Archive for January 2010


January 28, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. January 27, 2010
(Clarification: Sometimes Words from W.W. is a “sort-a spoof”. Spoofs in the past haven’t been comprehended by some of the readers, hence, some have wondered what planet the author is from or on.)

January 1- The adventure begins. I sprinted through the first eleven chapters of Genesis. The first six days of creation took me just seven minutes. At this rate I’ll revel in Revelation by June!
January 4- Discovered a few things about the faith of Abraham. Couldn’t quite figure our Sarah’s laugh. Was it a snicker, a giggle, or one of those laughs that communicate “Fat chance”? Puzzling, but I’ve got to keep going!
January 15- Things at work have been hectic, but I did finish Genesis. Joseph was a little quirky. His brothers…different! It’s on to Exodus tomorrow.
February 1- Left my bible at church two weeks ago and finally got it back. It was on one of the tables in the fellowship hall and I “passed right over it.” I’m knee deep in plagues right now. Still can’t figure out how a crocodile didn’t get Moses in that basket cradle of his! I guess God really was in the midst of those reeds. Got to pick up my pace. Hopefully I’ll get a couple of those genealogy chapters soon. It’s okay to skim them! I can’t pronounce most of the names anyway.
February 17- Ash Wednesday and I’m dying! Sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, fellowship offerings…it goes on and on! They had more offerings than a Baptist church in a building campaign! I’ve got to make my way out Exodus!
March 15- Skimmed Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Didn’t get too bogged down in them since I’m a “new covenant” kind of person anyway. What do I care about what the year of Jubilee was? I want to be free from all that stuff!
March 20- I love Joshua! It’s like reading a Hollywood movie script. A prostitute, falling walls, a standing still sun…it’s an adventure! God is amazing! Just about the time I’m losing interest he throws this book in there.
April 4- Easter Sunday and I hope my reading schedule can rise from the dead.
April 30- Made it to Chronicles, but didn’t I read about most of these guys in Kings? I’m going to pray about just jumping to Ezra.
May 1- I felt God say it was okay! That’s good! Skimmed the list of names in the first two Ezra chapters.
May 25- I tried to get through Job, but it was so long! His so-called friends just went on and on and on. Come on! Say it and sit down! It was like listening to a C-Span TV marathon!
June 21- Out of Job, but don’t feel like praising (Psalms) or getting any more wisdom (Proverbs), or receiving someone’s philosophy of life (Ecclesiastes). I’m heading for Song of Solomon. I hear it’s pretty interesting!
June 22- Song of Solomon was too weird! I’ve heard Isaiah is full of great spiritual prophecies.
July 10- Had to take a break! Family vacation. Didn’t have room to pack my bible. God rested on the seventh day. I needed two weeks.
August 15- I’m skipping the minor prophets. They must not be that important. I’ve got to get to the gospels. I need Jesus!
September 1- I’m looking forward to Labor Day Weekend. I think I’m going to try to put in a bible-reading marathon on Monday.
September 8- Sorry Jesus! Our neighbors invited us for a cook-out. Being that we are to love our neighbors like ourselves I felt led to spend most of the day there. The sunburn is almost healed, but just didn’t feel well enough to read the Word.
October 1- Almost done with Mark. Three months to cover the last 25 books, but some of those are real short.
October 28- Made it through Luke and John just in time for Halloween. I was surprised there was so much repetition in the gospels. I thought they contained all original stories.
November 15-Acts is a trip. Love the Ananias and Sapphira part! Sometimes God really does knock ‘em dead!
December 1- Spilled my cup of coffee, thus wiping out 1 and 2 Corinthians. There is some spiritual lesson in that, but I don’t know what it is. I have to move on to Galatians anyway. Can’t waste time worrying about spilled milk.
December 23- Pretty much got the gist of the books written by Paul: “Dear Church, what’s happening? Love, Paul.” No reason to dwell on that every time. Besides, I’ve only got eight days to finish being fed by the Word.
December 31- Done! I remembered one of those reading suggestions I was given in college. Just read the first sentence in each paragraph, and you’ll know what the book is saying. I did that with 1 Peter through Revelation today. It only took me 30 minutes! I’ve finished the Book! There was a suggestion to read through the bible next year, but since I’ve done it…what else could I learn from doing it again?


January 21, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. January 21, 2010

Haiti has dominated the news this past week. We’ve been numbed by the devastation, grieved by the scenes, and awakened to the needs. Haiti was in a desperate way before the earthquake. Now it is beyond comprehension.
The death toll is expected to reach 200,000, with 2,000,000 left homeless.
Two million homeless!
Aid has been rushed there, but a disaster of this magnitude has shown that relief efforts and medical help can’t get there fast enough. People are dying before they can be attended to medically. The Haitian government has been fairly invisible, but relief organizations are working around the clock. It’s chaotic, frantic, and heartbreaking.
There are people in the midst of this situation who want to rush ahead and figure out what is God is saying. Some have already determined what they feel God is saying and proclaimed it. Some of these proclamations have reached the media…and it hasn’t been good!
When someone assumes and proclaims that this is God’s way of dealing with a place where voodoo is a predominant religion it comes off as another example of self-righteous Christianity. There is a strong Christian presence in Haiti that gets disregarded and minimized by such a judgment.
So what is God saying? I won’t speak for God. He does fine on His own. He seldom gets recognized for an amazing sunset and the joy-producing giggle of a small child, but is quickly blamed for the pain of a fallen creation.
I can only share what he is speaking to my heart in the midst of this.
Help! Pray! Don’t forget!
He’s called me to help as best I can from a city thousands of miles away. Raise money, send money, keep people updated. When one of the poorest countries in the world endures such an event it escalates the massive needs to an incomprehensible amount. It will require effort from every corner of the world to turn darkness back into even a dim light.
Pray! My neighbor left for Haiti last Sunday to work with a relief organization. He had just gotten home from being deployed to Afghanistan, and his wife urged him to go help. I’m praying for him. His name is Scott. I’m praying for our missionaries such as Kristy Engel, who was serving in the Dominican Republic and spoke here at our church this past summer. She has traveled to the affected area to help. I’m praying that light will come into the darkness, that there will be more and more stories of hope. Someone the other day said they heard Haitian children singing praises to God on TV. Light in the darkness.
Don’t forget! It will take a lifetime for Haiti to recover any sense of what was a normal day. Our culture is focus-deficient. We too easily move on to the next thing. We can’t just move on from a place that has been destroyed. We must stay connected for the long haul.
God may be whispering something different to your heart. Whatever he’s speaking into your spirit it brings the fourth element to the surface.


January 8, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. January 7, 2010

At the monthly gathering of our neighborhood pastors on Wednesday we were all commiserating about our congregation’s financial status at the end of 2009. We all felt a little near-sighted trying to see where our church’s financial vision said we should be. I don’t know if any of us left the meeting feeling any better, but we at least knew the boat was crowded.
And then there’s Rick Warren! He pastors Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and has become a leading figure, perhaps THE leading figure amongst evangelicals today. In the final days of 2009 he put out a plea to his congregation about a $900,000 deficit that was needed to fund some of the church’s special ministries like a food pantry, homeless ministries, support groups, and other things. His appeal brought in $2.4 million!
That would take a while to count!
The news came too late! Why hadn’t I thought about asking people to bring an extra contribution as we were falling 10% short of our goal?
You can imagine how many pastors and churches are studying what caused such generous giving to happen. Sadly, as is often the case, you can also find a number of people making negative comments equating Rick Warren as a servant of Satan, a false teacher. Just google his name and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
What can we learn from Rick Warren’s too-late news?
Well, first of all, there’s not another Saddleback Church, and when we compare our situation with a 20,000+ church is ludicrous. Each church has its own DNA, its own rhythm, systems, and culture. My sister and brother-in-law are members of a small American Baptist church 200 yards away from the Ohio River in a more rural depressed area. Their church, that four years ago was down to 4-5 people, has experienced a rebirth. It’s one of those churches that have a small cemetery on the church’s property. What has worked in other places would be an effort in futility there because it is a completely different and totally unique situation. Their secret: teaching and preaching the scriptures, allowing church to be fun, and a spirit of God-infused hopefulness.
Second, people give to mission and ministry. This is especially evident in the twenty-somethings. Testimonies about what is happening in mission outreaches, and children’s ministries, and youth retreats, and neighborhood outreaches will be increasingly vital for the church’s financial health. Excuse the comparison, but reality TV shows and talent shows like American Idol have brought an element of “participatory expectation” into our culture. That will become more evident in financial matters. It’s interesting that in our church we partnered with Audubon School to take care of 20 families at Thanksgiving, and we “adopted” 12 of their students for Christmas, while at the same time hosting four homeless families for the Interfaith Hospitality Network, and collecting food for our food pantry. Our “giving” was unbelievable during December for those special needs, even as our giving to the church budget was falling short.
That should tell us something, and the answer is not “Pastor, why don’t you preach a message on stewardship and tithing?” It should tell us that in the midst of economic hard times people will still step up to help with causes that they believe will meet an apparent need. (It will be interesting to see what the recent Salvation Army report will do to their income!)
Some might say “But Pastor, there are still bills to pay, utility bills to take care of!” I’m not disputing that at all. I’m just saying we have to figure out how to better connect participatory giving for mission and ministry to the budget of the church. It needs to be seen as participating in the life of a living organism and less of supporting a structure.


January 1, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. December 30, 2009

I’m about 36,000 feet in the air as I write this on a delayed extra-warm United Airlines flight filled with over-tired pre-schoolers and grumpy parents. Interestingly enough I’ve been reading Leonard Sweet’s book The Gospel According to Starbucks and just read some interesting thoughts that he has about the Revelation 3 passage that includes a warning to the church about lukewarmness (Revelation 3:16). In Sweet’s bible he has written a paraphrase that has God saying “Your church is overripe and stale. It makes me want to barf” He has drawn a picture of an airline’s barf bag above his words.
As is often the case, Leonard Sweet makes me ponder and create out of my ponderings. As another year ends and a new one is being birthed it makes me contemplate about my walk with the Lord, and, more on point with the Revelation 3 passage, it makes me think about the walk of the church. What is overripe and stale? Where does the fresh fruit of the Spirit need to emerge?
The church, which is the prime place for freshness to surface and creativity to be encouraged, is sometimes void of such. Overripe and stale may seem harsh to hear, but it is not a stretch from the scripture. If we had a choice between “what we’ve always done” and what would be innovative and step towards the outer edge of our comfort zone what would we choose?
I’m not saying “do something different just to be different.” I’m saying if the spirit of God is pulling us towards the possibility of drawing outside the lines, would the first-grade teacher in each one of us make us curl back in a sort of traditional spiritual compliance?
There’s probably not a coincidence in the fact that our refrigerator is piled with food right now from the usual “Christmas overload” experience. It happens every year. Christmas Day has the counters filled with food and possibilities. December 26 has the refrigerator filled with the “not yets”. The aromas and mouth watering experiences of Christmas Day are replaced by grumpy duty the day after each time the frig door opens. Gourmet mashed potatoes become like tasteless hospital food when they’ve been warmed up for the fourth dinner in a row.
Stale does not just describe week old bread. It could also be described as a quest in search of mediocrity, the search for insignificance.
Think about it. What in our spiritual lives, personally and corporately, do we pursue in search of finding mediocrity.
Has our reading of scripture de-mystified it? Have we heard the story before, and now when we hear it our expectancy level is like opening the door of the refrigerator and looking at all the Tupperware containers?
Has prayer become as uneventful as the container of milk that has today’s expiration date on it? We can’t decide whether to use it or let it sit there for another day?
Has the ministry of the church taken a backseat to church business? Has old life made the idea of “new life” seem too weird? Do we desire to raise up our children in the Lord…as long as they end up looking like us?
What exactly is overripe and stale? If you took a survey of your congregation this Sunday what would the answers look like? If a similar survey was done asking the community what they see is fresh about the church and what is stale, would they get similar responses?
A new year is always similar to how my pants fit- uncomfortably tight with great expectancy. The expectancy is demonstrated by the urgency to make some changes (Loosening the belt is a cop-out!), but also an eagerness to see what the new holds.
May the New Year be filled with a delightful dance with the Lord in the midst of on-going fresh tastes of His Spirit!