Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Franciscan Benediction

I came across this today and found it worthy of sharing. It is called a Franciscan Benediction.

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy

May God bless you with foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor

Discomfort, anger, tears, foolishness... not often thought of as blessings. May God bless you in ways you wouldn't expect.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Just a Thought

Mark 12:30-31 (See also Matthew 22:37-40)

These are the words of Jesus -

"'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.
And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love you neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Think of it a "Full-contact Christianity."

It's just a thought.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are You Saved? An Orthodox Perspective

A nicely done short video. It makes more sense than we evangelicals would care to admit.

The Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cat Sat on the Mat

While cleaning off my desk I came across the following item that a friend gave me sometime ago. I thought I'd post it so I could throw away the piece of paper it was written on. Though humorous, sadly, it is not far from the truth. I hope you enjoy it.

The Cat Sat on the Mat
How would Christians deal with "The cat sat on the mat" if it appeared in the Bible?

The Liberal theologians would point out that such a passage did not of course mean that the cat literally sat on the mat. Also cat and mat had different meanings in those days from today, and anyway, the text should he interpreted according to the customs and practices of the period.

This would lead to an immediate backlash from the Evangelicals. They would make an essential condition of faith that a real, physical, living cat, being a domestic pet of the Felix Domesticus species, and having a whiskered head and furry body, four legs and a tail, did physically place its whole body on a floor covering, designed for that purpose, and which is on the floor, but not of the floor. The expression "on the floor, but not of the floor" would be explained in a leaflet.

Meanwhile, the Catholics would have developed the Festival of the Sedentation of the Blessed Cat. This would teach that the cat was white and majestically reclined on a mat of gold thread before its assumption to the Great Cat Basket of heaven. This is commemorated by the singing of the Magnificat, lighting three candles, and ringing a bell five times.

This would cause a schism with the Orthodox Church which believes that tradition requires Holy Cats Day (as it is colloquially known), to be marked by lighting six candles, and ringing the bell four times This would be partly resolved by the Cuckoo Land Declaration, recognizing the traditional validity of each.

The charismatics would welcome the chance for the full experience of the feline presence. This to be shown by resting, on all four limbs, on the floor and meowing in the feline spirit. This would, naturally, only be possible following the singing, for some 30 minutes, of inspired songs such as O cat, cat, cat, come to our mat, mat, mat, Feline we enthrone you, we proclaim you as cat and When you scratch us, we know that you're here.

The house church elements might even agree in a common doctrine, after four pauses, in a statement of multiple clauses.

Eventually, in the Church of England, the House of Bishops would issue a statement on the Doctrine of the Feline Sedentation. It would explain that traditionally the text describes a domestic feline quadruped superjacent to an unattached covering on a fundamental surface. For determining its salvific and eschatological significations, we follow the heuristic analytical principles adopted in dealing with the Canine Fenestration Question (How much is that doggie in the window?) and the Affirmative Musaceous Paradox (Yes, we have no bananas). And so on for 210 pages, The General Synod would then commend this report as helpful resource material for clergy to explain to the man in the pew the difficult doctrine of "the cat sat on the mat."

And the Mormons would come up with an entire rite in the Temple of the Baptism of the Dead Cat on the Mat, and would find innumerable proofs in the Book of Mormon supporting the Cat and Mat, while spending millions of dollars on archeological research to find the Mat or the Cat's bones, ultimately proving it for themselves while the rest of the archeological world scoffed.

Author Unknown

I like the first general rule of Scripture interpretation: "When the plain sense makes perfect sense, seek no other sense."

The Tapestry of Life

"Your life is like a tapestry. When you focus on a single thread, be it perceived as good or bad, you miss the artistry of the whole. Step back... and behold the beauty of the big picture."

Romans 8:28 - A Paraphrase
"If you love God, as His child, you are called according to His divine purpose. He is weaving together every detail of your life to produce ultimate good and beauty."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

GoD and DoG

For God lovers who are also dog lovers. This is written, illustrated and sung by the wife of Don Francisco ("He's Alive!")

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Brother Benjamin's Compline

This past weekend I completed a seven-weekend run of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I portray a character known as "Benjamin 'the Reformer' Ingham.” Benjamin is a pre-Reformation protestant preacher. In addition to singing ancient hymns, holding a Sunday morning Gathering of the Faithful and general conversing with people, I lead what I call Celtic Compline each evening at 6:00. I know, 6:00 is closer to the time of Vespers, but I went with “Celtic Compline” thinking that it would possibly create more interest, especially by adding the word “Celtic” to it.

Compline is the final “Prayer hour” of the day, usually said upon retiring for the night. Below is a complete list of the Prayer Hours (also know as the Liturgy of the Hours, the Daily Office or the Divine Office.)

Matins, also known as Vigils or Nocturns, are done during the night hours and are sometimes referred to as the Night Office
Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn)
Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = 6 a.m.)
Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = 9 a.m.)
Sext or Midday Prayer (Sixth Hour = 12 noon)
None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Ninth Hour = 3 p.m.)
Vespers or Evening Prayer (at Dusk)
Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring)

For the most part I used the complines from a book called Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Prayer Community. In this book are seven different complines, one for each night of the week. At the conclusion of last year's Festival, one young man gave me a compline that he had penned. I was blessed that he named it after my festival character and that he incorporated a number of the themes that I preached in the morning Gatherings. I will share that one with you.

We usually open with the beautiful Irish hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” after which we begin in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Some make the Sign of the Cross, some do not. Then we go into the main part of the compline, closing with the Lord's Prayer and the singing of the Doxology. This could also be used at the conclusion of prayer meetings, home fellowship groups, etc.

Key: bold type is read aloud together; the asterisk (*)denotes a change of reader. When there are more people than reading parts, the compline is repeated until all have had a chance to participate.

Brother Benjamin's Compline
by Anonymous

Blessed art Thou O God who created light, and gave us that light through Jesus whom you sent to us that we might receive it and become like it. And blessed be the Spirit that reminds us of Your light when our eyes fail to see it.

*Be Thou our vision, our guide, our support. Grant that we may always follow Your path and reflect Your light so others will follow.

Keep us, Lord, that we will not stumble.

*The darkness comes and the night is long; the shadows grow and overtake us; the storm clouds blot out the sun.

Be our Light, Lord, that we will not stumble.

*The path is narrow and we tend to stray.
We often choose our own way and make it easy to fall.

Make our path straight and wide
that we will not stumble.

* The evil one puts rocks before us and we dig pits for one another. Left to ourselves we would build walls.

Make level the road, Lord,
that we will not stumble

* The winters of our soul are long; the world is cold; the road is covered with ice. Snow, like our trials, piles up so we cannot go on.

Show us Your steps to follow, Lord,
that we will not stumble.

* Our spirit is willing, but only sometimes, and our legs are weak. We cannot walk this road alone for the pits are many and the rocks are large. We simply are not able.

Support us, Lord,so that when we do stumble, we will not fall.


Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
and a light unto my path.
Let me abide in Thee and Thou in me,
that I might be light in the world.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blame the Devil or Praise the Lord?

In the Book of James, which has been called the Proverbs of the New Testament, we read in chapter 1:2-4,
(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
(3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
(4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Since coming into my position as a hospital chaplain, I have been somewhat “forced out of necessity” to look at the issues of pain and suffering and sorrow from perhaps a different perspective than I had before.

Somehow or somewhere we've been made to believe that anything we perceive as bad must be from the devil and must be rebuked as an attack from the enemy. And if we can muster up enough faith and pray the right words and formulate the right confession that all will be well. But as you know, that is not always the case.
- People with great faith still battle great sickness
- People with great faith still lose their loved ones to disease and accidents and senseless acts of violence.
- People with great faith still lose their jobs.
- We often struggle when our personal experience does not match our professed theology.
- Our faith gets tested, so we rebuke the devil with a bit more fervor and volume.
And nothing changes.

I wonder how many things happen that the devil gets blamed for when it is, in fact, the hand of God at work.

As a child of God and a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that He is with me, He guides me, He cares for me and that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

I believe that in the life of a true follower of Christ, nothing happens apart from the purpose, permission, providence or predestination of God. Believing this removes a lot of frustration from faith.

Take, as an example, two people with the same affliction.
One believes that his affliction is an attack of Satan. He is frustrated and discouraged because his healing hasn't been manifested. He believes that God loves him and just doesn't understand why this has happened to him.

The other believes that his affliction is the will of God for some reason beyond his limited understanding. He is at peace in spite of his situation because he believes that God loves him and that there is a divine purpose for what he is going through.

Now, we can argue theology or we can compare fruit.

Consider the following statement:
“I am really going through something; I feel like I'm being attacked from every direction.” How do you immediately interpret that?

1. He's really under the spiritual attack of the enemy.
2.He's being molded and shaped by the Master Potter into a beautiful vessel for His purposes.
(The “attack” is , in reality, pressure from the hands of the Potter.)

Far too often we immediately attribute the trials of our faith to being an attack of the enemy, when, in fact, it is the hand of God at work in our lives!

Look at the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:1-36). Our first impression is that this is a bad thing. If this were to happen today, we would likely blame the devil for a direct attack on a godly man of God. But when you get to the end of the story we read the words of Joseph (Genesis 50:20): “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
- This wasn't God's “Plan B.” This was His plan.
- He didn't simply turn a bad situation into good, He purposed it to ultimately save the entire nation of Israel!

Philippians 4:11-13
(11) Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
(12) I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
(13)I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Verse 13 is a favorite of many, but is usually taken out of context and applied to accomplishing something for God, carrying out some great exploit for the Kingdom or reaching some personal goal.
- In the context, Paul is talking about being content in spite of circumstances.
- What Paul is saying is, “It doesn’t matter if I’m up or down, rich or poor, full or hungry, healthy or sick, well liked or despised, honored or shunned, in a crowd or alone… I can be content in any situation because my strength comes from Christ - not from the circumstances in and around my life.”
- Some people “can’t do” being: down, poor, hungry, sick, despised, shunned, alone, but Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, Paul lists what he suffered as a Christian.
(24) From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.
(25) Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;
(26) in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
(27) in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness--
(28)besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

Then, just a few years later, writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12)

Paul saw that nothing in his life happened apart from the purpose, permission, providence or predestination of God. He not only said, “in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18), but also spoke of, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).

The next time you're going through something, or if you are currently going through something, don't be so quick to blame the devil, but consider maybe, just maybe, God is at work in your life, shaping you into the image of Christ.

1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV
(12) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
(13) but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gleanings from the Didache

I just finished reading through the Didache again – twice. It is a very brief, but interesting read. Even a slow reader should be able to read through it in less than a half-hour.

The Didache, which means “teaching,” is an early document that is believed to be a compilation of some of the main teachings of the twelve Apostles. Three of the major themes I see in its pages are: general instructions about the Christian life, instructions about the sacraments of water baptism and the Eucharist, and instructions concerning Church government (with a good number of verses addressing the office of the prophet.) What makes this most intriguing to me is the very strong probability that this was written during the same time period that a number of the New Testament books were still being written, perhaps around 65 a.d. This is what the “New Testament Church” believed and practiced before there was what we know as the New Testament.

What follows are a few things I found particularly interesting.

1. Because the hypocrites [Pharisees] fasted on Mondays and Thursdays, Wednesdays and Fridays were to be the designated fast days for Christians.

2. The Lord's Prayer was to be prayed three times per day. You may have heard it said that the Lord's Prayer is an “outline for prayer.” The early Church knew it to be an actual prayer.

3. Only baptized believers were to partake of the Eucharist.

4. Water baptism seemed to take place after some instructions about the Christian life and was done using the trinitarian formula, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This baptism was to take place “in running water,” but if that wasn't available then “in some other water.” The water was to be “cold” but if unavailable, “do so in warm.” And if there wasn't enough water for immersion then “pour water on the head three times.” (interesting point for immersionists)
The one baptizing, the one being baptized, “as well as any others who were able” were to fast a day or two before the baptism took place.

5. Prayer for Holy Communion (Eucharist)
Concerning the cup:
"We give you thanks, our Father,
For the holy vine of David your servant,
which you have made known to us
through Jesus, your servant
to you be the glory forever."

Concerning the broken bread:
"We give you thanks, our Father,
for the life and knowledge
which you have made known to us
through Jesus you servant;
to you be the glory forever.
Just as the bread was scattered
upon the mountains and then was
gathered together and became one,
so may your church be gathered together
from the ends of the earth into your kingdom;
for your is the glory and the power
through Jesus Christ forever."

Post-Communion prayer:
"We give you thanks, Holy Father,
for your holy name which you
have caused to dwell in our hearts,
and for the knowledge and faith and immortality
which you have made known to us
through Jesus your servant;
to you be the glory forever.
You, almighty Master, created all things for
your name's sake,
and gave food and drink to men to enjoy,
that they might give you thanks;
but to us you have graciously given
spiritual food and drink,
and eternal life through your servant.[Jesus]
Above all we give thanks because you are mighty;
to you be the glory forever.
Remember your church, Lord,
to deliver it from all evil
and to make it perfect in your love;
and gather it, the one that has been sanctified,
from the four winds into your kingdom,
which you have prepared for it;
for yours is the power and the glory forever.
May grace come, and may this world pass away.
Hosanna to the God of David.
If anyone is holy, let him come;
if anyone is not, let him repent.
Maranatha! Amen."

Good stuff from the very early Church!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A quick thought about temptation

"While some wrestle with temptation, others merely embrace it."

Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between wrestling and embracing. Ponder that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Did they realize...?

The following church bulletin notice struck me a little funny:

"Joan of Arc/Pentecost BBQ– Sun., May 31st after the 5:45 p.m. Mass (Parish of St Ann O’Nymous) Come out to Ann O’Nymous location after Mass to celebrate the feasts of Joan of Arc and Pentecost with a bonfire and BBQ."

Do you want friars with that?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

True riches

I found this great little story on another blog site and though you'd enjoy it.(http://kingdomstrider.wordpress.com) The following is taken directly from that blog:

I love little stories like this. So much truth in simple, memorable form. Told by Anthony De Mello, as quoted by Bradley Holt in Thirsty for God:

A monk in his travels found once a precious stone and kept it. One day he met a traveler, and when he opened his bag to share his provisions with him, the traveler saw the jewel and asked the monk to give it to him. The monk did so readily. The traveler departed overjoyed with the unexpected gift of the precious stone that was enough to give him wealth and security for the rest of his life. However, a few days later he came back in search of the monk, found him, gave him back the stone and entreated him: “Now give me something much more precious than this stone, valuable as it is. Give me that which enabled you to give it to me.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Lutheran's attempt at humor

Hey, it made me laugh!

Why me?

In difficult times, times of loss, tragedy or suffering, we may be tempted to ask, “Why me?” Now ponder this, “Why not you?” The answer is usually the same for both questions.

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45

There are certain exemptions we can claim when filing our tax forms. But there is no “exemption from difficulties box” to check simply because we are people of faith. Though we can avoid many things by being good stewards of life, living wisely and trusting God, often people with great faith are “spiritually taxed” at a higher rate.

But let us not forget the words of St. Paul in Romans 8:18 NLT, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later.”

Just make sure you have a good Accountant.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Notre Dame Students Take a Stand!

A group of Notre Dame seniors are refusing to attend their own graduation, rather that compromise their faith. I commend them for their courage to do this.

Friday, May 8, 2009

His delight

Psalm 37:23 in the NKJV says this, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way."

The New Living Translation puts it this way, "The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives."

O Lord, grant that my life and every detail of it, might be Your delight. Amen.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Just hanging around?

Often while reading, a paragraph, sentence, phrase or merely a word will jump off the page and stick in my mind. Thought-pictures form around it and inspiration, conviction or simply a new angle from which to look at something is birthed. This happen quite often when I read from the book, The Valley of Vision. The Valley of Vision is a book of Puritan prayers that will humble you, grip your heart and bring you to the foot of the Cross. Those who don't like to think of themselves as anything but victorious saints and royal children of God and worthy of every possible blessing may not care for this book. Those who think more along the lines of the Apostle Paul, who thought of himself as “the chief of all sinners” (Timothy 1:15) and a “wretched man” ( Romans 7:24) will appreciate this wonderful book. Understand, however, this book does not dwell on our lowliness, but focuses on God's loftiness.

I will share a few lines from one of these prayers and point out the word that has been rolling around in my brain for about a week now. The prayer is entitled, Christlikeness:

May my words and works allure others to the highest walks of faith and love!
May loiterers be quickened to greater diligence by my example!
May worldlings be won to delight in acquaintance with thee!
May the timid and irresolute be warned of coming doom by my zeal for Jesus!
Cause me to be a mirror of thy grace, to show others the joy of thy service,
May my lips be well-tuned cymbals sounding thy praise,
Let a halo of heavenly-mindedness sparkle around me and a lamp of kindness sunbeam path.


The word that has set up camp in my mind is, “loiterers.” A really interesting word when applied to the Christian life. I looked up “loiter” in the dictionary and found these definitions:
1.to linger aimlessly or as if aimless in or about a place
2.to move is a slow, idle manner, making purposeless stops in the course of a trip, journey, errand, etc.
3.to waste time or dawdle over work


I am sure you would agree, there are sure a lot of "Christian loiterers!" The question we each need to ask ourselves is, “Am I one of them?”

If we have loitered, let us quicken our pace!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tie me down, Lord!

I presume most of us are well familiar with Romans 12:1, which reads: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is you reasonable service.” (NKJV)

Or as the New Living Translation (NLT) puts it, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?”

We sing songs with such lyrics as “Make my life a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to You.”

The band, Casting Crowns, in their song, “Lifesong” has a verse that says: "Lord I give my life, a living sacrifice, to reach a world in need, to be your hands and feet.”

Darryl Evans' song “I Lay Me Down” has a line that says, “I lay me down, a living sacrifice to you.”

Craig Wallis, a worship leader with Vineyard Fellowship (I think), in his song, “Sacrifice” says, “I will be a living sacrifice, pure and holy in your eyes.”

Though I could probably mention many more, I think you get the idea. The words are much easier to sing than they are to actually live out. The reason being, it has often been said, is that “The problem with living sacrifices is that they seem to want to climb down from the altar.” Maybe that's true only in my life.... but I suspect that's not the case.

With these thoughts of presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices, I point you to a line from Psalm 118:27, which reads in the NKJV, “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” Read that again. “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.”

Now, the next time you sing a song about your life being a living sacrifice, and if you really mean it, take a moment to pause and pray... “Tie me down, Lord!”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Prayer of St. Hippolytus of Rome

Easter Prayer of St Hippolytus of Rome (AD 190-236)

Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever!

May all the blessings of His Resurrection be upon you!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Prayer of a US Senate Chaplain

I stumbled across a little gem in a thrift store this past week week. What I found was an autographed book of prayers that were offered by U.S. Senate Chaplain, Rev. Frederick Brown Harris between the years 1942 and 1946 - the WWII years. These prayers were offered before before the opening of the daily Senate sessions. Here is a little snippet of one of his prayers that was offered during Lent. I though it would be good as we are now in Passion Week.

“Our Father God... In these solemn and searching days of the Passion, help us to take time to be holy. We would turn from the tragic, troubled world without to the inner kingdom of our own hearts, knowing that there are the issues of life and that as a man thinketh in his own heart so is he. We would dim all lesser lights that the light within may shine with new radiance, In that light we would see ourselves, stained by selfishness, warped by prejudice, blinded by pride, duped by false lights that fail. Grant unto us the grace of penitence that we would not grow insensible to our need of forgiveness, from one another and from Thee. In the crises of our times join us with those who across the waste and wilderness of human need, preparing the way of the Lord, throw up a highway for our God. Amen"
- Chaplain Rev. Frederick Brown Harris, April 16, 1943

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stations of the Cross Video

Looking forward to Holy Week I had planned on posting a specific video based on the Stations of the Cross. When I went to retrieve it for the posting I discovered that the embedding had been removed, which simply means, I am unable to post the actual video here. I will, however, post the link. Please click on it and check it out.

This is from a church in California called Storyteller Church. This church (and there are several in California) is geared toward reaching the artist community. They are made up of actors, dancers, singers, musicians, storytellers, performers of all kinds, as well as painters and sketch artists, etc. If you are an artistic type you would feel at home here. It sounds like a great idea.

In the video, you will see a sketch artist's rendition of the Passion of Christ. Though done simply with pencil or charcoal, the pictures are very moving with Selah's "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" playing in the background. I hope you are blessed by it as you enter Holy Week and approach Good Friday.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

It does makes one wonder....

By now I'm sure you have heard the major news story about the private plane that crashed in to a Butte, Montana cemetery, killing 7 adults and 7 children.

One point that most news sources failed to mention is that the site of the crash, Holy Cross Cemetery, contains a memorial for local residents to pray at the “Tomb of the Unborn.” This memorial was dedicated to all babies who have died as a result of abortion.

Another thing the mainstream media left out of the story is that the family who died near the abortion victim's memorial is the family of Irving “Bud” Feldkamp, owner of the largest for-profit abortion chain in the country. Though Mr. Feldkamp was not aboard this flight, two of his daughters, two sons-in-law and five of his grandchildren died in the crash along with the pilot and four family friends.

I find it interesting that the cause of the crash has been called “a mystery.”

I'm not going to jump to any mystical sowing-and-reaping conclusion, but seeing the bigger picture with the additional details does make me stop and wonder. If all these details were woven into a Hollywood movie we would find the message at least intriguing.

May God in His mercy use this tragedy to bring Mr. Feldkamp to a place of repentance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ready or not, here we go!

There has been much discussion in recent weeks about the decline religion in America, more specifically, the evangelical stream of Christianity. Major papers across the country have written about it, news websites have posted it, bloggers have discussed it. Books have been written on the subject and I'm sure many more are being written as you are reading this.

A number of thoughts are flooding my limited-capacity brain. I will whittle them down to two main ones. From my perspective as a Pentecostal Evangelical I see:

We may sing, “It's All About You!” but we live like “It's All About Me!” We follow after the same pleasures as the world, we seek to “get ahead in the world” that Jesus would have us leave behind. As we accumulate after more and more “stuff” and are always desiring bigger and better everything, we are as guilty of the sin of covetousness (remember that one, “Thou shalt not covet?”) as anyone whom we would say “doesn't know the Lord.”

Our teens seem to be getting pregnant at a rate comparable to that of non-Christians.

Our married couples are divorcing at a rate equal to (or in some studies, greater than) those who do not profess Christ.

Jesus said that it is in the love we have for one another that the world would know we are His disciples and that our unity would be the evidence to the world that He was sent by God. The world doesn't see it.

As long as we fail to “live out” the Jesus we proclaim, we have very little to offer those outside of Christ. It is little wonder that we are seeing a decline in evangelical Christianity.

The very evangelical St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Another similar quote of his said it this way, “Its no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” In street lingo we might say, “Bring it, don't sing it!”

It seems to me that we've lost the awe and fear and reverence of God. The Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth and Lord over all the universe has become “Our Buddy who art in heaven...” We have dumbed down God so He is easier to understand and figure out than the guy across the street. We have conformed Him into our likeness rather than allowing Him to conform us into the image of Christ.

A god we can fully comprehend and has no mystery is not the God of of the Bible. For His ways are always higher than ours; His thoughts are always higher than ours. An amoeba can more easily understand the complex workings of an advanced computer than we can understand how God works. Yes! He is that big! Oh, we have glimpses in the Holy Scriptures, but they are only that.

In our desire to be relevant to the world, the evangelical Church has failed to remain reverent before God. We need both: relevance and reverence.

In our attempt to avoid being thought of as being religious, we've reduced sacraments to ordinances, down-graded rituals to ceremonies and replaced traditions with whatever is trendy. We've become seeker friendly instead of being God-focused and worship is now more of a performance that entertains rather than an act that humbles our hearts in surrender before a holy and all-powerful God. And we wonder why our American evangelical Church is in decline. We've compromised the sacred in the name of being lead by the Spirit.

May God have mercy and send a true revival of Christlikeness to His Church.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saint Patrick's Creed

Tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day. All the revelry that will take place would grieve the heart of this true Celtic saint. He was a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. So devoted to his Lord and Savior, his heartbeat may have sounded something like this: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me." (See my December 12, 2008 entry, St. Patrick's Breastplate)

Saint Patrick's Creed is taken from his own writings and is a clear proclamation of the truths of the Christian faith.

Saint Patrick’s Creed
There is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be,
than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning,
from whom is all beginning,
the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught;
and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare
has always been with the Father, spiritually and
ineffably begotten by the Father before the
beginning of the world, before all beginning;

and by Him are made all things visible and invisible.
He was made man, and,
having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father;
and He hath given Him all power over all names
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,
and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God,
in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be,
judge of the living and of the dead,
who will render to every man according to his deeds; and

He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit,
the gift and pledge of immortality,
who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ;
and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.

Above, I mentioned St. Patrick's Breastplate, here is a version of it put to song:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Being Religious

Tee shirts and bumper stickers are very good discussion starters. You've seen my use of it in at least one of my previous blogs.

Well, I've got another one – the tee shirt that says, “I'm not religious, I just love the Lord.”

For some reason we think there is an added depth of spirituality to say that we are not religious. On the contrary, that could be one of the big problems with the Church today. We want to be recognized as being Christian and be identified as being part of a particular church, but we don't want to be thought of as being religious, as if that is a bad thing.

Consider the statement: “I'm a Christian, but I am not religious about my faith.” (After all, that is what we are talking about – religion and faith.)

Now consider some dictionary definitions and synonyms of the word “religious”........
devoted; reverent; godly; concerned with sacred matters; scrupulously faithful; conscientious; disciplined; extremely scrupulous

Yep. That about sums it up. The segment of the Church that doesn't want to be called religious very often is not devoted, not reverent, not godly, not concerned with sacred matters, not conscientious, not disciplined, not scrupulously faithful, not extremely scrupulous.

Let me say it a different way. “I just love the Lord. I'm just not devoted, reverent, godly, disciplined, concerned with sacred matters, etc.” See how foolish that sounds? It is not any more foolish than saying you are not religious, but still love the Lord.

There is nothing wrong with being religious, if you are religious about the right things! Sure, Jesus criticized the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day - not because they were religious, but because they were religious in and about the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.

Without hesitation I admit that I am religious. I am religious about prayer and Bible reading, fasting, church attendance, tithing, living a life that causes no doubt in others that I am a Christian.

I guess my tee shirt could say: I AM religious, BECAUSE I love the Lord!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Doxology

This posting is a test to see if I can figure out how to post a video to my blog. I found this great a capella version of the Doxology for the test. There are also a couple of verses of the hymn, All People That On Earth Do Dwell. Just for your information, there are a number of hymns that use this same tune, which is known as the Old 100th. It is called the Old 100th because of its original association with the 100th Psalm. Old 100th was written in the mid 16th century. What we commonly know as the Doxology was written over 100 years after that and is the 11th (Yes! eleven verses) and last verse of the hymn, Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So, what are you doing for Lent?

Tomorrow begins the season of Lent. Lent the period of 40 days that runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. You may notice that there are actually more than 40 days in this time period. That is because Sundays are not counted in the calculation. Lent is a time of self-examination, repentance, fasting and purposeful focus on the sufferings of Christ leading to His crucifixion on Good Friday. The reason Sundays are not “counted” is because Sunday is looked upon as a day of celebration – a mini-Easter if you will.

You may choose to do something special during Lent this year. Perhaps you have chosen a special book to read or topical Bible study to go through from now to Easter. Others may deny themselves a certain luxury or pleasure and “give up” such things as deserts or other food items, eating between meals,
$5 daily lattes, going out to eat, television, etc. Really, it could be just about anything.

Still others may choose add something to their lives instead of or in addition to giving something up. This could be spending extra time in prayer or Bible reading. I could be helping out at a food shelf or shelter or volunteering in some other worthy cause.

Whatever one chooses to do or not do during Lent should be done as unto the Lord, with the purpose of drawing closer to Him during this time. Ultimately, some of these practices will continue once we get past Easter and become part of our daily discipline as we seek to be molded by Him into His image and as we seek to honor Him in every aspect of our lives.

For those who have chosen to fast during Lent, whether it be a day a week, a meal or two a day, or a complete fast for an extended period of time, I have included an original prayer for fasting. Perhaps it will be of help to you.


Lord, I commit this fast to you.
Grant that I would draw close to You during this time,
and not simply abstain from the pleasures of food.

When I feel hungry and desire to eat,
give me a greater hunger for You;
remind me that “man does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God;”
move me to feed upon Jesus, the Bread of Life,
the True Manna come down from heaven;
place within me a hunger and thirst for righteousness
with the assurance from Your word that I shall be filled.

Should I be troubled by headaches or stomach pain,
cause me to remember and meditate upon
the sufferings You willingly endured for me.

If I should become crabby or irritable,
draw me into Your presence; for in Your presence is
is fullness of joy.

If I am feeling particularly weak,
let me experience
the joy of the Lord which is my strength;
let me understand
that Your strength is made perfect in my weakness;
let me know
that when I am weak, then I can be truly strong.

If I wonder if I will be able to continue,
pour out Your abundant grace and that will be sufficient for me.

Throughout my fast,
increase my hunger for You;
allow me to taste and see that the Lord is good;
let me feast at the spiritual table You have set for me.

I ask these things for Your glory. Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shack Attack!

Well, I just finished reading The Shack, by William Paul Young. This is the current "hot book" in the country, especially in Christian circles. As of this morning, it is #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list, #4 on Amazon and #14 on Barnes and Noble.

It is a different kind of read: weird in spots, borderline blasphemous in others, heart wrenching, soul stirring and thought provoking throughout.

This book has been criticized and condemned, as is often the case, by those who probably didn't read the whole book. The biggest bone of contention is how the author deals with the Persons of the Trinity. I'm not going to give any spoilers here and ruin it for those who haven't read it yet, but I will say this: The Shack is about how God is with us amidst tragedy and loss and suffering. It is not a theological treatise on the Godhead or a systematic study of the Trinity. IT IS A NOVEL, A WORK OF FICTION!

The Shack has a certain something that will bring healing to many who have lost a loved one due to tragedy or sickness. Its central message is one of hope and comfort and God's love in spite of circumstances. The message of the critics misses the point of The Shack, as well at the grace and comfort that can be found in its pages.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Devotions? or Devoted?

I have said, "God has not called us to do devotions, but to a devoted life." Now, "doing devotions" might be a part of the devoted life, but it is surely not a substitute for it.

William Law, (1686-1761) in his book, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, shared similar thoughts. Here a few snippets from one chapter in that book.

"...who does not know, that it is better to be pure and holy than to talk about purity and holiness?"

"...it is better to be holy than to have holy prayers."

"...I do not intend to lessen the true and great value of prayers, either public or private; but only to show [the reader] that they are certainly but a very slender part of devotion, when compared to a devout life."

"For God is to be glorified , holiness is to be practiced, and the spirit of religion is to be the common spirit of every Christian, in every state and condition of life."

Oh, for those of you who are hung up over the word "religion" and are, in the "Christianity-isn't-a-religion-it's-a-relationship" camp, I simply say,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nifty New Feature Added

I've added RefTagger to my blog site. This is great! When I add a Scripture reference to my blog, RefTagger automatically underlines it and when you put your mouse cursor over the reference the verse pops up for you in a separate box. Give it a try: John 3:16-18.

If you want to add it to your site, you can get it free at http://www.reftagger.com/ . It is so easy to add, even I figured out how to do it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Proud to be Humble

I have seen tee shirts that read, "Proud to be a Christian!" I must tell you that phrase irritates me more than chewing aluminum foil. A more correct slogan would be, "Humbled to be a Christian" but even that expresses pride.

Humility is a somewhat of a "tricky virtue" to attain. For those who desire to be Christ-like it is something absolutely necessary, and is to be deeply desired and diligently sought after, for it exudes the very fragrance of the Savior. Here's the tricky part - once you begin to recognize it in your own life, it begins to leave you.

Philippians 2:5-8 reads:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Notice again the words, "Let this mind [a mind of humility] be in you which was also in Christ." From time to time, we may pray to have "the mind of Christ" about a particular situation or a decision we must make. A key ingredient to having the mind of Christ is humility.

May you always look for and pursue humility in your life, but hope never to find it.