“I Hate Religion!”

Mr-Bill-5403She said, “Why don’t you ever come to church on Wednesday nights?”

He said “Because I’m not a Christian.”

Than after an exchange I couldn’t hear, I heard him say “Because I hate religion!.”

As I was getting ready to blog here, I heard this exchange between a couple of high school students at McDonald’s.  But that is the issue isn’t it.  People hate religion.

I’m willing to bet that the young man like so many others believe that Christianity is about being an organization instead of about being a relationship with God.

If religion is about organization, I hate it too.  I’ve set through too many elders and board meetings that were not about developing relationships that provide opportunities to grow in and toward Christ

Here’s the question: When people who are not followers of Christ look at us, what do they see?  Do they see Christ or do they see a bunch of rituals to be followed and kept?  Do you reflect Christ or do you reflect an organization.


My Best Friend Is Blind

I’ve only known Ken for 6 years but we became instant friends.  That’s not saying much, we’re both that way.  We expect to become friends with every person we meet.  But Ken has become my best friend.

The majority of Ken’s friends are ministers.  I keep trying to tell him that God is trying to tell him something.

Last year Ken moved to Jefferson City, Missouri and got an opportunity he never had before.  He is now singing with a barbershop choir.  Kind of a difficult thing.  Those harmonies are really different and hard.  Recently, a couple of newspapers presented an article about Ken being a part of the barbershop choir and several other papers and news services picked up on it including the Kansas City Star and USA Today.  The following link is for the KC Star’s report.  http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/1412893.html?story_link=email_msg

Ken Strong

Ken Strong

I appreciate time spent with Ken.  If you ever get to know him, you will learn that his blindness is not a disability, at least not in his mind, but just an issue he has to deal like some of us have bad backs, or arthritis, or bad knees or something.

When Ken walks with me, he puts his right hand on my left shoulder and follows me.  He can sense my movement and follows my movement one step after me.  If I begin to turn, he turns.  If I step down, he steps down.  Every once in a while, I’ll step up when there is no step and he’ll try to step up to the fake step.   That’s when I get a powerful squeeze on my shoulder and a chuckle.

Being a follower of Christ involves more than just a decision to become a Christ-follower and learning from the Bible.  We have the Holy Spirit of God.  Acts 2:38 indicates this important fact.  “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”

The Holy Spirit does several things.  He is a seal of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14).  He develops spiritual fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23).  He provides the way to live so we must walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  He is also our guide (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18).

If we are led or guided by the Spirit, we are following the Spirit.  He uses God’s Word, the Bible to work in us and lead us, but He guides us in a similar way to my guiding my friend Ken.  If we are sensitive to the Spirit when He (capital H because He is God) leads us, we will follow exactly in the steps He is leading us in and we will not stray, we hold to the truth, and we will be pleasing to God.

Thanks Ken for helping me see how I am being led by the Spirit.


What’s This Cross-Cultural Crap

crossculture picMy son started Bible College in 2000.  Now that seems soooo long ago.  He knew he then that he would be a missionary in a closed country.  He used his education not just to learn Bible and related stuff, but to prepare for that time when he would begin to work in the country that God was sending him to.

He’s gone and has been for a few years now, but I have his school books.  That’s good.  I don’t buy a lot of books because they are expensive and totally overpriced.  So . . . cheap skate that I am, I am accessing my son’s college textbooks.

Studying missions, some of his classes and obviously, some of his books are about cross-cultural ministry.  I am forward thinking in a backward way.  I mean, I grew up in very conservative, traditional churches and have served those same type of churches since I began ministry.  So, our methods have almost always been guided by the past regardless of how much I want or try to move forward with it.

So, my understanding of what cross-cultural ministry has been about is someone going somewhere else, the Philippines, New Guinea, Ireland or some other place and learning how to apply Biblical truth and teaching in another culture.

Am I short-sighted or not?  I realize, and I haven’t even opened his cross-cultural books yet and I will soon; I realize that it applies as much or more in America than anywhere else in the world.

I am going to learn and we are going to win every generation in every corner of America.  GO TEAM!”

Ok, bring it in here.  Jesus is Lord on three.  One, two, three . . . !


You Smile Too Much

campfireFreshman camp week is incredible.  It usually is smaller and provides more one-on-one opportunities with the campers.

It was Sunday evening.  We had supper and a little free-time, then had chapel.  Due to a couple of last minute faculty cancellations, the dean of the week, instead of putting someone in a quandary trying to prepare chapel messages with little time to prepare, chose to show some recorded messages and work from them.

Rita and I were finishing something for later that evening and came in after everyone else had been seated.  There were only two chairs left on the back row on the left.  I came in first and sat down on the inside seat next to a young lady named Sarah.  Rita came in a couple of minutes later and sat on  the outside seat next to me.

Erick was showing a Jeff Walling presentation about passing the baton of faith on from one generation of believers to another.  At the beginning of the presentation, he begins to tell a lame joke that he had told the night before at the conference the DVD was recorded at.  His son called him on.  Jeff said, maybe there were some who weren’t there the night before and he asked the audience if there were any who hadn’t been there the night before.  Apparently some people in the audience raised their hands and he pointed to them pointing them out to his son.

Now, Rita and I are goof-balls and we have a blast and we raised our hands.  That’s when Jeff pointed to the audience and it looked like he was pointing at Rita and me and we lost it.  Everyone, but Erick were clueless about what we were laughing so hard at.  But Sarah, just looked at me with an expression of “what’s wrong with this guy?

I’m just like that.  I see the funny in things that a lot of people don’t.  I smile and I laugh . . . a lot.  So does Rita.  As the week went on, I would notice Sarah staring at me.  And after a day or so, I realized she began sitting beside me at meals, chapel, campfire and classes too and I would see her staring at me.

About Wednesday, we were at campfire sharing the best thing about the day and the worst thing about the day.  Earlier that day Sarah told me that I smile too much.  I took it as a compliment.  When it was my turn to share about the best thing of the day, I said, “I was given the best compliment today by Sarah.  She told me I smile too much.”  Then I played the final chords of the theme song for the TV show Home Improvement ( http://www.angelfire.com/mi2/HomeImprovement/sounds.html scroll to the bottom of the page).

I got a really good laugh from everybody and Sarah even laughed and seemed to relax a little.   See the week before, Sarah had arrived at a children’s ranch and was being exposed to many new things.  People that care for her, people who are Christian and Christianity, and people like Rita and me who are so full of joy we laugh, a lot.

Sarah had a difficult life with little to smile at and when she encountered me, she had a difficult time figuring someone like me out.  When she learned I was genuine and the reason I and many others like Rita were so full of joy, she began her journey toward Jesus Christ.  She smiled and laughed a whole lot before the camp week was over.

That was the summer of 2006.  I saw her about 2 years later and she wondered if I remembered her.  I did and I remembered her name also.  But I noticed that the girl had changed.  She was still being filled with joy because now she knew the same joy that I knew because she knew Jesus Christ and had hope in spite of her difficult and troubled past.

It was then that I learned that God can use my joy to open the doors of evangelism (Read C.S. Lewis book Suprised by Joy).  Sarah would be about 19 or 20 now and I pray that the joy and hope she has is a lasting joy and hope.  I may never see her again, but I intend to share that eternality with her and others in heaven.


Frisbees and a Legacy

FrisbeeGolfThey granted the dying wish of the guy who invented Frisbee Golf.  He wanted to have his ashes mixed into the flying discs used to play Frisbee Golf.  Read the news report about his request at this link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/08/13/MN202025.DTL

They actually did it.  The TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not reported it and actually showed the guy’s wife and son pouring his ashes into the machine that makes the Frisbees.  They made 7000 special and specially marked Frisbees including his ashes.

Quite a legacy don’t you think?  A man’s memorial: plastic discs used to play a game.

Recently, I had the privilege of challenging our men’s group, a church planting organization, to consider the legacy they were leaving.  At the time, it was a legacy of claiming to be church planters but having done nothing about it for more than 20 years.

It wasn’t at all about the legacy, but it was about who we were compared to who we are supposed to be.  So far, they have accepted the challenge.  PTL!

I have wondered about the legacy I would leave when I leave this world.  What will people remember?  What will people who didn’t know me but may learn about me find out about me?  What is my legacy?

I love wandering around very old cemetaries.  I love reading or trying to read tombstones and wonder about the people buried there, husbands, wives, babies, soldiers and all types of people.  I am curious about what people remember about the people whose tombstones I am standing in front of and reading.  Unfortunately, mostly they only give life dates.  When they were born and when they died and their name, and possibly a note about who they were married to.

I first got interested in this after I visited the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 1982.  They had replicas of tombstones with funny epitaphs on them.  I don’t recall any of them exactly, but they went be something like this.  “Here lies John Brown. Cheated at cards. Shot him down!”

Because I just love life and love to laugh and enjoy so much that life is, there was a while that I wanted my tombstone to read, “You didn’t think I’d make it this far, did ya?”  But life is more important than a legacy of levity.  I have for a long time however wanted people to simply see the presence of God in me.  I would rather that be my legacy because everything is a result of God’s presence in me anyway.