Tuesday, November 3, 2009

To Vote or Not To Vote

For many years I’ve heard that it is a privilege to vote, and that it’s a right to vote, and that it’s a duty to vote. And I agree with all three of those appraisals. I’m not suggesting that we should get legalistic and fine people or throw them in jail for not voting (and I’ve visited at least one country where that used to be the case), but I do think that as citizens we should exercise our right to vote.
Exercise our right to vote, enjoy the privilege and fulfill our duty.
While driving to the designated polling place this morning, I was thinking about what it means to be able to cast a vote. Someone has probably told you that voting gives you the right to complain, but it’s so much more than that… my vote gives me a say in the decisions that are made on my behalf by the people we elect to make those decisions.
It doesn’t really matter at what level the elections are held: local, state, or national; the decisions made on Election Day will impact each of us for years to come. My votes this morning were cast for the position of mayor and two seats on the city council. I live in a small town so there probably won’t be a lot of coverage, except on an inside page of the local paper, but these people will make decisions that impact my family and my neighbors. Some places are voting for Governors and other officials at the state level, and everyone of these races is important. Every vote counts.
Having served in the military, I understand what a responsibility and honor it is to be able to defend the rights that we have as Americans. Brave men and women are serving in faraway places today so that I can sleep well, knowing that I’m being protected. These men and women in uniform are serving so that we will continue to have the freedom to vote, to worship, to pick the job or school that we are interested in.
When I vote I may be exercising my right, enjoying my privileges, or fulfilling a duty, but I’m also doing something just as important: I’m sending a signal to our military members that I appreciate their service on my behalf; I’m saying thanks to those who keep my country free.
Won't you join me in saying thanks? Make the time, take the time to vote!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kingdom Assignment or What Will the Kids Come Up With Next?

When God blessed the socks off of Abraham (Genesis chapter 12), He said that it was so that Abraham could also be a blessing. It seems like all too often we want God's blessings, but forget that second part about being a blessing and blessing others. Several years ago I read about an incredibly brave pastor who decided that it was time us to remember to be a blessing. He asked for 100 volunteers, gave each of them $100.00 and told them there were 3 conditions: 1) The money belongs to God, 2) they had to invest it in God's work, and 3) come back in 90 days to report on the results. (The Kingdom Assignment, Bellesi, 2001, Zondervan, if you want to read more.) The Bellesis got some great results. We don’t have that many people or that that much available cash, so I decided to try it on a much smaller scale.
The first question was what group would be most likely to accept the challenge, and also think outside of the box when it came to blessing people. Snap! Give it to the kids…. Next was an appropriate amount to start with. And for a first time trial, we decided on $5.00, which we repeated this year. Then how to present the challenge in kid friendly language. Many people have heard about the Parable of the Talents recorded in Matthew 25 or Luke 19; we used that to set the stage for what the kids were supposed to do.
Kids are incredibly creative and loving…they see things that adults often miss. Their hearts haven’t become hardened yet, and when they see an injustice they want to make it right. Most adults have a lot to unlearn so they can learn from the children of the world.
Anyway, last year the kids accepted the challenge and took off running. Silent auctions, challenges, chores and allowances all helped bless the community. Shoe Boxes filled to overflowing for Operation Christmas Child, a donation to the Shriners’ Hospital, school supplies for children staying at the local Rescue Mission, and Bibles for the Chaplains at Hill Air Force Base to offer to airmen about to deploy. This year with partial results reported, candy sales led to a donation of food to the church’s food pantry. One family turned the challenge into a family project and will be helping the local Ronald McDonald House and SLC Primary Children’s Hospital. Another group of siblings pooled their resources to stock a 72 hour emergency kit for another family. They also included something usually not found in this type of kit: information on how to get right with God.
So as the kids experience the blessings of being a blessing to someone else, my hope is that they incorporate the experience into their way of life; that they never outgrow that capacity to recognize hurt in other people and the desire to do something about it. And maybe as our children learn how much fun it is to be able to bless others, they’ll take time to teach the adults in their lives. We may not change the world, but at least we can bring a smile to someone’s face.
You’ve been blessed, so who are you going to bless today?

Friday, October 9, 2009


Years ago I had the opportunity to attend a class sponsored by the U.S. Air Force. The class was for people who would be working in the field of Substance Abuse Control. One of the instructors would frequently ask, “And how is that working for you?” If you watch the new TV show “Glee”, you’ll hear Sue saying it too. The point seems to be that all of us have a response to whatever life throws our way, and even though we might be saying one thing, our actions often indicate that we’re heading in a totally different direction. And our response often indicates whether or not we’re willing to pay the price.
People and organizations are remarkably alike in this. They say one thing but do something totally different. So we listen to what they say they want, and when they tell us how they’re attempting to reach that goal, we wonder how they’re going to get there from here. How’s that working for you?
The other side of that is being willing to pay the price. We all know someone who really wanted to go to a prestigious college, but somehow there was always something that got in the way of studying hard enough to get good grades in high school; someone wants to be on the next cover of a ‘Mr. Universe’ magazine but refuses to go to the gym. How’s that working for you? There’s a price to pay, are you willing to pay it?
We all set goals, but not everyone wants to work toward those goals; some people are content to just sit back and wait for that goal to be delivered to them on a silver platter. Others are willing to work towards a goal, but they set the goals way too low. And other people set lofty goals, and then when they realize what’s required they change their mind.
Kenneth Bailey in his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, describes a parable that points out why it’s important to consider the cost. A beggar who asked Jesus to heal him had to be certain that he was willing to pay the price of being healed of his infirmity. A blind man asks Jesus to restore his sight; at first glance that seems like a good thing, but what is really involved? The blind man needed to think things through very carefully. Blind beggars in the culture were dependent on the generosity of others for their livelihood, and most of them never learned any marketable skills. No income, no education, and no skills points to a dismal future. If he were healed from his infirmity he would have to work for a living. It would have been one thing to give alms to a blind beggar, but if that beggar could suddenly see, he would forfeit his right to beg. Suddenly the only thing he knows how to do, beg, is something that he can no longer do. But it was a decision, a choice that the man made, and as with every decision there is a price to pay. The cost may be counted in time, in money, in effort, in family or friends. The only constant is that there will be a price to pay.
So we learn to consider the cost. If I were the blind man, having my sight restored would be a pretty positive thing, but learning to be even hungrier than I’d ever been because I had no skills and couldn’t expect to beg, might have been more of a cost than I had planned on. At some point we have to look at what’s involved and make some decisions. Are we going to be content to say that we want something, or are we willing to back up our words with our actions? Are you sitting back and waiting for someone to hand you something on a silver platter? How’s that working for you? As you consider the next step in your life, your business, your church, have you thought it out far enough to consider the cost? If it’s worth having, there just might be a price to pay. Happy shopping!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Changing Your Mind

I was reading this morning, and somehow got stuck on a couple of verses found in the Gospel of Matthew. You can read them for yourself in Matthew 14: 7 and 9, but the gist of the story (found also in chapter 6 of the Gospel of Mark) is that Herod offered his step-daughter anything she wanted, up to half his kingdom, because she did such a good job of dancing for him and the guests at his birthday party. Salome’s request (she wanted the head of John the Baptist) took Herod by surprise, and he would have liked to renegotiate, but ‘because of his oath and his dinner guests’ he kept his promise.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that as a general rule it’s ok to break promises, just think about how long your kids remember broken promises, but this was a dumb promise to begin with; and that must have been some fancy dancing to warrant such a big tip. Things would have been quite a bit different, at least for John the Baptist, if Herod had been willing to admit that he had spoken without thinking, and ‘please accept my apology, but that wasn’t quite what I meant to say’.
Bottom line, the king thought he had to save face, and live up to his extravagant claims in front of his friends.
Sometimes we all get in over our heads, and it would be nice to know that it’s ok to pull back and reconsider. We all make decisions that later we wish we had never made, and in a perfect world, there wouldn’t ever be any question if we changed our mind. Of course in a perfect world we also wouldn’t make mistakes. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes the decisions we make on the spur of the moment, aren’t the best ones we could make.
We’ve all heard that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. I think that men should have that prerogative too. On a personal level we make decisions regarding education, relationships, careers, housing and finances. Leaders make decisions that impact the future of the organization, and by extension, the future of the people that work there. Politicians make decisions that impact their constituency, and at whatever level, it seems that people get locked into the idea that once a decision is made, there is no turning back.
We don’t want to be seen as weak, or indecisive, or worse that we don’t know what we are doing, but there are some decisions that should never have been made and it’s actually a sign of strength to admit the mistake, and change direction.
I guess I don’t want to be so much like Herod that I let what other people think control how I think. Part of being human is our capacity to make mistakes, but in a lot of cases we also have the capacity to do something about those mistakes. Sometimes we need to back up and reconsider, and often instead of being a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the Center of God's Will and Stuff Still Happens

Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do to have a perfect life was to become a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or liberal, a vegetarian, a used car salesperson, a doctor, a telemarketer, a religious leader, or even an ordinary Christian? Just think about how nice it would be to not worry about getting behind on the mortgage or car payment, adolescent anguish, sickness, accidents, marital strife, midlife crisis, growing old, and even death.
For years people have been looking for the fountain of youth, or a magic elixir that would make you invincible and immortal. No one has come close to finding anything quite like that in this world, but that doesn’t stop us from looking. We keep looking even though 2000 years ago a man named Jesus told us what the secret was to eternal life. Many people grab on to that bit of information and then get disappointed when ‘stuff’ still happens. A big problem for the 21st century church in America is that we often confuse things and forget that Jesus didn’t say that things would automatically get better for the duration of our time here, but rather that He was talking about salvation and eternal life.
History students remember that the early Christians were persecuted for their faith and belief in Jesus. And in some countries today professing belief in Jesus Christ is still a dangerous thing to do. In many cases we’ve dummied down the Gospel message to the point where a statement of belief is supposed to guarantee a fairy tale ending to any life. If we want to be a little more realistic, we look at things the way Eugene Peterson explains them in his wonderful book Leap Over a Wall (Harper, 1997): basically he said that no matter how devout of a Christian life style we follow, illness and accidents are still going to happen, we’re still going to feel pain; and when that stuff happens it will hurt as much after we accept Christ as it did before we made that decision
Yeah, the bad stuff still happens to us, but Jesus didn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t, what He did promise is that there was something much better waiting for us. Eternal life. Abundant life.
Our problem is that we don’t always remember that. We don’t remember that God is more interested in healing us from our sin so that we can have eternal life, than He is in healing our physical frailties so that we can be comfortable for whatever number of years that we will be on this earth.
But this me oriented generation assumes that if we turn to Jesus then we must be in the center of God's will and He’ll protect us from anything that might pop up. Sorry, that’s not what the Bible tells us. There are lots of people in the Bible that seem to have been fairly centered in God's will, and I’m not sure that there were living what I would call a life of ease. Jonah had to face the Ninevites, the bad boys of his day; Daniel ended up in the lion’s den; Shadrach and friends got thrown into the furnace; David had some really bad hair days; James was beheaded; Paul and Peter were flogged, arrested and martyred. Even Jesus, the ultimate center of God's will, ended up going to the cross. So much for being safe and comfortable.
So God's will may not be the safest place for us to be, at least according to the standards of the world, but from an eternal perspective, it certainly is the best place to be. Are you moving closer to the center of God's will, or are you still trying to move God to the center of your will?
Guess what, if you’re trying to move God, you need to remember that God won’t fit in your man-made box. Let Him tell you where He wants you to be and what He wants you to be doing, and without even realizing it, you’ll be moving closer to being in God's will. Then buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


School has been in session for a few weeks now, and I’m sure I speak for any family with school aged children in their immediate or extended family, when I say that I would like to end the school year with as many children as I started it with. The problem is that there is a whole lot of stupid going on out there.
I live in Utah, so it’s a given that if it’s not snowing, you’re going to run into road construction if you drive any farther than say, out of your driveway. When we factor in the orange cones, the flaggers, cell phone users and texters, it doesn’t seem like there’s much room for a margin for error. In other words we need to be paying attention to driving rather than a lot of the other stuff clamoring for our attention, because it’s obvious that the other people on the road are thinking about something other than the safety of our children.
I drive my son back and forth to school every day so I get to see the best (once in a great while) and the worst (several times a day) of traffic etiquette. In the past few weeks I’ve seen all this and more, and it makes me wonder why there aren’t a lot more accidents than what makes the news every day.
-male driver, looking in the rear view mirror, using a battery powered razor to shave as he drives through a school/construction zone.
-female driver, putting on eye makeup, again with the rearview mirror.
- driver apparently eating cereal: holding the bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other, moving something from bowl to mouth. But traffic was moving slowly thanks to a previous accident.
-male bicyclist weaving in and out of traffic, no helmet, talking on cell phone, and oh yeah, carrying a small child (also no helmet) on the handlebars.
- bicyclists riding 4 abreast, playing a game of catch
- bicyclists insisting on their right to be on the road, until it’s more convenient to be a pedestrian to avoid waiting for the light
-multiple drivers who are sure they have the right-of-way while making a right turn on a red light.
-skateboarders coming down their sloped driveways into the street, no checking for traffic
- pedestrians stepping into the street without checking for traffic, about 50 feet from the crosswalk, or in the crosswalk but against the light, walking slowly and usually at an angle so it takes longer, but gosh, they have the right-of- way!
- people who must be trying to be polite so they suddenly slam on the brakes on a through street/green light so that the guy at the stop sign/red light doesn’t have to wait his turn.
-those who drive on the shoulder to get to the front of a long line of stop and go traffic, and then think that they have the right to enter in the flow of traffic ahead of those who have been waiting.
Sorry, your time is not more precious than mine; just because you overslept doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to make allowances so you can get to where you’re going. My kid is going to the same school yours is, if you cut in front of me and cause an accident, both of them are late anyway. Leave home a few minutes earlier, respect the rules of the road, and those with whom you share it, including flaggers, construction vehicles, trucks, strollers, bikes, motorcycles, pedestrians, and even cars. There’s already too much stupid happening, don’t add to it!
BTW, most of the time, stupidity on the road is not a valid reason for a 911 call, and if you’re driving, texting the make, model, license plate number to the local police department isn’t a good option either.
Yep, there’s a whole lot of stupid going on. I just pray that with God's help we’ll get through the next few weeks until it starts snowing, and a whole new set of stupid kicks in!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pushy Salespeople

Don’t you just love those pushy salespeople that won’t take ‘no’ for an answer? They call at suppertime and don’t seem to understand that you’re just not interested. Make the mistake of going to a timeshare presentation in resort areas and the 90 minute presentation gives a whole new perspective of the word ‘eternity’. Granted many of the salespeople are in it for the commission, and they’ve been very well trained in overcoming objections, but still. But did you ever wonder if there’s maybe another reason? Like perhaps they really believe in the product that they’re selling?
Sometimes I wish that Christians were as persistent as pushy salespeople in sharing their faith. I don’t mean being obnoxious about it, but persistent, as in acting like they were, or better yet being, passionate about wanting to introduce their family and friends to Jesus. Believe in the product!It’s not even trying to beat someone over the head until they agree to say the sinner’s prayer: Jesus often seemed to love people into the kingdom rather than drive them in. Besides we want transformation, not just an outward display of conforming.
I had an opportunity to speak to a rather mixed group,theologically speaking, a while ago. One of the men there later told me that he really respected me for trying to share without starting out by saying that I was right and he was wrong. Now I certainly could have started out by telling the group that I had all the answers and they didn’t, but as this man said, he grew up as Native American with the accompanying spirituality of that culture; further complicating things was that his background also included Catholicism and a little LDS theology. Regardless, he had an idea, based on his background, of what he needed to do to make sure the afterlife was as pleasant as it could be. His ideas just didn’t match mine.
Did he tell me that he didn’t want to hear anything I had to say? No. What he said was that he was willing to at least listen to what people had to say if they said it respectfully, and might even want to hear more, but if I had started out saying he was wrong, he would have been done listening. By respecting his values and world view, I earned the right to tell him more about mine. By the way, his children were also there, and he was getting tired of the Christians who were ever so willing to tell his small children that they were going to the bad place unless... He didn’t mind that his children were hearing another perspective, he just didn’t like the way that it was being presented. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. I might be willing to listen unless you try to shove your ideas down my throat!
We do need to care enough to be persistent about the things we’re passionate about, and if we are, perhaps we eventually get to the place where we can point out the misconceptions in another’s theology; or perhaps we plant the seeds and someone else gets to see the plant grow and bear fruit. But sometimes we have to be willing to push the product in smaller doses than at other times. Not everyone is ready to hear and respond to the good news. That doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility for sharing, it just means that on any given day we need to understand that we might not see results with 100% of the people we approach.
When I was growing up, it seemed that everyone in my small hometown was either Methodist or Catholic, and most of them even went to church. Witnessing is a lot easier when everyone has basically the same concept of God! Today before we start to talk about Jesus, we might have to lay the groundwork and explain who Jesus is. At least define the way we are presenting Him. To a Muslim, Jesus is a historical figure, but he’s a prophet that isn’t as great as Mohammed. Jewish people for the most part don’t view Him as the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t really have much of a place in the Native American spirituality, and when you talk to a Hindu or Buddhist even the concept of one God has to be explained.
One size no longer fits all when it comes to sharing our faith, so let’s learn to love people into the kingdom rather than try to beat the kingdom into them. After all, nobody likes a pushy salesperson.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Did you ever have one of those days when you doubt your Christianity? You think you’re doing the right thing and then somebody says something, questions you, challenges you, and God tells you to think about it. I really dislike those days. They want silver and gold, and you just don’t have any left to give.
The other day was like that for me.
Periodically people show up at the door wanting something, and regardless of what they say they want, it’s usually money. Just about the time I was leaving the church for the day, (I’d already said goodbye to the custodian) someone knocked on the door. “I just need a minute”, I let him know that I was leaving, which direction I was heading, and why; but that I would take the risk of being late, and talk with him for a few minutes. He started out with all the reasons why he wasn’t like everyone else who was asking for help, and after I explained what we could do for him, he let me know that our help wouldn’t be enough and proceeded to tell me what he expected me, as a Christian, to do for him. For the record, it involved giving him a ride in the opposite direction of where I had already told him I was going, and by the way the bible said I was supposed to give him the money that he wanted.
I explained once again that the church benevolence program includes several things, but that we don’t hand out cash. Finally he decided that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted, and left calling me everything but Christian.
He walked off, and I got in the car to go pick up my child from school. The whole time I was driving south, my stomach was churning: what would Jesus have done? Should I have given him the ride and made my son wait, without knowing why he was waiting? Should I have emptied my wallet even though our church and most others in the area have decided that handing out cash is not always the best way to help people? Was I assuming things about him that weren’t true, was he really all that different from the other people that have come to our church asking for a handout? Am I really not a Christian like he declared?
The dilemma comes not so much because I doubt that I’m a Christian, but because I don’t always know how to discern who really has a need, and what that need is. Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything and give to the poor, but Peter and John met a beggar, and when he approached them Peter said “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6). So there is are precedents for not handing out money. Paul wrote in one of his letters “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thess 3:10). But with the job market as bad as it is, is there a difference between ‘will not work’ and ‘really can’t find work’.
As much as I would like to be the perfect Christian, there are times when I wonder if I’m following as closely as I should be. And quite frequently people see that button and know how to punch it.
Sometimes I do give people a ride, and we do contribute to certain charities; when there is a verified need, out comes the wallet. So my question for you is how do you decide when you can/should say ‘yes’, and when to say ‘no’, and then does saying ‘no’ make you feel guilty?
I guess my concern is that I don’t become jaded and miss the true opportunities; I’d rather get taken once or twice and not pass on those times when there really is an opportunity to make a difference, than miss out on real opportunities to help because nobody’s story sounds convincing enough.
Silver or gold I may not have, but I can pray for those in need (want) and share the gospel with them. Sometimes that may have to be enough because I don’t have the resources to hand money to everyone who comes along asking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

present or presence

Is it enough to be present in our community or should we also be a presence?
It might seem that the two go together, that f you have one than the other automatically is there too, but it seems that might not always be the case.
Back in May the church celebrated its 128th anniversary, and we’ve been at the same location for over 80 years. We’re definitely present. It’s a big building on a corner lot, and it’s pretty hard to miss, even if you’re not looking for it. but lately several people have made comments that lead me to believe that it takes more than being present to be a presence.
Being a church, we get more than our share of requests for money couched in terms of incredibly heartbreaking stories about the hardships that tend to crop up in peoples’ lives (and often just as incredibly hard to believe). Obviously we’re present, because on any given day people are coming to us and asking for a handout. But then there are the people who, when they happen to see us as we worship on the front lawn, make comments like “I didn’t know that there was a church meeting here, I thought it was an empty building”, or “we thought this was offices”.
It’s not enough to open the doors on Sunday morning and expect that people will flock in. There’s too much competition that didn’t use to be there when I was growing up in NY during the time of the ‘blue laws’.
Today there’s a lot more pressure to show that the church is relevant to their lives. And so we have to be a presence. The unchurched people in our communities need to see us making a difference. And we aren’t going to do much of a job of that if we sneak in on Sunday morning, and rush out as soon as the service is over. Face it, if it doesn’t mean any more than that to those of us who regularly attend, what is there for someone who doesn’t even know what they’re looking for?
Jesus was present, but he was also a presence, if we claim to be His followers, we ought to be doing the same thing. What can you do to be a presence, rather than just be present?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I like to read, and frequently the books that call out to me are books that have interesting titles. I may or may not be interested in the subject matter, but interesting titles have a way of yelling ‘Buy Me! Buy Me!’ One of interesting titles that I’ve seen lately has me thinking about where church actually takes place. 'When the Church Leaves the Building'* by David Fredrickson, is a title that makes me wonder about the future of the Church as we know it, and what impact changing the way we do business would have on eternity.
It’s not unusual to engage people in deep theological discussion, discussions that are Jesus centered, and really don’t leave any room to doubt that the other person is as much a Christian as anyone else. And then in the course of the conversation we ask a horribly personal and apparently offensive question like, ‘so where do you go to church?’ After the pregnant pause we hear all the good reasons to not step inside the building where organized religion runs rampant destroying people’s lives. Of course for many people this is just an excuse because everyone knows that the best tee times are on Sunday morning at 11:00, precisely when churches throughout the world have conspired to start their worship services and ruin pleasant Sundays on the golf course.
So what happens when the church leaves the building?
From an administrative point of view, important things don’t happen. We no longer have a way of counting members and tracking attendance. Offering envelopes must be getting lost because the giving seems to be down. Pastors and staff don’t have a good way of tracking what’s being done or taught, and people simply don’t care about the building and grounds like they used to care.
From God's point of view, important things do happen: the Gospel takes over as the primary reason for being and lives are transformed. And the first lives to be transformed usually belong to people who have been sitting in buildings for far too long and are now out in the world with people that don’t regularly attend church. Then as a result of those transformed lives, other lives are transformed too. People who are afraid to go into the church building get an opportunity to know Christ. People who at one time dared to go into the building and as a result of their effort or curiosity were rebuffed, snubbed, or worse, asked to leave, get to experience the love of God in a non-threatening situation. People who don’t think they have the proper clothes to attend church services are dressed just fine for a hot dog roast, or an afternoon playing football in the park.
Is it church when we go to a nursing home or assisted living facility or a jail or transient shelter and people who, for whatever reason, can’t get to a ‘real church’ hear about God's love for them? Is it church when we hand out hotdogs and water or warm clothing and cold and hungry people get warm and fed, and as a result are a little more willing to listen to you share Christ?
So from my perspective, yes, it’s still church. Even without the building and the altar we can worship** the mighty God who we serve. We don’t have to have hymnals and Bibles present. If we don’t light candles and there’s no organ, God will still honor our worship.
Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to sit in a church building with all the accouterments on Sunday morning wishing that they were on the golf course. He didn’t say stay and do nothing. What he told them was to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that He had commanded them.
‘All the world’ goes a lot further than to the exit doors of our church buildings. Is it church without the building? You decide.

* I’ve read the book, and liked it, but I’m just talking about the title.
** Don’t hear what I’m not saying: I’m not telling you to go golfing on Sunday morning; it’s important to fellowship with other Christians and fellow believers, and even those who are heavily involved in feeding others need to be fed. But some pretty authentic worship can happen away from the traditional building. Just sayin’!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The mind is a dangerous place to go alone. Once you get there there’s usually nothing to do but think; and for most of us thinking is what gets us in trouble. To make a long story longer, I visited with my mind recently, and we had quite a discussion about being human. Being human is not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes on some interesting twists as it plays out in the world in which we live. I wear a lot of hats including chaplain and pastor. That’s a good thing. I try to follow the examples that Jesus modeled as often as possible. As I read through the Gospels, it often seems to me that Jesus had a tendency to meet people where they were.
You might have heard someone, maybe me, say that God loves us just the way we are, but that he loves us too much to let us stay that way. And therein lies the dilemma. I go into the homes, the assisted living facilities, the work place, the community, ready to meet people where they are, and all too often some very human people, when they find out that I’m a pastor, become saints. The flip side is the normally nice human people who go out of their way to try to shock me with the bad language and inappropriate behavior. Sorry, I’ve heard the ‘b’ words, the ‘s’ word, the ‘f-bomb’ before, and while I try to avoid using them, they usually don’t shock me anymore.
My point here is that all too many good Christian people, not to mention the rest of the world act like they’re saints, while I’m going out ready to talk to sinners. Jesus said that it was the sick that needed a doctor not the well, but when you’re sick and don’t tell the doctor what’s going on she has a tough time knowing what to do to help.
President Obama may prefer to sit down with a bottle of beer for teaching moments; that’s his prerogative; I’m more likely to invite you to have a cup of coffee or a soda, but the important thing is the reaching and teaching moments. There are differences in the way that people see things, and there always will be differences, and that’s a good thing if they become a conversation starter.
And so, to those who want to accuse me of being human: that’s a good thing so bring it on. I may have a little more book knowledge than many, and therefore should know better than to act like a sinful human being, but the fact is that regardless of the knowledge, regardless of the title, I am still a human being, and that supersedes all the books in the world.
So don’t let it surprise you if I act like a human being, and by the way, you can act like one too. !


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nurture or Growth?

The question keeps coming up, at least in my mind, should our focus be on nurturing or growing. Should evangelism and outreach be our focus, or should we spend most of our taking care of our faithful attendees, the people who are already in the pews? Is our focus inwardly or outwardly directed? The two questions have to be asked in tandem: ‘where are we?’ and ‘where should we be?

And of course, there’s no easy answer, we have to do some of each; so the real question is: what’s the right mix? With the congregation that we have here, there’s probably a little more nurturing going on than at a many other churches along the Wasatch Front. The demographic breakdown of our church family means that there is a need for some things that a church filled with younger people might not need as much of. The fact that we are an older group also means that there are some things that we can’t do as well as we used to, and most of us, when it comes down to it, aren’t interested in going on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and shooting the rapids along the way.

Sometimes when I read blogs and books written by the pastors of mega churches, I think how fun it would be to have the multiple services, the multi-site churches, the big staff, the 50-100 first time decisions each week, the quarterly baptism ceremonies with several hundred people getting baptized in a river or lake. And then I realize that I would miss the contact and the friendships with the members of a smaller group. It’s nice to know everybody’s name, to know what people do or did for a living, to know who to call on when something out of the ordinary needs to happen.
But again, it’s important to have the right mix. If we spend all our time nurturing, we’ll be fine until there is no one left to nurture. If we focus totally on growth, those who aren’t getting their needs met tend to leave, and that often happens before the growth occurs.

And even the idea of growth tends to be misinterpreted. We want to grow the kingdom, and hope that along the way, we grow the local church; it’s just that not every church is the perfect match for everyone who wants to connect with a church. God is not going to bless full throttle attempts to fill up the pews downstairs and in the balcony, there has to be something more. I believe He will bless our attempts to grow the kingdom, and one of the ways those blessings will be made manifest is that we will see more people attending the weekly services.

We’re all a part of this together, the pastor, the board, or one or two individuals can’t do it all, so put on your thinking caps and ask yourself three questions:

1) What is our current focus as far as nurturing and growth?
2) What should that mix be?
3) What can you as an individual do to help us as a church arrive at that perfect mix?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Harder Than I Thought

Been thinking about this for sometime now, and am finally getting started. (I think!) Already it's disconcerting because there are lots of spelling and grammar errors but no red or green squggly lines, and no auto correct (I may not even bother to try to correct all the "adn" and "teh" errors.)

But... who and what is an ambassador in exile? Funny you should ask. Some years ago the Apostle Paul hit me on the head with Ephesians 6:19,20: "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should". (NIV). That's where the ambassador part comes in . Last year, Jeremiah 29:7 ("Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper".(NIV)) was responsible for another AHA MOMENT. We may not be in exile here in Ogden, but sometimes it seems like it. The important part is that God has put us here for a reason, and He has something planned for us and the city where we are or are not in exile. It's up to us to be ready for it whenever it happens. For many of us here at FBC, it gets confusing since in the time that many of us have been here, the city and the neighborhood have changed dramatically. So here I am, wanting like Paul to be an Ambassador for the mystery of the gospel, and sometimes feeling like I've been sent into exile. But we keep praying for the city, and sometimes we get to see answers to our prayers.

Whatever the day brings, exile or center of the city, amabassador in chains, or with all the rights and privileges, I have to remember that God is still in control, and His perfect plan will be accomplished in His perfect time. In the meanwhile, I take the steps that lead to whatever goal He has in front of me, and try to be ready for the next assignment, even if it keeps me in chains or sends me into exile.

So wherever I am, I want to have the courage to proclaim the Mysteries of the Gospel, and as that happens to be able to see the city of exile prosper.

So ends the first attempt: either it will get better or I'll quit, but at least I'm trying :-)