Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Shooting The Wounded

October 22, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  October 21, 2014

                                     

 

We are all fallen!

The problem is that Christians, ironic as it is, have a nasty habit of trampling on fallen people…even though scripturally we believe “…that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!” (Romans 3:23)

Recently, Mark Driscoll, founding pastor and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church, whose main campus is in Seattle, resigned amidst allegations of bullying, plagiarism, and an oversized ego. Mars Hill Church, founded by Driscoll in 1996, is attended by more than 15,000 people.

I’m sure that Mark Driscoll made mistakes, perhaps even abusing his leadership powers to excess. All of us have sinned!

But some of the ways he has been tormented in recent weeks is harsh evidence that Christians are prone to shoot their wounded. Driscoll and his wife and five children have moved three times, people have been arrested at their home and he has also received death threats. One morning baseball-sized rocks were hurled through windows of their home.

Of course, Jesus didn’t prohibit the throwing of rocks. He just said to let the person who has not sinned, and not fallen short at some time…let him or her throw the first rock.

Why do followers of Jesus seem to be sometimes be cruel and hateful? What pleasure does that bring to the heart of God to see those that his son was crucified for be crucified over and over again?

It’s what saddens me the most about the church. We have a tendency to think the worst about people, instead of thinking with a grace-filled mindset.

Where there’s a wounded hurting spirit you’ve got to watch out for the smoking gun.

Momentum Church

October 20, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           October 20, 2014

                                        

Momentum is not a scriptural word…unless you go to The Message paraphrase, and then it appears once in Matthew 4:25. Other than that there is no momentum in the Bible.

And yet we talk about momentum quite a bit in the ministry of the church. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of our over-zealous sports world mindset. There’s hardly a game that can be viewed on TV without “The Big Mo” word used during it. Teams have the momentum, grab the momentum, make a play that changes the momentum, can sense the momentum shifting…and on and on.

And so we hold it up in the church as a key part of our success…or failure. There’s a couple of problems with momentum. One is we try to make it a spiritual concept. Or on the other hand, we translate a spiritual revival or awakening as a sign of building momentum. Increased attendance at worship is seen as meaning there is momentum. An increase in baptisms, or those wanting to become members of the church, or financial giving, or a building project…all of those are viewed as spiritual indications of momentum building. We crave it. We even idolize it.

But where as the Spirit is steady, momentum is fickle. It can come and go at a “moment’s” notice. The hardest Sunday of the year for a pastor is the Sunday after Easter. Easter is a spark of momentum. The Sunday after Easter things go back to the way they were. It’s almost like Jesus goes back into the tomb. So much for momentum!

There’s been a few years where the excited momentum of Easter was quickly followed by the depressed loss of life.

Which brings me to a final question that I don’t necessarily have an answer to, but I want to ask it! What is the difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum? The early church experienced both. I love the Acts 2 and 4 passages where the believers met daily in the temple courts, praised and prayed, took care of one another. The difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum is that transformed lives are the result of the Spirit’s moving. People who are changed are left in the trail of the Spirit’s wind. Ananias and Sapphira’s “special gift” mentioned in Acts 5 was an indication of being caught up in the momentum of the times. They weren’t moved by the Spirit, but rather by their greed and need for recognition.

So…any time there is a sense of momentum there will always be the anger of false acts of spiritual devotion. It’s the Christian version of “fifteen minutes of fame!”

How do we know what is of God and what is of our own creation? I don’t entirely know, but I am taken back by the story in the gospels where Jesus notices the gift of a poor widow that everyone else has discounted as meaningless.

Something to think about!

That Illusive Feeling of Peace

October 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       October 13, 2014

                                    

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25 and 27)

 

Let’s be honest! Peace is something we long for, but find it hard to grasp. Currently there are many areas of unrest in our lives. In case your list is short, here’s a few to add to it:  ISIS, ebola, mall shootings, school shootings, burn scars, cholesterol levels, cancer, gas prices, stocks falling, collapsed pension plans, processed food, college tuition, aching knees, overdrawn bank accounts, hacking Target and Home Depot, pit bulls, gun right advocates and opponents, Republicans and Democrats, Obamacare and lack of health care, meth addicts robbing homes…

As you know, I could go on and on and on, but I’m sure there were a few things on that list that resonated with you.

Worry is like water! After yesterday’s three inches of rain there’s plenty of it for everyone!

But what about peace! Is it on sabbatical? Have we ticked off God so much that he’s taken back his peace and gone home?

Aren’t followers of Jesus suppose to be peace-filled? Isn’t there suppose to be a sense of tranquility in our spiritual lives?

Let me answer that with a “That would be nice!” and “Sometimes yes!”

There’s an inner peace and and outer sense of peace. The inner peace is a promise of God. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That inner peace develops as we take a breath of prayer…as we trust that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It’s believing more in the presence of God and the power of God than the destruction and depression of Life.

The outer sense of peace comes and goes like the winning streaks of the Colorado Rockies…most of the time, too few and far between! Life can be good and then the news comes on. We talk about peaceful moments, but they are suddenly plummeted by torrential rains.

The fickleness of our outer peace raises our worries like the yeast in baking bread. Sometimes our worries cause us to forget that we DO have the promise of inner peace.

Jesus asks, “Why worry?” And we respond, “Because it’s one thing we’re really good at!”

We will even worry if there suddenly isn’t anything to worry about!

We are followers of the one who was known as “The Prince of Peace.” If we could just follow him as closely as my shadow seems to follow me!

The Smell of Eternity

September 23, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 23, 2014

                                        

One of my unanswered questions got answered today. I had been wondering what eternity smells like…like in heaven, that is! In today’s mail I got the answer. Of all places, it came in the middle of the Kohl’s ad. To my surprise a sniff sample with the title “ETERNITY” was included in the ad.

I slowly raised one of the flaps on the sample to experience eternity. Would it be close to the tantalizing smell rising from a bucket of fried chicken, or the aroma one’s nose breathes in when the fresh bag of ground coffee is opened?

What does eternity smell like?

I was a little taken back by the fact that the scent sample of Eternity was coming from Calvin Klein, and to further confuse my theology a beachfront picture of a woman laying on top of a man, who is kissing her forehead, splashed across the cover of the scent experience.

Calvin Klein had evidently done a lot of study and research on Eternity, because one lift up flap presented a masculine eternal smell, but the flap on the other side of the sample was the feminine version of what Eternity smells like. Neither, in my opinion, smelled as spiritual and persevering as my grandfather’s Old Spice did many years ago, but I’m biased.

I’m going to sneak out and go to Kohl’s tonight, but some Eternity, and see if Carol says, “Wow! You smell heavenly!”

If she wrinkles up her nose and says with a grimace, “What’s that smell?”, I’m going to talk to her about her eternal destination. Not recognizing the smell of Eternity is reason to question where she is in her ability to smell what is of God.

Of course, our sanctuary right now has a musty smell to it. Carol has noticed that. Perhaps if I canvas the neighbors I can collect some additional Eternity scent samples and string them up like fly strips around the worship area. Is it possible that people would start thinking about Eternity more if they smelled it every Sunday?

Obviously, Calvin Klein has some funds invested in this project. They even carefully worded the description of the product. It is “ETERNITY: timeless, intimate, romantic. The perfect scents for him and her inspired by the ideal of lasting love and intimacy.”

    There you know! I’m still a little skeptical, so for right now I’m going to just put the smell of eternity in my car. Perhaps it will help it last forever!

My Three Year Old World

September 15, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 15, 2014

                                     

I’ve noticed something a little strange! A growing percentage of my life is being spent with three year olds. As I’ve mentioned in recent writings, I’m coaching a soccer team of three year olds. And now…this past Sunday I began co-teaching a Sunday School class mostly of three year olds.

About twenty-five years ago Robert Fulghum wrote a book entitled All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. I’m thinking of a revision, without Fulghum’s permission, entitled “Most Of What I Know Now Was Learned From Three Year Olds.” I may have to shorten the title, but the thought resonates with me.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve discovered from three year olds.

What you say…they take literally! My granddaughter was playing goalie in our soccer game on Saturday for one of the quarters. Coach Tony who helps us told her that when the ball came towards her she was to jump on it.

She did exactly what he said! When the ball came towards her she jumped on it…with her feet. Jumping to her means jumping up in the air and landing back on your feet again. So…she tried to land on top of the ball with her feet, but her timing was off…so, in essence, she jumped up just in time for the ball to pass under her and into the goal.

Three year olds take things literally. It’s also why you can talk about polka-dotted ponies and whispering caterpillars with them and they believe. Perhaps that’s why Jesus talked to his followers about having a child-like faith. Faith requires that you take God at his word! Thirty-three year olds aren’t as good at that. Neither are sixty-three year olds. Too much skepticism has been spoken into our lives at those points.

Here’s something else I’ve learned from three year olds! What is important isn’t really what’s important! I had a schedule for Sunday School class this past Sunday. I had a lesson plan. I had times attached to each part of the lesson. Half of the plan got accomplished. None of the students got upset at missing out on “Activity #4”. What was important to them was Goldfish crackers, singing “Jesus Loves Me” accompanied by a classroom full of percussionists, and coloring a picture of a school bus to take home with them. Likewise, three year old soccer players don’t keep score. They giggle, look at airplanes flying overhead, and play with the assurance that their will be a snack time after the final whistle. What is important to them is having a coach that will give them a high five, pick them up when they fall down, and help them tie their shoes. Simple things. Uncomplicated things like Jesus loves them this they know…for the Bible tells them so!

One more thing they’ve taught me…so far! Play is just as important as work! The soccer field we run around on is right next to a playground with swings, a slide, and monkey bars. Several times so far I’ve had players take a soccer break and meander over to the slide. Their soccer “responsibilities” can wait, even though their coach is sensing “they aren’t taking this seriously!” Their lives will be filled with work soon enough, and at that point they will wonder why their playtime had to decrease and, for some, disappear.

Teaching a three year old Sunday School class requires being able to still play some. It requires getting down on the carpet even though you’re not sure how quickly you’ll be able to get back up again.

As I tell the high school basketball players I coach, the game is played closer to the floor than in the air. Three year olds prove that…especially the playing part!

 

Baptist Bucket Challenge

August 22, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        August 21, 2014

                                       

I’m trying to be creative!

If the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can raise 15.6 million dollars (to date) in the seeking for a cure to Lou Gehrig’s disease by challenging people to dump a bucket of ice and water over their heads, there’s got to be something that I can challenge the people of our American Baptist church to do to take care of a budget deficit.

People don’t misunderstand me. I’m not minimizing the ALS cause. I did the ice bucket challenge on Tuesday, and challenged a couple of other people to then do it. I also remember leading a funeral service several years ago for a man who had gradually deteriorated from ALS. IN the last couple of years of his life he and his wife had attended the church I pastored. I saw how the disease slowly decimated his body and his hope.

So, I understand the effects of the disease, and I am delighted that people have dumped enough ice water over their heads to fill Lake Erie.

Now, if I could think of something to loosen the purse strings of a bunch of Baptists!

What would be creative, but also not destructive, life-threatening, or end up on one of those TV shows that airs video clips that display people’s stupidity?

What could loosen people’s grips on their cash that wouldn‘t necessitate me having to wear a diaper, kiss a pig, or wallow in manure?

What could people of my church challenge one another to do?

Since we’re a Baptist church maybe it should be something that involves baptism! Not necessarily baptism by immersion. People get baptized in other ways, you know…like baptized by fire!

Not sure we’d get many volunteers for fire baptism, however!

Baptized in the Spirit might be a possibility. There are always a few people that I’d love to be smacked up the side of the head by the Holy Spirit. I’d even pay for it!

Back pedal! It seems that Simon the Sorcerer tried to do something like that in Acts 8, and it didn’t go over very well!

I’d be willing to be baptized by already-cooked shrimp, but I’m not sure anyone would give a donation for that. I’d enjoy it, though!

I’d be willing to be baptized in ice cream, but I’m a little hesitant to have people standing around me with spoons and chocolate sauce.

Perhaps a Coffee Cup Challenge. I’d be willing to drink Folger’s Coffee for donations. There’s a hefty price for pain and suffering…even involving your taste buds.

Or how about a Prune Juice Gulp Challenge. Fifty bucks for each ounce of prune juice I down. The downside of that is that I’m sure there is a limit…personally speaking.

I dressed up as Queen Elsa this summer for $200 collected by kids. There’s got to be someone that adults would want tome to dress up as and throw money at.

Friends of mine have done the duct tape challenge where they got duct taped to a wall. That wouldn’t be too bad unless people stuck me up there and left!

Sleep deprivation could be an option. There’s a group of young guys at church who would pay to see me stay awake after 10:00.

There’s got to be some creative ways for a group of mostly teatotalers to way funds that are legal and won’t get us on the evening news in the crime section. Maybe the
Ice Bucket Baptism! Total immersion (A Big Bucket), not sprinkling!

Boom…got it!

The Courage To Stay In The Middle

August 19, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 18, 2014

                                  

The worst person and place to be in a two-teamed shaving cream fight is the judge in the middle. After a few moments of each team “creaming” each other the judge, invariably, gets pounced on by both teams. The judge comes out wearing more shaving cream than anybody else.

The middle of something is becoming an awkward place to be. People on both sides of you want to pull you in their direction. When you’re committed to staying middle you become the easiest target.

In shaving cream battles it’s fun and humorous, but in the growing chasm of opinion that our culture is experiencing staying in the middle takes courage.

I’m sure some- dare I say most- will disagree with me. I have Facebook friends who are conservatives and Facebook friends who are liberals…Republican and Democrat…Tea Partiers and Starbuckers. I have FB friends who are pro-life and others who are pro-choice…those who attend church every Sunday and those who consider going about once a decade. In other words, I relate to people on both sides of the tug-of-war, looking for common ground with all.

Some of my richest times in ministry- spiritually speaking, not financially (GIve me a break!)- were the years I pastored in the Lansing, Michigan area and lunched every other Wednesday with two other pastors, Chuck and Tom. Even though we’ve gone our different ways because of ministry changes I still consider them to be my two best friends in ministry. One was fairly conservative ( not “Bob Jones conservative, but still leaning a little to the right) and one was fairly liberal. We toss out those labels quite often in Christian circles, but Chuck, Tom, and I never worried about our differences nearly as much as we valued our similarities. I was “the middle man” of the three, the moderate.

That experience, lunching with two guys at Finley’s Restaurant every other Wednesday for seven years, tells me that the middle doesn’t have to be a conflicted place…if there is an unquestionable commitment to respect and value one another, and be willing to clearly listen more than the compelled to speak.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying! I’m not minimizing the importance of people having strong opinions, just the tendency to think that their belief, stance, or opinion is the only valid one.

Jesus had strong beliefs, but he refused to be in anyone’s camp except his father’s. That put him at odds with someone in just about every teaching he gave. If there was one group that Jesus was the most consistently identified with it was the poor, widowed, and diminished. He reacted against excluding people because of their afflictions, mistakes, gender, and ethnic group.

I’m a “middler”, and I find it increasingly uncomfortable and inconvenient to be there, but I would be uncomfortable being labeled a conservative or a liberal. If you are in the middle you may be seen by one group as being a liberal, and another group as a conservative. People’s view of who you are must not change who you REALLY are.

I can watch Fox News or CNN equally without feeling guilty. I can sit in conversational fellowship with my neighborhood pastor friends from different denominations and be enriched by the diversity. I can partner with the Mormon principal of the elementary school down the street to help make our community better with a sense of confidence that we are on the same page.

As our culture becomes more polarized I believe the gospel has opportunities to draw people together. It may take time and effort, but it is….still is…our source of hope.


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