Thursday, November 26, 2009

Can We (Should We) Come?

The iMonk has a thought-provoking post up today. Read it, please. I'll wait.


Now - I'm pretty comfortable in church these days. I should be, it's my workplace. But I'm always going to be comfortable in church and in church community - except when stuff happens that excludes or hurts people. And it does happen - all too often.

I think it all has to do with our expectations and forcing others to accept those expectations as rules of conduct rather than seeking community and grace as we learn about each other. What I mean is if I have a certain expectation of what kind of behavior is acceptable, or what king of person is acceptable in our worship services and in our community then I set up barriers that hurt and separate.

The examples the iMonk talks about in his post are probably pretty familiar ones - or at least they have been referenced in pop culture enough that most of us recognize them. What can be ironic is when those same unfair prejudices get turned inward. I know of a pastor's wife who has young children. She keeps them in the service because the church they serve doesn't have a nursery and also because no one complains - even if the kids can be a bit noisy and disruptive sometimes. But this summer a supposed "christian" couple who visited the church chastised her for how her children "spoiled" their worship experience.

How hard must we (I) work to shed this "welcoming for some, but not for all" characterization of the Christian church? How much will it take for us to reach out across these barriers to those who are curious, or searching or feeling rejected? A lot more than this little blog I'm guessing - but it's a start.

The truth is that everyone who is seriously dealing with spiritual issues and their relationship with God will come under the feeling of conviction about their lifestyle and personal choices. I don't need to add to that burden. Note - it's not inappropriate guilt I'm talking about here, it's about those moments when each of us truly realize we are wrong on some attitude or behavior. That is always going to be part of seeking truth and finding it. God is truth - and sometimes the truth hurts. But in that process, no one needs the added stress of being scrutinized and judged unfairly.

The Christian church has a poor track record in this area I admit. But not every church has this problem. Indeed, most churches have members with much more humility, grace and care than you might guess. Surprise! Some of us have been listening and contemplating how Jesus treats people. And it's rubbing off.

Christmas is one of those times when lots of folks will go to a church when normally they wouldn't. The Nativity story is compelling, or maybe it's just that your niece is in the church play. Whatever the reason, you should come. And maybe you should give the place - and more importantly the people there - a chance to show what love can do.

I find it funny that God invented the "taste test". And I find it very humbling that he lets me be one of the folks manning the free samples booth.

This year, if you try one of our "free samples" why not come back for more. They're all free samples.

Of course you can and should come. It would be our honor to be with you, share with you and serve you.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

I've blogged about my concerns regarding climate change before. Now a recent incident involving the Climate Research Unit located at the University of East Anglia has revealed to the world that the data and methodology used by that institution to create reports intended inform policymakers was corrupt, spurious and deeply flawed - as were the conclusions in those reports.

I was tipped to this by John Gormely on his radio show today where he was interviewing Kate McMillan, author of the weblog "Small Dead Animals". Kate has done a superb job of gathering the most useful links in this emerging story under the ongoing title - "The Sound of All Hell Breaking Loose". If you care at all about the Earth and our economic and political future you need to read up on this - and then remember it at the next election, and the one after that, and the one after that.

The real tragedy in all of this will be the huge damage done to the scientific community in general. If it results in a "cry wolf" response from the public world-wide (as I suspect it will) then I can safely predict humanity will fall victim to a true catastrophe soon - even though we will likely be warned about it. We just won't believe the messenger.

The image linked to this post is not the property of the author and is used without permission with purely illustrative intent and with no intent to defraud or injure the original owner.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Fat Shall Never Lead Us

This article caused my own personal, deeply painful and utterly mind-numbing angst to rise up in yet another attempt to strangle my spirit.

Here's the 'skinny' on how this affects me. I am 'morbidly obese'. I'm somewhere around 120 lbs overweight. I have a reason. I'm hypothyroid. I have lost around 25 lbs in 2009 and I'm working on losing more, but it is exceptionally difficult for me (check out symptom # 3). And in the mean time I keep running into this attitude in the 'christian culture' - "Obesity is a spiritual/moral issue and evidence of (choose one or more):

1. Lack of Faith
2. Lack of Moral Consistency
3. Evidence of Sin (particularly 'Gluttony')
4. Evidence of a Lack of Qualification for Spiritual Leadership

On the opposite side of this are the common 'christian' axioms - "God Loves You Just as You Are"; "God Uses People Who Don't Measure Up by Worldly Standards"; "It's Not About Who You Are But Where Your Faith Lies"; "Don't Judge" and so on.

This drives me crazy!

Oh, it hurts, too.

I was at a Willow Creek Leadership Summit around 2000 and Bill Hybels was interviewing Chuck Colson. At the time Chuck was getting on in years and the conversation turned to personal health. Chuck mentioned a new piece of exercise hardware he had just purchased and the two of them were sharing a moment when their guards came down and one of them said something to the effect that you couldn't really be an effective Christian leader if you were overweight. Suddenly Hybel's brain cut in and he realized that they had crossed a line. They backtracked but the damage was done for me. From that moment on, I noticed that everyone on the platform at Willow Creek (and at the church in Calgary where we were watching the satellite feed) were all skinny, good-looking folks. I have nothing against skinny, good-looking folks - but where was I represented in that conference as a Christian leader?

As if to add insult to injury, at that time the only really well-known North American Christian leader of ample proportions was Jerry Falwell. You can insert your own cynical comment here. And if you look around at the lineup on any Christian summit/conference/shindig poster all you will see is skinny, good looking guys and gals. If you go to the websites of any major evangelical, protestant church much more often than not the senior pastor will be a well-proportioned white guy.

Now I freely admit there is a good point about doing what we can to live healthy and be fit. It's a good thing. Our bodies are gifts. We should care for them. And I freely admit that I abused my body in my life. But the actual shape I'm in shouldn't be used as a measure of my love and commitment to Christ or as a measure of my fitness to serve Him.

I love Christ.

I've answered His call on my life (after I developed hypothyroidism). I've spent nearly 15 years really working this out in my life. And I believe in a Kingdom that welcomes in the marginalized and sinful. But we still keep on following human biases in how we perceive each other. And lately, it's felt like the next thing that going to move from immoral to illegal is obesity.

And I'm a fat deer caught in the headlights of opinion and judgment.

So for the time being I console myself with the thought that all of the disciples couldn't have been perfect physical specimens. I imagine that at least one of them - who up until he met Jesus was spending most of his time collecting money in a booth others came to, was making a way above average income and probably enjoyed a richer diet than the rest - looked like me.

What would it do to your ideas about Christianity if the first Gospel was written by a fat guy?

Hey Saint Matthew! Word Brother!

(Not so much)
(this morning. Sorry.)

Pro Deo et Veritate

This is the motto of my school - Taylor Seminary. It means "For God and Truth". I am an unashamed disciple of Jesus Christ. I want to be obedient to God my Father through the power of The Holy Spirit living in me as the mark of Jesus Christ my Savior, Redeemer and Friend - who is the Lord of my life. I am a sinner - saved by grace. And I want everyone to know Jesus as I do - even better than I do.


I believe it is difficult - if not nearly impossible - for others to believe in the One I testify about unless my witness is true.

There is a video making the rounds on facebook and other places. It tells a powerful story of a confrontation of faith between a student and a professor in a major American university. It's a great story, but it has problems.

Now I'm not trying to point fingers here - and please forgive me if it seems so - but so many of my friends are passing this around that I can't keep up with it and I have concerns. I wrote to one friend and we discussed it privately but now I want to open it up to others. So, here's the link to the video in question, just in case you haven't seen it -

"This Should Keep Us All Thinking"

And here is my response to it.

Dearest Friends,

I want to start by saying that I love you as Christian brothers and sisters and I never want to do anything to dampen your spirit or your passion for Christ and your desire to be His disciples and witnesses. I really enjoy following how you are living this out and facebook is a great way to do this.

I really liked the story about the student & the professor that I've seen circulating on facebook - it's a great story, but I have one problem with it. It's not verifiable, and it probably isn't really true. If you follow this link -

Truth or Fiction - Athiest USC Prof Encounters God Through a Piece of Chalk

You can read it for yourself.

Like you, I want people to know Jesus, to think about Him, to consider Him and to be compelled by love to get to know Him, but Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" and I think if we are going to witness to Him our witness should always be the truth. I think this is important, because if someone who doesn't trust Jesus or who has big doubts about Jesus and Christians sees that video and then checks it out they might decide that Christians lie, and that Jesus is a lie, too.

Anyway, I'd be really interested in your take on this, and your ideas about how videos like this one could be made that come from real, true and verifiable stories. I know that God is doing things every day just like what this video describes so I don't think we need to make up stories. We need to find and share the true ones.

Anyway, I know you didn't make up this story - but if you send it to someone or post it on your home page you are endorsing it and vouching for its truth, so you might want to think carefully about doing that with this or any other story you can't fully verify. I think the wise thing is to either use your own story, or one that you absolutely know is true and can testify wholeheartedly to.

Now in the spirit of that suggestion I'll share a true story of healing I witnessed two weeks ago. I don't have the permission of the person involved, so I'll refrain from using his name here but you can email or text me and I'll give it to you privately.

Susie and I attended the NAB Pastors and Spouses' Conference in Banff this November as we do almost every year. One of the themes that emerged was "healing". On Sunday morining, November 8th, we were in worship, sharing prayer requests and praise items with one another. One of our leaders, whom we have gotten to know over the years, told us about how arthritis had robbed him of the joy of raising his hands in worship. He could only raise them as far as his shoulders, and he had suffered this restriction for 10 years. Then he raised his arms over his head and made the "touchdown" sign, actually touching his biceps to his ears. He was weeping with joy. He had been healed the previous evening during prayer.

That's the truth of what Jesus can do - how He can heal, set people free and answer prayer.

Stay in His Love and Will, and keep witnessing.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Eye Has It

My friend Amanda Gibson Buhler has an artistic eye which she puts to excellent use through the viewfinder of her digital camera. Check out her new homepage with plenty of excellent examples.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pretty Woman

This is my wonderful wife, Susie, several hundred feet in the air on the side of Sulfur Mountain in Banff as we ascended to the peak in one of the cozy gondolas. This is most definitely not Susie's preferred from of travel. Heights, roller coasters, Ferris wheels, gravity drops, even some merry-go-rounds are off limits. I, on the other hand, am a g-force junkie (or used to be). I now content myself with pulling mild g's in our Chevy.

But this was a great day. And Susie embraced the moment. And I love her for that (among so many other reasons). It's now officially my favorite picture of her. And that smile - I've been seeing that smile for over 30 years.

Yes. I'm lucky. Very, very lucky.