Traveling at the Speed of Dark

twisted clockThis coming weekend is (depending on where you live) marked by the need to turn our clocks forward. If my calculations are correct, we will lose an hour of sleep. At least, that seems to be how most folks view it. I, myself, never gain nor lose sleep. I put my head on the pillow, fall asleep in about thirty seconds, and wake up when I’m done. I don’t usually care what the clock says.

I love the change of time (at least the spring one), because I love daylight. I love sunshine. I love that extra hour of being able to do something outside without a coat or a floodlight. As my Dad used to say, “It’s comin’ our way!”

Every time I think about the time changing, I think about a precious saint who has now gone on to be with the Lord. Her name is Jane. If she was still with us, I know I could count on her to arrive at worship an hour late. When the time changed in the spring, she would slip into one of the back pews as we were singing the final hymn. I used to love the look on her face as I gave the benediction and the congregation would begin filing out.

As funny as that always was, she was even more amusing in the fall. I don’t know speedometerhow many times over the years she would show up, take her place in a pew, and begin a discussion with me.

Realizing what was going on (reminded by the fact that no one else was around), I would eventually say to her, “Jane. Do you realize worship doesn’t begin for another hour? The time changed last night.” Her face would get all twisted, she would make a noise of disgust with herself, and (as she walked out the back door of the church) she would say she’d return in an hour.

There are probably a lot of Jane’s out there. Those little foibles are amusing and not very important in the grand scheme of things. As annoyed as Jane always was with herself, no one loved her any less for it—in fact, her time-change antics probably endeared her even more to the rest of us.

Unfortunately, what happened to Jane seems to be a metaphor for how a lot of people live these days. So many individuals are walking around out there not realizing what time it is. Some of them are rushing to get somewhere they don’t need to be. Others are sleeping when they should be about their Father’s business. Many are walking around in a haze—somewhere between “it doesn’t matter” and “I’ll never make it!”

The apostle Paul once told us, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14) It’s important for us to wake up and realize our time here is short. As my Mom used to say to me, “Time to get crackin’!”ClocksAhead

Get the Jesus Fix, Then Leave

tinychurchHow was your worship experience this week? Was it fulfilling? Was it exciting? Was it ho-hum? Did it have any meaning for you at all?

Worship services come in all styles from the very staid and formal to the flamboyant and lively. They are shaped by a myriad of variables, but most seem to settle into a fixed pattern that a particular congregation finds comfortable.

I recently read a rant by a Christian who, some time ago, had left the institutional church. He now worships at a house church and says he’s much happier.

Does worship make you weaker?

His primary complaint seemed to be launched against the general type of worship that has become a collective generality for most of what we call organized Christianity. He was speaking mostly about three hymns (or praise songs), some prayer, a collection, some responsive readings, and a sermon from a pastor (with no congregational interaction). After an hour or so, everyone leaves and feels like they’ve had a Biblical worship experience.

He saw several problems with this. I don’t have time to address most of them here, but one thing jumped out at me. He asserted that today’s church is designed to make folks weaker. If I understood him correctly, he felt that modern worship is constructed to treat people like children. Namely, congregants file in, take their places, listen to what they’re told, and never comment or ask questions.FollowMe

He further asserted that this kind of worship is not only unbiblical but also counterproductive. Instead of being inspired to learn from the Lord and become more active in God’s Kingdom, people are dumbed down and duped into thinking they’re good disciples of Christ because they were “in church” for an hour.

I read his screed with great interest. Being a pastor of almost thirty-six years, I’ve often struggled with these kinds of perceptions. It’s easy to find fault with almost any type of worship style, but is there one that’s better than the others? Is there one that’s truly Biblical? Should we endeavor to get back to first century Christianity and closer to the worship style we can glean from Scripture? Is that possible, and more importantly, is it necessary? My wordy friend seemed to think so.

The Jesus Fix

I’m not so sure he’s correct. But I certainly understand his concern. Too often people enter a worship service to get their “Jesus fix,” and then leave. Once they walk out the back door, Jesus becomes no more than a byword until the next time they occupy the pews. I hope that is not true in most cases, but sometimes it’s hard not to think otherwise.

When worship does become merely a Jesus fix, I’m afraid our verbose friend is correct. It does make people weaker. If we think we’ve somehow done our part because we showed up on Sunday (or Saturday night), we are no longer on a solid path to discipleship. Making disciples, after all, is the name of the game.  Mark of a Good Church

Don’t Interrupt!

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who’s doing it.” I just heard this at the beginning of a TV commercial. I was so taken with the statement that I didn’t hang around to see what it was advertising.

mouseI don’t know if anyone has said this before, or it this was a new line produced by a Madison Avenue ad firm. Either way, it speaks volumes.

It’s amazing how many naysayers there are in our world. People can be on their way to great heights and still be bombarded with negativity from others who don’t have a clue.

Folks who think they know best when they don’t know anything intrigue me. There’s only one way to achieve something in this world. That “one way” is to try. Just try. Give it your best shot. Persevere! Be an overcomer. Push it to the end or at least as far as your energy will allow.

“Have you ever seen the video?”

In most cases, the worst you can do is fail. Ahhh! There’s the dark cloud. Many of us are deathly afraid of failure. We’d rather not try than to be viewed a failure. We’d rather pack away our dreams than expend energy on something that might fall short in the end.

Have you ever seen the video of the mouse attempting to move a cracker to its nest? Take a moment to watch it– Mouse vs. Cracker. The mouse attempts to scale that ledge over thirty times. There’s something to be said for trying again and again. If it doesn’t work one way, try another.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” We’ve all found that to be true when confronted with something we had to finish. Because it had to be done, we found a way (even though it first seemed impossible).

Even knowing that, many of us abandon our dreams because we think they may be impossible to accomplish. Jesus addressed this when he proclaimed, “with God all things are possible.”

Some might be quick to say, “Sure, but that’s only when the dream comes from God.” Believe me, there are many people out there bad-mouthing someone else’s dreams regardless of where the dreams originate. The fact is, sometimes you may not realize that dream is from the Lord until you follow it.TLW Angled Cover

I remember when I first had the idea of writing a book. It lived in the back of my psyche for a while until I finally snuffed it out. I had all sorts of excuses why I couldn’t do it. I was nineteen years old. Funny thing though—it never really died.

Despite all the negativity from others (and from myself), the Lord revived that dream and I finally realized it was from him. I was sixty-five years old when it finally came to fruition (see The Last Wedding). Now I’m working on a second and have the seeds planted for a third.

Just do me a favor. Don’t interrupt!

Let’s Bring Back the Nazarite Vow

I’ve always been enamored by the Nazarite vow. If you took this vow, the outward signs were twofold.  You did not partake of strong drink, and you did not allow your hair to be cut.bald

However, there was a stipulation that allowed you to cut your hair once a year if it started to bother you.  My guess is, some Nazarites counted the days until they could cut their hair.  I would further guess that they got their heads shaved like a cue ball so it would last for a while.

I’ve gone for long periods of time without drinking any alcoholic beverages, but I’ve never shaved my head.  I know people who have shaved their heads, but I don’t think they’ve ever abstained from alcohol.  There must be something about the combination. Apparently you can only be successful at it if you’re totally sold out to the Lord. How else could you look like Michael Jordan and live like a member of AA?

“We take lots of vows…”

We take lots of vows during our lifetimes. Some of them are deadly serious. Others, not so much… Occasionally we take a vow and not even realize it. Years ago, when I had to qualify to perform marriages in my state, I had to vow that I would uphold the constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I guess I’ve done okay at keeping that one. But frankly, I’m not sure what the stipulations happen to be.

Today, we live in a society that isn’t much into vow taking. Lot’s of folks even forgo the one set of vows that were almost assumed to be inevitable at one time. I’m speaking of the vows of marriage.

I remember, as a young buck, just assuming I would get married. Everyone did (at least that’s what it seemed like). In my world, you graduated from high school, got a job (or went to college), and got married. It’s amazing how things have changed.

Today, more and more people assume they will go on after high school to get a higher degree of some sort, and marriage is something they might think about when they get around to it. That, of course, is facilboozeitated in large part by the whole concept of living together.

In my day, that was almost unthinkable. It was a major social embarrassment to enter into such an arrangement. It’s not that we didn’t want to try it out. It was more a case of the social stigma that was attached to it. Now that the social stigma has all but disappeared, it’s become the thing to do.

The social barriers to such things have disappeared in large part to the disappearance of the church in peoples’ lives. Because the Bible and religious institutions play less and less of a role in society, all the old standards are quickly falling to the wayside.

Let’s start a new trend.

I say we start a new trend. Let’s reinstitute the Nazarite vow. Let’s all shave our heads and become teetotalers. Who’s with me?


Announcing the Sex

sexedWhen I was a young man (many moons ago), we never knew whether our expected child would be a boy or a girl. We found out when the baby was born. As you may have heard, that is no longer the case.

Mom and Dad now find out months prior to the blessed event. Sonograms are amazing things. It’s quite practical, of course. Early nursery plans can be finalized, proper colors picked out, and clothing worries can be eliminated. Then, there’s the inevitable naming of the child. With half the names in the world crossed off the list, that task is a tad less daunting.

Now there’s a new twist to the whole gender thing. Our youngest daughter and her hubby are expecting (do we still use that term?). These days, a couple doesn’t merely go to the doctor and discover the results. No. There’s an entirely different process now.

My bride and I (along with the other set of grandparents) were invited to the blueorpinkhouse for dinner. I arrived a little late to find everyone gathered around the family pooch. Our other kids were watching via Skype. The puppy was thoroughly involved in eating a bone-shaped cake.

It was finally explained to me that the sex of the baby would be revealed when the center of the cake was exposed. If the cake was pink inside, it would indicate a girl. If it was blue…well, you get the picture. Their canine wasn’t all that thrilled about getting to the creamy center, so my son-in-law finally grabbed the cake and broke it in half. The inside revealed the baby’s sexual category, and our daughter immediately announced she was, “going shopping tomorrow.” (As if she needed an excuse…) Incredibly, this was the moment the expectant couple learned the sex of the baby as well.

As some of you may recall, all of this was once done with a couple of phone calls. Everyone would say, “congrats,” and it was taken care of. Today, however, I had to drive into the next county and watch a dog eat cake to discover our big surprise. At least, I got a good meal out of it. (No, I didn’t help the dog with the cake. They provided a nice supper.)

I’m not sure what to make of this hubbub over the new little ones. I kind of liked the old days, but I guess I’m a throwback. On the other hand, Jesus was quite clear as to his feelings about the kids in his neighborhood. He would often say sonogramthings like, ““Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom.” So who am I to put a damper on the celebration?

Although truth be told, they could have saved a lot of trouble by listening to me. I correctly predicted the baby’s gender months ago. Of course, the odds were fifty-fifty. But, hey–I’m a Grandpa in the know.