Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Friend on Gun Control

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


    Every Good Friday on the corner of Lincoln and Main, some of Belvidere and Boone County's most faithful pulpiteers lead worship and help bring the community together in/through/for Jesus by the book (see attached).

    Encouraged by the officers, staff, and membership of our family of faith, I am very careful about who speaks to our sheepdogs and sheep in a Matthew 10:16 kinda way.

    We don't open our pulpit to wolves in sheep's clothing.

    If I'm not convinced they believe in Jesus by the book or if I've heard/seen them in creed/deed being antithetical to Biblical Christianity, they are fenced from infecting the faithful.

    Same with KDs.

    Every once in a while, a friend/peer/whoever sends something to me that Kathie posts and Hans sometimes links to www.churchandworld.com.

    Today's guest is a former California cop who went to seminary avec moi and remains one of my closest friends despite geographical challenges.

    Oh, yeah, it's Dr. Paul G. Watermulder who served forever as the senior pastor of Burlingame, California's First Presbyterian Church.

    While I've been really bummed out by historically and existentially ignorant clergy and other politicians along with newspaper propagandists who don't know the truth or tell the truth by Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense, this is an exceptionally sober, sensitive, strong, and compelling commentary on one of the challenging issues dividing America.


Guns and the Gospel:  A Personal Perspective, by Paul Watermulder; February 28, 2018

“And a little child shall lead them,” we read in scripture.  Or in the words of Jesus Himself, “out of the mouths of babes and infants “comes the truth.
Across our land students are in an uproar about America’s lack of effective control of abuse of guns.  Adults have debated and argued the matter through the killings and the attempted assassinations of Presidents, Congress people, judges, civil rights leaders, police, teachers, gang members, innocent bystanders and innumerable victims of spousal abuse. 
But the parade of shocking injustice against the innocent has continued.  It has been laid at the feet of the mental health community, of politicians, of hunters, of terrorists, of the political left and the political right.  To no significant avail.
But now it’s the kids.  Our children and grandchildren are picking up where we have dropped the ball.  They’ve seen high school children murdered and grade school children slaughtered.  They’ve heard of the fear of families in other countries to visit the USA because of gun violence.  They have seen the news report that it is more dangerous to be a child in America than in any other developed country, due to gun violence. 

And they’ve heard enough.  They’ve had enough.  “Let the little children come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God,” said Jesus.  And they are starting to follow the ways of that Jesus in speaking up for peace on the streets and in the schools of America; in caring more about results (dead children) than in abstract principles (along with the Pope who said, “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”); as in protesting the injustice of the massacre of the innocents in our very own time and on our very own land.  And they are watching to see who will stand with them against evil as it comes to yet this newest of our generations.
I used to carry a gun every day:  before becoming a Presbyterian minister, I was a street cop in Berkeley, California (a suburb of San Francisco).  I worked night shift in the (then) high crime, low-income community of West Berkeley.  I never fired my weapon in the line of duty, but virtually no week passed in which its use was very nearly called for to protect some citizen., and its presence in or out of its holster made a huge difference in bringing a non-lethal peace.
That’s where I developed my working definition of a cop:  A good police officer is one who protects the vulnerable from the bullies.  It’s that simple.  And the bullies are armed and dangerous, as well as often mentally ill and just as often drunk, angry or high.
I’ve retired from forty years working as pastor of churches and am now a chaplain weekly amid dozens of people who are armed and must be in order to protect the vulnerable from the bullies—these happen to be federal police officers working within TSA.  Happily, they are as well-balanced and smart, as caring and as well trained as any cops I have worked with. 
I praise God for quality peace officers who care about the communities they serve and who seek to protect the vulnerable from the bullies.  And I praise God for their ability with weapons that can stop evil in its tracks.
Twice in my pastoral ministry I have disarmed parishioners who have been on their way to find and shoot their wives:  Though I was not armed, neither of them got the chance to do those things, and I was grateful that I had been well trained not only in working up close with such people, but also in disarming their weapons.
In my experience, many terrific Christians and many wonderful Americans also are very familiar with guns and are part of the solution rather than the problem with guns in America.
But since we live amid so many people who have access to guns and who are not well-trained or mentally healthy or sober or caring or seeking to treat their neighbor as themselves or to love like Jesus, the kids are right.  Dead right.  A new path must be taken if we are to be anything close to the City set on a Hill, a beacon of hope, a society of protectors of the vulnerable from the bullies.
Like most everything that can be used for good, guns are certainly being used for evil.  Or to put it more to the liking of many, like anything that can be used for evil, guns can also be used for the good.
My wariness of guns came from having guns pointed at me and at others who were trying hard to be part of the solution, not the problem.  And from finding too many results of horrible choices by people with guns. 
In fact, as many other police officers may testify, I found that personal handguns often were used in ways that their owners probably never desired or anticipated:  These included:
1.           Used in suicides in the depth of drunkenness or depression.  Guns generally allowing no room for second thoughts, such as being talked off a bridge or being found with an overdose or (as in one case) becoming frustrated in not being able to tie a noose knot and giving up.
2.           Used to shoot an unknown person who turned out to be, for example, a “friend of our college-age son, who had told him he could always come to our house if he was in town and needed a place to sleep.”  Or in another case, to shoot a drunk neighbor who mistook a neighbor’s house as his own and tried to get in to go to sleep.
3.           Stolen by criminals and used in subsequent crimes either by them or after they are illegally sold to other criminals.  Virtually every traceable gun used in crimes I was familiar with had been stolen.
4.           Accidentally discharged, as when a small child finds the gun that was thought to be well hidden and shoots a friend or family member without knowledge of what she had done.  Or when being cleaned.  Or when being moved perhaps by a family member trying to get behind it to something else in the closet.  Or being examined by a teenaged child with friends.  You get the picture.
5.           Used by a homeowner to threaten somebody in an argument leading either to a discharge that had been mostly unintended or causing the other person to escalate on that escalation.
6.           Displayed or referred to in conversation with others, who may have innocently made reference of this gun ownership to yet others thus making the gun owner far more susceptible to home burglary than otherwise would be true.
7.           Brought out in an attempt to defend house or family but its presence made things worse (i.e. A fistfight is called for and the gun gets in the way.  Or the bad guy wrests the gun away).
8.           And in a very small number of cases, used to successfully defend a home or family.
It is so easy to forget that: Anytime a person shoots somebody else, even in righteous self-defense, that shooter can count on being taken into custody and staying under arrest from a few hours to days or longer. 
What can we learn from our children as well as our Lord on this subject? 
For starters, how about learning that very few matters in life are solved with “one size fits all.”  What is true in one community may not at all be true in another.  What is right at one time in life may be wholly unhelpful at another time in life.  So, we need conversations that go beyond seeking a single and simple solution to a very complex set of issues.
Or how about committing ourselves to real conversations with people who we think do not agree with our viewpoint?  Polarization has come to define so much of our national dialogue on any subject that we are no longer a bell curve but a barbell of opinion.  And we often may fear drawing toward the center for fear of “people like me” no longer trusting us to have good judgment.  Or we fear that the “other side” is so entrenched as to have nothing but withering scorn or mountains of “facts” to refute our thinking, so that the whole experience will be painful and upsetting, and the conversation leaves naught but long-term scars.
Perhaps churches could each intentionally hold discussions on aspects of gun ownership and control with established groups such as Sessions, small groups or classes.  And such groups could agree ahead of time on ground rules to listen to see what one thing they can learn from the “other side” and to refrain from assigning the “other side” attributes of Satan, Lucifer, Judas and the Philistines all wrapped into one.
If it is true that “guns are not the problem, but people are” (but often their access to guns is the real problem!), we could talk in quiet discussion settings of the kinds of people or conditions we think should or should not have access to guns. We may then discover how each of us are our brother’s keeper and how our getting hold of the gun problem will include recognizing our mutual responsibilities to pay attention to each other, to mental and emotional strain, to things said or done which in retrospect may prove to have been a “signal.”  It is far more productive for most of us when we argue from the specific (children killed in Parkland High School) than from the general (citizens have the right to bear arms).
People on both sides of the public debate, such as it is, will need to recognize that some laws will have to change, since law by nature has an enforceable force that in fact is needed with some people.  Also, we will need to recognize that changing the laws is a key but never the only nor the hardest part of our becoming safe for all of our children.
The hardest part will be the personal discussions with family members and friends and neighbors.  Misunderstanding is easy, we can almost guarantee being misunderstood and maligned.  There are a lot of laws on the books right now that are not being enforced fully, and probably we all are partly to blame—how many times do we rationalize that we don’t have to follow one law or another because we feel it does not pertain to us, or because we feel we “know better?”  (Think of seatbelts, or “rolling stops” on up to laws about making weapons and ammunition fully secure, up to telling the truth under oath.)  Dealing with individual feelings of being above the law (entitled) may be the most important point in discussions.  But if sacrifice in the manner of Jesus means anything to a Christian, surely it can mean that we become willing to sacrifice our reputation or attitude or even any smugness we might have about our position. 
The more we talk and listen about the guns in our houses and cars and in the hands of very bad people and of very good people and everybody in between, the more we tame this Herod-like slaughter of our innocents of every age.

(Paul Watermulder is a retired clergy member of San Francisco Presbytery; a graduate of Princeton Seminary and Drew School of Theology.)


A Service for the Worship of God

Good Friday

March 30, 2018 

“The Seven Last Words of Jesus”

First Word

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34
Adam Reardon, Pastor, Redemption Church

Second Word
12:20 p.m.
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43
Brian Phillips, Pastor, The Grove

Third Word
12:50 p.m.
“Woman, behold, your son!…Behold, your mother!”
John 19:26-27
David Smith, Pastor, Belvidere First

Fourth Word
1:20 p.m.
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
Dan Pope, Pastor, Open Bible Church

Fifth Word
1:50 p.m.
“I thirst.”
John 19:28
Martha and Tomas Valladares, Salvation Army

Sixth Word
2:20 p.m.
“Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit!”
Luke 23:46
Scott Stolberg, Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church

Seventh Word
2:45 p.m.
“It is finished!”
John 19:30
Scott Nellis, Pastor, Evangelical Covenant Church


Thank you for worshipping with us today as we recall
Our Lord’s passion and meditate on His Seven Last Words
as guided by
local pastors
who love
Jesus by the book.

Today’s offerings
will be used
the glory of God
through the
The Compassion Closet of St. James and First
(Please deposit offerings in “Gifts for Ministry” box)



Blessings and Love!


Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!



Friday, February 23, 2018

The Mercy Papers - Denouement

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    I had to listen to the Lion before receiving/writing this.

    While I am just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus by the book as guided by the Holy Spirit, this series has reached its sealing.

    As you read, you will discover disciples are only concerned about one relationship in the end.

    While this will come as a shock to ideological idolaters of all shades and shadows, discipleship has nothing to do with being a liberal or conservative or their bastard children called progressives and traditionalists.

    Discipleship is not political, religious, or socioeconomic.

    Discipleship is not about pleasing the Democrats, Republicans, mainliners, sideliners, navel-gazing, and other mindless drones in your countries, cities, and churches.

    Discipleship is about trusting and obeying Jesus by the book as guided by the Holy Spirit.

    Discipleship is speaking truth to people who do not want to hear it but need to digest it into their heads, hearts, and guts for untapped love expressed through grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

    Discipleship, as Bonhoeffer echoed the warning of Jesus, is costly.

    Discipleship defines family by trust and obedience to Jesus alone.

    Discipleship means death to any relationship not of/in/through/for Jesus.

    Existentially, it means confronting the beast.

    The beast bites back.

    Eternally, it means paradise.

    Yet, the existential precedes the eternal.

    The existential is the meantime.

    The eternal is forever.


    I had to listen to the Lion before receiving/writing this.

    The roar and reign of the Lion will be heard and heeded in these days.

    He is coming back.


Caught with Pants Down

“Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught
in adultery, making her stand in the center.”

John 8


          Sitting with my first pastor CBS group (i.e., caring, bearing, sharing) about 40 years ago, the hot topic was the inevitable ordination of avowed, self-affirming, and unrepentant gays and what it would mean for the future of mainline denominations like ours.

          The verdict was the denomination would begin to unravel and become increasingly irrelevant in American religious culture; and unless you’ve got two feet planted firmly in the air or overdosed on St. John’s Wort or think elephants are mice with glandular problems, the prediction was spot on.

          Mainline denominations are going down the toilet quicker than poop through a goose.

          Anyway, my CBS group was pretty conservative; and, back in those days, so was the denomination as in esteeming over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity.

          The etiology of decline continues to spark frustrating debate; and while I’m not about to pretend to know why, I look to those seven letters in Revelation as compelling clues.

          Getting back to CBS, I was, to twist a lyric from Bob Seger, a lot younger and much bolder than I am today.


          However, having piled up lots of pension credits has enabled a tad more freedom to be…honest…to God as accountable to Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense.

          Well, I said something that rocked the boats of my buddies to get the debate going: “If we’re going to kick out the gays from the churches because they’re sinners, we may as well keep going and kick out the gossipers; but if we do that, no one will be left in our churches.”

          Talk about peeing on a parade.

          The oldest guy – not many female clergy back then – lit into me: “Don’t you think God is terribly grieved by homosexual behavior and can’t stop crying over the perversion of His gift of human sexuality.”

          “Nah,” I replied, “I don’t think God loses sleep over two gals or guys making out as much as he does over people who make a bigger deal about sexual sins than the rest of the big ten.  Beggars can’t be choosers; and the way I see it, I’m not as concerned about gays as I am about people who beat, batter, bruise, and butcher.  Sorry, while I’m not into it and while I believe it’s sin because it’s listed as sin in the Bible, I don’t lose sleep over it and I’d rather spend my time introducing people to Jesus as Lord and Savior than being OCD about gays.  I mean, come to think of it, if I can get them into a relationship with Jesus, they can work it out with Him now and, uh, then.”

          I got a call later that day from the old pastor who was my age now: “You know, Bob, we’re a little concerned about you.  We thought you’re one of us; but you sounded pretty liberal this morning.”

          “Geez,” I answered, “I never really think about being liberal or conservative.  I just read what Jesus said and try to repeat it within the context of everything that He said within the context of the entire book; and from what I’ve been reading, being a Christian sounds liberal sometimes and sounds conservative other times which is why I prefer to think of myself as a Christian rather than a liberal or conservative.”

          He asked if I still felt comfortable with them after what he said.

          I asked if he felt comfortable with me.

          It was my first litmus test; recognizing that believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior by the book just ain’t enough for some folks…even in churches.


          Christians quarrel and break fellowship and destroy families over…lots of things that, in my estimation and I may be wrong if proven wrong by Jesus by the book along with common sense, don’t seem consequential in the end.

          I felt like the son whose mom kept calling him a SOB and didn’t catch the irony.

          Because some people are really dense, let me spell a few things out before continuing.

          Would I preside at a same-sex nuptial?


          I don’t see any justification for that rite in over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity.

          Would I pray with same-sex couples for God to bless them?


          I don’t see any justification for not praying God’s best for everyone even when we disagree or even with enemies in over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity.

          Would I ordain gays to ministry?

          Well, I’ve ordained gossipers, liars, thieves, same-sex adulterers, idolaters, cranks, creeps, and…over the years as long as they weren’t, you know, obnoxious and irascible and irregular and irreconcilable and acknowledge room for improvement in their lives through confession and repentance juxtaposed to Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense.

          So, sure.

          Heaven, I’ve been ordained over four decades.

          If I got in, there’s room for more sinners; recalling how one of our saints on the corner of Lincoln and Main likes to say, “Christians aren’t sinless.  They just pray and work to sin less.”

          I think of John 8 and the woman caught with her pants down.

          You know the story.

          A woman gets caught, uh, with her pants down.

          Back in those days and still pretty common in Islamofascistnutball savage countries, women caught with their pants down were stoned to death.

          Can you imagine what that would do to the female census in today’s America?

          Jesus, of course, doesn’t like self-righteous or Sister-Bertha-better-than-you prigs; and if you read the Bible, you’ll find that God likes humble people eternally more than the arrogant and pride-filled. 

          God can work with people who know they’re not pure and perfect in every way and need a Savior.

That’s His business.

So back to the story, Jesus says to the pewsitters following the lead of the pulpiteers about to hurl on her, “Anyone without sin should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Again, talk about peeing on a parade.

Sparing her of being executed for breaking a sexual rule, Jesus says two things that every saved sinner like you and me and everyone else saved by grace through faith in Jesus must remember about Him and how we relate to His very, very, very inviting, welcoming, including, and loving family.

First, he says, “I don’t condemn you.”

Remember what he said to Nicodemus?

He didn’t stop with John 3:16 that everybody’s memorized.

He continued with John 3:17 that everybody would be wise to memorize because it’s His and our raison d’etre.

Because too many ecclesiastical prigs haven’t memorized it and don’t want to look it up because it will mean expanding the wineskin to include people that we assumed will be left out when the roll is called up yonder, here goes: “God came into the world to save not condemn it.”

That’s spelled w-o-r-l-d.

That’s everyone…even you…even me…even them.

Second, he says, “Now stop it!  Stop your sexual sinning!”

Jesus is saying to her and says to us and everyone else, in effect, “If you’re grateful for being saved even though you don’t deserve it, I would appreciate you trying a lot harder to show your gratitude by living by my rules instead of the ones that you keep making up for yourselves.”

Note bene.

When we look at everything that Jesus said and did as recorded in Holy Scripture, we know He knew she’d still not be pure and perfect in every way and would never become so good that she still wouldn’t need Him as Lord and Savior.

Always remember God would not have gone to His extreme expressions of love in Jesus to save us if we could ever do it for ourselves.

So, contextually, Jesus is telling her to try a lot harder and be confessional and repentant about how she’s not and never will be pure and perfect in every way.

I remember hearing someone say, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

Simply, as Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

No one is pure and perfect in every way; and those who think they are have, maybe, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit’s witness to everyone needing Jesus as Lord and Savior.

By grace through faith in Jesus, everyone can be better than before and know they’re going to heaven in the end.

Fidelity is living lives of gratitude – doing our best to trust and obey – for what He has done for us forever.

Putting it all together, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity (sexual sin) as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong.”

Lewis explained, “The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting…the pleasures of power…of hatred…They are the animal self and the diabolical self…That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.”

He concluded, “But, of course, it is better to be neither!”

Amen for the ideal!

It would be awesome to be pure and perfect in every way.

Ain’t possible.

We’re too human for that.

Amen for Jesus overcoming the real!

He knows we need saving.

He knows we need Someone divine in our lives because we’re too real to be ideal.

And if you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s why the Christian message is called gospel.

Good news…for the undeserving…by grace through faith in Jesus.

Everyone is invited to experience that good news…by grace through faith in Jesus.

Everyone is welcomed to experience that good news…by grace through faith in Jesus.

Everyone is included to experience that good news…by grace through faith in Jesus.

It has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative.

It has everything to do with being Christian.

That’s good to remember when we catch somebody with her/his pants down.

That’s good to remember when we get caught with our pants down.


Blessings and Love!

Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!



Sunday, February 18, 2018

2nding Matthew 10:16

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)



    Every Saturday after dropping off Billy for Special Olympics, I hit the McDs on Mulford in Rockford, Illinois to meet with a young woman who is among the few millenials that I know who really wants to honor Jesus by the book.

    In other words, she worships weekly, manages who she is and what she has through a Christocentrically Biblical filter, and approaches every opportunity and temptation in a WWJD kinda way.

    So, yeah, she is rare among millenials.

    Come to think of it, she's rare!

    Praise God!

    Anyway, as I was walking into McDs last Saturday, people were streaming out and one pret' near hysterical woman warned, "Don't go in there!  Something bad is happening!  A big ___ man is yelling and screaming and I think there's going to be a fight or worse!"

    Buuuuuuut since reading Matthew 10:16 juxtaposed to Psalm 23, I've run into fires rather than away from them.

    I don't identify with sheep.

    I'm an undershepherd to the Good Shepherd who lives to guide, provide, and protect sheep from wolves.

    I live to confront wolves.

    Buuuuuuuut he was biiiiiiiggggggg!

    Immediately, I could see he was towering over the manager and yelling and screaming and waving his arms and going way over the edge about his purchase not being as ordered in a menacing wolfish kinda way.

    What was worse for me, remembering I had just dropped off Billy, he was intimidating and bullying and seemed ready to pounce on two young female "challenged" employees.

    Because I've been around a while and continue to "Be Prepared" from my old BSA days before the BSA were castrated and femininized, I went right up to him and said, "Is there a problem here?  I'm with the Boone County Sheriff's Department."

    He backed off immediately.

    Wolves only prey on the unprotected.

    When sheepdogs are around, wolves cower, cave, put tails between their legs, and scatter.

    Buuuuuuut wolves always ravage and ruin when sheepdogs aren't around to protect the sheep!!!!!!!

    Parenthetically, I am with the Boone County Sheriff's Department and Belvidere Police Department.

    I'm one of their three manly-ain't-no-such-thing-as-an-innocent-bystander-undershepherd chaplains; annnnnnnd I'm trained, credentialed, and registered in 2nding Matthew 10:16.

    Escorting the demonically oppressed-at-minimum man to the exit, I opened the door for him and he snorted, "Doan needs yoah help, dog!"

    I said, "You do not want to mess with me, friend."

    He fled.

    People have been asking what's happening to America.

    So much hating, meanness, madness, miscreance, and murder

    While I don't pretend to have all of the answers, I have an observation and suggestion.


    Sheep are stupid enough to think there's not thaaaaaaat much evil in the world despite the evidence.

    They missed the course on original sin.


    More sheepdogs or undershepherds need to hang around soft targets while 2nding Matthew 10:16.


Blessings and Love!


Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!