Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are We Alone?


Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell shared recently that he believes that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the United States and other governments. Interesting. He delivered his remarks during an appearance at a meeting of UFO activists and researchers studying the possibility of alien life forms. He believes that men have long wondered if we are alone in the universe, but it has only been in the past several decades that the answer has come to light. He believes that we need to be ready to reach out beyond our planet and beyond our solar system to see what is really going on out there.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Mitchell grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, which some UFO believers maintain was the site of a UFO crash in 1947. The U.S. Air Force said in 1994 that wreckage recovered there in 1947 was most likely from a balloon-launched classified government project. Nevertheless, residents of Roswell have been told theat they are not to say anything about the subject...nothing whatsoever. Also, Mitchell claims that he was called to the Pentagon about a decade ago to tell what he knows about UFOs and aliens. Another UFO expert has said that the truth about extraterrestrial life is being suppressed because it is politically explosive. In the meantime, the stories and debates continue about what happened at Roswell those many years ago.

Given that there has been so much opportunity for exposure, it is still a bit difficult for me to believe that there has not been some sort of public disclosure about UFOs and aliens. Perhaps, this is just the beginning...or, then again, maybe it is just another wild goose chase. Hard to say. One thing is certain...either we will get more detail and the truth will come to light, or we will forever be held captive to mysteries and shady evidence. But, something has got to give, right? Blessings,


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Welcome to New Rome


(A minister friend of mine dropped by the office the other day. He wanted to share some concern about the current direction and state of our culture. I know that he was voicing the frustration of many Christians concerning the rampant immorality and growing anti-Christian dogma in our society. Our visit reminded me of an article I wrote in 1994...15 years ago -- well before where we are today. I thought I would look for it, and I found it...which was a minor miracle :-). So, I share the article now in hopes that it will cause us to think...and perhaps seek to make a difference in some way).

Our country is going down the toilet morally. You would think that we would learn a lesson from the Roman Empire and its great writer Seneca, who said..."Rome is a sewer." It is interesting to note that Rome was never wholesale defeated by any army, save for some lost battles at the hands of the Parthians. Rome imploded...collapsed from the inside. Its immorality was the greatest contribution to its fall. And yet, we are no better than Rome, as humanism continues to override Christianity in our country. Abortion, pornography, homosexuality, general immorality and many other sinful, distasteful thing to God are being readily accepted...even by some who would call themselves Christian. There does not seem to be much of a moral majority any longer...for all practical purposes, it is a minority.

If this country is ever going to return to the form that once made it great, it is going to be through godly, moral principles for which many of the early fathers our country stood. If we, as an overall culture, continue to promote ourselves as god, we will likely end up with the same fate as the morally corrupt Roman society. Let's take notice before it's too late. Blessings,


(P.S. Back to the future -- Let's take notice before it's too late).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Effective Leadership


In talking with some minister friends at lunch, we were discussing about how to effectively arrive at decisions. Some indicated that they have had a voting procedure...but that it is not a very effective means to arrive at a decision many times, because some "do not get their way" and can become difficult. Another shared that they "cast lots" of sorts...they pray and draw names, etc. out of a hat, trusting the providence of God to lead them. They have had success in doing this, especially in that it weeds out popularity votes.

I think that the above methods have some positives and negatives...and there are surely other methods that could be mentioned. But, for the sake of time...I believe that the most effective means of group decision making is building consensus. I may have shared in relationship to this concept before, but being reminded of it today was a good thing. Someone once said that "consensus is the negation of leadership." I couldn't disagree more...consensus is the negation of dictatorship -- it is proof that effective leadership has taken place and has worked.

I have been part of church business meetings in my life that could make one's hair fall out...well, based upon my experience, I guess you can see how effective such meetings were early on. :-) Voting just created stress, because some person or individuals were not going to get their way...in short, it would become difficult and divisive. A wise friend of mine who was a community business leader -- seeing the struggle with decision-making -- said...we choose to make decisions through consensus, and it has been very effective. What works in the business world in relationship to group decisions certainly should work in the church. Consensus decision making was implemented, and viola!...much more effective meetings and ministry.

Now, contrary to the exclamation, it is not a magic formula. In order for everyone to be on board with a decision, there has to be some significant give and take...sometimes a simple talking it out, other times it is a challenging struggle. But, the ultimate goal is that it is a "we" decision and not an "us vs. them" decision. So, even though it may not necessarily be easy, it is worth it, because it builds group unity and negates most contention and division. Some food for thought. Blessings,


Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Legend Retires


I guess John Madden finally got tired of the continual treks across the country in the Maddencruiser. :-) Afraid of flying, which is not too hard to understand, Madden has been traveling via bus for nearly three decades as one of the most prominent, if not preeminent, football broadcaster. After coaching the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory in the 70s, Madden hung it up as the head coach with the best winning percentage in NFL history and went to the broadcast booth. He and Pat Summerall were, far and away, the best NFL broadcast team for CBS and Fox for the better part of two decades. Only in the last several years has Madden been paired up with Al Michaels -- a good team in their own right -- first on Monday nights for ABC, and then Sunday nights for NBC the past couple of years.

Madden has been a polarizing figure for whatever reasons...some people really like him and others do not. This is hard to understand. I think that Madden brought a knowledge and creativity to the broadcast booth that would hold people's fascination...not to mention "the voice." I, for one, will miss him. In addition, what is Frank Caliendo going to do now that Madden has retired? Madden has been his bread and butter impersonation for a couple of years now.

I think that it is safe to say that John Madden leaves the booth not just as a broadcaster, but as an icon. He has truly transcended the sport...and I believe the NFL will be hurt, somewhat, by not having him as one of their regular vip's. He has to head the list on the Mt. Rushmore of NFL broadcasters, along with Summerall, and Howard Cosell -- as individuals who truly left as icons who transcended the game. Chris Berman gets the final icon spot just because...and because of his NFL experience -- you gotta love the guy. And all of this, not to mention the fact that Madden has the all-time great NFL video game that bears his name. So long John...kick back in your easy chair and enjoy some good, homemade turducken. Blessings,


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Answered Prayer


I have been thinking over the past few days about the fact that my prayer list stays about the same. No, it doesn't have the same names on it all of the time...the names change. What is amazing is that I think a lot about the names of people I add to the list, but sometimes tend to take for granted the names of people that are taken off of the list. It is not that I have given up on the names of those that are taken off of the list -- it's just that God has answered them. This, in many respects, should not be amazing to me...but it is. It is certainly not that I do not believe that God can answer prayer, because He does it over and over again. What is cool...is that He does heal. It may not always be in the way that I think that He is going to do it, but He does what is He is going to do according to His perfect will. This is what makes it wondrous in so many ways.

I marvel at the fact that a man named Mike, who is a friend of my friend Willard, has been healed -- at least for now. Mike has been on my prayer list for many months, because he has been fighting cancer, and at one point a few months ago was in a bad way. His cancer -- pancreatic -- is typically not curable...and yet, Mike's is in remission at this point. God is able to work through doctors and medicines in order to heal sometimes. Other times, He doesn't -- He just heals on His own. Whichever way He chooses to do so is great with me...it is just wonderful when He heals. Sometimes, He provides eternal healing as well. It is all according to His plan and purpose. I just praise the Lord for answering prayer. I don't ever want to take it for granted, but when I take a name off of my prayer list -- simply say, "thank you, Lord -- I praise your name." Mike has been on the thanksgiving list...but, he is off the request list. Amen. Blessings,


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Major Pressure


The first major golf championship of the year, the Masters, took its toll on a lot of good golfers in today's final round. Tiger and Phil, who were paired together, made a great run today. They put themselves squarely in the middle of the fray with a few holes to play. Uncharacteristically, Tiger faded down the stretch, bogeying the final two holes. Phil also came up short with a bogey late. This left Cof C member, Kenny Perry...Texan, Chad Campbell...and Argentinian, Angel Cabrera to slug it out in a playoff. Kenny had a two stroke lead with two holes to play, but bogeys on both holes brought him back to the playoff with the other two. I was really pulling for my Christian brother, Perry, who at 48, would be the oldest major championship winner ever. It was just disheartening to see him unable to hit the shots he needed when he needed to do so over the last few holes. Campbell also missed a playoff putt. This all led to Cabrera holding up under the pressure to hang on for the victory. Congratulations to him...he won a hard earned victory. Blessings,


Friday, April 10, 2009

Promise Unrequited


I have been sadly subdued by the passing of Angels 22 year old, rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart. This is such a devastating loss to so many...family, friends, teammates and to the Angels organization. This young man was looking ahead to bright future as a starting pitcher for the Angels, when his life was abruptly ended by a drunk driver early yesterday morning. He had just pitched 7 hit ball for 6 scoreless innings -- the best outing of his young career -- and should have earned his second win as a major leaguer, but for a shaky outing by the bullpen.

Adenhart was typical in the way he came up through the draft...chosen out of Maryland by the Angels when he was 18. He had some success in the minor leagues as well as some injury setbacks. In fact, he had to have Tommy John surgery in order to replace the ligament in his throwing elbow. Nevertheless, he endured and was able to make it to the big leagues briefly last year. He had an unsuccessful outing and then pitched in the minors. He worked hard all winter and had earned the third starting spot in the Angels rotation, in part, due to injuries to some of the other Angels' starters. But, even if they had been healthy, it would have been hard to deny Mr. Adenhart the opportunity, as he just worked his way up and into the lineup. So, this is just one of those things that make a person numb. A young man in the prime of his life with so much promise, who had just had the best major league pitching outing of his life and within hours...it is over -- just tragic. Be praying for this young man's family, friends and the Angels organization. Blessings,


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Servant Follow Up


(A question came to me concerning the practices of a larger church in our region...without going into great detail -- in relationship to male and female servants. I have no desire to address their practices...not my business...but will offer some Biblical/practical perspectives. Since this is closely aligned to my last post, I thought it would be pertinent to address the subject here. I have written an extensive paper in relationship to the subject of men's and women's roles and would make it available for a reasonable price...just kidding -- all you have to do is ask). [I also feel a message related to what is descriptive (Biblically) as opposed to what is definitive will be coming soon to a blog near you. :-]

I do believe that we have to separate fact from tradition on this subject, as well as many others. In our conservative C of C tradition, for good or for ill, there have been only men in the leading and the primary service roles in the local congregation. I am not certain that this has been Biblically honest or accurate, and has probably hurt our fellowship in many practical ways, as well. But, to say that this is a hot button issue where folks are unwilling to be reasonable...is a big understatement. This all, for a long time, has been...and still is...very interesting to me -- both the study of the subject and the inflamed emotions related to said study (or lack thereof).

I cannot pass judgment on whether "deacons" are required, as in some "office," because the implication from Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3) is that "if you have deacons...these are the qualities that they need to have." I do not believe that there is an imperative in the passage that deacons are "required"...at least I can't find it. I do believe that, traditionally, we have assumed such, but it is not necessarily the case. The best argument could probably be made from Acts 6, which I will discuss shortly. However, such a case can be made (to use legal language) in relationship to elders/overseers/shepherds (Titus 1).

As mentioned previously, deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos, which can mean deacon, minister or servant...all English words have their origin in the same Greek word. The word diakonos is used in Acts 6, Philippians 1, as well as the 1 Timothy 3...as well as used to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:1. This is why some have called for deaconesses, or as some call them, special servants. Some would argue that the "women," gunaikas, in 1 Timothy 3:11 are deaconesses, but could just as easily be the wives of deacons (and elders, perhaps)...the language allows for both interpretations -- a compelling case can be made either way. I tend to believe that Paul says that "deacons," in a strict sense, are to be men, i.e. "husbands of one wife." But, in more general terms, women like Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia and perhaps others (especially from Romans 16...Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, etc.) were also prominent servants (diakonos) in the early church. In fact, the joke is that it seems likely that Phoebe was at least the church secretary in Cenchrea -- haven't known many men in this prominent role. :-) I actually believe she was likely the church treasurer, if we look closely at the language (16:2). We have tended to gloss over these matters because we have been so under the influence of some shaky interpretations from 1 Corinthians 11 about women having to be "silent" in the church (which is another discussion). Nevertheless, to assume that there have been no special servants in the church that are women, Biblically, and historically, is not true. Many congregations today are in the process of establishing deacons, as well as, in some shape or form, ministry leaders/servants that are men and women. Blessings,


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Simply Meeting Needs


Many people refer to my position as minister. This is true, but it is not a position, as much as a description. The other two particular functions that Paul describes to Timothy that he is to fulfill are…to evangelize – share the Good News and to preach – literally herald the Word of God. For the purpose of this message, we consider the first word – minister. The funny, but not so funny, part is that in some places, “the minister” is the only one. The reality is that we are all ministers, according to the definition of the word. Even though it is a title given to those in my position, it is but one of the many functions that "ministers" perform.

Diakonos – can mean deacon, minister or servant…the same Greek word is used for all three English words. Diakonos, as well as doulos (slave), represents one who is not at his own disposal, but is the property of his master. This is an individual who has been purchased to serve the needs of his master…and he is to be ready at all times. So, for Christians...the meaning is easily understood isn’t it? We are bondservants, ministers of our Lord (Master) and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul begins many of his letters this way. The way that we serve our Master is by ministering to, serving our fellow-servants and being willing to do literally anything in order to help them. This is the love demonstrated by Jesus at the Last Supper when he played the part of the servant, slave and washed the disciples’ feet. When the NT speaks of ministering to the saints, it does not primarily mean teaching, preaching, or holding to an office of some sort. It is devoting time, energy and substance to giving others all of the practical help that we can possibly give. Only the Holy Spirit can help us to experience this kind of love…a servant’s heart is only born out in a heart that is submitted to the will of the Master.

In Acts 6, the church is experiencing growing pains, making it difficult for the apostles to minister to everyone. The apostles select seven diakonos'. There is no official title given to these individuals, which as I have said, is the way it should be in many respects. They are servants…the word diakonos is used in vv.1-2, so some have called these men “proto-deacons”. Diakonos is mentioned in Phil 1:1 and the qualities inherent in deacons found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13; in addition, the word is used to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:1ff.

We must not "be waiting at the airport waiting for our ship to come in" on this subject. I think that, at times, we have been so caught up in “qualifications” for some “office,” that we have practically missed the point of what the church needs…servants. We need to be certain that we have quality people according to 1 Timothy, but little is said in the pastoral epistles about what a deacon actually does in serving. We do see examples of it here, in principle, and in some of the other passages mentioned. And what we see…are people who are already living it, doing it; these are the ones appointed to the task. What congregations need are participants…servants. Our churches have too many "bosses" wanting to call the shots and not enough "servants". This is, at least in part, why so many churches struggle. Elders, preachers, deacons and other ministry leaders must be servants, first and foremost! Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).

Often, in ministry, “necessity is the mother of invention”…it was 1904 and Charles Menches was one of 50 vendors serving saucers of ice cream at an exposition in St. Louis. Business was booming on a hot, August day when he ran out of clean saucers. Menches turned to a stand next door operated by a Syrian named Hamwi, who had come to the fair from Damascus to sell zalabia. Hamwi had been rolling his soft wafer-like pastry baked in a waffle iron into cone shapes…hmmm. Menches took some and filled them with ice cream. The ice cream cone was born out of necessity and success was instantaneous. Ministry is much like this. Blessings,


Friday, April 3, 2009

Star Wars and the Bible


Time for a little textual levity. And no...this is not some plug for Bible code or some other such nonsense. :-) When reading through a portion of text in the original, I happened upon a discovery. There is an individual named Joda (in English) in Jesus' geneology. In the Greek, this is spelled Ioda, but because J's are pronounced like Y's even though it is spelled with an "I", the name is...you guessed it -- Yoda. Now this might not be so interesting was it not for the fact that it is found in chapter 3, verse 26 of...you guessed it -- Luke's gospel. Blessings,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Futbol Report


The U.S. men's soccer team is working its way through qualifiers in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. They dispatched Trinidad & Tobago 3-0 yesterday thanks to a hat trick by Jozy Altidore. Is a new star being born? Could this 19 year old bring to the table the leadership and presence that the men's team has been lacking to a large degree? I guess time will tell. But, anytime a player gets three goals in one game, it causes us soccer fans to sit up and take notice.

Also, can anyone believe the beat down that Bolivia delivered to the proud Argentinians? 6-1 has to be one the worst, if not the worst defeat they have taken in world competition in a long time, if ever. Unfortunately, the architect of this humbling defeat is none other than Argentinian World Cup superstar, Diego Maradona, who is now the coach of the national team.. Too many more defeats like this and Senor Maradona will be invited to go into early retirement. I have to say, though, it is wonderful to see such a huge underdog pull off such an astounding upset.

Finally, after a 26 year absence, the Seattle Sounders have returned to Major League soccer. They are an expansion team in the MLS for 2009. The Sounders used to be big stuff back in the day, and if their upset of the New York Red Bulls in their first game this season was any indication, perhaps these Sounders will fare well in 2009. Here is hoping that MLS will be able to grow and expand wisely...not making the mistakes of their predecessor, the NASL...so that Seattle, Dallas and other cities will be able to enjoy professional soccer for a long time to come. Blessings,