Out Here Hope Remains

There is hope for the helpless ... Cry Out To Jesus. -- Third Day

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Give Thanks At Thanksgiving!

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday. There will be no astounding articles and incredible insights from me for the rest of this week. Try to survive that. Search the archives if you need more of me. LOLOL Seriously, be safe in your journeys and enjoy what God provides. I look forward to rejoining the blog on the other side of Turkey Day...probably Sunday or Monday. God bless you all. John

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Yard Sale Church

Yard sales are fun to visit. I like to go, but I don't like to get up early ... so most of the "good stuff" is long gone by the time I get there. So I prefer thrift stores...but...sometimes I think that the church is treated like a yard sale church. We have stuff in yard sales that have been replaced by newer brighter editions. So we toss the old one in a closet and one day decide to have a sale. We get the stuff we no longer deem necessary to our lives or our wants and we mark a quarter sale price on it and put it on a table. Not all the people who come by to look actually NEED the stuff they buy ... it's just irresistible to them. So they buy junk, take it home, try to find a use for it, and throw it in the closet for their own yard sale one day. In Malachi the Lord accused His people of offering up blind lambs and second rate crummy sacrifices ... sacrifices the human governor wouldn't even accept. Why offer these up to the King of the Universe, the Lord Almighty? Well, because we think we can get away with it. At least we're doing something! So many people do NOTHING...and our crummy sacrifices ... well ... they're probably good enough. Or so we tell ourselves. We sometimes offer up to the Lord our crummy time, energy, devotion, and effort ... saving our best for the ballfield, or the workplace, or the classroom, or wherever we spend our days. We've all seen Christians bowing down to the gods of Little League, Soccer, Television, Collections, Cars, whatever. No, we wouldn't call them gods...but they occupy most of our time and attention. Who gets the scraps ... the leftovers ... the dregs ... yep ... the Lord Almighty (Malachi uses that term about 20 times in his short book!). So in many people's thinking, the church is a yard sale church. It's meant for leftovers and hand-me-downs. Don't ever give the church your best or your most ... God will be satisfied with the scraps. And we all know that one man's trash is another man's treasure. God wants me to be happy and accepted in my little world ... He doesn't mind. If you think like that, then you are a cheat (Malachi 1:14) and you cause God weariness (Malachi 2:17) and you've spoken harshly about the Lord (Malachi 3:13). The church is no yard sale, a place for the refuse of our lives. It is not a yard sale at all...it is a Macy's where everything is new and there is an ever-changing menu of opportunities. It catches and deserves our full attention! And for every fake bauble and every facade to be found in Macy's, the reality is to be found in the Kingdom! The beauty is true and real! The value is immeasurable!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hank and the Ho Hums

Hank goes to a ho-hum church. Every Sunday morning he drives up to the ho-hum building and gets out of his car. He walks in through the doors and begins to shake hands with very ho-hum people. They smile at each other and ask, "How are you?" and they give the very ho-hum answer, "I'm Fine". They smile at each other as if by saying these words they have been accepted into a particular secret society. Hanks sits in his pew in the ho-hum auditorium. The ho-hum deacon begins with a ho-hum prayer, after which many people say "Amen" in a dry and ho-hum manner. The ho-hum song leader begins directing a very ho-hum hymn, which the ho-hum church manages to sing in a ho-hum way. After a few songs the preacher ascends the pulpit. Every eye takes in his movment as he begins his sermon. This is a moment of some expectation, because sometimes the preacher tells a not-so-ho-hum joke ... but today he only wants to talk about the Bible. So the ho-hum preacher drones on and on until finally we sing one last ho-hum hymn. We stand and ask each other again, "how are you?" and as if we must give the correct answer in order to escape, we answer "fine". Hank leaves the ho-hum church and goes home and sits at the table and beholds a magnificent spread. The enticing richness of aroma is only surpassed by the delicate perfection of taste. Hank relishes every bite and considers himself nearly at heaven's table. Hank gets up and sits in his plush overstuffed leather chair. He massages the buttons on his remote control, surfing to the exciting football game. He yells at the referees and cheers for his team as they drive home touchdown after touchdown until they have finally won the game. Exhausted, Hank fights afternoon drowsies there in his comfortable chair. The beautiful grandfather clock in the corner of his perfectly decorated den chimes that it is half past the hour. In thirty minutes church begins. But it's so ho-hum and he just doesn't think he can do that again today. As he drifts off to sleep, he wonders why things at church are so ho-hum .

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Day Six and Hanging On

And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. -- Genesis 7:10 I know that the BIG story in Genesis 6-7 is God's destruction of the earth via a global flood. Just as BIG a story is God's saving righteous Noah and his family. Also a part of the BIG story is the construction of the ark and the entrance of all the animals (were there mosquitoes on the ark?). Even so, what caught my attention when my friend Les was giving a talk about Genesis 7 was verse 10. Les didn't even remember saying it ... but think about it ... Noah was on the ark for seven days before the floodwaters came. Let's sit down by Noah for a few minutes... DAY ONE Man, I am glad to have this ark built...it nearly kilt me, Lord! And these animals...without your help I'd have never gotten them on here. Ham...stop swatting at that mosquito. We only have two. DAY TWO Ok, today we're going to get these animals organized...got to keep the carnivores away from the macrobiotic animals (Steve, you are smiling, aren't you!) ... how did this ark get to be such a mess in just two days? Ham...no...you cannot tie the foxes tails together ... Samson will do that later. (sorry, I read ahead) DAY THREE Noah walks around humming "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and looking up. Ham...I don't know what we would call a roast pig... we cannot eat him anyway. DAY FOUR Noah peers over the side of the ark and looks at the crowd gathered down below. They actually made signs. Does that one say "Bon Voyage" or "Boy, You're The Village Idiot". Ham ... please... I beg you ... stop teaching the chimpanzees to toss their dookie. DAY FIVE Lord, did I make a mistake? Did you mean for me to do something else? Was all of this just so I would learn a lesson? If I ever get off of this boat, I'm going to get a stiff drink. Ham ... would you find Shem and Japheth and get a game of monopoly going? Anything...just ... nevermind. DAY SIX Honey, do you think we ought to get off? The animals are restless, and they stink. The people have written graffiti on the side of the boat. They stand around and gawk and throw rocks up on deck all day long. I bet God is laughing at us. Let's just get off the boat ... ok? No? Wait one more day? Why? We're not supposed to know about Naaman dipping seven times in Jordan yet! DAY SEVEN I don't believe it. Would you look at that water coming from the sky? Amazing! And so much of it. The people with the signs are gone now. The boat is starting to tilt and sway back and forth. I hope the thing actually floats. Ham...get up here...get a look at this. My God. What day do you tend to live in? I think sometimes I spend too much time on day six ... maybe I missed the boat somewhere. But I've been there when the boat rocked and it became obvious that God's way was right. God, please help me keep my focus on the seventh day ... the time when your will comes to pass ... and may my heart be ready.

Easier To Swallow

To put words to the actions that describe how I live, I’d have to tell you that I live with the “Eat the fish spit out the bones” mentality. I’m constantly searching for truth. A friend of mine made a statement the other day, “The search for the truth will always lead us back to Jesus.” I think he was right in more ways than one: the truth will lead us to Jesus; and if we search correctly, our attitude will be that of Christ Jesus. We’ve taken several van rides to youth rallies, camps, and areawide devos in the last two years since I’ve been here. I can just about tell you who is going to be the speaker at each event, depending on where we travel. Fortunately, we are blessed to hear great messages that “step on our toes,” uplift us, and challenge us. Unfortunately, there are some speakers that mostly just step and talk down to our students. “Why do we have to go listen to that person speak?” and “I don’t like him, the way he talks” are two responses I hear when I announce travel plans for events with certain speakers. My response? “I know you may not like to listen to the person speak, but find just one good thing, that is all I ask. Find one good and true thing the preacher says and take it home with you. Tune out all the other stuff and focus in on the truth. Eat the fish, spit out the bones.” Here are the song lyrics to “Head Over Feet”, by Alanis Morissette: “I had no choice but to hear you, You stated your case time and again, I thought about it, You treat me like I'm a princess, I'm not used to liking that, You ask how my day was, Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole, You're so much braver than I gave you credit for, That's not lip service, You are the bearer of unconditional things, You held your breath and the door for me, Thanks for your patience, You're the best listener that I've ever met, You're my best friend, Best friend with benefits, What took me so long, I've never felt this healthy before, I've never wanted something rational, I am aware now, I am aware now, You've already won me over in spite of me, And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet, Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are, I couldn't help it, It's all your fault”. Re-read her words again, and pretend that she wrote the song to God as a thank you. I want God’s love to swallow me whole...to heal me and make me feel healthy again...I want him to be my best friend with the benefits of Jesus’ blood...God made his case time and time again and He has won me over in spite me and how I run away...I am aware now of his plan for my life…I’ve fallen head over feet. (copied from "Steve's Weekly Bulletin Article" 11/14/04)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Where is the Deadness?

A lot of the church strategies I have seen relate to injecting life into dead worship services. Jerry Jones teases about the three "P's" of church growth: Praise Team, Plastic Pulpit, and Power Point. Do we believe that if we energize the one-hour worship service that something grand is going to happen? And what of those who are suffering from spiritual deadness? When they come into the assembly they can detect that there are some new things. The graphic presentation of power point, new songs tossed into the mix, maybe even a newer freer spirit. But to a dead person, these are just doo-dads made for church people to pass the time. We look for life in the wrong places. Dead people will always be dead, until they are resurrected in spirit by the power of Christ. I don't think Jesus cares if we clap or not, raise hands or not, use the NIV or NKJV or MYOB ... but the thing that does matter to him is whether or not our hearts have been revived by His power and raised to life. Sometimes we might be tempted to ask those who are so blase about the whole thing... what would it take to get you to show even a little interest? Wrong question. The right question revolves around asking them to see the living Jesus. Truly, some people see Jesus and yawn and move on. They are so jaded by their own relentless pursuit of sin that there isn't anything to offer Christ. And what Christ has to offer doesn't seem very appealing. The deadness is not in a traditional service, or a contemporary service. It is in the hearts of men who do not care that Jesus is alive. The demons where planning on having a party one night. They got beer and Jack Daniels and pretzels, a little Red wine, and some white. They were celebrating how they crucified Christ, on that tree. But Satan, the snake himself, wasn't so at ease. He took his crooked finger and he dialed the phone by his bed, To call an old faithful friend, to know for sure, that he was dead. He said, "Grave, Grave tell, did my plan fail?" Old Grave just lauged and said, "Oh man, the dude is dead as nails." ---- Sunday's On The Way, Carman

in case of a mid-life crisis

alternative for mid life crisis purchases... #1 clean out your closet of everthing you haven't worn in the last six months, because take it from me you won't wear it again...(by the time i finally lost enough weight to fit into my old smaller clothes they were so out of style that even teenagers wouldn't have wanted to buy them at a thrift store even if they spraypainted and saftey pinned them...so throw them out now while Goodwill can actually sell them) #2 give away something that you love dearly to a close friend (that does not live in your house) #3 throw a bunch of stuff away...if you died right now, how much crap that you think is made of gold would your family pick up and go, "this is crap, throw it out"(I'll definitly have to start taking my own advice on this one...I've got boxes and stacks of things "i can't live without" yet i rarely look at or use them. I know as soon as i die my wife will go, "ok that stuff we could have thrown out years ago that Steve never touched or used but 'had to have' that junk's all in the trash now he's kicked the can.") i vote for doing the opposite of what we want to do. a midlife crisis is all about validating our selves and what we've accomplished on this earth. buying something to say to ourselves "i've made it! i've done my time and i deserve this" let's validate our selves and our work on this earth by saying..."i've made it! i've done it. i've arrived. here is my wisdom about life. take what i have, i don't need it anymore."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Happy Birthday Stevie

Today is fellow blogger and friend Steve's birthday! Happy Birthday, Steve. Sorry I didn't get to talk to you today. Glad you and Joel got to visit, though. There are not many "Happy Birthday" songs. It's kind of hard to improve on the traditional "Happy Birthday to You". It has all the right elements. It's a happy tune (kind of essential), it states the fact of the matter (it is your birthday), and it even has your name in it (we all like to hear our names). I did hear a death and dirge one once: Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday There's Pollution In the Air People Dyin' Everywhere Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday The Lane family in our church has a habit of singing "happy birthday" in the loudest, most obnoxious, out-of-tune manner possible...it's fun...they fall apart in a big laugh afterwards. I'm annoyed by the restaurants who have all their servers come out and do a version of Happy Birthday. Usually it's loud, unenthusiastic, has that horrendous clapping ... and even sometimes it's in Spanish. This is only acceptable at Hooters, but that is another post. Birthdays.... I've had 40 of them ... and believe me I'm grateful for each one! They do seem to come more often now, but that's something that old people say, and maybe I shouldn't go around saying that yet. At my age, I'm supposed to have a mid-life crisis. I have been trying to think of how I can do that without another woman, without going into incredible debt buying a foreign sports sedan, or getting a newer younger wardrobe. I don't think any of those things will do the trick, though. I am thinking more about my life in the big arena of God's kingdom ... and how I sometimes feel very small and insignificant. Yet at the same time I know that God has used me in ways I will never be able to understand ... and that is an exciting potential. So when I have a birthday in a few weeks, I will rejoice in His will ... even though the world is telling me I'm done. Happy Birthday, Steve. God has used you to bless my life in some unexpected ways. Be blessed, my friend. I love you.

Monday, November 08, 2004

take out time to rest

thank you all for your recents posts i've been having problems commenting on posts lately, so i ran on over to john's office today and i thought i'd just post we've gone deeper, in to our own spirituality and examining it closer...more than i ever thought it's so easy to be shallow, but here's my post: what is a "day off" in ministry? there is no such a thing. i isolated myself for a whole day last tuesday...no prayer, no study, just going to vote, sent one email, and slept all day at the house and hung out with my child. there must be a better way, it was horrible. it was good, i got some rest, but i felt so alone. we in ministry will spend most of our off time with church people, talking about ministry, or talking to people who need the love of Jesus...we can't help it, we are always "on" tell me, what do you think ministers can do to rest with out being isolated? please comment if you can and let me know... (i'm starting to wonder if i should get some hobbies)

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Keeping people at a distance is for some an act of deception, and for some an act of survival. It sounds a bit incongruous for a Christian to talk about purposefully keeping people at a distance. The Kingdom is all about relationships ... something that has been neglected in favor of correctness. It's good to be right, but people can be saved without being right. If they are saved without relationships, they wonder what's so great about being saved. Not that I think I'm all that unique, but I think I'm a bit like a starfish. Keeping arms out in all directions. What a conflict! The arms hope to touch the lives of those around with God's good news, but those same arms serve to keep others at a respectable distance. I have learned that one must practice great caution when allowing anyone past the ends of my arms. They get awfully close to my heart. I doubt that any of us were born to be starfish. We are so dependent as children, totally trusting in the grace and love of another. Over time, some of us get tossed around by the riptides. Sometimes being tossed against the coral leaves permanent scarring. A few years ago I was tossed against the coral in a riptide that caught me by surprise. It was a truly damaging event. Like others before me, I learned to be cautious in exercising trust. If I could be so easily and willingly caught by surprise, then can I really let anyone enter in closer than arm's length? Still, I'm not claiming to be alone. There is One who can be trusted ... He who is above all, and who knows me so intimately. I don't know why He would want me - He knows all my secrets! But I believe He does love me. And that makes me hopeful. There is a certain amount of fakery in keeping one's distance. In trying not to appear aloof or untouchable, Starfish like me smile our best smiles, no matter what's going on inside. We tell ourselves that this is not so bad...it's better than walking around all morose and withdrawn. Who wants to live that kind of life? So what do the starfish do? We remain at a distance for the most part. Occasionally, even rarely, we allow someone in a little closer. The world is often cold and I would guess that there are many starfish carefully making their way along the journey. The challenge for a starfish is to let go and roll with the current of God's Spirit. This may be the most difficult thing for a starfish to do. Thank you for wanting to move in closer. Be patient. The time may come. She's asked me to dance, Now her hand's in mine Oh, my God, I've forgotten her name But I'm gonna smile my best smile And I'm gonna laugh like it's going out of style Look into her eyes and pray that she don't see That learning to live again is killing me -- Learning To Live Again, Garth Brooks

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What We Want

I need You as my refuge My first and last resort Be the river always running Through my deepest thoughts Keep me in Your arms 'Cause even when I drift I want to love You better than this -- "Renew Me", Avalon Sometimes we say we want to do something or to be a certain way, but our actions lead us in another direction. "I want to be thin." I can say that, and I even believe it. I can detect in my heart the ache to become healthier and attain a more attractive body. But the brownies that I ate tonight betray the truth - it is not what I really want. A friend used to say, "People do what they really want to do." I think this is mostly true (though don't tell him I said so - I used to argue with him all the time about this matter!). I've noticed that people do what they really want to do. If we want something bad enough (money, control, sex, acceptance, attention) we will go to great lengths to get it - even subconsciously. So what about religious speak? Do we sometimes hear people say that they want to be more committed to Christ? Or perhaps that they desire to be used by God to reach the lost? "I wish I had more time to read my Bible." These are glaring statements of untruth. The person who wants these things will veer their life towards things that make them a potential. Wishing for them will not bring them into our lives. I wish I could stop the bad habit of (fill in the blank here). Really? Habits are not always easy to break, but it is completely within our grasp. You can make the change if you really desire to. I can point to people who have left behind that which clings to your mind and brings you to your knees in self-defeat. I think what I need sometimes is a good case of wanting to want something better in my walk with God. The "want" is not always there. That is scary. What do we really want ... more than anything else? Evidence will be seen in our lives as we persue our wants. I want you to want me I need you to need me I'd love you to love me I'm beggin' you to beg me -- "I Want You To Want Me", Cheap Trick

The Ultimate "Game"

Well it was a good weekend in Starkville Mississippi. We had twelve go to Discover 2004 for the weekend. They put us all up in houses of the members there and were terrific host and hostess. The title for the weekend was Discovering the Battle, and what a great battle we are in today against Satin and this world we live in. Satin is alive and well. There is a Movie, I can’t remember the title of, but I remember a line from it. The main character once states, “Killin is my business…and business is good.” Well although not the best movie that I have ever seen, this line reminds me of satin and his “business” of leading many hearts and souls into spiritual death. Of course as we know the outcome of this spiritual war is victory in Gods corner. The battle truly lies within the heart of the individual. Yes: yours and mine. I was able to teach the ninth graders this weekend during one of the class sessions. I dropped by my alameda and pulled a few strings and was able to get a full set of football gear, from the knee pads all the way up through a helmet. I put a few teens up to the task of trying to assemble the gear and get ready as if we were about to play a football game. You see life here on this earth is simply a game. It’s Christians and their coach against the world and their coach. It seams like an unfair game at times. Everybody is out on the field at the same time. Their really are no “bench warmers” in this game, although there appears to be many. They are on the field also playing the game. Their participation is just as needed and important as those who are eat, sleep, and breathe the game. Paul calls this “game” a race. We are all running. He tells us that, “in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don't you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious (1 Cor. 9:24).” Both sides or teams have some types of advantages though. For the world’s team their advantage is their great number of players and their ability to disguise themselves as something good or worthy. Yet these advantages are not in any manor superior to those of us on the other team or THE TEAM. We have the greatest Coach and Coaching Staff ever. Their knowledge, ability, and power is infinite. Their tactics and plays are flawless. All we have to do is follow the “play book” that has been drawn up by this magnificent staff. Actually my father is the head coach, my heavenly father that is. And his Assistant Coaches are without a doubt second to none. If you are on this “championship” team, I am proud to be playing with you. But if you are not or haven’t been playing at your full potential, you need to step up to the plate. There aren’t any bench warmers in this game as I mentioned earlier. Which team are you playing on? In HIM, Kirt

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

God's Whispers

It is hard not to be haunted by what should have been. It is equally difficult to ignore what should be by now. Whether in our own personal lives, careers, education, or religion we live in the shadow of great expectations. Are they our own expectations of ourselves? Are they profoundly influential expectations of our parents ... expectations that still live in our hearts and minds? Do we think God expected more out of us and is fairly disappointed in us? We can find ourselves in the position of giving God very little credit, as if He is obligated to agree with our parents, or our priests, or our own perceptions. So we find very little acceptance or respite from our fears in his arms. He is the father who never could say, "I love you". He is the father who never could be pleased. He is the father who in the critical moments doesn't come through for us. And in this view of Him, we shortchange His race and doubt His mercy. In the quiet moments we reflect on our days and we feel that so little has been accomplished. We know we could have worked harder, and we know that our failures belong to us. It is then that we need to hear the gentle whipser of His acceptance. And what would God whisper in your ear? I think God whispers into the Christian's ear, "I know ... and it's ok." I don't think He would lie to us and tell us we were really grand, if we were not. I don't think He would gloss over our failure and say, "It was probably a lot better than you thought." I think He would just like us to know that He knows. Whatever has happened, He knows. And He loves, more than any other. Peter went outside and wept bitterly after his denials. Our Father knew Peter's pain and on the beach later Jesus would basically say to Peter, "I know...and it's ok." God accepts us more than we accept ourselves. He knows our weakness. He knows our hearts. Let's back away from our great expectations of ourselves. Instead, let's let God decide who is worth loving and accepting. "You never thought you'd be alone this far down the line and I know what's been on your mind, you're afraid it's all been wasted time. ...And maybe someday we will find that it wasn't really wasted time." -- Don Henley / Glenn Frey

Monday, November 01, 2004

What Has Life Done To Us?

In an uninformed and overtly broad characterization, I would like to say that the people of the 1940s and 1950s seem to me to be an honest, compassionate, selfless generation. I learned that by watching Happy Days and Leave it to Beaver, but I still think it's mostly true. In my vision of how time flies when you're having fun, the 1960s and early 1970s saw a predominant cultural shift toward selfishness. "Do your own thing" was a fashionable form of selfishness, as was the sexual revolution. As the Seventies merged into the Eighties, economic prosperity took hold of the American landscape. The joys of getting the most toys became more interesting than sex. The parents of the Baby Boomers were wondering if they were out of their minds when they were busy making all those children. But now the Boomers had come into their own and they took the culture by storm. They felt they deserved all of the amenities for which their parents had worked so hard. But, they wanted them NOW. There's nothing much sadder for a gadget-addicted Baby Boomer than to see a commercial for his favorite gadget, except that now it is new and improved. And he doesn't have it. His old one goes on the junk pile in the double garage. He gets his already overburdened credit card and purchases the new model. There is no end to it. We are burned out, stressed, depressed, disfuntional, and we find in this propserous life nothing to help us cope. I think Americans have taken a long look at themselves and turned away from the vision. What did they see? *Their empty persuit of supreme gagetry has proven worthless. *Government cannot be trusted. Presidents can be murdered. Presidents can lie with a straight face. Presidents can turn the Oval Office into a brothel. Presidents can bring us into war. *Civility. I seem to remember what that was...what is that? We are reaping the benefits of generations of selfishness. If you have everything you could want but you are still unhappy, the natural conclusion is that there is something wrong with you. And I think this is what our lives have done to us. Our lives have convinced us that there's not much in us to love. The generations are looking at each other and pointing the finger of blame. This is a culture that loathes itself. It hides behind bizarre behavior, mutiliation of skin and flesh, and the hopelessness is exposed in the codeword "whatever". Even Christian music these days is filled with self-damning lyrics that are morose and dark as they take a microscopic look at our sin before God and our inability to be righteous on our own. Yes, it is a Biblical theme, but there is more news...good news. I think life in the twenty-first century has presented us with some troubling circumstances. This is what life has done to us. It was the liberal parent who let us do whatever we wanted to do. We ate too much in the candy store and now our tummy aches. I don't know what all the answers are, but I do know that God has them. At least I think He is the only One who can reverse the effects of selfishness in our lives. He can rebuild our broken lives. I can understand why many in the world do not believe this (just look at us!). Why do we not believe it?