Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A clean slate...

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)

A clean slate. That’s what a new year is like. A chance to start over. An opportunity to do things differently.

But so many don’t. They just keep living like they’ve always lived. And they get the same results. Year after year they live in bondage to their habits and hates and fears.

I want to challenge you this new year to make changes that will allow you to serve God more fully.

Forgive. You have been forgiven. I’m assuming you’re a believer. So forgive. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Let the past be the past. Go to your aggrieved friends. Seek peace. Pursue reconciliation.

Forget. Stop focusing exclusively on your past. What’s done is done. The good stuff and the bad. Forgetting what is behind, press on. Seek God. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Let Him show you what He wants for now, for today, for this new part of your life.

New. That’s what you are in Christ. Live like it in 2009.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Caroling, caroling, here we go...

Caroling, caroling, there we went! Christmas night the family went strolling (ok, we drove) around town terrorizing people with joyous noise! Actually, we didn't sound too bad. No one threw anything at us (except cookies at one house...thanks Bill and Lorene). We had a great time. At the last house, as we were walking away, I heard the guy say, "I don't think I've ever been caroled to before." Pretty fun!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

End of an era?

I read this on Phil Vischer's blog shortly after posting the Veggie Christmas song...

And now for the day's bad news… an era has ended at Big Idea. 2/3's of the staff of Big Idea Inc. was let go yesterday, shrinking the company down to just 11 people. All that remains is the marketing team, one designer (Ron Eddy), one director (Brian Roberts), and Mike Nawrocki. The rest of production, including old-timers like editor John Wahba and music maestro Kurt Heinecke, are all gone. Ron Eddy, the very first designer I hired way back in 1996 to launch a team that at one point totaled 30 people, now has the distinction of being Big Idea's first designer, and last designer.

The layoffs weren't a surprise for any of you following the news about Big Idea's parent company. Entertainment Rights has been flirting with bankruptcy for the last six months, and recently revealed they only have enough cash to survive through January. So drastic cuts were in order.

As for Big Idea, VeggieTales video sales peaked nearly 10 years ago and have been steadily declining ever since. Classic Media squeezed profits out of VeggieTales not by innovating, but rather by reducing costs, renegotiating distribution agreements, and then pushing as many videos into the market as they possibly could. The kids video business has been in steady decline for more than a decade (mirroring VeggieTales decline), and the prior owners of Classic did nothing to seriously address this decline. While putting VeggieTales on NBC was billed as a strategic move to grow the audience and ministry, it was, in reality, part of the former owners' effort to sell their company. It worked. Entertainment Rights, blinded by the "dazzle" of TV deals with NBC and movie deals with Universal, grossly overpaid for Classic Media and Big Idea, and, as a result, is fighting to survive with $200mm+ of debt and a market capitalization of less than $20mm. (Astonishingly, the total value placed on Entertainment Rights, Classic Media and Big Idea by the stock market today less than what Classic Media paid to buy VeggieTales out of bankruptcy back in 2003.)

I could write a whole book about the strategic blunders that have resulted in the loss of a quarter-billion dollars of value for Entertainment Rights shareholders, but that really isn't the story here. The real story is that any sense of the original team behind VeggieTales was lost yesterday. Big Idea is now a logo only, representing a marketing team, and Mike. (Okay, and Ron and Brian. But Mike remains symbolically as the "face" of what Big Idea used to be.)

There are a couple more videos in production, which, apparently, will be completed and released. What beyond that? Who knows. God is good, and he will accomplish his goals in his timing, according to his perfect will. If God has additional ministry in mind for the cucumber and tomato I created in a spare bedroom in Chicago 18 years ago, I believe it will still come to pass. The sad thing today is that a bunch of good friends are staring down a Christmas season in a tough economy without jobs. But God knows that, too, and he has a plan for each one of them.

Let's keep them in our prayers this Christmas.

Really dumb...

A few years back, I had the opportunity to join a friend in jumping off a 30- or 40-foot railroad bridge into murky water. Really dumb, right? Shouldn’t be done even if your friend insists that it’s fun. I knew that to be true going in. I’d heard Joni Eareckson Tada’s story, seen it on film. She dove into a lake and hit her head on a rock just beneath the surface, a rock she could not see because the water was murky. She broke her neck and ended up paralyzed for life, confined to a wheelchair, unable to do most things for herself. (She is, I must say, able to do some really remarkable things, but she is paralyzed.)

I thought of Joni as I clung to that railroad trestle staring at the rushing water below. I knew I’d hit the rock my friend had missed for years. I’d die or be crippled for life. Every ounce of sense within me screamed, Don’t jump into murky water!

I jumped anyway. It took me a half an hour to summon enough stupidity to overcome my perfectly rational fear, but I jumped – twice. The second time was only slightly less terrifying than the first. It was not fun.

I’m reminded right now of the redneck’s famous last words. You know what they are, right?

“Hey, Bubba! Watch this!”

I have no desire whatsoever to jump off a bridge into murky water again. For that matter, I don’t have the slightest yearning to jump off anything other than a diving board or the edge of a pool into any kind of water. (Maybe out of a canoe into a fairly calm river or a calm lake.)

I don’t like doing things I know to be really dumb. It’s really dumb to do really dumb stuff knowing that it’s really dumb. Doing really dumb stuff is how you end up in the back of an ambulance in great pain.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas special...

I hope you enjoy hearing my eldest daughter playing "Angels We Have Heard on High" with our church organist. They played this duet during worship Christmas Sunday 2008. I think they did a great job. (I might be biased.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Smelly streets...

I probably wouldn't have noticed this news story if I didn't have a friend who lives in Ankeny, but here it is. Tone's Spices donated 9 tons of garlic salt to the city to use in combination with regular road salt to melt the ice and snow that coated the thuroghfares of it's Iowa hometown. Problem is people are getting hit trying to scoop the stuff up for their dinner. (I made that last part up.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lacking peace?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.”

- Isaiah 9:6-7a

When I am lacking peace, especially at Christmas time, the Lord brings this verse to mind. Jesus came to bring peace. He is the Prince of Peace. The question then becomes, am I allowing Jesus to rule as Prince in my life? Do I submit to his governing of my life and mind?

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Perhaps those areas that feel chaotic or stressed are the very places I am trying to control by myself. May you and I, both, allow the Prince of Peace to rule in our lives this Christmas and on into the new year!
- Guest Blogger, Susan

I want "real"...

Every once in awhile the scripted dialog on a TV show gets it right. In this clip from ER, the guy who's dying tells the not-so-sure-about-God chaplain what he truly needs, what he desperately wants.

"I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell...I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!"

My friend, the way to forgiveness is Jesus. The way to reconciliation with God - same Jesus.

Snow in Las Vegas...

My cousin who lives in Las Vegas sent me a link to this crazy picture (AP) from Las Vegas. Here's what he wrote about the snow...

The snow was kind of dramatic for us...all departures from McCarran airport cancelled tonight, so not good for all the stranded tourists who can't even rent a car and drive home to California, since I-15 is closed and no one is allowed to drive to California!!! A snow day for Thursday, virtually unheard of here -- schools are closed! 8 inches of snow on the ground in Henderson! 3.6 inches or so of snowfall recorded at the Nevada Weather Station at the airport. A rare and historic day for us. The Boulevard Mall, near where I live, had to close at 6 p.m. tonight in the middle of the holiday shopping due to a power outage that was still out when I watched the 11 p.m. news. Fortunately for me, my home didn't lose power like many others in neighborhoods close by. The branches in my back patio space are all sagging to the ground under the weight of the snow!!! Unreal. I think the worst is over, though and things will get back to normal fairly soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On whom do you rely?

"Does being an EMT make you rely more on man's wisdom than on the power of God for healing?"

That's the first question a friend of mine asked of me this morning. It wasn't meant to be spiteful. He just wanted to challenge me, to make me think through the implications of my second job. The questions kept coming.

"Have you laid hands on people and prayed for them in the back of your ambulance?"

I have prayed for nearly every patient under my care as an EMT. I have, on occasion, done so out loud. My training, if anything, has helped me understand better the limitations of man's medical knowledge and skill. God has to work or nothing's going to happen.

"It could lead to ministry."

Yes. It could. I hope and pray that it does more and more. I do know this. I am on friendly terms with many strangers with whom I have only had emergency medical contact.

Enough for now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

God's good plan...

God has a good plan for my life. It is to make me more and more like His Son Jesus. That’s what God’s Word says.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30, NIV)

God is working on me. Every day he’s doing more. Every interaction with others he uses to shape me. Every problem builds His character in me. Every encounter with His Word is pointing the way toward Christ-likeness.

Have I arrived yet? No! I am a child of God here and now, but I am not all that I will be. I’m still living. I’ll only “arrive” when I leave this world and enter paradise.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2, NIV)

“Arrival” at perfect Christ-likeness happens when we see Christ face-to-face. It’s still true, though, that God is working on me.

He’s working on you too if you’re one of his. Every day the Father conforms you more and more into the likeness of his Son. He uses every interaction with others to shape you. He allows problems to build your character. He points the way toward growth through every encounter you have with Him through His Word.

You are God’s special project. I am too. How cool is that? We are valuable to God. The always-has-been-and-always-will-be cares about the just-starting-to-be. The immortal loves the mortal. The one who has it all chooses to invest in those who have nothing to offer him but themselves. Amazing!

God thinks I’m worth investing in. God thinks you’re valuable. God loves us. Let’s serve him with everything we have.

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Accordion music...

I posted this video of my daughter trying her hand at the accordion a while back. It has been viewed more times than any other video I've posted. It's kind of fun. Hope you enjoy!

I would've never guessed...

I made a quick stop at a QuikTrip for gas the other day. (What else could I do? The brand demands speed.) As the then overpriced fuel was flowing through the hose into my Sienna's tank, I glanced at the side of the pump. There I found this warning...

WARNING: QuikTrip gasoline is not intended for use in aircraft engines.

Who knew? I thought I could pull my Cessna Citation up to the local convenience store and fill 'er up! Crazy! Oh the things companies have to do to avoid a lawsuit. It's okay, QuikTrip, I won't be filling up my gas cans for a run to the airport anytime soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Give the gift of Argonia...

My burritos were too hot to eat right away, so I created a Facebook gift app while they cooled. Now you can give pieces of my favorite town away to your friends. If you're on Facebook, you can go to Argonia Stuff now and pass your favorite business or church along to someone. Of course, you might have to unlock a few things before you find that perfect gift for your loved one who has everything except the Overflow Storage.

Just like us...

"Elijah was a man just like us."

We don't really believe those words. We elevate Elijah to superhero status. He was great. He called down fire from Heaven. God listened to him.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

I suppose it's because his story is in the Bible that we "worship" this man, idolize his faith. The fact that his story has survived for thousands of years means he's greater than great. But, really, it doesn't.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

I think we're going to hear some stories in Heaven about people who had great faith just like Elijah's. We'll be amazed at their great feats. We'll wonder why we never heard of them before. They'll be people just like us.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

The only possible difference between you and the prophet you elevate is your trust in God. Elijah trusted God with all his heart. That's why fire fell from Heaven. That's why it didn't rain for three years when he prayed. He trusted God. He believed God.

"Elijah was a man just like us."

Do you trust God? Do you believe he can do great things? You will do great things for God that will be told throughout eternity. Go do what you've been called to do.

(The verse I quoted is James 5:17a.)

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The modern icon of cola greatness...

I went to Argonia Mart yesterday to buy my Pepsi for the week. As I approached the appropriate shelves in the far corner of the store, I spotted something I'd been waiting to see for days. The new Pepsi logo has arrived in small-town USA! Stacks of 12-packs were festooned with this new icon of cola greatness...and now you know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dekker is going to kill me...

Every time I think I've caught up, Ted Dekker puts me behind. I finished reading whatever the last book he put out was and at the end of it I found a list of "coming soon" books. He even gave me a teaser, a few words from the first chapter, to make me want to read these not yet available books. What's a fan to do? I haven't even read the Chosen and Infidel graphic novels! Aaaaaaah!

Books I know Dekker will release next year...

Kiss, with Erin Healy
BoneMan's Daughter

Have mercy on me Ted! Give me a chance to catch up!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What do you want?

“…the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NIV)

Isn't it true that we all seek teachers who will give us what we want?

If we want to be told we're basically good by nature, we'll seek out "basically-good" fluff on Sunday morning. If we want to be told that our particular besetting sin isn't really all that sinful, we'll seek out a "you're-not-all-that-sinful" preacher to tickle our ears. If we want rules, we'll find a legalistic prophet to tell us what to do. If we want to hear the truth, we'll seek out teachers who are committed to truth-telling even when it's unpopular.

So the question I have for you is this: What do you want?

Before you answer that, let me tell you the truth. Only the truth can set you free! Freedom is why I choose to follow Jesus, why I choose to base everything I believe and say on God's Word, why I choose to pursue the truth. I hope you'll join me in pursuing truth and the freedom that comes with it. If you choose not to pursue the truth, if you choose to pursue false teaching for whatever reason, you will remain in bondage to sin. You may find a false sense of security in false teaching, but you will not find freedom.

So now you can answer my question: What do you want?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


This Kendall Ens sketch, "Cold," depicts well this day. It is 21.7 degrees at 1:00pm with a strong northerly wind bringing the wind-adjusted temp to 6 degrees. Brrrrr. Oh...and it's snowing.

Do it now...

I'm a bit of a piler. (Not sure that's a word. What I mean is I'm a person who piles things, a passive-aggressive procrastinator.) I (sometimes) open the mail and if it doesn't have to be done NOW!!! I stack it. Wouldn't really be a problem except that when you stack bill, you sometimes miss deadlines. Checkbook balancing is kind of a headache too when you have to catch up with three or four statements. I pile other stuff too. My jacket and work stuff by the door. Magazines by my bed. Drives my wife batty sometimes.

So why am I telling you all this? First, because confession is good for the soul and second, because I'm turning over a new leaf - at least for this week. My new motto is, "Take care of it now!" I processed the mail today and have a form that is due back to my health insurance provider in five days ready to be signed by the chairman of trustees whom I've already called and asked to stop by. I've sent out reminders to several friends about a few important tasks. I was supposed to do that two weeks ago, but I kept putting it off. I found my reminder to remind people when I was deep cleaning my office yesterday. I almost threw it out! And I wrapped Christmas presents today...ALL OF THEM!

No more least not the long-lasting kind that go stale. I hope I can do it...NOW!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A cask of what?!?!

I was called upon to serve as a reader at a high school scholar's bowl competition tonight. Just six questions into the varsity team's first round was this query:

"In what Edgar Allan Poe story are the main characters named Montresor and Fortunato?"

Player four on the "east" team buzzed in quickly. His answer:

"The Cask of Armadillo!"

I kept a straight face. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Poe would've loved it.

Grab a hanky...

A friend sent me a link to this film short. I watched it. I think everyone needs to. So here it is. Grab a hanky and watch. (Approx. 16 minutes long.)

Should we talk about doctrine?

So since doctrine can be used as a weapon and since Jesus hated it when that happened we should never talk about doctrine, right?

I don’t think that’s what my friends were saying when they made their statements, but there are some who think that way.

There are some who don’t want to offend, so they just keep their religious views, their beliefs to themselves. There are some who, if they mention it at all, downplay the seriousness, the destructiveness, the deadliness of sin. There are some who make doctrine warm and fuzzy and nice and, in many cases, false. It seems to me that they do this because it feels good to be tolerant and fit in and be applauded by the masses.

Paul predicted that teachers and hearers like this would show up eventually.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we find these words of prophesy: “…the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (NIV)

And Paul’s solution for times like this?

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV)

In a nutshell, Paul says talk about doctrine.

The fact that doctrine can be used as a weapon necessitates discussion of doctrine. If we don’t talk about true doctrine, what Paul calls sound doctrine, we allow false doctrine to win the day. And we can’t allow that. Truth and error is life and death. When unsound doctrine is accepted, people are damned. Forever damned!

So listen carefully. Potential misuse does not require complete disuse. We must talk about what we believe. We dare not remain silent.

So speak the truth we must, but without using the truth as a weapon.

That’s harder than you think. Judging others ruthlessly is easy. Condemning those who differ with you…piece of cake. Criticizing sinners…no problem at all.

I’ve done all those things. How about you? Easy, right?

You want a challenge? Try obeying God’s instruction on this matter. He demands patience and care and kindness. He commands gentleness and love and mercy.

Let me show you all those things from the Bible.

We already read Paul’s words from 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (NIV)

See it! Patience and care are required by God when you or I speak the truth. Even when we correct or rebuke, we do so patiently and with great care.

Earlier in this same letter, Paul talks to Timothy and to us about God’s way of teaching the truth.

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26, NIV)

What do we see here?

In addition to patience and care, truth tellers are to be kind to everyone. They are to gently instruct those who oppose them. Why be kind? Why be instruct gently? So that people ensnared by sin can hear the truth and in repenting of their sin escape the devil’s traps.

Can I insert something important real quick? Beating people over the head with the truth is like pounding a nail into a board. Your harsh delivery only serves to drive their false beliefs deeper into their minds and hearts. Defensive people don’t escape the devil’s deception, they dig in and fight for their right to be wrong. People are won to the truth by gentleness and kindness not by gruffness and cutting remarks. The church today is driving people away from Jesus with all their ranting and raving and picketing and politicking.

Paul gives further instruction in Ephesians 4:11-15.

Talking about Jesus, Paul says: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (NIV)

The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are charged with building up the Christ so that there is unity and with protecting against error. They are to do that by speaking the truth in love.

Patience. Care. Gentleness. Kindness. Love. These attitudes when speaking about doctrine not only free people from Satan’s snares, they also grow the faith of believers. They make Jesus-followers more secure in their convictions. They mature Christians, making them more and more like their Master who showed so much patience and care and gentleness and kindness and love toward those caught in sin.

The religious folks criticized Jesus because he ate and drank with sinners. He ignored them and just kept eating and drinking with them, loving them and gently guiding them into the truth. They followed him.

Perhaps we ought to follow our Master’s example. More people might be interested in him. And that’s what mature believers want most, isn’t it? More people interested in Jesus.

So listen to what James 2:12-13 says to us.

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (NIV)

The mercy God showed us in Jesus ought always to be in our minds when we speak about doctrine. It is by grace that we have been saved. Our good works did nothing to secure our place in God’s family. We were and are completely dependent on mercy.

Therefore we patiently, carefully, gently, kindly, lovingly, mercifully speak the truth.

That, my friends, is a tall order. I have failed to live up to that high standard many, many times. I have been impatient. I have lacked compassion. I have spoken in anger. I have scolded people. I have been unkind. I have used unloving words. I have shown less grace than Jesus has shown me. I have used doctrine as a weapon.

While all of that is true of me, I’m not going to stop doing what God’s told me to do. I’m not going to stop speaking just because I’m likely to mess up again. The truth matters too much to be silent. People’s eternal destiny is at stake.

Friends, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep teaching the truth as patiently, carefully, gently, kindly, lovingly and mercifully as I can with God’s patient, caring, gentle, kind, loving, merciful help. I’m going to keep speaking the truth in love so that you may be built up in the faith and become mature. I’m going to continue to gently instruct all whom God sends my way so that, with God’s help, some will escape from the sin-trap the devil has them in.

Will you join me in that? This isn’t just about preachers standing in the pulpit on Sunday morning, you know? You can speak the truth in love on Monday. You can gently instruct on Thursday. You can obey this command with great patience every day of the week. You can! Really!

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Church of the what!?!?!

I could not believe it when I found this jersey (with the description below) on the internet...

Yea, Brethren, open now your books to Revolutions 53:12. When Sunday morning rolls around and the spousal unit says "Why don't you ever come to church with me?" Face it: You know that you pray at the church of the bicycle, and this is no false idol. You figure anything that can get you 100 km down the road for the cost of a bean and cheese burrito is worth praying toward. In fact, I think they otta make you reverend. Maybe you should hold forth on Sunday mornings at the front of your flock. Before the meek inherit the earth let them grovel on your wheel a bit. Halleluiah!

Made by

Doctrine as a weapon?

I’ve had a couple of conversations about doctrine over the past week or two…maybe it’s been three since the first one. In both situations, close friends have said something like this: “I hate it when people use doctrine as a weapon.” Two different people. Two different times. Same idea.

Strange, don’t you think? These guys live hundreds of miles apart and as far as I know they’ve never met, yet they say the same thing. Bizarre! Must be listening to the same people or reading the same books or something. Two people don’t just come up with the same thing all by themselves. Not usually.

Anyway, their “doctrine-as-a-weapon” words set me to thinking. All sorts of questions flooded my mind? What did they mean by what they said? Is this kind of hatred godly or not? Have I ever used doctrine as a weapon? Do my words unnecessarily offend others? What does the Bible say about doctrine? Is it useful or harmful? What is doctrine?

That last one was asked of me as I talked to my wife about these conversations. I had to confess that I didn’t know the precise meaning of the word.

Do you?

I looked it up. Doctrine, according to the Encarta Dictionary is – first definition – a rule or principle that forms the basis of a belief, theory, or policy or – second definition - a body of ideas, particularly in religion, taught to people as truthful or correct. Webster’s New World Dictionary says doctrine is (a) something taught; teachings or (b) something taught as the principles of a religion, political party, etc.

So doctrine is the rules, principles, beliefs, teachings, ideas that the members of any group hold to be true or correct.

Can doctrine be used as a weapon?

I think we all know the answer to that question. Yes, of course doctrine can be used as a weapon.

Al Queda believes all infidels should convert or be killed. Violence and terrorism is the result. The KKK says everyone who’s not like them is inferior. They’re continually stirring up hatred and bigotry.

Doctrine, even the Christian variety, can be taken to an extreme and used to judge others harshly.

Anyone heard of Fred Phelps? He wields the Bible’s clear teaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality as a two-fisted battle axe. He shouts out his lies. “God hates fags!” Oh the damage he does to the name of Jesus. He slams shut the door for so many who could be saved.

Doctrine has been used as a weapon for thousands upon thousands of years.

The religious folks of Jesus’ day got after some of his disciples because they casually plucked a few kernels of wheat as they walked through a field on the Sabbath. “That’s work!” they shouted. “Bad boys! You should know better than to harvest on the Lord’s day.”

I’m serious. It’s in the Bible.

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’” (Matthew 12:1-2, NIV)

Mark records Jesus’ reply. In part our Master said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28, NIV)

A short time later – Matthew has it on the same day – Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath.

Luke tells the story this way: “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’

“Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’

“The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’

“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” (Luke 13:10-17, NIV)

Crazy! Judging someone – the Son of God no less – for doing good? Come on, guys! What are you thinking? Why are you using the doctrine of the Sabbath as a weapon?

God gave man a day of rest for his benefit. He blessed the Sabbath day. He commanded God’s people to keep it holy. That’s true doctrine. You can’t read the Bible and miss the idea of the Sabbath rest. It’s all over the place. It’s one of the Ten Commandments for crying out loud.

But in seeing that rule, you have to be careful not to use it to cruelly judge others. (I’m talking to you.) Do not openly criticize those who do things on the Sabbath that you would never do. Don’t even mumble about the things your daddy taught you under your breath.

Let God be the judge.

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” Paul asked Roman believers. Then he said, “To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” (Romans 14:4-6, NIV)

Ok, we all see it. Doctrine can be used as a weapon. Beliefs can be used to judge others harshly and I think it’s safe to say that we should hate it when that happens. Jesus hated what the Sabbath police were doing. He rebuked them sharply.

That answers at least one of my questions. Hatred of the wrong use of doctrine is godly. We’ll answer another question next time.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sprucing things up online...

Things are a-changing on the web. Check out these updated websites that I design and maintain...

Argonia Friends Church (Rev Nov 08)
City of Argonia (Rev Dec 08)
Evangelical Friends Mission (Rev Aug 07)
World Renewal International (Rev Nov 08)

I've been asked to redo EFC-MA's site, but that won't happen until 2009.

Waste more time...

"I don't want to waste too much of our time, but I think we need to pray."

I was blown away when I heard those words come from the mouth of a godly friend awhile back. I know no offense was intended and the prayer time that followed was good, but the words shocked me.

Prayer a waste of time? Facebook maybe. Blogging perhaps. But surely not prayer! If praying is wasting time, then I say, "Let's waste MORE time on our churches and our neighbors and our families and our world!!!"

What are you waiting for? Go "waste" some time now!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You shall be saved or...

I laugh every time I pass this sign on my way to my parents' house near Kansas City. The message is intended to be a message of hope, but for me it's just plain confusing. If you read it like I do, it says there are two possible outcomes to accepting Jesus Christ.
  • Outcome 1: Be saved.
  • Outcome 2: Regret it forever.

What's a guy to do? Accept Jesus and risk eternal regret? Sure you could be saved, but what if you get outcome 2?

Thankfully, there are not two possible outcomes to believing. The Bible is clear that outcome 1 is the only possible outcome for those who believe.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)

Remember this...

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” (2Corinthians 9:6-10, NIV)

All words about money should be as God-focused as these. Too often talk about giving is money-focused. Paul’s talk is different. He takes everyone’s eyes off the money and puts them on God.

The apostle joyfully reports the good news about giving. God honors those who give generously. Sow generously. Reap generously. God loves cheerful givers. God is able to make all grace abound to you. God will supply your needs as you give to meet the needs of others.

Those truths aren’t just for the folks in Corinth a couple thousand years ago. Trust me on this. These are promises. God never breaks promises. He will honor them. They’re for you and me…today! God still honors those who give generously. God still loves cheerful givers. God is still able to make all grace abound to you. God will supply your needs as you give to meet the needs of others.

What did Jesus say? “…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV)

God takes care of the needs of those who put him first, those who follow him wholeheartedly, those who are God-focused rather than money-focused.

Are you that kind of person? Do you faithfully give what you can? Have you ever given more than you thought you could? Are your offerings to God and to the poor given cheerfully? Has God failed you?

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Fear kills faith...

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17, NIV)

How's your faith? The tendency for so many people is to cut back on giving when times are shaky. Even when there's plenty in the bank, folks get cautious. They hold back because they don't know what the future might bring. They focus on their own needs and forget the poor.

I heard on the news that the Salvation Army in Wichita is expecting $500,000 less in donations than last year. At the same time, more people than last year are approaching them for assistance. People aren’t giving. And it's not necessarily because they don't have. Some aren't giving because they're afraid they won't have.

Is that you? I hope not. I'd hate for you to be living in fear. Fear kills faith. Live trusting God. Give trusting him.

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Main Entry: id·i·ot*
Pronunciation: \ˈi-dē-ət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French ydiote, from Latin idiota ignorant person, from Greek idiōtēs one in a private station, layman, ignorant person, from idios one's own, private; akin to Latin suus one's own
Date: 14th century
1) usually offensive: a person affected with extreme mental retardation
2) a foolish or stupid person

I hear the word 'idiot' tossed around an awful lot these days. It's used to belittle the guy who cuts us off on the highway and the gal who disagrees with us. I wonder, do we really mean idiot when we say idiot? Do we intend offense?

Jesus warned - in Matthew 5:22 - that anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Perhaps we should be more careful in calling others idiots.

*Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.