Mr. Kerry, Stop Digging!

This photo from DRUDGE REPORT.

 Have you ever said something and wished immediately that you could take it back? I think Senator Kerry understands that difficult situation. Really, though, when you’re digging a hole what should you do? Stop digging! I understand it was a “botched joke”….I’ve botched a few jokes in my time as well. Wouldn’t it be easy to admit that you goofed and say “I’m sorry folks” and let your humanity show? I guess it’s hard to be humble in the presence of your arch enemy! It is ironic to me, though, that Kerry wanted to try to dredge up the old “Bush is dumb” rhetoric and in doing so made himself look like an idiot. Both men are highly educated and neither should stoop so low as to indicate that the other one lacks intelligence.

Chrisitans have to be careful about doing this with other Believers. I’ve heard people use expressions like, “anyone who can see through a ladder can see that!” What are they saying? Those who see things differently are stupid. I don’t know about you, but most of the people that I perceive to be more conservative than me are sincere, devout, are involved in conscientous studies of the Bible. Those that I perceive to be more liberal than me are the same. There are always exceptions, but I think most people of conviction arrived to their conclusions through study. The ones I admire most are those who can communicate their positions without rancor and the intimation that if I were as smart as they that I would come up with the same conclusions.

That’s one reason why I like blogs and e-mail discussion groups. It’s never wrong to ask a question and to toss the implications around as we consider the Scriptures. We should not be ashamed to come up with a conclusion that varies from the majority. Sometimes we may be right … other times we may be wrong. But in either case we have given our minds and hearts to the study of God’s word and have been strengthened.

Looking at some brotherhood publications … we can be as guilty as politicians when it comes to making mistakes and being crucified in the press. A humble answer is best. Often pride pushes us into war. We need to stop digging!

That’s a rare political commentary on Out Here Hope Remains! I just couldn’t resist. Tune in late tonight for a regular post submission!

 

And Now For November…

The end of October brings colorful leaves to the trees, and after the cool windy days says goodbye to them. The children have a hauntingly fun time collecting candy from neighbors. It also ushers in the month of November. The temperatures continue to slink downward here on the Coast, although never to the frosty lows described by Bobby Valentine in Milwaukee or Charlie Whitfield in Sault St. Marie. Family plans are made for gathering together to give thanks. The end of November marks another anniversary of my earthly trek, and such a decline in the potential for tropical storms that we signal the end of hurricane season.

Fall leads us into the introspective winter, when cold days are spent indoors… thinking … contemplating the Summer past and the winding down of another year. The naked branches of the trees reaching up into the sky remind us of the losses we have suffered, and the hope of renewal that will come in time. Soon we will rush through the lights and gifts of Christmas and find ourselves staring into the eyes of 2007. We will ask questions of ourselves. We will reflect on the noble goals from only a year ago that long since have been pushed into dark corners and gathered cobwebs.

And along with Jack, we search our hearts and come to the realization that “there’s an empty place in my bones, that calls out for something unknown.” It is in these hours of reflection that the flicker of hope illuminates our souls as we recognize the presence of our only Hope. What will become of those who do not have this hope? It is our privilege to bring this light into their lives.

Jack’s Lament From The Nightmare Before Christmas

There are few who’d deny, at what I do I am the best
For my talents are renowned far and wide
When it comes to surprises in the moonlit night
I excel without ever even trying
With the slightest little effort of my ghostlike charms
I have seen grown men give out a shriek
With the wave of my hand, and a well-placed moan
I have swept the very bravest off their feet

Yet year after year, it’s the same routine
And I grow so weary of the sound of screams
And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King
Have grown so tired of the same old thing

Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones
An emptiness began to grow
There’s something out there, far from my home
A longing that I’ve never known

I’m a master of fright, and a demon of light
And I’ll scare you right out of your pants
To a guy in Kentucky, I’m Mister Unlucky
And I’m known throughout England and France

And since I am dead, I can take off my head
To recite Shakespearean quotations
No animal nor man can scream like I can
With the fury of my recitations

But who here would ever understand
That the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin
Would tire of his crown, if they only understood
He’d give it all up if he only could

Oh, there’s an empty place in my bones
That calls out for something unknown
The fame and praise come year after year
Does nothing for these empty tears 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqX0NMYyNnY]

Creating Confusion?

TRIP.  This morning I got up and went with Chris to enjoy breakfast at a restaurant in downtown McDonough called GRITZ. They have good grits! Then Maggy and I took off for LaGrange, Georgia where we had lunch with Gary Kirkendall. After lunch we went to The Mill Store and had some talk-time with Wade, who is helping us with carpet for our church building. I also met another man who said, “I know you, you’re a blogger!” Now I’m embarrassed that I do not remember his name, but perhaps he will leave a note or Gary will. Sorry for the bad memory! I also met someone who reads my blog last night at the small group meeting hosted by John Alan Turner. I neglected to mention that that group surrounded Maggy and me and prayed over us. It was wonderful to be loved that way. After some time at the carpet place, we stopped by a nearby ‘junktique’ place to look around. We kind of hurried our way through there, because we wanted to get home! I enjoyed a call from Anna while we were on the drive. She called to check on my hand and the recovery from surgery. We met John Robert back in Moss Point for supper before going home. It’s good to be home safe and sound.

HEALTH. I’ve had some inquiries about my health. With this cool weather my hands are dry, and the skin is pulling against the stitches. Uncomfortable, but not painful. As for my leg, last Friday I saw a vascular specialist. He informed me that I did not have a vascular problem, so no surgery is called for. I do have a circulation problem, and as a result my legs swell. As they swell, little valleys I cannot see or feel form in my skin and germs can get in there! These can cause an infection signaled by redness, nausea, fever, etc. Cellulitis is the diagnosis. Antibiotics are a band-aid. The suggested “cure” is to lose a lot of weight. He suggested The South Beach Diet, so I have ordered the book and Maggy and I will begin it soon. I’ll keep you posted! Any other South Beachers out there?

CONFUSION. I think one reason we get our feathers all ruffled about insignificant things is because we speak of them in such unbiblical ways. I’m guilty as anyone. We talk about ‘going to church’ … and we know what we mean by that … but are we educating our sub-conscience in such a statement? In a recent gospel paper there was a picture of a “church building” with this caption: “A church wth a new name“. Really, we must be more careful about these kinds of expressions! First, it is the sign in front of the building that is sporting the new name! The church, as we read about it in the Bible, doesn’t even have a name! They certainly cannot have a new name! And the members of the congregation do not sport new names either. They acquired a new sign. On the same page is this snippet: “Antioch Church Building Destroyed by Fire!” Aside from the common misnomer, “Church Building”, we are thankful that it was the building that caught on fire and not the church!  Now I’m not picking on my friends’ paper. I eagerly read through each issue …finding both things I like and things I do not like … but always loving the editor….a longtime friend. However, I do think we create confusion when we continue to allow ourselves the luxury of referring to a building as the “church”. So long as that building is the “church”, we can now create rules about what can happen in that building, who can say something in that building, what kinds of activities can happen in that building, what furniture has to be in that building and where it has to be, etc. I remember one preacher friend who was accused of valuing his preaching of greater worth than the Lord’s Supper. Why? The communion table was moved to a different location than it had been before. We need to repeat that old saying I heard when I was growing up among Christians … and that is “even if the building burns down, the church will still exist.” We’re too connected to a place … and as a result we do not feel very connected to a person.

Then again, maybe this doesn’t seem important to you. We do tend to prioritize things that bother us and things that do not. I want to do a post soon on really big important biblical issues we neglect in order to continually chat about things not even mentioned in the Bible. E-mail me with some of the big issues you feel that we often overlook.

Hey check out my friend DUSTY RUSH’s new blog!

One of my favorite groups that sing contemporary Christian music is Building 429. Here’s a great one from them called “Glory Defined”. See you next time!

Glory Defined

There’s always a better way
there’s always a bridge that needs crossings
there’s always the straight and the narrow
the wide and the shallow
But I know that you’re guiding me
and the best is yet to come
You’ve given me hope for tomorrow
and I know some day

Chorus
I’ll wake up to find
Your glory defined
and I will finally bow at your feet
I will lift up your name in honor and praise
when I cross over Jordan
I know that I’ll be running home to you

It’s always the simple things
it’s always the obvious that crashes over me
It’s always in front of me
it helps me to remember
this is what I live for
and I can’t wait

Chorus

there’s never a question in your message
never a moment without your presence
there’s never a doubt in my mind
that I’ll

Chorus
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHyK7ze6IAM]

Anticipation and Appreciation

When Chris & Susan Lockhart  (podcast HERE) moved near Atlanta to be the minister of the Calvary Christian Church, this signaled a big change in his life. Moving from an acappella church of Christ to the instrumental Christian Church was a significant decision and one he made with much prayer. Chris was significantly involved in the relief effort at Pascagoula, coming over every Friday for months on end. It was with joy that I accepted his invitation to come and speak at Calvary about what has been happening on the Coast … and what current needs exist. Calvary begins every Sunday with a full breakfast, and that’s an enjoyable way to begin the fellowship of the morning! We had an excellent class taught by one of the deacons from Titus 1. Following that we enjoyed a heart-felt worship time that honored the name of Jesus Christ. I anticipated an inspirational time at this church and was not disappointed. This is a friendly church that has a vibrant future. We enjoyed a lunch at a local Mexican restaurant with Chris, Susan and Hayden.

After an afternoon nap, Maggy, Susan, Hayden and I traveled to North Atlanta to meet with a small group led by my friend John Alan Turner. They invited me to come and talk about the relief effort as well. It was a joy to see John Alan, and meet his wife Jill and their three beautiful daughters. The group was very interested in the relief effort and perhaps will find some ways to become involved. I was also blessed to pick up a few copies of John Alan’s new book, Hearts and Minds: Raising Your Child With A Christian World View. I recommend you get a copy to keep and a copy to give away.

Back home at Central tonight they watched THE SECOND CHANCE. This movie should be watched by all Christian people, and they should let it challenge them.

Tomorrow on the trip home, I hope to have a cup of coffee with Gary Kirkendall  (podcast HERE) in LaGrange….but we’ll see.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. We do not talk much about this in churches of Christ because of our attempt to escape a clergy/laity system … believing instead in the priesthood of all believers. Still, I think it is a good thing to express appreciation for your minister, and encourage him in a special way. Of course ministers feel self-serving to even mention such a thing. I only mention it because I want to thank Bud and Kathy for a wonderful spaghetti pie that was brought to our house for supper last Friday night. It was delicious, but the greater joy came from their love for our family. We feel very blessed in many ways, but this expression was a special one! Thanks, Bud and Kathy!

I have received a number of encouraging replies privately to the last three posts where I questioned our willingness to follow the Christ wherever He leads. Thanks for your kindness….and let’s keep this issue before us.

I’ll leave you with a smile in the following video. Watch it all!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q31nA6LCMxE]

So What?

In the talk about what should be and what oughtto be in the past few posts, I’m moved on this Saturday morning to ask ‘So what?’ What is going to happen now? Are we all going to go out and renovate our buildings to look like we’re more interested in the community? No, we’re not going to do that. I’m a bit cynical about our willingness to do what we know to be true and right, when it comes to breaking out of our own pre-conceived notions of what always has been. It is so difficult for us to conceive the church acting upon it’s purposes.

And, yes, Hurricane Katrina taught us a lot of lessons. One of the lessons it taught me is that when we fail to bless our community, we fail to be God’s people. I think many churches have a mentality that is closer to the nomadic children of Israel. The only time they engaged those around them was to go to war or to embrace their idols. The Jewish sects of Jesus’ day were no different. It was a closed society. That’s one of the reasons Jesus rocked their establishment and toppled their power structures when he sat down to talk to a five-time-divorcee-with-a-shack-up-lover at the well. When Jesus told stories about people like a “Good Samaritan” (what Jew ever heard of such a creature?), he raised their eyebrows and crossed their sensibilities. A church that seeks out people to help funtions in the same way. While most churches are attempting to rebuild their nests and settle back in to self-serving programs that work hard to keep members happy, are there some prophets out there who will provoke God’s people to  their true calling?

I believe our nation as a whole has fallen into a slumber when it comes to Katrina recovery. Volunteers are hard to find across the Gulf South. It is tempting even for local Christians who are back in their homes with everything in it’s place to think that this is pretty much over. There are no quick fixes and no easy answers. There are people who are still living in houses with a curtain for a back door. On my block there are still people living in campers. Housing is scarce. If you could manage to rent something you likely could not make the payments. People in their late seventies and early eighties are being faced with the trauma of acquiring a mortgage. Insurance is becoming unaffordable, creating complications that cannot be managed.  The Salvation Army is overflowing with people who have no where to go. If there ever was a time for the church to be the Body of Christ in a community, this is it.

But what will our response be? You may not have had a Hurricane Katrina at your place, but I guarantee that within a mile or two of your “church building” there are people who are suffering at the hands of their own private hurricanes. They will not come to you for help. They will not come in on a Sunday into a beautiful ediface with ornate appointments, people dressed to the nines saying they are “fine”, and a sermon about premillinnialism.

We need elders and preachers who are committed to serving the hurting and lost in the community, at the expense of placating spiritually lazy people who have settled into a routine of finding something to complain about at every turn. When leaders rush to comply with the critics, they must set aside the more important work of reaching the lost. The Hebrew writer talked about people who “ought to be teachers” who were, instead, having to be petted. How long has it been since someone expressed repentance for not being spiritually involved at your church?

We need elders and preachers who are more concerned about the task at hand than the popularity of pursuing the mission. It is hard work. It is messy. It often doesn’t ‘pay off’. It is disappointing. It is, therefore, easier to sponsor a seminar on ‘how to be happy’ than it is to sit down with someone who has nothing and try to help them find solutions to living a life that includes God. The truth is that most American Christians are looking to be served. Jesus sought to serve. We have to make some choices.

We need Christians of all ages to begin grass-roots movements of service in their communities. If you can’t start a soup kitchen, go work with the one that exists. Find a need in your community and band together with other believers and tackle the problem. If your leaders are disinterested in community service, sit down with them with open Bibles and ask hard questions.

We need Christians that are prepared to endure scorn and gossip for doing what is right. Most people will not be interested.

We need visionaries to purposefully begin ministries that reach out to those who cannot help themselves. That might take the form of a new church. Perhaps several from your church can band together to have a worship and study time in the inner city on Sunday afternoons? Perhaps on Saturdays you can walk in some neighborhoods you’ve never been in before in order to meet people and see what their needs are? I could list several things here…but they need to relate to your talents. What are you good at…and how can you use that to bless someone else?

We need visionaries who have been blessed with wealth to use what God has given them to fund the work no one wants to do. Large suburban churches were created often by those who sought to escape impoverished neighborhoods. Inner city works and those who are working with those trapped in the cycle of poverty should never have to beg for funding … they should be fully funded to do first class outreach that really matters.

We need to pray and ask God to help us see the opportunities that are before us. No one person can do it all, but what can you do to help one person?

I have a lot of questions about who we say we are, and how it relates to who we really are. It’s a struggle for all of us. I do want us to be involved in the struggle, though, and not turn away from it. Your thoughts would be welcomed. Unless you just want to say, ‘So what?’

****

Tomorrow morning I will be speaking at Calvary Christian Church in Stockbridge, Georgia. My friend Chris Lockhart is the Senior Minister there (Podcast HERE.) Come on by if you are in the area. I will also be speaking Sunday evening at a small group study that is led by John Alan Turner. We will return Monday, so please pray for a safe trip for Margaret and me.

Prayer And Architecture

I have two things on my mind today (a record!).

PRAYER. Last Sunday night at our family fellowship, we drew names from a cup and promised to pray for that person all week. To accomodate that, I passed out a card that says, “This week I prayed for your…family, happiness, spiritual life, finances, dreams, health, burdens, and our friendship.” We are to circle the areas we prayed about, sign it, and give it to the person at the next family fellowship. This has helped me focus on one person in prayer for a week. And I know someone is praying for me as well…though I do not know who. It would be great if we did not need such devices, but prayer becomes rare in our frantic lives.

A blog that has become a prayer requst for a preacher’s wife who is dying of cancer can be seen HERE. I encourage you to leave a comment there.

Read this prayer report from Bay St. Louis preacher, Charlie Buckley:

I want to thank you all for the kind and compassionate words of encouragement and prayers concerning my darling wife. Olive was having problems with her heart rhythm, creating a tightness in her chest and making her feel like she was going to pass out. We went to the hospital on Monday afternoon and she was admitted. They ran a heart echo and a stress test on her. We got the results today and they let her come home. They stated that whenever this attack came on she would pass a pvc every two beats {Bigeminy}. They stated that there was no urgent danger as her heart was able to correct on its own. … I was talking with her this morning and asked her how does it feel to know that her name was carried before our Father by THOUSANDS OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST ACROSS THIS GREAT NATION?” With tears it her eyes, she could only say “great” We talked about James’ statement “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” {James 5:16}. If the prayer of one righteous man avails…what about the prayer of so many of God’s precious children. We are firm believers in prayer and have witnessed so many answered prayers. Our daughter was born when Olive had Toxemia, she had been literally packed in ice because her temperature was so high. The doctors tried to get us to abort Charlie Jr. due to complications; David our youngest was born with spinal meningitis and we were told that he would be a couch potato, never be able to play any sports or go to school. Amy is a successful business woman with a great husband and three children, Charlie excelled in sports in and out of school and has a job with NAVO at Stennis Space Center, David has excelled academically and athletically and is currently going to college with a soccer scholarship, just received a scholarship for Frisbee golf (?) and will try to walk on the baseball team next season. David is focusing his career on forensic science. All three of our children were recipients on many awards from there classmates and teachers and scholarships. I am in remission with an incurable kidney disease after being told I had no hope, and the latest prayers answered were for my loving wife. It is with the utmost sincerity that I thank you for your going to our heavenly Father with me, my wife, our children and grand children in fervent prayer. Do I believe that it is by chance that we have been so blessed… no one in a million life times could come close to causing us to doubt the gracious, merciful power of prayer.

ARCHITECTURE. Only Gary Kirkendall answered my discussion question yesterday. The question was: If our “church buildings” reflected the heart and mission of Christ, what would they look like?

Gary wrote:

Shuller got it right — instead of building a Gothic style building (that required small windows for structural support before the days of modern engineering), or other styles that allow in less natural light than a strip club, he opened his worship space to the world — to the delight of his members and the community. Almost every church building I see has either no windows, or windows of leaded, stained, or other treatment so no one can possibly see what’s going on. No wonder church’s are cut off from the community. Besides that, each facility should support the needs of the community that they have chosen to serve — so each would be different. Spiritual and common sense should tell us that every church should ask itself some basic questions:
1. Why has God placed us here?
2. What gift to we bring to our community?
3. What would be lost if we did not exist?

If we would ask those questions, our campuses would look very different and we wouldn’t depend on the architectural decisions of others.

Gary’s answer was insightful and sparks plenty of other ideas…potential for discussion. I was taugh as a child that the work of the church is evangelism, edification, and benevolence. Most things we do can fall under one or more of those categories. I look at our architecture and wonder why it is not driven by the tri-fold work of the church? As we renovate our building, we all have expectations about how it will look, comfort level, and how it will enhance our weekly worship experience. Typically churches will spend a preponderance of money on a building that is largely used one hour a week by most members, four hours by ‘the faithful few’.

  • If the building were a house of prayer, what would it look like?
  • If the building was designed by ‘the good samaritan’, what would it look like?
  • If the building were designed by those present at the judgment scene of Matthew 25, what would it look like?
  • If the building were designed by the new deacons in Acts 7, what would it look like?
  • If the building were designed by the pharisees ans saducees what would it look like? (Hint: synogogue)

The point is that the church has many duties and it seems to me that we spend millions of dollars as a brotherhood to construct facilities that do no facilitate our God-given duties. And not only that, we complain if anything is constructed that is not in the range of our normal idea of what church is … a place to go once a week.

Tell me why the Salvation Army is housing the homeless, the soup-kitchen is feeding the hungry, and almost no church intentionally offers a place for people to come and find a peaceful place to pray? And why we are generally content to have it so?

Those are my thoughts on a rainy Friday morning on the Coast.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcNCYbASmCM]