Thursday, August 29, 2013
Henri Nouwen wrote books that sold.
He was a renowned professor at Harvard, Notre Dame, and Yale.
He spent the last years of his life and ministry as a priest with "challenged" people at the communities of L'Arche in Toronto.
He met Bill during that time.
Bill was used by God to transform his understanding of life and ministry.
He wrote about it in In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.
I read it in the first months of publication (1991).
Ignoring it as carnal contradiction to His caution, counsel, and commands in recordings like Matthew 15 and 23 in pursuit of a professional ministry remotely coincidental to His suffering servant enfleshment, I had already climbed to the top of the ladder of ecclesiastical success by my late 20s and early 30s; only to discover my life and ministry were leaning against the wrong building.
I had achieved everything that was important to me: fabulously well-to-do opportunities, high steeples, big staff, adjunct professorship, adoration, jealousy, $, and sooooooo much more...
It wasn't always that way.
I started in 8th grade with a vision to point people to Jesus so I could join them in changing the world and church by loving Him by loving like Him because He is saving Lord.
Like a forerunner of AS/DV, I fell...to the seductions of the dark side.
I kept falling until...
Maybe that's why I gave a metaphorical name to my pony: Return.
As Return plods to pasture and I trust Him to provide, maybe that's why I will give a more precise metaphorical name to her/his kerygmatic not gender-specific successor as graced to favor: Return2.
I'm not saying I'm not falling anymore.
I still fail and fall.
I still need Jesus to bridge the gap between my carnality and His best desires for me.
I'm still challenged.
I've always identified with Paul.
Not just Swedlund and Watermulder.
In just about every way.
Comprehensively...yet especially as someone who can speak clearly about sin because I'm so well-acquainted, desiring to do good and not desiring to do bad yet having done more bad than good too often, almost too eager to take on the neo-Pharisees/Sads who have poisoned the mainline, usually fearless in the face of the apostates who've slithered into churches/communities/countries/denominations, obsessed with increasing holiness over longings, advocating ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei with minimal inclination to compromise or accommodate, and preferring to be with Him beyond time than remaining in time with all of the...
But here's His truth through him that has buoyed me in a Matthew 7:24-27 kinda way through the good, bad, ugly, and desperately returning: Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according..."
Hence, I was not surprised when, after years of preparation punctuated by Nouwen's book and confirmed during October 2011, God caused/compelled me to exit the professional ministry enabled by those factories of professional ministry (denominations and their seminaries) and pray and really, really, really try more than ever before to follow Jesus by the book instead of the imaginings and reimaginings and rationalizations and bastardizations of Jesus in books about the book.
Then Billy came into my life about 8 years ago.
He will use him to educate me for real life and ministry - undershepherding - until my deepest longing with Paul is satisfied.
Billy is a Special Olympics world golf champion.
I spend lots of time with him; and I will spend more time with him; as promised to his mom and previously to sister and dad who've gone home to Jesus.
Anyway, "challenged" is a word that has been tossed around by lots of ignorant people. When a person has an emotional, intellectual, or physical "challenge" considered different from so-called "normal" people, they are labeled thusly.
Yet, Nouwen's Bill and my Billy cause us/me to question these definitions.
If "normal" describes the majority of pewsitters, pulpiteers, politicians, and other kinda people who have responsibilities for ordering church and society, I'm having increasing reservations about who is "challenged" and who is really "normal"; unless, of course, "normal" is the evolution of "abnormal" or "challenged."
Here's what I mean.
Billy can't lie.
He doesn't cheat, take mulligans (i.e., improve his lie), gossip, or look for opportunities to screw anybody.
He's always asking about the welfare of my children, wife, parents, sister, friends, and our family of faith.
He knows when we hurt and wants to help.
He would never bite, beat, batter, bomb, or butcher anybody.
He's a lover; just ask Jana.
I don't think so.
Praise the Lord!
Who the heaven wants to be "normal" if it means...?
I'm still challenged...by Jesus...through Nouwen...and Billy.
Now take a deep breath...and absorb...
Excerpts from one of the few books not trying to water down or rationalize away the book...
"The more willing I was to look honestly at what I was thinking and saying and doing now, the more easily I would come in touch with the movement of God's Spirit in me, leading me to the future."
"I moved from Harvard to L'Arche, from the best and the brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and women who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of our society."
"The desire to be relevant and successful will gradually disappear, and our only desire will be to say with our whole being to our brothers and sisters of the human race, 'You are loved. There is no reason to be afraid. In love God created your inmost self and knit you together in your mother's womb.'"
"The long painful history of the Church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led."
"The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross."
I'm becoming sooooooo challenged.
I pray every day that I'm never again labeled as normal by anybody; especially Jesus if you know what He means.
I want to love Jesus by loving like Jesus.
Billy is teaching me what I didn't learn in/from...
Blessings and Love!
Saturday, August 24, 2013
"But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a..."
Ray Davies for The Kinks, 1970
Some, uh, really, uh, more than some, people are in sore need of reality checks.
I just watched a news report featuring McCain, Cantor, Hillary, and BBPBHO in which all of 'em lamented nobody trusting America's elected leaders anymore.
Help me, Jesus!
My wife told me why I don't have the 10K to add to my 1.5K in the bank to...
Plastic sins coming back to haunt me.
Help me, Jesus!
1 John 1:5-10.
The reality check.
Thank You, Jesus!
I'm reminded of a friend near St. Louis who just fired a youth worker for watching porn on a church computer.
The youth worker blamed my friend to anyone who would listen and there were many who did because...for telling him about it and then firing him for it because of resistance to the restoration offered in 1 John 1:5-10 without being sensitive enough to his...
Help me, Jesus!
Closer to home, there's an old guy and old lady - not related - running around town and telling anyone who will listen and there are...that I fired...
Aside from both of 'em obviously not understanding our particular polity that does not afford me prerogative to do anything apart from picking hymns, deciding what to preach/write about, and determining how long to grow my facial hair though "they" try to control that too, they're just lying to cover up somebody else's sins including their...
Everybody's a fan of Vince when it comes to a good offense being the best defense.
I've learned pewsitters and pulpiteers will lie just like McCain, Cantor, Hillary, BBPBHO, and too many others if they can't get their ways and means by the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them...
Help me, Jesus!
Harold comes to mind.
He left the mob because he was converted to Jesus and then called to pray and undershepherd avec moi.
That was a long time ago in Pennsylvania; before I was a geezer like the old man and old lady who are running around town and...
Yet I still remember what he said to an irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable that has stayed with me over the years and helped me to address people who think I'm thinking about 'em when preaching or writing or...
A notoriously irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable woman who portrayed herself as the victim of everybody else's irregularity, irascibility, and irreconcilability with so many similarly bizarre rationalizations as the youth worker, old man, and old lady so that she never had to deal with the reflection in her soul's mirror while pointing out everybody else's sins to distract from her own confronted Harold in front of several people in a public setting, "You targeted me in last week's sermon!"
Calmly yet pointedly, Harold responded, "It takes a great deal of arrogance for you to think that I think so much about you and that I would preach a sermon just for you...but if the shoe fits..."
It's every messenger's plight, plague, and poison.
Anyway, because I'm not thaaaaaaat much different from others like me despite my protests/prayers, a few people think that way whenever I preach/write about...
Don't tell 'em because we don't want 'em to know what we know when they say we're preaching/writing just for/about 'em buuuuuuut their complaints/contentions/criticisms/condemnations only expose 'em as...guilty as not charged but exposed by their own bantering and moaning about it.
Nuns in Maryland: "If you're right, you don't need to argue about it; and if you're wrong, you can't afford to argue about it."
Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Me with no apologies to the grammar police who care more about jots and tittles than really communicating: "If you is, you is and know you is even if you don't want anybody tellin' you that you is though you know you is."
Or something like that.
Go back to Harold and his miscreant.
Help us, Jesus!
1 John 1:5-10.
Blessings and Love!
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Though I'm too fickle and too much of a weenie not to mention Leviticus 19:28 out of context to get a tattoo, I like to ask inked about theirs.
Parenthetically, it's more hip to talk about ink than tattoos - something too many geezers like me don't do/get because we still haven't learned anything from Steppenwolf: "We don't know how to mind our own business 'cause the whole world's gotta be just like us."
Anyway, it's always interesting to inquire; like on Tuesday at Starbucks when I, uh, inquired.
Parenthetically (2), lest you think I'm one of those geezers who haven't learned anything from Steppenwolf, I've learned inked like to talk about it/them.
So I asked about a star on a wrist: "My best friend and I got 'em so we'd always be close no matter where we are."
Then there was the smiley face: "I was drunk."
When I asked if the young woman understood the symbolism of the peace sign on her right shoulder, she giggled, "I really didn't know what it meant when I got it; but it's kinda nice...Here, let me show you." Then she rolled up her jeans which appeared to be a third layer of skin and revealed a constellation for which she had no explanation other than impulse.
Of course, nothing tops that lady in WalMart in the aisle where they keep Metamucil. She was wearing a rather revealing, uh, top; and I couldn't resist looking where my dad told me to never look though she must want guys/gals to look because only half of, uh, it was showing. With no respect to whomever was catching it on tape like WalMart, NSA, or Holder, I inquired; and she offered, "Here let me show you..."
Martha Young comes to mind.
She was the first African-American elder of a very fabulously-well-to-do church in the triad of North Carolina who said to me shortly after ordination/installation: "You're gonna get into trouble for doing the right thing; but always remember this: 'You love 'em and let God judge 'em.'"
That has stayed with me for about a quarter of a century; and it's really helped when people...
It's inked on my soul...
Except, I think, when drunk, ink is individualistic - depicting something "special" to the inked like a symbol, picture, name, or significant date.
With everything we're learning from Snowden and about the NSA, IRS, and increasing number of control freaks in D.C. not to mention ecclesiastical bigotries aka bureaucracies, ink may be among the last still-legal expressions of liberty in America.
Or as the fellow with enough ink to pose as a Mother's Day floral display said when I asked why, "Because I can. Nobody can tell me what to do with my body."
Gotta think about that some more.
Buuuuuuut, for the most part, I wanna agree with decreasing respect for the control freaks in...
Again, I don't like pain of any kind.
Whenever I fill out one of those medical forms that asks about allergies, I print one word in big bold letters: PAIN.
Because I haven't been drunk or stoned since New Year's Eve of my freshman year in college, I'll probably never be anesthetized enough to get one; though I've often flirted with...
I can't imagine how ink artists handle changing names of whoever's the best beau/mademoiselle of the moment; or as one tatted tart said to me, "If I inked all of the names of all of my loves through life on my body, I'd have started at the armpit and be down to my bum by now."
Parenthetically (3), it's like nose rings. What happens if you've got a booger in...?
Well, apart from Martha's continuing counsel, that's not what this is all about.
It's about ink being indicative but not necessarily conclusive.
Simply, don't be fooled by what's on the outside.
It's like churches.
I've seen lots of funky lookin' folks who love Jesus a lot more than those who dress the part.
I haven't been able to get away from Matthew 23 since...
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Malachi
It's been said one of the best ways to check out a person's faith is to check out a person's checkbook.
According to the Bible, our secret lives are laid open before God; and that includes our checkbooks; specifically, how we have managed the money entrusted/graced to us by Him.
Like it or not and anybody who likes Him likes it because they want to know how to manage it as an expression of thanks to Him for the confident living inspired by the certainty of eternal life through Him, the Bible has so much to say about money and how it confirms or contradicts our personal relationship with Him.
Just a few years after being ordained to talk about Jesus and Biblical instructions for walking with Jesus, I came across a little leaflet produced by the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention called The Bible Speaks on Money: "The Bible speaks about money. God is concerned about our relationship to material things. Money is a useful tool but an evil master. As Christians we are obligated to subject ourselves to the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ in all our dealings related to money."
Granted, there are people who don't want to hear or talk about money in the church because the Bible is only as big as their favorite parts.
They're not Biblical.
Being Biblical means embracing the whole book and praying and laboring and really trying to incorporate it into our hearts as we honor Him as led by it with our heads, hands, and feet - our total selves as He commanded: "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and body..."
Quickly, this little leaflet outlines how God's people handle money Biblically: (1) Work is good and its rewards have God's approval (e.g., Exodus 20:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ecclesiastes 3:13; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:10-11); (2) God owns all wealth and He entrusts a portion of it to us (e.g., Genesis 1:1; Haggai 2:8; Deuteronomy 8:18); (3) God expects us unselfishly to share what wealth we have; sharing to support God's work and sharing with others less fortunate than we are (e.g., Deuteronomy 14:22; 15:11; Matthew 25; Mark 12:43; 1 Timothy 6:17-18; Hebrews 13:16); (4) We should pay taxes to government with our money and tribute to God with our lives (e.g., Matthew 22:15-21); (5) God's kingdom is more important than money (e.g., Matthew 4:4; 6:19-20,33; 13:45-46; 16:26; Luke 12:15; 14:33); (6) Christians are not to orient their lives to money (e.g., Matthew 6:24; Luke 12:29-30; Hebrews 13:5); and (7) There are great dangers and temptations connected with money (e.g., Matthew 19:21-24; James 5:1-3; 1 Timothy 6:10).
Personally, I'm just scratching the surface which means I don't know everything there's to know about handling money as a Christian by the book; but I do know tithing is the commencement not goal of giving, God expects the firstfruits or first not last cut/dibs when we decide what to do with what's been entrusted to us ("Give of your best to the Master!"), and everything that we are and have must be managed by prayer and effort to honor Him (again, "Love the Lord with all...").
Anything less or Anyone else provokes this prophecy from Malachi: "Will man rob God?...Bring the full tithe..."
Saying Malachi was a "typical" prophet as if there's anything "typical" about looking up, standing up, speaking up, and acting up for God, his message does not differ from anything or anyone in the book - get back to God or forfeit His blessings.
It's how he talks about money that catches attention.
When we don't manage it for God - to honor Him and advance His Kingdom - we're robbing from God.
Let me put it another way.
Malachi, again, as consistent with the whole book, is saying money is one of the best measurements of devotion to God.
He is saying anyone who tries to exclude money from the equation of discipleship just may hear another voice in the distance: "Get behind me,..."
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Scratching the Surface
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Prevention)
Suicides are occurring at an alarming rate: “Last year, across the nation, 38,364 people committed suicide…Research tells us that one in seven of our youth report having thoughts of suicide.”
Most experts claim such recorded statistics are very, very, very low to reality; estimating that many, many, many deaths “reported” as natural or otherwise were suicides.
Believers are not immune.
One of America’s most renowned evangelists shared this vision with me: “I’ve had this recurring idea that God greets people who have committed suicide with warm gentleness: ‘I know it was too tough for you down there. It was almost too tough for Me.’”
I pray the eternally positive implications of my friend’s vision; especially considering a renowned psychology professor’s counsel and conclusion: “Take the threat seriously…be
available…you may need to take direct and decisive action, like taking the person to the psychiatric ward of a hospital…In all of this, expect failure. If a person is really determined to commit suicide, the counselor may delay his or her action but there is little that can be done to prevent suicide.”
Be that as it is or may be, Christians have a privileged responsibility to love Jesus by loving like Jesus by pointing to the “goodness” of this life intended from the start (aka Genesis) as preface to the heavenly through Him.
Simply, we must pray and try to prevent suicide – the existentially permanent solution to a usually real or imagined temporary problem.
Before outlining temptations, signs, and antidotes to/of/for suicide, let’s tackle two elephants in the room of popular discussion/confusion.
1. Is suicide a sin? Absolutely yes! It is a rejection of God’s best for our lives: “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly!”
2. Is suicide an unforgivable sin? Absolutely not! Jesus said every sin will/can be forgiven except one: “There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connections with the One who forgives.”
Temptations to suicide include helplessness, hopelessness, depression, fear, guilt, desire to escape problems, substance abuse, grief, feeling there’s “no way out” of predicaments, alienation from family and friends, inability to give and receive affection, and other disappointments and disillusionments.
Signs of being suicidal include previous attempts, thanatos libido, verbalizing plans to do it, disinterest in prior interests, radical changes in sleep/appetites/activities/relationships, increasingly reckless substance abuse, lethargy, and markedly manic behaviors.
There are antidotes for preventing suicide.
Gary Collins: “Counselors…[family, friends, anybody]…should not hesitate to ask whether…[the person]…has been thinking of suicide…Rather than encouraging suicide (as is commonly assumed), open discussion often reduces its likelihood.”
Taking the time to listen will establish gentle accountability and express affection.
If there are any hints of the temptations and signs to/of suicide, address them directly and intervene/refer immediately.
Every hint should be taken seriously; and we must be willing to love the suicidal enough to be disliked by them by helping them to find an appropriate therapist or treatment facility.
Of course, Who is what is needed most: Jesus!
Augustine: “You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is Your power and to Your wisdom there is no limit…You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Jesus is the best medicine for all of our ailments: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
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!
Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m.
And so much…
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Zechariah
Like Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and collective prophetic utterance, Zechariah is all about building upon the best of the past for a better as in more faithful present and future; especially in preparation for the coming of the Messiah to establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
With eight visions often as apocalyptically obtuse as Ezekiel, Daniel, and John's Revelation, it helps to recall Grandpa Kopp's counsel, "Don't miss the forest for the trees!"
Succinctly, Zechariah is all about restoring broken parts of our relationship with God in honor of His reign as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.
Moreover, God declares His imminent and everlasting victory through Zechariah: "Here's what I will do...I will turn back to Jerusalem with that mercy they've missed for 70 years. My temples will be rebuilt...My cities will once again be prosperous, they will overflow."
While too many people under-estimate God as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior, Zechariah is reminding us that we sell God short by longing for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more. He is saying God can do more than we can ever imagine if we receive Him afresh by repenting to Him afresh.
But let God speak for Himself: "Sing out loud and be happy,...because you will see Me coming and I will live among you."
Three in One as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior!
Again, hear His good news for the faithful: "Your strength and prowess will not be enough to finish My temple, but My Spirit will be!"
Sounds familiar: "Go and make disciples...Be My witnesses to the ends of the earth...Show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age."
Zechariah is the gospeler that things can be much better now than before with God and heavenly in the end by staying with God: "I will whistle for My people and gather them in, for I will redeem them, rescue them, ransom them...I will give strength to My people, and in My name will they live."
In other words, it can be on earth as it is in heaven right now and always by sticking with God!
Or as Zechariah echoes the most consistent theme of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, "The people of Jerusalem cannot be beaten because God leads them."
Do we look and act like we know the final score?
Do we look and act like we beat all of His enemies who are our enemies who are His enemies who are our enemies?
Do we look and act like He rose from the dead and reigns as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior?
Would an alien from somewhere out there be convinced that we're already celebrating the victory by how we look and act?
If the answer is yes, we get it/Him!
Again, it's like Lloyd Ogilvie often asked me after not seeing each other for any length of time, "Are you more in love with Jesus than the last time I saw you?"
Do we look like we're more in love with Jesus than the last time we saw each other?
One way or the other, it/He shows!
When we know it's not about us or anyone else but Him, it's hard to stay down too long about life's miscreants, meanness, madness, and misery.
When we know the final score, it's hard to fret over the score in the middle of the game.
We know how it ends!
We know Who/who wins!
That's why God's people are calm, sane, and strong; keeping their heads and hearts when all about 'em are losing theirs.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!