Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nixon's Henchman Speaks Truth

To many, Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that are ancient history; relegated to a section of the brain alongside Washington crossing the Delaware and One Direction being popular.

Earlier this week, Christians around the globe celebrated another piece of ancient history...the resurrection of Jesus.

Whoa! Wait...what do those two sentences have to do with each other?!!?

The connection is the following quote from Charles "Chuck" Colson, who served prison time because of his role in the administration of Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that.

Truth is...this single line of reasoning may not be enough to convince the skeptical that Jesus really did raise from the dead, but it's a fairly solid rung on that ladder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Troubled by the Truth

The normal phrase is "the truth will set you free", but sometimes the truth will get you in hot water.

Mark 12:1-12 (The Message)

Then Jesus started telling them stories. “A man planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, erected a watchtower, turned it over to the farmhands, and went off on a trip. At the time for harvest, he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect his profits.

“They grabbed him, beat him up, and sent him off empty-handed. So he sent another servant. That one they tarred and feathered. He sent another and that one they killed. And on and on, many others. Some they beat up, some they killed.

“Finally there was only one left: a beloved son. In a last-ditch effort, he sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But those farmhands saw their chance. They rubbed their hands together in greed and said, ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him over the fence.

“What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? Right. He’ll come and clean house. Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to others. Read it for yourselves in Scripture:

That stone the masons threw out
    is now the cornerstone!
This is God’s work;
    we rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!”

They wanted to lynch him then and there but, intimidated by public opinion, held back. They knew the story was about them. They got away from there as fast as they could.

From my journal, January 22, 2001

"They" knew the story was about them, but instead of repenting in tears and agreeing, "Yes! We have rejected God's claim on our lives and lived our own way. Dear God, forgive us!", they get angry and seek out revenge  -  revenge for Jesus having told the truth.

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Truth is...if I find myself getting angry at the truth about myself, I just may be standing on the wrong side of the issue.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Any Given Sunday

I remember the first time I got absolutely gobsmacked with the world-wide nature of being The Church.

Beloved and I were on our first cross-cultural mission experience. On Sunday morning in David, Panama, we sat in what was used as a lottery office the rest of the week. We sang songs. (Well, we hummed along to songs that were sung in Spanish.) We prayed. We read Scripture. And as we ate the bread and drank the juice that reminded us of the sacrifice of Jesus, I happened to glance at my watch and realized that folks back in the church in Indiana where I was serving at the time were eating and drinking at that very time as well.

And an overwhelming sense of unity with all Jesus-followers across the expanse of both space and time burst my heart wide open.

And now, years later, Yahweh brings to my attention a little ditty by Carolyn Arends called Any Given Sunday. It reminds me of all the things people are missing out on when they decide they don't need to be part of a church family.

Truth is...I've been tempted to get depressed lately at seeing so many get so comfortable in NOT gathering together as a church community ("as is the habit of some" Hebrews 10:25). There is a pervasive take-it-or-leave-it attitude that reveals our consumer orientation toward corporate worship. Granted, there are many a local congregation that fall far short of the goal of true fellowship and mutual encouragement, but it will NEVER happen if people who desire those things stay away. If I'm not part of the solution, then I'm part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Just One Person

It was a funeral unlike any other.

Which is only fitting, because Jim Henson was a person unlike any other. Out of a desire to get into the fledgling television industry, Henson morphed into a pioneering puppeteer who understood and used the medium like no one else. From a local, five-minute program that mostly consisted of lip-syncing to crazy records, through the iconic characters he created for Sesame Street, all the way to a worldwide entertainment phenomenon, Jim Henson was a gentle-spirited, soft-voiced powerhouse of creativity.

Almost everything Henson and the Muppets ever did began as an idea in Jim's head, which he would share with his associates, who would catch the vision and eventually make a positive contribution to the world.

But about the funeral...

People were encouraged to dress in brightly-colored clothes. Big Bird walked up the center aisle and sang "It Ain't Easy Bein' Green". There were tears and laughter and a Dixieland band ending it all with "When the Saints Go Marching In".

And in the midst of it was a performance of a song from the musical Snoopy!!!. It was written by Hal Clayton Hackady and Larry Grossman and titled "One Person".

If just one person believes in you 
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you... 
Hard enough, and long enough 
Before you knew it, someone else would think, 
"If he can do it, I can do it." 

Making it two whole people, who believe in you 
Deep enough, and strong enough
Believe in you. 
Hard enough and long enough 
There's bound to be some other person who 
Believes in making it a threesome, 
Making it three..... 
People you can say: believe in me.

And if three whole people, 
Why not four? 
And if four whole people, 
Why not more
and more
and more.... 

And when all those people believe in you
Deep enough, and strong enough, 
Believe in you... 
Hard enough, and long enough 
It stands to reason that you yourself will 
Start to see what everybody sees in 

And maybe even you, 

Can believe in you... too!

Truth is...What begins with just you CAN spread to others. Whether it's self-respect or a creative impulse or a sense of family within a church, let it start with you and infect everyone around you. If a bunch of felt and ping-pong-ball eyes can bring you to tears (the way the above video does me), who KNOWS what wonders can be wrought because of your unique qualities?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Unsocial Media

We have visited the comic strip, Sherman's Lagoon, before, and it's time again to thank Jim Toomey for this bit-o-truth.

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Truth is...while this is funny, it's also not funny.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Glimpse of "A Glimpse..."

Allow me to present an appetizer platter of worthwhile nuggets from Brennan Manning's book, A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-hatred.

  • [Quoting Bernard Bush] I hope it is clear that feelings of guilt, accompanied by anxiety, fear and restlessness, arise from deep within ourselves and are not an accurate gauge of the state of our souls before God. We cannot assume that he feels about us the way we feel about ourselves, unless we love ourselves intensely and freely.
  • Salvation cannot be earned or merited but only humbly and gratefully received as a loving gift from the Father's hand.
  • As in any lovers' quarrel, the making-up not only absolves the past but brings a new depth of trust and security to the relationship. There is more power in sharing our weaknesses than in sharing our strengths....The sinful and repentant prodigal son experienced an intimacy and joy with his Father in his brokenness that his sinless self-righteous brother would never know.
  • I heard Jesus say, "For love of you I left my Father's side. I came to you who ran from me, who fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched and beaten, and fixed to the wood of the cross."
  • Because the mystery of iniquity lurks on the landscape and the power of sin waxes strong within us, we may come to the Lord bucking, screaming, and kicking. The self dies a slow death; the resistance to the Spirit remains real. The readiness to relinquish everything is more a painful process than a mystical zap. "We are accustomed to imagining the experience of conversion or sudden call to grace as an 'Oh, joy!' phenomenon," write Scott Peck. "In my experience,...at the moment we finally listen to the call we may say, 'O thank you, Lord', or we may say, 'O Lord, I am not worthy', or we may say, 'O $#*!, do I have to?'"
  • Recognition of the problem is not the answer. Action is.
  • The Word of God calls into being a faith-community characterized by unity without uniformity. Jesus is the way, but his light is refracted in myriad ways by multiple personalities.

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Truth is...one final quote sums up the whole book: "The first step in liberation from self-hatred is to move from the darkness of self-delusion into the daylight of God's truth."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I was recently struck with the realization that I am totally egocentric when it comes to the pop culture of my upbringing.

What I mean is, I don't recall being 25 or 30 and having people express shock and dismay if I didn't have a working knowledge of Glenn Miller's discography or couldn't recall a particular Milton Berle routine. And yet, I find myself surprised when I have to introduce Jim Croce or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to some young adult today.

And then, while I was in the midst of contemplating this phenomenon, I read an article by Scott Riggan titled "Are We Not Entertained?" The gist of its focus goes like this:

We approach our selection of a church with the same criteria we approach everything else: does it meet my needs? It seems like a reasonable metric, right? After all, if a restaurant doesn’t offer food to your taste, you don’t go back. If you can’t find the clothes you like at a particular store, you won’t shop there again. So it’s not a stretch for us – as consumers – to expect our church to provide programming that clicks for us. A preacher that we agree with – and whose teaching style appeals to us. Music that we like. We expect our church to conform to our preferences.

Riggan says a lot more, and does a good job of balancing the challenging and empathizing aspects of his concept. It's a short article, and I encourage you to CLICK HERE to read the whole thing.

Truth is...Beloved has been trying to get me to see my personal culture-centric issue for quite some time, and I owe her an apology, but the bigger issue here is remembering that worship is not about me.