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April 2012 entries

A Trip in the "Way Back" Machine (Part 1)

Come slide in next to me on the rich and supple Corinthian leather bench seat of my customized "Way Back" machine. We are not traveling to the past to visit our founding fathers or to the ancient past to draw on cave walls or track woolly mammoths in the snow. No, we are only traveling to the not too distant past of 30 or so years ago. There we will find a passionate young preacher with no steady gig. No church willing to take a chance on this young  long haired loud preacher with too much facial hair.

You will learn after observing his behavior that he is erratic in his faith at best. He has only recently gotten hold of his potty mouth. Expletives, that were so common before he had decided to follow Christ, were now only occassionally a part of his dialogue. He is a little rebellious. Enough to keep most potential pastor-less churches from taking a chance on him. So he labors as a computer programmer to pay the bills but realizes there is an emptiness inside his soul that only teaching the Bible will fill.

There is one striking characteristic of this young man that makes him hard to like. He is very judgmental. When he does have an opportunity to speak he most often condemns everything from Hollywood to rock and roll. He closely investigates album covers of such demonic forces as Ozzy Osborne and Alice Cooper and declares them to be the ruin of our young people's minds. He accuses Democrats and those kooks on the west coast as the reason America is going to hell in a hand-basket. He trashes Catholics and Pentecostals alike. Phrases like "Get Right or Get Left!" and "Turn or Burn!" are peppered frequently in his conversations with others of his kind. In a phrase, if you are not just like him then you are wrong. His favorite comeback to those who disagree with his ideology is "You can disagree with me if you want. Everyone has the right to be wrong."

Inside, where you are not able to see, this young man is a mess. A desire to fit in with the religious crowd is directing his actions while in his heart he knows he is just pretending to be what others expect him to be. He really still likes Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Rush. He is afraid that someone in his church might discover that he had voted for Jimmy Carter for president. Heaven forbid someone discover his extreme distaste for neckties and three piece suits. If that last bit of information were to be discovered his chances of being a pastor were sunk for sure. Had this young man mistaken God's call to preach as directed to him while it was really meant for the young man standing next to him in youth group who looked like a combination of Billy Graham and Chuck Colson? He wonders if God could ever use someone who looked at the world in such a non-conventional way. He knows that God had forgiven him of his past, but he wasn't sure if He could make much sense of his future....    

To be continued...            

I have been following a trial in Israel for months now. The presenters of the James ossuary (bone box) were charged with forgery. The inscription on the box reads, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The Israel Antiquities Authority tried to prove that the inscription had been added to the box to make it news worthy. After a long trial the judge declared the defendants not guilty on all counts. This is a victory for all of us who want the name of Jesus to be declared to the nations!


Goodbye to Another Friend

I just read an email from a fellow pastor in our community. He informed me that he was moving to another community to pastor a different church. I can't tell you the number of times I have received similar news. The only thing that has really changes is the way the message is delivered. Most often in years past it was a phone call. Sometimes a guy would stop by my office and say good bye. Most often now days it is by email. No matter how the message is delivered it is painful.

Most of the people in my line of work stay only a few short years in their church before moving on. It is almost always a move upward into a larger church or a more influential position.  If it isn't a move upward it is usually just a move out. Either being pushed out or just running from a problem that would not go away. Most of these guys just land wherever they can and lick their wounds for a while.

My situation is rare. I have been at Dallas Bay for 22 years. None of my staff were here in the beginning. Of the nearly 2800 people less than a dozen people remain from the original congregation. I have never sought to move to a bigger church. Instead the church has grown with me. I have considered running from problems a few times. Some were thrust upon me and others were of my own making. I even considered quitting ministry entirely once. It was not people I was disappointed in, it was me. My heart had grown cold and I had lost my fire. I'm thankful that God rescued me from ruin. His methods were painful, but I could not imagine doing anything other than what I do.

So I say goodbye to my pastor friend. I know he will do well in his new church. His denomination is different but his calling is the same. We both live to share Christ with others. I wish him the best and I know we can spend some time around the throne together someday. Maybe I can arrange a reunion of all the pastors who have come and gone during my lifetime. Then, maybe, we can stay put for a while. Until then, the only thing that is certain in this life is change. So love people while you have them around. See you all soon, I hope!    

Jesus Understands

In an attempt to have more attend Easter communion this year we have moved its observance to tonight instead of Thursday. While preparing for the observance this morning I have been contemplating that original drama over 2000 years ago. While I do, one thought keeps surfacing above all others. It is only possible to be betrayed by a friend. 

As Jesus sat reclined in the upper room with His disciple gathered near, He would have been reciting stories from the Exodus. This was usually reserved for fathers as they shared with their families the story of their ancestors deliverance from Egypt. But Jesus did not have a traditional family. Joseph has probably been gone for years and Mary has been widowed left to raise Jesus and His siblings alone. He was not welcome in his hometown. They had attempted to kill Him the last time He had visited their city. (Luke 4:28 - 29) Now this small band of men had become His family. (Matthew 12:48 - 49)

Early in the Passover meal, each member of the family would be instructed to dip unleavened bread into a mixture of horseradish and apples. This was a picture of the sweetness of God's love in the middle of their bitter slavery in Egypt.  Jesus had just told His friends gathered at the table that one of them would betray Him. John, at Peter's request, asked Jesus who that person would be. He answered, The one to whom I will give the piece of bread once I have dipped it." Normally, the person would dip his own bread. Jesus then took the bread and dipped it into the mixture of bitter and sweet. He handed the sop to Judas and said, "What you do, do quickly."

What a strange mixture of bitter and sweet it is to have close friends and family. To allow someone the nearness to hear your heartbeat, to weep over the things that break your heart, to rejoice with you in your victories and hold your hand when you the sweetest thing in the world. But the nearness also allows them to know things about you that can damage you almost beyond repair. It was Judas that knew Jesus would retire to the Mount of Olives to pray after the meal. He arranged to have the Temple guards to follow him there. He knew Jesus would be waiting there with His friends as He struggled through the most difficult night of His life. Only Judas would be able to get this close to Jesus so as to betray Him to His enemies. The Gospel of Matthew captures the heart of Jesus at this moment; 

Matthew 26:48-50 (NKJV)
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him."
49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed Him.
50 But Jesus said to him, "Friend, why have you come?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

 I know Jesus is omniscient. I know that He is aware of all that is going on around Him. But, I can't get past that painful statement after Judas had kissed Him, "Friend, why have you come?" He certainly knew, but could He bring Himself to believe it? It is impossible to be betrayed by an enemy. Only our closest friends can get so close as to betray us with a kiss. When you think of the suffering of Jesus this week. And I hope you do. Don't forget how he suffered at the hand of His friend and you will know that He understands your hurts as well.

Have a blessed Easter week!!    Pastor Ken