Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hard Side of Christmas

                                                The Hard Side of Christmas

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept....on the poplar trees we hung our harps... our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy...How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?    Psalm 137

We all entered that foreign land when we tried to worship the Sunday after the Newtown killing of the innocents. I personally made it through the the first song but when we started to sing "Joy to the World" I lost it. How could I sing 'Joy to the World' when the world is in such a state of lostness, anger, and sinfulness that innocent little kids become its victims? So we prayed, we cried, we tried to sing, and wondered 'why.' This Christmas season has a hard side.

They all have. From the moment of the announcment of Mary's pregancy hard things show up. Fear, confusion, thoughts of divorce, scandal, wearying trips, no room, rough wood mangers, run-for-your-life escapes to Egypt, Bethlehem's own slaughter of the innocents. We have painted our Christmases with sweetness and light, mirth and merriment, joy and love. Do not lose in the hard side of Christmas these truths. But the truth is, it was on account of the hard things, the sinfulful, the lost, the rebellious things that God sent forth his son. He came to save us because we needed saving.

Not everyone has gotten the message.

The nation is now in a dialogue about how to fix us. Gun control? Better more accessible help for the mentally ill? Let teachers carry guns in school? Ban violent video games? Might I suggest that although these discussions need to take place they won't fix us. How many children have to die, how many Aurora's have to take place, how many Amish killings, how many 9-11's, before we realize the problems run deeper than policies and programs? Our problems at their root are spiritual. We need forgiving, we need cleansing from sin, we need the power of grace, we need the purpose God has for our lives, we need a relationship with the God who created us. We need salvation and all the hope, peace, joy, love, justice, and promise of heaven that it brings. And the good news is we have a Savior.

But the angel said to them, "do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the otwn of David, a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord..." Luke 2:10-11

Keep spreading the word and living its truths.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Growing Christmas (part II)

                                                       Hard Side of Christmas (Part 2)

The Sckillet put the steaming cup to his lips. It took in the aroma and put the frothy cappuccino to its newly acquired lips. "These human pests have no idea how good they have it," it thought. The master had allowed him one day a year to investigate his strategy for growing Christmas beyond and away from its true meaning. On this one day a year during the Christmas season it was given the ability to take on human form and walk the earth. The master used this strategy often but usually it meant sending a demon masquerading as an angel of light. The Sckillet was no angel and there was nothing "light" about it. It enjoyed the day, as much as any Hell-trapped, paranoid, devious, lonely, lost, and tortured thing could, at least. It had come onto earth through the centuries to many places. Always looking to improve on ways to blind humans to Christmas or just admiring its handiwork. Today, in the twenty-first century since the master had given it power to mislead and move Christmas away from the Enemy, it was a day to admire and allow itself a little pleasure that the master never would. So this morning it was in the USA, a place called Southlake Town Center at the Starbucks on the corner of the main street of the shopping center. Tonight it was a short flight via mental transport to Bob's Chop House in Dallas. It was enjoying the cappuccino but really looked forward to the single malt scotch and the two-inch fillet tonight. Watching the coffee drinkers, the cars, the shopping, the constant moving and hearing the laughter, the thought "what a waste all this is on humans," kept oozing through its mind. But it thought that overall, the plan worked grandly.

At that moment it felt a sensation it didn't understand at first. Human bodies had functions and feelings that were often wonderful but also bothersome to the demon. It had not felt this sensation before. It caused the hair on the back of its neck to bristle. Little chill bumps formed on its arms and face. It didn't like the feeling, it liked less the voice it heard next. "Enjoying your vacation, Mr Sckillet?" whispered the voice. It was the master's. He, too, took on a human disguise. "Er, no master, er, just, ah, trying to blend in and observe." "Humph, no doubt, Mr. Sckillet. No doubt. So tell me Mr. Sckillet, what is your assessment of your endeavors these 21 centuries?"

"Master, I am pleased to present for your viewing some of our greatest triumph's here in the Western, 'civilized' world. The earthlings here spend with no thoughts of the Enemy. They shop, move, sing, hustle, bustle to please each other and give little thought to the Disaster or the Incarnation. Oh, to be sure, some still make the effort at their assemblies called 'church' but they are too tired or too caught up in their traditions to put much thought into their implications. The silly humans have even helped us with their inventions: television, computers, cyber Monday and don't you just love 'black Friday. It's a great counter to the Enemy's 'Good Friday.' Don't you agree?"

"Thank-you, Mr Sckillet, for that fine and self-serving evaluation." The master's sarcasm was obvious as was his displeasure. "Much of what you say is true but you have pushed too hard. The society has moved so far from the meaning of the Incarnation and felt such little peace and joy at all the gifts, baubles, bangles, and busyness of this season that the ones who hold its truth, sing of its joy, and tell of its wonder are beginning to grow more conspicuous by their difference. What you have succeeded in doing is showing the difference in true faith that many have and the lack of it in others.You have grown Christmas alright, you have grown to the point many are now looking for its truth! Explain your way out of this, Mr. Sckillet!"

"Master, we have always been trying to overcome the effects of the Disaster. The Enemy has powers, real powers. He changes hearts. He forgives their sin. We are not omniscient or omnipotent. The Enemy is. He elicits from them worship, love, and service. Even you couldn't see everything He was doing with His Incarnation. We have always been fighting a losing battle.  We only try to wreak as much misery as demonly possible. Our dungeons are filling. Since the Disaster we've known our days were numbered..."

The little impish demon had gone too far and it knew it.
"It's ironic you mention days being numbered,'' the master growled lowly. With that, the hair on the back of its neck stood up again and the chill bumps returned. In an instance, it was gone.

Later that afternoon, the master burped up the Sckillet's cell phone. It rang. The master answered it. "Yesss..."
"Hello, this is the maitre d' at Bob's in Dallas calling to confirm your reservation for at eight tonight."
"Sadly, Mr. Sckillet won't make his reservation, no, I won't take it either. I've already eaten.....
no, no Mr. Sckillet isn't sick. Let's just say Mr. Sckillet has moved from the frying pan into the fire."


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Growing Christmas

                                                     Growing Christmas

It had been twelve years since The Disaster. No one in the organization was allowed to refer to it, especially by its real name. But it couldn't be ignored. It happened. It was real. It was The Disaster, so when it needed to be referenced, that was how it was done. The Disaster, period.

Now twelve years later, the effects of it where being felt throughout the organization in a horribly fast acceleration of losses. A special council was called by the Master. Only the top twelve heads of the organization's family would attend. They were known by many names, mostly beginning with the letter "d" to alliterate with the word "dozen." They had no official name, they were just referred to as "the twelve."

They arrived at the meeting to find their places at a perfectly square table with three associates to each side. The master was seen almost magically in front of each group as one side looked above the heads of the side opposite them. Except for the light illuminating from the master's head, and an eerie glow from the participant's eyes, the meeting room was dark. The master hissed his concerns.....

"We have a problem. The Enemy's followers have started to celebrate his becoming flesh. The Disaster was bad enough but now this. Their theologians have started to use the word "incarnation." Their common idiots simply refer to his birth. They are praying, reflecting, and building worship times dedicated to it. Our intel believes with good authority that a whole season will develop around its meaning and will take the name "Christmas."  It must be stopped. This council is called to formulate a plan for the destruction of this "Christmas" horror lest the problems of The Disaster are compounded. Give me your ideas."

The side with the demons of Conquest, Imitation, and False Religion spoke first. "We will use our cloak of deception to eliminate Christmas. We will conquer lands with our deceptions and use false hope in powerful men, politics, and religion to keep their minds blinded."

"That is a good plan," The Master spoke.  "But it is not enough. The Enemy's ways can work around those defenses. Their must be more!"

"Our side has a plan," spoke Power. Power, War, and Vainglory stood up. " Our plan will keep them fighting, killing, and spending their resources to do more fighting and killing. We can even get them to fight in the Enemies name, making them believe that their God is demanding they fight. Their egos will become so large that if they think it, they will think their God put it in their minds. They will always be at war, planning war, training for war, spending for war, recovering from war, seeking the spoils of war and seeking more power to wage war better. They will become either too busy or too bitter to see or believe the Incarnation's true meaning. In time they will worship the power their government has and confuse it with true worship of the Enemy.

"Another  good plan." But we need more...."

"We have more." Into the conversation the side of Famine, Fear, and Despair now entered. "We will use the little pests fears against them. We will build on Conquest and War. We will add famine, fear, and finally hopeless despair. When they are hungry, when they are fearful of not getting food or their way, or their money, they will give up hope and be ripe for the picking. Our Enemy can promise them eternal glory but when their stomach or their egos growl with emptiness they will think His promise is empty. Their "Christmas" will be the last thing on their minds."

"Well done. But I fear these efforts are not sufficient. Our Enemy is not without powers. He meets needs. He heals diseases in His way and time.  He helps them find purpose in their pain. He walks with them in their trials. He opens heaven to them. These notions are good but inadequate..."

"But there is more." A squeaky, effeminate voice was barely heard. "Speak up, you little twerp and remind me why I even put you on this council," boomed the raspy hiss of the master." "Yes, master. Hear my plan." The voice was from a quiet, cunning, manipulative, greedy, grotesque little demon. It was a Sckillet. It was actually above a Power or even a Principality but its work was so secretive that even the other demons didn't know what it was doing. They hated him. Even the master hated him. Of course, he hated everyone and everything. But the Sckillet he especially hated. He believed, rightly so, that the Sckillet would take his throne if possible. But the master also needed it. As horrible as it was, it was very good at evil.

At that point the Sckillet placed a bright red bag on the table. He untied the end and brought out it contents. There was a box, brightly wrapped in colored paper with a bow on top. There was a replica of a little man in  a red suit and white beard. There was a model of buildings, all tied or grown together with pretty paintings and interesting names above their doors. There was a string that contained little glass bulb-light appendages that glowed and blinked. "What in Hell's name are all these trinkets?" roared the master. "These are how we defuse the enemy's little earthlings of the true meaning of His coming to be with them and, and, well, you know The Disaster. We actually let Christmas grow."

"What??? Screamed the eleven. "We must Conquer it, Starve it, Kill it!"

"And we shall by letting it grow from what it is into what it is not. As the enemy transforms their lives, we will quietly be transforming the things that point to that truth in the Incarnation and the Disaster. We will own Christmas by making it about magic not truth. It will be about shopping not serving. It will focus on twinkling lights, when they are invented, instead of the light of the world. We will take good things for the earthlings, like the invention of lights, and use them to confuse them. We will take gifts given to the Enemy by the Wise Men and use their greed to pervert the gesture to giving each other gifts. We will take the story of a jolly saint and use the wonder and imagination of kids urged on by their parents to set their hearts on one called Santa Claus and build a wonder, magical world where they are focus as he brings them gifts. Ha, ha, ha, they will spend so much time, money, energy, and effort on Christmas that their Christ will be lost in it. And then, in one day, it will be over. The greatness of the plan is it is based on fantasy, not reality. It sees the now, and loses the eternal."

The master smiled. "How long will it take?"

"Give me twenty, twenty-one centuries tops. We will own Christmas!" the Sckillet snarled.

And for the only time recorded, Hell filled with laughter.

(getting it back next week)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Love's Clues

                                                  Love's Clues

 And 'poof,' they were gone.
    Were they ever here? I seem to recall an invasion from tiny munchkins from the west, but I'm not sure. Was it a dream? Did grandkids really visit their MiMi and Grandcos or was it just an illusion? I have memories or are those memories faulty, a mind-trick played on grandparents by aching wishes? It seems to have been real but with each passing day I wonder.....

     It had to be real. It just had to be. I learned too much for it to be an illusion. Dreams and visions do not  teach with the accuracy and veracity of grandkids. I learned greatly. I learned: is possible to get a mild concussion from a pillow fight with a 4-year old.
     ... the word is pronounced "pil- low" not "piller." (durn New Mexicans)
     ... the length of time a 15-month old needs to reach the street from your garage is and will always be exactly twice as short as you calculate.
      ...15 month-olds love the strategically placed salad bars scattered around the house, formally known as ivy plants.
     ... 4 year-olds don't need 5 star meals at 4 diamond restaurants. "Macamoni and cheeze" with some angel food cake are enjoyed with more laughter and enthusiasm and provide 10 hours of energy.
    ... 15 month olds forgive and move on better than most Christians, even if you scare the juice out of them by turning on a dust buster too close to their feet.
    ...when 4 year olds help MiMi make macamoni and cheeze by pouring in the ingredients and stirring the pot, it will be the "bestest, greatest", macamoni he ever tasted.
    ...Grandcos' stink at transforming Transformers.
    ....4 year olds can be both exasperated and understanding at Grandcos' lack of transforming skills.
    ...15 month olds can't say much but can learn a few sign language signs like for "more" or "done." My 15 month old was constantly giving me the sign for "more." Grandcos never knew if she meant more food or more hair.
    ....4 year olds will love you even if you can't get passed level 1 of the Amazing Spider Man video game.
    ... a 15 month old can remind you of the sheer wonder of a leaf; the warming hug of a sunbeam on the porch; the beauty of the texture of grass; and a thousand other joys even in tiny things, maybe especially in tiny things.
    ... small ones can see things otherwise missed because they don't mind getting down and low. (we might remember that next time we pray).
    ...15 month olds are very honest. If it tastes bad they spit it out and give the sign for "more" meaning more of something else.
    .... 4 year olds and 15 month olds celebrate the ordinary and the promise of today. They haven't accumulated enough "yesterdays" to weigh their "today" down yet. Reminds me I probably shouldn't try to carry all mine either. Little ones haven't learned to fret too much over tomorrow either, there is too much of today to fill. They instinctively know that their father will take care of tomorrow. So should we all....

    Yeah, they surely were here. I learned too much for it to have been otherwise. But the memory is fading fast. Will they come back? Any hope of a return for new lessons and adventures? I don't need empirical proof, just indications, just some clues offering hope. I learned one other thing: Love always leaves a clue, a reminder, a hope...

"Yes, I Am coming soon." Rev. 22:20
Love always leaves hope. Happy Thanksgiving.........s


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fill in the Blanks

    Well, now we know, Mr. _________ has won the election for president of the United States. This has made many people very sad, many are my friends. This has made just as many happy and these are also my friends. They were friends before the election and I expect them to remain my friends afterwards. The _______ party is celebrating and the ________ party is licking its wounds and beginning to strategize about  the next election. That's a scary thought isn't it?
     Now what, men and women of faith? Do you wallow and whine because ______ didn't win and _______did? Is your response as believers based on _________ being in power or God being in control? What is the Christian response for believers of either party? Is it, should it be different? I don't think so. So what is your mindset and strategy post election? What are you going to do now? I hope the response is similar whether your guy won or lost.
     May I be so bold as to suggest some responses?
     First, discover the source of your confidence or your fears post election. Is your confidence based in ______'s ability to govern? Are your fears fueled because _______ is in power? Believe it or not, this is a theological issue (most are, few know it because we haven't taught our church members to think theologically about issues). Are you, despite ________'s victory confident that God has the ability to run His world and that He sets up the kings and rulers to achieve His ultimate purposes? Yes, some can be bad. Look at Israel's later kings and Judah's kings after Josiah. There were Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Chadians, all used by God to His purpose. So government may be good or bad, the ruler righteous or unrighteous or like most of us a combination, but God still has the ability to take history where He wants it to go. Judgement begins with the family of God (I Peter 4:17-19) so we commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good.  Do you have confidence in that truth?
     Secondly, (these are all siblings btw) what assurance can _______ give you that _______ couldn't now that he has been elected? Could either assure you of good health? Can ______ assure you the kids will turn out all right? Does ________ get a believer the right job or is God more interested in His children's employment? Does your purpose for life now change since the outcome of the election is known? The song got it right a long time ago: Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Our assurance for life and living is not based on the ______ party or the _______ party but on the fact that God is in control. He is in control of your life and  and this nation and His world. Do you have assurance that if He is in control you can rest in His care?
    Thirdly, on whom or what do you depend? Is it possible that God is taking this nation and our lives to a place where we depend on Him and not Wall Street, Pennsylvania Ave, Downing Street, the Las Vegas strip, Sunset Blvd, or Medical Center Ave? Is it possible God so wants us to seek Him and His Kingdom first that He lets everything else crumble a bit until we see and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? In a world that promotes confidence and autonomy of self how dependent are you upon God for your purpose, joy, direction, and resources for life?
     Fourthly, consider what you and I are called to do before, during, and after each election cycle. We are called to speak truth to power. The church speaks truth about salvation to power and those who hold it. We have many believers on both sides of the aisle. We need more. We look to politicians for laws and money and help in our districts. Can they depend on the churches in their districts to pray for their salvation and if they are believers, to pray for their righteous walk, their families, and God's truth to be revealed mightily to them? We speak truth to power not only about salvation but also about ethics and justice. Is our concern in the church how much money is left in our pockets or how much good it does in the world? Every law has an ethical concern and consequence, do we seek to know it and promote Christian ethics? Speak truth to power. We also speak truth to power in a certain way. Scripture says that we are to speak the truth in love. Not in meanness, not in hatred, not in disrespect but in love recognizing that God loves each person, and that includes politicians.
    Our nation has what I call an infused "lostness." Not only has "lostness" become part and parcel of our national fabric, it is so infused, that like all good infusions, you don't realize it. So what do we believers do? We live our imputed righteousness. We demonstrate the love of Christ, the hope of Christ, and the real difference Christ makes in our outlooks, our treatment of our spouses, our children and our world. That difference may never be so striking as it is now and that difference will lead to many witnessing and mission opportunities. Let our attitudes be the same as Jesus.' (Phil. 2:5)
    Finally, take a page from the the Wednesday night bible study on Psalms. Read Ps. 27, 46, 100, 121, 118, and 145-150. In all sorts of circumstances, the Psalmist voiced his praise, made his petitions, screamed his anger and in the end, trusted the sovereignty of God. I would also direct you to Matt Redman's Youtube video called 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) based on Ps. 103. Yes, it is a contemporary Christian song but it's message reminds us that we can have confidence in God's ability to run His world; we have assurance that He is in control and knows what is best; we can learn to be more dependent on His grace and provision;  and we have a great opportunity no matter what to speak the truth in love.
    Elephant, Donkey, or Lamb? How peaceful you are this day shows your choice.

(save and use this essay in four years)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Prayer for Our Nation

Dear Lord, Our Most Merciful God,
Hear our prayer.............

We need you Lord -- how true that is for all times, yet in these times which try men's souls so many have  forgotten we have them. Another election cycle is upon us and we truly thank-you for the privilege we have to choose. Help us choose wisely. We often choose because of the party, we choose with our pocketbook, we choose according to promises and personalities. Please help us choose according to your criteria as best we can discern them. We know you seek justice and fairness so help us seek justice as we choose. We know your are the Prince of Peace, help us seek peace, your peace, as we choose. We know you seek to bless, help us seek to bless others as we choose. We know you seek our hearts, help us choose men and women whose hearts are truly seeking yours.

Your word has graciously warned us that you are not mocked, whatsoever a man sows that also shall he reap.The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Does this truth hold to nations as well? If so, Father, we are reaping what we have sown. We cry out for blessings yet our greed, injustice, immorality, and unfaithfulness cry out louder, "leave us alone!" and you, always respecting our "no" have done just that. Forgive us of our arrogance and lead us out of our ignorance. It sometimes feels as though you have abandoned us,  but not completely. You call by your Spirit to our spirits.  You have great men and women, great churches-large and small-still praising, seeking, preaching, and reaching out in your name. Help us listen first to your truth and your call on our lives. Help us become a people, a nation that you can bless again.

Help us, Father, after these coming elections to learn to speak with each other again. We have lost the ability to speak with one another across the political aisles respectfully largely because we no longer have respect for fellow human beings. We have forgotten that all are made in your image and have inherent value because you love them regardless of their political party. Help restore nobility and civility in our political discourse. May it begin in our homes and around our dinner tables as we pray for those we elect. May our children and neighbors hears us speak respectfully of elected officials. May the battles over policies and programs be argued vigorously but may respect be given to all men made in God's image. May our chief instrument be prayer rather than tricky and misleading emails. May our prayers outnumber out emails ten to one. Would you call for an electronic fast from time to time to seek your Face and your Will in prayer?

We know that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. We have sinned and feel so little disgrace. We have murdered millions in the womb and called it choice. We have decried abortion but too few in your church step up to adopt and care for those who didn't abort and left their care to government  
programs. We have created the ability to create great wealth and kept it for ourselves. We abandoned the sanctity of life and now the sanctity of marriage. We have turned sex, gambling, and entertainment into hundred billion dollar industries and in turn made people a commodity. And then we wonder why our nation and the world is in trouble. We cry out "help!'' and you cry out "repent!" Help us to heed your cry that you may then hear ours.

Thank-you, Father, for your continued presence and guidance. Thank-you that so many people remain faithful to your word and truly seek your will. Thank-you for the opportunities given your church in hard and stressful times to witness to your mercy, care, sovereignty and salvation. Thank-you for your faithful, unending, unlimited, unconditional love. Help us to be faithful in our response to so great a love. And if we will only let you, thank-you for your blessing the United States of America.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yen and Yank

     Last week we looked at how the church can affect and influence our greater culture when our culture in many ways no longer views the church as relevant or having any power to speak to today's people or issues. The theory postulated was that the church still has the same power it always has had: the power of the love of God shown mightily on the cross and demonstrated through the church by the way we love God and each other. This was the first of three A's. The A of adoration. Adore Jesus and when one truly loves someone, it shows. The western world has seen our buildings, heard our preachers, snickered at our squabbles, tasted our programs and turned away. It is high time the lost world sees, hears, tastes, and is touched by the way we love and adore our Savior. This is the power of God whose love turns spiritual rebels into passionate lovers of the King and His Kingdom.
     We now turn our attention to the other two A's. Let's also call them the Yen and Yank. Starting with the yank, this will be the Yank A (sorry 'bout that).  I Thessalonians 5:22 implores us to avoid every kind of evil. There are some things we need to avoid to have the moral standing from which to share Christ. If He creates in us a new heart and if we are indeed new creatures in Christ, it stands to reason that there are unholy, sinful actions and attitudes which must be avoided. We have, in too many cases, stopped talking about sin, maybe as a pendulum swing because there were periods in church history where it seems that's all we talked about. Too many churches and denominations were known for what they were against rather than what they were for. But the truth remains that we are called to a life of holiness and that necessitates a putting off or leaving off of the things connected to the old self, the un-regenerated life. The world is too much with us wrote William Wordsworth and this is true for many in our churches. We have sought the pleasures of the world at the expense of the disciplines needed for righteous living. Developing a group of rules-keeping-modern-day-Pharisees is not the goal. If we move with and toward the first A, adoration, the second A, avoiding, takes its proper place. It is not a strength we lead with but a result of not wanting any thing in our lives that is not consistent with the character of Christ. No casuistry is enlisted. The word of God as applied by the Spirit of Christ to the spirit of believers with an historic perspective of the church will help the saints avoid the dulling effects of sin on their blood-washed lives. The New Testament uses words and phrases like put off, flee, avoid, throw off, and put to death those things that lessen, cheapen, and hinder our growth in maturity and service in the world. ...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.   Hebrews 12: 1 There are things to be avoided. Yank them out of your life.
        Now the third "A." This is the yen, that for which the believer is to yearn. This is the positive to the "yank's" negative. This is what the church Advocates. So what are believers to be advocating? What is the church known for? Matthew 6:33 reminds us to seek the righteousness of the King and His Kingdom first. What will this look like?  Firstly, it will  look like Christ. The churches and individuals believer's character, perspective and passion will look like Jesus'. Secondly, the church's tone and hue will take on the sounds and life-colors of Christ.The believer will advocate by word and deed everything Jesus was all about. He was all over redemption. He craved justice and executed it. He couldn't help but meets needs everywhere he went. He was always generous. He was forgiving, merciful.  He was pro-life, pro-health, pro-earth, pro-people and mostly pro-His Father in heaven.  If someone were to watch you over a period of weeks and hear your conversations, what would they say were your passions? What do you advocate?
      One of the ways the church can still be the church and have the proper kinds of power is to know and show the three A's of Adoration, Advocacy, and Avoidance.  I remember a scene from when the boys were little and were watching a Winnie the Pooh and Tigger show. Things got bad for the duo and they needed help to get out of a well or hole or something. Pooh lamented that if only he could jump up and get out. Tigger said bouncing is what Tiggers do best and he bounced he and Pooh right out. The church isn't finished or powerless or dead. We just need to remember  what we do best: Adore Jesus; Avoid sin; Advocate for all that is of grace and righteousness and justice. We will bounce back just fine.
        Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.    Eph. 1:3

Still trying to make "A's",

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Winning by Losing

     There is  much lament arising from the anguished soul and psyche of Americans these days, maybe especially those of faith. It seems the lid has blown off any restraint, if there ever was one, on immorality, disrespect, and disregard for the upward call to greater civility, greater achievement, and greater exploration of what humanity can and should achieve in and with faith in a sovereign, loving God. With more and more people claiming no church, synagogue or religious preference it is easy to point fingers, cry Jeremiahan tears, scream out for any proposed solution to fix our problems and return us to the good old days. Yet, were we honest with ourselves some of the simple ideas given to fix us won't really work. We can plaster our post offices and court houses with the ten commandments but if 90% of us don't know what they are and we don't live by them at home, at work, or in our society, they won't do a lot of good. Even if we returned "prayer" to the school who would you get to lead it? Today's school teachers have never been in school where it was done, would they lead it? In our pluralistic society where all faiths are welcomed how would you implement it? Muslim prayer on Monday? Trinitarian on Tuesday? Wicca on Wednesday? The problems are so profound and run so deep it is easy on many days to throw up one's hands and vow to give up and quit caring.
      But you can't, at least not for long. You're not made that way. So you look again. How about this...throw up your hands, throw down your knees (figuratively, if not literally for my aged friends), and pray. As you pray remember this: Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16:33
       If this world declares there is no God, therefore we are not made in his image and are further therefore not accountable to him the people of faith in Christ simply remind the world around them that there is, we are, and always will be. Well, how do we do that you ivory-towered preacher in a gated golf community? I propose the same way if I were a mission church pastor on the wrong side of the freeway (been there, too).  We share Christ, show Christ and offer the world an alternative to relativism, license, non-faith, immorality, selfishness, greed, and arrogance. We will show this alternative life-of-faith-in-God by the 3 A's.
        Adoration-- many, in fact, most American still say they believe in God or a "higher" power. Yet, how many truly know Him, love Him.  The church has, and always has had, in wealth or poverty, peace or war, times of spiritual drought or blessing, the call and joy of adoring the living Christ. People say they believe in God, but do they love Him? This was Jesus' question to Peter after the denying debacle at his trial. "Do you love me?" It was also Tevya's question to Golde in Fiddler on the Roof,  after 25 years of routine, struggle, 3 girls and thousands of milkings (dairyman), "do you love me?"  I believe Jesus is still asking we modern day Simon Peter's and Golde's, "do you love me?" Is Jesus so real and so alive to us that he can ask after the routines of living, loving, winning and losing,  "do you love me?" Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments. He also said that the world will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another. We can in the midst of trouble adore Jesus, personally and deeply. We adore him by trusting him with our fears, doubts, and daily needs. We adore him by obeying him. Believers carry his words on our lips,  his mercy in our hearts, and should carry out his commands in our lives. This affects speech, attitudes, spending, giving, and serving.  A heart overflowing with adoration can't help for the most part but do what he wants us to do. And a life that adores Christ with all the heart, soul, mind and strength, will be busy loving those he loves. We adore him in worship on Sunday and we adore him by the way we serve on Monday and every other day.
        It may look like we are losing our place, our prestige, our power as churches in the world. This is probably good. For the church, our place is with the lost and hurting of the world. The only prestige we seek is the glory of our Savior and the only power we are to exert is the power of his redemptive love. It looked like Jesus was losing on good Friday. He was just warming up.
       There is a way to win by losing. It starts with adoration. Do you love him?

(ok, ok, I didn't forget, just thought it was getting long. The next two A's next week......)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

You Can't Go Home Again

     You can't go home again. Thomas Wolfe's character said that in the novel by the same name seventy plus years ago. George Webber, the character in the novel laments that "you can't go back to your family, back home to your childhood...back home to a young man's dreams of fame and of glory...back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time--back home to the escapes of time and memory."
     Maybe he was right, but sometimes we try. I went home again last Friday.
     The occasion was a homecoming football game. I'd seen the mighty Bulldogs play a few times in the playoffs in the 39 years since I'd graduated. But I had not been to a football game in Milford since the fall of 1973. Otis Carter, my friend and classmate now coaches the Bulldogs and sent me an invite. Ann, our associate pastor, also from Milford sent me a schedule.
     So I went home, again, for the first time.
     In many ways Wolfe was right. It was the same Horton Field, named after the first coach Milford had after it decided football was back to stay. He died from a rattlesnake bite the spring after his first year at Milford. He didn't let the Bulldogs compete for the district crown that year as he thought they wouldn't be ready. They won every game. I wonder if many know that story? The streets were the same but the businesses were different. No bank, no grocery store, feed store, two pharmacies, two cafes and five gas stations. No, I can't go home to that hometown again. It was the same streets, and even if the businesses hadn't changed, I had. I see them through eyes that have traveled many years, and that in itself changes how I look at things.
     But I didn't go home to see streets, businesses, and football fields, I went to see people. I found some. They were the same people, with the same names I knew back when, but all had new faces. Oh, the old faces were still there, but they were new faces nonetheless. The stylus of time etches into all our faces the lines of joy and sadness; dreams faded and dreams realized; companionship enjoyed and lonliness endured. Grief and tragedy had painted some faces with their harsh hues. Grace and peace had brightened others. Most of the faces, by this age, had been etched and painted by all of these at one time or another and in varying degrees. So the faces were new, but not completely...........
      I recognized them, mostly. They recognized me, mostly. We helped each other when the name didn't come. We talked of families and grandkids (Janie and Karen have ten grandkids each). I saw the first woman I married. She still had long black hair and I mistook her daughter for her at first. Her husband, the first man I married, hadn't changed much. David and Penny have been married nearly 40 years now. I chuckled that my first wedding, when I knew nothing about what I was doing has lasted the longest. Larry was still funny. Otis is the coach he always was, pouring his life into kids. Karen is still kind. Ken is still a  lanky cowboy. Pinky still has faith and hope. I reminisced with black friends and white friends. We laughed a bit. Then it got quiet. Not much to talk about except the past and that past that was a long time ago.
     In many ways Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again, especially if you are at home with change. Who changed more? Me or Otis? Me or Janie? Me or David or Larry or Karen? How do you measure a life of changes? You can't, you just live them and accept them as a price of living. For the Christian being at home is about change. Christ has changed our destinies. Christ has changed guilt to freedom. Jesus changes fear to hope. He will one day change the pain to joy and in His grace...oh His grace, we can even get a taste of it now and can only imagine what our homecoming will be one day.
      In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye...we shall be changed. (I Cor. 15:51-52 kjv)
     And then, we shall all go home, again.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Weird Values

                                                Weird Values

 I ended last week's article with a set of weird values. I didn't know I would be out weirded. I should have guessed. Some of the weirdness was sick and tragic. Some weirdness was greatly anticipated and seen as newsworthy. Some of the weirdness was comical.

This time last week I didn't know a new species of monkey would be found in the Congo. It totally surprised the researchers. Apparently, the monkey was also surprised to know he hadn't existed before. I also didn't know about a South Korean rapper named Gangman who has launched a dance video that has gotten 20 million YouTube hits in less than a month. It's a cheesy bit that is somewhat reminiscent, they say, of riding a horse. If you ride a horse like that in Texas you could be shot. I also didn't know the new iphone 5 was coming out. It made headlines and has every morning news show giving it time and discussing it's new features. People hadn't figured out iphone 4 yet have they? The greatest feature for Apple is it costs more. A monkey? A horsey video? A phone? It is weird how we react to these "news" items. Much hoopla, much TV time, and a lot of buzz on the internet. The monkey will keep being the monkey he has always been. The horsey dance video will fade when something goofier comes out. The new phone will be the greatest thing since, since the last one came out and until the iphone 6 makes its debut. What do these occurrences say about our values?

On the tragic and sick side of weird is the reaction to a poorly made, poor quality film deriding Mohammad that was made in the US but shown on YouTube in the Middle East. It has caused riots in three countries and apparently caused Al Qaeda to seize the opportunity ( maybe they orchestrated it) and invade a diplomatic outpost in Libya and kill four Americans. Is their god so slight, so vindictive, so sensitive that he would allow his followers to break several commandments to defend his honor from idiots not even present in the places they rioted?  Is there a point where the Majesty, Truth, and Holiness of a god is so high above the idiocy of man that their insults can't reach him? Is he not capable in the last days to bring vengeance to those who actually insult him without harming the innocent?  In Islam, apparently not.

All these news items from the goofy to the heartbreaking say something about the values behind their creation and the values behind the reactions to them. The values in these episodes show fear, anger, vindictiveness, trivia, boredom, arrogance and self-serving pleasure. I've been guilty of all these at one point or another in my life. Which brings me to my ideal list.

The list from last week was : eating; stretching; forgetting; resting; investing. Yes, at first glace that is a weird set of values. Let me explain..........

Eating: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8
           How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103
            Take and eat; this is my body.... Matthew 26:26
           Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise his up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink....he remains in me and I in him.   John 6:54-56

Stretching:  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already become perfect, but I press on the take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining forward (stretching) to what is ahead. Ephesians 3: 12-14
Forgetting: For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12 and Jeremiah 31: 31-34.    (also see above Eph. 3:12-14)
Resting: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you  rest. Matthew 11:28
               A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time....Titus 1:2
                This is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything.  I John 3:19ff
Also Hebrews 4
Investing: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:33-34
                  Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured in your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.   Luke 6: 37-38.
                  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown his people and continue to help them.  Hebrews 6:11

If I wasn't weird, my list of values would contain words like honor, respect, integrity, passion, commitment, truthfulness, kindness, contentment, joy, trust, justice, mercy, and generosity. I can fit each of these into the five categories of values I have chosen. The point is to think, consider, ponder, play with and ultimately assemble your own list and then live the list. I would imagine a great number of people actually live out some great values that they never put into words. Unfortunately, our present coming generations not only need to have the values lived before them, they need to know the words and concepts of what values actually are and from where these values have arisen. Homes, marriages, businesses, governments, and lives are floundering from a lack of values worth living. Rise up o church of God and shine the light of  God's truth on the world around you. Maybe then many will quick living for the next gadget, fad, or worldly promise that comes along and pick the pearl of great value.

Value Added,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Would You Take With You?

                                           What Would You Take With You?

The recent and annual seasons of natural disasters got me to thinking about it. What would I take with me if the authorities told me I had thirty minutes to gather some belongings and evacuate before disaster hit? I suppose I'd gather some important documents like the will, insurance policies, and recipes for home made ice cream and cobbler. Some clothes would be on the list, especially clean underwear (something my mother told me). I'd gather the dogs up and stick them in the back seat. I likely grab the plastic box of family pictures and albums of grandkids pictures. I also make room for the wife and hope her list was shorter, but I doubt it would be. There would always be regrets but I'd be thankful for what I could get and the thirty minutes warning, many never get even that.

The hurricanes, tornadoes, mud slides, earthquakes, and floods can significantly reduce or destroy our valuables in a matter of minutes. But here is a wonderful truth: Nothing can reduce or destroy our values. The values of who we are, what kind of human beings we are stay with us like breath. There become a part of us, recognized by our loved ones and close friends just like they would our face. Values seemed to be under valued these days compared with valuables, the stuff we like a lot. That is a shame. We have increasingly become a people known more for what we have than who we are. That is a shame. One of the reasons that is a shame is that it is a sham. Any hurricane or tornado can take away those things which are not lasting but who and what you are in character lasts and goes with you.

Back in my younger days when I worked with more young people I'd initiate conversations about values. When meeting with younger staff members I'd work it in. In doing pre-marital counseling I'd be direct. In occasionally addressing youth groups or young adults, values where always included somewhere in the teaching, preaching, and discussion. I'd ask questions like what values are sacred to you? I'd ask what values modeled by parents, relatives, teachers, coaches and friends shaped you? In your marriage, at your work, in your home, what values will you share? I'd ask new parents what are the top five values you hope to instill in your children? I got a lot of blank stares, kinda like the looks I get when I preach.

Our nation, our youth, our marriages are starving for an infusion of values. I categorized for my own amusement three areas that are valued by too many segments of our society. We value belonging, bling, and bargains. We want to feel a part of something important, powerful, safe, fun, edgy, or meaningful. People fill this need by joining health clubs, service groups, gangs, shopping networks, and signing up for facebook and twitter. We add houses, jewelry, ithis or ithat, gadgets, trips, clothes, and a dozen other good things. We then value and seek the bargains for the stuff that will make us feel better and help us fit and function in our group better.  But what values do the groups themselves espouse or share? What values are sacred to that group? In too many cases the belonging, the bling, and the bargains propagates self, materialism, and making the group bigger. In the end many people feel more isolated, poor, confused, disillusioned, angry, fearful and cynical about the world and its people. Life can be a vicious circle unless there are lasting, solid values shaping, guiding, guarding and enhancing our lives.

Jesus offered all the belonging, bling, and bargains we will ever need but they are based on true values--the value based on His character, His power, His will, and His kingdom's life. He promised in John 1:12 that as many as received Him, he gave them the right, the power, to become children of God. That's a good family to belong to. In Ephesians 1: 3 Paul declared that Jesus has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Wow, talk about bling! And bargains? Look at Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God---not by works, so that no one can boast. Try and beat that price.

So what values would you take with you if disaster stuck? Since disasters don't happen to us everyday, thankfully, here is a better question:  what values do you hold sacred, allow to shape you, and which ones do you seek to share every day as life strikes? List five or ten for yourself. Write them down and stick them in your Bible. Read them often. Need some help? Look at the ten commandment in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5  as a source. The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 are a huge source. Paul has lists of vices and virtues in nearly every letter he wrote to churches in the New Testament. Take a look at Galatians 5:22, Eph. 6, Philippians 3-4 has some great values listed. Colossians 3 has both positive and negative lists. Take a look at these and others you discover and form your own list. Then you will know what you will take with you when disaster or every day life strikes.

My top five values are as follows: Eating; Stretching; Forgetting; Resting; Investing. Oh, you think I need to explain how those are good values? Oops. Out of space for today........

Value Added,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Boy Named Sue Probably Should

                                   A Boy Named Sue Probably Should

It's one of the first, if not the first things you learn about a person. You might first see their face, assess their smile or the lack of it, or check out the color of their eyes or their overall shape before you hear it. If you are on the phone or being told about another person it is either the first thing you remember or the first thing you forget. It is a person's name.

Names must be important because everyone has one. In the south and southwest they often have two names, just ask Becky Sue or Billy Jack. Even God has a name and when God became flesh and dwelt among men He announced His name to his earthly parents before He was born. You will also notice that God had a habit of changing names of people He encounters. Abram he changes to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Jacob to Israel; even Cephas to Peter. Each name change He gave signified a change of outlook, character, and expectation. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message translation of the Bible, says "naming is a way of hoping. We name a child after someone or some quality that we hope he or she will become---a saint, a hero, an admired ancestor. Some parents name their children trivially after movie stars and millionaires. Harmless? Cute? But we do have a way of taking on the identities that are prescribed for us. Millions live out the superficial sham of the entertainer and the greedy exploitations of the millionaire because, in part, significant people in their lives cast them in a role or fantasized an illusion and failed to hope a human future for them."  A pastor in 16th century England would not "admit vain or idle names" of children at their baptism. He knew a name meant something.

I fear we have forgotten the message contained in a good name. We have settled for labels. Labels are easier   somewhat helpful but too often just lazier. We label people instead of getting to know them. They are republican or democrat. They are Catholic or Baptist, Christian or Muslim. That is a label, not a name. She is a lawyer or businesswoman. Label, not name. He's a jock or a nerd. Label. "Hello, Coach." " How's the Preacher?" "Politician" "Engineer" "Computer Geek'' "Goth" "Gang Banger" "Young" "Old" "Geezer" "Fossil" and then they go down hill and can get nasty. We forget the person, the name, and see a hard-headed old geezer preacher who is a stubborn as a mule or we see a young, arrogant, video playing punk with no manners or goals in life. There was a time when both were about 7 pounds and 21 inches long and their parent (s) named them David. What their parents saw then, God still sees now.

I find it interesting to look at lists of the most popular names of babies. For girls in the US in 2011 the top five (NameLab internet source) were Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Ava, and Emily. A trend toward older names and a slight slant toward a Latin influence is detected. For boys it was Jacob, Mason, William, Jayden, and Noah. ( In England, Mohammad has come in the top 35 for the first time,2011) I find it interesting that on the girls side only a couple of the names were from the Bible, not that I think  too many young parents think of the Bible when naming their kids. On the boys side, seven of the top 20 were "Biblical" names like Jacob, Noah, Matthew, Andrew, and James. I am pretty sure that the bible wasn't consulted because of the name not there. The apostle who wrote most of the new Testament and took the gospel west ( eventually to us) was not in the top 50. "Paul" isn't popular anymore. Apostles and Beatles stars  lose their clout after a while, I guess.

One of the powers that the New Testament church possesses is the naming of persons (apologies to Mr. Tournier).  One can treat people as persons, humans made in God's image, and call them by name.  The church can refuse to label and embrace the humanity of a person by calling their name. We can speak grace to a person by the way we use their name on our tongues,  in face to face encounters and by how we speak of them to others. (That is why the New Testament sees gossip as so insidious.) People in church can speak prophetically to others by attaching to a person and their name solid virtues and values so that when a person sees us, they see themselves as the one we see as encouraging, helpful, servant-hearted, merciful, kind, wise or loving. That kind of prophecy lifts and gives something to live up to. It is about building each other up in love and it begins with a name.  In Acts 4, Joseph, because of his actions, was called Barnabas, son of encouragement. Jesus did this with Cephus, pebble, who he said would be Peter, a rock. Jesus did this with Nathaniel in whom He saw no guile. He did this with John who had the nickname (label) son of thunder. He spoke in to him love and John became the disciple Jesus loved and wrote the epistle of love, I John.

In Revelation 3:17 Jesus tells the saints who hang in and overcome that He will give them "a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."  The white stone was given to slaves who had been freed. It was their "papers" or passport. It often had their free name on it not their old slave name. It was a way in which a troubled church in troubled times was reminded that in Christ they were free from sin and hell and free to live as sons and daughters of the Living God. This kept their spiritual eyes looking up and forward even in the midst of the decay all around them. We need that message today and the world needs that message from the church today. We can share a profound truth of God's love, grace, transformation, and hope with the simple use of a name. What will you call the next person you encounter?


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wishing Prayers

                                                          Wishing Prayers

The bible doesn't say anything about wishes. I wish it did.

The dictionary says a wish is to want; a desire; a longing for something. We all do that. We wish we were there; we wish they were here. We wish we had seen that game, sunk that putt, had one more day of vacation. We wish we had a little more money and maybe a lot more time or vice-versa. We wish we hadn't said that or that they, usually someone we love, hadn't said what they said to us. We wish our kids had better jobs, or better paying jobs, or just had jobs. We wish our daughters hadn't married that kid but sometimes we are later glad they did. We wish we were smarter, thinner, stronger, and nearly anything ending in "er."

When you analyze wishes, and I realize that in itself is probably wrong, you find yourself playing around with reality, its past, and its consequences. That's why wishes are a lot like balloons you fill with you own wind and then release them to watch them fly away for a moment only to make their flapping sound and fall on the floor. Wishes don't change the past, alter circumstances, or make for a brighter future.

When you wish, where does it go? The Disney folks would tell us to wish on a star. Legend tells us we can wish on a shooting star or the evening star if we want them to come true. It seems pretty risky to throw your wants, desires, and longings for better, greater, more wonder in life out in the air like that. There's no telling in our electronic, internet, cloud server days who or what might get hold of it.

I have to confess that when it comes to wants, desires, and longings, well, my prayers may be a lot like wishes. That's probably not a good thing. My prayers contain praise, wonder, confession, and just meditating on the Living God and His awe but a big part of them ask. But, and I'd never tell God this, a lot of times my petitions feel awfully close to wishes. I use the word pray and I pray for Joe Bob's cousin's cancer surgery in Milwaukee to be successful. I pray about people's illnesses, surgeries, and marriages. I pray for people to be saved and some who are to act like it. I pray for a lot of victims these days from war, famine, senseless violence, terrorism and accidents. I pray a lot for my wife, kids  grand kids and family. I try to balance my prayers with just being with the Lord, in His word, praising, thanking and not asking so much. But truthfully, my wants, desires, and longings for people I love and a world gone mad with immorality get away from me and I ask a lot. They sound a lot like wishes. I've never read in the Bible the term wishing prayer and I doubt any theologian would sanction such a prayer, but I don't seem to be able to help myself sometimes and I find myself offering wishing prayers.

What is the difference between wishing and praying? I guess the line is pretty thin at times but one thing I know is this: a wish has really no where to go. It is flung out to stars, genies, and the air. Ahh, but a prayer, a prayer goes somewhere. It flies with the speed of thought to a real Someone who can hear, discern, and in His way and time, answer. Prayers are longings, desires, wants, and hopes grounded in His reality and given to the God who Himself gives us the ability to hope, dream and desire. He doesn't change the past with our prayers but can change our futures ( I was once going to hell, but Jesus changed that), sometimes He changes our present circumstances but most often He changes us to be able to meet our circumstances with His love, endurance, wisdom, patience, and joy.

I will probably keep offering wishing prayers. I figure God can sort them out better than I can anyway. Maybe a prayer is a wish that knows wheres its going and Who will receive it.

The Bible doesn't say anything about wishes, that doesn't keep me from praying.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Peril of Peaking Early

                                                    The Perils of Peaking Early

I have always loved the Olympics, especially the summer games. My earliest recollection of the games were the 1960 Rome Olympics. I could read just a little. There were grainy pictures on the television I suppose but I don't remember them. I remember the pictures in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and my dad explaining the Olympics to me. The 1964 Tokyo games had more tv coverage and I could read better by then. Most of the events I watched were not live but films shown later. I remember Bob Hays  and his bobble-head running style and hardly any one being in the same frame with him because he was so far ahead. I had a vague sense of the rivalry with Russia that grew with the cold war.

I don't know if it is my age or the ugly part of human nature that seems to seek out villains so we will feel better about ourselves or our position, but I miss the cold war rivalry with the commies. With every race, throw, jump, or game, it was as if our way of life in a free democracy was being confirmed every time we won. If we lost the commies cheated with drugs, paid athletes, and sympathetic iron curtain officials whose families were probably held captive until they helped the commies win.(Proof--1972 men's basketball) Of course, we still have Communist nations, mainly China, at the Olympics but since they hold the mortgage on America we can't whine too much lest they foreclose.

These Olympics have also shown what a competitive disadvantage the USA has in the "backyard" sports. With the exception of beach volleyball and one skeet shooter, the US has been getting their butt kicked. "Backyard" sports? Those are the games we usually play in the backyard for fun. (Remember, I grew up on a farm  and we literally shot shotguns in the backyard.) Ping pong--China.  Trampoline--China, Russia.  BB gun shooting--China, Romania. Bow and Arrow---Korea, Italy (we did get a silver in one archery contest) What we will have to do is what we did with the winter Olympics. The USA was pretty bad at those until we combined some sports and got them into the Olympics. We combined snow, snowboarders, and really crazy kids and created snowboarding half-pipe, snowboarding downhill racing, skiing and twisting and dancing in the air and got those in the winter games. Since we have lots of crazy kids that had learned to creatively fall off mountains we excel at those sports. We will need to do the same for the backyard sports in the summer.

If we had a sport that combined bb gun, trampoline and skeet shooting we might do well. You could fix targets to the trampoline guys and shoot the targets as they jumped and twisted. More points if you hit the target while he's twisting and turning. Of course, if you shot out an eye you would be disqualified and be forced to watch "The Chrsitmas Story" every Christmas until the next Olympics. I'm still working on the rules for putting ping pong and bow and arrow together. I'd like to get the ribbon twirlers in here somewhere since I never understood that as being a sport anyway. Durn commies did that better too. I think maybe putting it with synchronized swimming and sharks might be interesting.

I will watch the last week of the Olympics and enjoy the contests but I'm not emotionally invested or attached like I used to be. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat aren't felt in sport for me like they were when I was 20, 30, or even 40. For the most part, excellence in sport comes early in life. A gymnast is old at 20. A sprinter is done by 30. A basketball player is ancient at 38. Even gentle golf has to have an old man's tour for those over 50. What do you do when you have dedicated most of your life, all of your energy of mind and soul to your sport or business for that matter? What do you do when you peak at 16, or 26, or 36? Even if you are one of one percent who made a lot of money at it, what is the next 50 or 60 years of life about for you? I knew, briefly, the world champion shot putter. You don't know his name. After he set the record he mentioned in an article a feeling of emptiness that overcame him. "Is that it?" he asked. If what we do doesn't fill that God-shaped hole in our soul then we will ask after every achievement, '' is that it?"

...but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do : Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."     Philippians 3:12-14

Not yet peaked,

PS: I wonder what anthem heaven plays when we receive the prize and the crown? I like to hear your suggestions...........

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Broken Heart

                                                   A Broken Heart

He wasn't entirely old by working world standards, about 62, but in ministry terms he felt 90. He drove over to the next town twenty-five miles away to be alone and not be recognized by any church members. Besides that little town had a neat park with a little lake and at 42 degrees that afternoon the chances were he'd have a park bench, if not the lake, to himself. It was a bit dumb, at least he felt that way, but he wanted to get cold and shiver and feel, feel anything even if it was pain for a while. That would surely beat this numbing pall and depression that had settled over him.

He found a bench and found himself alone with his pity. He was a few hours from standing before his elder board and announcing he was quitting. After thirty eight years in various forms of ministry he was finished, tired, worn out. It was over. He thought the thought of quitting would bother him, scare him, saddened him. It hadn't. He was worried about finances a little but not much else. That fact alone, that the idea that quitting hadn't bothered him much bothered him most. So here he was, alone, thinking, praying, wondering, seeking and trying to hurt.

He hadn't noticed a man had come right up behind him. He about jumped out of his wits when the man spoke..."it's a bit brisk isn't it? I kind of like it. This cold wind makes me feel alive and invigorated. And this is my favorite bench too, mind if I sit here a bit with you?" Before the old pastor could speak his new bench guest was down beside him. He wanted to protest. He wanted to leave. But he was a pastor, he had been trained to tolerate, stay, listen, like a good dog. He was paid to be nice. The meanest thing he could muster was silence. The way the stranger had started off, he was afraid that the intruder would start chatting. He didn't. He sat silent. The old pastor noticed the man was younger, maybe early thirties, thin. He seemed thoughtful and if there is such a thing as a gentle demeanor, he had it. Yes, he felt he'd been invaded, but the invader wasn't aggressive, thankfully.

After being quiet a while, the younger man spoke. "I love lakes...come to them often... the sound...the rhythm, they have a healing touch for me. I've not seen you here before. Are you from around here?" "No," the old pastor gave in a bit, " down the road a bit. I just needed to be alone and think." Maybe the younger man would take the hint. He didn't.  They were silent a while longer. The young man spoke gently again. "Aren't you a pastor, I seem to recall your presiding over some funerals I've attended."  "You are observant. I pastor in the next town over, at least for a little while longer?"  "Oh, are you changing churches?'' The young man's gentle manner, quietness, and manner of speech had some how  won confidence from the old preacher. He wasn't sure why but he began to tell the young man what was going on in his heart and head.

"To be honest, in about four hours I will walk into an elder board meeting I called and announce I'm quitting. I just don't think I can do this anymore." "Well, sir, let me be honest with you," the younger offered.  "I'm in the ministry, too, and maybe I showed up here today to listen to you.  Maybe that will help a bit, it's pretty obvious you are hurting."   "Well, thanks. I wish that were true. The trouble is I'm almost beyond hurting. I don't know if I can hurt anymore."  "What brought you to this point where you are about to leave nearly 40  years of ministry?" ("Odd, I don't remember telling this young man how long I'd been in the ministry. He's pretty observant, pretty obvious with a little math I guess." ) "Well, it's not one thing, it is a lot of things, seems like everything. This world I can hardly recognize anymore. The work of ministry is getting harder and harder. The church seems so irrelevant. Our morals are in the toilet. In Arizona, it is illegal to have home churches in some towns. New York kicked churches out of schools they had rented for services for decades. The Supreme Court had to rule on that case to let them in. If you hold to Biblical values anymore you are the minority and are called bigoted and intolerant. Our demonination is debating same-sex marriage. They are actually debating it! I can't remember the last time a young couple wanted me to marry them that wasn't living together. Shoot, older couples are coming to me to be married and they have already moved in together. This moralistic, therapeutic, deism in our world is killing us and I don't think I'm having any effect whatsoever in moving people to faith or along in the faith. I might as well quit!"

The old preacher got it out finally. The pain, confusion, the frustration just flooded out. The young man listened. He listened well. He mumbled barely audible words while the old preacher went off. He said something about Elijah in I Kings 19: 13-14. When the preacher hit on the ills of the world he said something about John on Patmos and saints in catacombs. But mostly he just listened. Finally, after the smoke of the pastor's rant had cleared a bit, he asked the a question: "If you could sum up in one sentence why you are leaving the ministry you were called to and loved for so long, what would it be?"
"I guess you could say that my ministry has just died... it died of a broken heart..."
The young may stood and pulled his coat around him a little tighter and extended a hand to shake the old pastor's hand goodbye.  The old man reach to take his hand and noticed an ugly scar on his wrist. The young man held the old man's hand firm. The old man looked up and saw the younger gazing deeply into his eyes, more like his own soul really. "A broken heart, huh? Ironically, that's why I went into ministry."

Revelation 3:11-13

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Jacket

                                                               The Jacket

Somewhere in Jessica Ghawi's apartment is a jacket. It is a man's large. It may be on the back of chair or hanging in a closet. It doesn't matter. Like everything else in that home, its intention, use, and purpose changed when Jessica was killed in the Aurora movie massacre. So many items in her home meant to be enjoyed, tasted, touched, seen, heard, utilized, and worn sit in silence now. Family and friends will come and sigh, and pack and cry. They may take a few things to remember. Many things will probably be given to Goodwill in the name of one who suffered such ill-will. The man's sized large jacket will probably be one of them. It was my son's.

 After the shooing at the Aurora movie theater that killed twelve, Clay and I talked about the tragedy. A few hours later he called back when he learned that Jessica, the aspiring sports reporter from San Antonio was one of the ones killed. He knew her socially. He had been to her apartment just to hang out with mutual friends, transplanted Texans, Aggie Club members. He forgot his jacket. 

This scene is being repeated in various forms all around Denver, at least twelve times over and fifty something times, though not as permanent, for the injured. Emily Dickinson could write poems and words about death and loss like no other. Of the pain of death, its horror, its numbing and acuteness, she said this: 
                                               The bustle in a house the morning after death
                                               Is the solemnest of industries enacted upon earth
                                               Sweeping up the heart and putting love away
                                               We shall not want to use again until eternity.

We analyze, we think, we ponder at such senselessness, such unimaginable loss, but we can't figure it out.
It's scope is beyond us. It is a present darkness, a reality in this world that we all encounter at various times,  but it is also incomprehensible. The only thing that comes close to it in my mind which I find hard to fathom is the Light, Presence, Love and Grace of God. His patience, forbearance, His forgiveness, His love is a reality that is often taken for granted but more real than the the presence of evil. With that hideous strength (my apologies Mr. Lewis) of freedom and choice He has given us, the world has so often chosen wrongly, selfishly, stupidly, sinfully. But in His love God has chosen to redeem, free, forgive, and change our eternity. It is a costly process. We would often not pay the price. Just ask the families of those who have died so senselessly. But God keeps moving history to His glorious ends. We can endure, because He has endured. He has kept in mind the end, the promise and deemed it worth the cost paid in this life.  And listen to His promise:  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  He who was seated on the throne said, " I am making everything new!"   Rev. 21:1-5

Laughter that was silenced will fill heaven. Voices cut short will sing praises again. Eyes closed to the beauty of the world will if Christ is their Savior, see beauty and glory no human words could explain. Sounds, tastes, feelings, and especially love lost, will be multiplied by a thing called eternity. Hold on by faith and trust the One who can bring life, even Jesus, the Christ.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

3 S Sins

Down at the chapel on Sunday mornings we've been engaged in a light, summer-y sermon series on doctrine.    We've took a look at creation, revelation, atonement, grace and justification. A sharp observer might notice that the doctrine of sin, although mentioned in connection with nearly every other doctrine, has not been treated with its own sermon. Is this purposeful or neglectful? Yes, it is. I believe one can hit the "low" points of sin in connection with sermons on atonement, justification, and the nature of God and man and cover the subject fairly well. Yet, there are nuances and crevices of sin that might warrant their own sermon. Our own ability and Satan's ability at deception are uncanny. On the other hand, if one announces a sermon on sin, you just turned off half to three quarters of the ears and the others who want to hear it probably have some legalistic hang-up or such a poor image of God wanting to whack them that they view a sermon on sin as a flagellation whip. Who needs that? On the other hand a clearer understanding of sin and what it does to humanity would go a long way in keep us on theologically level ground, which is better for spiritual warfare than debating 3 S sins.

3 S sins? 3 S sins are "slippery slope sins." More on that in a moment.....

What is the best way to describe sin or define a sinner? Too often, we begin with the sins (plural) one commits. What is better is to look at the nature of sin. Different word pictures from the Old Testament, define it as a (1)deviation-- a missing the goal, a falling short-- or(2) a change in the person, as from innocent to guilty, debt free to accountable-- owing a spiritual debt, and (3) rebellion, either against a person or a set standard. These are often seen as self-willed pride to decide without regard to God or without faith in God.  The New Testament carries these ideas forward but it makes it more personal, more of an attitude set up against God and His rule, reign, and rights on  His creation's choices. This is sIn, with a capital "I." It says, "Father does not know best," I can make my own way. It is more a disease (sin-singular) of arrogant, un-faith than a list of symptoms (sin-plural) or actions that I may do or not do. This is why the young, rich man thought he was ready for the revival circuit in Luke 18 and Matt 19. Jesus questioned him about the things he  did, no problem. He was a good, young man. But then Jesus gave him a command that revealed his heart--go sell all you have---oops, he loved his money and possessions. They sat on the throne of his heart, and that is where sin (singular, the "disease") lives. It puts us and our stuff where only God belongs. The "disease" then causes the "symptoms" to manifest themselves in behaviors and attitudes, sins. The bottom line problem is not just the sins but the sin of my heart. It is in my nature. I want to rule me and my world without God. That's why the ten commandments starts with who you worship. That sets up everything else. Jesus died for our sins but more to the point, He died to free me from my old nature (sin) and give me a new one, His.

The problem of preaching on sin is that often, despite what is said, people's conditioned minds keep running to "sins," the things we do we shouldn't and don't do that we should. It is as if could fix our selves and this world if we did all these virtues and didn't do all these "sins." This is both naive and deadly. But even if virtues outnumbered the vices, we wouldn't conquer pride, arrogance, self-will, and un-faith. It's hard to see these, that is why they are deadly. We think by doing good we are good. It takes God showing them to us as he did to the rich, young man, Peter, Nicodemus, and me. Maybe you, too. Only God's grace can defeat sin.

3 S Sins remind me of these truths. They are slippery slope sins. Once you get started down that path it becomes very hard to stop and you spend a lot of time justifying your sliding. Let me give you an example. If I say gambling is a sin I can make a pretty good case against it. You don't like it because you enjoy it and are careful with it. You budget some "entertainment" money and just have fun and hurt no one and still pay the bills. I counter with the industry making losers of people, it's promoting poverty because not everyone is as smart or disciplined as you. I say, "Jesus doesn't want you spending His money that way, it's poor stewardship." You counter with, "oh, yeah, what about gluttony, fat boy? Isn't that a sin? Does Jesus want you buying all those Oreos?" See the slippery slope? I may have seen your sin but you see mine. That's the problem with cardinal and venial sins, yours are cardinal, mine are venial. And handling sin in this manner gets the Christian completely off point, which is the devil's point, no doubt.

What do you do with 3S sins? There are, after all, things we should not do and things we should? What do I choose? Pardon, but my simplicity is showing....ask Jesus. What is Godly about this attitude or action? Does my attitude toward ______ and my actions lead to holiness, closeness, and fellowship with Christ? Does this look like what the righteousness of Christ looks like? Do these actions lead to more justice for all and point others to Jesus? Ask Him, then listen. He had the first 4 G network for guidance in life. Our motivations should be Grace filled; Our attitudes should reflect His Godliness; our actions results in Goodness (think justice) toward all men; our lives show God's Glory in the praise, joy, and freedom we display.

Sin is not a matter of keeping score. It is a matter of trusting God's remedy for our disease of rebellion and walking with Him in faith toward Holiness.  As we fall more in love with Jesus and His will for our lives, the chains that so easily entangle us fall off (Heb. 12:1-2) If we do that, we won't have to worry much about slippery slopes, He already climbed one for us on Calvary.

3 S or 4 G?

PS: did you know that one theory states that the main characters in Spongebob Squarepants were patterned after the seven deadly sins?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

War and Peace


I know, you are probably thinking from the title this is going to be a long chapter.  Not to worry, it's just that the last week has brought both war and peace to my heart and mind.
First, the war.....
Syria is in turmoil, some say they are close to civil war. President al Assad has cracked down on dissidents, killing thousands who rebel. Nations are taking sides, even Russia and the US and it can get ugly in a hurry there.  Egypt has a new president that is pro-Islamic and anti-west but the army may not let him have much power. Their former president is dead, then alive, then nearly dead. War there could close the Suez canal and cut off oil to the west. Greece is broker than broke and other broke European nations are trying to bail them and themselves out of horrific financial trouble. The US is in moral free-fall. It's hard to even get a debate over same-sex marriage or abortion or nearly any morality based issue. We talk more about money woes and economic recession than nearly anything else. But the NBA finals are highly rated on television and technology promises to connect us and cure us from cancer and even depression. In all the turmoil, pain, and confusion it seems too few are even asking 'where is God?' For the truth of the matter is He is right where we left Him: out.

It has happened before. Israel, then Judah from Old Testament times were going right along with their history, culture, and lives. They forgot God, His love, His mercy, His precepts, and His right to be loved and followed supremely. They sought after military power, economic power, worship for all "gods", perverted justice and morals for personal power and pleasure. Then bit by bit, generation by generation they left the One, True God out of their lives and nation. Lip service was given but God doesn't accept "lip" worship.

In reading in Jeremiah last week, I noticed a couple of things. Judah, and Israel before, with all the strife and turmoil that was going on in their nation was at war with God. One, they didn't know this and denied it when the prophets told them. Two, you don't win a war with God but you don't know you've lost until after the fact. I read one of the saddest scriptures I've ever read in the Bible. It is found in Jeremiah 52, verse 3: "It was because of the Lord's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end He thrust them from His presence."

"I will never leave you nor forsake you" is the promise in Hebrews 13:5. That promise to each believer is stated similarly in John 10:28-29, " I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them from my one can snatch them from my Father's hand." I believe in the perseverance of the saints. Eternal life is secure for all believers in Christ. But our nation is at war with God. We don't even know it. We will lose this war unless we repent and turn in faith to Jesus. Please pray for spiritual awakening or in the end, He will thrust us from His presence.

Now the peace....
I piddled last Saturday. I piddled in the garage for two or three hours. I piddled around my workbench. Piddled in the closet with the lawn chemicals and golf equipment. I piddled about the large shelf of miscellaneous stuff that's got to go somewhere but not in the kitchen, bath, or inside closets. I sat and listened to country music and then contemporary Christian music coming from a twenty year old radio on the workbench. I brought the dogs into the garage and watched them sleep and noted which songs made their tails wag. Hallie likes Chris Tomlin. I thought some on piddlin'. There is an art to it. I'm probably not that good at it. My dad didn't teach me. He was  a work-a-holic farmer and he didn't know how to piddle. As one of nine boys raised in the depression on a small farm, that figures. My grandfather on my mom's side, Pop, he could piddle a bit. I learned some from him.  Pop had more fun, Dad had more success. I guess you have to pick your balance.

 There are probably rules for piddlin' but surely one of the rules is that you can't write down the rules for piddlin'. That would be too methodical, too logical, and too organized for piddlin'. Piddlin' has to be done alone for the most part, but small grand kids could probably be acceptable occasionally.  It seems to me that piddlin' can't intent to get much work done either. It can get some things done but it has to be kinda accidental. Case in point: I was sorting through the little bins of washers, nuts, and bolts on the workbench Saturday. I noticed that I had only one of those little wrenches for adjusting sprinkler heads. I wondered where the other one was. Oh, I think I laid it on the shelf. I go to the shelf. I start taking stuff off looking for the little tool. Before I knew it, I piddled my way to throwing junk away from the shelf and straightening it out. Looked good. I didn't intend to clean the shelf. Just happened. Didn't find the sprinkler tool. Went back to the workbench. Started sorting and arranging. Found the tool in the next drawer and found I'd organized and cleaned the bench. Didn't intend to, just happened. I sat down with a Gatorade from the garage 'fridge and listened to Third Day and wondered if God piddled. He must have piddled some. How else would we get duck-bill platypuses, kangaroos, walking sticks(bug), cuscuses, and aye-aye's? See, God's piddlin' led to Australia. Not bad...

At the end of all this piddlin' I was refreshed, not tired. (That's got to be one of the rules, you can't tell your wife piddlin' doesn't make you tired). Piddlin' keeps your hands busy but your mind free. Piddlin' slows the pace so your spirit notices and enjoys even small blessings like a well-made old school chair to sit on, a cold drink to sip on, two old dogs to show you how to handle the stress in the world, and an old radio playing an old hymn sung in a new way by a modern band. I realized what I had after all that piddlin' were deep and profound thoughts that would bring world peace if I could remember them. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for lower blood pressure, contentment, an accidentally clean garage, and a promise to piddle again really soon. I'd invite you over to show you how but I think that's against the rules.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nobody Gets Saved 'Round Here No More

Uncle Bill had to be visited. I had to do it. I wasn't even sure how he was related to me. He wasn't my mother's or my dad's brother. But around those two, four, and six hundred acre family farms where I was raised he was in the mix and he was Uncle Bill. He was somewhere around eighty-two, maybe eighty-five now. He still lived on his place eight miles out from "town." "Town'' had only nine hundred people. No one had heard from him in a long while so I guessed I had better check on him. I had saved the last two days of my vacation for recuperation from the first six days so I had the time to make the hour drive out to his farm. Might be a nice relaxing drive and visit to nostalgia. So I went.

Down the interstate to a state highway and then down the farm-to-market road and then onto the gravel road and then the part gravel, part grass, part mud lane that led to his old farmhouse. There he was, weeding his garden on the side of the barn. It looked like a good wind would blow that old barn over, but it had looked like that for thirty years. "Hey, Uncle Bill, howyoudoing?" (it's one word in the country) "Not bad for an old fossil, howyoudoing, Squirt?" He called all of us "Squirt." He would figure out my real name sooner or later. I took no offense.

We headed up to the porch. Uncle Bill went in to get coffee. Starbucks may have learned about strong coffee from Uncle Bill and Aunt Martha. Dad joked that Bill's coffee killed Martha twenty years ago but it kept Bill going. I asked for ice water.

"What brings you out here, Squirt? You know I ain't got no money."
"I don't need any money Uncle Bill. Some of us cousins were visiting and none of us had heard from you or seen you in a while so I thought I'd run out and see what's going on. So, what's been happening with you?"
"Nothing much.You don't think this old world would listen to an old dried up farmer from nowhere, do you? I don't even recognize this world anymore. It's like a foreign place to me."
"Do you mean because of the modern technology and electronic or the....
About that time an alarm went off in his pocket. He reached in the chest pocket of his overalls and pulled out an iphone. "S'cuse me a moment." Uncle Bill fired off a text and set his phone down on the old recliner he kept on the porch for sitting in the morning and evening. It was then I noticed he set it down next to an ipad.

"No, its not the technology. That's just a matter of desire and practice. Heck, it's all touch screen. If you want something hard try fixin' a Farmall planter box from 1955. No, the problem with this world is that no body gets saved around here no more."

"What do you mean Uncle Bill?"
"How long you been preaching, "Squirt?" (at least he remembered what I did) Must be thirty or more years now. You can't tell me you haven't noticed the change in people. You baptizing as many as you did twenty years ago? I didn't think so. So did you quit telling them about salvation in Jesus or did the world around you quit listening?"
"But Uncle Bill, more people come to Christ as Savior in the world now than at any time in church history."
"I said no body gets saved 'round here no more. Lots of folks in Asia, South America, Africa, and even Muslims are coming to Christ but not so much in Europe or the good old USA."
"How do you know all those stats Uncle Bill?"
"That's nothing. I'm connected. The problem is we've gotten so tolerant we even tolerate our own sin in our nation. We've gotten to the point where we think the government, Wall Street,  M.D. Anderson, Edward Jones, Tony Romo, Lebron James, Tim Tebow,  Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, the Kardashians, Snoop Dog or Ophra will fix our problems as if our problems were all just physical, emotional, financial or mental. We look to celebrities for wisdom and reality shows for adventure."
"Uncle Bill you kinda went off like a preacher there. I see people every week that really love Jesus and serve Him."
"You work in a church, Preacher! Don't be so naive, Squirt. Nobody gets saved 'round here no more cause they admire Jesus like all those other celebrities. There's a big difference between admiration and committed love. I "loved" Rita Hayworth as a young man. What an actress, what a beauty! I never held her, kissed her, made love to her. I never fed her, nursed her when she was sick, told her a certain movie was wrong for her, listened to her complain, or comforted her when she grieved. I never prayed with her or worshipped with her. I didn't love Rita, I loved your Aunt Martha. Nobody gets saved 'round here no more 'cause they don't think they got anything to be saved from. As long as they are eating, drinking, working, paying bills and entertaining themselves modern people think they are doing fine. They will go right on admiring Jesus to hell."

"Uncle Bill, that's depressing. What do you do with all that, that negativity? How do you cope with such a gloomy assessment? Do you just gripe about it?"
"Oh, no. I started a web site and blog. I have over five hundred regular readers and a couple of hundred guests each week. I do a question and answer session each week on Facebook and have over 1700 friends. The avg. age of the people reading and interacting with me is 23. They get mad, even belligerent, but they keep asking and talking. A few dozen have told me they have come to faith in Christ. I just keep telling them one way or another they need to be gloriously, radically, marvelously, miraculously saved. And some are."

The drive home was horrible. My mind was aching. I gave myself a headache. My wife met me in the kitchen. "How was your visit with Uncle Bill?... Hey, you don't look so good? Is something wrong?"

"Yeah, nobody gets save around here no more..................."

Squirt Cos