in God or an afterlife tend to backpedal on that stupid theology when they approach death. There is an old adage that says, "There are no atheists in foxholes." I think that's true.
I have reached the ripe old age of 58 years and I'm becoming more and more aware of how fleeting this life really is, and yet how much time is still out in front of us. This earthly life, with its 70+ years is but a preview of coming eternal attractions. We who know Christ and have come into a life-saving, life-changing relationship with the Living God will continue to know and experience fulness of life forever. I blows my mind!
Still loving crazy people,
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Hi crazy people,
I've been away but I'm back, like a bad rash. My son and I went to Brazil for a month and we finally decided to come back home. Actually we've been home for almost two weeks already but I still haven't gotten back in my mind yet. Part of me got left behind in Brazil and it hasn't arrived back here yet. I wander a round like a lost soul and can't quite seem to get my act together.
While we were gone we didn't see a lot of coverage about the upcoming presidential election. However, since returning I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of airtime dedicated to this subject. I watched the Civil Forum at Saddleback Church the other night and found it helpful in clarifying who we are really dealing with. But I am still bewildered and amazed that people in general and Christians in particular would find it difficult to choose between the two candidates
I'm a one trick pony and I tend to see things in black and white. When one candidate says he is pro-choice and will do everything he can to allow women and girls to continue to kill their preborn babies, and the other one says he will do everything possible to protect the lives of the unborn and to undo Roe V Wade, the choice seems clear to me. When one has consistently voted to limit private ownership of firearms and the other has always voted to protect this 2nd Amendment right, it seems clear cut to me. When one has been called the “most liberal” liberal in the room by Ted Kennedy, for crying out loud, and the other has voted at least part of the time as a conservative, I know which one I'm voting for.
However, I think it is also important to maintain a healthy sense of humor during the election. With that in mind I give you this cheerful little video that says it all. You will quickly perceive that it is a parody of Bob Dylan’s 1960s political anthem, "The Times They Are A-Changin."
Back in the saddle again, but still crazy,
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Here I am, back in Brazil, seeing the sights, enjoying the friendships, and eating as much Brazilian ice cream as I can get my hands on. As I write this I'm sitting on a bus on my way from the city of Campinas to São Jose' do Rio Preto in the central part of the state of São Paulo in south Brazil. My son, Jonathan, and I arrived in Brazil on July 8th and we'll be here for a month. It has been a great trip so far and we are looking forward to a couple more weeks of seeing old friends and visiting the places where we used to live and minister.
Last night we got together with the guys who used to be a part of our musical evangelism team, Renascença. We ate pizza, told old stories, laughed 'til our sides ached and played music until our fingers were sore. All four of them are married with children. All four are active in their local churches serving the Lord. They haven't changed a bit except for their level of maturity and a few gray hairs. They are the same delightful, funny guys that I loved 20 years ago. The years of geographical separation and time have changed nothing between us. We picked up right where we had left off. It was a great evening!
I don't claim to know anything about Heaven, because I've never been there. And I certainly don't claim to be an expert on the subject of friendship, because it has taken me a lifetime to begin to learn how to be and how to make friends. Looking back over the years I have to admit that I have spent most of my life being afraid to let people get close to me for fear that they would reject me if they came to know who I really am on the inside. I share that piece of personal trivia not to have anybody feel sorry for me but just to say this... I'm finally learning how precious it is to have real friends, good friends, the kind that know you from top to bottom and love you anyway, warts and all.
One of the many wonderful things about Heaven that I look forward to is the chance to spend quality uninterrupted time with old friends and also to make new friends. The fear, the pride, the ego, the insecurity will all be gone. The things that limit our ability to be a good friend and to make new friends will all be pulled out of us. We will have an eternity to do what Paulinho, Wanderley, Luiz, Ezequias and I did last night. But the neat part of that is that we won't have to say our sad goodbyes and part ways ever again. Instead of saying goodbye we'll just be able to hug and say to one another, "Ate' amanhã," which means, "until tomorrow." There will be no separation, no goodbyes, no sad partings. I look forward to that because I'm really getting tired of having to to say goodbye to people that I love.
I'll write again when I get a chance but it's a little iffy these days. I can't always get my hands on a computer and we've been pretty busy.
Louco for Jesus,
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Have you noticed that a lot of people are fascinated by the idea of Super Heroes? Many of the comic book stories are built around these kinds of characters--Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Buck Rogers, the Lone Ranger, etc. Recently several Super Hero movies have become boxoffice hits in the theaters. I think there is something in all of us that makes us want to find heroes we can look up to.
Perhaps you have heard about "Team Hoyt," a father/son team of athletes made up of Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick (44) was born with cerebral palsy. However, his father loves him so much and wants to give Rick every oportunity to experience life to the fullest that he participates in all kinds of extreme sports so that Rick will experience the thrill of competing. But let's let them tell their own story. Take the time to watch this first video to get the background.
This second video shows Dick and Rick Hoyt in an Iron Man Race with a great musical accompanyment background of "My Redeemer Lives." I cry every time I watch it for two reasons: 1. It reminds me how much I miss my own dad who is now with the Lord, and 2. It reminds me that I still have a Father who would do anything for me. I think that Dick Hoyt exemplifies what it means to be a loving father and he gives me a little glimpse of what my Heavenly Father is like.
Take a moment to give thanks to God for His great love for His children. We have an awesome Father.
Crazy about my Dad,
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I know you must be as crazy as I am, otherwise you wouldn't be wasting your time reading this blog. Anyway, I appreciate the fact that a few people in the world have as warped a sense of humor as I.
I grew up as a PK (preacher's kid) and have been a preacher myself for, let's see, 32 years or so. I know for a fact that some preachers resort to using their wives and kids for sermon illustrations. Honestly, I don't think I have done it myself much but I have heard some guys share things that would make their wives want to crawl our a side door and never set foot in the church again.
Three pastors' wives from the Florida Hospital Seventh-day Adventist church in Orlando decided they were tired of having their latest household fiasco show up in sermon illustrations, so these women made a parody video to get their point across, revamping Carrie Underwood's popular "Before He Cheats" with their rendition of "Before He Speaks." Check it out. It made me laugh out loud.
Crazy and loving it,
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
What is the impression that we Christians are giving to the world about who Jesus is and what it means to be one of His disciples? Apparently, that impression is often negative. So what are we doing wrong? There is a movie that was released recently entitled, "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers." The movie has been running here in Portland for the past few days and has been causing quite a stir, just as it has been doing all across the country. Check out the movie's website at http://lordsaveusthemovie.com/ and click on the place where it says, "See Free Preview." It will bring up the player and a fascinating 10 min. overview of the movie. You'll want to undock the viewer and maximize it for full effect. It is definitely worth watching.
Anyway, the film raises some very important points. We who are theological and moral conservatives often emphasize being right (in every sense) to the neglect of getting heard. We go at evangelism like a man clubbing fish in a barrel. Our attention is so transfixed on making our point that we completely lose the audience we are hoping to win over.
This is not a new problem but with the higher profile of the debate over the role of Christians and churches in government and society it is not something we can afford to ignore. If we seriously want to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ we have to find better ways of interfacing with their world. On the other hand, we cannot do this at the expense of the truth. To water down the Gospel is to destroy it.
Here at Sellwood Baptist I'm currently doing a preaching series on Paul's Thessalonian letters. In I Thessalonians 2:7 Paul says, “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” He's talking about the attitude with which he and his colleagues introduced the Gospel to the people in the city of Thessaloniki (read about this in Acts 17). Paul reminds the folks that when his team arrived in Thessaloniki they were gentle, the way a nursing mother gently cares for her infant. You know what he means. I've watched my daughter, Simoni, nurse little Natalie; and our daughter-in-law, Luciana, when she nurses little Gabriela. Both of them do it with gentleness and love. Paul and his colleagues did not cram the Gospel down people’s throats. They did not beat them down with theological arguments. They did not resort to high-sounding words, grand oratory, or condemning speeches. They simply shared about who Jesus was and what He had done in their lives.
In my message last Sunday I pointed out that there are two ways to get a horse to drink water: (1) you can stick a rubber hose down his throat and pour water into his stomach through a funnel; or (2) you can feed him salt. It could be argued that both methods work. However, the first method really hacks off the horse. He'll be mad at you for a very long time and will probably never let you get close to him for a second dose.
The second method has a very different effect. Horses love salt. They eat it up and want more. So if you want him to drink give him salt, lots of salt. Before you know it he will be tearing the place up looking for water. Paul and his buddies offered the folks of Thessaloniki their salty testimonies, and shared their salty lives, and preached the salty Gospel, and presented a salty Savior. Then they simply pointed people to the One who is the Fount of Living Water. It works every time! Evangelism has been described as… “Taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, leaving the results up to God.” That is what Paul and his co-laborers did—with gentleness, respect, and love.
For quite a while we have been trying to get people to drink of the Living Water by the hose/funnel method. It's time we went back to the Jesus way of being salt and light.
I came across this video clip of Steve Harvey ending one of his comedy performances. He is one of the original Kings of Comedy and is a very funny man, though in the past has been somewhat lewd in his standup routines, like so many other comics. For that reason I'm not endorsing him in any way because I don't know what is in his heart, but still I can't help but admire his courage to do this in public. Watch how he uses salt to point people to the Savior. And watch the reaction of the audience. I'd give anything to see this kind of enthusiasm for Christ and the Good News at church on Sunday morning.
Crazy for more salt in the diet,
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
China is getting ready for the upcoming Olympic Games. People from all over the world will soon converge on the People's Republic to witness the planet's greatest sports extravaganza. In fact, you may be one of those hundreds of thousands of sports fans who will travel half way around the world to watch athletes jump, run, bounce balls, leap over barriers, etc. However, before you buy your tickets you might want to take a look at this video clip. Apparently, train travel is a bit of a challenge in China. You might want to consider travel by bicycle or rickshaw instead of train. Just a thought.
Watching this clip reminds me of riding crowded rush-hour buses and subway trains in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil where I used to serve as a missionary. It is an amazing experience to find yourself jammed into a vehicle with 200 people that was designed to hold 45. It gives a whole new meaning to the word "fellowship."
The challenge of Brazilian city buses is that you have to enter the bus from the back, go through a turnstile where you pay your fare, then work your way from the back of the bus to the very front where you exit the bus. The press of people is such that you literally slither your body against the bodies of all the other people to make your way to the exit door before the driver passes your bus stop. You have to time things just right... make your way forward but not too far forward, or else you may get pushed out, and then pull the bell rope with enough lead time for the driver to stop the bus where you want to get off. If your timing is off you can easily end up several stops beyond where you wanted to get off and will have to walk back.
Of course, this is how much of the world travels. In this country we have grown used to having a lot of space around us at all times. We each travel in a little bubble of space, never allowing people to get within our comfort zone. Most of the world does not have this luxury. They live jam packed together. They travel on overcrowded buses and subways. They drive bumper to bumper. They shop in overcrowded markets and stores, waiting in long crowded lines to pay.
The press of the crowd makes me crazy. I can stand it for a while but am always glad when the bus stops and I can get out. But I am reminded that Jesus had this kind of experience on many occasions. One time is recorded in Mark 2 when the press of the crowd was so great that four men took the roof of the building apart and dropped their friend in with ropes so that Jesus would heal him. And their plan worked. Even with human flesh pressing in on Him from every side, Jesus turned His attention to see and heal that one man who needed His help so desperately. In the midst of the crowd He focused His compassion and healing power on a man with faith to believe that Jesus could cure him.
Mark 5 records another time and another crowd. Jesus was being pressed and jostled from every side but a sick lady made her way through that mass of humanity to touch the hem of Jesus' garment. Instantly she was healed of her affliction. In that moment, Jesus stopped, turned and confronted the woman. In the midst of the multitude Jesus could perceive the one person who had faith to believe in Him. And out of all those people, she was apparently the only one in the crowd who got healed that day.
I confess that I don't like crowds. And I also don't like anyone to push me from behind to cram me into a bus or into the subway door. However, at those times I find myself remembering that Jesus loves every one of these people individually and wants all of them to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. There will be a lot of people in Heaven, but I don't think it will ever seem crowded. There is room for all who want to be there.
From one crazy to another,
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter called the "Church Leaders Intelligence Report." It is a little tool that helps keep me up on trends in both the Christian and secular worlds and I recommend it highly. Today's edition included the following:
Unchurched Americans prefer churches that look more like a medieval cathedral over contemporary church buildings, finds a LifeWay Research study. Those aged 25 to 34 gave an average of 58.9 of their 100 preference points to the more Gothic church exterior, while those over age 70 gave that option only 32.9 points. 22% said the design of the church would strongly impact their enjoyment of a visit, and 32% indicated it would have some impact. More than a third said it would have no impact. (Christian Post 4/7/08)
After I read this I found myself growing increasingly frustrated. This says that of the people who never darken the door of any church, if they were for some odd reason to decide they wanted to attend a church service (like when pigs start flying), they would look for a building that looks like something from a Dracula movie.
What, for crying out loud, does the facade of the building have to do with what is on the inside? Most of the medieval style church buildings I know of around here are either Catholic, Episcopal, or mainline Presbyterian, most of which are shooting blanks and have little or nothing to offer a seeker after truth. The only Baptist church here in Portland, OR in that style is Hinson Church. The rest of us are just plumb out of luck, I guess.
In the light of these new findings maybe I should start pressuring our building committee to begin plans to put up a false stone exterior on our existing building. We could install some arched doors and windows with a bunch of stained glass. Then the people who never come here to church would be really happy with our new look as they drive by. We could even have some gargoyles made and put them up on each corner of the roof. Then the people who never come through our doors would be thrilled with our new Gothic style. Oh, and don't forget the flying buttresses... they will be a nice touch to make the neighborhood look better. People who never come here would then be proud to stand in front of our church to have their pictures taken.
Of course, it won't make any real difference because all this is theoretical. If they were to decide to visit a church (which they won't) they would certainly never choose to visit one that looks like ours. It resembles a blimp hanger way more than a medieval cathedral. It is built of brick, but we don't have a vaulted ceiling, crypts, nave, niches, narthex, flying buttresses, pointed arches, or most of the other things that people look for in a church, if they were ever to need one, which evidently they don't.
This kind of stuff makes me nuts!
Crazy as a loon,
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I just got back from making a hospital visit to a wonderful Christian lady who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I have known and loved Lucille for many years and it made me sad to see her lying there in that hospital bed. I teased her and we talked about old times and we discussed our families. Then I read several passages of Scripture and prayed with her while holding her hand. Before I left she asked me: "Michael, why is the Lord making me live so long? Is He punishing me? I just want to go home." She said, "People keep telling me that I need to eat but I have no appetite and no interest in food. They make me drink liquids with nasty tasting stuff in it because they say it will be good for me. I've lived for 90 years. Now I'm tired and just want to go home to Heaven."
I must confess that I had a hard time finding fault with her logic. All I could come up with is the fact that the Lord is both the Giver of life and also the One who determines when we have finished our course down here. It is not for us to shorten our life either actively (by suicide) or passively (i.e. by giving up mentally and emotionally, refusing to eat and drink, etc.). Our job is to keep on keeping on until the Lord calls us home in His own good time. Even though we don't always understand why He does what He does, we can rest assured that He knows what He is doing and His timing is perfect.
On the other hand, I can understand Lucille's frustration. When I was young life was exciting and I felt like I had everything to live for. Heaven seemed very far off and not the least bit interesting. Now that I'm a little older I'm beginning to see through different eyes, different values. Lucille knows more people in Heaven than she does down here. Her husband is there, and both of her parents. Most of her closest friends are already with the Lord. She lives in one room in an adult foster home where she seldom sees people she knows. She's lonely and she hurts all over. What does she have to live for here? Not much. I wasn't about to say that to her, but I can sure understand why she feels the way she does.
God has wired us up to cling tenaciously to life. He put into us the will to live. However, there finally comes a time when the sand shifts and Heaven seems very near and very desirable. I think that is His doing as well, to get us prepared for the "big move."
The greatest reality is not physical life on planet earth. The greatest reality is eternal life with God. He has made us eternal beings and has placed eternity in our hearts. Compared to the eons of time in eternity, the seventy or so years we spend here getting ready for Heaven is no more that a blip on the screen. James 4:14 describes our life this way: "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." Psalm 144:4 says, "Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Breath, vapor, smoke, mist... all things that cannot be grabbed, cannot be held onto. So why do we get so exercised over the idea of death?
We had a dear lady in our church who lived to be 106. Alice died shortly before her 107th birthday. I used to go visit her and she would always ask me the same question Lucille asked today: "Why is the Lord making me live so long?" Except for some arthritis Alice was in great shape. But she was perplexed and somewhat put out that the Lord wouldn't let her go home. She felt that she was past her pull date but God wouldn't take her off the shelf, even though she thought she was of no further use to anyone.
It finally comes down to trust. When we can't understand or explain why God does what He does we have a choice. We can shake our fists at Him and get angry, or we can draw near to Him and trust that He has a plan, even though He hasn't shown it to us yet. Trusting Him is not always easy, but it is definitely the way to go.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I've not written for a while, and for that you have my apologies. If you follow this blog, even occasionally, I'm sure you've gotten tired of logging on and seeing that Mike still hasn't gotten around to sit down for even a few quiet moments to reflect and write. I'll try to do better.
Many of you know that I am a police chaplain and that I often get called into messy situations. A few days ago I had one of those. I was riding with an officer on afternoon shift when we got a call about a traffic fatality. Arriving on the scene we discovered that the deceased was a young woman who had suffered a motorcycle accident on the freeway and died almost instantly. I can't go into details but that scene has bothered me for days. It was a beautiful sunny day in Portland--no rain, dry pavement, the smell of blossoms in the air--and suddenly, with no warning, life stopped for that young woman. In that moment she was rocketed into eternity with no time for any kind of prayer or preparation.
My role at the scene was mainly to deal with her boyfriend, who was understandably traumatized by the accident. They had been traveling together but riding two different motorcycles. He witnessed the whole thing in his rear view mirror. She started to wobble, lost control, and crashed into a cement retaining wall, which broke her neck. That kind of traffic accident is handled by the police as though it were a crime scene even though no one else is involved, requiring the bureau criminalists to take pictures, do exact measurements, map the whole area, pick up anything that might be evidence, and keep a crime scene log of any officers or investigators who cross the yellow tape. As you can imagine, all of that detailed analysis takes time, which means that for several hours the victim was lying there by the side of the road covered by a yellow tarp with only her hands and boots visible.
However, after the medical examiner finally arrived we barricaded the area with police vehicles to block the view of passing motorists while he made his on-scene examination. When he finished, I along with a couple of officers helped the ME put her into a body bag and onto a gurney, which we then loaded into his van. While the ME examined her the officers and I stood there watching, and it just confirmed again for me that death is an enemy, any way you stack it. For her life to be snuffed out so quickly, and on such a day--it was hard for all of us to accept.
For some reason her face has stuck in my mind, and since that afternoon I have been thinking a lot about life, and about how quickly and violently it can end. James 4:14 says, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." How true that is. Life comes with no guarantee, no warranty card. None of us knows how long we have to live, and every breath, every beat of our heart is a God-given gift.
Most of us live as though we were bullet-proof, as though nothing could happen to us. Oh sure, bad stuff happens to other people but it can't touch us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is a mist, a vapor, like Oregon fog. The more you try to grab onto it the more it slips through your fingers. The more you attempt to put your fingers around it, the more illusive it becomes.
So where am I going with this rambling narrative? Nowhere except to say that all of us need to keep short accounts--with God and with our loved ones. If death should overtake me the way it did that young woman a few days ago I don't want have any "I love yous" left unspoken. If God should call me home I don't want to arrive on Heaven's shore with a red face because of hidden sins in my life that I had been planning to take care of with God but never got a chance. I want to leave here with no regrets and arrive there clean. Does that make sense?
The older I get and the longer I do police chaplaincy the easier it becomes for me to tell people I love them. I don't want to miss a single opportunity because I just might not get another one. And I think I'm doing better at staying in touch with the Lord too. Heaven doesn't seem far away to me anymore, like it did when I was a kid. Since my folks died and went to be with Jesus, Heaven seems very near.
I don't know if that young woman knew the Lord. I sure hope so.
Friday, April 11, 2008
This week I said goodbye to my parents, yet again. As many of you know, my mom went to be with the Lord on August 1, 2005 and my dad joined her on May 26, 2006. In their Living Trust I was named their successor trustee and given the responsibility of finalizing their affairs after their deaths. I had known for years that I would one day be faced with this task but I did not know that it would affect my emotions as deeply as it has.
After Dad died, my sister, Janis, and I began the painful job of going through the folks' house in Vancouver and making the thousands of decisions about how to dispose of their belongings. That took us months and cost us many tears. Then, after the house was finally empty, we began the long project of remodeling and preparing the house for sale. Again, that took months and countless hours of labor. And all during that time I could feel the folks' presence in that house because of all the happy hours we spent with them there.
So on Wednesday after signing the final papers for the sale of the house I drove over there for the last time to pick up a lamp that I had left there, and to do a final walk-through to make sure that everything was in order for the new owners. However, I was not prepared for the emotional impact that last visit to their house would make on me. As I walked through the house, room by room, I could see my mom and dad there. I could visualize their furniture and see my mom's beautiful things sitting all around. Even though the rooms were empty, in my mind's eye I could see Dad's desk and his books lining the shelves. I could hear their voices. In the dining room I could see the big table where we shared many meals together and spent hours afterward playing "Chicken-foot" or "Ten-thousand." I could see Mom's chair where she spent hours reading or studying God's Word and praying.
There is an old Gospel song that says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in this world anymore." I find that as I get older and have to keep saying goodbye to people I love, my ties to this world and present life become more tenuous. Though I do not consider myself to be "old," yet when I do the math I start to realize that I know more people in Heaven than I do down here. When I was younger I had absolutely no interest in Heaven. Oh sure, I wanted to go there eventually and knew that Christ was preparing a place for me there, but I didn't give much thought to it. Now I find myself thinking about it a lot, wondering what it will be like, and looking forward not only to seeing the Lord but also to seeing some people that I miss a great deal.
There is a verse that has intrigued me for a long time. It is found in Ecclesiastes 3:11 and it says, "He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." That phrase, "He has set eternity in the hearts of men," is the part that especially fascinates me. What does it mean? To me it says that God has given me, as His child, an eternal perspective and a divinely given homesickness for Heaven. As a new creation in Christ I now have a personal relationship with the eternal Creator God of the universe. I am an eternal being who will spend eternity with Him. The better I get to know Him, the more my mind focuses on eternal things rather than temporal things. The older I get the more I become aware that all that separates this life from eternity is a thin veil, one breath, one heartbeat. In fact, eternity is very near to us, no matter how old we are. We are never more than a heartbeat away from eternity. For those of us who know the Lord Jesus, that thought should be a great comfort. For those who do not know Him and have not made provision for where they will spend eternity, that thought must be frightening indeed. I hope all of you have eternity set in your hearts too, like I do.
Crazy for Heaven,
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I have not written for quite a while because I have been a bit under the weather, as the old saying goes. Somehow I managed to hurt my back two weeks ago, resulting in a badly ruptured disk between the L4 and L5 vertebrae. It has been an unpleasant ride, let me tell you. For a few days the pain was so intense that I could not sit, walk, stand, or even lie down without experiencing white-knuckle, teary-eyed, bad-words kind of pain. However, praise the Lord, since Monday I have been feeling much better. I'm finally off the brain-fog inducing pain meds and am able to function almost normally, thanks to those wonderful modern pharmaceuticals and answered prayer. After a week at home recouperating I came back to work on Monday to be greeted with an enormous pile of junk mail and my inbox jammed full of emails. It is amazing how quickly that stuff piles up.
I'm not telling you this to elicit sympathy; rather, just letting you know where I've been and why I've neglected the blog. Heaven knows, I'm not the only one around with back pain. I have discovered that it is a very common ailment, and many people have it much worse than I. However, being laid up like this has given me extra time to think and wrestle with the questions we all have when we are in pain; namely, "Why me, Lord? Don't You know that I have too many things on my plate to accomplish for You to sit around home waiting for my back to heal up?"
Obviously, patience is not one of the virtues I possess. I hate feeling useless. I hate waiting. I hate going to the doctor. I hate using my father's cane just to walk across the room. I hate not being able to drive because I am doped up on pain killers. Do you get my point? I don't know how to suffer gracefully. Please pray for me to mature in this area of my Christian life and to not be so performance-driven abd goal-oriented that I fail to see the greater fruit that God wants to produce in me through this little taste of suffering.
When I was thinking about my not being able to sit, walk, or stand because of the pain in my back and hip, I was reminded of a little book by Watchman Nee entitled, Sit, Walk, Stand a study of the Epistle to the Ephesians. In it he looks at these three little words and how Paul uses them in his letter to the Ephesian church.
SIT (Our position in Christ)--We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
("But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:4-7)
WALK (Our life in the world)-- We are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling ("I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Eph. 4:1)
- We are to walk in LOVE: "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Eph. 5:1
- We are to walk in LIGHT: "For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." Eph. 5:8
- We are to walk in WISDOM: "Therefore, be careful how you walk--not as unwise men but as wise." Eph. 5:15
("Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." Eph. 6:10-11)
That's what it's all about. We have to keep remembering that from God's perspective we are already seated with Christ in Heaven. That knowledge gives us confidence to walk in faith and obedience until He comes back to take us home, and gives us the courage we need to take our stand daily against the nefarious schemes of the devil and the flesh.
Monday, March 24, 2008
One of my favorite places to visit is Washington D.C. It is an amazing place. History is all around you. Everywhere you look there are interesting things to see. All of the federal buildings have free tours—the White House, the Pentagon, the FBI Building, the Capitol, etc. Then of course there are the various memorials—the Jefferson, the Lincoln, the WWII, the Vietnam Memorial—all of which are educational and very impressive. But best of all, the Smithsonian Institution complex is there, and all of their museums have free admission. A person could easily spend two weeks in Washington and still not even begin to take in all there is to see and enjoy. I’ve been there three times and hope to go back again someday.
One of my favorite exhibits is located in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It’s their mineralogy and gem collection. They have an incredible collection of stones and minerals, many displayed under “black light” to show their fascinating phosphorescent qualities. But they also have a breathtaking exhibit of jewelry, some of the world’s most famous and beautiful pieces, including the 44.5 carat “Hope Blue Diamond”. They are all displayed in high-security cases, behind shatterproof glass. And there are guards and cameras all around. But they let you get right up close to examine the jewelry.
One thing I have learned—it’s not about the setting but about the stone in the middle. The gold or silver setting is there to draw the eye to the masterpiece in the middle. It is there to enhance the central gem and make it more noticeable. In each case the setting is gorgeous, but it is the jewel in the middle that takes the breath away.
In the same way, the Christian message has a central focus, a precious core, a jewel in the middle. That jewel is the literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the heart of the Gospel. It is the keystone of the arch of our faith. It is the central pillar that supports the whole weight of Christian theology. Without the resurrection we would have no hope of Heaven, no Christianity, and certainly no reason to celebrate on Easter. For this reason, critics, atheists, scoffers, and the devil himself have long understood the importance of the resurrection and have done everything possible to attack it, but to no avail. The resurrection of Jesus is an historic fact, witnessed by hundreds of people and described in writing by many. So certain of the veracity of the resurrection were the early Christians that thousands of them chose death rather than recant their faith in the Risen Christ.
The life and teachings of Jesus are amazing. His sinless life of kindness and selfless serving provide us with a beautiful example of how we should live with one another. His teachings inspire us and thrill our souls. The miracles He performed served as signposts to prove that He was exactly who He claimed to be—the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world. But without the resurrection, all His claims and promises would fall to the ground. He stated repeatedly, and in clear terms, that after being crucified He would rise from the grave on the third day. The disciples heard Him say that. The Jewish religious leaders heard Him say that. The multitudes heard Him say that. If he had failed to rise from the grave, everything else He said could be discounted. It was all on the line on that Easter Sunday morning.
When you stop to think about it, to foretell His own death would not have been that hard, because everyone knew that the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Him. To guess that going to Jerusalem could likely get Him killed didn’t require the services of a fortuneteller. Jesus knew exactly which buttons to push to get Himself killed. However, to predict the exact method of His death and all of the details surrounding it would be statistically impossible. Yet He got every detail 100% correct. It all played out exactly as He said it would.
The physical resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is what makes Christianity unique among all the world’s religions. No other religion makes the unashamed claim that it’s leader rose from the grave—that he was dead, and is now alive again.
Just like with the dunk-tank at the fair, scoffers fling fast-ball potshots at the resurrection of Jesus, hoping to sink the whole body of Christian theology and silence the messengers as well as the message. But praise God, Jesus rose from the tomb on the third day, just as He said. He rose victorious over sin, death, and the grave. The resurrection did happen! Jesus is alive! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Celebrating His Resurrection,
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I haven't written for a while because I have been living in the Stone Age. Well... that may be an exaggeration. Let's say I went back in time and have been living in the 1960's. As a result of our office remodel project here at the church we had to rewire the whole system--phones, Internet, network, etc.--the whole shebang. That put us out of touch with the outside world for quite a while. Of course, I still had my cell phone, my only link with civilization for those days. But it was a good reminder of how much we have come to depend on all of these stupid gizmos.
All of that to say that I'm back. My IT friend, Art Bowers, got us all up and running again yesterday. Hurrah! The office project is not completed but at least we now back on the air, as they say in radio.
I have my plate full today, trying to finish things up for our Resurrection Celebration Service tomorrow morning, so I don't have time to write much. But I do want to wish you a blessed Easter. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith and theology. It is the doctrine upon which every other doctrine hangs. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we have no hope. If He had merely died and stayed in the ground there would be no Christianity. And the apostle Paul says that we would be of all men the most to be pitied because we have believed in a lie. However, Christ is raised, the tomb is empty, and Jesus is alive! Praise God, Jesus did exactly what He said He would do--on the third day He rose victorious over death and the grave. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
In one of the emails that had piled up in my inbox file I just found something that impressed me and moved me to tears. We have just passed the 5-year milepost in our war in Iraq, and we still have many of our courageous young men and women over there trying to give that country a chance at freedom. My crazy friend, Princess Carolyn, sent me this link to a video made by a soldier in Iraq. It is definitely worth watching, and maybe even passing on to some friend, to remind them not to forget to pray for the thousands who have not yet come home. I wish you a blessed and joy-filled Resurrection Sunday. JESUS IS ALIVE!
Crazy about Easter,
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Psalm 8:2 says, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies" (KJV). This verse has given rise to the expression, "Out of the mouths of babes..." The following audio clip is very interesting. Some of you may have already heard it, but it is worth a second listen. Logan, the boy speaking in the clip, is a 13 year-old farm kid who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian radio station 89.3FM, KSBJ, which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan phoned in to the radio station one night to talk to Pastor Mike on his call-in show. The boy was distraught because he'd had to euthanize a calf that he really cared for. From that painful experience he drew some conclusions about life and about God that reveal wisdom beyond his years.
I found it amazing that this little guy could have such insight into the nature of God. In Matthew 18:2-3 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
I hope I never get too "smart," too "wise," or too "spiritual" to learn from children.
Crazy about kids,
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Do you remember the Monty Python show? Or perhaps a better question would be, "Will you admit to ever having watched Monty Python?" Anyway, on that show you would often hear them say, "...And now for something different." The whole show was pretty different, come to think of it. It was certainly an acquired taste.
All that to say that today I am including something different. Here are two clips that made me laugh. The first audio clip is genuine; the second obviously isn't. One is blond for sure; I have my suspicions about the other. And don't send me nasty emails about being meanspirited toward blonds. It's a joke, for crying out loud!
Actual 911 Call... http://www.divshare.com/download/4002156-ef4
BlondStar Emergency Call
Crazy as a loon, but a happy loon
Friday, March 7, 2008
For the past few Sundays I've been preaching a series on the life of Samuel, one of my all-time favorite heroes from the Bible. The last time he made a personal appearance is recorded in I Samuel 28 when God allowed him to be brought back from Paradise to pronounce imminent judgment on King Saul for his rebellion and disobedience.
But that got me to thinking. What if the apostle Paul could come back from Heaven for just a few days to walk around and check out our 2008 world? What would he say about the state of Christendom, especially in this country? I think that he would be totally blown away by the number of people who claim to be Christians yet bear no resemblance to Christ. I think he would marvel at the insipid shallowness of the preaching in many so-called Christian churches. I think he would be very offended by all the people wearing crosses around their necks and from their earlobes while they go out and live like the devil. I think he would be confused and troubled by the Christianity Lite that we have come to accept and expect.
Coke Lite. It looks the same, smells the same, weighs the same, but lacks authenticity--nasty stuff. Bud Lite. It has the same color, it's called beer, but it is defined exactly by what it lacks--calories. Christianity Lite. It has the trapping of Christianity, some of the teachings, but it is not the real thing. Rather, it is a cheap knockoff, a counterfeit, a carefully devised substitute.
Paul, in I Timothy 4 warns us: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth."
Then in II Timothy 3 Paul elaborates even more on what it will be like in the last days: "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these."
"Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." That is Christianity Lite, and we are swimming in it. It is Christianity without the cross, original sin, Satan, blood, hell, eternal damnation, guilt, etc. - you know, all the stuff that makes people feel queasy. It is a kinder, gentler, more user-friendly brand of Christianity that offends almost no one. EXCEPT OF COURSE FOR JESUS, AND ANYBODY WHO HAS EVER READ HIS BIBLE!
You can't take the cross out of Christianity and expect to have anything left. The cross is central in the story of redemption because sin is central in human history. We are all sinners by nature and by choice and are all racing headlong toward Hell's Canyon, and I'm not talking about the one out east of here. Sin carries consequences and God knew that the cross was necessary if any of us was ever to have a chance to avoid the inevitable destruction we were all headed toward.
But the cross is not pretty—it is an instrument of death. Half the Hollywood actors and starlets along with millions of other people wear it as jewelry as though it were an amulet, a good luck charm. But think about it... why don't we wear little miniature golden gallows, or electric chairs, or gas chambers? The cross was never meant to be a decoration, especially for lukewarm Lite Christians.
I love the following words by A. W. Tozer. He says it so beautifully.
The cross is the symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of the human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck swift and hard and when it had finished its work the man was no more. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of man is false to the Bible and cruel to the soul of the hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world. It intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our life up on to a higher plane. We leave it at a cross. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die. That is the beginning of the Gospel (A.W. Tozer).
Most of us in this country have been marinating in Christianity Lite for so long that we aren't really sure what the real thing would look like. I'm talking about the kind of Christianity that rocked the 1st Century, that changed whole cities by the power of the Gospel, that raised people off their sick beds, that caused prostitutes and IRS agents to fall to their knees in repentance before God, that made the demons cringe when Spirit-filled Christians walked by. I'm really sick of Christianity Lite--in me, in you, in our churches, in all of us. I hope I live long enough to see this city rocked by the real thing.
Tired of the fake, crazy for the real thing,
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Many of you know that our second son, Chris "The Professor" Wilson is a professional mixed martial arts fighter. (For more information about him check out the link on this page to his website.)
This past Saturday night, March 1st, he fought arguably the toughest opponent of his career up until now. He went up against Jon Fitch, a highly publicized welterweight fighter (170 lbs.), in UFC 82, "Pride of a Champion." The fight was on pay-per-view and was broadcast all around the world. Chris fought very well and the fight went the distance, which meant that the winner had to be determined by the judges. Contrary to our opinion of how it should have turned out, the judges awarded the fight to Jon Fitch.
That night we had a house full of friends and relatives all glued to the wide-screen TV set, eating Papa Murphy's Pizza and shouting like crazed lunatics. I bit the bullet and ordered the pay-per-view feed in High Definition for $54.95. Now you know I'm crazy! We felt every blow landed, all the way from Columbus, Ohio.
As you can imagine, we were hoping that Chris would win the bout. It would have been great for his career and a fun upset because he was clearly considered the underdog. Chris took the fight at short notice because the UFC promoters were having trouble finding anyone else who had the nerve to meet Fitch in the ring. Chris' name is not yet well-known to fans east of the Rockies, but we knew that this fight would change all that, win, lose, or draw. We knew that no matter how the fight turned out his name would suddenly be known by millions of people around the world because of the wide television coverage of this competition. And that is exactly what happened.
Chris flew back home to Portland on Sunday afternoon. I called him up about 6PM, and he was feeling discouraged about the outcome of the fight. He really wanted to win it and was disappointed with his own performance. Like many of us, he struggles with perfectionist tendencies and is often his own worst critic. I tried to encourage and let him know that he had done a great job, and that we were all very proud of his performance, his courage, and his sportsmanship. I think it helped a little.
Today as I was thinking about Chris and my other two kids, Jonathan and Simoni, I got to thinking about the fact that in my mind all three of them are champions, win, lose, or draw. My love and appreciation for them is not based on whether or not they achieve "success" according to the world's measuring stick. Their value to me is not based on image or performance, but upon relationship. They are my kids and I love them dearly--win, lose, or draw.
That's how God feels about His kids too. He loves us unconditionally. He wants us to win in life's battles and He has given us the tools we need to do that, but His love toward us is not affected by how many bouts we win or lose.
Every child of God has played the prodigal at one time or another and has brought tears to the Father's eyes. I certainly have. Moreover, I occasionally brought tears to the eyes of my parents. Yet their love for me never wavered. My three children have all caused me some anxious moments and gray hairs, but when I look at them my dad smile starts deep down inside me and makes its way clear up to my face, because in my book they are winners--win, lose, or draw. They are my kids and I love them.
God's love is like that too. He is not an angry Father, always looking at His children's imperfections, filth, and failures. Instead, He sees us as clean and perfect and complete in Christ. He smiles when He looks at His kids. I hope that thought brightens your day, lifts your chin, and quickens your step.
Crazy, still crazy