Calling Phillip Part II – Finding Hope

29 04 2008

In my former career in radio, I was fortunate to rub shoulders with most of the artists who inhabited the burgeoning country music scene of the 90s.  Some were friendly and common as a dollar bill.  Others were stand-offish and uptight.  A couple were dumb as a bag of hammers.  There were those who lived in a bottle, and others who’d been on Willie’s bus, so to speak.  There were many who’d fit in just fine at any of our family events; these were the ones who disdained adulation and preferred slap-on-the-back friendliness.  Then there was that annoying little nasal toned twerp (who has since won at least one entertainer of the year award) who would only give you the time of day if you were an attractive female.

One truism I learned was…

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Calling Philip

25 04 2008

For those of you who are already immersed into church ministry of some sort, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are a mind boggling number of evangelism programs out there.  Books, seminars, flip charts, tracts…  my eyes glaze over just trying to take it all in.  It seems right to me that we don’t need another program.  We need something that those in the world of diet crazes have started to figure out.

The new mantra among diet gurus is that we don’t need a new diet plan, we need a new life plan.  Addressing the harmful and destructive things we do to our own bodies via food intake must be addressed at the lifestyle level.  And that makes sense to me.

To read this article and find out what in the world Philip has to do with this, click here and visit my blog,  www.wherethefishhavenoname.

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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A Good Reason To Burn All Your Tracts

31 03 2008

It finally happened.  I suppose it was inevitable.  I mean, you give computers to a room full of monkeys and eventually one of them is gonna, well, uh, apply for a job with the IRS.

So it makes sense that the odds finally caught up with me.  After countless tries, after years of toil and turmoil, I finally made a decent pot of chili.  Lots of onion.  A perfect balance of chili powder and other various and sundry seasonings.  Slow simmered in a cast iron dutch oven.  And finally, the perfect chili.  Happily, it happened on the day that we were taking the chili to share at a church function. perfect chili cast iron dutch oven

In the past I’ve made lots of mistakes with good intentions.  I’d throw a bit of this and a bunch of that in thinking that if I added enough stuff, eventually I’d come up with just the right unique touch to please our particular pallets.  I once heard that some chili makers add chocolate to their mix.  I tried it.  Bogus.  Didn’t work for me.

So today, in fear that I’d create some concoction that would create revulsion to the degree only previously experienced in the pie eating contest scene in the movie, “Stand By Me”, I played it cool.  I kept it simple.  As it turns out, simple was the key.  I forgot one of the surest principles of cooking and many other things in life; simplicity is usually the key to excellence.

As a pastor, I’ve heard countless theories on how to properly program and execute the functions of a church.  And then I’ve observed well meaning people throw so many ingredients into the pot until the end product is inedible.  People turn away in revulsion.

Simplicity works where complexity fails.  Our neighbors, co-workers, friends and families don’t need a new version of the plan of salvation or some new flip-chart methodology.  We don’t need tracts with flames vs. clouds, and we don’t need another book with a whole new plan.  What we need is a return to the simple.  We need to give the world what it is hungry for, not what we think they ought to have.  It’s all about being help, hope and healing.  It starts with a relationship, it travels through time fueled by love, patience and kindness (can anyone say, “fruit of the spirit”?), and it manifests itself in help, hope and healing.

So if you’re finding yourself struggling to find your way to relevance in a world of spiritual confusion, get simple.  Reread one of the Gospels tonight.  “Mark” will do.  Spend a few minutes in 1 John.  Get real with some honest and open prayer.  Seek the Spirit and ask for a game plan.  Hey, these are the types of prayers that God loves to answer.  Just keep it simple.

Many great meals begin humbly and simply.

Elvis The Pelvis

27 03 2008

The controversies surrounding the seductive moves of Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show predate me just a bit. In fact, I was still but a spry young pre-teen when The King kicked the bucket on the throne.

But lurking there in my knowledge of shag carpeted walls, TV screens with bullet holes, and fried ‘nanner and peanut butter sandwiches lies the recollection of a controversy that once threatened to split the nation.elvis the pelvis

For it was back in the day when everything was still in black and white that the snarly lipped one from Memphis created a stir by swayin’ to the music in a manner than many believed would eternally corrupt the souls of anyone who looked on. Elvis the Pelvis, they called him.

It’s hard to believe that “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” were ever controversial fare. I can’t imagine Elvis’ albums slapped with the warning sticker: “PARENTAL ADVISORY: ALBUM MAY CAUSE GYRATING”.

And yet as I look at the Elvis era with a wry smile and plate of biscuits and gravy, I can’t help but wonder what stuff that gets me all up in wads today will be looked upon as mild by generations to come. Frankly, Scarlett, I’ll admit that scares me just a bit. I’m convinced that we don’t take the lowering of the bar seriously enough.

Here’s how I think it works. Teens, by nature, need to shock their parents just a smidge. Or more. They need to establish their identity by doing something that sets the collective teeth of the previous generation on edge. So, they allow some new moral compromise into their midst. Adults are shocked. Teens have rebelled. End of story, right? Wrong. Here comes the next generation… the kids of the no longer teen-aged. In order to establish their rebel creds, they’ve gotta put something new into the face of their once hip parents. So they lower the bar just a bit more. More moral compromise. With fries on the side.

This theory explains how our society has edged into moral decay. European cultures have even taken this farther; they’ve had to dig great wells in order to lower their bar even farther. That’s why we’re considered prudish. But is responsible sexuality truly prudish? Is maintaining a sense of health and faithfulness in relationships truly a thing of the past? What’s the next level of so-called sexual freedom yet to come?

I’d contend that sexual freedom cannot be found in liberality. Sexual freedom has nothing to do with one’s ability to conquer all territory at will. True freedom comes without risk of shame, disease, brokenness or addiction. Freedom is only expressed when one is truly free from all forces negative. That’s why Christ-followers are truly free… it’s not a license to do as one pleases, it’s a sense of regarding yourself and others with true respect so that the outcome will always be on the positive side of the ledger.

I doubt that many will agree with these sentiments. These are not popular words to express these days. But even more shocking should be the fact that I don’t believe we should force such thinking down the throat of anyone. The only way to make a difference is to live the difference. The greatest way to teach is to lead by example. Zip the mouth, and zip the pants. Once Christians begin to get that right, we might have a chance to free one or two souls along the way.

The Face of Jesus

23 03 2008

I have often heard the criticism that Jesus is wrongly portrayed as blond haired and blue eyed. I have a problem with that; I have never seen such a picture. In all my studies, in all the churches I’ve been in, of all the portrayals in art I’ve been witness to, I have never beheld such a sight. And it points us to a larger truth.

Despite nattering to the contrary, Christian imagery of Jesus is understood to be art and not photographic evidence. Just as we realize that Charlie Brown, Homer Simpson and Regis Philbin are a cartoon characters drawn with artistic license, we also understand the concept of art as imagination.

Around this time of year, that documentary always seems to resurface about what Jesus truly looked like. I’ve included a picture of a man’s face derived from the common traits of the times and region of Christ. I find it wonderfully interesting tothe face of jesus? view this molded visage and imagine all the what-ifs that go along with such a work. Of course we’re also all grown up enough to know that this scientist never suggests that this is exactly what Jesus looked like. It’s merely an archetype.

Some have suggested that Jesus was black. Some say that there is good reason why we don’t know what he looked like (so we wouldn’t worship an icon – good reasoning, no doubt). Some have suggested that Jesus looks like whatever we want Him to look like (rather post-modern in its absurdity).

Since you’ve stuck with me this far, I’ll tell you what I think. I don’t care. I really don’t. I never have needed an image of Christ to help me worship. I find the crucifix to be a penetrating icon that confronts my pride from time to time, but overall I prefer the protestant empty cross signifying resurrection. Both are just fine, mind you. I simply go with what I know.

Which reminds me of the story (I have no idea of its veracity) of the woman looking at jewelry. She mentioned to the young lady helping her that she was looking for a cross. The erudite clerk asked, “Do you want a regular cross, or one with a little man on it?”

What Jesus looked like really doesn’t concern me as much as what He looks like. Make sense? I want to know what He looks like today. We are His ambassadors, we are His living legacy. Christ-followers are the ones who portray Jesus to the world for good or bad. Too often the latter. Has anyone in your neighborhood seen Jesus today? Has anyone at your place of business or school? How ’bout your own family? Your dog is pretty astute at measuring character… has the pooch seen Christ lately? Those who say they follow are those who are given the task of showing Christ to the world. Has anyone in your world seen Him lately?