Saturday, November 8, 2008

America is the Best: But just what does that mean?

I'd like to continue with the thoughts I've raised in my last two posts. My concern here is not so much with the political state of affairs with our country as it is with the spiritual state of my friends and fellow Christians dealing with the political state of affairs with our country.

Like you, I too am concerned about many of the things I see as problems with America. When I encourage Christians to demonstrate a Christlike spirit toward President elect Barack, I was not suggesting we turn a blind eye and just give up trying to make a difference. I for one, am not very excited about how the election turned out. I will also be the first to tell you, that had McCain won, I would not have been very excited how the election turned out. Neither reflected my views on the things that really matter. I remember listening to KFLR in Phoenix telling me to vote my Christians principles, and I kept asking the radio, "And just what would that look like?" Did McCain relflect my Christian principles? Did Obama? The truth is neither did. They were not running for Pastor of the United States, (though some of us acted as if they were) they were running for President. And since Barack won, he is my President. But that doesn't mean as a citizen of the United States, I cannot speak out my opinion, or take action for the things I believe is right. The issue is not what I can do or say, but how I do or say those things as a Christian. I will not abandon my most important status as a Child of God in order to exercise my 'rights' as a citizen. And no matter how things turn out over the next 4 or 40 years, I need to keep one thing in perspective. I am not (and neither are you) an American Christian. I am a Christian who just happens to be an American citizen. Do you understand the difference? We are in this world, but are not to be of this world. Most of us recognize the unBiblical nature of the "Gospel of Prosperity", but too many of us -especially Conservatives & Republicans are blind to the "Gospel of Patriotism". We have married what it means to be a Christian with being a Patriot. They are not the same thing. And I am not depressed over what is happening in America. Because depression would be the result of a failed expectation. And I have no expectations that America is my hope, security, or future.

Which brings me to a related question. I have heard a great deal of praise for America as being the best country in the world lately. Having lived in 2 other countries and visited several more, I believe that America is the best country in the world. But I have to ask, "What is the criteria for defining 'best'?" If by best we mean; the best for economic opportunity, or the best for freedom of speech, or the best for just all around freedom to do what we want to do, then yes, America is the best. But is that the best for living out our faith in Christ? I really have to question the notion that the best that is America; is really the best for Christians. We are one of the most morally depraved, amoral, self-serving, dollar conscious cultures in the world. That our culture has thrown God out of schools and government and desires to throw God out of the public square is no suprise, and no big deal either. But that Christians have traded the rich inheritance of the Kingdom of Grace, for a cheap porridge of patriotic wringing of hands over the state of America; that is a huge deal and is by far the saddest state of affairs for us.

In a time of fear that we may start loosing some of our 'rights', let us remember that as Christians we have one of the most powerful rights of all; Christians have the right to give up their rights for the sake of Christ. After all He did that for us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama: My President (elect)

Let’s get it out at the start: Barack Obama will be (Lord willing) my president on January 20, 2009. But I guess that begs the question: Is it the Lord’s will that Obama was elected president?
Increasingly, over the last 6 months or more, I have heard many prayers concerning our nation, and specifically about the election. We prayed that God’s Will would be done in this election. And I have to wonder, was it?

Now don’t jump ahead of me here. Let’s think this through. There are at least two options. One: Barack’s election was the fulfillment of God’s will. If that is the case, we could speculate several reasons why God might want Barack to be our President at this time in history. He may want to do great things through Barak’s leadership… or He might want use Barack in the same way He used Pharoah as the opportunity to bring judgment against the nation. It makes me wonder….

The second option; Barack’s election was not according to God’s will. We will struggle with this one a bit, because we typically think that God is in control of everything. And I sort of think that’s true. God is in control, always. But that doesn’t mean that God controls everything. You understand the difference don’t you? You and I know this truth, simply because we know that when we choose to disobey God, He is not controlling us at that moment. Maybe God’s will was that McCain should be president, but We the People (OK, them the people, if it makes you feel better) choose to go their own way and elect Barack.

The truth is, I don’t really know the answer here. Was it or not, God’s will for Barack to be elected? Maybe time will tell.

But… maybe there is a third option: God might not have really cared who got elected. Does that trouble you? Could it be possible that in the divine scheme of things it really didn’t make any difference? Would it have really mattered who Captained the Titanic after it struck the ice-burg? Again, I don’t know. On this issue, (to quote from the movie, Rudy), “I know two incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I’m not Him.”

But there is a third thing that I do know without a doubt, and that is what God’s will is for me. I am to honor God in all things. And that will manifest itself in being a law abiding (think: “Render to Caesar”) citizen in so far as I am not compelled to disobey God, for Lord trumps President! It will also show up in “giving honor to whom honor is due” – and that means to President Barack Obama – even if he wasn’t my choice. I was very ashamed during the term of President Clinton to read a bumper-sticker on the back of a car in front of me that read: “Pray for Clinton – Psalm 109:8-9”. (Psalm 109:8-9 says, “Let his days be few; Let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”) The shameful and ungodly ways people who claimed to be Christians treated and spoke about Clinton can never be accepted, and should not be repeated during the next 4 years.

Barack Obama is my President, and Jesus Christ is my Lord. I am certain it is God’s will that I give each of them the honor that is due them, with Grace, Compassion and the Integrity that is of Christ.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Voted...


Two Editorial Notes:

First I want to apologize for being absent from writing. Having just moved to Colorado a month ago and beginning a new ministry at the University Church of Christ has kept me busy. But I promise to be more attentive to this blog. To those who have stopped by on a regular basis, yet finding nothing new, I’m sorry, and thank you for your patience.

Second; this particular post is somewhat political, yet the primary focus is not about politics, but rather how we should be living our life in Christ in this world. I am not trying to offend anyone – I have many friends who are Democrats supporting Obama, and many who are Republicans supporting McCain. At the same time I am not trying to NOT offend anyone. There are many things in my mind that are very offensive about this election cycle.

On the eve of this presidential election, I feel compelled to put down some of my thoughts about this election – more to the point, some thoughts on what I have heard from many of my Christian friends and others who are followers of Christ regarding this election. There have been many issues raised in this election, the economy, the war, taxes, stem-cell research, health care, energy, and the list goes on. I am quick to admit that I have very little clue as to what the right course of action the government should take on these issues. And whatever you believe about these issues, the truth is that for most of them it is a matter of judgment, not right vs. wrong in a ‘transcendent’ sense.

Yet there have been other issues beyond these. One of the big issues that has come to light in this election has been the role, or better stated, the nature of the press. What energy has been spent discussing and arguing over the bias in the press. Whether it’s the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, we have a real trust issue on our hands. (In fairness to Conservative Talk Radio, they at least admit up front they are fully behind a Conservative/Republican point of view, as opposed to the traditional press who still want us to believe they are just reporting the news. And I’m not suggesting that Talk Radio is any more accurate, but at least you know what you’re getting.) But what does that mean for the public when ‘news’ becomes propaganda? What does it do to us? One thing it has done is to exacerbate the divide between us by fueling animosity to the point we can’t talk about the issues, because we don’t trust or like ‘your’ source; “You’re just a ditto head” or “You’re just a drone of the drive-by media.”

Related to that, this campaign has been the nastiest since… well, since the last one. But I do believe it is getting worse. And it is frustrating, as one new friend opined that he wished “that republicans would talk about issues and not just attack Obama.” My reply was that “in a Presidential election, often the candidate IS the issue.” I meant that for both Obama and McCain. What kind of men they are is the issue. Their track record, their history is the basis for trusting their promises for the future and their ability to deliver. But we often don’t want to know the men beyond the rhetoric. And because we are getting propaganda instead of clear facts about the men and the issues, it naturally denigrates to the nasty attacks, none of which need to be rehearsed here.

And that brings me to the more depressing issues of this election; we the people. This election in a unique way, I believe is going to say more about us as Americans, than it will about either Barak Obama or John McCain. We the People are the issue as well. We are already ‘post-modern’ and ‘post-Christian’ as a nation. But I believe we are quickly becoming ‘post-American.’ I don’t mean that in the sense that some have interpreted Sara Palin’s remarks about ‘real America.’ I mean it in the sense that we are rapidly moving to the point that there is no more ‘We the People’, but rather just a fragmented tribalism barely able to stand one another, and therefore cannot stand together for anything. And it matters not who wins tomorrow, I believe America has already lost too much of what once was good.

And now the main point for those of us who desire to be followers of Christ: AND SO WHAT? The issue for Christians is never the ‘issues’, it isn’t the media, it’s not the candidates, nor is it the people. The issue is not even America. The real issue for Christians is following the risen Christ. Too many of us who call ourselves Christians have fallen deeply into “Ahithophel Thinking” when it comes to politics. You may be right about Abortion or Same-Sex Marriage on one side. You may be right about the War and health care for everyone on another side. But like Ahithophel we have been wrong on the side that matters: if we believe that our security and future lie in what the Government does or doesn’t do. We are to be faithful to God, while living as aliens in a fallen world. And So What, if America falls into socialism, it’s no less fallen than when we were at the height of Capitalism (you do know neither is a sanctified economic system?). America is a fallen country my friends and it was so even before the ink was dry on the Constitution.

You and I as Christians (whether Democrats or Republicans) need to remember on Wednesday morning: our side didn’t win anything of real value, so we shouldn’t gloat or fret, but wake up with the same confidence we had this morning – Christ still wears the victor's crown, still sits at the right hand of the throne of heaven. He is the only one who can bring change into this world. He is the only one who has truly suffered for us. He is the only one that can give us real security.

We are Christians, and that’s the only issue that counts.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Finding Our Way


Moving to a new place is always a difficult thing. While it holds the promise and adventure of new friends, new possibilities, and fresh starts, new places also carry with them the burden of the unkown. That is why friends are so important. Not just the friends we are meeting here, but the friends we have made before coming to this new place. We still keep in touch with friends we have made in California, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey, and Phoenix, AZ. All these friends and others we have made along the way have helped and continue to help us find our way. Ministry can be very tough and frustrating. I don't think I have ever come as close to quitting full-time ministry as I did while in Phoenix. I am especially thankful for Dave & Katie and Billy & Ashley for your encouragement - even when we all shared the same frustrations - that making (in Dave's words) God famous was most important. I want to thank many others, Jeff & Susan, Alex & Laura, Aaron & Suzanne, Josh & Kendra, and many others, for your friendship and encouragement that has helped us continue to find our way in the purpose that God has given us. Without frienships that are rooted in a common spiritual truth, life would be unbearable. We do miss you; facebook is some consolation - but just barely.

And thankyou all for your generous and thoughtful gift of a Tom-Tom GPS unit. We would be lost here in others ways without it.

We love you all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From the Valley of the Sun to Mile High City

The rumor is fact. My resignation was announced this past Sunday. My last Sunday here at Southwest will be September 28. My first Sunday at the University Church of Christ in Denver, CO, will be October 4. This has been a long process - almost a year's worth of prayer, counsel, agonizing, reevaluating, then finally coming to the realization that moving on was the only choice Leisa and I could make for our own spiritual health as well as for that of Southwest's. This has been both one of the most fruitful as well as one of the most frustrating ministries of our life. The victories and struggles have both reminded us (as have several of our friends and mentors) that from a human point of view the church will always be imperfect, but that is OK, because the church doesn't belong to us, WE ARE the church and we belong to Him!

Leisa and I are excited about the opportunity that God has put before us at University. Our aim is and will continue to be to please God by using the gifts He has given us to serve, encourage, and challenge His church to grow in grace and Christlikeness, and to point the way for others to come to know Christ.

More to come...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pigs, Pit Bulls, and Lipstick

Politics as a pastime can be very entertaining, but politics as the work of ordering a society for freedom and peace is serious business. Normally I wouldn't write about politics on this blog, but the recent brouhaha springing from Barak's use of the figure of speech, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig," does fit the pattern of Ahithophel Thinking, which this blog is about.

Some supporters of McCain-Palin, took issue with Barak's use of that well known saying, linking it with Palin's joke about the difference between a Hockey Mom and a Pit Bull; lipstick. They interpreted the remark as Barak insinuating that Palin was a pig. To his credit, Governor Huckabee is giving Barak a pass, accepting the remark as a common expression, used for years. But others believe Barak has really crossed the line with this comment.

Barak, of course believes it silly for the McCain camp to react they way they have. His use of the phrase was not a jab at Palin.

All this reminds me of a similar brouhaha a couple months ago regarding the use of Barak's middle name Hussein. To which some supporters of Barak, and some Republicans as well, took issue with the use of his middle name believing it was being used to link Barak with Islamic fundamental terrorist. The defense of those who used Barak's middle name Hussein was that it was factual.

Which brings me to my point. We often hide behind the technical accuracy of a thing; "Hussein is his legal middle name," and "You can put lipstick on a pig... is a well known saying," but is this not a case of being right but about the wrong thing? That is Ahithophel thinking!

Being technically correct is not always the end of the matter. Now I cannot judge either Barak's heart or the heart of those who want to use Barak's middle name, but I believe most would agree that it would be the intent that makes either of these cases acceptable or not.

If the intent of using Hussein is to inflame and incite hatred, then it is certainly a dishonorable thing to do. If using the common saying as Barak did, was intended to inflame and insult Palin, then it too was a dishonorable thing to do. But what is most despicable in my view, is to use it in this negative rhetorical way, and then hide behind the technical accuracy of the words, claiming innocence the whole time.

At best, within the current context of this world and the all too often noxious political milieu, the use of Hussein and the expression Barak used is foolish. These people are 'Word Smiths,' and I believe they are fully able to measure the impact of their words. At worst, this kind of rhetoric is intended to wound and disparage their opponents; and is fully dishonorable. (And I admit it is hard not to think the dishonorable intent was present on both sides. I just can't prove it.)

The sad thing is that the collateral damage of this kind of campaigning - on both sides - is the loss of hope among the citizens that it really matters for whom you vote. My call is that both Republicans and Democrats will speak with greater honor, not just for their opponents sake, but more importantly for the sake of the American people. And I call on each of us, to measure our words very carefully. We may speak 'the truth' at least technically, but what is our intent?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Power of Each Part



If you have been watching the Olympics, you have been a part of one of the largest audiences ever watching the Olympics. NBC estimated that nearly 157 million people watched as least some part of the Olympics during the first four days. It has been spectacular to say the least.

There are many outstanding athletes competing in Beijing this summer whose names we recognize; Kobe Bryant, LeBron James for Basketball, Shawn Johnson for women’s gymnastics, and many others, but none more amazing than Michael Phelps. In Beijing Phelps has won 5 Gold medals, breaking 5 world records in the process. That accomplishment has also put him in a league of his own. He now has earned more Gold medals (11) than any other athlete in any event in Olympic history. He is on track to pass Mark Spitz record of 7 Gold medals in a single Olympic games (fyi – Spitz won 7 Gold medals at Munich in 1972 and did so by breaking 7 world records). Phelps is favored to win the three remaining races in which he is entered.

But as amazing as Michael Phelps is, he didn’t accomplish this on his own. While most of the races are individual efforts there are a couple of races that are relays. If you watched the 4X100 freestyle relay final on Monday night, you witnessed what is being called the greatest 4X100 freestyle relay of all time. The names, Garrett Weber-Gail, Cullen Jones, and Jason Lezak may not be as well known as Michael Phelps, but this was one race Michael couldn’t win on his own.

This was how the Associated Press summed up the issue, “Phelps' hopes of breaking Mark Spitz's record of seven golds in a single Games appeared doomed when the French took over the lead at the 250 mark. They were 4.03 seconds under world-record pace at 350 meters before Lezak, the oldest American male swimmer at 32, rallied over the closing strokes with the fastest 100m split in history, 46.0 seconds.”

Without those three men, especially the greatest performance ever in that event by Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps wouldn’t have that Gold medal.

So what does this have to do with us as Christians? Well, while we each do have to have our own ‘personal relationship with Christ,’ we don’t run this race alone. We need each other. The strength of the church is in its connectedness. We are not only connected to God, but also to each other. The goal of the church is to “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This is done when “whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph. 4:16). The work each of us does is not some isolated task disconnected from the body. If you watched the race, you also got to see Michael, Garrett, and Cullen cheer Jason Lezak on to the finish. The race was not just 4 individual efforts, but a total ‘fellowship’ in the work so that the whole became greater than the sum of the parts. How else can you explain beating the previous world record by 3.99 seconds where usually the margins of victory are in the 100th of seconds?

As we strive to become Spiritual Champions, we must remember this is not simply an individual effort, we are a team, a body, The Body of Christ, where each member must do its part.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

STOP PRAYING... At least for that.

For the past several weeks our Sunday evening assembly has been more of a modified small group ministry than a typical Sunday night ‘preaching’ assembly. We have been working through a video series called “Modern Parables.” We all meet in the auditorium and watch one of Jesus’ parables retold in a modern context. Then we break into small groups around the building and discuss the meaning and application of the parable to our lives today.

This past week we finished the parable of “The Widow & the Judge.” The goal of the parable was to encourage persistence in prayer, not because God is like the Judge in the story who doesn’t care, but because God is just the opposite, he truly cares and is eager to answer our prayers. So don’t give up praying.

One of the great benefits of a small group discussion over a ‘sermon’ is the free flowing nature of it. While you don’t want to carelessly ‘chase rabbits’ all the time, often the direction of the discussion may take you somewhere you didn’t map out ahead of time. That is how part of our discussion progressed last Sunday.

In the midst of discussing the need to be persistent in prayer, the question was asked, “Is there a time when we should stop praying?” And, “Does quitting imply a lack of faith on our part in God’s willingness or ability to answer?” To the first question, I think there are several examples that help; Think of Joshua, when in prayer, God told him, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?” (Joshua 6:10). Think of Paul, who prayed 3 times that his thorn would be removed, and God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you!” (2 Cor. 12:9). And think of Jesus, who prayed 3 times that, “this cup pass from me.” Yet God did not answer. The clear implication is that for these three men, there was a time to stop praying (at least about that) and move on in the will of God as it remained for them.

The answer for the second question is made easier when the first is answered; no it is not a lack of faith to stop praying. As a matter of fact, it may actually be a greater demonstration of faith in God to move on in His will as it remains. But this begs a third question; If there is a time to stop praying, and it doesn’t show a lack of faith to do so, then how do I know when to stop praying?

Ah, that is a question not so easily answered. How do you decide when to stop? We had at least one in our group who has faced this very decision. When the twins, Tabitha & Xander were born a little over 2 years ago, fervent prayer was a continual part of Alex & Laura’s life. They prayed with great faith in God’s ability and love. They prayed with great persistence that God would make Tabitha and Xander better. With great joy and praise to God, we are all witnesses to Tabitha’s improvement. (As a matter of fact she’s walking around the building right now.) Xander on the other hand has endured battle after battle with infections, seizures, and other complications since birth. Laura explained that they have come to the place where they have stopped praying for Xander to get better, but have come to accept God’s will as it remains for Xander. While God has chosen not to make Xander better, he has in fact made Alex & Laura better. They stand among us as great examples of persistent faith. They could have turned their backs on God, they could have turned their backs on each other, and many couples in similar circumstances have done just those kinds of things. But they didn’t and they won’t. And they still pray for Xander... but just not for that.

My prayer is that God will give you and me the wisdom, courage & faith to know when to stop praying... at least for that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Go Do Like He Done

This relates to the original purpose of 'Ahithopehl's Journal.' (If this is your first time here, be sure to read the first post from December 2007).

My mother Alta, went to Washington DC in the 8th grade as a participant in the National Spelling Bee. Unfortunately, the “spelling gene” skipped me. You have probably noticed this if you have ever been in a class where I have used a white board on which to write class points. (The truth is, I’m really a better speller than it appears, I’m just so focused on what I’m teaching that I’m not concentrating on spelling - at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) But I do admit that I’m not the best speller, so I can relate to the following story. The application of this story is for all of us, whether we’re good spellers or not -to remind us not to get caught up in 'Ahithophel thinking'.

When the newly hired salesman wrote his first sales report to the home office, it stunned the brass in the sales department. Obviously the new “hope” was a blithering illiterate, for here is what he had written:

“I seen this outfit which they ain’t never boughts a dimes worth of nothing form us, and I sole them a couple hundred thoughsand dollars of guds. I am now getin to Chcawgo.”


Before he could be given the heave-ho by the sales manager, along came another letter:


“I get here and sole them hafa million.”


Fearful if he did, and fearful if he didn’t fire the illiterate peddler, the sales manager decided to dump the problem in the lap of the president. The following morning the members of the ivory tower were flabbergasted to see the two reports on the bulletin board, and a note from the president tacked above them:


“We ben spending too much trying to spel instead of tying to sel. Lets watch those sails. I want everybody should read these letters form Gooch who is on the rode doing a grate job for us, and you should go and do like he done.”


It is so tempting for us, to expend a lot of time and energy on details that are not really critical to what it means to be a follower of Christ. It is our tendency to want to be right, but often about the wrong things. I have to constantly remind myself of what is essentially important: Living a holy life before the God of my salvation; living as salt & light in a corrupt and dark world; and Loving God with all my heart.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Sort of People?

Peter asks a great question in 2 Peter 3:11, in view of the coming judgment and destruction of the world, he asks, "What sort of people ought we to be?"

I came across a similar question while reading Hauerwas & Willimon's "Resident Aliens" (from which I borrowed their title for the recent preaching series I just finished -see previous post).

Putting it into the context of a local congregation, they asked, "What sort of community would we have to be in order to be the sort of people who live by our convictions?"

Any ideas, qualities that would be required in this sort of community? I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Resident Aliens


I know it's been a while since I've posted anything, and I promise, I do have some things to say, but just haven't had the time to get them written down. I will shortly.

But for now, I just wanted to let you know that I have updated the "Lessons" page on our church's website www.southwestchurchonline.org If you would like to listen to what I've preached lately. I'm especially in interested in any feedback from the "Resident Aliens" series that I have been working through. I will preach the last of that series this Sunday, July 6. The title of this last sermon will be "Resident Aliens 6: The Constitution of the Christian Colony.

You can click on the link or the picture and it will take you to our website where you can listen online, or down load the sermons and listen at your leisure. Again let me know what you think.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Elementary

The results of our recent poll asking how to make a Crown Victoria more cool than it already is ended in a tie between adding spinners and adding a for sale sign. We'll we've traded in the Crown Vic and moved into something a little more "Green." I'm not sure about the 'cool' factor, but we like it. Oh Yeah, check it out.

video

By the Way: If you have trouble viewing this video (I made with my little Flip Video camera) let me know.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wondering about the Picture?

Some have asked about the picture at the top of this blog. FYI: It is a picture I took while Leisa and I were visiting Sedona last year with Craig & Melissa Rapp. Sedona is a remarkably beautiful place about 2 hours north of where we live. We rented a new Jeep Rubicon and went off-road. Come see us, and we'll take you there as well.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lake Tolleson

Monday, we hit a record high of 110 degrees. Friday, we barely hit 70 and had a lot of rain. Which of course is great for us. Leisa and I did a little running around and when we came home we were surprised by the little lake on the corner of our street.

video

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

By The Numbers


110 Degrees - A new Record for May 19

10 Tons of Gravel - Delivered to the Driveway

4 Friends - Jeff, Dave, Danny, & Billy

3 Wheelbarrows - To move it all from the front to the back yard.

2.5 Hours - Pretty Amazing to move it and spread it.

1 Very Thankful Guy - Me!

I'll let you know when I'm ready to put down the artificial grass.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Questions that Matter

If you have ever watched 'Lost' on ABC, you already have a lot of questions. If you've never watched 'Lost', the best I can do is encourage you to rent the previous seasons and catch up. Essentially however, Lost is about a group of plane crash survivors on a very strange Island with mystical powers and dangers. John Locke, one of the key survivors is seeking answers from a mysterious and as yet unidentified man named Jacob. When he enters the dark cabin he sees someone sitting in a chair. "Are you Jacob?" Locke asks. "No," the man answers, "But I can speak on his behalf." Lock asks, "Well, who are you?" "I'm Christian," comes the answer.

Well, let me say this is a mind bender. As the conversation continues, John Locke, hears a noise behind him and turns to find Clair, another survivor who has recently disappeared. "Hi, John," she calmly says. John is now filled with even more questions; "What are you doing here?" "Where's the baby?" "Why is she here?"

Christian interrupts John and says something very important, "We don't have time for this. The people from the boat are already on their way back, and once they get here all of these questions won't matter one bit. So why don't you ask the one question that does matter."

Wow! That hit me like a bolt of lightening. Why don't you ask the one question that does matter!

As Christians, we often waste too much time and energy asking questions that in the end don't really matter. And we're not the first. Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? Should we pay taxes to Caesar? In the resurrection, whose wife will she be? Can we have a kitchen in the church building? Do we have to wear a tie to wait on the Lord's Table? Can we clap during a song? Can we preach about the birth of Christ at Christmas? The resurrection on Easter Sunday?

And on we go asking questions that we really don't have time for, because Someone IS coming, and once He get here all of these questions won't matter one bit.

The question John Locke asked doesn't really matter outside of the fictitious world of TV, but there are questions that we do need to ask.

So here's my question to you: What is the one question that really matters, that you need to ask?


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Chad's Graduation Walk

video

This was a great weekend for the Wheelers. We are very proud of Chad - not simply for his achievement, but more for his character & faith in pursuing an education.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Juror #35

I did my civic duty. I was juror #35. It is an interesting experience to be involved in the jury selection process for a criminal trial. We were asked all kinds of questions. It is amazing how many people (out of 40) have law enforcement officers in their family, have been victims of crime, as well as having themselves been arrested. I met a couple of interesting people: One lady, juror #14, is a member of the Gateway Church of Christ and had served on a jury before. Another lady, juror #26, mentioned that her husband was a golf-trick-shot artist that worked at many golfing events & tournaments. I met another guy, juror #25, I visited with during our last break before the final jury selection was made.

I really didn't think I would even come close to being selected, but as juror numbers were being called, I began to wonder. Juror #1, 2, 3 were called, then #5, then #11, #21, then #25, my new acquaintance. Then the numbers jumped to #29, 30, 31, 32 - at this point I realized that I was going to be chosen, unless they skipped me - #33, 34, I held my breath, #40.

Many are called, but few are chosen.
Maybe next time I won't wear my "What part of 'Lake of Fire' don't you understand?" T-Shirt.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What to do with a Crown Victoria?

Leisa and I are in the middle of an “auto re-assignment” phase. Our son Kyle, sold his “monster truck” that got maybe 10 mpg - going down hill, with a tail wind. We in turn gave him our Explorer because he needed something with which to tow a trailer. And Leisa’s parents gave us their Crown Victoria that they didn’t drive. I’ve already gotten a dig from one of my “so-called” friends, (with the initials Billy Burnett) when he told me “his grandmother called and wants her car back.” I do believe Leisa and I are too young to be driving a Crown Vic. So I'm asking you my friends for suggestions on how to proceed from here. You can let me know your suggestions by participating in the poll above.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Penny Saved...

Do you pick up pennies? A survey asked just that question. The results? Older people were more likely than “20 - something’s” to pick up pennies. Some would only pick them up if no one was looking. Others couldn’t even be bothered if it was anything less than a dime.

I am an avowed “penny picker-upper.” I will almost always stop and pick up pennies; and nickels, dimes and quarters if I find them. It hasn’t made me rich. I’d be surprised if I have found more than $30 in change in the past 10 years. So why do I it? I really don’t know. I could probably come up with something that sounds noble, but I suppose it’s just because a penny is worth something and it’s just being wasted there on the ground.

My mother-in-law Oleta told Leisa and me of her involvement with a woman who has had a very hard life. Some of the things she shared about her life just make you want to cry. Oleta and this woman were talking about her relationship to God and with His church when she made a remark that really got my attention. Commenting about a church she had visited, she said, “You know those people over there wouldn’t bother to pick up a penny. They are only interested in twenty-dollar bills. They just step right over a penny. And you know, I’m just a penny.”

I really hate to hear comments like that. I hate to hear that people have such a low opinion of themselves that they believe they are worthless. And I hate to hear that people have such a low opinion of the church that they believe there is no place for them there. Neither is true, even though there might be enough negative experiences to make you think so.

My hope and prayer is that this woman will be loved and helped by the church where she is and finally find the peace that only Christ can give.

I have another hope and prayer, and that is that our churches will be known as a churches willing to stop and “pick-up pennies.” There are people all around us who are different than we are. Those differences might be racial, cultural, economical, or political. There might be age differences or gender differences, they could show up simply as the differences in talents a person might or might not possess. There could be countless ways someone might be different than me, and therefore tempted to consider them just a penny. But I hope that it will never be said of us, that we are only interested in twenty-dollar bills.

Jesus told us that when we give a dinner party we should not just invite those who have the means to return the favor, but rather we should invite those who have no way to give anything back to us. (Luke 14:12-14) Jesus said when we do this then the one whose blessings really count will bless us; His Father.

The next time you see a penny lying on the sidewalk, think about this; Jesus left heaven for earth to pick up a penny – you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Day of Rendering


Well, today is the day. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mtt 22:21). As usual, I have put this off until the last moment. But I have finished, except for signing the thing, writing two checks; one for the state of AZ, and the other to the Feds, and dropping them in the box. But it's still early in the day. Then, I'll be waiting for my economic stimulus rebate check.

Now it's time to get back to "Rendering to God the things that are God's."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Finding Stuff


I love finding stuff. From way back, I've been a scavenger. I remember as a kid when my dad took me with him to the dump in El Paso, to get rid of some stuff. We unloaded the truck, and then spent about an hour or so walking around looking for stuff other people had thrown away. I think we brought back more stuff than we took.

Over the years I've found a few things; like the tie I found in the parking lot of The Bridgewater Commons Mall. It was still in the package, but with no receipt. I took it to the Customer Service Center in the Mall (Wouldn't you have done the same?) and turned it in. They took my name and phone number, and two weeks later called me to come pick it up, because no one came to claim it. I still wear it and get lots of compliments on it.

Today I found a pair of pliers. I was pulling out of Starbucks (yea I know, for 2 tall frappuccinos I could have bought my own pliers) and there they were lying in the street. No one was coming, so I got out and picked them up. I've found several interesting tools over the years that way. My favorite is a huge box wrench, which I've actually used as a wrench only once.

Finding stuff is great, because it is usually an unexpected bonus to the daily routine. Today, finding stuff made me think of another great find one day along time ago.

It must have been overwhelming for Josiah when Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord (2 Chron 34). Wow! Now there's something worth finding. How they lost it in the first place is rather mind boggling - but that's another story.

I hope you find something worthwhile today. I know I have. A pair of pliers -reminded me of what I have found in Jesus.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tulsa Workshop: Day 1


It has been a couple of years since we were last here at the Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop. So here are some notable things we did/saw/heard.


Saw John W. Smith

Talked with Jon Smith at the SIBI booth – He is new at a church in North Carolina, Told me about the lawn-mower race track in the town where he is now preaching- yes it is in the south – deep south.

Visited with friends Ben & Jackie Merenes, who are now working with Eastern European Missions.

Bought a book: Praise Hymnal – so we can have some contemporary praise songs with notes.

Looked at “Christian Camo” apparel – as if Christians need to blend in and hide among our communities more. (By-the-way Billy, you can get a Christian Camo Hand Gun or Rifle Carrying Case. Wrap your mind around that notion.)

Went to the Mall – shopping and to get something to eat.

Went back to the Schroeder’s (our good friends and class-mate from Sunset, with whom we are staying) to take a nap before dinner.

Fed a Donkey.

Heard Patrick Mead & His Son-In-Law, Josh Graves speak on; “Praying with Courage.”

Noteable Quotes:

“I believe Jesus was a Pacifist” – Josh Graves
“But his Daddy Wasn’t!” – Patrick Mead

“Jesus didn’t call us to take up your comfortable chairs and follow me.” – Patrick Mead

“Some churches need to change their sign to read, “The Church of Keeping the ‘Smiths’ Happy for 37 years.”- Patrick Mead


Patrick Mead is a funny little Scotsman - who reminded us that following Christ takes real courage.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Enjoy Life With Your Wife!

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love,
all the days of this meaningless life
that God has given you under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 9:9

Monday nights are Shepherd-Minister Meeting Nights. For those of you who know the experience; nothing more need be said. For those of you who don't; let me just say, "Don't try this at home kids. Leave it to the professionals!"

They're really not that bad, and every now and then, they can be real good: like last night. Good discussion about some important things. And then the bonus: The ministers got to leave early, so the Shepherds could enjoy the meeting even more on their own.

Anyway, I went straight home, plugged the iPod in the portable player, and hopped in the Hot Tub with Leisa. Let me tell you, there's nothing like sitting in 100 degree water with all the jets doing their magic, sipping on a home made ice-cream/coffee frappacinos, listening to some good music, looking up at the brilliant Arizona stars (we have our own stars out here you know) and enjoying life with Leisa.

I've made a lot of bone-head decisions in my life. But marrying Leisa wasn't one of them. Marrying her is the best thing I've ever done in this life under the sun.

And getting a hot-tub rates pretty high up there too.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Is There a Cure?

"Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony."
Psalm 6:2

I hate the conflict that goes with being a preacher. I love preaching, teaching & ministry. But sometimes I really hate being a preacher. I wish there was a cure.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

12 Hours

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed sleep so much. Thursday night, Leisa and I slept 10 hours at Canyon View - even though we are both suffering with some congestion and a cough, we slept great. Then last night, in our own bed - I slept from 10 pm to 10 am - what glorious rest. I hope you are getting enough rest - cause today, I feel fully rested and ready to go. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

7 Random Things

You're lucky Billy, I'm getting ready to leave the office with my wife and go spend the night at Canyon View Resort, so I'm in a good mood. Otherwise, I might have blown this off the same way I do most emails that say, "send this off to 10 people and you'll have good luck" or something similarly inane.

Anyway, here are 7 Random Things:

1. I've Lived in 7 Different States (TX, NM, MA, CA, MO, NJ, AZ) and 2 Foreign Countries (Canada & Scotland).

2. I Fell in Love with my wife, Leisa in Scotland and tried to get her to elope with me. But noooo, she had to be reasonable and wait till we got back to the states. But even after 25+ years it has still been worth the pursuit.

3. I'm recently allergic (within the past 5 years) to Peaches & Apples, and maybe Orange Juice.

4. I still have Billy & Ashley's Wedding Ceremony in my Journal. - One of the more interesting (in a fun way) weddings I've done - I have to admit.

5. If I could be a professional athlete (at the top of my game) I would want to be a Pitcher (They're a lot like preachers; they only work once every 7 days).

6. In High School, I played the character 'Jimmy the Greek' in the musical Guys & Dolls.

7. In 7 minutes, I'm out 'a here and heading for a 1 night stand with the Southwest Christian School's secretary. Did I happen to mention that she's my wife. How great is this job, where I can carry on an affair with one of the secretaries - and God smiles the whole time.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's Called Ministry! Hello?!


I had a rough day yesterday. At the NFL Experience. With Jennifer Lopez and 4 of her friends. Not that Jennifer Lopez - THE JLo is about to pop, I've been told. This Jennifer Lopez is a 9 year old 4th grader. One of our parents here at Southwest asked if I could chaperon their daughter's class trip to the NFL Experience. O what we do and call it 'ministry.' I had fun though.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spanked!


Abraham and I have a lot in common. Not the “Father of the Faithful” kind of stuff, but like him, I’ve moved around a lot. Like him I’ve tried to help God fulfill his promises to me too many times, instead of letting Him do what He does best. And like Abraham, I have sorely underestimated the character of my neighbors.

A couple of months ago a family moved into the vacant house next to ours. They are a big family; grandparents, parents, 4 kids, 2 cats, 1 yapping dog, and 4 or 5 cars. We met some of them a week after they moved in when we had a yard sale; they seemed nice enough, but I was a little worried.

It didn’t take long for that worry to be realized. Their kids beganto take a short cut from their front door to the corner by cutting across our front yard. Now for those of you who don’t live in Arizona, our front yard is gravel, which means they’re not killing the grass or anything, but it was leaving visible tire ruts in the gravel. I started to get a little aggravated and wasn’t looking forward to having a confrontation with my neighbors about their kids beating a trail through my front yard.

Yesterday afternoon, when Leisa and I came home from work their 3 younger children were out in their driveway playing. I waved. I sprayed some weed killer on the weeds growing up through the gravel. I went inside to take a quick power nap before heading back to church. The door bell rang.

It was the 3 kids from next door; Leslie about 12, Christian, about 10, and Ashley maybe 8 years old. “Yes,” I said. Then I got spanked! Leslie, holding a broom, said, “We’re sorry for making a mess of your gravel, we’ll clean it up.” I of course lied and said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s Ok.” I did encourage them to use their youthful energy and keep their bikes on the sidewalk; which they said they would.

I went inside, lay down but couldn’t sleep.

I wondered how I was ever going to show them Christ more powerfully than they had just shown Him to me. I know God was speaking to me about my own heart and attitude, and until I get that more in tune with Him, I would continue to be a pretty weak witness of His love and grace.

I'm still a little sore from that spanking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pure Joy


One of the highlights of last year was watching our oldest son, Chad find and marry the love of his life. To watch them in those moments of celebration really took our breath away. My prayer for them is that they can build on the joy of that day to have what Leisa and I still have after 25 years.

Chad & Jaime are finishing their education at LCU. Chad is also the associate minister at Carpenter's Church in Lubbock.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Man Sees Jesus in Meteor

It’s not every day that a meteor lands in your back yard. But that is exactly what happened to Terrance Cotton. He had recently moved from Abilene to Celina, Texas, a small town about 35 miles north of Dallas. He brought the golf-ball sized meteor into his house, and claimed a voice told him to look closely at the meteor, and when he did, he saw the face of Jesus.

This happened about a year ago. Many have come to see this phenomenon; some have seen it, some have been skeptical. I can understand that. The picture of the meteor on-line had to have a diagram pointing out the crown of thorns, the eyes, nose, beard, etc. I still couldn’t see it very well.

I don’t know how you feel about these kinds of things; people seeing Mary or Jesus in everything from window pains, tree bark, potato chips, or a stain in a Chicago underpass. Many people are drawn to these ‘sightings’ and find inspiration, or confirmation of God’s presence, blessings, approval, or whatever the emotional/spiritual need of the moment is.

Regardless of these other so called appearances, we have a clear indication of our “favored status” with God; for on a door in our church you can clearly see the image of the Apostle Paul. Skeptical? Look closely at the picture. It is the Apostle Paul. That he is on the door to the kitchen, also settles the question of whether kitchens in the church building is scriptural.

OK, moving right along, I can see you’re not too sure about this whole “sighting” of Jesus, Mary or Paul thing.

Now let me shift gears. My first reaction, like yours may be strong skepticism, and to quickly dismiss these people as misguided. But another thought began to nag at me after I read the story about the meteor image. I had to ask myself, “why am I so quick to dismiss these sightings, yet so slow to see the presence of Jesus in other places all around me?”

I admit that too often I walk through life, seeing things only from a physical perspective. I see people in their social situations, some doing well, some not so well, and I fail to realize that I shouldn’t be looking at people from that point of view. Paul challenges us all when he writes about his own perspective; “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) Add that to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:40 that when we encounter people who have needs, we are encountering Jesus in them. Do we see Jesus in these moments, or do we turn a blind eye, and continue on our way.

I still don’t think your going to find Jesus in the skillet burns on a tortilla, but I don't want to get stuck in Ahithophel thinking. I want to be more open to see Jesus in my everyday encounters with others. I am certain that if we look with more spiritual eyes, we will see him.