Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When I Feel Like Such a Loser,...

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    With rationalizing thanks to Acts 1:26, I buy a lottery ticket every now and then.

    That's what happens when you haven't had a raise in four years, don't have a rich uncle, and haven't threatened the book sales of Joel, Rick, or Joyce.

    When I criticized my dad for buying 'em when considering the odds of winning, he retorted, "Consider the odds if you never buy any."

    Anyway, a pejorative pathology has been seizing my spirit because a little phrase keeps popping up on the screen when I put my tickets into the machine that verifies success or failure: "Sorry, Not a Winner."



    I was hydrating my mule the other day when a guy came up to me and said how much he liked I Just Wanna Ride (FTW).

    Then he asked how sales are going.

    "Well," I said, "it usually takes up to two years before a..."

    "That bad," he interjected.

    "Uh, yeah," I muttered.

    "You didn't write it for the money, did you?" he asked.

    "Good thing," I responded, "...but it would have been nice to make a few bucks to help others, pay some old bills, and maybe have enough left over to get that 110th anniversary edition of the FLHTCU or FLHTK that I doubt's coming during PAM."

    "If people just get it in their hands," he ended while walking into the station, "they'll really like it.  Just get the word out!"



    I'm writing a new one.

    If you've been reading KDs, you know it's about scratching the surface of Bible books as I scratch the surface of my relationship with Jesus.

    I've completed about 15% of it; expecting to finish sometime next spring unless the Mayans were right.

    I hope I Just Wanna Ride (FTW) goes viral before then so my publisher will publish it and I can go to Woodstock H-D to...


    I was sitting with a really famous Presbyterian pulpiteer who became our Senate's chaplain in a coffee shop near San Francisco Theological Seminary about 25 years ago.

    That's when I was pretty famous myself and making more $ than anyone in my business deserves to make while claiming to serve you know who who said it's hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom for you know why.

    I gave away what I didn't squander which is why...

    Be that as it was/is, I asked how I could get pewsitters to focus on Jesus and filter the church's life and ministry through Him.

    He said, "I faced that problem when I was called to ___.  The church was in disarray and most relationships in the church - staff and officers and members - were dysfunctional.  So I suggested we take Holy Communion before every board meeting and make it available every Sunday; and it wasn't long before relationships were healed and the church started to grow as it let God love it and started loving each other like He loved them."

    It reminded me of old Dr. Mac back in seminary who responded this way when asked what happens during HC: "You get Christ better and then serve Him better."

    I never understood what that meant until I stopped the unBiblical practice of quarterly or monthly observance and went/go to the table as often as we got/get together for worship or board meetings.

    I don't know how I missed it/Him before that: "Do this in remembrance of Me."

    Admittedly, as someone paid to be holy, I missed a lot of stuff/Him in a Matthew 23 kinda way.


    Our elders have been on the same page at First ever since we started preceding our meetings with the sacrament.

    Our congregation has been on the same page at First ever since we started including the sacrament in every worship service.


    There is something to it/Him.

    Or as I've learned while scratching the surface, the biggest of the big themes of the Bible is, simply if sincerely, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to..."


    The editor of one of the PCUSA's best publications sent a tease about the October edition.


    I wrote back, "I'm glad you're adding humor to your rag."


    Putting it another way juxtaposed to the preceding, only intimacy with Jesus overcomes feeling like a loser.

    The table is one of His best ways to overcome...in a Psalm 131 kinda way.

    Don't depend on book sales or PAM.



Blessings and Love!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why I Don't Quit

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    A man came into see me just before Friday's wedding and complained about people complaining.

    I asked, "Do you hear yourself?"

    "Yes," he said, "I'm so ___ by people who complain about the church that I feel like quitting just to get away from 'em!"

    Help me, Jesus.


    I finally get it.

    People like to banter and moan about others because it makes 'em feel better about themselves.

    I'm reminded of a former associate pastor who always complained about other staff members whenever we'd have staff meetings so we'd never get around to how awful he was as an associate pastor.

    I'm reminded of the woman who always complained to me about negativity in the church while being the poster child of negativity in the church.

    I'm reminded of the couple who always complained about not having enough young people in the church but left the church when we changed our order of worship and music to attract more young people.

    I'm reminded of...

    I think it was the Green Bay icon who said, "The best defense is a good offense."

    Help me, Jesus.


    He does.

    Using a phrase from OC, he provides "strong calm sanity."

    Here's how from the Psalmist: "God inhabits the praises of His people."

    In other words, hanging out with Him prevents getting hung up by them.

    Tozer: "David knew God with an easy familiarity that was yet sanctified and chastened with Godly fear and reverential awe."

    Specifically, it's the product of being immersed in Him in a Psalm 1 kinda way.

    It's incarnational Lectio Divina: reading, meditating/chewing/ingesting/digesting, and praying Holy Scripture to experience/express it.

    That's how His people live triumphantly amid the meanness, madness, and misery of the modern world/church.

    Thanks for helping me/us, Jesus.


    Visiting a neighboring church, I saw name tags for two former members of First.

    They're mad at me/us because...

    Doesn't matter.

    Separating and segregating is an ugly blasphemous sin in defiance of His high priestly prayer in John 17; reminiscent of the Green Bay icon's...

    I wanted to put little post-its on their tags: "Do you hear yourself?"

    I think of the guy who said he doesn't understand me 'cause I don't agree with him.

    Help me, Jesus.


    He does.

    When we stop navelgazing and immerse ourselves into Him as attested in Holy Scripture, He does.

    And that explains why some...



    When we stick it to the world by sticking with Him, we rise above...

    Charles Stanley: "You are with me today.  I am at peace.  Thank You, Father."

    And that explains why some...


Blessings and Love!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scratching the Surface of Deuteronomy

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Scratching the Surface of Deuteronomy



    Music moves the soul.

    I guess I should have been more specific.

    Music moves the soul one way or the other.

    Sacred music dedicated to honoring God moves souls toward Him and aligns hearts with His.

    While everybody has preferred styles, some think their preferences are more sacred than others; which, of course, is true to them but not true to divine revelation.

    God created the rainbow.


    God created different ways to get to know Him; or as Paul wrote, "There are varieties of ways to..."

    Unity amid diversity.

    For example, there are so-called secular songs that can be understood in sacred ways; moving souls to Him and aligning hearts with His.

    Love songs come to mind.

    While some people hear love songs and think only in terms of loving human relationships, other people hear love songs and think about how they remind them of their relationship with God.

    The Song of Songs that we'll get to later on comes to mind.

    A contemporary example is Adele's Don't You Remember:

        When will I see you again?
        You left with no good-bye, not a single word was said.
        No final kiss to seal anything.
        I had no idea of the state we were in...

        But don't you remember?  Don't you remember?
        The reason you loved me before.
        Baby, please remember me once more.

        When was the last time you thought of me?
        Or have you completely erased me from your memory?...
        Why don't you remember?  Don't you remember?
        The reason you loved me before.
        Baby, please remember me once more.

        When will I see you again?

    That's what Deuteronomy is all about; remembering who God is, what God has done, and what God expects from those who know Him as God.

    It's about being loved by God and loving Him back.

    Moses is about to die.

    Deuteronomy, more than less, contains his last words about honoring God and aligning hearts with His.

    Specifically, it's for His people who are about to move into the next chapter of their relationship with Him.

    As they are about to cross over into the Promised Land, God speaks through Moses and, essentially, says/sings rhetorically, "Don't you remember?..."

    The big message of Deuteronomy and the whole Bible is clear and conclusive.

    People who really, really, really trust God - not just pose - are blessed and overcome the negatives of everything and everyone in a Psalm 37:25-28 and Matthew 7:24ff. kinda way.

    It's a simple equation.

    More God = more wholeness, happiness, joy, and eternal security.

    While we'll never be pure and perfect in every way, never outgrowing our need for Jesus to save us or fill in the gap between our depraved humanity and His incredibly and inclusively loving divinity, we can be "more better than worse" and, therefore, experience more of His favor/graces right now before then.

    Isaiah said it so well: "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured."

    As the old priest said to the young priest in Monsignor, "God provides our choices; but we ourselves must choose."

    C.S. Lewis said it's like standing at a bus stop.  The bus comes.  We decide to ride.

    This book is a final urging from God through Moses: "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life!...Love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him!"

    I have a friend who often summarizes Biblical faith this way:

        We sin!
        God saves!
        What a great deal!
    Deuteronomy is like a post-it on our souls.

    Remember God!

    It's like sermons.

    If it's worth preaching once, it's worth preaching twice.

    If it's not worth preaching twice, it's not worthy preaching once.

    "Sing them over again to me..."

    An old song that's always new.

    That's what this book is all about; remembering and responding to that remembrance.


    ...to be continued...


Blessings and Love!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Flagellations on Islamic Hysteria Over Film

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

I watched the film via YouTube that appears to have incited Islamic hysteria and homicides.

It's awful.

Horrific acting.

Sophomoric script.


Andy Warhol (RIP) or Soupy Sales (RIP) could have done better.

If this film is truly responsible for the hysteria and homicides rather than a rationalization for acting out hatred for America in the Islamic fundamentalist world celebration of 9/11, it proves a few points: (1) Muslims can dish it out to Jews and Christians but can't take it; (2) Muslims are more emotionally fragile than Cubs fans watching another White Sox run at the World Series; and (3) the pathetically artless film's themes merit second thoughts.

Two questions.

Is the current Islamic response to the film - not by all but by many - consistent with the factual character and documented commentaries of their founder?

Are the equally barbarous behaviors of "Christians" throughout history - not by all but by many - consistent with the factual character and documented commentaries of Jesus?

Now don't throw another fit 'cause I asked.

C'mon, be honest and just answer the questions.

Smile, you're on candid camera!

Blessings & Love!

Scratching the Surface of Numbers

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Scratching the Surface of Numbers



    I'll never forget Pearl.

    Reflecting the sense of audacious entitlement, defiance, and rebellion of the people constantly complaining to Moses about everything including their hardships, diet, living arrangements, and God's leadership through him, I'll never forget how she rushed past my secretary into my study, plopped down in the chair in front of my desk, exhaled, inhaled, and blurted, "I hate your beard!'

    Though I didn't take the bait and took the time to peel the onion to discover what was really bothering her - her estranged son had a beard and she was transferring her frustrations to me - I made a terrible mistake by offering, "If it will make you feel better, I'll shave off my beard."

    Unlike the Nazirites of Numbers who symbolized their devotion to God and set the standard for John the Baptist as well as succeeding generations of hippies by letting their hair grow long along with other funky stuff with no regard to popular fashions, I shaved off mine to curry her favor.

    When I saw her coming through the receiving line at the end of worship on the succeeding Sunday, I expected her to shower me with affirmation and affection.

    Instead, she exhaled, inhaled, and blurted, "Now about your moustache!"

    The Nazirites or anyone else truly devoted to God would never curry favor with anyone at the expense of their relationship with God; knowing everyone is going to be responsible to God a lot longer than anyone else which makes establishing Him as the #1 priority of life for eternity a no-brainer.

    Even a jackass can understand that; or as a prophet's jackass in Numbers explained to him when tempted to curry a politician's scheme over the instructions of the Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior, the only way to make it in this world and beyond is by living out a familiar chorus: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him, all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

    Or as God began His summary of how to honor Him along with the consequences of doing and not doing that at the beginning of the journey to the Promised Land, "No other gods before Me...No idols...As for those who are not loyal to Me, there will be bad consequences...As for those who are loyal to Me, they will experience My loyal love."

    Essentially, Numbers is about life being a journey of getting closer and closer and closer to God to experience His best in and after time.

    It shows how God does not allow anyone to enter His Promised Land of peace and prosperity here and now and hereafter apart from proving trust in Him through obedience to Him.

    As a biker, I often hear, "It's about the journey not destination."

    Yes, I understand that means to enjoy the trip; and Genesis from the very first chapter proves the truth of those hats and shirts that sport, "Life is Good!"

    And as Genesis and Numbers and all of Holy Scripture verify, life is good when we trust and obey Him.

    This life with all its wanderings comes to an end; but eternity lasts, uh, forever; which is why the Psalmist said, "You get 70 or 80 or more years in this life; so number those days in the right way so life beyond those days will be everything promised by Him."

    Simply, trust and obey right now to guarantee His best forever.

    That's why Numbers spends so much time organizing for the journey - counting, identifying resources, considering who and what and how in a Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 kinda way.

    Even a jackass knows you've gotta pack the right stuff to get where you want to go.

    Everybody wants to get to the Promised Land; and Numbers shows how to do it.

    Unlike my mistake with Pearl, believers know there's only One who really, really, really deserves our focus and favor.

    He has the only divinely trustworthy directions on how to get to the Promised Land.


    ...to be continued...


Blessings and Love!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Henry, St. James, and...

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)




    I was born again again last October 2011 during a week with Eugene and covenant brothers in Montana.

    Agreeing with the saint who said "a life lived for Jesus speaks louder than any verbal testimony," several convictions related to the rebirth demand enfleshment and have become a constant prayer since then as I wanna look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Him, as Calvinists used to say, to show the signs of my salvation (i.e., to prove I'm really related to Him more than less):

    1. John 17 - There is nothing more ugly and dishonest to true discipleship than pastors/people who love Jesus by separating themselves from other pastors/people who love Jesus over anything apart from blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Even in contexts of blasphemy, we are called to be the good leaven and call people from sin through confession and repentance for redemption.  While there is a place for monasticism, that is a particular call for some but not most.  Get out your copy of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship.  Simply, the rest of us are to put on the armor, pray/labor to be oaks of righteousness, and wage war against the enemy and not retreat into navelgazing little cliques of smug self-righteousness.  Besides, why leave one stinking denomination for another stinking denomination when you already know the stink of your own and can pray and labor to be a deodorant for Jesus?  Oh, Oh, Oh, you twwwyyyed.  Hey, pal, take a look at the cross and stop worshiping your navel!  Don't you remember what Jesus commanded: "If anyone would come after Me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and, then, follow Me!"?  C'mon, stop rationalizing your defections and divisions like...

    2. John 3:19-21 - Unless it's a pastoral/personal/corporate confidentiality like counseling/leading a staff member or anybody else who's having an affair or dipping into the collection or watching porn on church computers or something from sin through confession and repentance for redemption, there are very, very, very few "secrets" or "around-the-corner-whispering-conversations" that are not intended to conceal sin.  Most people who tell me not to talk about something want me to hide/accommodate sin.  For the most part - and it's just common sense - if you can't say it publicly, it shouldn't be said.  It's like meetings that excuse people so others can talk about 'em behind their backs!  Evil!  Evil!  Evil!  Jesus is quite clear about living in the light to distinguish righteousness from evil. 

    3. Matthew 6:24 - We gotta stop talk/action/non-action by claiming to be caught in the middle.  Ain't no such thing for Christians.  We're either for Him or against Him or trying/praying to figure out if we're for Him or against Him.  God is not double-minded about righteousness; and if we really love Him, we obey Him.  Period.  Jesus said that.  Being caught in the middle is the excuse of cowards, miscreants, and...infidels/wolves in sheep's clothing: "The way to spiritual power and favor with God is to be willing to put away the weak compromises and the tempting evils to which we are prone to cling.  There is no Christian victory or blessing if we refuse to turn away from the things that God hates...Even if your wife loves it, turn away...Even if your husband loves it, turn away...Even if it is something that has come to be accepted by our whole generation, turn away...Every Christian holds the key to his or her own spiritual attainment...if he or she refuses to hate sin and evil and wrong, our churches might as well be turned into lodges or clubs" (Tozer).

    4. Matthew 23 (especially Peterson's paraphrase/translation) - Shepherds don't follow sheep because shepherds are called to, uh, undershepherd after the pattern of Jesus the Good Shepherd as attested in Holy Scripture.  Read Matthew 23 very closely and you'll start barfing about what's become of pastors like me.  We're so ornamental, superficial, and traditional in substituting our posing religion about Jesus for an authentic relationship with Jesus as personified by Jesus Himself and prescribed in Holy Scripture.  We need to spend less time reading books about the book and spend more time reading the book.  Usually, books about the book don't try to explain the book as intended in its inspiration; but rather rationalize attempts to depart from the book to satisfy, again, our navelgazing, let's say fallen, instincts.

    5. Joshua 1 and John 13:34-35 - If we don't get that, one wonders how the anything but heaven we ever got ordained or on a church roll.

    There's a lot more that happened last October; but that's a preface to what follows and why I am more energized/enabled for life and ministry than ever before even including 5/8/77.


    There's an increasing epidemic that's cross-denominational - the unchecked assault on clergy and churches (or using the Biblical metaphor, undershepherds of the Good Shepherd and sheep).

    While no one is pure and perfect in every way and everyone needs Jesus to save 'em - except, of course, sarcastically, for those who assault clergy - we often forget discipline in the church is with an eye to redemption.  In other words, we call all people to confession and repentance for redemption.  We do not shoot our wounded; or, uh, at least, we're not supposed to...  We're supposed to protect His undershepherds and sheep from those darkly influenced in a Romans 16:17-20 and Titus 3:10-11 kinda way.

    Anyway, a denominational executive tantamount to a geographically located bishop recently wrote this to constituents/colleagues: "I don't know how things are where you are serving, but in the center of the country, it is a rocky season for pastors.  We have had several pastors with decades of experience come to a precipitous end of a call...And for those who are still hanging on, it is a rough row to hoe."

    Her diagnosis: "Why is it so rough out there?  I think there are several contributing factors.  Most Presbyterians did not grow up in the Presbyterian church...[I trust there are parallels in other franchises]...yet many of our churches continue to imagine that they do not really need to teach their new elders anything about Reformed Theology and the polity that arises from it.  We continue to act like they should just know it and pastors get cross-ways with their sessions."


    Continuing, "Second, with several of our congregations leaving us for other affiliations, it seems to have created an atmosphere where any authority that the presbytery might once have had is being diminished.  We may go to a church and say our rules say 'this' and they reply with an attitude of 'make me.'"

    O.K., but that's more of a testimony to the spinelessness of clergy/presbyteries/conferences/bishops/whatevers than the actual authority that can be exerted.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, they may leave.  So what?  Is that any excuse for the butchering of...?  Are our ethics that situational?

    Continuing, "Third, and most importantly, I think we have reached the tipping point in many of our churches.  The people who are in our sanctuaries on Sunday morning look around and see that there are fewer and older people.  They remember all of the things that used to happen at church that have gone by the wayside.  They know in their guts that they need to change, but they do not want to do so.  Then the pastor gets up on Sunday morning and sits in session meetings and tells them that they need to change.  Again, they don't want to.  Instead of deciding that it is time to change themselves, they are deciding that the easiest way to stop having to think about change is to get rid of the person who is talking about change.  So they fire their..."


    Never underestimate the control needs of people who long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.

    Never underestimate the control needs of people whose relationship with Jesus is coincidental at best.

    Never underestimate the control needs of people who really don't care what Jesus or the Bible say if it collides with their fallen instincts.

    Never underestimate the control needs of people who will bite, bruise, beat, and butcher if their control needs are frustrated.

    Never underestimate the cowardice of too many in the face of such bold control needs.

    Yes, there is more to it than the bishop said; but the bishop is pretty good at peeling the onion that ultimately exposes...evil at the core of all of this meanness, madness, and misery from the world that has now pounced upon clergy and poisoned churches.


    Which gets me to Henry and St. James.

    Henry is a church in my franchise (PCUSA) that my presbytery (local "governing" body of churches in a geographical area), so far, has failed to hold accountable for the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and vocational rape of their most recent pastor by a very few seizing control over the vast majority.

    St. James is a neighboring Roman Catholic Church in Belvidere, Illinois that has a real bishop who, so far, has failed to confront a very few making life miserable for the vast majority while dragging the priest's name through the mud of fallen instincts.

    Here's the kicker.

    In both cases, at the eye of the hurricane is only a handful of...

    Help 'em, Jesus, because nobody else is!

    In both cases, everyone knows who...

    And in both cases, the priest and pastor are being hung out to...while the assaults continue unabated.

    Way to go, brothers/sisters!

    Talk about gutlessness.

    The reputations of a priest and pastor - not to mention the scattering of the sheep - are being ruined and their prospects for the future diminished if not destroyed because neither "bishop" has the, uh, uh, uh, courage to esteem the undershepherds and call the miscreants to confession and repentance for redemption; or, uh, apart from confession and repentance, uh, excommunication/removal.

    I'm trying to get an audience with St. James' bishop.

    I will ask some tough questions of "us" at the next stated presbytery meeting.

    I'd rather be crucified for commission than damned for omission.


    Anybody remember Niemoller ("They came for the...and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a...Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up!')?

    What's happening in Henry and at St. James is much bigger than a pastor and a priest.

    It's an Ephesians 6:10ff. thing.

    It's even bigger than that.

    Our commissions and omissions related to brothers/sisters being butchered in/under/by any circumstance by anyone measure our relationship with Jesus.

    Jesus said, "As you do it or don't do it for them, you do it or don't do it for Me!"

    Ain't no middle ground.

    No such thing as an "innocent bystander" in the Kingdom.

    We is or we ain't with Jesus when it comes to our neighbors: "Do unto them as...As you do it...Love each other just as much as I have...").

    Those are not just throwaway lines for some collect in a religious observance about Jesus.

    Those are commands from Jesus to distinguish authentics from posers.

    If we just stand by and let...

    Are we that spineless...selfish...unfaithful?


    It does not honor our Lord to allow anyone's reputation, vocation, livelihood, and so on to be tarnished, threatened, or terminated by identifiable miscreants and just...

    I know.

    I had a friend who called from Detroit many years ago.

    He said, "A member of the church is saying things about me that are just not true.  Everybody knows it.  But no one will do anything about it.  I feel like snakes are in my bed, in my head, in my..."

    He committed suicide.

    I will be damned if I don't at least...

    If I was really reborn back in October 2011, I will...


    So will...



Blessings and Love!