Monday, December 17, 2012

Scratching the Surface of Christmas and...

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    The first Bible verse that I ever memorized was John 3:16.

    In his most famous Christmas sermon, Martin Luther referred to it as "the Gospel in a nutshell."

    Even the guy with the funny rainbow-colored hair in the end zone with the John 3:16 poster knows that.

    My guess is even mainline churchgoers don't have to look it up.

    It's the good/great/best news of every season.

    God loves everybody - you, me, and even them.

    No color, class, or cultural distinctions/discriminations.

    That's the Christmas message.

    God loves everybody.

    Jesus proved it.

    And people who love Jesus keep proving it.

    That's why the second Bible verse that I ever memorized was John 3:17.

    My guess is...


    If Jesus is for everybody, why do so many churches pretend He came just for them?

    If Jesus loves everybody no more nor no less than anybody, why do so many posers in religious confession/conduct/countenance keep separating, segregating, and otherwise distancing/divorcing themselves from other posers in religious confession/conduct/countenance who keep...?

    If Jesus loves everybody and says everybody who loves Him loves everybody like He loves everybody, isn't somebody lying?

    If Jesus came to heal, forgive, bridge, reconcile, and save, who are people following when they're so cranky, contentious, irregular, irascible, irreconcilable, and my-way-or-the-highway-pick-up-my-marbles-and...?

    If Jesus loves everybody and said don't forbid anyone from getting close to Him, why are there so many religious restrictions, rules, rubrics, rituals, ceremonies, and other human inventions that keep people from getting close to Him?

    Is it really that hard to distinguish the posers from the...?

    I don't pretend to have all of the answers to any of those questions.

    I'm just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus by spending more and more and more time in the book than reading books about the book.

    Buuuuuuut I am discovering too many churches have made up excluding religions about Him that are only coincidental to Him as attested in the book that's our best source of information about Him.

    That's why I keep rethinking stuff like how we approach His sacraments (see below).

    I'm really tired of religions about Jesus.

    They're so arrogant and condescending and...human.

    I like the One in the Bible.

    He's so invitational, welcoming, including, and loving.

    I like the really holy Christmas so much more than the holly one.

    Even Plato helps me to distinguish those who get Him from those who don't: "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

    Getting back to John 3:16-17...

    Yeah, I think it's time to put Christ back into Christmas and...lots of churches.


    Jesus came, remains, and will come again!


    Let's make room for Him in our inn(s).



Blessings and Love!

Scratching the Surface



(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Baptism and Holy Communion)


The method – dipped, dripped, dabbed, or dunked – is irrelevant.

The meaning matters; being marked off – dyed or changing the colors of allegiance – for God from here to eternity.

Adults are baptized when they are ready/eager to acknowledge Jesus as personal Lord and Savior with the pledge to pray and labor to be His in all things at all times in all places with all people.

Children are baptized or marked off for God because they belong to God whether they know it or not as parents and congregational family of faith agree to provide examples, education, and environments of loving Jesus by loving like Jesus with the prayer/hope that the child will eventually confirm the truth of belonging to God through Jesus as enabled by the Holy Spirit.

We baptize anyone at any time of/in worship when the preceding is embraced with humble joy.

Holy Communion

The Table of Holy Communion on the corner of Lincoln and Main is not fenced or restricted to members of our particular church because no one but Jesus owns it; and He invites, welcomes, and includes anyone to/in it who acknowledges Him as Lord and Savior with the pledge to pray and labor to be His in all things at all times in all places with all people.

We are praying/trying to be obedient and not interfere with His invitation, welcome, inclusion, and unconditional favor: “Come to Me, all and everyone who are weary and burdened, and I will take care of you and give you…”

Anyone who has invited Jesus into her/his heart as Lord and Savior is invited, welcomed, and included to/at His Table of Holy Communion with no restrictions, prejudices, or inhibiting self-righteousness or denominational/sectarian/cultic pride.

Because everyone who believes in Him and tries to behave like they believe in Him are part of His family, we welcome all family members to His table with us.

Constantly, we pray to keep our pledge not to inhibit His invitation, welcome, and inclusion that we are honored to herald.

We go to the Table of HC every Sunday at 7:20 a.m. (chapel) and 10:00 a.m. (sanctuary) and look forward to inviting, welcoming, and including everyone and anyone to join us!

Are you still looking for a different way to do church?

Are you tired of the SOSO Religion?

Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?

Are you searching for something/Someone
real, honest, timely, and true to…?

Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
(Belvidere, Illinois)

7:20 a.m
10:00 a.m.

And so much…

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scratching the Surface of Prayer

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    I can't imagine how Mary felt about "having" baby Jesus.

    Having watched the birth of my sons, my reaction has always been the same: "Awesome!...Praise the Lord!...Thank You, thank You, thank You for making me a man, Lord, 'cause ain't no way I could do that!"

    Knowing guys a lot better than women 'cause I'm a guy, there'd be ZPG overnight if God did something out of this world like He did with Mary (VB) and changed a major gender distinction so that guys became responsible for "having" babies.

    I don't think so.

    That would be the last sign of the apocalypse without respect to the Mayans.

    The angel may have told Mary that nothing's impossible with God; but I just don't see guys "having" babies after watching women "have" 'em.

    So except for lifting weights, I've considered women much stronger and tougher than men after watching births.

    Guys may like "making" 'em, but ain't no way they'd exchange roles to "have" 'em.

    And knowing lots of women have more after one, they've gotta be stronger and tougher or totally out of their...

    Again, I can't imagine how Mary felt about "having" baby Jesus.


    Of course, moms can kinda relate to Mary "having" baby Jesus.

    They've been through it.

    Yet, I say moms can "kinda relate" because there was a lot more involved in Jesus coming into this world than childbirth.

    Virgin birth.


    Pregnant without help of the, uh, guy.

    Buuuuuuut if we're gonna say He's almighty as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior, that's no big deal for Him as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior; or as Martin Luther wrote, "The virgin birth was a mere trifle for God.  That God should become man was a greater miracle."


    That's really, uh, unusual.

    So while moms can kinda relate to Mary "having" baby Jesus, there was a lot more swirling around in Mary's mind; which is why Luke says Mary "kept all of these things...pondering them in her heart."

    It was a lot to think about.

    13-16 year old girl gets pregnant miraculously because that's how He decided to incarnate.

    Distant relative of King David.

    Very distant from her perspective as a noble handmaiden yet far removed from nobility.

    Angelic announcement: "You're favored...The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God...Jesus."

    Every color, class, and culture and even celestial beings show up in the barn to acknowledge, applaud, and embrace Him.


    What's up with that?

    Gold and perfume for sure; but myrrh?

    Stuff to embalm the dead?

    How quickly her thoughts must have moved from Isaiah 7, 9, and 11 to 53.

    Yeah, I'd say she pondered.

    We still ponder over it all and we've had over two thousand years to...


    Maybe that's why great saints like Francis, Brother Lawrence, Mother Theresa, and so on followed Mary's lead and pondered in prayer more than followed Simple-Simon-says-put-your-hands-on-your...kinda prescribed prayers.  They were a lot more into just hanging out with God in a tarryin' kinda way than following patterns, formulas, rituals, ceremonies, rubrics, and other religious stuff that only get in the way of developing a relationship with Him.

    Maybe that's why maturing folks ponder "how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given" rather than rolling and spitting in the aisles like religious psychos on crack.

    Maybe that's why we're told to be still and know He is God.

    Maybe that's why maturing believers like to think of it more as a "silent, holy, night" than a living Christmas tree or sparkle night or...

    Maybe that's why...God picked Mary for the job.

    Maybe she was just young enough to know she hadn't figured it/Him all out yet.

    Maybe she was another example of what her child would grow up to say about why He liked children so much.

    I don't know.

    I'm still scratching the surface of my relationship with God and learning how to pray - see "Scratching the Surface of Prayer" below - and...

    I'm having a hard enough time figuring out how to work out my own salvation than pretend I'm smart enough to tell you how to work out yours.

    All I know is there's a lot more to the story than can be handled in a...

    Paul was right: "Now we see in a mirror dimly; but then...Now I know in part; but then...So faith, hope, and love abide; but the greatest of these is..."

    "For God so loved..."




Blessings and Love!

Scratching the Surface



(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Increasing Intimacy)


Lord, I begin this day in praise and thanks for You as my Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior…

I know I need Your love, forgiveness, mercy, and empowering to be Yours in all things at all times in all places with all people as exemplified in Jesus, explained in the Bible, and enlightened by Your welcomed presence in my life as Holy Spirit…

I want to honor You through behavior confirming my belief in You as my Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior…

As Your guide for our time together this morning, I read the Bible to increase our communion and discover Your will for my life.  I trust You will tell me when to pause and ponder, ingest, and digest; and how to enflesh this morning’s insights, inspirations, and instructions…

Reminded of my need to confess and repent or conform to Your will as exemplified in Jesus and explained in the Bible to be forgiven and restored to Your best intentions for my life, I admit how I have insulted You and injured others by…pledging to change bad behaviors for good behaviors…and expressing gratitude for Your forgiveness that allows me to forgive myself…

I know the fruit/proof/evidence of our relationship – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness/humility, and self-control – are supernatural by-products of our increasing intimacy…

What I say, what I do, and how I appear will honor You and help others increasingly as I am increasingly close to You…

I ask favors – intercessions for others and personal supplications - for…

I prepare for today’s opportunities, ups, downs, detours, distractions, temptations, joys, sorrows, victories, defeats, and challenges according to Ephesians 6:10-20…

I pray as taught by Jesus: “Our Father…”

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Before Meals

Lord, this food is a gift from You; providing pleasure and fuel for life.  I thank You for this food along with everything and everyone that minister to my life; reserving highest praise and thanks for Jesus who inspires confident living and guarantees eternal life.  Thank You for sustaining my body and saving my soul through Jesus in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Evening Prayer

As this day draws to a close, I honor You as my Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior…

I am thankful for today’s experiences and expressions of Your favor…

I am sorry for today’s failures…confessing…repenting…receiving Your forgiveness…

I entrust the past, present, and future to You…

I open the Bible for You to have today’s last word…

I trust Your peace and healing as I end as I began the day…

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

This is only a brief and incomplete guide to prayer.

Intimacy with our Lord increases as we increase intimacy
with Him through worship, prayer, Bible study, fasting,
sacrament, silence, stewardship, and regular
fellowship with His family of faith
uncommonly called the

Are you still looking for a different way to do church?

Are you tired of the SOSO religion?

Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?

Are you searching for something/Someone
real, honest, timely, and true to…?

Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
(Belvidere, Illinois)

7:20 a.m.
10:00 a.m.

And so much…

Monday, December 10, 2012

Funeral Planning

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    After doing so many funerals for so many years, I realize someone's gonna do mine sooner or later with or without my help.

    God knows I haven't been afraid of death since acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior; though I'm not into pain as I've explained to folks who've asked why I don't have a FTS or H-D or Frrreeeedom tatt on my right biceps.

    Actually, my covenant brothers will preside at mine unless I assist at theirs first.

    I've even picked out the music: (1) "original" recordings of Sknyrd's Simple Man, Holden's The Lost Boy, and Schwartz's Corner of the Sky for the prelude; (2) me singing "This Is My Desire" between the Bible lessons and remarks which should challenge Bill, Dave, Harlan, Ric, and Tyler; (3) Crowder's recording of Wholly Yours after the message; and (4) Charles Wesley's "And Can It Be?" as the closing hymn avec organ with no apologies to hyper-Calvinists who are as Biblically lame as hyper-Arminians.

    Really, I'm kinda excited about it/Him if you know what I mean.

    Even more really, anyone who really, really, really believes in what it's/He's all about lost all fear about the last breath as soon as Jesus became really, really, really real to 'em as Lord and Savior.


    Simeon comes to mind.

    "There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel's consolation...It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before He saw the Lord's Messiah."

    In other words, Simeon wanted to see/know/experience the Messiah before cashing in. 

    He couldn't/wouldn't and didn't wanna die without it/Him.

    After years of waiting/praying/looking/whatever, "Guided by the Spirit, he entered the Temple complex."


    Baby Jesus was brought to Jerusalem's Temple because Mary and Joseph, being good Jews who'd already circumcised their boy 8 days after birth according to the covenant with Abraham, were now, 40 days later, bringing Mary to the Temple for ritual cleansing.

    Parenthetically, I don't get the ritual cleansing thing.  Moms were considered unclean for 40 days after birth and could not enter the Temple without some kinda offering that would declare 'em clean again.  Really, I don't get it; which is O.K., I think, because it's just a side story to the big story.  Don't wanna miss the forest for the trees!  Don't wanna miss the way for some rabbit trail!  Or any other metaphor that works for ya!

    Getting to the big story, "When the parents brought in the child Jesus,...Simeon saw Him, went to Him, took Him into his arms, praised God, and said, 'Now I can die!  My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!  My eyes have seen Your salvation!'"

    Translation: "Now I'm ready to die!  I've seen Jesus!  I know there's so much, much, much more after the last breath in time!"

    Here's the point.

    When we embrace Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, that's when we're ready to die and no longer afraid to talk about what's gonna happen sooner or later with or without our help.


    Concomitant to doing lots of funerals, I spend lots of time with dying people; reminding me that, someday, everybody is gonna return from the cemetery but me...or you.

    I see lots of folks who are scared to/of death.

    I see many folks who aren't.

    Jesus makes all of the difference between those souls: "Now I'm ready to die!  I've seen Jesus!  I know there's so much...!"


    You can always tell who's believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    They're the ones who aren't afraid of what happens after the last breath.

    I don't know of any human experience/inevitability that betrays a person's real...


    Lots of folks are so afraid of it; seeing it as the final punctuation of their...

    Many aren't; knowing the best is yet to come because of Jesus who promised paradise for anyone who embraces Him.


    It separates the...


    A guy a few years older than I am right now said to me some time ago, "I've been waiting all of my life to sink my teeth into something only to discover I have no teeth left!"


    Fortunately, Jesus puts teeth into our faith; especially when the final human experience/inevitability comes to our...

    That's/He's the best funeral planning.

    Jesus is why we can say with Simeon, "Now I'm ready to die!  I've seen Jesus!  I know there's so much...!"

    When we get that/Him, we get why He's the reason for...



Blessings and Love!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Scratching the Surface of 1&2 Chronicles

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    Ever notice how blood is thicker than water?

    Most families hang together rather than separately.

    Family members can do to each other what no one outside of the family could ever do and get away with it.

    Families are linked together by blood.

    Though some seem to try, it's hard to get kicked out of the family.

    While I may be wrong, I think the only way to cut family ties is to cut family ties.

    It's like our Lord's family of faith.

    The only way to forfeit the relationship is to renounce it; which is why blasphemy against the Spirit is the only unforgivable sin.  When we deny God's Godness as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior, we distance ourselves from His graces.  Removing ourselves from the forgiveness offered to all by God is unforgivable.  We choose to exclude ourselves from God's inclusion.

    The genealogy at the beginning of 1 & 2 Chronicles like genealogies throughout the Bible and most notably Matthew and Luke link everyone in history - His story - as having one Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.

    We are all in the family by divine design from Genesis.

    All genealogies go back to the garden and our first parents Adam and Eve.

    We could call ourselves the Adamsons - daughters and sons of Adam and Eve; yet recalling Grandpa Kopp's warning not to miss the forest for the trees, the most important common denominator linking all of us into one family with no respect for color, class, or culture is God as our one Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.

    And while God's special relationship with Israel cannot be denied - David prayed, "No other nation on the earth is like Your people Israel.  You redeemed us to be Your people...You made us Your own people forever!" - the genealogies of Holy Scripture include everyone as special to Him without favoritism to color, class, or culture.

    Indeed, as you learn more about each name linked together by the genealogies to God, it's like going to a wedding and being shocked to see the strange cast of characters who are kin.

    1 & 2 Chronicles focuses on one of the most important dimensions of God's family of faith - worship as the foundation of life.

    Specifically, worship is the glue or true blood bonding the family together.

    Worship, as Dr. Macleod declared repeatedly for seminarians, is the only indispensable activity of the church; reminding us in the highest degree of who He is, who we are, and what He has done for us and our salvation as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.

    He often lectured, "God acts for our salvation in Jesus and we respond by worshipping Him."

    Worship becomes a pattern for life; transforming the words of worship into faithful actions in the streets after leaving the sanctuary.

    Worship is the obvious preoccupation of people who get it/Him; or as I recall Luther commenting by contradiction on those who don't get it/Him, "Who would believe our people should be so unthankful towards the Gospel?"

    Worship is, primarily, praise and thanks for what He has already done as preface to what He will do.

    It's like the fellow who asked the salty sage, "What must I do to be saved?"  Answer: "Too late!  It's already been done for you in Jesus!"

    This brings me to an interesting discovery while scratching the surface of 1 & 2 Chronicles.

    While the books read so much like 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings in recording history - His story - I noticed David's accomplishments are highlighted while the details of his dirty deeds mentioned previously are dropped.


    I may be wrong on this but I'm convinced it has something to do with that being exactly what God does for everybody as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.

    It's a family thing.

    He knows our sins; yet ultimately overlooks them because we're kin.

@#$% be continued...


Blessings and Love!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dressing Up for Worship

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    I participated in an ordination a few months ago for one of the most confessional (interpret that both ways), competent, caring, and truly connectional in a John 17 kinda way undershepherds.

    As a I sat next to another participating undershepherd who is especially confessional (interpret that both ways), competent, caring, and truly connectional in a John 17 kinda way, I whispered, "I feel kinda stupid dressing up in all of this stuff."

    He whispered back, "Yeah, it is kinda silly."

    What is the definition of insanity?

    Anyway, too often when clergy dress up for worship - whether they're Genevans dating back to the 16th century or Brooks Brothers medieval gravy rags on steroids - it kinda looks like the masquerade scene in The Phantom of the Opera.

    It's worth asking again: "Do today's clergy too often dress up more like Jesus or Pharisees?"

    Again: "Did Jesus dress up like Pharisees or dress down like, uh, normal people?"

    Again: "Considering attire as often symbolic of something much deeper, do too many of today's clergy look like they're following the lead of Jesus or...?"



    Take a deep breath.

    Read Matthew 6 (all of it).

    Read Matthew 15 (all of it).

    Read Matthew 23 (all of it).

    Representative texts of contextual verities that cannot be denied.

    Take a deep breath.


    Of course, I'm more hypocritical than most - check out the Greek roots of hypocrisy for some fun with the aforementioned - though the difference between me and some is I know and herald my hypocrisies.

    So I haven't shed all of the stupidities and silliness and sins of...

    I'm a WIP - just scratching the surface of my relationship with Him.

    So I've still got the Genevan with the stripes that don't heal that Grandpa Hayden gave to me when I started separating myself from God and people by degrees.

    I've still got a few clericals for weddings (pictures) and funerals (posing proprieties).

    I keep four stoles: a green one that I got when I was ordained, a purple one from a former associate pastor who now hates me for Christ's sake in a deeply ambivalent kinda way, another purple one that belonged to Paul and was given to me by his wife after he fell off a mountain in Colorado back in 1994, and one with the smiling faces of children of all colors that Rosalie gave to me which you really need to read about in Fifteen Secrets for Life and Ministry - seriously - by calling 815-544-6402 or just ordering copies from this site.

    I'm still holding on to some old...

    Again, I'm still one of ya even though I'm really, really, really praying/laboring to be one of His.


    I've often heard but only recently paid attention to this counsel: "Every step toward God is blessed by Him...even the smallest."

    Of course, it means, uh, changing directions.


    There are better ways to dress up for Him.


    I think I remember Jesus saying something about a better way...



Blessings and Love!