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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Zune Froze and There's No Reset

I have a Zune. It's Microsoft's answer to the Ipod. Lately Microsoft is losing all their battles with Apple.

This morning I turn it on and it freezes on the boot up screen. Nothing I do will get it off that screen. Microsoft failed to put a reset button on the Zune.

So, I got on the internet looking for a solution. I discovered that zillions of people had the same problem this morning with their Zune's. (I actually thought I was the only one who owned one but I guess I was wrong from reading the posts.) The Zune software doesn't like December 31. Zune's all over the world locked up.

This isn't the greatest tragedy that could happen. There are no apocalyptic prophecies about Zune's locking up before the end of the world. There are no terrorist groups claiming responsibility for the Zune lock ups. There does not appear to be any espionage perpetrated by foreign governments. It's just a bunch of MP3 players that won't work.

Maybe its a wake up call for all of us. We all need a reset button on December 31. Everything we have been doing that we shouldn't domust be reset so that we won't do it anymore. Everything we should be doing must be reset so we will do it now. There are lots of these things in my life.

I'm pressing my own reset button right now.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Can Do Your Job Better Than You

No one will say it openly but they say it by their criticism. "I can do your job better than you do your job." Can they?

It is easy to make decisions as long as their are no consequences. Many people sit in their armchairs telling the quarterback to throw it or not. They don't see the defenders down the field nor do they feel the weight of the 325 lb. defensive end who is chasing him down. There are no consequences that come to the people in the armchairs.

It's much easier to make decisions when you don't have all the facts. It is easy to evaluate whether or not we should go to war on little information. Many must think that the president has no more information than they do. The things that they don't see might lead to greater problems if the decision isn't made.

It is easy to make decisions when you don't have to follow protocol. Structures have been placed so that decisions have to follow certain procedures. Levels of persons or committees must approve some decisions so they can be made. Many think that all decisions are unilateral. They don't understand why a decision can't be made and implemented quickly. They also are not afraid of being removed from office. They don't have one.

It is easy to make decisions if you can walk away from them if they don't work out. Many will say, "Wow, I didn't see that coming!" but they walk away because neither their jobs or livelihood are in danger from the decision.

I never wanted to be president. There are too many people who think they can do his job better than he can. So, I became a pastor. Go figure!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The God Who Seeks Us

I have three daughters. I love each one of them and look forward to any time I can have with them. None of them live near me. The oldest lives in Egypt. She went back Sunday morning. Today, she will make a trip to Kenya with some friends. My middle daughter is here for a few more days. She presently lives in Birmingham, AL. My youngest is somewhere in the Caribbean. She has a charter on the yacht she works on. (You can check it out at

I want to see my daughters. I call them as much as they can stand. I skype the two outside the country. I even a have a webcam so we can talk face-to-face. I have been known to pay for their plane tickets so that I can see them. It is no burden to do so. It's an act of love.

Recently, books have been written that give the impression that God is hard to find. They take the scripture about seeking Him with your whole heart and make that the entire issue of having any contact with God. They fail to take into account that He has always initiated contact with us. He met Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Paul and many, many others when they were not seeking Him (at least not with their whole hearts like these writers say that we must). The god who hides from me is not the God I know.

I didn't follow God long after becoming a Christian. I did things that were in opposition to Him for about eighteen months. I was in college and Christmas holidays came. I worked in a bank so that I couldn't go home when the rest of the students took their vacation. The part time work required I come in Monday through Friday from 1 PM to 7Pm. I had no tv so I spent each night reading novels.

I had read about a half of Of Human Bondage when I felt incredible despair. I threw the book at the wall and said out loud, "There is no joy in my life!" After sitting on the bed for a few minutes I went to my closet. I went through the books I had stored there for later reading. Toward the bottom of this stack was my Bible. I opened it and began to read things that I had not thought of for eighteen months. I saw the notes I had made in the margins. I remembered when I had written them. I said to myself, "This is where my joy was. Why did I leave it?"

Kneeling by the window I began to confess my sins. (Not all of them or I would still be there.) I told God, "I wouldn't take me back if I were You. But I know you will because of Your Word. Please, God, don't ever let me forget this night because I never want to come back here again."

I suppose you could say that circumstances caused me to come back to God. I was lonely. I didn't have a lot to do. But what are the odds that a college student would make a commitment to live for God without any prompting from the outside. No one preached to me. No one told me I was far away from God. I had a very spiritual moment without someone from the outside.

God allowed all these things in my life so I would realize how lost I am without Him. He sought after me as the sheep that was lost and He left the ninety-nine to come find me.

There have been many times I have had experiences with God when I was not seeking Him with my whole heart. He seeks after us so that we will seek Him with our whole hearts. It is silly to thing we would seek Him before He sought us. I believe He wants to have this fellowship with everyone.

I will be preaching a series called, "The Purpose Given Life" starting January 25. God gives us His purpose for our lives. This purpose brings us into fellowship with Him. He seeks us like any loving parent seeks fellowship with his children.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Where Does the Rage Come From?

I heard on the news today that a man went into a home and began shooting members of his family. Later, the house was set on fire. I suppose the man was angry at someone. These seem to be the reasons for these killing sprees.

I believe many people have no outlet for their anger. They hold everything inside. They feel that they were victims in the circumstances they are in. They have no means of forgiveness. Maybe they have never felt forgiveness before. They commit suicides afterward. Is this remorse or their final escape from the consequences. I guess, they don't think there are any consequences after death. I am afraid they are wrong.

These people feel helpless in all other forms of dealing with their circumstances. Their attempts at confronting the wrong done to them has been met with laughter. "No one will laugh this time," they think.

Maybe, it appears that everyone else has no real problems. This makes the indignant acts against them larger. They don't deserve what they are getting. They take it until they just can't take it anymore.

Does it begin in fantasy? They dream of their adversaries getting what is due them. They may even plan how they would do so. Do they eventually start putting their feet to their plans?

Or, is this something that happens on the spur of the moment? They merely pick up the gun they originally said was for protection and start shooting. Maybe they realize what they have done and then decide on suicide.

Many of them have loving parents. Many of them have great potential. It all ends the day they take out their rage on others, both for their parents and for them.

I am not a great counselor but I know One. He died so I could be forgiven. I wish people knew Him so that they would know they were forgiven too. I know He would take the bitterness away. Bitterness is like eating poison and hoping the other person dies.

I wonder why people would rather hurt than trust in Jesus.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Am Stuffed!

I added up my caloric intake for the day and discovered I will not have to eat again until February.

I think I have made it through another Christmas Day. It is a day of eating. Why do I keep doing this?

We get up and eat breakfast. Then, after opening Christmas gifts. I go to eat some of the sweets we have accumulated for Christmas. There are two kinds of cookies, fudge, sugared up pecans, candies of all sorts, pecan pie and soft drinks. I eat beyond getting full.

We eat lunch. It has ham, green beans, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, broccoli and cheese casserole and rolls. Afterward, I have some more pecan pie.

I fall asleep watching a video I got for Christmas. When I awaken, I get some more pecan pie. My only exercise for the day has been going to the kitchen for more food.

I resolve I will not do this again next year. I will not allow this food in the house so that I will not be tempted to graze on it all day long. I will walk the dog around the block. I will ride my bicycle. I will clean out the garage- wait, that's going too far! I will walk the dog.

But for right now, I'm going to see if I can get some ham and rolls. Afterward, there is still dinner, snack, midnight meal . . . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lighting Candles on Christmas Eve

Tonight we have our Christmas Eve service. Many families and individuals will gather to usher in Christmas. We will read the Christmas story found in the gospels. We will sing Christmas Carols. We will light candles and sing Silent Night.

I used to think that lighting candles was just to get the men to come. We men always like to burn things. We get bigger but we never really grow out of being little boys. Yet, it has come to mean something really special to me.

Everyone is given a candle when they enter the sanctuary. They will either lay it on the seat or hold it until the time comes to be lit. The candle remains dark until it is lit. It has all the potential of being a light and of providing heat but does not fulfill that purpose until it is lit. The lighting is passed from one person to another until the whole sanctuary is full of light.

Jesus came to the world as a baby. He "lit" a very few followers during His physical days on this earth. They spread His light to others until millions have His light burning burning within them. He came so that the whole world would have this light within. All people are potential lights until they are lit. This is the light that is still burning in the world.

This will not be the best Christmas for many people. Many people have lost loved ones during the year. The empty place at the table will serve as a reminder of their loss. Some have gotten divorced. Christmas is difficult for them because Christmas is so much about family and they have lost part of their family. Some have lost jobs so that Christmas will be a fearful time. They do not know how they will pay their bills. They will have a difficult time enjoying Christmas.

I want each of these to remember that the light of Jesus is still burning brightly no matter the circumstances. People have tried to put out this light for centuries but it keeps being spread from one person to another. This light will bring them through whatever they will face. Jesus will never give up on you. He will always be your light if you will let Him.

John 1:4-5 (ESV)
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Am I a Scrooge?

My wife thinks I am a Scrooge. I really don't like putting up the Christmas tree or Christmas lights. I like to give gifts but don't really think they can't be opened until Christmas. I like Easter a whole lot better than Christmas.

So, I have decided to tell the things I like rather than the ones that I don't.

I like it when the lady checking out in front of me is ready to pay for her gifts. She doesn't wait for the cashier to give her the amount she needs to pay. She already has her credit card in hand or her check filled out just waiting for the amount to be filled in. She has made it faster for everyone who stands behind her.

I like it when the person coming from the other direction turns on his turn indicator so I can decide whether or not to turn before he arrives. This allows me to enter the shopping center's parking lot. His courtesy makes my journey quicker and safer.

I like it when the clerk greets me with "Merry Christmas" and a smile. Pleasant people make me more pleasant when I have to shop.

I like sales personnel who want to help but are not pushy. They give me as much room as I want but are ready to help me with any question.

I like my neighbors Christmas decorations. I appreciate their hard work. Their industrious attitude means I don't have to put up a lot of decorations. The neighborhood already looks great.

I like TiVo. It allows me to skip through all the Christmas advertisements on tv.

See, though my wife may tell you different- I'm really not a Scrooge after all.

Bah! Humbug! (I think my wife added this last line.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

But He's Really Smart?

I am tired of hearing this: "He's gotten himself in so much trouble. It's such a shame because he's really smart."

Why do we assume that anyone who gets himself in trouble is really smart? Does it take really smart people to get themselves in trouble? I think we are rewarding really stupid behavior.

The teacher takes Johnny out of the classroom because he has been acting out. She says, "Johnny, I think you are really smart. You don't need to do these bad things?" So, Johnny understands that he gets complemented by doing something wrong.

Yes, I have also heard, "No, he doesn't have a steady job and still lives off of his parents and it's such a shame because he is really smart." I want to add, "But his parents are not that smart because they are allowing him to live off of them."

Why can't we have a new way of figuring I.Q.? The new way would include hard work and making good decisions. It would take into account being responsible and productive.

I wish everyone would say, "That guy works hard. He provides for his family. He pays his bills. He takes responsibility for the things around him. He tries to help others when he can. He is really smart."

This is my system of determining intelligence. In it anyone can be really smart. However, you can't be really smart by doing something really stupid.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We Have Church on Sundays

We have church on Sundays. I know, that isn't a "wow" declaration. However, we have church on Sundays no matter what! That means you should never watch tv or listen to the radio to hear that Thalia Lynn Baptist Church has canceled services because of weather. We will have church unless there is a mandatory evacuation. You can count on it.

There are three reasons I believe we should have church.

It is practical for me to make it to the church. I ride a bicycle to church every Sunday. Neither rain, snow, sleet or dark of night can keep the bicycle from making its journey to the church. If necessary, I can walk. I have done that once, though it is not nearly as fast. I can do this safely.

I believe worship is the most important thing we do at church. It should have a priority. If a Christian can come to church, he or she should be in church. We worship together to be changed together. It has always been God's plan that His people should also worship together.

I believe in people. I believe that many people will do the right thing if given the opportunity. I believe they know better than I do if their roads are unsafe. I believe they know they should protect themselves and their families. I also know that there are people within walking distance of the church who would come to our church if they did not feel safe going to theirs. I have no interest in drawing them away from their churches. I just want to give them an opportunity to worship with a group of believers.

So, my rule is: We will have church. Protect yourself and your family. Do not feel badly if you cannot get here. Be safe but know that there will be someone worshiping at Thalia Lynn no matter what the weather.

I'll see you next Sunday, no matter what.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who Likes Shopping?

Honestly, I really like buying. I just hate shopping. I went to Best Buy a couple of days ago to buy a tv stand. Granted, it is Christmas time and the store was crowded but it was a zoo. You couldn't carry on a conversation with the person next to you because the music was so loud. The store clerks were circling like buzzards evaluating the spending potential of each customer. The aisles, if you could call them that, were so full of merchandise that you could hardly get through the store.

At first, I liked being left alone. I could look for the tv stand that I wanted without having a clerk hover over me. Then, I couldn't get the attention of any of them to buy the item I wanted. I wandered around for a while and left the store.

So, I go to Circuit City. The parking lot was practically empty. I knew this can't be good. I got a clerk right away but they wanted $20 more for a very similar item. I'm sorry, but something inside me won't let me pay more even if it is more convenient.

I got nothing after all was said and done. I had all the pain of shopping but none of the good end results. I told my wife about my experience and she told me how we could do without the tv stand. At least I was happy about this.

This is the reason I do more and more shopping on line. I can look at the items within a few minutes and make my purchase. I get the good result with a very minimal bad activity.

Generally, women like to shop. This has never made sense to me. Shopping wears me out. It is not normal to like shopping. This is one of the reasons I have wondered if women were of the same species as men. Think about it. Who really likes to shop?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Do We Really Have Freewill?

I just finished reading a book entitled, "Thirteen Things That Don't Make Sense." I think it should have been called, "Two Things That Don't Make Sense, A Couple of Erroneous Conclusions and A Bunch of Stuff We Don't Understand."

My definition of something that doesn' t make sense is observations which do not support what we already know. For example, the fact that the universe is expanding with increasing rapidity while entropy would declare is should be slowing is something that doesn't make sense. The continuance of homeopathic medicine while there is no evidence to support why it works doesn't make sense. I appreciated the author's elementary explanation of these phenomena.

However, his declaration that we do not have freewill disturbed me. At least, he expresses his own feelings that this disturbed him, too. The conclusion is made through abnormal observations. People with "Alien Hand" will find that one hand will move beyond their control. It can even strangle them to death. It seems to be programmed to do something other than the will of the owner. The fact that the brain can be stimulated to move the body gives evidence to the effect of an outside influence which takes away the freewill of the owner.

The scientist doing this study seem to say that we are all programmed to do what we do. We are not responsible for any of our actions. We simply follow our predisposed programming.

This blog must have been programmed into who I am. I seem to think I am responsible for it but it is merely programming. All of my experiences add to this programming. I am a sum of all that I am both genetically and experientially.

There is some truth to this. I know that experiences and genetics play a part in our actions. No one can deny this. Yet, there are so many other people who defy their heritage and environment to become something else.

I have met thieves who would no longer steal anything. Their whole lives were changed when they met Jesus as Savior. They gave their hearts to Him and their desires to steal were "stolen" from them. They are perfectly happy being something other than their programming.

Honestly, I think many scientist exhibit a type of faith that exceeds the religious. They seem to find what they are looking for and create systems of belief which support their own conclusions. When they discovered that the universe was expanding rapidly, they created "dark energy." They believe it exists though no one has any proof. (Strange but they claim my conclusions that God exists are unfounded yet, they have very similar beliefs because "it must be so.")

God loved mankind so much that He gave him freewill. He allows us to get in as much trouble as we would like. He also gives us the freewill to come back to Him. I cannot see this as programming. My observations is that God comes for me at times I have had no thoughts of Him. That just doesn't compute.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Hear God

I liked the movie "The Sixth Sense." I loved when the little boy said, "I hear dead people." Sometimes I think people look at me the same way when I say, "I hear God."

Many people tell me that they have never heard God. I wonder why. I haven't had that problem and have a hard time relating to their frustration. I wonder if they have heard God but think the experience is different than what really happened.

My experiences may not match others. I have never heard God audibly so that it could be recorded with a microphone. However, I have heard Him clearly. I have always counted on Him speaking to me in a way that I would not be confused with who was speaking to me. I never want to wonder whether or not I have been speaking to myself and claiming it was God.

Many times I have had to get away by myself. There have been times when I have prayed all night and God spoke to me. He spoke words into my mind and heart. I knew they came from Him because I was at peace with His message. Some of the things He has told me did not come to pass for years. Others, I needed to act on right away.

God often speaks to me in tough times. I think that is because I am more open to Him during those times. I know that He has allowed me to walk through these tough times and He has a solution to my problem. I am willing to do anything He asks. His words to me are more important than the solutions He has. I know I am not alone. I know He cares again.

Sometimes God speaks to me through others. I have listened to other preachers give messages that I know were for me. I hear their words audibly and God's message in my heart at the same time. Again, I count on that peace that passes all understanding which indicates that I have just heard from God.

The Bible gives me God's word. I have found that reading the Bible consistently and progressively allows me to hear God exactly when I need to. I have been amazed that a concern I am currently having is answered by God's Word on the very day I need the answer. I have had so many of these that it makes no sense to call them coincidences.

I have had God rebuke me with His words too. I had been away from the Lord for a long time. He came to me in my apartment while in college. He brought me to a point of despair and restored hope in me one night while there was no one else around. I repented of the things I had been doing. I told Him that I never wanted to forget that night because I never wanted to come back here (the place of departing from Him) again. Immediately, He told me to pour out all my liquor. I told Him that I didn't want to waste anything so I would just drink all of it that night. He wouldn't have it. I poured it out and never drank again. (This is my story, not yours. You have to do what God wants you to do.)

I have called people "spiritual snobs" and God has told me I needed these spiritual snobs. I have begged God for things and He has plainly said, "No!" I have asked for things and He has promised me more than I have asked. The fact that He speaks to me is more important than the answers.

I want people to hear God. I know He wants to speak to them. I will be discussing this in a sermon series soon. Until then, I want people to listen. Do you hear God?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Take a Breath

I stopped using Verizon. My DSL service wasn't that fast. I tried to convince myself that it was but I watched a download with Cox service and I had to admit it just wasn't as fast. So, I decided to drop Verizon altogether and go with Vonage for my phone service and Cox for my internet. I am very happy with both decisions. I am getting better performance for much less.

Then, I get a bill from Verizon for service that I no longer have. I called and they said I had no bill. I thought it must be one of those computer generated mistakes and forgot about it. Today I got a letter from a collection agency. They said I was delinquent in my bill to Verizon.

I contacted Verizon to verify when my service ended but the customer service representative wouldn't give me that information. He first told me to contact the collection agency. They had told me to contact Verizon. He then would not give me the information. Can I say I was a little miffed?

I decided to go online to see what others were saying about their service with Verizon. Of course, that led to so many people complaining about whatever service they had.

Do I feel entitled to good service and accurate billing? Should I? Would accurate billing and disclosure of my own billing information actually mean that companies would have to hire competent individuals who would cost so much that I could no longer afford the service?

I spent a lot of energy talking very hard to people who had nothing to do with my problem. It really doesn't matter much in the great scheme of things anyway. Sometimes the best response to an affront is to take a breath.

Tomorrow I will call Verizon. Who knows, maybe I really owe them the money. If I do, I will pay and wish I had never spent such energy thinking I was right.

Yes, I just took another big breath. Things already look better.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Lesson Learned

I just watched two commercials on tv supporting Windows Vista. It seems they told several subjects that they were exposing them to the newest Windows operating system called Mojave. These people said they like it. I think Microsoft wants us to believe that all the negative talk about Vista is unfounded. If we would open our minds, we would like Vista.

I didn't interpret this ad positively. The subjects could not have known much about computers or they would have recognized the operating system as Vista. Evidently, they were not given very long to use the system or they couldn't have made the ad while they were still in the room. My conclusion is:

If you don't know much about computers and you don't use it for very long, you will love Windows Vista!

Obviously, I am frustrated with Vista. I don't like the fact that Microsoft put out an operating system that doesn't run much of the software I like. They have essentially said: We are so big now that we don't have to listen to the customers anymore.

However, this attitude is not exclusively Microsoft's problem. I think the Church has often done the same thing.

The Church has preached a message of what people have done wrong without emphasizing that God came to people who had done things wrong. The gospel message is not one in which we say to people, "Just deal with it," but one which we must listen to the people so that we can get the opportunity to share our message. The Church must understand why people are who they are in order to know how to present the message. The Church must share this message with compassion and mercy.

There are times when it must be said, "Thus saith the Lord," for sin will always be sin. But God's love will always overcome the shortcomings of everyone who comes to Him.

It is so easy for me to sit in my office preparing sermons without regard for those who will hear them. I have not walked in their shoes. My messages can easily be interpreted as, "If you don't know much and don't follow me very long, you'll really like my messages."

God continues to confront me with my need for His mercy. I must respond by giving mercy to others or I never understood that mercy. I cannot be one who does not care about those whom He came to love into His kingdom. Since God never says, "To Hell with you!" neither can I.

I guess the lesson I have learned from these ads has made a positive impact on me. Maybe Vista isn't all bad after all. . .not!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Breaking News or Making News?

I am from Texas and, therefore, watch news about my home state. The most recent has been the coverage of Hurricane Ike. Many people have evidently lost their lives and the flooding damage will run in the billions. These deserve news coverage.

The speculation, however, gets to me. Of course, more time is spent on worst case scenarios than what is likely to happen. Reporters are placed in harms way to show the extent of the damage or the ferocity of the storm. One "expert" after another prognosticates where the storm will go, what the storm will do and what that will mean for the economy.

I have a crazy idea. Why not just report what we know? Why not give a greater picture of the storm? Show the places where the things are good along with where the things are bad. Don't put the reporters in dangerous places. After all, you really can't show how bad it is on a television screen anyway. Videos of an event are just not the same as being there.

Unfortunately, the media has always flourished when the news is bad. "If it bleeds; it leads," is the mantra of nightly news. People seem attracted to destruction. "You, too, can own the dvd of the end of the world as reported right here!"

Maybe the media got their cue from preachers. We have been telling the world that it was doomed for a long time. The greater our ability to say that bad things are coming; the greater our crowds. Of course, we have reversed that trend to go in exactly the opposite direction. Now, preachers are telling everyone that God is going to make them stinking rich. It brings more crowds than the disaster stories. Will the media pick up on this too?

Both preachers and the media need to tell the story more accurately than to sensationalize just for the sake of drawing a crowd. Speculation and sensationalism is making news rather than breaking news. This may make both sermons and news programs much shorter.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Buying Back My Wrongs?

I ride a bicycle to work almost every day. One day of the week I have an early breakfast meeting and it just isn't practical. I leave my car at the church every day except that one so that I can still go to the hospitals or meet any emergency.

Some days the car is never started. It burns no gas this way. It emits no harmful emissions. It saves money. I get exercise. I have lost ten pounds doing this. I think everyone has benefited.

I hear that some people use a great deal of energy and somehow buy back "green points" or something like that. This solution to our energy and environment problems gives those who are wealthy an opportunity to keep their lifestyles as they would like. Then, they can demand that the rest of us be as "green" conscious as they are. Who are they kidding?

This sounds like I can do anything that I want to as long as I have some method of buying back my wrong decisions. I can't imagine telling the police, "Yes, Officer, I did just run that red light but I promise I will stop twice at the next one." Surely, this will make everything alright?

The better decision is to not do the wrong things in the first place. I can't buy back my wrongs anyway. I can pretend that this makes a difference but it does not take these wrongs away. It just makes me feel better about myself. However, this is a false absolution. The effect of the wrong is still there.

Maybe we get the idea from our faith. Do people think that they can do anything they want to if they follow it up with a lot of good things? I certainly don't think so.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Problems with Politics

I hate politics. It seems a guaranteed way to make a lot of people unhappy.

I appreciate the democracy we live in. We have the ability to elect our officials. This is a great privilege given to us by those who have fought for it. I just don't like politics.

Politics generally avoid the issues at hand. If you are the incumbent, your message is that everything is alright. If you are the challenger, we shall soon be in too bad of a shape to do anything about it.

I especially dislike politicians trying to get the advantage of one another. They live on sound bites and seldom have anything of substance to say. They are afraid of saying something that will turn the tide the other way. So, they generally say nothing.

Many people are passionate for their candidate. I like that. I don't like it when they think you must be an idiot if you are for someone else. I think you can be passionate without being destructive of someone's character.

I hate the political ads. Do they really make someone want to vote for that candidate? I would rather have a candidate who tells me what he or she would do in office without saying anything about the other candidate.

I don't like it when people are divided over politics. I think that most of us want the same things for our country. We want to be able to pursue our dreams. We want a strong country. People have different ways they believe will accomplish that.

I don't believe that most politicians read history. At least, they don't interpret it. We keep doing the same things that don't work. Is there a politician who can explain why he or she isn't for these things.

Most politicians seem to use religion rather than have a true relationship with Christ. I am glad that it is still important that they feel they must identify with Him but I wish I could believe they really meant what they said.

I wish I could say that it will all be over in a few months. That's just the general election. The politics goes on and on.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

What I Didn't Want to Learn from Back Pain

I haven't blogged for nearly two months. I haven't felt like it.

Part of the problem has been my back pain. Feeling bad is frustrating. However, it has made me learn some things that I didn't want to learn.

I didn't want to learn that I needed others. I needed people to take me to a procedure I had recently. I had to have someone drive me home. I don't like imposing on people. I always feel like that's what I am doing. I found that people look forward to times when they can help. That is their ministry. My stubborn independence was keeping them from doing things that were a blessing for both of us.

I didn't want to learn that I couldn't do all the things I have always done. I have always moved all my furniture, mowed my own grass, repaired the house, etc. The time has come when I no longer can. Sure, I will do these things when possible but this is a fact of life all people have to face. There will come a day when I will no longer be able to drive--of course, I would like to say that day won't come until I am at least 100 but I know it will come. I don't need to have my children take away the keys. I need to give them the keys before that day comes. My back pain has ushered some of the things I can't do now but someday it will just be age that causes me to give up what I have always done.

I didn't want to learn that I was mortal. Like most people I believed I was invulnerable. Nothing could really hurt me. Now that I have experienced real pain I realize how fragile I really am. I think it will make me more careful in the future. The deterioration of this body is God's way of telling me when it is time to go home to Him. The preservation of this body is my answer for doing His ministry. If I stay in the best shape I can, God can use me to the fullest. Then, when He is ready for me to come home, I will eject from this worn out husk that was never intended to be permanent.

I guess every cloud does have a silver lining. Or, maybe God uses painful experiences for good too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is "I Don't Know" a Good Enough Answer?

I sat the with a couple as they held a newborn baby in their hands. They had waited for this child for months. They weren't physically able to have children. They had found the child's mother months before and had an agreement with her that they would adopt the child. Her life had not been pretty. Drugs, promiscuity and lack of direction had gotten her in this condition. She was very young and without much support to raise a child. Adoption seemed like a logical option.

Everything looked like an answer from God on the surface. . . but that's the surface. The child did not have a large portion of her brain. Her heart had only two valves.  There were other medical problems. She wasn't expected to live more than a couple of hours. This couple held the child with great care. I watched their hearts break for this little one who would be with us for only a few hours.

We prayed and I thought, "Why, why, why God?" Surely this child was not conceived under the best circumstances but I felt sure that this couple would raise her with love. I felt this child would fill a hole in this couple's life. Now, it seemed that the hole had just gotten bigger.

Why does this happen? I don't know. Is that answer good enough? I don't know. Its the only answer I have. 

I know that God loves us all. He doesn't love this child any less. I don't think the child's condition was punishment for the physical parent's lifestyle. The drug may have been the reason but it wasn't God's punishment.

Have you ever had those moments when you knew God was so close that you could speak to Him and almost hear Him audibly? Then, there are those times that you cry out and you only hear your own voice echo . . . after that, its just silence.

I have heard that God gives silence to those whom He can trust. I suppose that is where faith comes in.  I have to keep believing during the silence.

When asked why bad things happen to good people my answer is consistent: I don't know. Is that good enough? I don't know. Its still the only answer I have.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Is God as Sly as People Say He Is?

I hear people tell me about God all the time. (That shouldn't surprise you since I am a preacher.) They will tell me what He has done, is doing and will do in their lives. Unfortunately, what they are calling God isn't the same as I have understood Him.

Some people think that the reason they are having problems is because there is something that they haven't done. They don't know what it is but when they find out they are going to do that thing so they can get back on God's good side. 

They say things like, "God, tell me what I am doing wrong because I don't want bad things to keep happening to me." I wonder if they see life like a game show. You know, "If I can guess the right answers, I can get everything I have ever wanted." 

Do you really think that God wouldn't tell you what you were doing wrong if He was making bad things happen to you? He sounds more like Batman's the Riddler rather than God. "Come on, Batman, if you get the answer to my riddle right, you can save the girl!"

I really don't have to worry about the things I am not doing right. I know what they are. I sometimes choose to do them anyway and I do have consequences. God doesn't hide them from me. They are very plain no matter how hard I try to hide them. Sometimes I say, "God, don't look in the closet. You know there's nothing in the closet you wouldn't like." But God knows and He knows I know too.

Sometimes I try to surround myself with activity so I won't be caught all alone with God. If I am very busy and envelope myself with others who are doing the wrong things too I don't seem to notice what I am doing wrong. If I get alone with God, I always know.

It isn't like God hits me with lightning or anything. He doesn't even beat me up with words. He just lets me go as far as I would like from Him. When I get sick and tired of being sick and tired I come home.

The amazing thing is that the light is always on when I get there. He seems to say, "I knew you would come home eventually. I was waiting for you."

Some people are so afraid of coming home. I think they believe God will really get on their case if they did. That doesn't even make sense when you think about it. Coming home was the first right thing you have done for a long time. Why would God beat you for doing a right thing?

There really isn't much mystery here. If you want to leave God, He will let you. If you want to sin, He will let you. If you want to struggle, He will let you. If you want to come home, He will welcome you.

Does that mean all good things will start happening then? No. I think of the woman caught in the act of adultery. No one stoned her. Jesus did not condemn her. Yet, He told her to go and sin no more. I wonder what it was like when her husband came home and the whole town was talking about she had done. (They understood that only a married woman could commit adultery.) I don't know but I bet it wasn't real pretty.

I don't think God is sly at all. I know Him to be very plain. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

When The Church Takes Steroids

I have back problems. Recently I  was referred to a pain management doctor who gave me steroid shots in my back. O, what a wonderful thing!

The pain in my knees and hip also went away. I felt younger. I started jogging again even though my doctors told me that years ago to stop. I know why athletes take this stuff. It turns back the clock. It makes you stronger, faster and able to build muscle quickly.

But steroids have their downsides too. The problems associated with them do not justify their use. When stopped, the person taking steroids becomes the incredible shrinking man. Not only is all lost but things are much worse. So, what does this have to do with the church? I think that some churches are trying steroids like gimmicks to get people to come. 

Sure, churches have always used gimmicks. I have heard it quoted so many times "be as innocent as doves but as shrewd as serpents" many times in the church. Now, I think we are using the shrewd part a little too much.

One church gave $10,000 to some lucky person who came to their church on Easter. They advertised and, yes, they had a huge crowd. Another church gave $300 gift cards to a local mall as door prizes to a youth gathering. 

So, what's wrong with this? Aren't these churches growing? Are they not growing faster than any of the other churches in their areas? Yes, they are growing rapidly. They are baptizing people at at a phenomenal rate. Others are saying they are the poster children for church growth . . . just like people have said of athletes who could out perform their peers because they were on steroids.

This practice brings up many questions for me. Is the gospel not good enough to bring people to its message? What about the encore problems this practice creates. If you give out $300 gift cards, won't it take more and more of this to get the same or greater crowds? Eventually you will have to give away cars! Doesn't this do damage to the churches who are not using this tactic? Doesn't this pervert the gospel? Where will we be twenty years from now?

I don't know the answers to these questions. Maybe I am concerned about nothing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Does BCS Stand for Bad, Crazy and Stupid?

There are many sports that take a great deal of skill in which winners are chosen by judges. I do not know much about these sports. I know that it's bad when a skater landing from a jump falls but I do not know how these sports are judged. There is no basket, goal line, finish line or goal post that clearly indicate a score. Football is not like one of these sports.

Sure, there are ref calls which are clearly wrong (Yes, Oklahoma, I am thinking of you!) but the larger part of the game is getting the football over the goal line. Scores are accumulated and the team with the most points wins. Overtime was created so that we could clearly say which team was the winner.

Then comes the BCS. I am not sure that I understand it. It combines votes from coaches, team records against ranked teams and how the wind blows that day to determine the ranking of each team. There is a computer involved in this somewhere . . .and maybe a oiji board. In the end, you have a very dubious National Champion.

Is Division 1 college football the only team sport that doesn't have a legitimate playoff? It would seem simple enough to accomplish. It is done at other levels of College Football. Why not at this one?

I have heard that the college presidents don't want it because it will interfere with the student-athletes ability to be a student. Get real! If this is the argument, the school should drop the rest of the season. Yes, it interferes with their ability to be a student- just like the two jobs I maintained while I was in college interfered in my ability to completely focus. (Yes, I know it's not the same to be a bank teller and youth minister with the same intensity as playing Michigan this next week but other activities do have an affect.) If you want the degree, you have to pay for it someway. Playing college football is a legitimate way to do so.

I have also heard that there is too much money in the bowl games to have a playoff. I don't understand this argument since I see many seats in many of the games empty. Sponsors seem to be losing their shirts. Many of the games are not televised nationally.

I propose another system. Why not use the bowls for the playoffs? Thirty-two teams would be chosen to compete for the National Championship. Each conference winner and at-large bids would make us the selection. The number one seed would play the number thirty-two and so on just like in basketball. This would ensure that each game meant something. The bowls could bid to determine which level of play they would receive. This would would even give the Music City bowl some meaning! The highest bid gets the National Championship game. Lower bids get relatively lower ranks of the playoffs.

This means the season must start the last week of August. The regular season would end the third week in November and give an opportunity for each team to have a week off and for conferences who have a championship game to play theirs. Playoffs would begin the second week in December. This two week break between games allows the student-athlete to study and take final exams. The playoff will last five weeks. The championship game would be the second week in January. Yes, it will compete with the professional playoffs but do you really think that's going to make a difference? It isn't like we only have three networks to watch football any more!

I may be a little ahead of the curve as I prepare for the fall football season. I just want a clear winner. If not, I think we should need some judges who say, "Was that a double axle, camelback triple spin that he scored with, Chuck?"

"Yes," comes the excited reply, "And didn't he nail it with the landing?! We clearly have a national champion here!"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Belief in a No Consequence World

Yes, I watched the news stories of the girl being beaten by her classmates. I understand she had done some bad things to them before they beat her. I guess these things have always happened. The difference is that they posted this on Youtube. It is one thing to commit a crime. It is a totally different thing to be so proud of it that you want the world to know. Or did they?

A phenomena we are experiencing today is the thought that something as public as Youtube or Facebook is only meant for your friends. Some have published pictures of themselves that they intended to be private but the world has peeked in. Then, these people are appalled that there are others seeing what was done.

There seems to be a disconnect between actions and consequences. Sure, people always run to watch a fight. However, people haven't always been making the fights available for the world. It makes me think of first Home Alone movie where one of the thieves flooded each house that was robbed so that they would have a reputation of being the Wet Bandits. He wasn't thinking that this would also tie together all of the other robberies when they eventually got caught. He didn't connect his actions with the consequences.

Maybe the girls had never had consequences before. The media said they were cheerleaders. Sometimes positions within schools give you privileges. You can believe the rules don't apply to you. Maybe this is why many professional athletes are getting in such trouble. When they grew up people covered up for them because they were such great athletes. Consequences never touched them before; why now?

I know that every action I make has the possibility of consequences. Some of these can be good. I have to weigh each action before taking it. Will this result in something that I want for my life and others or will it cause me and others shame, financial hardship or future disqualifications? The knowledge of how my actions will turn out comes from knowing what is wrong or right. Wrong actions may have positive results but the actions are still wrong and carry dishonor with them as a consequence. Right actions may cause me and others hardships but these actions remain honorable.

Jesus had to know the consequences of His actions. He knew those in authority would hate Him for them. He knew they would kill Him for them. He often spoke of His death. His actions remained pure and He submitted Himself to the consequences.

The difference we live in today is that people don't believe there are consequences for their actions. They do not know that a single act can cause hardships for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Elusive Final Game

I watched Kansas win the national championship last night. This was their goal. They reached it. The coach, the players and the Kansas fans all seemed elated. How long does it last?

I am not trying to be cynical. This is something that they will always remember. Will it also be something that they will have to live up to? Will each of the players always be introduced as a member of the 2008 National Championship Team? How will that sound fifty years from now if this is the last accomplishment of their lives?

The game made me think about how we want that release from having to keep on trying. We want to win the lottery so that we don' t have to worry about any bills or dreaming about anything we have ever wanted. We want the retirement day so that we will never have to worry about going to work again. Even marriage, children and reaching the "top" seem to be ends in themselves.

I don't want my accomplishments to define my life. I want my life to define my accomplishments. I just don't want something that says, "You don't have to do anything else for the rest of your life." If my life has meaning there will always be the fulfilling of that meaning.

I know the apostle Paul said that he had already run the race. I like that thought. He had run the race but he continues to write. If he were truly all finished, why write another word? Why even write that he had finished? He did so because his life defined his accomplishment. He could do nothing else. What he was doing was who he was.

I have no plans to retire as most men. Sure, I will quit taking a paycheck someday but I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ created to give Him glory. That does not end because I have reached a certain age. I will continue to share who He is all my life.

I know there will be a last day of my life on this earth. There will be a last act of who I am. Then, I will go to this place called heaven and more fully do what I was created for. I shall give Him glory.

Congratulations to the 2008 National Champion Kansas Basketball Team. This will be an honor that will go with them always. I hope they have something more than this though. I hope they know why they were created, who they are and will have a life full of joy doing that forever.

Do you know why you were created? I'd love to talk with you about it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How Fast Can I Go?

I met with a bunch of people this past week who talked about the future. We noted the speed things are changing and tried to anticipate what will happen in the church of the future.

The problem is that tomorrow is the future. We do not have to predict things that we won't see for twenty years. Each year new technology is created that surpasses anything we have seen before. It is not incremental like the technology changes of twenty years ago. Totally new technology is created which we might never have thought of before we saw it.

These changes create a different type of person. The person under twenty has been using computers most of his/her life. He has been playing video games that require several brain functions simultaneously. She has developed relationships online with people she has never personally met. Today's youth can text message with their two thumbs faster than most people can type. They think globally rather than locally or even regionally.

I, on the other hand, understand about a tenth of what they know. They have learned it like their native tongue. I must pull my hair out to stay at a tenth.

It isn't that I am such a technological idiot. I have built several computers from parts, hacked my TiVo, written a couple of programs and regularly fix other people's ipods. In addition to an ipod I have a Zune, Gigabeat, Slingbox, laptop and desktop computer. I use several operating systems on these computers from XP to Linux. That gets me to about ten percent of what the people under twenty already know and use.

I have choices. I can ignore all of this and keep my preaching and church the same as it always has been or seek to engage these young people on the terrain they love. At the same time I must also continue to communicate with those who know as little as I do about technology.

The big question is: Can I go fast enough to realistically speak to this young generation? Church has always been a one thing at a time project for me. I am talking about communicating on a several methods of engagement level with these young people.

The fact that I don't know how doesn't change what I need to do. How fast can I go? I guess I will soon find out. After all, I started blogging, right?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Investigate Before You Forward!

I get a lot of crazy emails. Once a year I get one about a famous atheist doing away with all religious programming on tv. It has been forwarded by a gob-zillion people before I get it. They want me to sign a petition and send it to the FCC. The problem is that this famous atheist has been dead for over a decade. I really doubt she is opposing religious programming from beyond the grave!

I loved the one I got about the woman who was sitting in the car holding her head. She claimed someone had shot her in the back of the head and she was using both hands to hold her brains in. The story goes on to say that it was a hot day and she had just bought several cans of bisquits. One exploded and hit her in the back of the head. She reacted by grasping her head to feel the warm dough and thought it was her brains. If that story was true the woman would have been bragging. She didn't have that many brains!

There are emails that warn us of things that never happened. We have been warned of car jackings, kidney stealings and many other scams that never happened. Somebody, somewhere is getting a great laugh at our expense.

When I get an outrageous email which has been forwarded, I always check it out. I have found that is a great resource. This website is not infallible but it does have some research attached to it.

The strange thing is that when I tell people that their stories are not true, instead of thanking me, they take me off their email list and continue to send bogus stories. I know this is true because one of their friends, whom they forwarded the bogus email to, forwards the email to me. After I warn that person, I drop off of another person's email list.

Maybe we just like the stories and don't care if they are true.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Don't Watch "Lost" and I Don't Want To

Each time I have been tied up and placed in front of the tv because someone has made me watch "Lost", I have hated the program. Noone understands why I don't want to watch another minute of it. So, here is my answer:

Lost has no clear plot. It seems as if there are two guys locked in a room who have been promised they will be released if they can guess how to end the program. These guys just happen to be the writers. The struggle is always changing. The characters seem to have no purpose. At first, they wanted to be rescued. Now, it seems they want to stretch the program out so that it can go into syndication.

None of the characters on Lost or either good or bad. You can't trust any of them. A society depends upon trust. I would live as a hermit if I had to live with people I could never trust.
Character matters even in tv programs.

The characters seem to stress a lot of emotion which is so often a twist in what they really desire. Okay, once in a while I have seen people who stress emotion without any truth behind it but, come on, every one of them, nearly all the time? They are like an island inhabited by drama queens and kings. Who can really get concerned any more?

The story line is more crooked than that of a soap opera. Three years from now, one of them ,who is pregnant, will still not have delivered the baby. They fall in and out of love with each other like alley cats. They have so many flashbacks and flashforwards that the viewers will have to go through professional counseling. Some may have to be hospitalized.

I guess I am just too simple for Lost. I like a hero with character. He or she is loyal and looking out for the good of others. He or she tells the truth. He or she does not justify his or her flaws but asks for forgiveness. He or she attempts great things at personal risk for the good of others.

I know; I know. If I don't like the program I should just turn it off. Well, too many of my family love it. I won't turn it off . . . ,but I will walk out of the room.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

An Easy Answer from Another Religious Nut?

Another school shooting. Can you believe it? It seems that these are becoming commonplace. I don't even remember the name of this past shooter.

I guess my question is "Why are these shootings happening at all?" Did we send messages to people saying that they should kill others before they killed themselves? What went wrong?

There is no one thing that went wrong. I think things have been going wrong for a very long time and we are reaping the harvest of seeds sown without realizing what we have been doing.

I suppose the only reason someone would shoot others is because they are angry. It isn't that they are necessarily angry with the persons they kill but that the persons they kill represent those whom they are angry with. Obviously, a person who commits suicide can see no other means of solving their problems. These murder-suicides seem to be the solutions to minds which have no hope.

Why do they have no hope? They feel as if they are in a totally dark room looking for a door that isn't there. Eventually, they just give up.

What about their anger? Do they know what to do with anger? It builds to a point that all of this seems rational.

Don't they care about the lives of others? Or, do they think others have no right to have a life if they can't have one? If life always ends with death, this is only about length, not destination.

I believe that we are not communicating values that will help people cope with difficulties. People do not value life because we have made life something that can be terminated by others legally. Millions of the abortions performed in this country were simply to avoid an inconvenient pregnancy. These shooters are justified if convenience determines life's value.

We are able to clone life and that makes us a giver of life. That also gives us the impression that we have the right to end it. The scientist giveth and taketh away. Blessed be the name of the scientist.

We have lost hope. If we believe there is no purpose greater than our own; no Being whose plans are being carried out for our good, then our own purpose or lack thereof will die with us. There is an extreme emptiness when we see ourselves in such brevity that we will have had no reason for living. What difference does it make anyway if we do not exist beyond this life?

I believe much differently. I believe that there is a God who seeks my good. He works to bring goodness into my life. I see Him take those things that I have done wrong, those things that were done wrong to me and those things through circumstances which seemed so wrong and work them together for my good. Tomorrow may not be better than today but better than today is coming.

I believe that life is valuable and I must invest myself in others lives to help them have a better life. I believe they will last forever and that my investment in them will never go away.

I believe I need to forgive people who harm me. I know there are times I need forgiveness too. I have been forgiven. I know that. I must grant that to others. I do so for my own sake as much as I do it for them. I just can't walk around angry all the time. It takes too much energy.

I believe we wouldn't have school shootings or any other shootings if these potential shooters believed the same as I do.

Of course, this is just another easy answer from a religious nut. Right?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sin or Mistake?

We carefully change many or our words to take the severity of what we have done. For example, I have heard people say they made mistakes rather than sinned. Is there a difference?

Absolutely! Sometimes I hear someone say, "He just made a mistake" when they are referring to a guy who robbed the bank. I want them to understand why that is not a mistake. It is a sin.

A mistake is an error when you are trying to do something right. I might make a mistake in my checkbook. I could make a mistake and take a wrong exit off the freeway. I make mistakes when my goal is to do something good and I accidently get it wrong.

Sin is when I know something is wrong and I choose to either ignore my conscience or I just do it anyway. We don't make mistakes if we steal from our employers, cheat on our spouses or knowingly hurt other people. We sin.

A mistake is something that comes from deviating from what we desire. We wanted to get to our destination quickly but our wrong turn kept us from doing so. We wanted to know exactly what we have in the bank but our error in math prevented this.

Sin is a violation of a law outside of ourselves. These universal rules are embedded in our sense of right and wrong. We receive this because we are made in the image of God. You can try to ignore this and say it isn't true but you can't escape the truth or even the feeling of guilt.

Since God is holy, sin distances us from God. It grieves the Holy Spirit. It makes a void in our life. That place created for God is left empty. When the excitement of the sin dissipates we are left feeling very lonely.

I don't say these words as one who points his finger as others and says, "Straighten up there. You are bad and I am not." No, I am one of these people who has sinned. I am one who has gone to God for forgiveness so many times that I really don't think He should forgive me one more time. But I know He will.

It is time for us to see the difference between mistakes and sin. Then, maybe we will realize why Jesus had to come die on a cross. Sin needs forgiveness. And by His blood we are all forgiven.