Christian Fortune Telling: Our Revelation Fixation

1 05 2008

The end times are upon us.  All signs point to the end of days.

So say any number of Christian philosophers and authors.  The interesting thing is that this could be said of any point in time starting with the very first Christian church.

Part of our, uh, shall I say, “charm” as Christians has been our fixation on what will be rather than what is now.  That has nothing to do with our hope, and everything to do with our desire to know what is going to happen in our earthly future.  This fixation plays out again in our generation with everything from fiction works to Jerusalem-based doom-sayers.  Chicken little is alive and well and writing books.  Perhaps the biggest, most notable contributor to our end-days craze of late is the Christian world’s equivalent to tarot cards, the “Left Behind” series.

I remember as a child being scared to death…

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Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

20 04 2008

“Hi, I’m Stewart, I’m an Ivy League Scholar and a Nobel prize winner, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

“Hi, I’m Brenda, I discovered the cure to cancer, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

are you smarter than a fifth grader jeff foxworthy“Hi, I’m the apostle Paul, I survived shipwreck, near-death beatings, I out witted politicians and explained the real meaning of mysterious philosophies, I once killed Christians but then met Christ and changed, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

It’s one of our favorite programs these days.  Barbara and I howl and laugh and yell at the TV and adore the kids and muse about the questions on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”  We both agree that…

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Who Would Jesus Vote For?

12 04 2008

Who would Jesus vote for?

That, or something closely approximating it, is the title of a book I saw on display the other day at a Christian bookstore.  I didn’t pick up the book at the time, but later I recalled the title and couldn’t help but laugh a bit.  I’m assuming the title was tongue-in-cheek.  But it did cause me to dwell upon the question and create my own answer.  And the anwer is this:

Click here to read this blog entry at Where The Fish Have No Name.

Where The Fish Have No Name Redux

11 04 2008

Welcome to my first fresh entry on my new location for “Where The Fish Have No Name”.  I started this as a place to simply let off some spiritual steam and creativity.  I never imagined the response it would bring.  Comments have come into me far beyond the blogs comment boards itself including phone calls and emails.  In recent weeks I’ve been blessed to log over a1,000 unique hits a day, which really blew me away.  And then it all crumbled off the side of the mountain.

Read this blog entry in its entirety here.

It’s a Hurt Called Love

3 04 2008

Ever have to shake something hard to get it to come loose?  Perhaps you have something unwanted on the bottom of your shoe, so you smack it hard against the pavement.   Or, you find that an unwanted sliver of cellophane has lovingly attached itself to your hand, and you shake vigorously to cause it to fall away.

I’ve learned that’s how it can also be with us when we give ourselves over to God’s hands.  We would love to stick with the status-quo, so God has to shake us hard to cause us to move.  Barbara and I had hoped to minister here at our present church for 10-15 years.  But God had other plans for us.  We could have sworn that it was His will that we stay here to see through all the visions and dreams we had for the work.  Sadly, financial calamity in a particularly economically depressed area has changed our reality.  I’m not sure how anyone can afford to live here in the Chicago region.  The winters are hard and the taxes are harder.  As gas prices sky-rocket, our days left to serve here are diminishing.

I’m perfectly sure that in my desire to stay beyond our short five year tenure I could have become quite comfortable.  I expect that we would have seen more and more of God’s blessings as we endeavored to serve faithfully.  After seeing our families systematically destroyed financially, it has fatally damaged our church’s already skin and bones budget.  So, we’ve been shaken.  Hard.  Buddy, I mean to tell you, my ears are ringing.  We have been shaken loose.  If it weren’t for the massive medical bills still hanging over our head, we would have found a way to stay.  But the earth has moved, the windows have rattled, and we’ve been shaken loose.

broken heartIt hurts deeply to have to say goodbye to co-workers in Christ who’ve become family to us.  We moved far from our families and God blessed us with…  family!  Christ calls the church His body.  We feel as though part of our body is being ripped from us.  We were made one with these wonderful people, now we’re forced to move on.

Why does God allow us to hurt so?  It’s because hurt is like a thermometer for something wonderful…  love.  The greater we love, the more it hurts to part.  And there’s never enough time anyway.  I learned that the hard way.  When my mother died of cancer, we had several months of warning.  Still, there was not enough time to say goodbye.  As I’ve counseled with grieving individuals who’ve lost family members suddenly, I’ve often heard them say, “I wish I could have had just one more moment with them.”  But there are never enough one-more-moments.  Love is like that.  It is a thick and warm blanket.  Moving away from those we love is like getting out of a warm bed on a cold night.  It just reminds us how comfortable the bed really is.

In a way it is a blessing to hurt this way.  It reminds us of how blessed we’ve been to be a part of this community of love.  And it makes me even more homesick for Heaven.  What a great homecoming that will be.  Love hurts.  Thankfully, love hurts.

The Perfect Murder

25 03 2008

I’m a bit of a fan of those true crime shows like Forensic Files and The Investigators. The 48 Hours Mystery and Dateline’s stories are also a hit at our house.

So here’s the thing I can’t figure out. Ever notice how a suspects’ computer is full of searches relevant to the crime they committed? “How to shoot yourself and live”. “How to leave no evidence”. “How to poison someone”. They’re all there hidden in places and far reaches of the computer that can’t be erased. Haven’t we all learned by now that you can’t committhe perfect murder the perfect murder if you use your computer to find out how to do it? Then again, I suppose if criminals were all that smart, they wouldn’t be into crime in the first place, huh?

It all gets me to thinking that I’m sure glad they can’t somehow plug into my brain to find out all my deep dark hidden secrets. Or, can you imagine having a TV in the back of your head where people could actually see what you’re thinking about? Yee-gadz. I would’a gotten whooped a lot more growing up if that had been the case. My secret crushes wouldn’t have stayed so secret. And everyone would know my huge mistake in college that almost got me into hot water. Thank goodness they can’t call in the FBI to search our synapses for evidence.

Somehow, though, we retain these things. It’s so easy to stay locked up in the cage of guilt or remorse that remains steadfast in our noggins. I suspect that says a great deal about why our faith in forgiveness stays so week. We are constantly watching the rerun of what can’t be undone and we are quite unmerciful to ourselves.

We must understand that righteousness and holiness is not about guilt. If we’re constantly beating ourselves up at an altar because we feel like we can’t measure up, it’s because we’re measuring ourselves my our own broken yardsticks. Christ calls us into relationship with Him, and it follows that we become more and more like the people we hang around. If we allow ourselves to become spiritually formed followers of Jesus, we will find that we are shedding the old skin cells a little at a time. We are becoming new creatures. Perfection shouldn’t even be in the picture; this is about finding more and more peace and joy in life via a daily walk with Christ that enriches and restores us.

So what do we do with the remnants of our life’s perfect murders that echo through our cranial corridors? Rather than entering into the hopelessness of trying to forget, we can instead learn to re-categorize. Shove those unpleasurable guilties into your mind’s “forgiven” file, and use them as reason to praise and honor Christ for His restorative grace.

Oh… and keep in mind that grace is not one-dimensional. It is not just God’s way of making us right through justification, grace is also a way of restoring us in relationship to this messed up world. Grace received must by nature become grace given. A life covered by grace can only be a life that becomes grace itself. This changes our relationships, attitudes and reactions. Grace doesn’t make us perfect (until Heaven), but it most certainly changes the flavor of our lives.

Everyone Has Days Like These, And Mine Is Today…

21 03 2008

My wife says I’m a bit TOO transparent with people… I tell too much about myself, my struggles, my faults. It’s something that has developed over my years in the ministry. It just seems right to me. Well, to borrow an analogy from the life of the apostle Paul, we’ve had a shipwreck and need your prayers that we can shake the snake off our arm!

I love my church here in Griffith and its people so dearly. These 5 years here have been a true blessing. Sadly, due to cost of living in this area and financial devastation in the life of most of our prime givers, our church has had to face a hard reality. They will now have to go to a part-time, bi-vocational pastor. Sadly, that means we’re going to have to move on. It’s not what we wanted, but it’s a reality I’m having to accept.

This will be like leaving family. It will be like losing an arm. This church has not just been a pastoral charge, it’s been family, friend and home. They’ve seen us through the worst challenge of our lives – the near death and long recuperation of my wife.

So it stands that we need to find a new life. We are in desperate need of a job opportunity and have been searching diligently. I say these things in realization that if you have any suggestions or leads for me, I’d be quite grateful. I pastor in the Free Methodist Church and would want to find a ministry opportunity in doctrinally similar church. Any pastoral or associate role would be fine. I would also consider any job possibility outside of pastoral ministry if it seems God is leading us there. You can look over my blog entries to get to know me a bit better. Among the things that seem to be my strengths are: teaching, speaking, writing, group development, and visionary and creative leadership. I love photography and digital editing, songwriting, guitar-playing (even if I’m just a hack!), and have many computer skills.

I share these things with you in hopes that while I search, perhaps you’ve been moved to read these words and might have a lead for me. If so, please leave a comment and I will get back with you. I hold all comments for moderation, so if you want to leave an email address or phone number, or to have mine, I can withhold the information from publication here. In other words, leave what info you want, and let me know if you want me to not allow it to be listed for public reading.

I’m so grateful for the ways some of you, as strangers to me, have affirmed me and encouraged me. I received a call from a gentleman in Illinois just today who truly made my day. Sir, if you’re reading this, I thank you again. You didn’t know at the time, but you called just when I needed a good word.

God has blessed me in so many ways, and I look forward to the challenges ahead. Oh, and the blog shall continue. God’s blessings to you all!