Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To The Least of These

 We, as a nation are under attack. Tens of thousands of minor children from Latin American countries have swarmed to our borders. We, as a nation have detained them and are looking at a solution for "re-introducing" (deporting) them to their native countries. This has become a major problem and could cost this country hundreds of millions of dollars, money we simply do not have.
  So what do we do? That is not an easy question. If we feed and clothe them, we may never get rid of them. And if we do send them home all they will do is tell their friends and then come right back to our border, for more food and clothing. It is a vicious circle.
  I do not understand why this is suddenly our problem?  Why aren't their governments doing anything about this?  Actually, I think their governments may encouraging this migration, this invasion. This after the billions of dollars we funnel to them in aid. That is not fair.
  To be honest, this seems almost surreal, almost unbelievable, almost super natural. I understand that it is real, but I ask myself why? Why would my God let this happen to a Christian country. Don't we do enough already? Haven't we bent over backwards to help? Why?

  I believe that God is present in our lives every day. I believe that God is still in the miracle business and God is in control. Maybe this is part of God's plan. God has given this great country several nudges to do things and we seem to get tied up in things that really don't matter. Maybe God has had enough!

Matthew 25:31-46New International Version (NIV)

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

  How do we handle this? It may be the same way we handle God.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Them Bones

  This week I am deviating from the lectionary for my sermon. Yes, I am using Ezekiel 37 for my scripture. This is the story of the valley of dry bones.
  Ezekiel was a prophet in exile. He was part of the nation of Israel that had been taken to Babylon while the rest of his native country was destroyed. The vision that God gives him is a valley of dried and withered bones waiting for the prophet to breath life into them. Once breathed upon, they would rise and become flesh, and the people will be restored.
  This is a follow up to my Zombie Church sermon before Easter. This is kind of the zombiest, (is that a real word?- my spellcheck says no,) story of the whole Bible. Looking deeper at this, God is restoring the bones to LIFE, not making them un-dead. So, they are really not zombies are they.
  God can restore zombie churches, but only if we have vision. I have seen my share of un-dead churches in my life. Congregations that are nothing more than dry bones in a valley, or a sanctuary. God told Ezekiel to breath life into the bones of the valley and I think He tells us to do the same.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's All About Hymn

  It really hurts when I have to admit that I have traditional traits. Honestly, I really want to be a radical guy in a contemporary world. Things just seem to get in my way however, and sometimes these things worry me.
  Take worship music. Nothing says traditional worship more than a hymnal. I grew up in the United Methodist Church, so therefore I grew up using the United Methodist Hymnal as the main focus in worship. The hymnal had lots of things we used in worship; liturgy for baptism and communion, psalters and creeds, and hymns- lots of hymns. Most of the hymns were, maybe 150 years old, and they were meant to be sung by people who sang them as contemporary worship. They were old songs sung by old people. They were sung with organ accompaniment and it sounded like a bunch of cows mooing for their calves.
  I want to be radical, I want to throw off the shackles of the traditional worship. I want to dress comfortably and sing songs accompanied by a band with guitars and drums. I do like contemporary worship, but really the songs lack. I see the same hymns that I grew to hate are far superior to most contemporary works. The big Christian seasons really bring this out. Advent and Easter are almost ignored by contemporary music. We all love to sing the old carols during advent, and Easter may be even more dramatic.  
  Let's look at Easter songs traditionally sung on Easter morning:
Up From the Grave He Arose (322 in the Hymnal)
Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o're  His foes
He arose a victor from the dark domain
and he lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose-He arose
Halleluiah Christ arose.
  This pretty much sums it up!

How about Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (302 in the Hymnal)
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!

It may help if we do them in a different way. Try reciting those songs in rap style. It may change your world!

  The theology, the passion, and the guidance found in hymnals can no longer be ignored. Aside from your Bible, a hymnal can be your best tool in worship. Ouch! I said it. But they are not perfect. my next rant will be to fix the hymnal. Now, before it's too late.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Doubt It

  Okay, so we all know the story of "Doubting Thomas". Here was a guy who travel for years with Jesus, ate with him, saw many miracles and witnessed great miracles and yet could not believe that Jesus resurrected. What a maroon.
  To be honest, Thomas had the worst publicist of all the disciples, possibly excepting Judas. When we look at John 20:19-31 we may be surprised at what we see. As I alluded to in my earlier post, all of the disciples were in a locked room because of paralyzing fear when Jesus came to them. All except Thomas! (Of course, this all happened after the events of Easter Sunday.)
  Thomas was the only one who was not to scared to go in the outside world. Many people figure he was getting grub. Okay, I'll buy that- but why was he alone? Your are buying food for eleven, wouldn't you want help carrying the groceries.  When Thomas get's back all the other say, "guess who just dropped by to bless us? Jesus, Jesus made an appearance through that locked door, it was great!"
  Can you blame Thomas for doubting? These scared little disciples who wouldn't even go outside, they're the ones Jesus comes to? I really believe that Thomas did not doubt Jesus- he doubted his friends. (What's that smell? I know- it's Peter's cloak that is on fire.)
  When Jesus comes back in a week to a room with a closed door, (but not locked-baby steps), Thomas is with them. What does Thomas do? He tells Jesus "My Lord and my God." He professes that Jesus is divine. Did any of the other disciples do that? No!
  So I know you are asking yourself why is Steve taking up for Thomas so much? The answer is easy- because Thomas is Me! I am not afraid to go out into the world even though many people know I am a disciple of Jesus. However, I do not always believe the things that other disciples tell me, I sometimes demand proof. Not that I don't believe God can do anything, I do. I just have a hard time believing that He would do it to some people.
  Here is the rub. Is wanting some level of proof always a bad thing?   I don't think so. I tell people all the time it is okay to have doubts, that causes us to seek the truth. That causes us sometimes to exercise our faith. What happens when we exercise? We get healthier.
  I believe that God wants his followers to be healthy. I also believe that people will tell us things that are not true. Sometimes it's unintentional but sometimes it is planned. There are deceivers in this world, and if we can not seek truth use our judgments, we will fall into the trap set by the ultimate  evil doer.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Did Easter Change the Church?

  Another Easter Sunday has come and gone. We all had big crowds, the day in East Texas was beautiful, and the world was absolutely changed and redeemed. Well... I don't think it is totally by chance that the Sunday after Easter is Doubting Thomas Sunday in the lectionary readings.
  When we look at the story from John 20:19-31, we see remarkable similarities with our own lives. Jesus arose, presented himself to the ladies and to some of the disciples so what do they do? They hide, behind locked doors. Their fear overcomes their joy, and the truth is locked away in a room.
  So what do we do after some absolutely glorious worship events? Well, traditionally the Sunday after  Easter is known as Associate Pastor Sunday or Lay Leader Sunday or even "Low Sunday". The excitement of the risen Lord dies within a week.
  Actually, the week after Easter should be the big week. We should all be so fired up about the gospel that we take that fire out into the world and start to change it, we should be evangelizing to the point where the crowd after Easter Sunday should be even larger than the crowd the previous week. But it's not-is it?  We get so worn out by the excitement and passion of Holy Week that we take the next week off to rest, we retreat behind closed doors and Christ has to come chase us out. 
  Pastors are the worst. We are so worn out, but really what did we do? I preached three services, helped at another, assisted in a feeding that was truly miraculous and had a funeral. Full week. Does this mean I can ignore the excitement we helped create? Or does this give me the base to which I can really reach out to my congregation. If Jesus conquered death so that we can have faith, can't he also provide strength and energy to help us this week?
  Sometimes we can be like our friend Thomas. We really doubt that is what it is really about. We want to believe, but we are tired.

  Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week of Holy Week!

 This week is Holy Week! Duh! Really? If you are in the "church business" you know this all too well. My home church celebrates Holy Week this year by having a Seder Meal on Monday night, ( if you have never heard someone raised in Deep East Texas speaking in Hebrew- it is worth the price of admission. Think more flem.)  We then have a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday service, our new Saturday night service kicks off it's weekly appearances, then on Sunday we will have a sunrise, a 8:40 traditional and the 11:00 contemporary service.
  The small church I preach at has a shared service on Maundy Thursday at another church, a Good Friday service, a sunrise (Sonrise) service and the regular 11:00 AM service on Sunday. This is after we concluded our Lenten Bible Study on Monday night. Everybody gets their moneys worth during this week.
  I have heard of other Holy Week traditions and plans at other congregations. One town has a sunrise service in the parking lot of their county jail, and the inmates can attend. Several congregations have prayer vigils from the end of their Good Friday all the way 'til sunrise Easter morning. There are really some incredible things happening.
  At most congregations, the attendance will be the highest for all year- by a long way. The sanctuaries will be packed, flowers will be everywhere and children will wear clothes they would have never picked for themselves. Happy Easter!
  But why? Why is this week so special? I know the Sunday School answer- this is the day we celebrate Jesus' conquering death by raising from the dead. We can't do this every week? If we think this is such a big deal, shouldn't we be excited every day?
  I don't want to complain, but I will do it anyway. If we really believed in a risen Savior- we would do the things we do this week year round. There- I said it. Why are we such posers? Do we really think that God will see how we act a few hours every year and say "that's close enough"?
  Go to the special services. Sing with gusto "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!!!" Get fired up and feel happy. The world is ours because of what Jesus did. Tell your neighbor!
Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Palm Sunday

  This Sunday is Palm Sunday. This is the beginning of Holy Week, so it is kind of a big deal. We celebrate Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and mimic the crowd as they waved palm branched and shouted Hosanna!
  I am familiar with the story, I have heard it many times through the years. As a preacher, I try to make each Sunday exciting and educational for the congregation, so what do I do?
 What I always do. Not what I always say, but the way I always act, a little different. The lectionary text this week is Matthew 21:1-11. This particular passage of Jesus's entry of course has him procuring two equines, a colt and a donkey. So Is Steve going to look at this version of Jesus riding roman style?(two horses). Is that the outside the box twist for this entry? Nope! I'm going to let that one slide.
  Instead I will focus on the palms. It does say that the crowd cut branches and lay them on the road, (with their cloaks-that is a good way to ruin a good Sunday cloak.) It does not say they were all palm branches. To be honest, maybe the waving of the palms has nothing to do with palm trees and everything to do with human anatomy. The people waved their hands at Jesus.
  So what? How is this thinking outside the box? Please, how many of you have really put this together? The main point of this is that then crowds, the people, the hands are now a bigger part of the Holy Week experience. They (we) are now a separate character, right up there with Pilate, Judas and the Pharisees. We are the palms in Palm Sunday.
  How often do we wave our hands in the air during worship and call out to be saved,(Hosanna!) In the United Methodist Church- rarely. We have an aversion to raising our hands. I have been a basketball referee during my past, so I would help with my churches Upward Basketball. There is not a three point shot in Upward, (most kids can't even throw up a decent free throw.) One of the adults I was training to help referee asked why no threes. I replied that we are playing in the Christian Life Center of a Methodist Church, and we don't raise our hands for anything here.
  But we do! Even in very conservative worship styles we all cry out to god with arms raised. We all wave and shout. We are all the palms that wave at Jesus, this is our Sunday!
Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Zombies and the Church


   On Tuesday I wrote a satirical piece about Jesus and Lazarus suggesting we should think of Lazarus as a zombie, strictly for commercial reasons. Yes, I can get cute and snarky at times-in fact maybe too much. I closed with admitting that I could never preach about zombies, or could I?
  My mind has been spinning out of control the past few days thinking on this subject. The more I thought about, the more I prayed and studied, the more I knew that not only I could preach about zombies- I knew I would. It occurred to me that it many ways the church (little "c") may have become a zombie. To really understand what I mean, we have to look at what zombies are.
  Zombies are not alive- they are just un dead. Lazarus was not a zombie because Jesus restored life to him. Are our churches really alive?, or just un dead. That can be a hard question. Just because we are adding numbers does not mean we are alive because;
Zombies look for the living for nourishment. Zombies attack the living to keep them going, therefore making more zombies.  Do we, as the church, just care about putting bodies in the pews so we can continue to exist? Or, do we care about the person and want them to grow and mature in their relationship with God?
  Zombies can be slow, methodical and a little predictable. No one likes change, that is a human condition. It is also a church condition, (because the church is a bunch of humans.) The world changes however, and sometimes the church is slow to meet these changes. I am not saying we need to change the gospel- we just need to change how we show it. The gospel is the word, not the way the word is presented. Be cautious, sometimes we can be very fired up with the process but we need to remember; Zombies can be very zealous about getting their final goal (your brain). So are we fired up about Jesus- or the process.
  Zombies only exist in the present, they don't learn from the past or dream of the future. Sometimes the church can be so focused on what is happening right now we forget to look at the past and see what lessons we could learn. I have heard from several churches who say that they wish they would have expanded in the past when they had families, but it was too expensive. They now understand that it takes faith to be disciples of Christ, and sometimes that faith means we step out financially. Also, we can worry too much about the financial crisis we are now in to look at the future. As with having children; if we wait until we can be financially secure before we have children, most of us will never have them. If the church waits until it can pay cash for expansion, we will never expand.
  Zombies infect all they touch- but they bring them to their un-dead level. This is very important to remember. So often, we as the church want our members to act just the same as we do. Newsflash- we do not always act as Christ wants us to. So we expect the members of our congregations to conform to our idols, our expectations and our politics.
  Zombies never win- they just are. Zombies never win at the end of the movie, they just cause a lot of pain and trouble. Churches that are not alive with Christ will not win. Eventually, the Truth will overcome, but it may take a long time. Those who cling to their traditions and heritage over the teachings of Jesus can cause much pain and suffering- both for the church and the un-churched.
 The last thing I need to stress is this- Zombies are not real! Zombies are made up to entertain our darker side. Zombie churches do exist. There are congregations that are not growing with the Spirit, that only feed off of others and infect all they touch. Here is the good news! Christ calls everyone to be alive in Him. We are not un-dead, we are living through Him and because of Him.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bethany Zombie

  How did zombies get to be such a cultural rush? It seems like everywhere you look these days there is something or some show about Zombies.  The Walking Dead is very hot on cable right now, although I have to confess that I have never seen a full episode, ( I know, I am such a loser.) It is spawning lots of other zombie and un-dead TV shows, my favorite being High School of the Un Dead. ( I may have to check that one out.)
  Zombies took over the movies years ago. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a silent flick that really started the genre, but Night of the Living Dead really got it going. Since that 1960's movie we have had Dawn of the Dead, Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead (my favorite), Para Norman ( for the clanimation  fans). Both the Simpsons and South Park have had Zombie shows, what more can I say.
   Another fad that is sweeping entertainment now are the Bible movies. I understand that they have always been around, but lately it seems like we are being bombarded by them. We had Son of God, God's not Dead, Noah (I know- it is really not a God movie, but it is a God theme), Heaven is for Real- all in, or soon to come in, the theaters recently. Isn't it time to combine these two genres for a real money maker?
  This weeks lectionary reading again comes from the book of John. John 11:1-45 is the story of Jesus and Lazarus.  This is the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the Dead. The zombie possibilities are endless. I am proposing Bethany Zombie. In this story when Lazarus comes from the tomb he is a zombie. But this Zombie doesn't want your brains- he wants our hearts (aww!)
  My mind is twisted, and I know that I am supposed to be reading and preparing a sermon that will touch the congregation, but I can't get passed the obvious. Do I have the courage to do a zombie sermon?  No way! But... if I bring out.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Blind Justice

  We know that Jesus saves, and makes the blind to see. Does this come with a price? What price would you pay to see justice done in OUR world?
  Again, I struggle from week to week to make the Sunday morning messages at the congregation I serve mean something. Sure, I can, (and do) tell funny stories that make people laugh and feel good. This is easy for me. Is this doing God's work? Really, I know that what I am really called to do in these talks is let the Spirit move in the congregation.
  This weeks lectionary reading is John 9:1-41. This is the story of Jesus healing the blind man. What this really deals with is what happens when we do God's work with God's people, those in His own image.
  Jesus heals a man blind from birth, but he does it on the Sabbath. He knows the laws, (He is the Son of God) and this breaks one of the traditional Jewish laws of working on the Sabbath, (Exodus 31:12-17). Why would He do this? I think the short answer is to show that all people are important, and God wants to heal all of us whenever possible. It also allowed him to confront the Pharisees and show them how ridiculous they can be.
  Here is the troubling part. Aren't we sometimes junior Pharisees? Don't we take rules and laws and put them before people? I am a lay pastor for the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has rules and laws, and they are gathered in a document called The Book of Discipline. (The current Book of Discipline is almost 800 pages long-that is some document!) I like my church, I love my congregation and like having a discipline, a book of rules to guide me.  
  If you hear or read the news, you know that several preachers ordained in the United Methodist Church have performed same sex marriages, a practice outside the Book of Discipline. These pastors have been brought before courts of review and some have been de-frocked. They have been fired and told that their life's work is not valid. That makes me nervous!
  I see Jesus doing things that are outside His Jewish laws to do what God wants done. To heal God's people. I see ministers doing things outside their churches laws to reach people made in God's own image, and then are punished. As a lay minister, I am not ordained, so I can not perform sacraments anyway, ( another rule in The Book of Discipline.) So this does not directly affect me, not as a pastor.
  But it does affect me as a sinner trying to understand what God desires. It does shape the way un-churched see how the church behaves. I don't understand why these pastors choose to do what they did, and I can't say that even if I had the authority to marry that I would marry a same sex couple.  I tend to respect laws.
  Jesus does not want followers who seek to do the law, He expects us to do justice. Sometimes these are not the same.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ther's Just No Pleasing Some people

  This week's lectionary passage comes once again from the Book of John.  John 9:1-41 is the story of Jesus and the blind man. This story reminds me so much of the part of Monty Python's Life of Brian where Brian is approached by the beggar who is saying "alms for an ex-leper." The beggar was cured by Jesus so now he can no longer beg. It may be a farce, but Jesus healing the blind creates all kinds of problems.
  Jesus heals a man who has been blind since birth, in essence-he opens his eyes literally. This is all well and good, but this act of kindness really upsets the religious leaders. First, they grill the man and his parents, (really, you bring a grown man's Mom and Dad to the inquisition?)  They want to make sure this is not a ruse used by Jesus to get street cred.
  Funny thing is the more they question the blind man, and his parents, the more strong in his faith of Jesus he becomes. If they would have let it go it could have died down as just another little miracle. The more they allowed the blind man to speak- the more the crowds heard about the greatness of Jesus. Eventually, the man explains he believes Jesus is messiah.
  Then they grill Jesus because he healed, (therefore he worked,) on the Sabbath. I know what you're thinking- so what?  I always wondered why they would question Jesus at this time. I mean didn't they learn anything from their experience with the blind guy? Couldn't they see this wouldn't end well for them? Apparently not. There is just no pleasing some people.
  Do we do the same thing? When we see other people blessed, can we complain? When we belittle miracles Jesus has done in other peoples lives, what message are we sending to those who haven't accepted Christ? Can't we be happy that Christ is alive and working in our world? These are some of the questions I am wrestling with as I look for truth.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Give You Living Water

                    "What is this 'living water' you speak of?" 

  The Samaritan woman at the well is one of the most theologically discussed characters in the new testament. Unfortunately, we tend to add to her story.
  What do we really know? She has been married five times and is now living in sin. Sounds pretty trashy so far. We assume that she was divorced 5 times, but in that world she could have easily been widowed 5 times, possibly to a bunch of brothers. Either way- she was not in a good financial spot.
  Because of the financial strains, she would come get water whenever she was not working, that may have been why she was filling up during noon. We have always figured it was because she was an outcast. We just do not know.
  We do know that she was very well taught in religious matters. She knew religious laws and what the Jews considered sacred. She also was not afraid to test Jesus. Here is the big difference between this woman and Nicodemus, (from the proceeding story.) When Jesus answers her, she believes. Not only does she believe, she realizes he is the messiah.
  What does she do then? She runs and tells her friends. She becomes an evangelical missionary. Even though Jesus' own disciples are confused, the woman's witness caused many of her people to come to Jesus.
  What does this have to do with God's Own Image? Are we a man, well schooled and educated. Someone who is respected and a leader? Or, are we an unnamed woman, of lowly financial position, from a despised and depressed people. The answer may be scandalous.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


  Everybody loves scandal. I do not mean the TV show, (although lots do), I'm talking about deep, dark secrets. We all fall in this situation. We all have things and experiences we would like to bury and put away forever. They are embarrassing, hurtful or inconvenient and are nobody else's business.
  My sermon this week is on the Samaritan woman at the well. (A hush fell over many of the readers). Is there any other character in the New Testament that is more scandalous?  I mean really, married five times? Coming out to get water in the middle of the day, who does that except someone hiding?
  I am touched by this woman however. Instead of skulking around during the night, she comes to Jesus in the daylight. Even more incredible- Jesus actually seeks her out! A multi married Samaritan WOMAN, what Jewish leader in their right mind would strike up a conversation with her?
  Short answer, only one, and that one is Jesus.
  Funny thing is that how different is she than many of us? Don't we all have secrets? Don't we all have things that should keep us from perfection? Yet Jesus calls out to each of us, He invites all of us to experience the living water that comes through him. As I re-read John 4:5-42, (really? lectionary reading that is 37 verses long?) I am struck by what the gospel is telling me this week.
  What is the Gospel saying to someone in God's own image? Stay tuned to this blog for the next episode.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Born Again, (from out of the darkness)

 I am still developing my sermon from John 3. Yesterday I talked about Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the darkness. Today I am breaking down being born again.
  For many of us, born again is Ned Flanders. Conservative, happy, modestly dressed, (but with Jesus abs) are traits of born again Christians. Heck, he is even left handed. So, this is what we see, and even more importantly what the world see's when we think of being born again. Is this what Jesus see's?
  How can rebirth happen? Nicodemus thinks like we do, like people do. Can a man crawl back into the womb and be re-born? No, thought some men try. So what is Christ talking about?
  We are to re-born in the spirit. Jesus uses a wind metaphor, and we can look at this in our lives. The spirit is the breeze that re-ignites the flame in our fire. We don't know where it comes from or where it goes, but it does marvelous things while it's here.
  I could comment on re-birth by baptism or how we are given new lives once the spirit lives within us. I could- but Ned Flanders is better at that than I. There in lies the problem- Ned Flanders is a cartoon character, and few people that don't know the cartoon will take him seriously.
  If you don't know the spirit, if you don't live through Christ, how can you understand how the church condemns if we aren't born again? If we can't explain things in a very basic but real way, (like Jesus does,) how can we reach the un-churched?
  Jesus does save the upper middle class white church goers. He also saves the migrant workers, the jailed African American dope seller, the pregnant teen with crack issues. The wind blows where the wind blows, we can't control it. The spirit can re-kindle flames in people anywhere as well.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In the Shadows

  This weeks lectionary gospel reading comes from John 3. This has the most quoted and remembered verse in the entire bible in it,(John 3:16) but it is the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. I like to use the lectionary as a base for my sermons, so I have really been giving this a lot of thought and research.
  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin. He was very well tought and was definitely on the fast track of Jewish religious leadership. He must have been moved by what Jesus had done, and he was curious. He came to visit Jesus, but he came at night. He wanted to know more, but he didn't want to do this in the light of day. Afterall, if you do things in the light of day, people might see you.
  As I read about the discussions Nicodemus and Jesus had, I stil keep coming to this. This is done in the dark. Nicodemus lived in the shadows, not wishing to be outed. Do we do the same thing?  Do we worship God in the open, during the day- the work day? Or do we only talk to Jesus while we are in the shadows.
  I understand Nicodemus had a lot to loose, and he needed to be sure that Jesus was who people said he was, and what Nicodemus suspected. Are we in the same boat? I think this is why so many young people are turning from the church . They believe in a God, ( as did Nicademus ) and may be curious about Jesus, but are afraid to come out of the safety of the shadows to really get to know Christ.  Most of Nicodemus' friends trashed Jesus, of this I am pretty sure. His church, (Jesus'- not Nicodemus') is catching a lot of bad press now, some deserved. Until we, as disciples of Jesus, can ourselves come out from the shadows, how can we expect others to do so.
Go-Fight-Win. Amen

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rest of the Story

  This morning I led a men's prayer breakfast at church. The devotional was a brief study of the Book of Jonah. There are several reasons I chose this for this morning:
1. Jonah is a very short book
2. It is very readable
3. I have done several studies on Jonah in the past- so I didn't have to do much prep.
   I did something a little different today. Because there was less discussion than normal, ( old men don't like to discuss much,) I had time at the end. Since Jonah ends so abruptly, I asked the guys to write the ending. I said be brief, maybe a paragraph, to fit the rest of the book. The answers were interesting.
  Not one man ended the book with Jonah recanting and going back to town to make disciples. Some had him passing on the edge of town waiting, others thought he turned and went home. One man said he was stuck dead by God, ( so much for the compassion and mercy as the theme.)
  How do you end the story, ( you may want to re-read the book to help.) Just a thought. Does how we finish this story have anything to do with how we see God?  If God goes through the trouble of transporting Jonah in the belly of a fish, would he then let him do a job half-way? Do we, as humans, have the freedom of choice it would take to do nothing but bitch?  Since this an OT ( Old Testament) God, would he smite Jonah for being lippy? 
Go-Fight-Win. Amen

Thursday, March 6, 2014

God's Own Image

 Why would I name this blog "In God's Own Image"? Do I really believe that God looks like me or thinks like me, or even likes the same things I like? Short answer- yes.
  This really took root at a young adult Bible study that my wife and I teach, (and I use that word very loosely.) I gave an answer, by way of a joke. As a form of apology, (sort of) I inserted that I know God has a sense of humor because he made me. I then gave my best Animal House Bluto imitation, (as you see on my profile picture), trying to seal the laugh. One of the young adults then blurted out "So that's God's image", and this thought was born.
  We are all made in God's own image-so therefore...this is what God is like! scary, but thought provoking.  I am not God, but God is me.