Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Revenge of the Pastors' Wives

Hello crazy people,

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

It is my honor to present to you... Jesus Christ!

Hello friends,

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 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

Beijing Or Bust!

Hello Crazy Friends,

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,