Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween thought

Couldn't help but pass this along, from a web-site called Ain't It Cool News (it's too funny) in reference to The Walking Dead television show.

"Where did all these ambulatory corpses come from?
"Only about 6,630 Americans die each day. How did a handful of decaying corpses awaiting burial (most derived, no doubt, from the very, very elderly) manage to outwit and overwhelm more than 70 million U.S. gun owners, more than 37 million U.S. golf club owners, the 48 million U.S. fireplace poker owners, more than 94 million baseball bat owners, more than 12 million pool cue owners, more than 33 million croquet mallet owners, more than 270 million car owners, more than 25,000 municipal and country police forces, more than 450,000 U.S. national guardsmen, and more than 565,000 U.S. army reservists, to say nothing of more than 560,000 active U.S. army personnel, more than 200,000 heavily armed and armored U.S. Marines, SEAL Teams one through five, 3.2 million South Korean reservists, the Chinese, Indian and Pakistani armies, and the Taliban?
"The only thing the zombies have going for them, really, is their inexplicably vast numbers. They are unarmed and unarmored, slower moving than most everything else in the woods, and not a whole lot smarter than raccoons. They are poorly organized, to say the least, and cannot utilize TV stations or smartphones or update a Facebook page with news of enemy movements."

I would add that scripture clearly tells us two things:
1. We die and await resurrection not by a virus but by our Lord.
2. IT'S A TV SHOW....

Actually , I added that last one.

Tests? What tests?

So here we go, more research. I do this for you, not for myself.

A study published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says that thinking about God and religion might turn you into a slacker.

"More than 90 percent of people in the world agree that God or a similar spiritual power exists or may exist,"study researcher Kristin Laurin of the University of Waterloo in Canada, said in a statement. "This is the first empirical evidence that simple reminders of God can diminish some types of self-regulation, such as pursuing one's goals, yet can improve others, such as resisting temptation."

In other words (if I'm reading this right), if you're thinking about God, you are more likely not to set and achieve goals, unless of course your goal is to get closer to God. (I added that)

In what I must say is awfully hard to believe results, a Gallup poll in May found that more than nine out of 10 Americans believe in God.

In what I must say is not that hard to believe results, these numbers drop for groups of younger Americans, liberals, those living in the Eastern United States, those with postgraduate educations and political independents. However, belief in God is nearly universal among Republicans and conservatives and, to a slightly lesser degree, in the South.

In the new study, the researchers primed more than 350 engineering students with the idea of God or faith, for example, by having participants write a sentence using a list of words with spiritual connotations. Students then completed skill tests in which they had to make as many words as possible from a group of letters. When prompted with religious imagery or language beforehand, the students came up with fewer words, regardless of their religious background, than those who hadn't been primed with such imagery.

There you have it. Proof positive. Of course, religions writers probably wouldn't be asked to take that same skill test, one wouldn't imagine.

Again, I'm not the one who would be given this test: a second study tempted participants with cookies after they had read one of two passages — one about God and the other on a non-religious topic. Participants who read the God passage not only reported a greater willingness to resist temptation, but also were less likely to help themselves to the cookies.

What are we to make of all this? That someone had way too much time on their hands. Oh, and I believe that those with goals can best meet them with the omnipotent God as their study partner. And I like cookies a whole lot.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tebowing it is

Ah, what will we do next?

Today I come to discuss the new phenom known as Tebowing. I suspect many of my readers are quite oblivious to this new thing. It began because the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, one Tim Tebow, is a Christian in word and deed. He bows to pray after touchdowns and after wins and I suspect we'll find after losses.

Let me explain. In a story on, it reads:
What does it mean? To Tebow is "to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different." That's according to, your new Internet home for Tebowing. It's something that people do, like planking and owling before it, for no reason other than to take pictures of it and put those pictures on the Internet. currently has seven pages full of Tebowing pictures.

So, hundreds, maybe thousands are getting "down on a knee and (starting to) pray." I can't imagine how this could be a bad thing, but I'm sure eventually it will be.

Oh but they knew that Tebow means it, that he's really giving thanks to his Lord and Savior, one Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Praise in the storm

We're looking into the idea of praising in the storm, that idea that no matter what comes, one can praise God.

I think the most incredible moment in scripture, well, in history I guess, comes in the Garden. When Jesus had his moment of both clarity and wishfulness, the kind most of us have on a daily basis. He had his once. Today the Garden of Gethsemane is a little thing with a few olive trees. One suspects it was much bigger then. But the issues, the questions of that moment are no different than today. Will we bow to the will of God or will we not?

In Matthew's account, Jesus said it this way three times: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

THREE times. This was no easy equation, no easy moment. He sweated blood he was so upset.

None of us want the storms. I think that I can say that without much argument, although some might say the storms allow them to grow so bring them on but I believe when it is all said and done, they are just like me. Heck, just like Jesus who said Father, if you have another way to do this without me going through the beating, the stabbing, the mocking, the crucifying, well, go right ahead Daddy.

No, we would prefer to be stormless.

But since that seems to be without possibility, the next notion is to praise Him even when the storm comes. In other words, "Yet not as I will, but as you will."

There comes that moment in all of us when we have to decide, can we do that, can we ask that and finally will we?

Praise Him even in the midst of stuff. That's, I think, a cornerstone of both peace and life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Just waiting

In the 17th chapter of Proverbs, we read, "22 A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired."

There seems to be a clear-cut difference in gloom and doom and being tired and sleepy. An unwillingness to wake up seems to be different than gloomy, doesn't it? I hope for I am unwilling, but not gloomy (yet).

It's all part of the plan, isn't it? Don't you think? So it seems in the book of Isaiah, the seventh chapter. We read, "So Isaiah told him, "Then listen to this, government of David! It's bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you're making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She'll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us). By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over. Relax, those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture."

I would have to figure that if things are so long-winded, so boring, so awful that you're even making God tired and sleepy, well, you might want to consider starting over or at least going a different way. The sign that God promised here, by the way, He gave and it still wasn't perceived or understood. You know it to be true: Son, virgin birth, named Immanuel, 12 years old and left at the temple? Heard of that? If you haven't, we need to carve out more time to talk than we have.

Finally, "The Master, God, has given me a well-taught tongue, So I know how to encourage tired people. He wakes me up in the morning, Wakes me up, opens my ears to listen as one ready to take orders. The Master, God, opened my ears, and I didn't go back to sleep, didn't pull the covers back over my head."

A well-taught tongue. That's my aim. To encourage tired people. People tired of the same ol' government, the same tired old elections, the same old day-to-day: murders and mahem, taxes and terribles and such as that. Encourge tired people who want so much more for their lives than they have they're actually willing to work for it. Things are not getting better as we wait at the spiritual bus stop for the driver of the bus to come by and pick them up for eternity so they keep working at it, helping God (who needs no help at all).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Got Praise?

Let's talk about art this morning, the art of praising God.

In the Message, praising first shows its head in the 24th chaper of Genesis, but its first significant appearance is in the 29th chapter of that book of the Bible. Leah and Jacob had a fourth son and they named him Judah, which meant Praise-God. So the Lion of Judah, one Jesus of Nazareth, came from a tribe essentially named Praise-God. Seems about right, doesn't it?

Praising God is something one must do if one is to find peace in life, I expect. You can't go through life in a funk if you're praising, I reckon.

I love the way it's expressed in Deutoronomy in this translation: Reverently respect God, your God, serve him, hold tight to him, back up your promises with the authority of his name. He's your praise! He's your God! He did all these tremendous, these staggering things that you saw with your own eyes.

He's your praise. He's your morning, your noon, your evening. He brings breath and presents it as his own praise to you.

Perhaps my favorite praise expressing comes from Jesus himself as he rode into Jerusalem. Some of those sometimes dastardly Pharisees questioned all the hoopla as the King of Kings rode in. He, I imagine filled with joy and smiling broadly, said, "But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise."

What about it? Instead of "Got Milk?" let's produce some T-shirts that say, "Got Praise?" Takes the breath out of worrying about whether we're among the 99 or not.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A lawful (and sweet) Sunday

I'm sure there have been better days, but dang if I can remember them. I'm sure children's births, grand children's births, even Super Bowls have come, but right now in a tired delirium, I've come up empty in the memory department.

Oh, being at a game where my football team scores a record number of points and wins by a record number of points and makes my stay at the stadium a calm, assured night is one thing -- and a very, very good thing.

But it, this glorious day, began with church. We had church, in all its shapes and forms. We came together for 25 minutes. A song, The Summons, a special song, Heart of Music, a 10-minute sermon on Jesus telling us to love our neighbor.

Then we as a church broke for various mission sits. The church delivered 67 baskets of bread to a neighborhood or two in the community. The church painted a carport area of a local. The church did yard work on a local's land who couldn't do for herself. The church loved as I believe Jesus would have us love.

Only one man made it less than perfect, and I want to examine that person's right to believe as he did. He jumped in my face about our work being done on Sunday. He has a perfect right to do that. He believes that God said we should take a sabbath, and he believes that sabbath is Sunday.

So, he forcefully got in my face about it.


I offer the 12th chapter of Matthew as my defense to anyone shaking their head in agreement with this gentlemen right about now.

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Not a perfect day, was it. But dang if I can remember a better one. It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Only Jesus

Ah, days off. I took two of them, two sick days in fact, but two days off in any case. I'd love to say I thought things over, thought things through, but to me the greatness of days off (which I had not had in months) was not concerning myself with thoughts. Just vegged.

But oh, did I miss a lot in two days.

A tyrant was killed. I read this morning it cost the U.S. a billion. That's dollars. That's a billion dollars for the death of this man. Is that the price of a life now?

I read this morning about how they're feeding inmates two meals a day in Texas prisons on weekends to cut costs. Apparently there is no relation to the billion dollars it cost to end the life of a tyrant in one of many countries headed by a tyrant.

Jesus said he would be with us till the end of the age. What exactly does that mean, one wonders, when looking at what happens each time we turn on the Internet or look at the news or read a newspaper?

Times aren't better, anywhere. I read where most in this country think we've spiraling downward, have hit our peak, and I can't argue against it.

It's not just in the country, though. Oh, but that it were.

In China, I read this:  A toddler who was twice run over by vans and then ignored by passers-by on a busy market street died Friday a week after the accident and after days of bitter soul-searching over declining morality in China. The plight of the child, nicknamed Yueyue, came to symbolize what many Chinese see as a decay in public morals after heady decades of economic growth and rising prosperity. Gruesome closed-circuit camera video of last Thursday's accident, aired on television and posted on the Internet, showed Yueyue toddling along the hardware market street in the southern city of Foshan. A van strikes her, slows and then resumes driving, rolling its back right wheel over the child. As she lays with blood pooling, 18 people walk or cycle by and another van strikes her before a scrap picker scoops her up.

What have we become when this happens? What shall we be, when things like this can happen? Where can we turn when things like this can occur?

Oh, yeah, there is that man, that God, the one we called Jesus. Only Jesus can help us now. Not economic plans, not our own morality, even. Only Jesus.

But they all turned away...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bad excuse day

Today we're going to spend just a few minutes of your busy schedule on excuses, those things we pull out when all else fails, particularly bad excuses.

Take for example, this AP story:  Police in Everett, Wash., say a woman is accused of cutting her sleeping husband's neck and shoulder with a power saw. Officers who arrived at the home say they could hear the man shouting: "You tried to cut my head off. You're going to jail." Police say the woman told officers she grabbed the reciprocating saw Friday night because an intruder escaped out her daughter's window.


Maybe you didn't read that correctly. She said she GRABBED THE RECIPROCATING SAW...which I'm assuming she doesn't keep near her bedside table. Didn't grab a gun. Didn't grab a knife even. GRABBED THE RECIPROCATING SAW.

Or maybe this story: When Apple released its new iOS 5 operating system to go with its iPhone 4S, it touted a new app called "Find My Friends" as a great way to track and meet up with friends. If they agree, you can see their locations on a map on your screen. "Find My Friends" may have already claimed its first marriage.Saturday night on MacRumors, a man saying he lived in New York City posted his:"I got my wife a new 4s and loaded up find my friends without her knowing. She told me she was at her friends house in the east village. I've had suspicions about her meeting this guy who live uptown. Lo and behold, Find my Friends has her right there."I just texted her asking where she was and the dumb b---- said she was on 10th Street!!

One suspects this wouldn't have lasted anyway, but with the new app, one must at the least cut down on the lying. Maybe the iPhone 5 will have the app FIND MY ENEMIES.

Finally, did you see this one (and this is completely serious, really, really serious):  Natalie Hayhurst looks like your average adorable 3-year-old. But when it comes to food, Natalie likes everything – literally. Natalie suffers from a rare condition called Pica that creates a compulsion to eat things that aren't food. "She prefers the wood, paper products, cardboard, sticks," said her mother Colleen. "She'll eat rocks, dirt; she's had a bite out of a Diet Coke can; she's eaten the little magnet out of the shower curtain, plastic bottles, toys." Any parent knows it's hard keeping an eye on a toddler. Try watching one who wants to eat everything in sight.

Bad excuse No. 3: DO YOU HAVE A TUMS? I could write almost anything about this but I'll try not to pick on a 3-year-old. But can you imagine? She PREFERS THE WOOD, PAPER PRODUCTS, CARDBOARD, STICKS. I thought I had a problem with ice cream.

The Bible says of excuses: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

An excuse is merely a reason for failure, often a bad reason for failure. Blaming an app for a sin, blaming a mysterious intruder for grabbing a saw for protection, heck even a case of Pica, is just that, shifting blame.

In the end, there is no excuse for it. Seriously.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Planting, watering, growing

Have you ever wondered what it was like to watch Jesus heal, or bring back from the dead, or simply to spend a few minutes in prayer?

What was it like to trudge up that mountainside before the transfiguration?

What was it like to see Lazarus come out of the tomb? Not to mention that morning a while later when Jesus did it in a different manner.

What was it like to feed 5,000, constantly handing out fish and/or chips?

I don't know, obviously, but I felt yesterday something close to those incredible moments. I've asked Fitzgerald, one of my two churches, to do a mission Sunday, a local mission Sunday. Now, getting churches to do some of these types of thing isn't the hard part. Nah, the hard part is getting more than, say, 30 percent of the church (that elusive but much talked about core group) to "volunteer."

After three weeks of talking about it, praying about it, pushing and pulling and yanking and yearning, we have 54 persons signed up for four areas of mission. That's 54 of the average 82 we bring to the table each week. That's more than 50 percent of the church that will paint a carport, redo a yard, pray for the church, the country, it's leaders, etc., and deliver more than 50 loaves of bread, new brochures, books and baskets.

God is so very good. And his people, HIS people, fall in line pretty well, too. Did I see loaves and fish multiply yesterday? No, not exactly. But I saw God's people step into the batter's box and line a sharp single to right field. I saw a baby baptized. I saw two persons join the church. I heard wonderful music sang and played. I saw and heard and even felt worship leave the chests of God's people and flow gently but forcefully toward His throne room.

Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."

Find your gift, exercise that gift, then wonderfully, cheerfully watch God show the results. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow."

Team. Team work. Team work changing. Team work changing the community. Oh, the beauty of it all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wall Street protesters gone wild

Just what are the ones dubbed Wall Street protesters protesting? Until recently, the popular response to Wall Street's excesses has been muted, except for conservative critics of the distasteful but ultimately profitable "bailouts" that averted a depression. Now, from the liberal side, comes a ragtag assortment of college kids, labor unionists, conspiracy theorists and others who've taken to the streets in protests dubbed "Occupy Wall Street."

Republicans, especially Tea Partyists, are beginning to come out and protest the protesters, thinking (I believe) that capitalists who succeed in business should be able to keep their excesses.

But what about the deeper meaning, if there is one, of the protests, of the "occupation?"

A recent study by Baylor University found one in five Americans see God at work in the free market. But what about God at work in the parks and streets outside? Is Jesus really at work in everything we do? That question made some think of the powerful speech by the priest-of-the-piers, Father Barry addressing the downtrodden dock workers in the movie On the Waterfront. The character, played by Karl Malden, says: ...You want to know what's wrong with our waterfront? It's the love of a lousy buck. It's making the love of the lousy buck -- the cushy job -- more important than the love of man! It's forgettin' that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ! But remember, Christ is always with you -- Christ is in the shape-up. He's in the hatch. He's in the union hall. ... And He's saying with all of you, if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me! ..."

Christ in the every day. What a thought. We at Fitzgerald UMC are currently planning a Sunday get-away in which we're coming to a shortened "service" where we read a passage of scripture, sing Amazing Grace and I preach for 10 minutes tops. Then we're leaving to do work. As a power-point slide says, "Worship is now over, let the service begin." But as the date moves closer, the negative in me starts to notice that no one (NOT ONE) has asked me about the plan, has asked me about what they can do, has called to see if they're plugged in to a particular role. NOT ONE. No one has said no to being placed in a role, but no one is going out of their way to be placed either.

There are plenty of reasons to be angry at Wall Street. There is no question that we have a legitimate economic distress going on nationally and globally. There, too, is no question the difference between the office leaders' and the workers' salaries is too much, the difference between the bonuses for those office heads and the workers is far too much, and the difference in pensions between those two pools of "workers" is too much, as well. On the other hand, there is no doubt that some of the unemployed in this nation do not want to be employed and are a drag on the economy because of their choices.

But surely we all get it that this nation's "poor" need help. The question, it seems to me, becomes how will they get it. There are many, including myself, who believe that help shouldn't come from the federal government.

Being angry might lead to a Wall Street spring, as it were. But I doubt it because changing the excesses of Wall Street won't change the excesses of this country. That's the capitalistic society we've bought into for more than 200 years.

But let's remember that Christ is in those details, as well. In our desperate race to separate church and state, we've gotten a mistaken idea that Christ only cares about Sunday morning for an hour or two. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Christ is watching over all our lives. And his directive to help the poor doesn't come just on Sundays. He wants our hearts and minds directed toward helping 100 percent of the time. He wants someone, maybe us, to help those in need of help. But does that mean government must take care of the poor? I think not. It does mean we, us, all of us, should.

Jake Goodman, an activist, Jewish educator and actor, sees these protesters as contemporary philanthropists who ... "choose to limit the amount of money and creature comforts they could have so that they can fully commit to engaging in work that transforms some part of their ethical ideal into tangible reality. ..."

Goodman charges, "all people who share a love of humanity should actually make the effort to disrupt the routine of their own lives and take the time to put their feet on the street. It's a shanda (scandal) -- a shanda! -- that, so often, the people who can actually afford to show up choose not to... He calls for "people with economic privilege " to send support -- food, clothes, sleeping bags -- to the Occupy folks who are "actually philanthropizing with their feet." In other words, people of this country who think the poor should be supported by taking away things from the elite, the wealthy, should stand up right now."

Here's the deal: Jesus said we are to do that very thing. He's spoken to that. In fact, the BIBLE as a whole speaks to that.

In Exodus, we read, "The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice." Not talking about Wall Street, but could be.

In Matthew, we read, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Finally, after Jesus' death, the church continued to be concerned about a certain part of humanity. Paul wrote, " James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. "

I could pick a hundred other passages. Helping the poor, even the poor in spirit, was a constant aim and goal of scripture, of God himself. But does anyone notice that though he had ample opportunity, Jesus never said Rome should help the poor?

I guess the Temple protesters didn't get that any more than do the Wall Street ones.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Belief reborn, including divine guidance, eternally.

The local newspaper, The Times-Picayune, is celebrating an anniversary, its 175th. Each day or week or some artificial time frame, the newspaper is showing a half-page of memorial ware. Today it was 1908, and advertising was its theme.

The catch was that eye-catching illustrations had joined the advertising world by 1908. One is headlined "Drunkards cured secretly. Any lady can do it at home -- costs nothing to try." At the bottom was a small headline that reads, "A Modern Miracle."

Ironically, in my email today was an advertisement about a book for sale that would make time even more clear to me.

How old is the world?

Most people would say: "Nobody knows."But the author of the book said the world was created Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. – making it exactly 6,015 a week from Sunday.

In the 1650s, an Anglican bishop named James Ussher published his "Annals of the World." First published in Latin, it consisted of more than 1,600 pages.
It's the history of the world from the Garden of Eden to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Of course, there will be those who disagree with Ussher's calculations of time – especially evolutionists who need billions of years to explain their theory of how life sprang from non-life and mutated from one-celled animals into human beings. Ussher's arrival at the date of Oct. 23 was determined based on the fact that most peoples of antiquity, especially the Jews, started their calendar at harvest time. Ussher concluded there must be good reason for this, so he chose the first Sunday following autumnal equinox.

The autumnal equinox was on Sept. 23 this year; Ussher's discrepancy is only because of historical calendar-juggling to make the years come out right. If you think an actual date for Creation is startling, you haven't seen anything until you've pored through the rest of Ussher's "Annals of the World." It's a classic history book for those who believe in the Bible – and a compelling challenge for those who don't. The new edition of "Annals" is one of the most significant publishing events of the 21st century, the advertising states.

Let me say this about that. The actual date the world was created is not a necessary fact for believers around the world to know to ensure an eternity with Christ.

Here's my theology on this: The key to Christian belief is found in the New Testament, not in Genesis, but if we're going to spend time in Genesis (as we should), then the key sentence is the first one (depending upon your translation): (In the NRSV) "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth..."

The facts are clear. Really, they are.

1) It happened in the beginning (not necessarily October 23 and certainly not necessarily 6015 years ago.) But I want to stress this in my beliefs as well that it does not necessarily mean it didn't happen 6015 years ago. I DON'T KNOW. I admit it, freely and willingly.
2) God created. Genesis is not a science book, but it does not preclude science, as well. There are few hows, fewer whys, whats, wheres. Only the who is explained in Genesis. It is explained well. GOD  created. GOD. The being, power, person who is called God by us, who knows what by the demons, forces, you-name-its of that time, which was the beginning. GOD CREATED. He was the power behind the big bang, the juicer behind the juice, the umph inside the ignition. He was the battery behind Green Lantern's, uh, lantern. God was, is, will ever be, the power. Period.
3) All the rest ... the science, the evolution of the questions, the stuff we want to argue about and create (if you will) division about, is left up to the individual. Not even the denomination. All the rest is thought. Did it happen in seven human days? Why does that matter? Did it happen in a garden? A real garden? A little garden with a serpent and an apple and naked humans and all that stuff? A huge, perfect garden with no humidity (and no clothes -- somehow I keep coming back to that)? Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe and wow, maybe.

I said the facts were clear, then I proceeded to maybe up the waters, so readers are probably not happy with me. But the facts are clear. In the beginning, God created. That's what you need to know. That's what you need to focus on. What we have, what we need is a bridge.

If the B-i-b-l-e is an acronym for the words "basic instructions before leaving earth," then the material found within is a b-r-i-d-g-e to heaven, an acronym for the words belief reborn, including divine guidance, eternally.

The Bible is a bridge, a gigantic bridge, I believe. It is the God-en Gate bridge of bridges, if you will. In fact, Jesus is the bridge, the cross-ing of which takes one from darkness to light, from damnation to coronation, from eternity without to eternity within.

The bridge's one side is (Genesis 1:1)in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The bridge moves from one side over a humongeous span (Genesis 1:3)And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The bridge moves over all the time James Ussher wants to talk about (John 3:16)For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The bridge reaches the other side. (John 3:19)This is the verdict: Light has come into the world...."

That's the gospel. God created light. The people of earth rejected light. Darkness reigned. God gave the light back to the earth. Simple. Clean. Clear. No science. No biology. No arguing about evolution. No worries about de-evolution.

One truth. One man. One cross. Saving the dark world.

A modern miracle indeed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble

Listen to these wonderful sentences that rests comfortably at the beginning of Paul's letter to the church in Thessalonica: "2-5Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father."

Man, oh, man. Paul, creator of many of the new churches in the new faith many called The Way (or Christianity) thanks others for their work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope.

When we were listening to the inmates of Raymond Correctional Center tell us what they were leaving the four-day event called Kairos with, this past Sunday, one said he was leaving "with hope." I thought at the time and I think now that is what this long walk is all about. Isn't it? Hope. We struggle and we fail, but we leap with joy and hope. Hope springs, what, eternal? Hope lifts us when we're down. Hope raises us from economic and emotional graves. Hope is about all we can, well, hope for.

Paul continues: "It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special."

I see many of my congregants who have been marked, whether they acknowledge it or not, for something special. Many of the persons I work with have been given a task to complete, a task to accomplish, a specific task to do and the question is simply whether they will do it or not. Many choose not to. Many hear the call of God and boldly say it is something else entirely.

Paul finishes the beginning (can you imagine that this is merely his beginning to the letter?) in this manner: "When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions." That's the way it happened in many of our lives. We were basically minding our own business, and wham, God intervened with his plan given to us through the Holy Spirit.

Friends, I never asked to be given a ministry. I never asked to be painting houses or changing lives or any of those things. God gave me this ministry, I heard his quest, answered the quest and here we are.

I pray for all those residents at RCC who have crossed paths, through our ministry with the living God whose power spread the Red Sea. I pray for all those inmates at RCC who have run across the living God whose power raised the dead, not once but as many times as it suited him. I pray for those residents at RCC who like slave-runner John Newton was once lost but are now found.

Paul describes the way Kairos works without meaning to. He writes, " 5-6You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble."

Taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble. That's life within the walls as described by the man with the plan.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

God's words, not our own

Paul, in writing wise truth to the church in Thessalonica, said this: "... we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you."

There you go. Here we come.

These are the highlights.

Paul is approved by God. Paul has been entrusted with the gospel of our Lord, Jesus. How many of us have gotten that bit wrong to begin with? Paul tells us this of the gospel in chapter one, "And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." In other words, the truth about faith, the believers faith in God, was so strong that the message grew to be known apart from Macedonia and Achaia." A model to all believers. That's what all of us should hope for with our churches.

Second, Paul wasn't trying to please people, but God himself.  And he had God himself as a witness. Imagine that. When Paul passed the word along about the Thessalonian church, he did so with no regard to the people's impressions. No, sir. He worried only about what God thought. "You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.' "
That's, again, what we should hope and plan for with our churches. Our worship should be the praise that patters from our mouths. Our design should be what worship is like. Our music should be the gasps from our lips.

Finally, Paul suggests we be humble, like children among you. Paul writes, "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. It's not human word at all. It is the word of God. Paul has latched on, plugged in, got a message from the word. And he is humble enough to understand how God is using him, as a child, to get his message across.

It's God's word. Paul understands that simple message more than all the rest of us. We are blessed with that goodness,

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ready or not...

Ever find yourself daydreaming? I mean really, really daydreaming. Thinking about Jesus come in the clouds. Thinking about that trumpet playing a wonderfully calling tune.
Paul writes about this in 1 Thessalonians: "15According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, ..."

One sweet day the Lord will lead the way ... down ... and we will be caught up together with them in the clouds. Pretty darn sweet, if someone would ask me.

The Thessalonians had mixed up many things, but with Paul's enduring writing, they got it repaired. Paul clarified the theology, started things rolling again, and the testimony about the 2nd coming of Christ was brought more out in the open.

The trumpet will sound, the call will go out, and time will come to close out debts. Why not waiting it out? Why be in such a hurry? It might come before I finish this blog. Oh, but that it would. Aren't we ready?

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's a mystery

Paul was far away from the region when he wrote a letter to Timothy. But his teaching speaks down through the hallows of history.

He wrote, "Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preaching to throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory.

Got it?

That's the gospel. It's a mystery. It's open to all. It's weird. It's simple. God came, was human, was perfect, was marvelled at by angels (as well as demons), made such an impression that when the Jews said, for the most part, I don't believe you, the world took him and changed the entire calendar. Then he left again.

That's the gospel. It's a mystery. Perry Mason couldn't figure it out without Paul and his little Paulettes down through the centuries. Holmes couldn't handle it. Ellery Queen couldn't crack it. Phillip Marlow couldn't pop it. Reacher couldn't reach it. Mrs. Marpel could only marvel at it. Poirot couldn't, Sam Spade couldn't, Lew Archer couldn. You name it, no mystery character could claim it. A, THE, God became man so that man could become an eternal worshipper.

That's the gospel. It's a mystery we can't possibly explain without the Spirit's help that we're supposed to pass along as open and free and so understandable we bet our very existence on it.

Paul continues one sentence later with a sobering thought: "The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some people will turn away from the faith. They will pay attention to spirits that deceive and to the teaching of demons."

That's the anti-gospel that's spreading like wild fires all around us. A teacher who kept a Bible on his desk was fired for refusing to take it away. He also got into trouble over gay issues and evolution teaching and such.

A Christian teacher who visited homes of students too sick to make it to school was fired for mentioning prayer at one of the homes.

Anyone who believes we're better as a country, as a world since 9-11 is breathing faulty air, I think. And yet the peace that comes not from the world is denied thinking children who have the same option to believe or not believe that we all have.

Paul wrote to his disciple, as one who would learn, and said that this is the Gospel, the good news, the exceptional, wonderful, wacky at times way to live. To separate it willingly and forcefully from the ones who don't know it, don't want it is the same as saying ice cream will make you fat so let's take it off the shelves for the good of all. Obviously there are some who don't buy it, don't eat it and are perfectly capable of making those decisions.

In this country, we believe there should be a clear line of delineation in church and state. I wish, that being the case, that the state could save me. But it can't. And it can't all those who refuse to even hear the grand mystery that is Jesus. They won't me to shut up. They don't want me forcing my religion on "them."

I ask but one question. If they had the cure for all that ails them, would they keep it to themselves or would they offer it up? Even if they didn't completely understand exactly how that worked, I would hope they would pass it along.

Mysterious doesn't mean we keep it to ourselves.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Brilliance doesn't matter

So, Steve Jobs, like the rest of us will some day, died yesterday. Amazingly it seems his end came right after Apple introduced an Iphone that the public was bored with almost instantly.

Jobs once said after being diagnosed with cancer, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help make the big choices in life. Your time is limited so don't wast it living someone else's life."

Good words. Good thought.

But let's go deeper here. What are the big choices in life? What phone to use? What computer? What new device you can't do without?

As far as I'm aware, Steve Jobs missed on the biggest choice of all. The Bible says of choices,:
     Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
     You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.     You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

These are random comments about choice, about choosing. They all say pretty much the same thing, and that is we have a choice, a big, big choice. That choice is to believe in Jesus Christ as our anointed one, our Messiah, our Savior. Or not.

The big choices in life are not, can not be whether we go PC or Mac. It's not to buy or not to buy. It's much deeper, more meaningful and the end result is not how we do typing, or gather music, or whatever. It is eternal life with God or eternal life without.

Steve Jobs was brilliant from all accounts. Brilliance doesn't matter, does it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Joyously, generously

The Common English Bible translates Paul's letter to Corinth, the 8th chapter, this way: "Brothers and sisters, we want to let you know about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia. While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. I assure you that they gave what they could afford and even more than they could afford, and they did it voluntarily."

My, my.

I'm in a what-if mood this morning, tired from a long, long day yesterday, bouncing back and forth from leading to ministering to leading to ministering. I'm thinking, what-if churches, all churches, gave the way one Chuck Coleman does?

Chuck led the prison ministry event I just finished. He did so despite doctors telling him he had something wrong with many internal organs. Seriously. He did it despite not being able to breathe well enough to go more than a few feet without gasping for breath. He did it despite being week and not being able to sleep. He led and he did his best and Christ touched lives.

Now he's in the hospital. They called it heart failure, and like a great friend said, anytime heart and failure are used in the same sentence, no good is coming from that.

How much should we give, is the question, I reckon.

At one point, scripture tells us 10 percent. The best 10 percent, but 10 percent. Then Jesus tops that with we should give all. Every bit. He uses a widow and a mite, a penny, a bit but that was what she had to describe giving. Then Paul puts all churches to shame with this story about churches in Macedonia who despite extreme poverty gave joyously generously.

I see nothing really about money in that passage, though that's probably what he meant. But here's the deal: We are all called to give, joyously generously. I spend a great deal of my time talking to folks about giving their dough to the church so that we can spend their dough on things, evangelism, mission, children, youth, you name it. It costs to do.

We're having a mission day on Oct. 23, a Sunday, where we meet then go to a couple of work projects and to delivery of bread and such. I've talked this up and talked this up and folks are going to do it, but I'm struck by the fact that no one is asking me with great enthusiasm, "hey, where do you need me?"

Joyously generously, that's how we should give.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

...Like our mothers

In this ministry business, one meets the most interesting persons; in fact, one gets to really know the most interesting persons.

One of those is Miss Anita Leatherbury. We celebrated her 95th birthday recently. She has been a steady church-goer since, well, since anyone can remember. Certainly she has very rarely missed a Sunday since I've been at her church, er, the church. She sleeps through most of my sermons, frankly, but heck, so do I so it's a match made near heaven.

She's not up to date with most of the stuff I talk about or the way I talk about it. She knows nothing of social media or the like, but think about what she's seen in her lifetime. She was born the year of the Titanic's sinking if math does me justice. She has lived through the industry. She was nearly a teenager when the 1927 Yankees did their thing. She lived through the Great Depression and several of the recessions, Great and otherwise.

Her back has given her a big, big bit of trouble recently and despite living alone not far from the bayou they call Lacombe, she takes that stuff called Oxy by dealers all around.

I say all that to tell us all that she fell Sunday night. And one of those old hips couldn't take it. It shattered in three places. Today they will do surgery to try to fix the damaged thing. I'm sure they'll do their best. I'm also sure that life pretty much changed for her Sunday night. I'm also sure that if she is able to come back to the church her husband literally built, well, it will be in God's time and not hers.

In Paul's writings to his student Timothy this morning. Paul said, "Don't correct an older man, but encourage him like he's your father; treat younger men like your brothers, treat older women like your mother, and treat younger women like your sisters with appropriate respect. Take care of widows who are truly needy. But if a particular widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn to respect their own family and repay their parents, because this pleases God."

Miss Anita isn't perfect. She comes from a time when stuff wasn't as clear as it is today about certain issues. She is a product of her time. It's just that her time is a long, long essay on how people are to be treated. That's both good and bad.

But her heart is a good one. She means well. And she loves the house she owned for so very long with her husband. I fear she won't see it again in the way she once did. I go now to pray for her before her surgery, and I would ask that any reader do the same.

Paul tells us to treat older women like our mothers. I'm trying.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our hope is...

My 8-year-old grandson, Gabe, had a play this past weekend as well as appearing in the "court" of his new school in a parade. I missed it.

The grand kids sent me a present they had bought for my birthday. I had missed weekend after weekend in training for prison ministry that we did this past weekend. Oh, did I mention my birthday was in late July?

I have to go to a "reunion" next Saturday for the prison ministry that was held this past weekend. I won't see any of the grand kids then.

The Bible says, "Train yourself for a holy life! While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has promise for this life now and the life to come. This saying is reliable and deserves complete acceptance. We work and struggle for this: Our hope is set on the living God, who is savior to all people, especially those who believe."

Lot of good stuff there, but we'll center on this: We work and struggle for this: Our hope is set on the living God...

Three men had me pray over their incarcerated lives, accepting Jesus as their Savior, including one man who called himself or had inside himself Muslim roots or something in that order. All I know is he said he wanted Jesus, and that is good enough -- in fact great enough -- for me.

Balancing that with missing plays is a difficult thing for me. Will Gabe understand? Probably not. He's eight. He only knows that Pawpaw wasn't there, again.

I pray that someday he will understand that a man gave his life for him, allowed himself to be beaten, stabbed, poked and prodded. Allowed himself to be hung from a cross. Allowed his blood to be shed. Allowed his life to be taken. Allowed. Just for Gabe, and Pawpaw.

I know I need to be there for him, and his brother, and his cousins. I know. But sometimes I must be there for the stranger, the imprisoned, the hurting, the blind, the deaf, the hospitalized and the ones who simply are lost. I must. I don't see where scripture says differently. I give it all because Christ gave it all. What more can I, we, do?