Out Here Hope Remains

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sunday Confessions

Ok Blog Readers ... This is Sunday Confessin' Time (Even though I posted it Saturday night!). I know you won't want to admit these things ... but let's get it out in the open. Confession is good for the soul ... and we all know our soul is important! How many of you will dare fill out the following survey in your comments??? 1. In your e-mail program (Outlook Express for me) ... how many emails are there in the inbox? 2. How old is the oldest email in your inbox? 3. How many blogs do you regularly check on a given day (do not round down!)... really. 4. How many e-mail discussion groups are there of which you are currently a member? 5. Do you check your e-mail before your first cup of coffee in the moring, or after? 6. If you get up in the night for necessary business ... do you check your email before going back to bed? 7. How many e-mail addresses belong to you? 8. Have you ever subsribed to AOL (I know, major shame factor here...but it's good for you!)? 9. If finances demanded it, which would you cut first? (a) Cable TV (b) Cell Phone (c) Internet 10. How long has it been since you sent a handwritten note of encouragement in snail mail? Absolution is coming ... but confession must precede!


If 600 people were coming to watch you walk down an aisle in a fancy dress, you had to feed all of them, the details of music and decorations and trying to please everyone and make sure that the day was perfect in every way, would you want to run away? Jennifer Wilbanks ran away. I woke up way too early for a Saturday morning. While thunderstorms rolled by outside I was able to see all of the events as they happened. For days the news of Jennifer's disappearance troubled the down of Duluth, Georgia. Many manhours were spent searching and re-searching the areas in a 5 mile radius. Then about 1:00 this morning she called. She's safe. Kidnapped ... but she escaped. The handsome happy groom was thrilled. Up all night, the family and friends and pastor proclaimed a miracle from God. I even drifted into a happy sleep, knowing that somtimes things just turn out right. The FBI newsconference was on when I awoke from my nap. It turns out that Jennifer was not kidnapped ... she just had to have some time alone. So she went to Vegas, and ultimately to Albequerque. This family has a lot to deal with, and I know that their faith in Christ will help them as they struggle with it. Jennifer is not alone in following her impulse to escape. The Bible is full of characters who did impulsive things that later brought them sorrow. One laughed at angels. Another exchanged his birthright for lunch. Yet another swore around a fire. I intimately know a certain blogger who has done some impulsive things before, and lived to regret them. There are times when the pressures of life make us desperate and we can easily being to move on impulse. Impulsive words, thoughts, and actions usually get us into trouble. There have been times when getting on board a bus and heading to Vegas seemed like an excellent stress buster. But most of us think through the consequences of such actions and we are content to daydream a bit and then start to deal with the reality of our lives moment by moment. Does God ever do something impulively? I think in a way he does. He impulsively moves toward love, grace, and mercy. He seeks salvation and abundant life for his creation. The difference between God's impulses and ours is that His are eternally pure. Ours generally revolve aoround our own selfishness. If we are going to go on impulse, let's let it be God's impulses ... the fruit of His Spirit in our live moving us closer to His heart. Heads Carolina, tails California Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer Up in the mountains, down by the ocean Where it don't matter, long as we're goin' Somewhere together, I've got a quarter Heads Carolina, tails California -- Jo Dee Messina,

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Join The Divine Conspiracy

The Spiritual Formation Yahoo Group will begin reading DallasWillard's THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY on May 1st. You are invited to join us for the journey. Here's the details: 1. We will read / discuss one chapter per week, begining on May 1st. 2. We are not looking for long essays or reviews ... questions,experiences, thoughts, reflections are all welcome. 3. We will maintain a sweet spirit of support and encouragement. Debating is not a part of the plan, nor will it be allowed. 4. Divine Conspiracy posts will be labeled "DC1: subject" (DivineConspiracy, chapter one, subject of post). That way if you want tojoin in that discussion you can do so from the web or via e-mail and not have to sort through other posts that might not be of interest. 5. This is very loosely structured on purpose. 6. Divine Conspiracy is available at your favorite Christian retailer, on the net, or perhaps even in your local library or church library. If you have to order it, do it today! Check Amazon used books for potential savings. Feel free to pass this information along to those who you believe may be interested. If you want to join in, send an e-mail HERE or join on the web HERE.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Christian Affirmation?

On page 15 of THE CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE is a one-page article called A CHRISTIAN AFFIRMATION. It can also be read HERE. I was taught that we were the creedless people, 'no creed but Christ'. And this is, simply, a creedal statement. I was also surprised by some of the names associated with this creedal statement. It's hard to know the motive behind something like this. Clearly, there is division astir within churches of Christ (what's new?) ... but shall we overcome that by banding together with a slicker, more contemporarily worded, shortened "Why I Am A Member of the Church of Christ"? With all due respect to the departed brother Brownlow, I question that unity can ever been brought about through commitment to a laundry list of doctrines. It looks to me like some guys (I see no women have signed the list) got together and said, "The church is going to hell in a handbasket...let's fix it." And their attempt to fix things is to present a creed that we can all agree upon. Some will cheer, some will snooze, some will be upset. In all, unless our unity is in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we have no unity. This is a 'Christian Affirmation' as far as I can tell. But what is it for? A warning? A call back to restoration (by subscribing to tradition!!!)? A formation of a new denomination? A line in the sand? I don't know. What do you think? Do you care?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Swiftly We're Turning

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Today I walked into their room at the hospital. He lay there at the mercy of medical intervention. She stood by his side, tending to every need that she could address. They were in their nineties. She was sharply dressed and outwardly appreciative of a short visit for prayer and encouragement. I've met other elderly people like her. They have a lifetime of experiences and they know that time is short. They watch for a moment to slip a story into the conversation. They share the riches of their experiences generously. So she told me that they had been sweethearts since the first grade. Now how many people do you know that can tell a story like that? I think if I had a few hours to give her, she could have filled my mind with images of days gone by ... days with her wonderful companion. In our five minutes together she filled four of them with a small sliver of her story. Unknowingly she stroked his chest and his hair, and rested comfortably in her affection. Now that I think about it, I am blessed to know several aged couples who are not shy to express their love for one another. They hold hands like teenagers and they look at each other with eyes that drink in the beauty of another. Physical beauty has faded long ago. Evidence of the breakdown of the body is visible. But I think that when they look at one another they simply do not see it. Somewhere frozen in time is a photograph of their lover at the perfect moment. And when they look, they do not see the sagging skin, dark spots, wounds that are slow to heal, removable teeth, nor the wiry gray hair growing from nostril, ear, and brow. They do not see pants pulled up too high, socks that do not match, and suspenders that are twisted. They are oblivious to the makeup that is a bit too much ... a result of eyesight that isn't quite enough. Not every love story lasts from first grade to the grave. I want my love story to last all the way to the end. I want our days to be filled with the stories of our days together. I hope we are able to share a brightness and hope with younger couples who wonder if they will make it. I hope that Maggy and I will be old together and that we will enjoy those days with vigor and hope. I suppose that if that is what we want, then we are even now living the story that we will share in retrospect later. Every day pushes us closer to that time that seems so far away from now. The times ahead seem far away. When we look at time already past we recognize that we are not on a kindly merry-go-round, but a swift rollercoaster. Wherever you find yourself today, and with whomever you find yourself, use the time you have left to build a beautiful love story. It's challenging to a lunker like me ... but let's try. Maybe some of us will amaze someone who comes to visit us in our last days with some marvelous stories of life. "Swiftly we're turning life's daily pages, Swiftly the hours are turning to years."

Monday, April 25, 2005

What's On the Country's Mind These Days?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Al Sturgeon's DESPERATE HOUSEFLIES post for today had me thinking about country music. I grew up listening to country music in our home, but I've always enjoyed most types of music. The past few years I have been totally sold out to contemporary Christian. I think the first person I heard criticize the idea of only listening to contemporary Christian was Jay Bakker. His point was that we will not know what is on people's minds, what really matters to them, unless we are in touch with their music. The biggest selling songs are big sellers because they speak to the heart of the contemporary. So, I've decided to do a little research to see what's on a country music fan's mind these days. I'm using Billboard's top ten hot country songs as a resource. ANYTHING BUT MINE by Kenny Chesney is about living a fantasy ... a summer romance which is perfect in every way except that it is coming to an end...tomorrow. IT'S GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME by Brooks and Dunn is about recovery from a broken heart. The things that used to be so difficult are not as hard as they once were. There's hope for tomorrow! GONE by Montgomery Gentry is a line-in-the-sand let's be perfectly clear this relationship is over song. THAT'S WHAT I LOVE ABOUT SUNDAYS by Craig Morgan reflects on small town Sundays where everyone knows everybody, and family traditions give stability and strength to otherwise mundane lives. MY GIVE A DAMN'S BUSTED by Jo Dee Messina chronicles a woman's relationship with a neurotic man who blames his troubles on everyone and everything but himself. Finally, she has no compassion left to offer him. She just can't give a damn any more! IF HEAVEN by Andy Griggs looks back to the past ... to happier times and declares that if heaven is like those times, then it is enough for him. Sounds like life isn't too great right now, but there was a time when it was superb. HOMEWRECKER by Gretchen Wilson is a tough girl-to-girl chat in which the singer threatens to kick the butt of the one who is after her man. The confession, "Now honey I'm a Christian...", isn't enough to get in her way of threatening the 'other woman'. HONKY TONK U by Toby Keith traces his summers spent at a bar owned by his grandmother, to playing in a band, and to having his own band. He has played in bar rooms across the US and outside of the country. These are his credentials to claim to be a graduate from Honky Tonk U. I don't know if this has anything to do with his listeners or not. BABY GIRL by Sugarland pits the hopeful dreams of a wanna-be-country-music-star against the reality of not having enough money to buy food to eat. Each chorus is a letter back home. The singer has optimism without any basis for optimism. In that way it is a bittersweet song. WHAT'S A GUY GOTTA DO by Joe Nichols pushes all the fantasy world aside to say that he's having a hard time getting a girl, and he doesn't know why. He tries the strategies that are suggested to him, but they never have the result he's looking for. Right now I'm resisting the urge to search for trends in these top ten songs ... I want to analyze them, see why they seem to speak to our country music culture today ... but I'll leave that to you. Do any of these songs speak to your heart today? I'm interested.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Unexpected Mercies

Let me tell you about this preppy white dude who was walking down in a part of town where he needed a blade to protect himself. Unfortunately, he didn't carry a weapon. That's bad news because three punk drug addicts jumped him and beat the hell out of him. They took his money and left him in the alley bleeding and nearly dead. Lucky for him, there was this street preacher who was always shouting about Jesus who walked by. The preacher glanced down the alley and saw the nearly dead man. Well, it would have been lucky for him if the street preacher cared about anything but himself. He just walked on by, shouting about Jesus to the homeless people he passed and throwing tracts at them. I've heard they use the tracts for toilet paper when there isn't any available. So, he serves a purpose but not the one he thinks he does. But don't forget about the dude in the alley. He has lost a lot of blood by now, but his luck is about to change. A social worker was coming by. Now this lady was sharp and no doubt she knew some agency that could help the guy. Her importance was obvious when you looked at her black leather attache case, long coat, and the severe way her hair was pulled back tightly into a bun on the top of her head. She looked down that alley right at the boy in the pool of blood. Too bad for him that she was on her way to snatch some kids from some parents who let their kids miss too much school last month. Important stuff. He sighed as he heard the clack of her high heeled shoes on pavement fading as she walked away. By now the guy was barely breathing. All the people who were supposed to help him just glanced at him and forgot about him. He felt like a piece of human trash there in the alley. He was dizzy, dirty, and now in his own urine and blood he was going to die like a roach in a garbage can. It was then that he felt some hands on his head and shoulders. He looked up, squinting through cloudy eyes to see this black dude dressed in rags. His last bit of hope lapsed and he could not even speak to tell the man that all of his money had already been taken. The black dude put a bandana on his face and wiped away some of the blood. He then ran away. Left for dead, he had no idea how long it had been, but he woke up on a cot in the mission. The black dude was beside him with a clean wet rag, washing his wounds. He offered a sip of ice water to the man's dry lips. The black man did not say anything. He opened up the hand of the man on the cot and placed some coins in his hand, about 90 cents. He got up and left. The boy on the cot didn't know it, but the black man went back to his favorite place to beg. He brought the wounded man some of the money he had begged from others. In a few days the white dude got up from the cot and made his way back out into the street. He never again saw the black man who blessed him with unexpected mercies. But there on the other side of the street was the street preacher shouting that Jesus was coming again. He was carrying a big sign that said "Jesus Is Coming Soon." He thought to himself, "He has been here all along." (Luke 10, sort-of)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bridges or Walls?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Truth be told, when I moved into my office 12 and a half years ago, I didn't like it. I didn't like the shelves. I didn't like the walls. I didn't like the long frosted windows that are too high up on the wall. I didn't like the carpet. I didn't like the brown curtains. I did like the desk. I also liked the picture on the wall, until the former preacher came and took it with him - it was his. So we had shelves built and I have since added six shelf units (bookaholic here). We covered the walls with a loud obnoxious wallpaper that I liked at the time. We have replaced the window a/c unit with a newer one. I have some of my small ceramic dogs and coffee mugs that I collect around. I have many pictures of my family in frames. I have my beloved computer. I still have the carpet and windows I didn't like. I bought a new (used) lamp for my desk that I really like. But in all, it's a comfortable room. Too comfortable. In creating the office I wanted, I built the walls around me. From within these four walls I can communicate with the world, and yet nobody at all. I can write words that people like to read, and never speak to anyone. I can create bulletins that will go into 300 homes, but not shake anyone's hand. I can write notes of concern, but not give a hug. I can create websites accessible to anyone on planet earth, but not have a meaningful talk with a hurting person. I can read enough theology to make me an expert who can answer most questions without a blink, but seldom teach a soul about Jesus. This week I have purposefully done some things to build bridges to other people. I don't want to talk about what these things are, it's not important. But I have been out of my cave some this week. I have set some things in motion that will require that I get out the cave more. And that means I've been building bridges. I need to tell you I'm not a very good bridge builder. I panic in conversations and cannot remember the name of the person I'm talking to - even if I've known them a long time. My mind races as I try to think of something ... Anything ... To talk about. I am sometimes overeager and talk too much, probably even annoying the person I'm trying to build a bridge with. It would be a lot easier for me to not bother trying to build bridges. That is an option I would consider except that I have yielded my life to the master bridge builder. He builds bridges that no one can build. His bridges extend to those whom no one else even wanted to build a bridge. He did, after all, build a bridge to me. As the second greatest commandment instructs, I will build bridges to my neighbors. I can't do that from my comfortable office with the big maroon chair, the loud wall paper, the hundreds of books, the buzzing air conditioner, the bright lamp, and the pictures of my family. Bridge building is a bit scary, but at the same time it is incredibly exciting. The kingdom of God unfolds before bridge builders taking them to places they never dreamed, and touching the hearts of people they never thought possible. Even when the bridge builder doesn't know it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Zip Your Pants Up, Preacher!

There is an old Disney movie called "The North Avenue Irregulars". It's a 1979 silly slapstick comedy with Karen Valentine, Cloris Leachman, Ruth Buzzi. In the plot (word used loosely here) a new preacher moves to town. In one scene he notices during the service that his zipper is down. In a moment of brilliance he calls for prayer and then while bowing and praying he zips up his pants. Of course when he stands back up his tie is caught in his zipper and "hilarity" ensues. I think I really liked this movie because of the people I watched it with ... You know ... We would have laughed at Ryan O'Neal weeping for Ali McGraw in Love Story ("Love means never having to say you're sorry." bahahahahaha). The laughter was more because of the company than the movie. Anyhoo...I think I'm dating myself here with these old movies. Back to zippers and preachers. Giant fear here. I even had a dream recently that I was standing in front of the church (and not even behind the pulpit) with zipper down and one of our young members coming up and standing in front of me to tell me my zipper was down. I'm turning red just thinking about it! I know there are more important things going on in the world but I do have an observation. Re-reading my last post, I was really tempted to delete it from the record. I felt like I was standing before you with my zipper down. That is to say, that I am a bit embarrassed by my petty rant. But I know a lot of people have already read it. So I could not exorcise it from the blog and just have a little secret sin. Exposing my need to forgive (and forget-God help me!) was good for me. While I call for others to be accepting, I need to be accepting of others. If I am going to champion the cause of releasing offenders from our indebtedness, I must release others from my debt. Since I am directing others toward the Christ and growing more like Him, then I must grow to be more like Him. Even when I don't want to. Especially when I don't want to.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Drawing the Lines Then Asking For Favors

I think people today are too quick to draw their line in the sand. This includes both the 'progressive' thinkers and the very 'conservative' thinkers. It includes those who think very little, and those who think very much. No matter where we stand, we can feel really good about our positions and understandings. We can also feel superior to other people who do not stand where we do. As we all know, sometimes the painful divorce occurs and someone draws their line in the sand and marches off to another church or worse, out of the church business. Most often they operate in another church, playing better games by more specific rules. Often those left behind wonder what went wrong ... and why someone had to leave. But with no communication, various feelings can develop (dismissal, anger, revenge, hurt, fear, lack of trust, etc.). What I find so interesting is the way that some who leave still want to hang on to certain aspects of fellowship. On the one hand a brother cannot sit for one hour in a building and worship the same Father with you, but he still wants you to send him the church bulletin so he can keep up with what's going on. A sister cannot attend worship with you, but she still wants you to come to her social events that she has planned. Someone who will speak ill of you to others and who believes that you are in error still wants you to place someone on the prayer list who is ill. Is it just me or did someone who will not set foot in the church building for one hour just ask me to participate with them in the giving of gifts at a party where we will be together? I'm not trying to be snotty or get away with not giving a gift, but I feel a big "H-E-L-L-OOOOOO" coming on! I mean, are we able to segment our lives this neatly? If someone decides not to be in fellowship with me, that should apply across the board, shouldn't it? I guess I could be a good johnny boy and just go along to get along. But there is something about all of this that raises my ire! It is not a dislike or hatred for the people who seem to not know that they drew a line in the sand, far from it. In fact, most of the people who have decided to leave our church a few years ago are wonderful people and I mostly have no idea why they left. But there is a misunderstanding here of what is going on. If we are no longer worthy of one's company, why do you want our prayers and gifts. Still, most of the people in my congregation are much better than I am. I'm sure the prayers will go forth, the gifts will spring aplenteous, and civility and niceties will be expressed. My big question is: If you will not sit with me for one hour while we worship our Father, why do you want me to come to your house for an hour and pretend that there is no problem between us? I'm sure it's not for the gifts. Surely. If you draw your line in the sand with me, I will always welcome you back. But while you have decided that I am not worthy of your presence, please do not ask for my presents. Well, I had to get that off my chest. If I deserve a rebuke, go right ahead.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

28 Days To a Total Church Makeover

Why wait 40 days? My new program uses a streamlined enhanced formula that produces extreme discipleship in less time with less hassle than the other more popular church programs. Because we only focus on 28 days, the program fits nicely into any month of the year. The simplicity of this program will astound you, especially when you begin to feel like you have really made progress in your spiritual journey. I can't give you all of the details here, but just to get you off on the right foot, here is a list of the items for purchase per member: *28 Days to Total Church Makeover the book, for each member of your church. *28 Video Devotionals For Daily Church Makeover featuring my impressive spiritual thoughts for conviction and convenience. *28 Days To Total Church Makeover Journal so that you can write down all of the progress you are making. Later, these reflections will let you know just how important all of this was. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover for Kids on DVD. Don't leave the kiddos out. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover T-Shirts and Hats. This will help you keep the message of the Bible close to your heart. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover Live Seminar via satellite linkup. Coming soon to an evangelical church near you. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover the subscriber internet site with lots of downloads. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover for women. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover diet plan. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover budget planner. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover Guide to Obscure Bible Prayers. Never heard of these prayers before? We will study them word by word to find powerful prayers that we can repeat over and over so that you can have fabulous results. *28 Days to Total Church Makeover capital fund raising campaign. Learn how to make members understand the fantastic energizing principle of guilt giving. All of this and much more for a total investment of $2,000 per member. You may be wondering how we keep the cost so low. Our commitment is to genuine ministry and sincere service. You'll look back with pride at this momentous decision. At no additional charge, if you will place your order today, when you are through our wonderful telemarketers will call you relentlessly for months on end to convince you to purchase 28 MORE DAYS TO TOTAL CHURCH MAKEOVER.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What Kind of Church?

Jim Martin's latest blog post is awesome. Who am I kidding? All of his posts are excellent. I left the following as a comment on his latest post...but decided to share it here. Today a woman came by our building for some groceries. She had just moved down the street. I invited her to church as I handed her what we had on hand. She looked shy and said she couldn't come to church here because she smoked and drank beer sometimes. I told her we have lots of members who smoke and drink beer. She thought that was funny. Then she asked me if I smoked and drank beer. I told her my addiction was more of the sugar variety. I hope she feels welcome among us sinners! Next week a 'prospective member' and I are going to meet. She is from out of town, but moving into the area. She is obviously very committed to the church, highly intelligent, and concerned about the church with which she will identify. Shall I tell her that she is welcome among the smoking beer drinking Christians? Will she feel welcome among the sinners?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Headed For the Museum?

Follow me on this. Fellow Blogger Chris "Fajita" Gonzalez has a blog called HOME FRONT. I bumped into a comment he left on WADE HODGES' BLOG. I think he says something really important here, and invite your thoughts on the matter (pro or con). This is re-published with Chris' permission (thanks!). john If our tribe is going to have a snowball's chance, then we are not merely going to have to make linguistic changes, which frankly will be intolerable for many, but we are going to have to flat get unchurched. Our disease is that we are so churched up that we cannot see dead people. Heck, we can't even see ourselves. We have no idea whatsoever how embedded we are into our church culture. For our tribe to think, even for a minute, that we are going to be able to continue to elevate trivial and nonsense "issues" like instrumental music and communion correctness and be relevant to people who would love Jesus if they ever saw Him, we are out of our minds. Practically everything that distinguishes a Church of Christ from any other church denominations is a back burner issue compared to what Jesus did and hoped that we would do. Furthermore, what makes us the same as any other church tribe is even more disturbing than what makes us different. We are unified (whether we like it or not) with conservative evangelicals with a severe, chronic, and probably fatal case of churchitis. Without acting now and relatively decisively to change our direction, approach to scripture and people, if we do not expand our hermeneutics as it relates to interpreting the Scripture and interpreting people, we are doomed. They'll put us in the church museum with the Amish.

Mud On The Tires

I've always been fascinated by Elijah's experience with God in the cave. Coming off of a giant victory, he slides into a downright spiritual funk. God asks him why he's in the cave, but it is not for God's information. He knows why Elijah's in the cave. He's going into new places in his faith and doesn't know if he can find his way. There are going to be consequences to his stand for God. God's whisper to Elijah lets him know that his Abba is near, and isn't going anywhere. Wherever it is we are going in our lives, there is not much chance of getting there clean. If we do not make our own messes, someone else will make a mess for us. Our journey is a trip through our own misadventures and mistakes as we try to move toward our destination. There are the natural obstacles, and also the people who will do their best to send you on a detour. Ultimately we can only get where we are going by burning the fuel of faith, believing in God's guidance and help. When we get a little mud on the tires it probably means that we are heading off-road into untamed places of the Kingdom. Don't let that slow you down. God's whisper is with you. 'Cause it's a good night To be out there soakin' up the moonlight Stake out a little piece of shoreline I've got the perfect place in mind It's in the middle of nowhere only way to get there You got to get a little mud on the tires -- Brad Paisley, Mud On The Tires

Monday, April 11, 2005

Church Bullies

If there anyone I have trouble loving, it is a church bully. I'm not just talking about your regular run-of-the-mill outspoken critics. Actually, I'm not too bothered by them because I regard them as someone we need - to keep us honest. Someone who asks questions, and expects an answer, is not a church bully. A church bully is not just someone who doesn't like me. Heck, I don't even like me sometimes. A church bully is not someone who simply disagrees with me. No, a church bully is a breed apart. I expect that every reader of this blog has run across a church bully. You will recognize them by the following characteristics: *Church Bullies seek to have their way by attacking your character. They do not discuss ideas, they assign ungodly motives to you. Years ago someone outlined a list of what they thought were the items in my personal agenda. They presented it to the elders, asking for me to be fired. Many of the items on the supposed agenda were things to which I remain opposed! When asked to meet with the elders, he refused. See, Church Bullies are not concerned with real issues. They seek to remove the people that stand in their way. The easiest route from point A to point C is straight through your character. *Church Bullies, in their self-righteousness, believe that they are right and therefore have the prerogative to treat with disdain those who disagree with them. A brother once wagged his finger in my face and told me I was going to hell as a false teacher. He was so angry and redfaced and speaking in such a harsh manner that all I could do was shake my head as if I understood what he was saying. Then he made fun of me for doing that! Unfortunately, five feet away were some visitors to our church who were in the right place to witness this attack. Of course this was their one and only time to visit. *Church Bullies network with other bullies to assure wide-reaching effectiveness. Fellowship among churches is stymied when church bullies communicate with one another and forbid churches or youth groups from attending each other's events. Announcements of area events are held up in the church office for approval. When the bullies band together, their courage is only reinforced, and great numbers of brothers and sisters can be unduly influenced to regard each other as apostate. *Church Bullies never have regrets - no matter what happens. I shouldn't say "never", but perhaps "almost never". Because one believes he is "right", then whatever happens happens. Let their heads roll! How many church divisions have come about because a bully HAD to have his way? In his view, nothing else would be acceptable. *Church Bullies can work quietly behind the scenes. Not all church bullies are loud-mouthed attackers! Some of them have secret meetings in homes where the goal is to divide and conquer. Some will empower and encourage those who are more likely to be the 'front men', thus maintaining their own 'dignity'. *Church Bullies are unconcerned about those they hurt. I know ministers who live in fear that one particular elder might find out what they believe, and thus lose their job. I also know ministers who fear church bullies in other congregations. A youth minister told me recently "you know how it is" as to why he could not associate with me at an event. Yes, I do know how it is. It is sad. And what about the weak people of the congregation that are led away from freedom in Christ? And what about the person who is discouraged and quits? The church bully is willing for someone else to pay that high price. *Church Bullies are often promoted into positions of leadership because they are perceived as being assertive and "faithful". I hope and pray we are looking at hearts when we ordain leaders in congregations, but I'm afraid we are looking at the richest and boldest brothers for those areas of leadership. Sometimes it works out well, and at other times churches set themselves up for decades of spiritual bondage. Have you ever run across a church bully? Got a story to tell about a church bully (sans names and identifying details please!)? God calls us to love the Church Bully, but I believe we can only love them by telling them the truth. These are not people that can be encouraged sweetly into becoming disciples of Christ. Gentleness is regarded as weakness. (One bully once sneered at me for preaching "grace, grace, grace". I pray he receives all the grace he needs.) Sometimes a high price is paid for being bold with a church bully. Who is up to it? Not many. I have often seen the church bullies win ... and entire congregations held hostage to one or two men (sometimes women) who were so in love with themselves that they expected everyone else to feel the same way. And you thought "Change Agents" were bad!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Good Stuff

I spent the weekend at GULF COAST BIBLE CAMP with a Spring Teen Retreat. Got to see fellow bloggers Chris Lockhart and Krazy Kenny! I'll share a few things with you quickly! Click on the Words to Visit some Links! GULF COAST BIBLE CAMP PICTURES FROM FALL TEEN RETREAT (Click on "spring retreat 2005" folder. Look for some pics of me baptizing one of our young ladies in the camp pond...the pool hasn't been cleaned since the Fall and I'm not sure we could break through to the water if you get my drift.) MY AUDIO SERMON FROM THIS MORNING. WALKING TO DENVER DRY BONES DENVER Song #58 - "Talkin' Hardees Monster Thick-Burger Blues" Look forward to sharing more later!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Pope Nation

Suddenly we've become a Pope nation....And blog world has been caught up in a flurry of Pope ponderings. The commentary ranges from presenting the Pope as antiChrist to worshiping the Pope as Vicar of Christ. One blogger laments that our Christian Colleges aren't flying their flags at half-staff in honor of the Pope's passing. Everyone's welcome to their opinions on the matter, and I guess I'm just chiming in with my own. I see no need to degrade the Pope nor charge him with crimes against the Kingdom. He was not evil incarnate. I disagree with many Catholic teachings. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. But I disagree with a lot of people. I even find a lot of fault in John Dobbs. (Gasp!) I have expressed my concern and sympathy to my Catholic friends. I know this is a sad time for them, and yet a hopeful time as a new Pope is selected. At the same time... I also see no need to uplift the Pope as a saint to be honored. He did accomplish some good things in his life. He did take a stand for good values and he did speak to the moral crisis of our times. He has called for peace in the world. I'm glad he did. I'm thankful for his followers who promoted these good things. But to be so honored...So exalted...So powerful (and to claim infallibility)I do not think this is the place of any man. While the Pope has been adored by most Catholics, I've been caught by surprise at the way that non-Catholics are behaving at his passing. Some seem to want to make this a test of true Spirituality. If you are truly spiritual, then you will mourn and exalt the Pope at this time because he was a spiritual leader. Exaltation of the Pope has even become (for some) a test ... and, specifically, a startling accusation against churches of Christ! In the minds of some bloggers we ought to be in unison with the Catholic church in grieving for His death. If we are not, then we are truly being the isolationist exclusive sectarian people that they always thought we were. Some are suddenly enraptured with the Pope. Before his sickness and death they were not referring to the Pope as a great man, or quoting him, or following his edicts! So why is there all of this interest now? Are we really being dragged around by the ears by our culture in such a profound way? When the Dali Lama passes away ... shall we mourn and exalt him in such a way? Or Jerry Fallwell? I think we can look for similar mourning when Billy Graham passes away. I do not say these things sarcastically, please do not read that into these statements. I am questioning WHY we feel the need to turn these people (ordinary humans who have done extrordinary things...but humans) into heroes. Is it that we somehow need them to be our heroes? Are we afraid that Catholics will look down on us if we do not mourn the passing of their leader? Have we assigned our hopes and dreams to these people that we can see, hear, read, in some way touch? I'm not questioning anyone's allegiance to Christ, but shouldn't Jesus the be the sole recipient of this kind of adoration? To be honest when I think of the Pope I usually think of all of the structures and formality and false teachings that were perpetuated (rather than corrected) during his reign. That's just me I guess. So I'm a bit taken aback by my brothers and sisters who have had a sudden swooning over his passing. I think there is great value in recognizing cultural icons and trends. But it is something else to have our hearts so captured by them that we find ourselves offering praise to one with whom we have very little in common, as we understand the Scriptures. God will be the faithful and righteous judge of the Pope's eternity, I'm not interested in making pronouncements on that matter. But I am interested in what has turned us into a Pope Nation. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Walking in the Rain

For two weeks in a row we have had some pretty intense April showers (actually thunderstorms) here on the Gulf Coast. Services had to be cancelled tonight because of flooding in the streets around the central part of town. The lightning was intense all afternoon. The tornado warnings were being posted in counties all across Mississippi. Some people lost their homes in these storms, some people lost their lives. Spring is coming and as warmer air collides with the cooler air of winter, these storms will break out often. No matter what we may think about the seasons, they follow their path without variance. No amount of wishing can alter the course of the seasons. Personally I'm a Fall/Winter person, but I know people who live for the Spring/Summer. Our calling is to walk with Christ through the seasons. As we live this journey, conditions may change on us. We may have to survive some stormy weather in temptation, trials, hardship, pain and doubt. People may hurt us, or we may hurt someone without knowing what we have done. We may even surprise ourselves with our own wicked thoughts and deeds. Yet we walk on through the rain. But when the storm clouds break, what a wonder is the clear blue sky! How beautiful is the rainbow hovering just where thunder and lightning were a moment ago. Along the way we move from heartache and suffering to the sunshine of God's grace. We journey from failures and disappointments to the acceptance and mercy of God's loving arms. The path toward personal spiritual growth is the pathway of the Kingdom. It is not our goal so much to just get to the end. It is more our goal to grow into the people God has called us to be while we are making our journey. Only then can we appreciate the rain.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Instead of reading anything from me today, head over HERE to read the latest post from Les. Leave him a note of encouragement. He deserves it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Enduring Christmas Spirit

I know, it's April. But not too long ago we were gathered around a beautifully decorated tree singing carols and sharing family time. One thing we always pray for during the hoiday season is that the love and peace would endure throughout the year. I want to affirm today, that it truly does. You see, a few weeks before Christmas 2004, I put up our artificial Christmas tree. We considered if it had shed enough of its plastic needles that perhaps this might be the last year for our humanly created 'tree'. It still looked pretty good with the lights on it, in the dark. Economically speaking, though, it surpassed the frantic search through a tree lot looking for one that was not only affordable but whose trunk was straight. The straight tree trunk is an invention of the female species of humans. No male has ever seen a straight tree trunk in the midst of the fir branches. Thus he believes they do not exist. But the female has greater vision and faith. My neighbor bought a 'was alive a few weeks ago' tree off of a tree lot. I'm sure he and his lovely wife deliberated with great care over the selection of a tree. They brought it home. They then participated in another tradition of tree-buyers: the cutting of the lower branches. I need to tell you that I have a concrete drive across the front of my house ... a mini-parking area. At the end of that drive is where I pile branches from the yard after storms, so that the appropriate waste disposal engineers can pick them up when the time is right. Knowing this, my neighbor placed his sawed-off lower branches in the appropriate place. But there were just a few of them. Not enough to catch anyone else's attention. Of course I noticed them the day they arrived. And I noticed them every day because they lay there close to my truck. I probably could have picked them up and put them on my garbage cans and they would have been disposed of. But there was principle involved here. I was sure that my neighbor would notice those branches and come out and put them on his garbage where they belonged. Surely he noticed them day in and day out, week after week, month after month. Why wouldn't he? But no. I didn't pick them up, and he didn't pick them up. They just were there, turning brown and looking worse and worse. By now you might be wondering just where my Christmas spirit went. Dear reader, my Christmas spirit was intact. It's that part of the Christmas spirit that yells at the kids to put their new toys up and get them out of the floor. It's that part of the Christmas spirit that says with a sigh, "turkey again?" It is that part of the Christmas spirit that threatens to give all of the children's toys away to other children if they do not quit fighting over them. It speaks the truth, with love of course. And then the other day the flood came. Water covered the street and came half way up into my yard (depositing the pine needles and paper and assorted stuff from the street along the way). My attention was drawn to the water, so I forgot about the Christmast tree branches. Until today. Today on the top of a neighbor's garbage can was a sight that made my belly shake like a bowl full of jelly with laughter. No, it wasn't my immediate neighbor, but my neighbor three houses down. The branches floated innocently to her house on the floodwaters. Instead of letting them sit there until our mutual neighbor got the idea to pick them up, the Christmas spirit overflowed and she placed them on her garbage can. See? What did I tell you? The Christmas spirit lives. Thankfully, because of that, I no longer have to see my neighbor's tree branches on my driveway. In fact I shall celebrate that fact by telling this story every Christmas season. It truly warms my heart. I'm happy to share it with you. Season's Greetings, friends.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Thick Darkness

GOD said to Moses: "Stretch your hand to the skies. Let darkness descend on the land of Egypt--a darkness so dark you can touch it." Moses stretched out his hand to the skies. Thick darkness descended on the land of Egypt for three days. Nobody could see anybody. For three days no one could so much as move. -- Exodus 10:21-2a, The Message Has God ever sent a darkness into your life? He certainly sent darkness into the life of the King of Egypt. It wasn't the twilight darkness that fills romantic songs with mystery and warmth. It wasn't a streetlight darkness that shrouds our cities in a dim illumination over the evening hours. It wasn't the kind of darkness even a child would endure in the closet just to win a game of hide and seek. There is relief upon being found. It was a darkness so thick you could feel it. If you've ever been someplace so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, you still haven't felt this darkness. A darkness that blinded the eyes and weighed as heavy as elaborate gold jewelry upon the Egyptians. It was so dark that no one could see anyone. Like a lonely blind man without his cane, they were afraid to take a step into the unknown. Familiar streets suddenly became foreign countries into which they feared to walk one step. Except for the Israelites: they had light where they were living. -- Exodus 10:23 I can just see a curtain of darkness, running along the border of Goshen. What would it have been like to be in the dark ... maybe three feet from the border but you can't see it. Or on the other side, observing the darkness but thankful to be in the light. Do you think any of the Israelites were tempted to reach into the darkness and pull out a fellow human? I'm not sure we can know just how dreadful the darkness was ... but I do not think we are a stranger to it. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out." -- John 1:4-5 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o'clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" --- Mark 15:33-34 It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. -- 2 Corinthians 4:6 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. -- Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV) It's the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God's light and doesn't block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn't know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.--1 John 2:10-11 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. -- Revelation 16:10-11 (NIV) What are your thoughts about darkness?

Saturday, April 02, 2005


5 Questions 4 John Alan Turner! Ok JAT, you are to copy and paste these into your blog, with answers, and then offer to interview any responders who volunteer (if you want to continue the activity). Thanks! Five Questions for John Alan Turner 1. In your first post you said, "I have no idea where this whole blog thing will go." What are your impressions of the blogger explosion? Do you think this is a long term phenomenon or a trendy flash in the pan? Do you have a blogger mentor, or are you an original? How important is it to you to blog regularly? 2. As an avid bookreader, how do you decide which book to read next? You have a fairly ecclectic list of books you recommend. What is your favorite source for finding books to read? 3. Since you are a writer by trade, do you use your posts to float ideas, see what the reactions are, and then use those to clarify your chapters ... or are your posts totally separate from what you are writing professionally at the moment? Will I find one of my responses in a future book? :) 4. You have written very little about your family. There were some posts about your children, a mention of your parents, and an affirmation that Jill was not pregnant in a few posts! I can only guess that this is purposeful (privacy is not a bad thing). Tell us three things about your family that would give us some insight into the John Alan Turner household! 5. What one thing have you really meant to do lately, but you just haven't made the time?


Ok, Donna! Here are your 5 Qs! You are to copy/paste these into your blog and answer them there. If you want to continue the activity, offer to interview those who comment and request an interview from your blog! Five Questions for Donna 1. From the beginning of your blog experience you have often mentioned Mike Cope's blog as an inspiration in several posts. What is it about Mike's blog that reaches you? How would you compare his blog and yours? 2. I'm glad you are a book reader! You mentioned back in July that you were reading THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY by Dallas Willard. It's a pretty heavy book to work through. Did you finish it? What did you think about the book (or just the part you read)? What was meaningful to you about that book? (Since this book did not make your 'best of 2004' list, what book have you read recently that was meaningful to you and why?) 3. In September you bought a beautiful SUV. You mentioned that you haven't loved a car since your 1996 Buick Riviera. Now that you've had time to settle in ... does this SUV live up to the memories of your Riviera ... or are you still looking for love in all the wrong places? :) 4. What do you appreciate the most about your church? You write about going to Zoe / Otter Creek in such a way that it is obvious that these times are much different from your worship times at home. It's always easy to note the things we do not like ... what are the things that you most appreciate about your church family? 5. On January 21 you pledged not to buy another book until April 1st. Did you keep your pledge? (Other than the Bible you bought on Jaunary 27!) Did you buy a book on the 1st? What will be your next purchase?

Ten Easy Questions

Saturdays are usually slow days on blogs. Today I have set up a TRIVIA link (Click on the title above). I invite you to participate daily. It takes a minute to set up your account, and it'll be fun. I've selected the easy questions to get us started! C'mon ... what else do you have to do? The questions will get harder later. For now I just want to lure you into a daily trivia contest. The scores are displayed ... so we'll see who's so smart. No need to thank me. I'll place a link to the daily trivia game in the link bar to the left.