Do You Have 53 Minutes to Spare?

I don’t typically do this, in fact, I cannot really think of any time I have done this except for one time I think I shared a link to one of my sermons (no, I don’t usually preach for 53 minutes. It just seems like an hour.)

But, I came across this video about a year or so ago, and I feel compelled to share it with folks who might not know how, or even care, to find it on their own.

This video is just wow – just wow. It has such an important message about seizing the moment, about doing what your heart calls you to do, about having dreams and setting goals.

And, it’s pretty tootin’ funny as well!

I hope you enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kIMTJRgyn0

 

Additional Thoughts on “I’m a Card Carrying Member…”

I have received some wonderful feedback regarding yesterday’s rant on people who want to be a member of something, but can’t stand what they want to be a member of. I really don’t understand why people would want to do that, but after sleeping on the question, I have some additional thoughts . . .

One, I want to reiterate the point that within the Churches of Christ we own a heritage of dissent. We are seemingly not happy until someone is unhappy. Our DNA is to challenge – to hold traditions up to the light of Scripture and to change what needs to be changed and to accept that which is truly inconsequential. That is one of the things I love the most about my fellowship. I can honestly preach what I feel the Scripture calls on me to preach – and I know I will have my feet held to the fire if I go beyond what is written. It has happened before, and will happen again.

So, don’t misunderstand me. I am not seeking to silence those who are raising honest questions. I am not demanding unquestioning allegiance to unwritten creeds that are equal to Scripture. Even in the year 2020 there are questions that must be asked, if for the only reason to make sure we are standing under the text, and not over it.

What I don’t get, and what piqued my rant yesterday, is that honest search and humble questioning have turned into mockery and outright rejection, but those who mock and reject do not have the courage to honestly state their position and their intentions. Just as one ‘fer example,’ it is a legitimate question to ask in what situation and for what purpose Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14 that a woman is to “remain silent” in the churches. There are honest textual and linguistic issues to raise and answer. However, it is another kettle of fish altogether to say because we live in 2020 and not AD 55 that it is perfectly acceptable for women to have equal leadership roles within the congregation, and that men can marry men and that some men can even become women. I have no problems with a searching question as to why we do not use mechanical instruments of music in our worship service. It is another issue entirely to suggest that if we just had a “praise team” or a “praise band” that our young people would quit leaving our churches. It is one thing to say, “I do not understand.” To mock and to belittle positions that have been honestly held and defended for over 200 years is to cross a line that I simply will not allow to be crossed without a response.

To return to the illustration with which I started the whole discussion yesterday – when is a Glock not a Glock? If all you do is change the sights on your Glock because they are dreadful to begin with, then I would say you still have a Glock. But when you change the sights, drop in a new barrel, replace the trigger and the trigger spring, when you switch out the grips and the recoil spring, and when you add lasers, RMRs and a suppressor, then it gets to the point that I would argue you no longer have a Glock, but instead you have a Glockenstein. You have exchanged an Austrian thoroughbred for an Americanized mongrel that may have the name engraved on the slide – but no longer bears any resemblance to its heritage. (And, to all my Glock lover friends, I am not dissing the actual gun. I do think they are hideously ugly, but there is a reason there are millions and millions of happy Glock owners out there!)

I could say more, but I really probably need to shut up for a while. I’m a dinosaur, to be sure, and I’ve just never figured out how to use the roller blades I’ve been given. But, the older I get the more obstinate I get, I guess. I’m just really, really tired of the hypocrisy, the slight of hand, the veiled sincerity, the feigned allegiance that I see and hear from so many pulpiteers today. When you can walk into a “Church of Christ” today and see a full band, hear a woman preach, and see pre-schoolers praised for “accepting Jesus into their hearts,” then I am going to call “enough.”

Amos 5:21-23.

I’m a Card-Carrying Member – Except For ….

[Trigger warning – if you are susceptible to major denial or anger issues, maybe you should skip today’s rant. And, yes, the pun in intended.]

I write today of a conundrum, a curiosity, a perplexity. I write in the hopes that someone might be able to enlighten me, to remove the opaqueness of my vision.

I have recently been able to renew a long lost passion – well, maybe not a full-blown passion, but certainly a serious interest. That interest is with shooting guns. When I lived in Colorado previously I had the privilege of knowing a number of shooters, and at least one reloader, and they helped me immensely with my shooting skills and my knowledge of everything firearm. In the intervening years I lacked both the opportunity and a driving desire to shoot, and the world of guns, especially handguns, has changed dramatically in the past 25+ years.

So, I have been pushing myself to catch up on my firearm education and my opportunities to shoot. As I have learned, I have also come across something I find humorous, strange, baffling, confusing. One of the huge changes that occurred while I was “away” from shooting is the explosion of polymer constructed, striker-fired, semi-automatic pistols. Back in the day pretty much all you had was a revolver (commonly nicknamed a “wheel-gun” although I think a “rotating cylindrical shaped magazine gun” might be more accurate. What do I know?) Today one of the leading names in this area of gun manufacturers is Glock. Glocks are Austrian made, are reliable, easy to maintain, relatively inexpensive – basically a very solid product. They have a huge, devoted, and almost maniacally committed following. (I happen to think they are hideously ugly, but, again, what do I know? And please, if you own one of those hideously ugly things, don’t shoot me with it. It would hurt.)

That is what I get. Here is what I don’t get. As I read about Glock lovers, they never really own a stock, out-of-the-box Glock. The first thing most of them do is to replace the sights – the sights on a Glock are one of the most universally disliked items on the Glock. But, refusing to stop there, Glock “fan boys” will replace the trigger mechanism, the trigger springs, drop in a customized barrel, swap out the grips and maybe add an after-market laser or optic sight. Then, “properly” outfitted, the ecstatic Glock owner will boast that his (or her, but mostly his) $500.00 Glock looks, feels, and shoots “just as good” as an expensive Beretta or Sig Sauer. The irony is that after they paid for their $500.00 Glock, they spent almost as much (or more) “improving” their wonder gun, and they could have just as easily purchased the said Beretta or Sig Sauer and had a better firearm straight out of the box. (Actually, they could have purchased a Smith and Wesson for the same price as their Glock and had a better gun, but as I keep repeating, what do I know?)

Like I said, I don’t get it. I guess it is something us Smith and Wesson (or Beretta, or Sig Sauer) owners will never comprehend.

But, lest you think I have taken leave of my senses and have forgotten that this is a blog concerning all things theological and ecclesiastical, I have the same dumbfounded reaction to various and sundry church members who are “card carrying members” of their favorite denomination, yet refuse to accept (or flatly reject) basic, fundamental doctrines of said denomination.

Take, just as an example, a Roman Catholic who would not even consider attending a different church, but who considers the idea of Papal Infallibility or the concept of the Magisterium to be silly notions, steadfastly to be ignored. Consider the Methodist who rejects one of the hallmarks of classical Methodism – a commitment to exacting norms of biblical morality – particularly in regard to sexual purity. Pity the poor Presbyterian or Episcopalian (Anglican) who wonders where his or her church disappeared to following the headlong plunge of both denominations into complete gender dysphoria.

Okay, I am neither Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian or Episcopalian (Anglican), so maybe I should not pick on them. But I am seriously galled by individuals who consider themselves to be members of the Churches of Christ who reject basic, fundamental doctrines that have been hallmarks of our heritage for over two centuries. There are the bedrock issues such as the inspiration and infallibility (reliability and truthfulness) of the received texts of the Old and New Testaments, the basic historical/critical method of interpretation of the text, and our oft-repeated if not always observed intention to speak where the Bible speaks, and to allow silence to be silence. That leads to other issues such as male spiritual leadership, the practice of baptism for the remission of sins, the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, and congregational, acapella singing in worship.

If you don’t believe that what we read in our printed editions of the Bible is true and reliable, if you think that the text should be interpreted in light of modern “feel first, think second” hermeneutics, if you think that biblical silence is more important than biblical content, if you believe there are no differences between male and female, if you have bought into contemporary evangelicalism’s “just invite Jesus into your heart” soteriology, if you have to have a “praise team” or “worship band” in order to get your emotional fix for the week – then good on ‘ya, but for all things high and holy do not call yourself a member of the Church of Christ (and, I might cautiously add, church of Christ universal, either).

The heritage of the Churches of Christ in the United States is a heritage of dissent – Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone (and their predecessors in New England) did not come to the church out of a spiritual vacuum – they were committed Presbyterians (or, in the case of the New Englanders, Congregationalists). But – and this is what I credit them with far and above today’s “change agents” within the church – they had the courage of their convictions and when they could no longer abide by the teachings of the Presbyterians (or, later, Baptists) they consciously and unambiguously left those fellowships. They made it clear to friend and foe alike that they were embarking on a different path.

Those who want to “change” the church today are moral and religious cowards. They don’t really like what they see in the Church of Christ, but they want to be seen as brave, heroic even, in their attempts to “save” or “redeem” the church. Well, the church of Christ only has one savior, one redeemer, and he died on a cross. I don’t see any of these modern day Moseses or Joshuas quite willing to make that step. They don’t even have the courage of Campbell or Stone and say, “I can no longer accept the teaching of my parents and my heritage. I have a new understanding of truth, and I must follow that call of truth.” No, what they say is, “The Church of Christ is too patriarchal, too fundamentalist, too tradition bound, but if we would just act and teach like those fun-filled community churches, we could turn everything around, and I’ll show the way with my skinny jeans and my ripped t-shirt and my totally hip and relevant sermons!”

If you don’t like what you see or hear in the nearest Church of Christ, at least have the courage of your convictions and leave and either find a better nest or build your own. Many, many “Evangelical” churches do not believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, they observe no boundaries between male and female, they have praise bands and praise teams and fog machines and strobe lights and all kinds of emotion generating accouterments. I’m sure you would feel very welcome in such an environment – far more so than in the confining, stifling, oppressive settings as you find in so many congregations of the Churches of Christ. Stop being miserable, and stop trying to change what you obviously neither love nor respect.

Seriously, if the only thing on your pistol that says Glock is the slide and the frame, don’t brag about your Glock. All you’re doing is confusing the non-gun speaking world, and irritating those of us who see through the charade.

Church Security Teams – Get It Right

The shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, TX, has – obviously – received tons of coverage, some good, mostly bad, some indifferent. Most of the bad that I read boils down to one common theme – “See, we need more armed people in our church buildings!”

Um, no we don’t.

What we need to seriously consider is having well trained and fully qualified individuals who know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it to serve as a security team, if it is decided that having armed individuals is necessary.

I viewed the video that recorded the shooting. It must be said that the member of the security team that actually killed the assailant was the owner of a shooting range, and is a highly trained and skilled marksman. It must also be pointed out that there were multiple egregious errors committed by others who drew their weapons on that morning, and if just a couple of events had played out differently, the scene could have evolved into a bloody disaster.

What was done right: it cannot be repeated enough that the member of the security team that killed the assailant acted heroically. He fired until the threat was gone and no more. His marksmanship was perfect. In short, he acted far and above what the average person could be expected to perform – he was trained and practiced to a level of “unconscious competence.” Also, because of the erratic dress and behavior of the assailant, the security team had a surveillance camera directed in his direction, and more than one member of the security team was monitoring his actions. Still, he was able to confront a member, draw his weapon, and fire three shots before he could be stopped. This points to the incredible surprise and speed with which these events occur. Finally, a number of members immediately started getting people away from the shooting. I cannot imagine the terror those members were feeling, and the quick response by a number of members was admirable.

What was bad, but thankfully not ultimately critical: In the seconds following the shooting a small army of security team members approached the perpetrator (who, at that point, was not visible to many of them) with their handguns drawn. Some used excellent muzzle control, others just swept their guns out and “muzzled” large numbers of panicked church members. Within mere seconds the team actually formed a semi-circle around the downed assailant – exposing a number of them to cross fire had the perpetrator been able to continue shooting. The potential for “friendly fire” injuries was terrifying. True, the assailant was dead (or dying), but within those first few seconds there was no way of knowing how badly, or even if, he was injured. Handgun wounds are typically not immediately fatal (in this particular case the shot that felled him must have been a central nervous system wound or directly in the heart) and people have lived for many minutes even after receiving an ultimately fatal handgun wound.

I guess what concerned me the most was that everyone had their attention focused on this one individual. I have to be careful here – the camera did not reveal everyone in the auditorium and there may have been others who had their backs to the first shooting and were focused on the other half of the auditorium. But one thing that was drilled into me as an instructor in a university setting – if there is one assailant you always, always, assume there is an accomplice or trailing assailant. I realize you can play “shoulda, woulda, coulda” all day long, but had there been a second shooter the results could have been disastrous. I truly hope that there were members of the security team (off camera) that were serving as guards and had their attention fully focused on the part of the auditorium that was not on screen.

The bottom line for what I want to say is this: this event demonstrated the need for congregations to consider employing a well educated and well trained and thoroughly practiced security team to protect their members. It was not, in and of itself, a demonstration for the willy-nilly, wild-west, “everybody needs a six-shooter” kind of knee-jerk reaction to the potential of an armed assailant. This event – from the first shot to the last – took six seconds. Think of it – six seconds and the assailant killed two church members and fired a third shot before he was killed. The speed at which the defender recognized the situation, drew his weapon and fired an incredibly difficult shot is simply beyond what most people could accomplish. This event is not an excuse for John or Jane Doe who takes his or her gun to the shooting range maybe once every six months to suddenly transition into Barney Fife and start carrying a lethal weapon that has the potential for destroying large numbers of innocent victims, all in the name of self-defense. This congregation did a lot of things right, I cannot stress that enough – and there were still a number of very serious and potentially fatal mistakes that were made. That should serve as a very stark warning – even with the best of plans and best of intentions bad things can happen. Even in this event the results were tragic – two saints lost their lives due to the pure evil of a deranged individual. If it were not for the plans, and training, and incredible skill of one individual, the carnage could have been unspeakable.

If you are a member of any congregation, do not think that this could never happen to you. The hatred for any form of religion is growing, and the need for notoriety and the depth of human depravity means that these events will continue. We must be vigilant to protect the most vulnerable in our congregations, and if that means we must train certain members to the level of “unconscious competence” demonstrated by this armed protector, then we must at least consider the option. Having such a team may not be the proper response for every congregation – some may prefer to face any such event with no armed members. That is a legitimate choice for a congregation to make, and there are reasons to make such a choice that I would not condemn. However, if your congregation does decide to use an armed security team, please, please, for everyone’s safety and for the sake of intelligent, moral, behavior – make sure that each team member is properly educated, trained, and practiced to avoid the injury to innocent bystanders.

I Am a Very Lucky Man

In the great classic “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge says wistfully at the end of the movie, “I am a very lucky man.” As I sit at the end of 2019, I too feel like I am a very lucky man. As an old saying goes, you can’t count on luck, but sometimes being lucky counts a whole lot. I want to share a few of the reasons why I feel particularly blessed at the end of this calendar year.

  • My wife has battled back from cancer, twice! Every follow-up blood test is nerve wracking, but as we have learned, it is the “new normal.” We are so grateful to have been blessed with two oncologists that have given her the strength, and the medical knowledge, to overcome. I realize this narrative can change at any time, and not every battle against cancer ends in victory –  I lost my father to cancer 29 years ago. So, for now I will consider myself very lucky, and blessed, to share in this moment.
  • I have the most amazing, articulate, artistic, and beautiful-in-every-sense-of-the-word daughter. She amazes me more and more every day, in ways that I find hard to explain. One of my long-running jokes with her is that after she was born, the nurses switched babies because there is no way this girl could be mine. Well, in a serious way that is very true – I really wonder how this girl could be the way she is with me as her father. I’ve made so many mistakes and failed her in so many ways. Maybe every father feels that way – but to have her in my life seems to me to just be pure luck.
  • I’ve been given a new “leash” on life. Not “lease,” as the saying usually goes, but a new leash. I’m beginning to realize that I am tethered to something different, something new. I have had to come to grips with some rather hard truths over the past few months, and have had a lot of time to evaluate my priorities. I’ve said good-bye to some long held dreams, and have come to embrace some new (or, at least, renewed) goals. In one sense it is kind of scary – the old was so comfortable and predictable. In another sense it is liberating. Either way, it is certainly real, and I look forward to seeing how 2020 plays out.
  • I have some of the most amazing, thoughtful, and generous friends. Really – some of you reading this are who I am talking about. The last half of 2019 we could not have survived without the financial generosity of many, many people. It was a deeply humbling experience. I’ve already referenced Ebenezer Scrooge, so I guess I might as well mention George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The angel Clarence got it right – every man who has friends is rich indeed. My wife and I are already looking for ways in which we can pay this blessing forward, and our hope is that we can help others in same or similar situations. Whether that happens in 2020 or not, I look forward to being an angel in someone’s life as so many were angels to us.

I am a very lucky man. Maybe blessed is the more proper, biblical, spiritual term, but today lucky just seems to be more appropriate. I did not, and do not, deserve the gifts I have listed (and there are many more!), but I do recognize how my life has been made fuller and richer by having received them, and I do not want any one to think I am ungrateful for having been given these gifts. If I can see anything more clearly or more profoundly, it is because I stand on the shoulders of some prodigious giants.

In the coming year may we all ascend higher by climbing lower.

Back in the Saddle Again – and Thanks for a Great Year

Okay, so I’m not Roy Rogers or whoever it was who sang that old western standard, but after 4 months plus some days I am once again sitting in a “saddle” of sorts preparing to serve a congregation of the Lord’s church. It’s been a long, hard stretch, but there are always some silver linings that come out around dark clouds, and not to say that I want to do it again, but I have learned some things in that four month stretch that I can appreciate now.

I want to take this time to thank my readers for a great year. Every year I play a little game with myself – or challenge myself – that I will increase the number of views to this blog over the course of the year. I was hoping to surpass last year’s total viewership sometime in December, or if I was lucky, maybe in November. Well, thanks to you all, I did not just surpass my 2018 total, I smashed it – in August! I have to admit a minor technicality– I think a lot of those views were related to my search for a new preaching position and people were “checking me out” to see what kind of a nut I am. Whatever the reason, the total number of views for 2019 went way beyond what I was expecting and for that I am truly grateful. It also humbled me and impressed upon me the need to present solid, useful information.

I do not want to be just another voice in an echo chamber. I hope that my training, my experience, my education, and my own unique personality can be used to further God’s kingdom. I’m not the world’s greatest evangelist or the world’s greatest speaker. But, I have been given some incredible blessings through the course of my life and ministry and I hope I can pass a little of what I have learned along to others, so that they can take whatever is beneficial and add that to their special experience, training, education, and personality. This blog helps me to do a little of that, and, once again, I thank all of you who visit this space for sharing a little of my world.

On a related note, I am tossing an idea around in my head and I am wondering what level of interest there is out there for a video version of this blog. I don’t mean to replace it, but to supplement it. I was thinking about posting a 10 minute (give or take) video to my YouTube channel every week exploring some aspect of theology and/or life in general. It would not be anything special, that’s for sure. I just have a basic computer video camera. It would give me an outlet to present some of my thoughts via a visual outlet, and for me I think it would be fun and perhaps, just maybe, a little more personable than just reading my thoughts on a screen. I may give it a shot and see what happens.

As always, I have a few more issues and thoughts to discuss, so I look forward to a great 2020. So many of you have expressed support for me and my family as we searched for a new ministry position, and I want to thank you so very much for your love and concern. I believe we are in a good place, and we look forward to many good years here in our new church home.

Bible Reading Schedules Now Posted

Every year for the past several years I have posted “Bible Reading Schedules” that will allow you to read the Bible through either once or twice in a given year. The schedules for 2020 are now posted on their separate pages.

If you are familiar with these schedules, they are identical to past years. If you have never seen one of my schedules, a few notes are in order. One, you will notice that there is no reading for Sundays. I assume you will be attending a church service, and for that day I am also making the assumption that you will be provided with a text (or two) in the sermon and/or in your Bible class for you to read and to meditate upon for that day. Alternatively, you can use the lectionary reading(s) for that Sunday – something that I do in my own daily reading. (These are available in a number of sources – either print or on-line. Search for “Common Lectionary Readings.” Note that the liturgical year begins in December with Advent. There are three years of lectionary readings, and you will want to be sure you are reading for the appropriate year, either “A”, “B”, or “C.”

You will also notice that for the “Read the Bible Through Once” schedule, there is only a reading for the Psalms on Saturday. This will allow you to “make up” on Saturday for any days that you missed during that week.

In the “Read the Bible Through Twice” you will see that on Mondays and Saturdays there is only one chapter of the New Testament, and on all other days there are 2. There are always 5 chapters of the Old Testament.

In both schedules the Psalms are read through twice. This allows a constant presence in the praise, lament, and worship literature of the Israelites and the early church.

I guess it should go without saying, but any schedule that keeps you in God’s Word is a good one. Some individuals like to read slowly – taking several years to work through the Bible. Some prefer a chronological approach – attempting to place the books in the order in which they were written (to the best of our knowledge). Some prefer reading schedules such as the Moravian Brethren produce – and I have used those schedules and like them very much. (Search for “Moravian Brethren” on the internet. They have a number of different editions for you to choose from). These schedules posted here are just my attempt to work out a schedule to keep myself (and any others who are interested) in the text. Use them if they are useful, lose them if they are not.

Whatever schedule you prefer, the important thing is that we keep our hearts and minds in the text of God’s Word, and that we seek to apply his guidance in our daily lives.

Blessings on your study in 2020! Let us all ascend by climbing lower.