Monday, April 29, 2013
"Do not think of yourself as being more important than you are."
Whenever I'm chatting with someone who's a tad too full of her/himself as I can be too often, I remind 'em as I remind myself that there's only one Messiah.
Starkly and specifically for the thick-egg-headed like me, I'll elaborate, "If I die on Monday, there will be ham and cole slaw in Fellowship Hall on Wednesday and then a pastor search committee will be elected on Sunday 'to find somebody who's better than the last one.'"
If you don't believe that's true for you as well as me, you don't need acid.
Some pastors still think size matters.
Listen to 'em.
"So, uh, how big is your church?...So, uh, how big is your attendance?...So, uh, how big is your budget?...So, uh, how big is your staff?...So, uh, how big is your total compensation?...So, uh, how big is your...?"
Some pastors think being bigger means being better.
If you don't believe that's true for you as well as them/me, just don't get caught with your pants down.
Some pastors are more Freudian than Christian in a suffering servant kinda way.
When I was a really big and important pastor of two really big churches and then one kinda big one before going to one that thought it was better which enabled/deluded me to think I really deserved bigger salaries and houses and stuff than smaller pastors in smaller churches, I'd only show up for meetings or conferences or workshops or local ministerial groups or Rotaries or prayer breakfasts or community worship services or the like if I was the featured speaker and got to sit up front with the other big and important...
I was too big/important/indispensable to waste my time listening to anyone who was smaller than me.
I was big which made me better than anyone who was smaller.
If you don't believe that's true for you as well as them/me, take a look at your community's big/important/indispensable pastors and when they grace everyone with their presence at meetings, conferences, workshops, local ministerial groups, Rotaries, prayer breakfasts, community worship services, and the like if they're not the featured speaker and sitting up front with the other big and important...
How big are you?
How big am I?
Not big enough to be considered indispensable; unless, of course, I'm/we're stoned.
BBPBHO is gonna serve out his second and then be about as important to anybody else as any peanut farmer or Bubba behind, uh, Bushes.
Dan was replaced by Katie who was replaced by...
Rush and Sean and Chris and Rachel and Brian and Jay and David and O'Reilly have shelf lives and will be replaced by...
Starr then Favre then Rodgers then...
Joe then Mickey then Derek then...
I've been doing funerals for about four decades.
I've seen deacons and elders and staff members and pastors and pillars...and wives...and husbands...replaced.
If you don't believe that, wake up and smell the roses before they're placed on your...
Are you getting depressed?
If you are, it's because you've forgotten there's only one Messiah; and He is enough.
Yeah, we're integral in a Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 kinda way; but not indispensable.
Only Jesus is indispensable.
And when we figure that/Him out, at least two wonderful things happen.
First, we do our best and leave the rest to Him in a parable of the sower kinda way.
Second, we sleep well; knowing the past, present, and future are in bigger and better hands than ours.
I've conquered the 10th commandment; except, uh, for one thing.
It has nothing to do with anything, uh, big; and He has told me to keep my mouth shut about it so He can work on it.
I don't covet anything big anymore.
I know the only size that matters is the size of His love for you, me, and everybody else in a John 3 kinda way.
While I've got too many friends who can't wait to retire because of everything seemingly going to hell in our world, country, mainline denominations, sideline facsimiles, and even District 100, I'm more excited than ever before since a week in October 2011 with Eugene and covenant brothers as Matthew 23 and Luke 11 were opened up to me in ways never taught in seminary or churches enabling such idolatries.
Besides, by His grace, we've just about completed the purging and pruning of posers on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois; and I've got lots of encouraging to do with the trickles to increasing flow of authentics or wannabe authentics coming through the doors.
We're no longer polluted by people who cannot serve unless they're leading with some sick sense of entitlement that has nothing to do with service personified by the Founder.
I figure I've got about 20 more years to go; barring cancer from Grandpa Jacob's genes or assassination.
Of course, like you, I'm not indispensable even while knowing I'm integral.
And if I die today, there will be ham and cole slaw in Fellowship Hall on...
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Hosea
I'll never forget hearing a debate between Episcopalian Bishop Spong and Chuck Colson.
Spong expressed outrage over people who claim HIV is God's punishment on indiscriminate, promiscuous, adulterous, and otherwise extra-Biblical sexual behaviors; asserting, "I know God has not used HIV to punish sinners!"
Colson asked, "How do you know?"
Some people look in the mirror and see God.
Talk about blasphemy.
Be that as it is, Colson's question leads to another question that is very, very, very unsettling: "If we really believe God is Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior, does that no mean He, at the very least, allows things to happen to us - good, bad, and otherwise?"
Let's keep asking: "Does God punish people for their sins against Him here and now as well as hereafter?"
Was Billy Graham's wife on to something when she said, "If God does not bring judgment on America soon, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!"?
Biblically, we cannot escape the truth of God acting in history to punish people who insult His holiness by behaviors antithetical to His revealed will in Holy Scripture as enfleshed in Jesus.
Biblically, God's indulgence of our insults is not limitless.
Hosea illustrates His sense of justice.
Israel was a mess at the time and Hosea prophesied about God's patience running out: "Hear the word of the Lord...for the Lord has filed a lawsuit against the people...There is no truth, no faithful love, no knowledge of God in the land...Cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery are rampant; one act of bloodshed follows another...And so the land mourns and everyone who lives in it are affected...My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...lack of covenant love...the decision not to make God first in their lives..."
Hosea fingered the culprit: "But let no one dispute and let none confuse...because with you is my contention, O priest."
Everything was messed up and falling apart because God's people - priests and pastors and churches - weren't telling people to stop insulting God's holiness by their bad behaviors; and Hosea was reporting God as being as mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
Hosea's life became a metaphor for the whole mess - taking a whore as a wife as a metaphor for God's people whoring around and away from Him as husband.
Fortunately, like Hosea wanting his wife back, God always wants us back.
God still wants heaven not hell for us; and so He's always inviting and welcoming back.
God never gives up, goes away, lets go, or stops loving us.
Just like the story of the prodigal son, He never turns His back on us or closes the door to us if we'll just go back to Him.
Hosea's story is the good news of our Father who is constantly hurt by us; yet refuses to disown us or divorce Himself from us.
Another favorite story comes to mind.
It's about a little boy who loved to build model sailboats.
Well, he built an especially beautiful one; and spent hours sailing it on a nearby lake.
The wind came up furiously one day and swept the sailboat out of his reach, out of sight, and it was lost.
Several weeks later, he saw it in the window of a pawn shop.
Even after explaining his sorrowful plight to the storekeeper, the storekeeper would not give the boat to the boy; insisting he pay the price now attached to it.
The boy's beautiful sailboat was now very expensive.
But the boy loved the sailboat; so he went home and waited for weeks until he had saved enough money to buy it back.
As he was leaving the shop with his sailboat, the boy said, "You're mine twice. You're mine once because I made you. You're mine twice because when you were lost, I bought you back."
That's what Hosea tried to tell us.
God is our Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.
He still chooses us even after we cheat on Him.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!
Saturday, April 20, 2013
"False witnesses to Jesus do not change the truth about Jesus and truly following Him."
I met Adamson many years ago at Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery, near Ava, Missouri.
We discussed many things over the years; and, occasionally, still, I hear from...
He tried to teach many things to me about following Jesus; and some have...
He taught simply.
When asked, he claimed his only source was God through Holy Scripture as enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
In the days following Boston, I have recalled one of those timeless conversations back in the early 80s.
I was talking to him about my studies in Europe in the early 70s.
We got around to my meetings in a pub on Heidelberg, Germany's Hauptstrausse with Colin.
Colin had a British passport but looked like Yasser Arafat; and it didn't take too long for me to learn he was in the PLO.
Though we didn't use the words back then, he was posing as a student while in a sleeper cell of religious fundamentalists who used terror to advance their...
During one conversation that grew heated, I mocked his religious leader - yeah, that one - as a murderous thug and scoffed, "Really great god that ya got there, pal! Maybe he'd tell ya to murder babies and non-combatants 'cause you're too cowardly to take on people who can fight back; but Jesus would never do that!"
Trying to explain the principles of guerrilla warfare juxtaposed to conventional resistance to superior firepower to me, I told him that I'd already read Che in college and didn't need his help to understand that coward either.
Finally, he laughed, and said so coldly, "Listen, I know you're here studying to be a professor or pastor or something equally useless; so while I live in the real world trying to make things better for my people, you can pray over the victims that get caught in the crossfire."
I said something that I regret...and never saw him again.
Adamson chided me for not talking more about Jesus with him: "He is the only One who can change such hearts."
Then he said, "Jesus would never murder the unborn, the born, or...anyone. He would not use murdering weapons or words. Jesus wants people to come together through Him to live in interdependent peace. Jesus did not come so humbly, sacrifice so greatly, rise so gloriously, and continue to reign so majestically to divide or destroy people. He came to save people from such ugliness."
Then he said in a piercing way to my spirit, "If you are really going to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you must never use murdering weapons or words."
It brought back my last words to Colin and...
Then he asked questions in rapid succession.
"Would Jesus Himself perform an abortion?"
"Would Jesus Himself murder anyone?"
"Would Jesus Himself look the other way in the face of hunger, poverty, sickness, unmet needs, and the many imprisonments of the poor by the wealthy?"
"Would Jesus Himself look the other way if someone was in pain?"
"Would Jesus Himself look the other way if someone was causing pain?"
"Would Jesus Himself...?"
He asked many, many, many questions.
And whenever I did not respond quickly enough with a pejorative to behaviors unbecoming someone who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, he'd almost shout, "You are not ready to follow Jesus!"
Before he went to his compulsory disciplines that day, he said something else that has never left me: "False witnesses to Jesus do not change the truth about Jesus and truly following Him."
While he did not explain that fully to me, I've come to understand it was his way from Him of saying to Christians who are judgmental about..., "What's that I see in your eye?"
I've come to understand it was his way from Him of saying Christians have no business telling others how to live in peace with everyone if they/we cannot live in peace with each other.
I've come to understand it was his way from Him of saying Christians who use murdering weapons or words are as bad as...
I've come to understand it was his way from Him of saying Christians who segregate and separate and exclude are no better than...
I've come to understand some religions - including so-called "Christian" ones - are just as bad as...
I've come to understand the only way to save Boston and...is Jesus.
Following Him fully.
Not the made up or pretended or reimagined or academic or ecclesiastical or traditional or...one.
The real One.
The One quoted in red letters.
No ifs or buts but lots of ands.
All of Him.
Blessings and Love!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
"What did I ever do to You to deserve this?...Why tell me to carry them around like a nanny?
It's too much...If this is how You intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me right now.
I've seen enough. I've had enough. Let me out of here."
Early one crisp spring Sunday morning on Cherry Street in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a pastor and I were milling around in the sanctuary when a florist came in with flowers and asked, "How do you want these arranged?"
Hardly concealing a smile about to erupt in laughter, Stimp asked, "Well, bishop, whaaaaaddddaaaaaya think?"
Without missing his beat, I replied in kind, "Not sure, brother, 'cause I'm trying to recall what we studied about that in seminary."
He lost it.
The florist didn't..and, staying focused, repeated, "So how do you want these arranged?"
Modern ministry commences with a major misconception fed by seminaries - that anyone really cares about those courses on CPE, exegesis, ecclesiology, eschatology, evangelism, hermeneutics, homiletics, traditio-historical-ideological irrelevancies usually rarely incidentally related to Holy Scripture, missiology, pastoral psychotherapy, polity, Biblical languages, rhetoric, soteriology, and...
Modern ministry is more about babysitting than discipling; or as Dylan warned about religious-not-relational "Christians" expecting "an errand boy for their wandering desires."
Most clergy spend about seven or more years learning to disciple (nurturing Biblically Christocentric faith) after conversion (accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior).
But like sentences ending in prepositions, entry level pastors soon discover survival often depends more upon agreeing with the last person that they've talked to.
I remember a pastor about my age right now saying to me not long after it started officially on May 8, 1977, "You'll often have to decide whether you're going to be a good humor man and tell people what they want to hear or faithful enough to tell them what they need to know."
Buechner put it this way, "A prophet's quarrel with the world is deep-down a lover's quarrel. If they didn't love the world, they probably wouldn't bother to tell it that it's going to hell. They'd just let it go."
Are you willing to salt to save; or do you prefer salving to survive?
What's more important to you?
Being liked on their terms or loving on His terms?
Are you an existentialist or eternalist?
Really, every pastor - I prefer saying undershepherd to the Good Shepherd - makes that decision eventually with the inevitable consequences: "If any man would come after Me, let him..."
I don't like to admit it...buuuuuuut the more I scratch the surface of the Bible to find out what it's/He's all about and what we're supposed to be all about upon getting what it's/He's all about, the more I get being an undershepherd comes with a lotta expectations from Him about not toning down or watering down to get along with anyone who doesn't wanna be totally committed to Him in praise and thanks for who He is and what He's done for us.
Or something like that.
I guess Billy was right.
The big decision is followed by many smaller decisions that will or, uh, will not confirm if we've really made the big decision.
Getting back to Moses and the nanny church, God said, "Bring Me 70 elders who are known as leaders to you...I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone."
That's a good preface to the expanded revelations of interdependent ministry dependant upon God's calling/gifting in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and...
That's His way of doing church.
Simply, identify gifts and unleash 'em!
Nanny churches - pseudo-churches in which "Pastor ___" controls/does, uh, everything - build unhealthy dependencies from God to themselves, enable idolatries to themselves that distract from the attention/affection/allegiance due God alone, and inhibit true evangelism setting the stage for the discipling that multiplies the undershepherds needed to increase the Kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven."
Let me put it another way.
We've identified and unleashed several elders/leaders who can lead worship and provide undershepherding care so that our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois is increasingly interdependent in dependence upon Him not, uh, me or anyone other than Him through His.
Aside from allowing me to exercise my Beruf/charismata as undershepherd that includes - in addition to my primary call to FPC to be the guiding-gatekeeping undershepherd - being a friend to pastors, fulfilling ordination promises to my judicatories, and taking missionary trips to evangelize/disciple/whatever, it allows time for my continuing intimacy with Him that increases the efficacy of my Beruf/charismata as...
Anyway, I was away this past Sunday; and, later in the evening, my youngest son poked, "Well, dad, if you keep letting other people lead worship for you and stuff like that, maybe they won't need you anymore."
I replied, "Good!"
While I'm beginning to get my role as noted in the second and third sentence-paragraphs of this section juxtaposed to Matthew 10, John 10, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and..., I know my role is integral yet not indispensable.
JB set the standard for undershepherds: "He must become greater. I must become less."
That includes identifying and unleashing gifts in an interdependent-upon-each-other-dependant-upon-Him kinda way.
Let me put in another way.
A little card was taped near our church's mailboxes for staff and officers: "It's not about you! It's about Him!"
I put it there.
I need to be reminded.
I suspect I am not alone.
Truly, I/we am/are not alone.
Blessings and Love!
Monday, April 15, 2013
"What's that I see in your eye?"
It's better to dump your dirt before someone digs it up.
Aside from it being the only Christian thing to do in a confessional/repentant/redemptive/restorative kinda way, it pulls the rug from under those who wanna stand up and say how awful everyone is but, uh, them.
Also, it's fun.
I've found few things as much fun as admitting an accuser's got it right about something wrong about me.
The look on their faces!
Ya can't tell if they're gettin' a vision from God or went before they got to the restroom.
Self-righteous speck-inspectors don't know what to do with people who humble themselves before 'em.
While they're tryin' to expose and dispose and..., a humble person will just say, "Yeah, you're right...I said/did that...I'm sorry...I hope you will forgive me..."
That's the best way to deal with 'em; and then let Him take care of the rest: "You will be judged in the same way that you judge...The measure you give is the measure you will get...If you forgive, you will be forgiven...If you don't forgive, foooohhhhggggeeeetttttaaaaboutit."
I'm not a shrink and God hasn't told me why so many people are such self-righteous speck-inspectors.
My guess is some people feel better about themselves and how awful they know they really are by spending more of their time on how awful others are than how awful they are.
It's cheaper than heroin.
Or maybe they really do feel superior to others.
That proves they're on heroin.
Or maybe they just like to talk about other people's problems to avoid dealing with their own problems.
Maybe that's a substitute for heroin.
Again, I don't know; just guessing...
BTW, going back to "Needling Gays" that you can call up by clicking on the archive of it to the right, did you know that some people think being gay is worse than being a gossip?
Yeah, it's true in an untrue Biblical kinda way.
They assume God has prorated their big ten to account for whatever phobia's enslaving 'em.
Buuuuuuut it could be they know that many more people are into gossip than gayness.
Maybe gossip is more acceptable than gayness to 'em.
Did it ever occur to 'em that if they're gonna be, uh, you know, fair as they kick out the unrepentant gays, they're gonna have to kick out the unrepentant gossipers!
Then nobody'll be left on Sunday mornings!
What to do? What to do?
Maybe the better way is to call everyone to confession and repentance so that...
We like to play in the dirt...
I made a tough decision to let a staff member, uh, go many years ago - go is euphemistic for saying we woulda fired him sooner than later if he didn't, uh, go...
Whenever we had a staff meeting, he'd jump in and start in on other staff members; pointing out how they weren't doing their jobs.
It was brilliant!
By pointing out their inefficacies, we never got around to his!
Well, finally, we got around to him and he had to, uh, go...
For almost a year after he, uh, went, people would come and ask, "Why did he have to go?"
I'd always ask, "Why do you want to know?"
If that didn't end the dirt-digging inquiry, I'd ask, "Why do you need to know?"
If that didn't end the dirt-digging, I'd ask, "How will this honor Jesus for you to know why he's gone?"
99% of all inquiries were never satisfied because they were after dirt and I wasn't shovelin' it up for 'em; and only somebody who wants to get dirty will play in the dirt with 'em.
The desert fathers often referred to such curiosity that often feeds gossip with no Jesus-honoring intentions as vanity.
They got it from Solomon.
Solomon got it from God.
It was/remains His way of saying we get dirty when we play in dirt.
Maybe that's part of the whole baptism thing.
Mostly, it's being "marked off" for God.
Yet, yeah, it also includes washing off the dirt.
Maybe it's time for us to rethink rebaptism.
Blessings and Love!