Monday, August 31, 2015
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So what becomes of our boasting?
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.
So what becomes of our boasting?
If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar.
So what becomes of our boasting?"
Apostles John and Paul
If we're honest, which is the only Christian thing to do, we admit there are some things about following Jesus that we don't like and don't wanna do and try to avoid.
For example, in a world of dragons, He never gave permission for us to breathe fire.
No eye for an eye; but, instead, turn the other cheek...walk the extra mile...love enemies...pray for antagonists...
In a world, especially America, and often church, it's all about me, myself, and I; but, instead, authentic not posing Christians invite, welcome, include, and agape strangers...visit the sick...visit jailbirds...visit habitual jailbirds...visit jailbirds who should be in jail because they aren't civilized enough to live in society...care for the hungry and homeless...love the unlovable...like, uh, those jailbirds and...
If we're honest, which is the only Christian thing to do, we admit there are some things about following Jesus that we don't...
If we do what we don't like and don't wanna do and try to avoid because we wanna follow Jesus, He will bless us.
Jerry cornered me in a small San Anselmo, California restaurant many years ago: "Bob, what is the one thing that Jesus wants you to do for Him that you won't do?"
Me: "Well, Jerry, I've got lots of stuff that I won't do for Jesus."
Jerry: "Until you do what Jesus wants you to do, you will never experience His best blessings in your life!"
Nothing of what follows is confidential.
It's all in court records and cyberspace and newspapers and gossiping grapevines.
May 26, 2015.
Boone County Courthouse.
As I recall, it was a windy and rainy day.
Docket had been cleared for the sentencing of a man convicted of horrific crimes.
15 people in the courtroom.
Four witnesses and advocates for the prosecution.
A representative from DCFS.
Two court reporters.
No family members or prison chaplains or friends.
The prosecution asked for 54 years.
Pastor spoke: "I am not here to speak to innocence or guilt. Existentially, that's a matter for judge and jury. Eternally, that's a matter for God. I am here because of the Christian ethic of our family of faith that compels me to say this is a tragedy for everyone involved; and our family of faith will provide, as requested, care, prayer, and support for all involved."
Sentence: 36 years.
May 28, 2015.
I sat in the Boone County Jail with a man who will most likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
Frank began, "You don't think I'm innocent."
I repeated what I said in court.
We talked a long time.
He spoke of a courtroom filled with antagonists; but empty of family, two prison chaplains who said they would be there, and people who said they were his friends; weeping while telling me of family who never came to visit, a girlfriend who stopped visiting long ago, and friends who never visited.
Before we prayed for a long time, I said, "Frankly...[and he laughed when I began that way]..., your family has deserted you, you will never see your girlfriend again, people who said they were your friends have proven otherwise, and if you ever see your children again, it will be many, many, many years from now...if ever."
If there is one thing that I learned from Don Norek, there is never any time for false hopes.
Instead, I offered the only hope for him: "You can be blessed even now. Many people before you have been incarcerated for the rest of their lives and been spiritually supported and liberated. The martyrs found freedom even in death as bonded and emboldened and elevated through Jesus. You now have an opportunity to become one of the humble and confessional and repentant saints who find peace and calm and sanity even while spending the rest of their lives in jail."
We talked long, hard, and hopeful about 1 John 1:4-10.
I continued, "Jesus said we are blessed/refreshed and resurrected in time and forever by being totally dependent upon God. It's the first beatitude. It echoes Psalm 62 that I urge you to memorize, digest, and breathe for the rest of your life until you go to heaven by grace through faith in Jesus."
Then, as my own tears welled then flowed, I said, "I must remind you that you have been abandoned by everyone - family and friends; but God will never abandon you.
Together, we read Psalm 62.
He asked if I will see him when he's in the big house.
I said, "Frankly...[he laughed again]..., once you're settled in, let me know where you are and I'll visit once a year and correspond not as often as you'd like...[he laughed again]...and let me know what you need because our family of faith has some continuing Matthew 25 privileges as well as promises to keep with you as Him and Him as you."
Since Frank's been convicted and jailed for the rest of his life, many people have gone out of their way to tell me how bad he is and how he got what he deserved and how they hope he gets what he deserves in the big house.
I haven't heard much about Jesus, redemption, and forgiveness.
While most of those comments have been outside of our family of faith...
It's obvious to me that I have failed with too many in explaining...Jesus...faith...agape...
Even as I write now, my tears well and start to flow...
Such hatred...and not just about the crime/sin...
The judgmentalism and unashamed and rationalized self-righteousness have been nauseating; reminding me of many things that Jesus said; not least among them being, "The measure you give is the measure that you will get...You will be judged as you have judged."
Of course, lots don't believe that/Him.
God knows "they" don't believe Matthew 6:12, 14-15.
God knows "they" don't believe any of the truths at the top of this edition.
God knows I now know more than ever before why Jesus warned, "You will be hated for loving Me...and trying/praying to follow Me."
For as I have tried to love Frank as Jesus would and as Jesus commands people who say they love Him...
Hate runs deeper in our world and America and even...than I ever thought possible.
Sooooooo I must apologize to everyone ever on the receiving end of me saying they never took the course on original sin.
I'm more naive than I could have ever imagined.
I really thought people who have been forgiven by Jesus and say they love Jesus would...
I was wrong about so many people who told me that...
Annnnnnnd I am more grieved than I have ever been in life and ministry.
For the first time in a long time, I wonder why I bother to...
The Eagles singing about "Wasted Time" is ringing in my...
I find myself repeating, "Come now, Lord Jesus!"
I find myself begging, "Take me now, Lord Jesus!"
I am serious.
Yeeeeeeet I hear John and Paul and Don Norek and...Jesus...
Psalm 62 is not just for Frank and...
Unfortunately for me and those on the receiving end of salt, light, and leaven, I will continue until I'm knocked off by an Islamofascistnutball or former member who can't wait another decade or two for the next pastor to come before they return or get what I deserve for not wearing a helmet.
I used to scoff at people who said hell is existential as well as eternal.
Blessings and Love!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing!"
"The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close
neighborhood of the Holy. Nowhere do we tempt so
successfully as on the very steps of the altar."
Demonic training in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters
When I was ordained, a mentor sent this note to me:
"When you preach, give 'em the gospel!
That'll shock 'em...and save 'em!
That's what your call is about."
Do you remember Jimmy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart?
If you don't, google 'em for a quick reminder.
Anyway, they were really big in the 70s and early 80s until, uh, you know, they, uh, fell from their pedestals of pretended perfection erected by idolaters.
When Jimmy was caught with Jessica and the other Jimmy damned him before getting caught with a hooker in a no-tell-motel, lots of mainline denominational types rejoiced openly; because, well, uh, the ministries of the Jimmies were thriving while theirs were diving/descending/dying.
Mainliners were almost giddy about it.
I'll never forget a presbytery meeting in Kansas City when some guy couldn't resist poking fun at 'em.
Of course, that's the old speck-inspecting way; until, uh, we get caught with our pants down.
Religious people love to point out the sins of others; until, you know, they get caught with their logs out.
It brings to mind a Sunday morning congregational prayer: "And now our hearts go out for all of those pure and perfect newsmen pointing out the sins of others."
Getting back to the Jimmies and how too many relished their falls, I got up when the guy finished his report about something that I forget and said, "Well, I know Jimmy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart screwed up; but as we bask in their failures, I can't keep from saying, despite their humanity, how many more people that they've led to Jesus as Lord and Savior than any of us have. Come to think of it, I'll bet they've led more people to Jesus than our whole denomination in the last decade or so."
The silence was deafening.
The stares were unsettling.
A synod executive - that's kinda like an uber-bishop in our franchise - cornered me during a tinkle break and said, "Kopp, if you keep making comments like that, you're never going to get anywhere in our denomination."
I asked, "Did you say abomination?"
He didn't laugh.
It was another reminder that some folks are humorless; or, admittedly, think I am.
He remains right about me and the franchise.
I have more of a chance of becoming Rome's guy dressed in white than becoming...
When I was a really important senior pastor in really big churches in Kansas City and North Carolina long before I was anywhere near mature enough for the gigs as confirmed by my humanity, I was a part of a group of really important senior pastors.
I mean really important senior pastors of reaaaaaaallllllly big and important - spelled m-o-n-e-y - churches.
We met at least yearly to sit and talk about how bad things were becoming and how we should/could...
After a while, a few of us dropped out; because we knew none of us were really going to risk any of our perks and privileges by taking on the increasingly irretrievable apostasy under current management.
Essentially, we just butt-sat, bantered, and moaned about it.
Truth is, when we met, we had enough combined resources that we could have done something about it.
We didn't, again, because we did not want to risk our perks, pensions, privileges, and perches.
Sooooooo as Wyatt said to Billy in Easy Rider, "We blew it."
Truth is we were-maybe-still-are like most American Christians: "As long as I've got my six-pack and the Yankees are on the dope box..."
As long as we're safe, we ain't gonna risk...
I chair a committee in our presbytery.
Somebody who I really respect and really like just resigned because, well, uh, she/he is really, really, really busy.
I wrote: "I understand, friend; and reluctantly on behalf of the...accepted...It seems that able and caring saints like you are being asked to do more and more and more and...Again, I understand..."
Continuing: "Unfortunately, as we will increasingly though grudgingly acknowledge, the devolution and decline of our franchise means we have fewer and fewer and fewer horses for the races before us...My concern is we will return to just filling holes with whomever for whatever regardless of..."
Concluding: "That's just the way things are whether we like it or not...I will pray that our Lord releases unnecessary burdens and equips and encourages you for the necessary that has prompted this decision...Quickly, we are approaching the time when we will have to modify our immediate organizational structure and authoritative connections...The discretionary and obligatory are always in conflict..."
Signing off: "In short, reluctantly, I affirm your decision with affection and appreciation for your service."
Then I thought to myself: "If the good girls/guys keep dropping out..."
Now go back to the Burke quote, video, and other stuff at the top.
Question that I keep asking myself:
"What are you doing for Christ's sake?"
"Fulfill your ministry!...We each have different work to do.
We belong to each other and each needs all the others."
Blessings and Love!
Monday, August 24, 2015
"You can fool all of the people some of the time;
and some of the people all of the time.
Not bad odds!'
"If you're having problems with your watch,
don't look at the hands. Look deeper!"
While it strikes against my charismata for cynicism and sarcasm, I've been more encouraged than ever before by all of the candidates who want to succeed BBPBHO.
Except for you know who who doesn't like to talk to the press or, uh, anyone lest the electorate see through the poll-polished scripts to the person, I think all of the candidates on both sides of the aisle really love America with a dedication to national unity amid diversity that we haven't seen for a while.
Surely, I don't agree with everything about any of 'em; but, then again, I didn't miss the course on original sin.
I don't expect perfection from anyone but you know who.
Only naiveté, arrogance, or idolatry pretends any candidate is pure and perfect and above reproach.
A coach was disappointed with a player's performance.
He asked, "What is it with you? Ignorance or apathy?"
The player replayed, "Coach, I don't know and I don't care!"
The electorate's performance over the past four big elections comes to mind.
Really, is there still anyone in the USA who really thinks...?
Coulda been naiveté.
Coulda been arrogance.
Coulda been idolatry.
Actually, I think it was all three; and I'm concerned about how celebrity elections by a naive, arrogant, and idolatrous electorate gave us...
And while I like just about all of the candidates this time around a lot more than the last two guys who took us in, I'm still stunned by how the electorate cozies up to their candidates as if they're God's other sons...or, uh, daughters.
Of course, that's our nature.
Prone to naiveté, arrogance, and idolatry.
It happens in politics...and church.
Have you listened to the jingoistic sycophants for Donald, Hillary, Joel, Al, Joyce, PCUSA, EPC, OPC, EOC, ESPN, ACLU, NAACP, NRA, AARP, and...?
Some folks are sooooooo deluded...or deceptive.
Confessionally, and I know lots of folks will disagree with me because "their" candidates are sooooooo much..., I don't see any of the 34 running for the office who are trying to destroy the country.
I don't even believe the last two tried to destroy the country; though they prove the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Nah, I believe everyone running wants the best for the country.
I really do.
Not a hint of cynicism.
Buuuuuuut I am more than a tad concerned about the electorate.
I'm concerned the next big election, like the last four, will turn more on celebrity than character.
That's why I like the Calvinist that's still in me.
I like believing God elects even when we think we do.
On the other hand, it would be nice if we cooperated with Him this time around; and paid attention to who are the candidates most in keeping with Him.
Blessings and Love!