Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Sending Me To Time-Out

I know it's time to quit when I get sarcastic, when I treat those who disagree with me scornfully. Politics does that to me like no other topic and lately I've been drawn to it like a moth to flame. So I'm going to retreat to scripture and the quest for the harvest, really, we'll all benefit from me stepping out of the debate. You won't get lambasted for being a wing nut (SEE?) and I won't spend quite so much time feeling smug and superior.
The truth is this is already settled, Revelation is quite clear on what's coming, so why am I getting all exercised? There are souls to be saved and I'm wanting badly to be a part of that, not some running skirmish with birthers. It's not that government isn't important, that there aren't great issues that need solving and I'm glad that there are people willing to step up and debate those matters.
My heart is calling me elsewhere, that doesn't make me superior to anyone, all it says is "My heart calls me elsewhere." At The Fellowship of the Cup last night we talked about forgiveness, and I felt peace in that atmosphere. Jesus had quite a bit to say about forgiveness and my friends there lifted and edified my spirit. I don't get that when I'm immersed in political debate. And that says more about me than it speaks to the nature of political debate.
So you guys handle it without me, I add nothing but discord to the discussion. By the way, have you read John 1 lately? If you're looking for some peace, read it, you'll be bathed in serenity.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Saddle Up

Luke 24:9-12  When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. 

Don't you just love the Apostles? Cranky, fearful, social climbers, weak of faith? They've just spent three years with Jesus, three years in which they witnessed incredible miracles. Just days earlier He told them precisely what was going to happen....for the third time. Luke 18:31-33  Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him. On the third day He will rise again.”

 And when the women tell them what they've seen they did not believe them. I love these guys. They were  to become world changers and martyrs, yet they were men just like me, filled with human weaknesses and character flaws, subject to fears and doubts. How can you not have hope that somehow in all your splendid weakness that God can use you to change the world just like He used the Apostles?

Maybe one of the messages in Luke's depiction of the crucifixion of Christ and it's immediate aftermath is that when God comes calling just saddle up. Whine all you want, experience doubt that you are up to the task, don't believe He means what He says, but saddle up you must or you'll miss the ride of a lifetime. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” -- Soren Kierkegaard 
While I believe that there is a far too harsh view of Christian scholarship in Kierkegaard's comment, there is enough truth there that one should not be able to read it without experiencing a huge sense of discomfort. Are we to interpret Mathew 5,6 or are we to live those chapters? Feed the poor, forgive others, do not judge, love your enemies. These are commands not suggestions, and yet there are great disputes among Christians concerning these things, and many of the disputers provide reams of evidence to prove that Jesus did not mean what He said. Could it be so simple as to just read what was written and add nothing to the text?
Simplicity is too simple for most folks. We have a tendency to massage scripture to fit our own biases rather than to conform our thinking to scripture.
I fall victim to this as often as others. What can I do to relieve this defect in my thinking about scripture? Read the bible again and again, try not to isolate myself from the thoughts of those who do not think in lockstep with me, and pray for discernment. And finally, understand that many of these disputes will not be resolved in this world, and it may very well be that they won't even be important in the world to come. Seeking common ground with other believers about truly important stuff, like the Harvest, can be difficult but worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Revolt of the Scruffy

 Men have not kept God's Word pure; it is God's Word that has kept men pure. We are sadly lost if we ever lose sight of this fact. We need God's Word more than it needs us. The Word of God in the hands of His people is not a dangerous thing!~Author Unknown
There is a strain of thought around that social media such as Facebook have given too much opportunity to mere commoners to weigh in on subjects better left to the religiously credentialed. That an unkempt rabble breeds heresy and must somehow be restrained.
Well that horse is out of the barn. These are the same arguments the religious elite used when the printing press was invented. Now everyone could have a Bible and read for himself the truth. Today everyone has a pulpit if they want one. And once again the elites are screaming foul, "Look at all the heresy" they say. To a certain extent that's true, things are somewhat messy out there on the web. But look at all the blasphemy emanating from seminary graduates and the argument weakens considerably.
It's more about power than theology. When the pulpit controlled the megaphone people could be led like biblical sheep wherever the religious elite wished. They still have the pulpit but there are now millions of megaphones and it's not as easy to maintain power over the flock and that causes a great deal of consternation in some circles.
There has always been weirdness in the church on both sides of the pulpit, Paul was warning against heresy and false teachers and prophets in the New Testament. But there are also thousands of wonderful churches out there doing New Testament ministry. This is not a cry for revolution, but one may be coming anyhow. People have got their megaphones and are willing to use them. Folks are much less accepting of the idea that if a Pastor says it it must be true, and that makes some of our elites uncomfortable. And it turns out that there are a lot of people out there who lack seminary degrees that have forgotten more about scripture and it's relevance to everyday living than some pastors, cocooned behind their pulpits, will ever learn.
However it turns out you can be sure that Jesus will play a role.

Friday, April 15, 2011


 We've all run across them, the ones that hate religion, that believe churches are stuffed with hypocrites, homophobes, right wingers, money grubbers, child molesters, and busybodies. A lot of folks would have us shake the dust off our sandals and move to greener pastures for the Harvest, although just where those pastures are located is somewhat unclear. 
 But just a moment, let's take a closer look at the noisy crowd. It turns out that many of them don't feel that way about Jesus. It's religion they've got a beef with, to them Jesus seems a nice enough fellow. So how to get past the animosity at religion and focus on their openness to Jesus is the question. Is it worth the effort?
 As Theodore Williams said, "We face a humanity that is too precious to neglect. We know a remedy for the ills of the world too wonderful to withhold. We have a Christ too glorious to hide. We have an adventure that is too thrilling to miss"  That's what we're selling, not church. We can begin by not engaging these precious souls where their complaints begin. Remember it's church they loathe not Jesus. "You hate church? No problem, grab some coffee, pull up a chair and let's talk about Jesus." I don't personally buy into their complaints, I just don't feel compelled to win a debate that won't affect their salvation one way or another. Besides, there's enough truth in modern day indictments of the way Christians can conduct themselves as a group that nobody wins, worse yet, no one gets saved.
There are many more church bashers out there than Jesus bashers, so why should we treat them all as lost causes instead of fertile fields? But we're going to have to get up out of our pews to reach them. We're going to have to witness outside of our comfort zones, stop going to every fight we're invited to, and focus on what's really important for salvation. Many of them smoke, use profanity carelessly, wear tattoos, and ride Harleys, they're not your typical pew warmers and may never be, but given a chance could some of them become giants of the faith? Yeah.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Random Stuff

In case you're worried about your ability to pass semi's safely on the interstate, the new Shelby Mustang boasts 800HP for under $100K. Another Ford, the Fusion, can also do 55MPH (the national speed limit), although it's not nearly so cool looking. VROOM, VROOM everybody!! 

Donald Trump is getting a bunch of press lately. Richard Cohen writes on the curious refusal of Donald Trump to shake hands here. And in a real laugher, as he woos evangelicals he sums up his spiritual life to the Christian Post in a way guaranteed to make them shake their heads. ”Well, I go as much as I can. Always on Christmas. Always on Easter. Always when there's a major occasion. And during the Sundays. I'm a Sunday church person. I'll go when I can.”~Donald Trump

In possibly the worst news I've seen all week, the Dairy Queen Double Fudge Cookie Dough Blizzard (Large) weighs in at 1,350 calories, 58 g fat (28 g saturated, 1.5 g trans),133 g sugars. Think how much weight you can lose by only eating two a day. For more toxic fast food deals go here.
Once we truly grasp the message of the New Testament, it is impossible to read the Old Testament again without seeing Christ on every page, in every story, foreshadowed or anticipated in every event and narrative.~Michael HortonMy friend Jim Thorber highly recommends reading "The Bible Jesus Read" by Philip Yancey. That Bible, of course, was the Old Testament.  
Several demonstrators with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood at the corner of 5th Avenue and US41 in Naples Tuesday at lunch time. The demonstrators included someone dressed up as a giant condom. PETA says the demonstration is a reminder that the only way to prevent unwanted pet pregnancies is to spay or neuter your pet. In case you just have to see the video, go here.

And finally....Here's a few bumper stickers I wish I had on my car.
Auntie Em: Hate you, hate Kansas, taking the dog. - Dorothy 
Cleverly Disguised As A Responsible Adult  
Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.
Despite The Cost Of Living, Have You Noticed How It Remains So Popular? 
Do not put a question mark where God put a period. 


Sunday, April 10, 2011


On the way to church this morning I witnessed a squirrel have three near death experiences in the space of five seconds. First he ran out in the path of the car ahead of me, as he tumbled out from beneath the rear bumper into the path of my car he leaped up, darted into oncoming traffic, barely avoided getting hit by a third car, and scampered onto the sidewalk and up a tree. It was breathtaking.
I figure there must be some life lessons here, perhaps a metaphor for the miraculous hand of God in our lives, or a melancholy sigh at the seemingly random events that lead to death for some while others escape tragedy. On the other hand it might be as simple as, if you are a squirrel, pick a side of the road and stay there.
Unfortunately for you, I am unwilling to waste a great story on a simple conclusion. I spent twenty one years of my life playing in traffic, getting run over, snapping back from the edge of disaster time and again, only to dart back into traffic at the earliest opportunity. I had plenty of lessons, I just never learned anything. Some folks learn not to play in traffic without having to play in traffic. The school crossing guard tells them it's not safe and they believe him.
It didn't work that way for me. Once the insanity of alcoholism got it's grip on me I was beyond human aid, destined to die drunk unless God intervened. I no longer question why the Good Lord snatched me from the barstool and others were left to die, nor do I question the concept of grace, I'm just grateful I received it.. The thing about grace, is while it's an unmerited gift, it comes with responsibilities.  Jesus has expectations about what we are to do with our lives once saved and we ignore those expectations at great risk, maybe not with our salvation, but risk nonetheless.
So I can learn from that squirrel today, I believe I'll pick the Jesus side of the road and stay there.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Heroes and Morons

I've been privileged and deeply humbled the past few years to become friends with a couple of missionaries to Muslim countries. To answer their call they put their lives on the line and they talk about their challenges like you and I talk about long lines at Wal-Mart. I am not worthy to carry their Bibles.
I mention this because I recently saw a news clip of Terry Jones, Florida's Quran burning moron. He was bragging about all the death threats he's been receiving and during the interview he displayed the gun he carries. I couldn't help reflecting on the profound difference between the heroes of the faith I've met and the deadly child's play of a moron acting out cops and robbers drama from the safety of central Florida while dozens die in the Middle East riots incited by his hatred.
Terry Jones 15 minutes of fame will soon fade, although the grief will linger for years in the families of those slain by thugs and preachers. But the effects produced by my missionary friends, laboring for the Lord in some of the most hostile environments on the planet for Christians, will live on in eternity. Souls are being saved, Christ's love is being delivered to people who desperately need to find rest in the Spirit, and we can all be grateful that in a world full of morons, heroes walk the earth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Do We Really Need Another Church Here? Part 3

Those that believe the traditional church is no longer relevant are simply wrong. Traditional churches needn't stop doing what they do. There are wonderful churches all across this great land serving the Kingdom with distinction, and providing their community of believers with all their spiritual needs. But there is a segment of the population that believes that church IS irrelevant, and they need to be addressed in ways that traditional churches can’t.
When we hear from someone, "Church stinks, religion is a joke, Christians are hypocrites." we shouldn't be content to conclude "Well we did what we could, let's move on." Nor is changing the way we do church to accommodate the needs of those whose view of faith based institutions is skewed by prejudice or harms real or imagined particularly wise. We should recognize that for those who dislike religion, their beef is usually not with Christ. They like Christ, they just don't care for Christians. So when we encounter that attitude, many times the "battle" is halfway won, we just need to stop arguing about church and start witnessing for Christ.


The church is not four walls, a Pastor, and a choir, it's a community of believers wherein faith can grow through mutual encouragement, where fellow believers can pool  resources for the good of the community, and a resource for spreading the good news of salvation at home and around the world. Millions find that community in a traditional church.
How to build a community of believers for those millions who simply will not consider a traditional church but are open to the idea of Christ is the next great mission field here in America. It will probably come to fruition in ways that discard the hierarchical structure of traditional churches, that gives real responsibility to laypeople and new believers, that regards Christian service to the community as more important than sermons and songs.
And it will likely drive the elites of the traditional church nuts. It will be chaotic, there will be heresies spoken, men and women without seminary training will lead others, blind alleys will be followed, and yet souls will be saved. There will be no leaders, only trusted servants. This new movement will not displace traditional churches, but simply reach those that are unreachable by traditional means. In short, it's gonna be a hoot to watch.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Do We Really Need Another Church Here? Part 2

Gandhi was shrewd enough to tell missionaries, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Like Gandhi millions have been unable to see the Christ obscured by Christianity. 

It matters little in terms of the Harvest whether they or right or wrong, the simple fact is that millions of Americans are positively disposed to Jesus. Christians? Not so much.  For those millions, if it says church they want no part of it. We waste millions of dollars and man-hours every year trying to lure these people into church when what we should be doing is going to them.

The message of Christ needs little if any of the trappings of a traditional church setting to be effective. 
In 2010, believing that there were tens of thousands in our community seeking answers to the uncertainty and fear gripping them, that were open to the message of Jesus, yet would not consider darkening the doors of a church, we began an outreach called The Fellowship of the Cup ( 

Meeting at open air coffee shops, we invited friends, acquaintances, strangers, and neighbors to a scripture discussion group. Each week a member of the group selects a  favorite passage from scripture and we then talk about what that passage means in our lives at home, work, in traffic, and in our relationships with others. The results have been astonishing. Folks who 6 months ago thought Christianity was little more than one nice philosophy among many, are striving to figure out how they can become better examples to others of Christ- like living.

 Here is what we have learned. We know that people cynical and disdainful about church will embrace Jesus and scripture when He’s presented with love and respect for their viewpoints outside of a traditional church setting. We have learned that the patient application of love and scripture changes people, that not all salvations are a onetime cataclysmic upheaval of the spirit, that some salvations occur over time, and that new believers are our greatest resource.