Nov 3, 2011


During the Y2K Bug scare, there was an old german lady who told me that her children had packed up their belongings and moved to Utah. They left to build a shelter and to brace their family for the coming apocalypse that would be created by the Y2K Bug of Doom. I asked her what she thought about the Y2K Bug. She just laughed and said nothing would happen. And that, if it did happen, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. If it did become a big deal, she said that she would just deal with it when it happened. I asked her if she knew much about computers. She told me "not a stitch" and smiled.
When I prodded her for the reason for her confidence, she smiled and said that there were two reasons. First, and foremost, she was a Christian and trusted in God to take care of any situation. Even if that meant death or starvation. "These things happen," she said. "But God is good." "So," I said, "what is the second reason." "Hitler," she said with a painful look on her face.
"Hitler? How does he factor in to Y2K?"
"I was 14 years old and lived in Germany when Hitler came to power. After living through that, what can the Y2K Bug do me or anybody else that he didn't?"
"Wow. What was that situation like for you?"
"My school was bombed every now and then. I would be studying math and then the sirens would blare and I would hide under my desk while the bombs fell all around. I saw many of my friends and family die. It was horrible. But God was good to us."
"Is it hard for you to talk about it?"
"Not anymore," she said while leaning backward in her chair and waving her hand away in a shooing fashion. "There is still some shame in me, however."
"Why is that?"
"As a Christian, as a human being, as a person who knew better, I got caught up in the Hitler hype."
"Did you know what he was doing to the Jews?"
"We heard rumors. But it wasn't shown to us in the papers or theater. But we knew." She then stared out the window and became a bit out of breath as she confessed a painful experience from her past. "One day," she began, "we were told that Hitler would be driving down our street and that if we didn't go outside and salute him, then we would be considered traitors and punished severely. We went outside. It sickened me so. But then, as I saw him atop his car, with his arm out toward us, and the crowd screaming his praise, something came over me. I felt it. Then I began to shout out to him. It was so powerful. I shouted praises to him. The moment was overwhelming. And then he passed on by and the parade was over. Everyone was so happy. As soon as I walked inside my house, this great feeling of guilt came over me. As a Christian, I cannot believe I gave into that, that, .... I don't know what it was. Evil. Power. I felt so ashamed. I know I was only 14, but I knew better."
I stood there in silence as she rocked back and forth in her chair. She continued. "So, no. I am not worried about the Y2K Bug. I've seen evil. I've lived through the horrors of war. I've seen what man has done. I've seen what man can do. God brought me through all of that. My children will return home after the Y2K Bug proves false. They're just being silly. However, looking at it all there is only one thing to be said."
"What's that?" I asked.
She leaned forward, pointed upward, and with tears in her eyes said, "God is good."

Oct 27, 2011

Reflection on Romans 8:39: A Really “Us-sy” Sort of Thing. Lots of Us-ness.

Romans 8:39 ... “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

Face it: God’s love for us is irrational. We have always had and always will have His love. We don’t deserve it. Nobody does. That’s what’s so irrational about it. He loves us because He loves us. It has never not been the case nor will it ever stop from being the case. And don’t worry about anything ever separating us from the love of God. Nothing inside us or outside of us has the power to remove God’s love from us. We don’t even have to love Him and He’ll love us. Of course, that’s how it was for all of us when He saved us. Though the world may crumble around us or on top of us, God’s love for us is unchanging. If Jesus didn’t abandon us when all Hell was coming down upon him, then why would he now? God’s always known about our brokenness. He knows it more than we do and He knows how broken we’ll be tomorrow as well as twenty years from now. And, yet, He still chooses to love us. How irrational. Yeah us and thank God!

Oct 26, 2011

Just a Story I Wrote Early This Morning for Some Reason or Other ...

Imagine for a moment being alive back when Jesus was preaching through the streets of Jerusalem.  He's healing people and setting captives free right in front of you. And you, the good Jew that you are, have been waiting for the Messiah ever since you could remember. Suddenly, you see him.  There he is! The Christ! The Messiah! Rushing toward him, you throw yourself at his feet and worship. He, being the loving Savior that he is, bends down and places his hand on your shoulder, assuring you that your sins are forgiven.  With tears of joy you begin shouting out praises to him. All in all, it's looking like a banner day in your life. 

A few days later, tragedy strikes your home. Your only child, your son Abram, came down with a high fever. The local doctor warned that it was most severe and may lead to death. Your heart sinks. But then, you begin to remember that Jesus was nearby. Perhaps, he would help. 

Two days later, you finally find Jesus and push through the crowd to talk with him. Since you have been hearing and seeing all of the miraculous wonders and blessings he has been bestowing onto all who ask, you reach out to him, on your knees, and beg him, if he would be so inclined, to heal your dying son. 

Jesus, with eyes filled with compassion, says to you that your son will not die. Overjoyed, thankful, and filled with a burning faith, you thank him and rush home to see your son. However, as you approach the house you can hear wails of anguish and tears of sadness coming from your tiny home. To your disbelief, Abram has died. You throw yourself upon your son’s body and weep. 

Confused, angry, and full of pain, you rush out to find Jesus. However, when you do discover him, it is impossible to talk with him because of the size of the crowd. You desperately want to shout out to him that he must have forgotten to heal your child, but there is just too much drama going on between him and the local Pharisees.  Tears of frustration stream down your cheeks. What happened? What went wrong?

A woman, who you've seen near the Messiah, walks up to you and asks if you are OK. You explain yourself to her and she smiles. 

"If the Master said your son will not die, then he will not die," she says. "And I should know. My very own brother, who is very close to the heart of our Master, once became deathly ill. We sent word to Jesus that the one whom he loved was sick, knowing that he would rush back and heal him. However, he sent word back and told us that the sickness would not end in death. Since our Master does not lie we trusted him at his word. But, our brother died anyway. We were so confused and hurt. Four days later the Master finally came to our house. We had already buried my dear brother Lazarus.  I ran out to meet Jesus and told him if he would have been here my brother would not have died."

"What did he say?" you ask.

"He said that my brother would rise again."

"At the resurrection, of course,” you interject.

"That's what I said. But then the Lord told me that he is the Resurrection and the Life and that any who believe in him will not die."

"Amazing," you say. "Then what happened?"

"He told us to remove Lazarus' tomb stone.”

“No way!”

“Yes way!” she says to you with eyes wide open. “And then he called him forth from the tomb and Lazarus came back to life!"

"Impossible," you say as you find yourself jumping up and down. 

"It's true," she says. "In fact, there's my brother Lazarus over there. Go and ask him. He'll tell you what it was like being called out from the land of the dead by the Master."

You stare at the crowd of people and pretend that you know which person she is pointing toward. 

"So you're telling me that because Jesus said my son would not die, but he did, he's going to resurrect him? And not just at the resurrection, but here and now?"

"That's how it worked for me," she said. "Do you believe Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life?"

"Of course I do." 

As you hear the words coming from your mouth you realize that hope and faith have returned to you. Visions of Jesus returning to your house to raise your son from the dead flood your mind and heart. 

After thanking Martha for her kind words, you strive to make eye contact with Jesus. He is engaged in great conversation with the local religious teachers. However, for just a moment, it seemed that he looked out toward you and smiled. With a renewed faith, you return home and encourage your friends and family.  For you know that, any day now, Jesus is going to show up and call your son forward from his grave. Your friends and family, out of compassion for your loss, encourage you and say they are hoping for this miracle as well. 

After four days you begin to worry.  You begin to wonder that, perhaps, the Master doesn't know where you live. You decide to head out and find him. 

Walking out the door, you are quickly greeted by a troubled neighbor. He tells you that Jesus had been arrested. You feel an odd relief realizing that his arrest explains his delay in coming to your house. Yet, panic and fear begin to ebb away at your remaining hope. 

"Well, I pray they release him soon," you say, "for my boy's sake."

Your neighbor gives you a wry smile and patronizingly pats you on your back.

The next day you find yourself in the throes of one of the most dramatic days in Jerusalem that you have ever experienced. There is a demand for Jesus to be crucified. More confusion fills your heart. You know he cannot die for he promised to heal your son. Plus, he's the Messiah. What is going on? 

The next day you watch your hope die as you see Jesus the Messiah crucified. You prayed for God to intervene, to stop the madness of crucifying the Master. How could God allow this to happen? During your humble laments toward God you beg him to save Jesus for his sake, the sake of others, and to fulfill his promise of raising your son back from the dead. 

An earthquake rattles you off your feet. 

Sitting there, angry, hurt, and sad, you see a friend of yours who you haven't talked with in some time walk over toward you. You begin to catch up on all that has happened since last you saw each other. He cries at the news about the death of your son and shakes his head trying to come to grips with the reality of all that was going on.

As the two of you sit on the ground among the large crowd that had gathered to witness the crucifixion, he begins to tell you about his life since last you’ve met. He had become one of John the Baptizer's disciples and followed him up to the time of his beheading. 

"It crushed me," he said. "How could Jesus allow John, who did everything he was supposed to, who was righteous and holy, to die?"

"I heard they were cousins," you say.

"Yeah. You know, John told us to start following Jesus. He said that he was the Messiah. The One he had been preparing the way for. But then John got arrested. At first, we thought it would not last. Herod would even have John come and preach to him and his guests. And Jesus was rising in popularity and doing miracles and teaching. So we knew Jesus would either rescue him or Herod would let him go."

"What do you think went wrong?" you ask.

"I dunno. But one thing happened that truly troubled me. I visited John from time to time in prison. One day he asked me, and a couple other brothers, to go to Jesus and ask if he truly was the Messiah."

"What?" you ask. "John's the one who told everybody that Jesus is the Messiah. Plus, think about all the miracles he performed!"

"I know. I didn't know what to tell John or Jesus. John was pretty worn down in prison. He was tired and losing faith. He couldn't see what was going on behind his prison's walls."

"So what did you do?"

"Well, I went and told Jesus what John said."

"That must have been awkward. What did Jesus say?"

"He said that no one who’s ever been born is as great as John. He told us that he is the Elijah who was to come. And then he told me to tell John that the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the Good News is preached to the poor."

"The dead raised?" you say. "Jesus promised me that my son would not die. And he did. But now, Jesus is dying on that cross. What is going on? Jesus wouldn't lie to me. Would he? Why is God allowing all of this to happen? Did Jesus forget about my boy? Did Jesus intend to help but didn't know this was going to happen to him? Why won't God step in and fix all of this?"

"If it helps, let me tell you one other thing Jesus told me to tell John."

"What's that?" you ask, feeling the tears return to your eyes.

"He told us to tell John that blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of him."

"On account of Jesus?"


"What's that mean?"

"We came to the conclusion that, especially seeing how John was in prison facing the possibility of death, anyone is blessed who does not allow their situation to hinder them from following and praising God."

"Huh. That's interesting."

"It's also realizing that Jesus is saying he might actually be the one allowing or, as confusing as it sounds, causing the problems to happen in your life."

"That's crazy."

"It's a hard teaching, that's for sure," he says. 

At that moment, Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died.

The two of you head home in silence and grief. All of it was too much to take in. You hug your friend farewell and walk into your home and sit down. In total silence you stare out a small window. You cannot even formulate words to your thoughts. As a great feeling of hopelessness overpowers you, a growing anger begins to rise from within. How could the Lord allow any of this to happen? Has he abandoned you? Is there sin in your life that merited this outcome? Was Jesus just a man? Were you a simple fool to believe in miracles, hope, and God? If Jesus purposely allowed your son to die and, though he said it wouldn't happen, are you going to allow the falseness of Christ to keep you from following God? Or is there something you're forgetting? Maybe Jesus meant that he would, much like Martha said, raise your boy at the resurrection. But why did Jesus die? He did perform miracles. He taught like no one you have ever heard. The love and compassion that flowed out from him literally captivated your soul. You gave him your life. Your trust. Your hope. Your faith. And then you begin to realize that you have been ignoring the simple truth that your son, Abram, was dead. You have been ignoring this reality by trying to find out how Jesus was going to create a miracle in your life. 

You stay up the whole night crying out to God, remembering the life of your son, reflecting on all that has happened, and play your lute in order to find some form of comfort. Oddly, you find yourself singing about the great miracles of God. You sing of how he rescued the Israelites, using the very hands of Moses and Aaron. You cry. You laugh. You yell. And you sing. 

As the morning sun lights up your small home, you head outside to stretch your legs. An entire night of crying has left you parched, swollen, and depressed. You find yourself walking aimlessly around the city. Though the beauty of the morning would normally cause you to stare in wonder, it all looks dark and gloomy through your pained eyes. 

Curiosity or coincidence, you’re not sure which, takes you outside the city gates near Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. There seems to be some commotion. You can see people running each direction and shouting out to others. You discover that the body of Jesus is gone. The large stone placed before his tomb had been rolled away. There were Romans soldiers placed on guard throughout the night to prevent people from robbing his body, but they, crazy as it sounds, all fell asleep. Then you start to hear rumors that someone actually saw Jesus alive. However, you heard that it was a woman who saw him and you quickly put no faith in it being true. 

The one thing that truly fascinates you is how all of the soldiers fell asleep. You have heard stories about how they could be executed for such failure. 

Heading home, you see a group of people around the Ben Josef family's house. Itzak Ben Josef was a family friend who died last year. You haven't been to his family’s house since his funeral. Walking over to see what was the cause of all the ruckus, you realize that they are all hugging a man who greatly resembles Itzak. You introduce yourself to the man saying that you knew Itzak well and assume that he must have been a twin brother or close cousin. Instantly, the man hugs you and kisses you calling you by name and declaring that he is, in fact, Itzak Ben Josef. He has been raised from the dead. You start to laugh and push him gently aside. 

"Nice try," you say. "I admit you look just like him. But, come on."

Others gather around the man and you find yourself out of any conversation with him. Most of the people around Itzak are crying out and praising God. Some do not look convinced. You head home shaking your head. 

When you get to your house there is a group of people gathered around your home as well. You stop in your tracks. They are praising God, laughing, and crying. A man walks up beside you and asks what is going on in your home. 

"I'm not sure. But I think I know."

"That's an odd statement," he says. 

"Yeah. I really don't know what is going on. I feel …  weird."

"Well, don't let me keep you from experiencing any hope that might be rising up in your heart right now. I don't want to hinder you from following whatever the Lord has in store for you."

"Excuse me?" you say, half listening, and not really acknowledging the man. 

"Why don't you go find out what's going on in your house?"

"I think I will," you say to the man as you turn to him. But he is already walking in another direction. 

Gently, you walk toward your home. You listen to each comment made from those gathered around. You can hear your heart beating as you hope that the soon approaching reality of the situation is real. 

Suddenly, you hear one of your neighbors shout that you were home. The news of your arrival caused all of them to exit your house and surround you. 

"What is going on?" you ask, half knowing, half hoping. "Why are you all here?"

They clear a small path for you amidst the crowd. At the end of the path is your boy. He has come home. 

Joy explodes from within you as your squeeze your son and lavish him with kisses and tears. 

“Poppa,” he says, “I was dead. Now I’m not.”

“Apparently,” you say laughing, not quite able to take in the reality of the miracle you are experiencing. 

Then it strikes you. The man you saw on the road caused a strange burning inside you as if you knew who he was but could not bring yourself to acknowledge it. You look back down the street where you believe he went and, for just a brief second, see him looking back toward you and smile. 

“Poppa,” your son says while still being held in your arms.

“Yes?” you say.

“I’m hungry.”

“Well, then, why don’t we get you something to eat?”

Your friends and family gather around your tiny house as you prepare a meal for your son. You received your miracle. The Master kept his word. Unable to contain yourself anymore, you grab your lute and sing, and sing, and sing. Everyone starts dancing around you. It was as if heaven itself was in your home. And, perhaps, it was. 



Oct 25, 2011

Random Thoughts and Stuff

* Everything in us calls out for permanence. Salvation is the only possibility for this to occur.
* It's the natural inclination for humans to destroy the good of organizations, businesses, and churches. This is fueled by the delusional madness of self-centered thoughts, unquestioned elitism, and Pharasaical hierarchies of greed, anger, jealousy, apathy, and impotent forgiveness.
* The greatest spiritual growth program available to any person is simple suffering. Small groups, worship services, and the like, fail in comparison to a person whose faith is being challenged in the desert of trials, temptations, and tribulations. Growth hurts.
* We lead from our heart. If our hearts are not monitored, then how are we to lead fair, honorably, and faithfully? Even though our hearts' true motives are unsearchable, if we are not confiding, as best we can, with counselors, friends, and confidants, then we chance leading from a place of extreme selfishness, fear, and blindness. Keep in mind how the writer of Proverbs puts it: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
* Leaders incapable of reconciliation with others hinder the great joys of life that the Lord wants to bring their way.
* If you are surrounded by people you cannot trust, then, perhaps, you should ask yourself why you live in such a way that you surround yourself with people you cannot trust.
* There are many litmus tests we may administer to ourselves to see how we are living the life God called us to. Here's some I use:
* Have I asked for forgiveness lately?
* Am I living in a loving way toward others where those who do not know the Lord would recognize it?
* What words and names do I find difficult to say during my prayer time? Why?
* What themes keep popping up when I read Scripture, hear a message, or receive some sort of spiritual insight? Am I purposely doing what I can to respond to those words, and promptings, from the Lord? How can I prove that to someone who knows me and doesn't know me?
* Where am I not content? Why?

I've got more to say, but Panera is packing out and I gotta go!

Oct 12, 2011

When God goes out of business just when you need Him

When the Lord tends to disappear in our time of need it is easy to become disheartened. I love finding comfort from reading certain Psalms that deal with this exact predicament. Check out the first part of Psalm 77

I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn't heal. When friends said, "Everything will turn out all right," I didn't believe a word they said. I remember God-and shake my head. I bow my head-then wring my hands. I'm awake all night-not a wink of sleep; I can't even say what's bothering me. I go over the days one by one, I ponder the years gone by. I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together. Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? Will he never smile again? Is his love worn threadbare? Has his salvation promise burned out? Has God forgotten his manners? Has he angrily stalked off and left us? "Just my luck," I said. "The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him." (Psalm 77:1-10 MSG)

It brings hope to my being whenever a Psalm resonates with my thoughts and heart. This Psalm from Asaph lifts me out of any funk I may be experiencing, ironically, by knowing that the "absent God" is the same loving God shared throughout the Scripture. God has always been one to allow us to think that He is far from us. But we know that He is never far from any of us. It just feels that way some times.

Here's what this psalmist does next to restore his hope in God.

Once again I'll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I'll ponder all the things you've accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts. (Psalm 77:11, 12 MSG)

By reminding himself of all the great deeds that God has done for His people, Asaph turns from complaining to worship. The simple spiritual discipline of remembering what He has done for us brings us into a sweet communion with the Lord.

After Asaph reflects upon the goodness of God, the psalmist begins to admonish the Lord with shouts of praise. He goes from shouting out to God with concerns ,at the beginning of the Psalm, but ends by shouting out to Him with praise. The interesting thing to remember here is that his problems are not fixed. His prayers are not answered. What is given to Him is the remembrance that His God is listening and has a proven track record of rescuing His children from their troubles.

Here is the remainder of the Psalm:

O God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God! You're the God who makes things happen; you showed everyone what you can do - You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble, rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph. Ocean saw you in action, God, saw you and trembled with fear; Deep Ocean was scared to death. Clouds belched buckets of rain, Sky exploded with thunder, your arrows flashing this way and that. From Whirlwind came your thundering voice, Lightning exposed the world, Earth reeled and rocked. You strode right through Ocean, walked straight through roaring Ocean, but nobody saw you come or go. Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, You led your people like a flock of sheep. (Psalm 77:13-20 MSG)

Oct 10, 2011

Putting the Super in "Supersessionism"

What the heck is supersessionism you ask? It's kind of like a replacement theology buzzword mainly attributed to Christianity's superseding of Judaism.  Fun, huh? 

Here's another way to describe supersessionism: "Replacement Theology." According to Walter C. Kaiser, a really interesting Old Testament theologian that I had lunch with once and was forever fascinated by his resemblance to 1940's comedian Ed Wynn, “Replacement theology ... declared that the Church, Abraham’s spiritual seed, had replaced national Israel in that it had transcended and fulfilled the terms of the covenant given to Israel, which covenant Israel had lost because of disobedience.”1 If you would imagine, such a definition is not too popular in Israel.  

Many Christians I talk with have no idea what to make of Israel. Is Israel saved? Chosen? Hellbound? Confused? Destined? Should we support them? Are they ever going to become Christians? With so much anti-semitism in the world, supersessionism is something we Christians need to address with delicate care and thoughtfulness. If you are of the Christian faith, how do you explain Israel? Do you see them simply replaced with the New Israel of Christianity? Do you seem them as equally saved in their own personal understanding of faith? Here's one of my favorite theologians on the subject. Good ol' Karl Barth. Read this fun-filled quote: 



"The election of grace as the election of Jesus Christ, is simultaneously the eternal election of the one community of God by the existence of which Jesus Christ is to be attested to the whole world and the whole world summoned to faith in Jesus Christ. This one community of God in its form as Israel has to serve the representation of the divine judgment, in its form as the Church the representation of the divine mercy. In its form as Israel it is determined for hearing, and in its form as the Church for believing the promise sent forth to man. To the one elected community of God is given in the one case its passing, and in the other its coming form."2 

Barth's view blessed Israel by providing Christians a healthier, more positive understanding of Israel's place in the Judeo-Christian worldview.  For Barth, the Jews are the chosen people of God and nothing may alter that truth. They remain as an example of those who reject their own election. He sees their existence functioning as a sign of a people living in disobedience. Christ, as the Elect One of God, whose elect people are the Church--made up of both Jew and Gentile, is the culmination of all human history, as well as Israel's history. Eventually, the first Israel, those who rebel against their election, will accept Christ as Messiah in human history and their destiny will be taken up into the Church, the New and True Israel. Now doesn't that seem easy to understand? I'm pretty sure I don't know what I just wrote. Anyway, ...

In no way does Barth see Israel as being rejected by God for their disobedience. That idea has another fancy term called Punitive Supersessionism. Barth believes Israel to be the very "visible and tangible" (3) evidence to the existence of God. The very fact that they have survived throughout the generations with so many trials and persecutions is a literal miracle. Yet, for Barth, Israel's main role came to an end with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although his view of supersessionism is gentler and kinder than many of his predecessors and contemporaries, it still stings a bit with a negative outlook toward Israel coupled with a slight taste of universalism.

Here's one last thought on the subject from Barth, that I love:

"The new Israel is not (like the old Israel) a “nation,” a natural society . . . but a people gathered solely by the preaching of the Word and the free election and calling of the Spirit. The first Israel, constituted on the basis of physical descent from Abraham, has fulfilled its mission now that the Savior of the world has sprung from it and its Messiah has appeared."4

I may not readily buy into all of Barth's view on the Nation of Israel for I simply struggle with their rejection of Christ. Yet, even as I say that, I know that God's promise still stands regardless of our inability to keep up our end of the covenant. After visiting Israel twice I believe wholeheartedly that they are a peculiar people. As for their place in the Kingdom of God, I think St. Paul said it perfectly: "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew." Romans 11: 1-2 

All of that is to say that God is faithful even when we are not. Any Jewish person can come to a saving faith in Christ. Each person has that opportunity presented to them--whether they are Jewish, French, or even from Trona. 

That's enough Barth for now ... I'm off to play the Battlefield 3 Demo.  


1.  Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “An Assessment of ‘Replacement Theology’: The Relationship Between the Israel of the Abrahamic–Davidic Covenant and the Christian Church,” Mishkan 21 (1994): 9.

2.  Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2, 195.

3.  Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, trans. G. T. Thompson (London: SCM, 1949), 75.

4. Barth, CD III/2, 584.

Oct 7, 2011

In the Midst of the Midst: the How and Why of It

Today I want to talk about those moments in life when we wonder why God is taking so long to answer our prayers. Those seasons may be sprinkled with doubt, frustration, and anger, but they are definitely saturated with one word. It is a word that causes us to become instantly aware of our lack of faith, limited wisdom, impatience, doubt, fear, and other human frailties. It is a word that we pose as a simple question and is found at the beginning of most complaints to God. 


Why do the wicked prosper? Why is there evil? Why won't you help me? Why won't you heal me? Why won't you heal my child? Why won't you show me the way? Why won't you answer me? Why won't you bring justice to this situation? Etc., etc., etc., 

As people who worship God, read His Word, and proclaim His goodness to a lost and dying world, we know that there are many good answers to bring us comfort and understanding to our predicament. At least, that is what we tell others when they are going through difficulty. When it's us, well ... that's often a different story. 

In our contemplation of difficult seasons there are a few things we know. We know that we are sinners in a sinful world. We know that God is constantly growing us and teaching us to rely upon Him. We know that He disciplines us, equips us, matures us, loves us, died for us, and is with us. We can quote verses and ramble off a grip of key insight found on many T-shirts, bumper stickers, websites, and christian radio stations. Yet, there is one thing that we cannot do, fix, or speed along. And that is God answering our prayer. Of course, if His answer is no, then we just have to accept it and move on. But God moves when God moves. He does so because of His great love for us, despite the fact that it doesn't seem like He's so loving when we're in pain. 

Here's what I've learned to do in order to pass the time when I find myself wondering where God is. 

First off, I remind myself that I'm in the midst of God working in my life. When I'm in the midst, I'm not able to see what is going on and, often times, find myself scrambling to figure it out. 99 times out of 100, God will never tell me why He is doing what it is He is doing or allowing what it is He's allowing. That doesn't stop me from asking why, however. (Just in case he tells me). I strive to keep my communication with Him open, free, unhindered, bold, raw, and honest. I also know that my inability to see Him or hear from Him clearly will put me on edge and make me vulnerable to misinterpreting every little thing as a sign from Him. It can become a bit neurotic and overwhelming. So, to calm down, I do this: I calm down. It's amazing how that tends to work. Anyway, while keeping my communication with Him, my friends, family, and mentors open and ongoing, I remember a great prayer from King David that is significant when we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult time. I just switch the word WHY with the question HOW LONG. 

Here's the Psalm that inspires me in those times: 

Psalm 13. 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"

and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise,

for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6 NIV)

When in the midst of God answering my prayers, switching from asking why to asking how long, provides a simpler way to hear Him say "not much longer." Then, regardless that it may look like He's not doing much to answer the prayers from my heart, I do my best to praise Him for being such a great God. How odd we people of faith are. We complain and praise at the same time. That's borderline nuts.

Anyway, I do believe God allows our prayers to move Him. But as long as we remember that He will not give us more that we can handle and that He is working all things together, we can find ourselves growing in trust and being spiritually transformed. 

In the midst of it all, we may not have a satisfactory answer for why God is doing what it is He is doing. However, since we are His children, I propose, much like kids in the back of a car on a long and painfully boring trip, we ask God "are we there yet? How much longer? I gotta pee." Hopefully, he'll speed it up and bring the long and difficult trial to an end. Or at least pull over to a rest stop.


Sep 27, 2011

Love this quote ...

Thomas Merton, in 1967, pronounced that the great crisis in the church is a crisis of authority precipitated because the church, as institution and organization, has overshadowed the reality of the church as a community of persons united in love and in Christ. He now charged that obedience and conformity with the impersonal corporation-church are a fact in the life of Christians. “The Church is preached as a communion, but is run in fact as a collectivity, and even as a totalitarian collectivity.

~ George Kilcourse, ACE OF FREEDOMS: Thomas Merton’s Christ, Notre Dame Press, 1993

Sep 26, 2011

Ecclesiastical Meanderings

In a recent online discussion, I found myself surrounded by burned-out Christians with a languorous disposition toward church life.  The bludgeoning these fellow sojourners received from the local church had left them duct-taping chunks of their very own souls. I had to admit that the  tattered cordage of their wills made lean the joy I was experiencing from having had found an amalgamated forum of Christ-lovers and theological enthusiasts. Yet, their complaints were nothing new. Our world has been experiencing a seismic-shift of disillusionment with the local church for quite some time. 

Here is a snapshot of the flag of their disposition in regards to the local church:

Leadership is in disarray. The pomposity of pastoral staff is reeking at an all time high. Greed, self-preservation, secrecy, and manipulation, have left an ineffable imprint upon the very psyche of those who have become burned-out from the local church. The church either suffers from an inward-focused culture that cherishes sin-management programs coupled with a “wearing of masks”, that portray a feckless apparition of their true self, or they are so outward-focused that they forget the simple call to make disciples, not marketing and production crews spawned from a factory of over-hyped, media-driven automatons watermarked with depthless worship encounters. 

People, I believe, are hungering for spiritual change and thirsting for authentic community. The ostensible theater of playing Church has become a pharisaical vessel of squalor on a waveless future. Christians, finding their souls in a bivouac of despair, are desperately seeking, re-envisioning, and hoping for a new wave of churches to arise or, at least, for some healthy reform to ensue. 

In the quest of creating a new church adventure, there is the danger that they may become experimental theaters of emergent illuminations, or embittered reactions that flounce between unrealistic ideals and rainbows of pure spiritual nonsense. My prayer is that they will be birthed in the theological DNA that translates the hints of God into a Christ-centered community of faith, hope, and love. However, none of this will matter unless true leadership appears.

Sep 13, 2011

The Frustration of Presumed Mediocrity and Superfluous Babbling

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I've just been subjected to a endless foray of psycho-babble.  No, I wasn't caught talking to myself. Rather, I have had to endure several sessions of bumper sticker preaching, that has been soaked in miniscule theology, and served with a heavy dose of salesmanship. I'm oozing with disdain.  Unfortunately, there are not many people who care to discuss these type of subjects. A good grip of people around me have a "eat-the-meat-and-spit-out-the-bones" kind of listening style when subjected to a “tasering” of preaching. I do, too, but I have to vent.  Ergo, I am venting via this media form.  It's therapeutic.  Anyway, I digress ... 

As a preacher, I know it is a very difficult thing to produce a palatable message for the Google infected audiences that surround us.  The Internet can provide a vast array of preaching styles within moments.  This is great for the listener but not so wondrous for the local preacher.  It's sort of like being a local band that's, at least, live compared to the packaged digital music onslaught of the internet/cable/whatever.  So, with that said, my hat off to the local preachers.  

However, I still find myself incredibly agitated by manipulative sermons, pompous windbags, hipster theology, archaic proliferations, fudgy glossalalia, and speculative meanderings that rob the thinking person of, well, thinking.  I just heard a pastor that spoke so fast that once his listener might realize that something he just said was not up to theological snuff, he was already three sentences into his next point. This is not a style problem. I know many preachers that preach that way and are very effective.  Regardless, it was very apparent that he was controlling his audience and hindering their growth.  I was tempted to raise my hand and ask him, with the love of Jesus in my heart, just what in the Hades he was talking about.  Utter nonsense.  

Herein lies my hope for would be preachers:  

1. Think:  Use your mind ... your God given mind ... to realize that not everyone who comes through your door is a simpleton.  Intelligence is not a sin. Freethinking is not a sin. People who don't agree with you are not, necessarily, wrong.    

2. Train: Seminary, teamwork, Internet, listen to other pastors, watch yourself on video, ... READ, etc. PRAY ... 

3. Test: Develop a healthy network or team of people who will lovingly, and with wisdom/skill, present constructive criticism. Also, if your style is filled with prophecies and outrageous statements ... those should be tested as well. 

Alright. I'm done. I still am thankful for those pastors.  We need everyone to rise up and answer the call that the Lord has placed on their hearts.  They just need to allow that "iron-sharpens-iron" mentality to permeate their being a bit more.  



Sep 12, 2011

Existential Angst

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Being complex creatures entitles us to a life of frustration in a world filled with reductionist solutions. When things are not going our way, we look for help. That's simple enough.  So, as we head out to the bookstore, local church, or favored website, we may become overloaded with simplistic procedures that promise to remedy our predicament. However, we are not simple creatures. There are obvious situations that come our way that are going to crush our spirit, and there will be no rudimentary procedure available to restore us to our former place of happiness. Even when things are going well, there is a high probability that a bittersweet sensation will be ever present. As Proverbs says, even in our laughter there will be sadness. (Prov. 14:13)


My boredom-driven frustration with so many Christian messages, today, is their tendency to reduce every problem down into a moral issue.  If, for example, our joy is gone, life is hard, friends are jerks, or our dog died, we shouldn't be surprised to hear, from these sources, that it is probably because of a simple moral failure on our behalf. I'm not saying that such may not be the case. Moral stupidity brings a truckload of difficulty into any person's life. And there are plenty of great resources available, regardless of simplicity, that may, in fact, be the solution to the problem. But, I'm talking about the reality that the entire human condition is more complex than any seven-step program can solve.  We are fallen people living in a fallen world with a God who is invisible. Those are the ingredients to an existence of trouble and anxiety.


What I hope to see is a broader acceptance of the mysteries of life in the Western Pop-Christian market.  There will always be a need for simple programs and solutions, but living in the tension between the promises of God and the failures of humanity needs a theology that cannot produce answers, just acceptance and worship.  We need to accept the fact that there are things in life beyond our control and we may never know, on this side of the grave, why God allowed them to happen.  They will (possibly, must) remain a mystery.  


Of course, writing things off as a mystery is also very reductionist.  Hmmm. Maybe, I need to write a seven-step program on how to nullify simplistic messages that ignore the mysteries of God.   



Sep 9, 2011

Interview with Greatness

As I sit here in utter bewilderment at the clientele that frequent all that is Panera West Palmdale, I ask myself one simple question: "Self, who would be the absolute most essential and relevant person in the world that I could interview right now?" Unfortunately, that person is not available. (Something about a restraining order and how illegal it is for me to be within a mile of that person). Ergo, I will have to settle for Noah Stepro. I mean, if his wife can do it, so can I.

I am literally filled with tingles as I wait for his arrival. That is probably due to the five cups of coffee I inhaled in a span of three minutes. Noah, of course, has no idea that I am going to interview him. Why should he? I'm just bored out of my mind and thought it would be fun. Well, at least it wouldn't be horrible. Kind of.

This place just packed out. I love how certain persons will take up an entire table that would normally hold seven people just so they can plug their computers into the wall. Geeks. I'm so envious.

Noah should be here soon. He may already be here. The line is so long that in curves out the door and ends across the street at Best Buy. I think. I didn't really look.

There's a couple about to make out at a table next to me. For the love of God people, I'm married! Knock off this freak show.

Add 2 more cups of coffee.

Geesh. I'm actually losing interest in doing this. Maybe I should just make up the interview? It would be more interesting anyway. Here's a sneak peek:

Awesome Dude: Mr. Stepro, How were you able to subdue the terrorist plot?

Noah: Google.

Awesome Dude: Of course.

He arrived! Now he's off to the bathroom. As a real investigative journalist, I decide to go through his backpack while he's detained. It is filled with nothing I can mention. I don't want him to get in trouble with his wife. I did decide to pocket a thumb drive, for investigative reasons.

Awesome Dude: Mr. Stepro, ....

Actually, he just left.

We never got around to it.

Aug 31, 2011

The Blindness of an Angry Leader

I used to live next to an angry man when I was a young child in Huntington Beach. He was known as “Captain Bob” and dressed, swore and drank like a sailor. He spent his retirement combing the beaches and decorating his house with the treasures he found. His house was amazing. It was a literal jungle with ponds, harpoons, anchors and a bamboo forest. All of my friends and I loved to play in his “Jungle Cruise” like backyard imagining we were soldiers at war in the thickets of Vietnam. Our admittance into his jungle sanctuary was rarely allowed but, when it did happen, we knew we could only be there until he got into one of his infamous drunken moods. When that occurred, the very air he exhaled would become fueled with the fire from his rage. 

We all knew he was an angry person, but he was able to keep it somewhat at bay during his first couple of glasses of Jack and Coke. Yet, when his fourth delivered its full effect upon him, out popped the demon. He usually began yelling at his wife or kicking his cats. His teenage sons would try and calm him down, but they would get slapped upside their head.  That was our key to run home as fast as we could. For even though we would play war in the backyard jungle against a pretend enemy, none of us could handle the reality of an enraged man at war with his family.  

I’m sure all of us have people in our lives that we know have an anger issue. Some of them don’t have a drinking problem, like the Captain, but they still carry their anger before them. Many of these angry individuals have learned to be highly successful and have accomplished an extensive resume of great accomplishments. However, being a strong leader with a healthy ego is not the same thing as being a person with considerable anger who uses fear and manipulation to obtain their goals.

Currently, I am completing my Doctorate thesis on church leadership.  One of the facets of this project is to develop a clear understanding of dysfunctional leaders with the hope to develop a plan to bring health, forgiveness, and restoration back into their lives. Outside of a simple lack of skills and incompetence, there are classic temptations that leaders, if they succumb, will fail. Those, as most can guess, are the temptations of money, sex, and power. 

Under the umbrella of those main trouble spots lie emotional reactions, root causes, hurt, and blatant dysfunctions that can erode the fabric of a leader’s integrity. Four of those that appear to be prominent in church leaders are jealousy, guilt, shame, and anger. This week I have been studying the dark side of leaders who suffer with anger and would like to share my top ten favorite insights on this subject. Let me know what you of them.  

1. They have a debt problem. Not a financial one, per se, but a serious belief/feeling that someone owes them. Perhaps, their father left them as a child, certain accomplishments in sports were not obtained, or a career change, not of their own doing, hindered them from becoming what they believe they are entitled to. 

2. They struggle with intimacy. The very understanding of the word intimacy means vulnerability. Those with great anger are not willing to be vulnerable to anyone. That would show weakness. Being weak opens up the door for someone to take advantage of them, break a trust, let them down, or see them for who they really are. 

3. They blame a person not they system. Rather than look in the mirror of the system of which they have developed, they will find a person to place all of the blame upon. This person becomes a scapegoat of their own broken system.

4. They expect their employees to constantly have a “What Would Their Boss Do” mindset. Personal growth, creativity, leading of the Spirit, and even heartfelt convictions are to take second place to the mold placed upon them by their leader. This has a tendency to be played out but never discussed. 

5. They deny they have an anger problem. In fact, they might readily argue that if they indeed have this problem, others would have told them about it.

6. They are left in the dark because no one is willing to tell them the truth. Part of the reason no one tells them the truth is out of learned behavior. Perhaps, they once told the truth and had a body appendage removed as a result. By observation of how others on the staff treat the leader provide clues as to how to behave. Fear is a great immobilizer. 

7. They will not give grace to people who fail. Failure, especially of those who pose a threat or show great competency, will be given minimal grace. They can become “dead” to the leaders or written off as a pathetic underling. 

8. They fantasize about arguing with those who anger them. Having constant mental conversations that “tell off” certain people frequent their minds. Or they may spend a lot of time developing sharp and cutting phrases in which to annihilate people they believe owe them. 

9. They attract employees who are more concerned with making their bosses happy than doing what is best for the organization. These employees become enablers, as well, and, if confronted with such an accusation, might respond with the belief that making their boss happy is what is best for the organization. 

10. They deal with anger toward others primarily by sniping them (making sarcastic comments/attacking them in public), throwing the kitchen sink at them (bring up many problems not pertaining to the issue at hand), or simply blame them for everything.  Then, they build up their army of devotees to join the “casting out” of the person they believe to be in debt to them. 


(The above list is formulated from many books, blogs, and podcasts that I’ve been studying as of late. There are actually dozens of more facts to mention, but these are the ones that have stood out to me today. I’ll post my sources soon ... a lot of which comes from Andy Stanley, Leadership Network, Out of Ur, etc.) 

Aug 16, 2011

When Your Church is Surfing in Waveless and Shallow Waters: Oh, the placidity of it all!

I remember someone bringing a surfboard to a lake once. They didn't even have a boat or jetski to pull it through the placid waters. The owner just went out and paddled on it.  He let others have a go but it wasn't quite that fun. It was more fun to just swim.  A surfboard needs waves and deep water to truly be appreciated.  When I was a kid in Huntington Beach I would watch the surfers near the pier. The waves, at least the ones worth riding, would come in ... well ... waves. The surfers would bide their time and wait for one worth riding. Of course, there was always a pecking order to who had been waiting the longest or whose territory it was to ride that wave. However, in between those waves the surfers would just sit on their board looking ... well ... bored.  They would gather in little clusters and talk with one another. Some would grow impatient and take whatever measly wave came their way. Some days there were no big waves to be had. On others, the big waves would be in generous amounts. Yet, on those days when the big wave would take it's sweet time before making an appearance, the surfers would sit upon their boards and watch, socialize, and wait.  

Catching the wave is an art. People use this analogy in many areas of life. Like when musicians notice when their band is starting to catch a wave and hop on it with hopes that it lasts a long time.  Or in sports, when a team's momentum gets going going to a fever pitch and they find themselves on a wave toward victory. (If no victory happens, at least they might get a wave or two from the crowd in the stands).  Church's catch waves as well. Growth, excitement, energy, and life flourish in a church when they catch a wave and ride it well. Perhaps a program, an evangelism event, great worship, or a timely Word from God launches them onto a wave. Hopefully, it lasts a good long time.

What we all know is that waves are not caught in shallow water.  Lakes are not going to produce waves worthy of surfing. (Though, believe it or not, people actually surf the Great Lakes). Also, ocean waves are not in our control. Spiritually speaking, the Lord creates the waves and His people are supposed to catch them and ride them when they appear. Some of us grow impatient and will ride any piddly wave that comes by in hopes that God will turn it into a great wave. Others might try and ride a big wave that breaks too close to the shore, or near coral and such, and should only be ridden by professionals. Some churches that stay too close to the shore, in the shallow part, will only experience a slight impact of the waves that churches that decided to head out into the deeper parts have already experienced or are currently riding. 

All of this is to say three things: 

First, when there are no waves things can get boring. We'll tend to socialize and constantly look toward areas where big waves might be happening.  But if the Lord is sending no waves our way, then we need to deal with that reality the best we can and pray for surf.  We can look across our area that is inbetween waves and see others gathering together.  We can paddle over to them and socialize, dig their bigger groups, enjoy their coffee, listen to their music, and hear them speak, but if there are no waves, then we are not surfing.  

Second, we need to be mindful, watchful, a have a heart that's willing to learn how to ride the big waves. Because they will eventually come and if our church is not willing to ride them or embrace the adventure that they bring, then we're going to crash and burn. That means we need to head out to deeper water and wait. By deeper, as you can easily guess, I mean spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, experientially, communicatively, and prayerfully deeper. Financially as well ... but not in the debt-sense of deep but, rather, deep wells of resource. 

Third, we need to make sure we do not lose hope or grow bored while waiting for that wave to come. It's easy to do.  I assume that most of us want to be part of something great, bigger than ourselves, and have a critical role in making that happen. Being antsy or bored when that is not going on in our lives comes with the territory. That is when many of us might discern the times and our location and seek other churches to see if their waves are any better. Yet, if you know your supposed to be surfing in the church you're at, then prepare for the next wave until it comes. Pray to God for it. In the meantime talk with and love on the others who are also in your part of the ocean. Live life well. 

So, until that wave comes, be discerning and full of wisdom about what to do. Here's a couple verses to think on:  

Luke 12:56 "Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?" 

1 Chronicles 12:32 "...from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do..."

Aug 12, 2011

When God Deceives

How blasphemous it is to think about the Lord deceiving us. Here's something a bit harsher to envision: rape. If Billy Graham (for lack of a great number of spiritual figures most of us can appreciate) stood before the masses and prayed accusatory remarks that God had seduced him toward a place and raped him of his innocence, would not the world be aghast?  Yet this infamous accusation was delivered by none other than the Prophet Jeremiah saying, "You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me." (Jer 20:7) The Hebrew word pittitani, "you have deceived me," means to entice, deceive and/or persuade. It is used in the same context of when a man seduces a woman.
The whole point of Jeremiah's lament was that he knew God had called him to a prophetic ministry with his people but he did not know that they would reject him and treat him so poorly.  Jeremiah believed God had promised him something and did not deliver.  Have you ever experienced that before?  I've got stock in that market.
Just like when God spoke to Moses during their discussion next to the bush that continually burned but was not consumed, he had heard God's promise to take him and the Israelites to the Promised Land. What he failed to mention was the 40 years of wandering in the desert in between said promise and its fulfillment. That in between time, our desert experiences, are simply miserable. However, those in between moments are the places where trust is forged. Visions of the Israelites are hopefully filling your mind now.  Such like the times they complained about having to eat mana for a few years just about the time they discovered the Promised Land. The desert times are filled with tests, trials, persecutions, miracles, and deep prayer. Even though we know that God's Spirit whispers to us to trust Him regardless of circumstances, the tractor beams of bitterness and complaint pull us toward their joyless ooze of despair.
So if you feel that you're in a place where God has both led and abandoned you, so much so that, perhaps, you wish you were dead, then rejoice for you are in good company. All of the spiritual fountainheads of the Bible have been to such a place, wished for death, and poured out their heartfelt complaints to God.  Even Jesus in the Garden told God that it was too much to bear. Here's the good news about being real with our heart's condition with God: He's big enough, and loving enough, to handle our heart's pain.
This reminds me of that famous Bible passage, loved by millions, ... "... and it came to pass."  One day this realm of in between will fade away.  The best thing to do in the meantime is to listen to Jesus' brother's advice and to count it joy when trials of all kinds come our way.  Choosing to trust and to have joy definitely outshines the other option.  Plus, we all know, deep down, that God will prove faithful again and again and again and again .... etc.
But, man, doesn't it just suck in the meantime?

Aug 10, 2011

John Wesley's Got the Blues

Here's a quote from John Wesley's journal written on a Tuesday during the 24th of January in the smoking cool year of 1738:  

" I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled."

With an inkling of the seed that fell among the rocks, he realizes how his faith falters whenever the threat of death permeates his general vacinity.  Certain death, with all its smoldering determination, awaits us all. I hope to be able to face it like a true man of God when the time comes. But I'm sure I'll freak out.  Some of us might welcome a hero's death that could be brilliantly portrayed someday by the famous hollywood elite. However, I'm sure I'll just choke on a chicken bone. Some deaths that literally freak the crud right out of me are: shark attack, waking up in the middle of a brain surgery, or getting stuck watching the Kardashian's marathon. Oooh, shudder!  

It's funny how Jesus calls on us to die to ourselves, Paul call on us to live for Christ, and Satan wants to devour us all. Our eternal condition and placement is constantly surrounded by the promise of death. Paul tells us that Christ has removed the sting of death (sin) for us.  I'm sure it's still going to be miserable. I like Woody Allen's quote:  "I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens." I'm with him.  Unless, of course, my death causes millions of people to wish they were in my place.  That would be quite a death. No idea what that would look like. Perhaps, Braveheart? Nope. Captain Jack Sparrow? Nope. Harry Potter? Nope. Obi Wan Kenobi? Hmmm. That one might just work for me. 

As for Wesley, I appreciate his honest admittance of fear.  It's easy for believers to praise God when surrounded by a crowd of people in agreement.  To have a heart that praises Him through the difficult times, in the face of trials, threats, and the possibility of death before we win the lottery, go to Hawaii, get married, watch our grandchildren grow up, pay off our school loans, ... well, maybe not the school loans ... is something worth striving and praying for. Such an attitude, I'm sure, can only stem from a life that seeks to know and be known by God.  

Wesley died at the good ol' ripe age of 87 in the year 1791. In 2009, an independent film company made a movie about him that wasn't half bad. (So I've been told). Who knows? Maybe one day they'll make a movie about your life and death.  If that's the case, I hope you don't die from choking on a chicken bone. That would be just silly. 

Aug 9, 2011

Reflections on Saving the World

After another night's dreams of zombie-filled apocalyptic despair, I decided on two things: 1) I've got to stop watching horror flicks before bed and ... 2) Stanislav Petrov deserves his own private island.  

For those who do not know who Stanislav is, the saying goes that we all owe him our lives. On September 26, 1983 Petrov, a Soviet ballistics officer, noticed all the flashing monitors indicating that 5 nuclear missiles had been launched by the U.S. and were heading toward Russia. He, knowing the greatness, or lack thereof, of Russian technology, decided to do nothing.  He determined that it must have been a glitch of some sort and declared it to be a false alarm. Had he decided to go along with what the alarms were telling him he would have given the "all clear" to retaliate--ergo, setting in motion a holocaust of the nuclear persuasion.  Stan is the man who did nothing and saved the world.  What a guy.  

As a preacher, I am quick to see all of the sermon fodder that such a story creates. I could discuss how seeing is not always believing and that we should be patient, using discernment in troubling situations. Or I could even bash believers who take the Stanislav approach to evangelism, in these Last Days, and admonish those who choose such an attitude not to sit around and do nothing but, rather, to get their little keester melons out there and proclaim the Good News.  

Today, however, I am just taking the story at face value.  Petrov found just reason to declare the incoming missile alert as false.  He knew that Russian early warning missile detection technology was subpar. Coupling that with his belief that if America were going to launch missiles at his country, they would launch thousands down upon their ushanka wearing heads instead of a measly five. Petrov did not really do nothing, as many like to talk about. Stanislav chose to risk his country's safety by using his logic and gut instinct and declaring the warnings as false. That man deserves an island.  


Jul 4, 2011

Barth, You Hippie!

I've been indulging myself in a lot more Barth of late. If you have never read the beloved theologian, you've truly been missing out on one of the key figures who has shifted theological thought. I found this tidbit recently and began to laugh.  If your church has a women's or men's group, Barth would call that an assemblage of disobedient inhuman philistines.  Hear Barth's own words:
"Everything which points in the direction of male or female seclusion, or of religious or secular orders or communities, or of male or female segregation – if it is undertaken in principle and not consciously and temporarily as an emergency measure – is obviously disobedience. All due respect to the comradeship of a company of soldiers! But neither men nor women can seriously wish to be alone, as in clubs and ladies’ circles. Who commands or permits them to run away from each other? That such an attitude is all wrong is shown symptomatically in the fact that every artificially induced and maintained isolation of the sexes tends as such – usually very quickly and certainly morosely and blindly – to become philistinish in the case of men and precious in that of women, and in both cases more or less inhuman. It is well to pay heed even to the first steps in this direction." (Church Dogmatics III/4, 165)
I'm not posting this to advocate for either position. This simply made me laugh.  If you've been in church long enough, you can see that there are two things to contemplate. First, the fruit of men's and women's ministries merits grand attention when contemplating this viewpoint. So many lives have been transformed, healed, and soteriologically enhanced from said ministries. Secondly, with that said, you've got to admit he's got a point. A lot of men's groups can become  MAN CHURCH while women's studies have been known to be more precious to them than the gathering together of all believers during the weekend service. 

Jun 10, 2011

Leonard Stern! You will be ____________ (Adj)!

When the man who created Mad Libs, wrote for the Honeymooners, Get Smart, and the Steve Allen show passes from this world into the next, adjectives, nouns, and verbs don’t do him justice.  

May 5, 2011

Troubling Verses in Scripture: Restoring Hope

For most of us, it is never a smooth ride when discussing with others those controversial Scripture verses. There are moments when some of the debates over these verses may actually bring joy, laughter, and a belief that there is no reason to argue over certain points of contention. I have found those to be verses like Paul exhorting Timothy that women will be saved through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15) or Paul's discussion about baptism of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29).
However, there are other verses that literally make people sick with fear and dysfunction when not properly interpreted. These are verses that remove hope from the hearts of those wishing to be with God. For example, the previously mentioned verse about women being saved through childbearing might bring fear to certain ladies, but I found that it is quickly diminished in light of it's comparison to the whole of Scripture and the remaining unknown meaning as to what Paul was actually communicating. The false gospel of "have a baby go to heaven" has never really caught on. The other verses that do seem to bring fear and hopelessness into the heart of those who fear God have to do with continuing to sin after coming to a knowledge of the truth, falling away and not being able to come back to repentance, predestination and the choosing of some for noble purposes and others for ignoble purposes, and, of course, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The literal hours I have spent counseling people on those verses alone greatly outnumber any other topic. I will be spending some time reflecting and writing about these verses in the weeks ahead with the sole purpose of restoring hope for those struggling in the fear of a wrathful God.

Feb 12, 2011

Bring on the Neophytes!

It's important to realize that there's not enough sentences that include the word neophyte. The word literally drips of coolness. I would consider myself finally out of the realm of Mac neophytes.  I think I've actually gone the way of the Borg when it comes to the Mac/Apple world.  In the last couple years many people, recently going the way of the smartphone, embraced their new neophyte status while using words such as qwerty, tags, push, and cloud.
As I write this I'm listening to a podcast with several people sharing their views on politics, comedy, racism and staying sober.  It's really hard to focus on this writing.  But I wanted to post ... something!  Geesh.