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January 2008 entries

Til Death Do Us Part

One of the unique things about being a pastor is the range of emotions I get to experience with the people God has called me to serve. That has never been more apparent than this last week.

One week ago today I had the privilege of joining two people in marriage who previously been in destructive relationships. The Lord had brought the two of them together and they were as content as any couple I had ever joined together. Children from their two past relationships were present at the wedding and as happy for their parents as the couple I was marrying. It's one of those bright days in the ministry that make all the tough days worthwhile.

Then just yesterday I talked to an older gentleman who was losing his partner of 65 years. He and his wife had been informed last Sunday (six days ago) that she was terminal. Instead of the few months that they had been given by the doctors she died in only six days. I just got off the phone with him a few minutes ago. This was a brave man who had stormed the beach at Normandy. He had seen his comrades fall on his right and his left. He had been soaked by the bloody surf on that day when boys became men and men became heroes. He said to me, "I've been around death all of my life, but this is different. One half of me has died with my wife."

The strongest thing in the universe is love. It is the glue that holds parents to wayward children. It is the one thing that defies the calendar. While so many things lose strength over time, love grows stronger. As the man said to me on the phone, "I love her more now than I did 65 years ago when I said "I do." "Love suffers never abides faith hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Cor. 13   

In the midst of one of those tough days,

Pastor Ken          

Evangelicals as Individuals

Some of you may know that in a former life that I was deeply in politics. I was a Poli-Sci major at UTC. I really had aspirations of holding a political office someday, but the Spirit had other things for me to do. That being said, I am still interested in following politics locally and especially nationally. So you can imagine I have been watching the caucuses and primaries with considerable interest. Have you noticed the way Christians are being treated in the media this time around? It must stem from the fact that a preacher is running for the Republican nomination. His prominence in the race has caused the liberal media to uncharacteristically bare their fangs early and often.

The one practice that has caused me considerable consternation is the use of the word "born-again" as a noun instead of an adjective. The media is talking about the "born-agains" excerpting their influence on the presidential race. They use the term in the same way as you would use the word leper or mutant. They say that those "born-agains" are not going to vote for this candidate or that party. The "born-gains", if they had their way, would have us all vote this way or that. The next thing you know the "born-agains" will have to register with the government just as the mutants in X-Men comics.

Then there is the way in which "Evangelical" is spoken in sarcastic tones and sometimes with a suspicious inflection. You would get the idea from the liberal media that "evangelicals" and "abortion clinic bombers" may be used interchangeably.

Let me set th record straight. I am both born-again and an evangelical and I do not know yet how I am going to vote. I am not going to check with with all the other "born-agains" to see how they cast their ballot before I cast mine. Evangelicals are as different as any other group that you may choose to label. Will all deer hunters vote alike? Will all cat fanciers vote republican or democrat? If you are left handed will you necessarily vote for a lefty? I hope that our uniformity is only in these two decisions. Pray about your vote then pray for the person who is elected regardless if he or she was your candidate. That's not an option for us "born-agains."

  1 First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, 2 for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3

In His Shadow,

Pastor Ken


Religious Truths from "I Am Legend"

Excuse the absence for a while. We've had Internet problems at the Duggan ranch. We're back up now and I want to talk about something I mentioned just a few entries ago.

It's getting to be when my family and I are leaving a movie I'm asked, "Okay Dad, what spiritual things did you pick up on in that one?" They know that I see transcendent overtones in all forms of entertainment. Recently we went to see, "I AM Legend" starring Will Smith. Mr. Smith played the sole survivor of a medical cure for cancer gone bad. His character, Robert Neville, stays in NYC long after everyone else has died looking for a cure.

So, what about the spiritual significance, you say? First of all the creatures that inhabit the dark recesses of New York are humans that have been changed into flesh eating zombies by the medical experiment gone bad. They can only come out at night or lurk in dark buildings and corridors. Much is made in the movie about the difference between darkness and light. Darkness is evil and the light is life. The darkness/light analogy is a constant theme throughout the movie particularly when you are looking for it. Then there is the statement "God didn't do this to us, we did it to our selves." It became obvious to me that the zombie like sickness was a representation of sin. Those who dwelt in the dark even began to learn to try and tempt or trick Neville into their lair or trap him in darkness.

Midway through the movie Smith learns that he is not the only human left alive when he is rescued from self destruction by a young woman and a boy, a familiar symbol in the New Testament. She tells him there is a community of non-infected people living in a small village in Vermont called Bethel. Bethel, oddly enough, means "House of God." In a flashback scene Will Smith prays with his family that he would find a cure for the plague. The prayer is the last communication he has before his family dies trying to escape New York. Now he has lost his faith and even declares he no longer believes in God. Finally cornered by the zombie army being led by one powerful leader, read here Satan and his army, Will Smith's character fills a vial with his blood and gives it to the young woman and the boy. They escape while Robert Neville dies fighting off the enemy. Interesting, don't you think, that Neville passes his blood that contains the cure to the plague to others as he gives his life as a sacrifice for them. And as the movie comes to a close the boy and the young woman are seen entering into Bethel. As the gates open, in the center of town and the movie screen, is the church. There is a throng of others who are not infected with the dark plague to welcome them home.

I would not recommend young viewers to watch the movie, but if you are able to watch such an intense sometimes disturbing film, I challenge you to see it and observe the "sin vs. good" religious overtones. It may be a talking point where you can speak freely about the subject to someone who otherwise wouldn't listen.                

Late Night Memories

The hour is late and everyone, but me, is already in bed. I'm not sure if they are all asleep, but they've all turned in for the night and I'm still up. I was just looking around the house and noticed how stark everything is now that the Christmas decorations are all taken down. Marilyn and I made the last trip to store the garland, tree decorations and nutcrackers in a rented storage building just this afternoon. There something about the quiet of the late evening that solicits a bit of melancholy in me. Either fatigue or the lack of the distracting clutter of noise lets the veneer wash away that has held my emotions intact throughout the day.

In the quiet of this evening I began to reflect on two thoughts; How blessed I am and how quickly life passes. Both caught me off guard with a flood of emotions as I thought of an old friend that passed away just before Christmas. CJ was just about two years older than me. He owned the wheels that the "Fantastic 4" cruised the Chow Now and Shoney's parking lots well after the sun went down. It was a silver Mercury Cougar with a black vinyl top. CJ had bought wide wheels and raised white letter tires. It was a chick magnet, for CJ at least. The remaining members of the Fantastic 4, Mike, Mitch, and myself were wedged into what was left of the interior after the after market 8 track player and speakers were installed. They protruded from every possible flat surface and were to be avoided at all costs. We would tool around listening to the Doobie Brothers groove on "Black Water" or "China Grove" as far as the 39.9 cents a gallon gas would take us. We would talk about girls, the future, girls, cars, girls... you get the drift. Just thinking back on those days brings a smile that I cannot wipe from my face and a tear that just won't stay where it belongs.

We all walked a fine line of faith and paganism. As for me, I began my relationship with the guys as a full blown pagan. I was turned off by the church and was not sure that I wanted anything to do with God. My opinion of God had been shaped by the legalistic and judgmental attitude of my church. My opinion of the church had been greatly diminished after I witnessed two men came by our house to unceremoniously excommunicate mom from the congregation because of my parents divorce. We were not bad kids. I never remember plotting to rob a bank or sell drugs. The most saintly was Mitch. I cannot to this day ever remember him saying a bad word. Mike was the ladies man. His hair was the envy of every girl. It was all the way down to his belt and meticulously clean. I was the youngest and didn't contribute much to group other than my loose change that I dropped in the hat to fill the gas tank.

CJ was the quiet one. I think he was the oldest and he definitely had the coolest stuff. Besides the Cougar he had the nicest of rifles and shotguns. He honestly could shoot a bottle cap thrown in the air with a .22 long rifle bullet. If I could use only one word to describe CJ it would be "cool." It just oozed from him as he drove with one hand on the wheel and the other out the window with a Swisher Sweet cigar....Now he's gone. I understand it was on the first day of his vacation when he just collapsed at home. Gone at 52. Now the "Fantastic 4" is no more. Mitch called me and told me the bad news. In typical Mitch fashion he said, "CJ bought the farm."  I knew instantly what he meant. I had only recently been driving down memory lane from the perspective of the back seat in a silver Cougar with wide wheels. For some reason CJ had been brought to the forefront of my memory just a few days ago. I wondered how he was doing. Before I got off the phone with Mitch I asked him if he knew whether CJ had things right with God before he "bought the farm." He said that he had brought the subject up to him several times and CJ always insisted that he did. I sure hope so. I plan on having a "F4" reunion someday.

It is people like Mitch, Mike, CJ and myself I have in mind when I preach. I remember how out of touch I thought the preacher was. That he lived in a different world than I did. I'm sure our pastor would rant and rave against our music and would not approve of our conversations. I saw him as un-approachable and the church as irrelevant. When I entered church I immediately felt judged. I never remember anyone talking about grace, only justice. That someday when we "bought the farm" we would get what we deserved. "Lord, never let me get to that place where I believe I deserve heaven."

Well, I'm not sure where this is heading. Remember, it's late and I'm prone to wander. I just know that life is "but a vapor, it appears for a short while and then it vanishes away." As a rocker once said, "Your everlasting summer, you can see it fading fast, so you grab a piece of something that you think is going to last... Are you reeling in the years, are you stowin' away the time, are you gatherin' up the tears, have you had enough of mine?" Be a blessing to someone. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus and not the eyes of the Pharisees. 

Keeping it real - PK                         

Some Post Holiday Ramblings

It's New Years Day and it's early evening. Thanksgiving is more than a month in the past and Christmas is fading in the rear view mirror. For those who revel in New Year's celebrations, I'm not one of them, it's time to remove the lampshade from your head and face reality. The only holiday left is my birthday, which is tomorrow, and for some strange reason the scope of parties and celebration seems to be limited to immediate friends and family. Between now and Easter the only festive occasion is the greeting card perpetuated Valentines Day. Whoopee! (For those of you who do not read between the lines that was a sarcastic whoopee.)

I have been on vacation with my family and have experienced a few things that will be fodder for my over active imagination in the next few blogs. Over the break Andy, the youngest of the Duggan clan, and I saw "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith. While it is extremely violent it wreaks with religious, even Christian, imagery. Let me get my thoughts in order and I will share what I perceived as a real salvation message in the movie. It probably  wasn't intended to be particularly evangelistic, but it came across that way to me.

I have also been reading a new book by Frank Peretti entitled "The Oath." I spotted it the day I left for the mountains and thought it would come in handy on those rainy days when you didn't want to leave the cabin. It was a real page turner. Although a little hefty at 550 pages, I have not been able to leave it sitting for long. I plan to finish it tonight, and when I do I will give some thoughts here at "Out of the Box." It is extremely entertaining and has some great spiritual lessons that hit home.

It's good to be back and preparing for a series beginning this Sunday I've named "Family F.E.U.D." The church hasn't suffered in my absence however. Last week while on vacation I hear that chairs had to be added in the worship center and an overflow opened. I wasn't preaching and 5 families joined DBBC. That may be threatening to some pastors, but it is reassuring to me. If I have done my job right then the body of Christ will run on all 8 cylinders when I'm gone. It seems that there is another exciting year in store for Dallas Bay. Just tighten your safety belts and hang on.

I warned you in the title I was rambling. True to my word I have done just that. Once the big birthday bash is over I'll collect and organize my thoughts. I hope all of you had a great Christmas and that the New Year will be filled with God's grace.