Monday, February 27, 2006


I just received another of "those" emails. This one was titled "If you don't forward this, you don't have a heart."

I apparently do not have a heart; because even if I read the message and was moved by it, with a heading like that, I refuse to forward it.

This particular message was a heart-tugging story alleging that a baby was severly burned and that each time the email was forwarded the parents would receive three cents. A picture was attached. Nice touch.

A quick check on separated fact from fiction in this story. Indeed a baby had been severly burned; hence the picture. The three cents her parents would pocket, however, was just plain made up.

Now, it is bad enough that people foward these things without taking the twenty seconds it took me to find out it was a urban legend. In my estimation it is far worse to title such an email "If you don't forward this, you don't have a heart."

On the other hand, that is indicative of the climate in which we live. "If you don't see things exactly the way I do, you must be evil at worst and an idiot at best."

It does not help matters that too often Christians are among the worst at this practice: “If you don’t agree with my particular list of religious assertions, you must be going to hell.”

Stop the hate. If you would like me to read something and forward it, just ask.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Daily Devotion

I opened my Bible this morning while considering postponing the devotional time until later in the day. "No," I told myself, "just sit down, open it up, read something, meditate a moment, then you can move on."

I opened to Daniel 1. I really didn't feel like dealing with apocalyptic literature this morning. Why couldn't I have turned to a warm fuzzy, brighten-your-day kind of passage? Why Daniel, why now?

I picked up reading where my eyes fell to the page. Daniel was supposed to be eating from the King's food and drinking the King's wine. But as a good Jew, Daniel was not supposed to be eating and drinking that way.

Instead of raising a protest movement or even assuming the martyr position, Daniel approached the King's representative and asked if he could, rather, eat as his faith called for him to eat.

The Official was (fairly) concerned for his own life should Daniel's performance or appearance suffer from eating just vegetables and water. Again, Daniel's response was not to well up with self-righteousness, but to make a deal with the official. "Give it 10 days," Daniel suggested, "then decide what you will do."

God rewarded Daniel's commitment. Was it Daniel's commitment to the dietary laws, or his commitment to making the effort to work peaceably and cooperatively with the unbeliever. I think it was both.

Now I'm glad I opened to Daniel 1, and glad I followed through.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Lessons from a Funeral

I had never before seen anyone wear a bandana to a funeral service. Yesterday, I saw at least three dozen doing so at the same service. Our church hosted a funeral service for a young man who did not have a church home. Most of his family and friends who came to the service were not “church folk."

Can I admit to you here that some of my first thoughts were “Don’t these people know how to dress and act at a funeral service?” and “Haven’t they been in church before?”

I hope I caught myself before anyone noticed such thoughts in my eyes, because as soon as I thought such thoughts I was confronted with the real truth of the Gospel.

My goal, our calling as Christians, is not to make other people look and talk like us. Our goal and calling is to help one another look and talk more like Jesus. Before I could look down my nose at anyone for not knowing how to play church, God was already convicting me for thinking it was about how to play church.

I am regularly reminded that Jesus spent a great deal of his time among those who were not only not “church folk,” but who had little or nothing to do with the religious institutions of his day. Jesus went to them, befriended them, and loved them; he didn’t buy a building and open the doors hoping they would come to him.

In fact, when I read the Gospels, I am confronted by the fact that Jesus has harsh words of correction and judgment for the religious people, not for those who have little or nothing to do with religion.

It isn’t that Jesus is not about lifestyle. It is that Jesus is not about my lifestyle. I need to continue to learn to be about Jesus’ lifestyle.

Friday, February 17, 2006

What are we to do?

I am in a quandry, and these days the place to play out a quandry is online, so feel free to help me.

Our Conference, the Central Texas Conference, is facing a budget crisis. As we prepare for a 2007 budget to be presented at Annual Conference in June, the trend seems to be to raise the budget again.

I know there are a lot of worthy programs. Things are being planned that will bring with them the opportunity to change people's lives and build the Kingdom.

So, here is my quandry: it seems abundantly clear to me that the trend for receipts is down while the trend for spending is up. Unlike the US Government, the Central Texas Conference cannot merely make more money. Something has to give.

Since we are being overrun with oportunities for Stewardship training, the message from "on high" is clear: churches need to suck it up and give more.

On the other hand, CTC Churches already commit between 15 and 20% of their budgets to apportionments, and some think that is more than enough.

Please, please, help me. What are we to do?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Difference a Little Light Can Make

Father, forgive me, for I have grown up. At least I have grown up a little.

I have been confronted several times recently about the appropriate place of darkness in life. I am not quite ready to say with many that “without darkness we could not know light,” but I am now eager to admit and recognize that there is no life that does not know darkness.

When I was in high school, the band that played for a midwinter retreat played Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which opens with the line “Hello darkness my old friend….”

I was incensed. How could some alleged “Christian” group sing a song about darkness being a friend? Darkness was the enemy of God. Unable to quell my rage, I wrote a letter to the editor of our denominational paper decrying all that was wrong with that retreat, youth ministry, and the church as a whole.

I have learned to see another side of darkness.

The times in my life that I have felt most in darkness turn out to be times of great opportunity for learning and growth. When my world seems dark, there really isn’t much I can do but wait and listen; listen for God to speak to me.

And He always does. We don’t always listen, but God will always speak. And when He speaks, He reminds us that Jesus came precisely to bring light to our darkness.

If you are in a time of darkness now, let God shine His light into it. Listen expectantly, and God will speak. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” – John 1-5.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Superbowl Halftime report

David Alexander reminds us of the greatest halftime show ever, and offers a link so you can download it and watch it all over again.

That said, here are my musings over this year's show:

The Rolling Stones make the Super Bowl halftime. Ain’t it amazing? Do you think anyone would have guessed in the 60’s that these guys would have been playing halftime at the Super Bowl?

It makes it even more amazing that one of the main reasons they were selected is that they are “safe.” After Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” two years ago, the NFL has been overwhelmingly careful not to let such a thing happen again. So last year Paul McCartney was the show. Now, the Rolling Stones.

While I am far from an expert on the history of the 60’s, I find it ironic that either McCartney or the Stones would accept the label of “safe” today. As I remember it, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones epitomized all that was wrong with the world just 40 years ago. Now, the same fellows represent safety, decency, family-appropriate entertainment.

Has society really changed so much that indecent has become decent? That what was once counter-cultural is now mainstream?

I first noticed this trend back when cable channels first started multiplying. Various Christian groups jumped on the opportunity to buy syndicated episodes of some older series. Some of these older series I remembered Christians complaining about when they debuted.

In Jesus’ vision for the church, I don’t think he intended for us to accept that “acceptable” today means “something from at least 20 years ago.” Rather, Jesus called his people beyond our lives being about some “safer” version of what the world offers.

I am not saying that Christians ought to oppose the Rolling Stones now just as many did in 60’s. I am saying that what is “Christian” is determined neither by pop-culture, nor by stands against pop-culture.

What is Christian is determined by what brings glory to God and what draws others God-ward.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Central Texas Methobloggers

Here are the bloggers from the Central Texas Conference that I am aware of:
David Alexander;
Johnny Brower;
Rick Mang;
Alan McGrath;
John Nader;
Mark Winter;
and, of course, me. But then, if you are reading this, you already have mine. :)

If there are any others out there, please let me know!

Monday, February 06, 2006

How old is old?

Did you catch the Rolling Stones' halftime show? While I am impressed that Mick and the boys are still in shape to do what they do, watching the show with some of my youth brought it all into perspective for me.

Halfway through their opening "Start me up," one of my junior high youth asked what the song was. I gave her the name of the song then started to ask if she didn't remember all the commotion of the roll-out of Windows 95, which was tagged to this song.

"Start me up" was released on the Tattoo You album in 1981, but may be more famous lately for its link to the Windows revolution that was Windows 95.

This youth, though, was only 4 at the time of that Operating System's release.