Saturday, April 14, 2007

Faceless Cowardly Evil

Having Just seen The 300 which I urge you to see I was struck this morning by the newspaper.

There in full view was a picture of a man who was claiming "Credit" for the Madrid Terrorist Bombing of a couple years ago.

These cowards never show their faces. They are evil incarnate. Here is a picture of this cowardly dog.

What struck me was the similarity to the evil cowardly cadre of terror fighters in the 300. They too covered their faces. The too only used trickery to accomplish their evil.

Here's what they look like.

Just in case anyone wonders what the battle is all about, one more picture:
Those are dead people. People dug Out of the wreckage. Mostly Young People Children. These are killers of innocents. Just like in the Movie the 300.

They Must be stopped. Where they are. Not here. If they come here it's too late.

Don Ho looses his Fizz

I just saw that Mr. Tiny Bubbles passed from time into eternity.

He was a rare one.

He was one of the few men I did NOT object to kissing my wife on the mouth. David Copperfield the Magician was the other. I figured it was a bigger deal for her than for them. She certainly never forgot them.

All others need not apply.
I can get jealous.

But, Don Ho was one of a kind.

I will miss him. I have a RECORD of him somewhere. Now if I just had a way to play it. Tiny Bubbles, In the Wine, Makes me feel happy, Makes me feel fine.

I smell Theme Song.............

I've Been Collared

In all the years I have worked in Ministry, as a pastor, as a minister under another pastor, as a leader of a house church or even as a house prophet I never ever worn any of the following:

  • A Collar
  • A Cassock
  • A Robe

Or any other accouterments. In fact I am of the Rick Warren School of Pastoral Dress. Hawaiian Shirts are God's plan.

So, when I got a call this week from our denominational area Church Planter that he wants me to wear a collar when I minister in the new Church (Because there are a lot of traditional people there) I laughed. He assured me this was no joke.

So I went out and bought a collar.

But, I'm not well today. Cold and all. Feeling peek-ed. I may go nowhere tomorrow.

We'll see.

About traditional people. I met one last Sunday. He is a Unitarian who never goes to church. His name was John. His first question of me and Pastor Aaron was, "Where did you go to seminary?" "Where did the Pastor go"? My answer was I went to the same seminary the Apostle Paul went to (That went right over his head) and that Aaron has his Masters in Divinity and soon PHD from ORU.

That seemed to satisfy.

During the service Pastor Aaron played a pretty moving review of the Crucifixion on the Video Screen. John looked away from it the whole time. Then when we did Communion he was an abstainer. I guess his beef wasn't with seminarian training but with Jesus.

I don't think a collar will solve that problem.

I am obedient to a Sr Pastor, if he wants that, I'll do it.

I've been collared.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Government Conspiracy?

I have always loved a good Conspiracy Theory

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me!

The cold spring has got me to thinking. What IF::

The Meridian Atlantic Circulator has stopped. The government knows it. Tony Blair knows it. George Bush knows it. That's why the weather is so blamed cold.

This means that the whole of North America and Europe into the Russian territories will drop in temperature about 10 degrees. This means a year without summer, maybe several years. Chicago's climate will be like Winnipeg. Fargo will be like Edmonton.

No citrus grown anywhere in North America.

If it did stop and the weather changed abruptly as it did in the 1200's perhaps the governments would NOT tell us. Look at the power it places in the hands of the oil producing countries. Look at the impact on agriculture. Look at the changes in culture.

This would change everything.

I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no. I'm just saying.


A couple days ago after the secretary of defence announced that he was going to extend all tours of duty to 15 months there was the predictable pap from network news profiling some poor soul who I do have pity on who in his second tour of duty was injured very badly by a roadside bomb. Never mind that could have happened in his first tour.

Tears all around, angry wife, confused soldier (brain damage) and upset parents. If that were my boy I'd be upset too. But, War is Hell.

One of my all time favorite movies WAS Braveheart. The heroics, the bravery in battle. Fabulous stuff.

Then there's Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth and the battle of Argincourt. If you have seen the Kenneth Branaugh edition of this play on the TV you have seen a good one. It's wonderful.

And PATTON. I saw some of it today on AMC. The part where he is driving by the walking wounded and goes to the hospital tent. It is there where the famous slapping of the soldier incident takes place. We forget that in WWII we would lose as many men in one DAY as we have so far in Both Iraq and Afghanistan together.

MY NEW MOVIE FAVORITE and I expect anyone who reads my humble blog to go see it in theater. The 300. That was one of the most beautiful movies I have seen in years. Very colorfully and artistically done. The plot was about a brave group of men fending off people from present day IRAN who want to invade and destroy Greece and Sparta. They come across a village already destroyed. It's complete and brutal. They know they are dealing with a ruthless enemy. But there is a traitorous and cowardly congress unwilling to support the war effort.

So 300 men go against tens of thousands of Persians and prevail for the most part until a defector betrays them. The glory, courage and honor of these men in the battle is wonderful to behold. And the Kings wife was brave and courageous.

Of course it reminded me of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Traitors and cowards in congress. Defectors (Pelosi) doing evil behind the backs of our men. Every soldier in Iraq and Iran should see this movie. It tells the story of the importance of standing firm against an evil invader.

It was true in 700 BC and it's true today.

By the way, every one of the 300 but ONE is killed heroically. War is Hell.

For my more pacifistic readers was the action portrayed in The 300 justified or not? If so, then, why isn't the Iraq and Afghan war as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Price Hope?

I know you have seen the ads for Cancer Treatment Centers of America:  Some testimony about a person condemned to have only 2 months to live, then they go to the CTCA and they give them hope.  Maybe even some treatment.  They then live or die. 
I'm sure they are nice people at the CTCA.  I am also sure they charge people money for what they do.
What they do is do examinations and reexaminations and make sure any cancer diagnosis' are correct. Then they make sure the treatment (curative, experimental or palliative) are in order for the situation at hand.  It's not a cancer cure center, it's a cancer treatment center.
They do not promise a cure. They promise hope. Some people do get better.  Some never die as prematurely as their family doctor said they would.
The people at CTCA are caring, compassionate and full of hope that somehow by direct or indirect intervention the people involved will be made well or at least live life more fully till they are done.
I do not object, I am not judging them.  It's just wrong.
That is exactly what the Church of Jesus should be doing.
  • Offering Hope for Healing
  • Giving Comfort
  • Building Faith
  • Encouraging the discouraged
  • Telling people to look again
  • Giving a reason to believe in the impossible
And, if some people don't get healed, being there for families.  That is MORE than CTCA does.
I believe in healing enough that I am actually surprised when someone who comes in faith to Jesus for healing doesn't get healed.  Not all do, but many.  I have people with incurable cancer who I know that are still among us because they came to a fellowship and like the woman with the issue of blood reached out for healing and were made whole.  I know several in fact.  Then I know some like my friend Jean who after we prayed, laid on hands still died.  She and her husband were prepared for whatever happened.  He holds no bitterness.  Hope in God was all she had.  Hope in God or hope in Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  Which is better?
When we minister to someone and then they get worse or die WE are labeled as quacks offering false hope.  That is a crock.  We  in the Christian community should be aggressive in offering hope for healing.
What about Cancer Treatment Centers?  I'll wager their cure rate is less efficacious than the power of Jesus for healing. 
When I get sick before I ever go to a doctor I go to Jesus.  So should you.  He doesn't charge.  The Cancer Treatment Centers didn't build those big buildings from nothing.
I am not critical.  It's just kind of a crime that in a formerly Christian nation like the USA the medical establishment prospers many times better than the Christian Church.  I blame the Church.  We don't believe in healing any more.  We lost our authority because of tradition.  Oh we pray for the sick in a sick kind of way.   Then blame God when nothing happens.  We have as Christians in America lost our zeal and understanding of our authority in Jesus to deal with sickness and disease.   Very very few PASTORS I know actually have a clue in how to minister to the sick.  This isn't taught in seminary at all.
We used to be a place that people could come to be healed.  Now we aren't.
Isn't there something wrong here? 
I think there is.

A Post of Complaint

Yesterday I stood side by side an 81 year old man pruning plants for potting.  Something you have to do. I'm a pretty hardy type.  I have one of those "You can't outwork me" syndromes.  I lost.  After 2000 plants by the end of the day and way more hours on my feet he won. He smiled a victory smile at me, grabbed his lunch box, and headed for home.  I wilted onto a chair in pain.
I'll blame it on the fact that I have the sniffles.  Of course that won't work.  If I can't work thru a little cold I'm a weenie. 
This morning I'm sore, stiff, still tired and now this afternoon I'm off in the truck to pick up another load of plants to get ready.
Oh the humanity, oh the agony, oh the pain, oh how much I love it all.
I'm a sick man in more ways than one.  I have this idea that if I'm not in pain the day after I work in the garden I didn't do anything.
But, if I can do what Ed did yesterday 20 years from now I'm going to be a happy man.  I think I will and I can. Maybe I can whip some 62 year old whippersnapper's behind then and smile at the end of the day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In the Garden Alone

I am a gardener.  It's a task I do out of love.  While doing a few garden things last night I thought about how much like the Kingdom of God gardening is.  Maybe it's not coincidence that Jesus was mistaken for a gardener after the resurrection by Mary.
He is a gardener.
He understands gardening.
Here are some parallels:
  • Much of the work is done on your knees
  • Nothing happens unless you dig
  • You can't talk a plant into growing, you have to nurture it
  • Weeds are detrimental to good growth
  • It takes faith to plant a seed
  • When you plant you have to have expectation of growth
  • There is little that happens fast in gardening
  • Spending more money to shortcut usually doesn't shortcut
  • Patience and faith are a gardener's tools
  • What will it look like at the end is the pruning motto
  • Fertilizing a dead plant does no good
  • If it doesn't prosper where you plant it, move it
  • Sunshine and water are essential to grow things
  • Sometimes things look a little rough and ugly, if you want perfect all the time plant plastic plants.
  • Insects for the most part are your friends
  • Thorns have Roses and Bees sometimes Sting, it's part of the deal
  • Everyone thinks they could do it better, but they won't
  • Nothing happens unless someone does something
  • Having a meeting about gardening is telling God what to do: Dumb!
  • We never finish, it's a moveable feast, we can't ever say DONE
If you miss the spiritual implications to all that, too bad.  I'm not going to explain.  But if you have ears to hear you will get it.

If You Care at All About the Church You MUST Read This

I know that some will feel triumph over this, some will gloat, some will despair, and some will do as I did; read it and weep. You must read the whole thing in detail. Read all the comments. It's disturbing and revealing. We are being sent a wakeup call and can't hear it for all the noise WE generate.

The Church in America is so far from God. It's like this cartoon.
A sinking ship with happy talk as it drifts away. I don't know if there is hope. I know that if there is it won't look like it ever did before.

I love the Church, grew up in her, minister in her, try to build her up. I sometimes wonder if I am wasting my (and other's) time. We make so little difference to the world and marginal difference to those who attend our services.

I have had more hope when I knew less than I do now. After 4 years of trying to make a difference in helping a local fellowship become relevant I don't know if I made any difference at all.

I'm not sure the Church at large matters anymore, even to the Father. Maybe Barna was right. Maybe its over. Maybe we missed the Fax from God saying "I have changed my focus and the 'Edifice Complex' no longer applies."

If it sound like I'm a tad discouraged, I'm not discouraged in God, I am discouraged in Church. What if the Church in America is like Sampson and "Whist not that the Spirit of God had left him"?

A few other links you will want to read to give you depth in this:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Berwyn Church Plant News

A few have been asking me how it went last Sunday in the Church Plant I have been part of in a less hands on way than normal.

Short review. Plant has been underway for about a year. This is my 4th plant of which I have been part. Two including this one are still going. Church planting is brutal business. Not for the timid or faint of heart. But essential. With hundreds of churches in America closing every month, we need bold brave men and women to plant churches that work to replace those that don't.

The church had originally rented space in North Riverside in a movie theater. The city using zoning kicked the church out of it's space. Lots of arm waving. But the Church (denomination) had spent tens of thousands of dollars to publicize this plant via direct mail for it's first official service.

Then a few days before the rug was pulled out. There was no predicting this. No one did anything wrong.

With some radio ads and some phonebacks to people who called we pulled Sunday morning Easter off.

About 70 people showed up. Less than hoped for, more than expected. I can't tell you the difference.

Lots of rocky things in first runs. We were there at 8AM and left about 1PM. I have done this enough to know that church planting is hard work and that work includes hauling stuff in and out.

The service was good.

Pastor Aaron came to town with a smile on his face and a Bible in his hand last January. He just went around and met people and pulled the whole thing together.

Of course every good church needs a good worship team. So, every person he met the conversation
eventually drifted toward people who could play an instrument. This impressed me. He knew what it took. Music, Youth, Children, Technical. And of course a space to meet in.

People are attracted and held by a good anointed worship music. It will cause people to come back even if the preaching's poor, or the service is clumsy.

He put together a really good band. Guitar players are fairly easy to find. Keyboards ditto. Drums are harder. So, he looked and looked and found a guy who was a friend of someone he met. He had others. But this guy was interesting.

He played drums in a rock band 20 years ago. Before he met Jesus thru Aaron, the drummer had NEVER been in church. Never. Knew NOTHING. But now he plays drums for Jesus with a smile on his face. I spoke with him and when I heard the story was frankly amazed. He's hungry and growing in God every day. I thought of the Christmas song, he doesn't have much to bring, but he will play his drums for HIM.

Aaron had no Bass player. But he had an eager young man, RENE. Rene said, "I always wanted to learn to play an instrument". So Aaron and Rene met twice a week for several months with a CD player, A bass, and Aaron on guitar (which he also plays). He taught him to play the Bass guitar. From scratch. 6 hours a week for 3 months and now Aaron has a dedicated and competent bass player.

Ditto the keyboards. Esther, Aaron's wife, plays keyboards, but a young man, a son of one of the early core group members had always wanted to learn to play something. So, Ester payed the price. Now they have a decent keyboard.

What makes this interesting to me is none of these people had ever played in a Christian praise band before. NONE. They didn't know any of the canon of Christian music. They only had a CD player and a heart. And the one who could play didn't know Jesus. The drummer. He knows Him now.

There is a church in Sterling IL I know who's whole praise band is people who never played a lick before they came to church. The Pastor's son put it together. Garage band for Jesus he called it. Now they have a CD out. The band is called Final Quest.
I have their CD. They tour. Raw recruits with a pastor's son devoted to pulling together a team of dedicated passionate lovers of Jesus who became musicians.

Their recent CD is all original music.

If you dropped this young man from a helicopter into any city in the world that spoke a language that he could communicate in he would have a decent praise bank put together in 6 months. He would probably have to teach every person how to play and train them how to play together but I know him and I know he could do this.

The opposite of this was a church I was part of in Germany. They couldn't get the band to come together. This was in Heilbronn. Good church but the band never got off the ground. They had music, a piano, occasionally a choir, words on a screen, singers but no band. No one took it upon themselves to say, "give me free reign and I'll get you a Praise Band". So since no one took responsibility nothing happened. I remember one morning they sang for Peggy and I in the service, "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" in English. Let's just put it nicely. Germans have no soul. At least not in Heilbronn.

In Frankfurt at the church we were first part of when we lived there before we moved was not the same situation. I even remember the Music guys name. Peter. He had the full complement. Drums and all. It was loud and proud. I loved it.

What was interesting is many of the praise and worship songs sung in the church today I learned in German. When we came back to the states it was hard to sing them in English. I mean, God hears them in German, Right? Why should He have to translate.

"You are my prince of peace" is not the same as "Du bist mein Friedensfurst"

It must be Easter, I went a long way down that bunny trail.

Back to Berwyn.

The rest of the morning went off well. I did wonder to myself if in today's day and age if we think we think we can even have church without powerpoint or microphones. I know that if you lose power everything seems to go south. We did and it did.

My part was to do the Communion Service. It was very moving. I used no powerpoint. I don't need a mic.

The kids had fun. I would hope Children's church would have meat too.

So all in all I guess I would pronounce it a success. Ephesio 4 Church is up and running. Ephesio is Spanish for Ephesians.

Now, Lord, What's next? How bout something in the Fox Valley area where there is no real move of God, yet. The most unsaved region in Chicagoland. How can we soften this parched and dry land with your living water?

Probably more than you wanted to know

Being married 40+ years there are certain love things couples do. I guess most couples think they are alone in the practice and it's just them.

One of them is what Peggy and I call, "Holding of the Feet". She and I assume a posture watching TV or talking or whatever where She lays back and I hold her feet. I thought we owned the franchise on that activity.

Till yesterday.

The Zits Cartoon:

Click on the image to make it full sized.

So much for creative loving I guess. But, we'll always think we thought this up. I mean go back 200 years, did people do this? I'd like to think so.

Falling Down Drunk

I don't know why I am posting this but I think there may be one or two readers who will find this helpful.

Aaron Telian, wise beyond his years, posted a quote from C. S. Lewis.

It was on the misuse of temperance. Last paragraph:

One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motor bicycle the centre of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as 'intemperate' as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals.

I know a lot of intemperate people who never touch a drop of drink. So do you.

Read Aaron's whole piece. It's worth it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I know a man..........

When he came to a distant church as a visiting minister he was greeted and honored. People were thankful for the gift of God he brought to them. He was called by his name and his gift appellation. Those there were genuinely appreciative of his ministry and the offering of himself he brings.

When he came as a guest minister to another church in another direction and was asked to bring a word or administer a sacrament people responded by saying. "Please come back, we need what you bring". This was not a disservice to the Pastor of the Church, it was a recognition of a ministry gift that manifests when the man I know was given free reign to exercise it.

In a third Church in another direction when this man visits as he did fairly often he was always asked to bring a word of encouragement. He was asked to minister to the people. He was placed in a place of opportunity for the flock to access the gift of God he carries. He can never leave that church without the leader saying with deep appreciation, "Thank you for coming to release the Gift God placed in you among us,come back soon, we need you."

This isn't about Honor (although some might read it that way). It's about receiving the Gift of God when it dwells among you.

In this man's own Church he is accepted and received by some and reviled by others. Needless to say for the most part the gift of God is neutered among because of a lack of engagement. It's easy enough to say, "No man is a prophet in his own home town". But the consequence of that is "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."

Therein lies the danger. Jesus, the man I knew, was honored and reviled depending on how he was released in ministry he was among the people he was with. In his day it was villages.  In today's time it is churches.

This still goes on today. The hungry beg for the bread of life and  Pharisees trample it underfeet by tradition.  The village (Church) lies in darkness because the light is darkened by Pharisees.  Bondage remains because chains are institutionalized, even honored.  I have this huge chain but I'm suffering for Jesus in it.  Jesus didn't want us to suffer, he wanted us out of out chains.

Judgment will be harsh for them. "I was with you and yet I knew you not, depart from me."