Our Church Adventure Continues

The adventure that Sharon and I began a couple of years ago continued today at a Lutheran church. We have attended Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Independent, non-Denominational (although not sure the difference between those last two) and of course Baptist churches during that time. In fact, this was the second Lutheran church for us.

The first was somewhat unusual. It is the closest Lutheran congregation to our house, just a few blocks up the street. Although I have studied a great deal about Martin Luther in college and seminary, I knew little of the Lutheran church today. I expected to encounter a formal, liturgical style of worship, which is something I typically enjoy.

However, this particular Lutheran church was no different than any other church we have visited that is enamored with what is known as contemporary worship. It began with the first beat of the worship team. The base was so loud and the pounding so strong that Sharon almost had to leave.jesuscommunion

The most unusual thing that morning was the announcement that the men’s Bible study group would be meeting next week at a nearby brewery. If you attend and pay the twenty dollar entrance fee, you will not only be able to participate in Bible study, you will also receive two pints of their finest brew. That part does sound like something Martin Luther might have enjoyed, but it is not something I have ever encountered in church before.

But the Lutheran church we visited today was nothing like that. It was extremely liturgical, which I had deduced from their website, and I was looking forward to the experience. Although the liturgy was a little different than what I expected that was not the most noticeable thing about our church experience this morning. Continue reading

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Hanging On to a Prize

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”   Mark 5:35-36

One of the best experiences is living in a neighborhood where there are lots of other kids to play with. At age eleven, our family moved to Thornton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. It was a nice middle-class community filled with kids. On top of the fact that there was always someone to play with was the added bonus that the Lily boys, who lived two doors down, were avid baseball fans.

It is impossible to calculate the number of hours we spent playing imaginary games of wiffle ball and home run derby.  The best arrangement was to make our front sidewalk home plate and the home run marker was the big elm tree in the Carabello’s front yard. If you made solid contact with the plastic ball, it could be lifted over the top branches for a score. field-goal

There was an added mystique about the Carabello house. It was the residence of the neighborhood hero, Bob Carabello. He was only a few years older than other kids but he was a regular on the high school baseball team. That automatically qualified him as someone special.

It was an exciting day when Bob qualified for his driver’s license. Shortly afterward he got his first car, a Chevrolet Corvair (notice I said Corvair, not a Corvette). As I recall, the Corvair was a box shaped car that looked like it had a tumor growing in the middle. The engine was in the back which automatically qualified it as a novelty. It has been listed by Time Magazine as one of the worst cars of all time. In spite of the unpalatable nature of the vehicle, at least it was a car, so we were all envious.  Continue reading

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My Attempt to Offend Everyone

Since the middle of summer I have been suggesting that it is a good option to not vote for either candidate in this year’s presidential election. I have not changed my mind.

However, I have paid careful attention to the campaign for the past year and a half and I do have some observations to make. I will strive to be an equal opportunity offender so if you make it to the end of this article without being offended you might want to reread it because you might have missed something.

First, I have noticed there seems to be three groups of people who support Donald Trump. The first group, and perhaps the largest, is those who hate Hillary. This group has been organizing and planning for two decades, and I’ll be honest, I have never understood the hate and vitriol they possess. These folks will vote for anyone else but Hillary, regardless of the character, qualifications, or politics—Trump has proven that to be the case.

voting-boothThere is nothing that can be said or done to change their opinion. If God Himself wrote with his finger on the side of the Lincoln Memorial and told us to vote for Hillary, these people would not do it. The only way for these people to be happy is for Hillary to lose the election and disappear from public service. However, since it appears this is not going to happen, we are in for at least four more years (or possibly eight) of anger.

The second group of Trump supporters is those who tend to be single-issue voters and that issue is abortion. Trump is the only candidate who is opposed to abortion, although such was not the case just a few years ago. Their hope is that a pro-life President will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate abortion.

However, these folks need to put a little more thought into their position. It is time to reevaluate the idea that government and the legal system is going to solve the abortion issue. I wrote about this four years ago and you can read it here if you wish (nothing has changed). This is a complex issue that has been around a long time and there is no reason to believe that Donald Trump is going to contribute to clarity or resolution. Continue reading

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Celebrity Preachers

Perhaps you heard about the young pastor recently who preached a twenty-four hour sermon. This was not a case of the Holy Spirit falling upon the preacher and inspiring him to keep at it. It was a planned event. He actually designed and advertised the sermon as a means of promoting his new book. By all accounts, he has been a successful pastor, starting and growing a rather large congregation. He had just finished writing the book and felt like the message would “change lives.” Speaking as a writer who has published a few books myself, I agree that if you do not have something important to say that needs to be heard, don’t bother writing a book. To be honest, when I heard about this twenty-four hour sermon, my first thought was that I am glad I have lived long enough that people have forgotten all the dumb stuff I did in my twenty’s. Hopefully this young man will live long enough as well.

The underlying issue of this whole business is preachers performing some kind of stunt in order to attract attention and draw a crowd. It raises the question of celebrity preachers. The basic definition of celebrity is quite simple. A celebrity is someone who is widely known. We have raised the idea of being a celebrity to new heights. There are magazines, websites, and television programs that exist for the sole purpose of revealing insights about celebrities. preacher

It is a viscous cycle–do something that get’s noticed, appear in a magazine or newspaper, other magazines notice, people follow you around, do something else, everyone notices, get on more magazine covers, do something stupid, one last burst of notoriety, loose all your friends. The amazing thing is that so many folks are striving to be celebrities it is almost like a chosen profession for some – What do you want to be when you grow up? A celebrity!

I do not have a problem with celebrity preachers. The issue that concerns me is preachers who strive to be celebrities without realizing the cost. I think it is safe to say that Billy Graham was a celebrity preacher. He is very well-known all around the world. However, he became famous by preaching. His celebrity was a by-product of his work. I don’t know him personally, but I never felt like he sought out the celebrity status, although he certainly knew how to utilize it. There have been many celebrity preachers throughout history – Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield. It might even be correct to say that Jesus was a celebrity preacher in his day.  Continue reading

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Falling In Love

I wrote the following words several years ago and included them in my book “Intermission.” I share them again on the occasion of my 42nd anniversary. As you read these words you will better understand how 42 years is possible. 

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  (Proverbs 31:10-12)

Finding the right person to marry can be one of the most foreboding tasks in all of life.  In fact, it is such a difficult decision that many young people give up and settle for less than the best.  The acceptable approach to marriage today is to try it for a short time and if the relationship fails, bail out and try someone else.

Fortunately, I was spared the difficult process of striving to locate the perfect mate.  I sometimes wonder if God knew I did not have enough sense to make a good choice so He made it easy for me.  I share how I found a wife with some apprehension.  It is an experience that is not normative for most people.  In fact, I would discourage anyone who thinks they might have a similar experience.Wedding pic0001

Sharon and I met at church.  Although I was already a freshman in college, I still participated in the youth group.  The youth program was led by Sharon’s parents and was built around a musical group called the “Proclaimers.”  We traveled to churches around the state of Colorado and even a couple of trips to churches in Texas.

It was a grand experience for all of us involved.  I knew a little music and played a couple of instruments, but it was in this singing group that I learned how to harmonize.  Sharon’s mother played the piano in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis.  She developed the skill as a very young girl as she played for church.  Elva assigned everyone in the group a part to sing on each song.  During practice, if you could not find your note, she would beat it out extra loudly on the piano until everyone was back on key.  She could lead an entire congregation in singing without ever saying a word or leaving the piano bench.

We learned how to sing from the heart.  Although the music might not have been award winning caliber, the presentation was always meaningful and many people were moved by the sight and sound of committed young people singing about the love of God.  We all developed some great friendships within the group.

When Sharon graduated from High School she moved across the state to attend college.  Although we were friends, we did not date nor did we consider any type of long-term relationship.

In the providence of God, Sharon and I both transferred to Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, Texas, at the beginning of the spring semester in 1973.  We arrived at the Texas campus in the middle of January and neither of us knew anyone else.  Continue reading

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Don’t Worry, You Will Have Brian On Your Team

One of our authors at Austin Brothers Publishing, Dwight Short,  writes a weekly article, always with impactful words of wisdom. I was especially struck with what he sent this week and want to share it with you. 

Those words greeted me when my son signed up for a youth football team in Strongsville, Ohio back in the early 80’s. My son loved sports and I had coached some of his teams before so when the organizers of the league asked me to coach, I agreed. I was happy when a father of one of the boys alerted me that we would not only have Brian but his son and two other boys from the championship team of the year before. He even told me how they would be glad to help me call the plays and even knew at sign up which boys should be playing at each position.

When I told him that my philosophy for kids this age (10 and 11 year olds) would include having all the kids play all of the positions so they could appreciate what it takes to make a team, the idea was not met with very much appreciation. He quickly stomped off to find some other fathers who were also outraged at my idea before they even considered its merit. There was even discussion that these fathers would approach the league authorities to see if they could move their boys to another team that would accept all of their “advice” or remove this coach.Brian_Schottenheimer

As the season started, I could see in practice that the fathers were right about one thing.  Brian was a special athlete, and clearly could have carried our team. But I explained on the first day that it was important at this age to learn about playing all the positions because a team cannot be successful unless each player and each position is honored for what they do.

Brian’s father was an interesting and distant bystander thru all of this. He never came to watch us practice, and he always found a faraway spot to watch all of our games. We won our first three games with Brian playing different skill positions, and the rest of the team rotating as well. When we played our fourth game, Brian was scheduled to be a lineman and blocker. Kids and parents told me that Brian was thinking of skipping the game to teach ME a lesson. But he didn’t, and even though he was a lousy lineman and had never blocked for anyone before, he played hard that day. We lost in a close game and risked losing the championship because of this coach’s idea to play all of our players at ALL of the positions at least once. Continue reading

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Second Amendment or Second Commandment

If you did a survey among Americans who claim to be Christians, I’m confident more of them could identify the Second Amendment than could identify Jesus’ Second Commandment.

What, you didn’t realize Jesus had a list of commandments?

Jesus was quite persistent in resisting those who would make Him a legalist. They brought a woman to Him, directly from an adulterous bed, hoping to make Him choose legalism and obey the law. When asked why He allowed His disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath, He moved beyond the reading of the law to the meaning of the law. After being called out for not washing His hands before a meal according to the rule of law, Jesus reminded His host that cleanliness comes from the heart, not from the wash basin.

Finally, Jesus was cornered by a lawyer. If you want to find a true legalist look for the nearest lawyer—that is what they do. The lawyer asked Jesus to identify the greatest law of Moses. He wanted to know what Jesus thought was the most important law.2nd ammendment

Since this man was an expert on the law, he already had an opinion on this issue. He was either expecting Jesus to confirm his own opinion, or to offer an opposing position that they could argue.

Jesus provided an answer that would be quite agreeable to the lawyer—love God with all your being. But He didn’t stop there, saying there is a second commandment of equal value. The second commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

That’s tough!

I think it means when my neighbor is hungry I should be just as diligent in feeding him as I am in feeding myself when I’m hungry.

I think it means when my neighbor is cold I should make every effort to keep him as warm as I do myself on a winter night.

I think it means when my neighbor is hurting because of a loss (a death, injury, or relationship) I should sit down and grieve with him.

I think it means when my neighbor has screwed up something I should be helping to make things right just like I want others to help me make things right.

I think it means when my neighbor is mean and angry I should forgive him just like I want to be forgiven.

I think it means when my neighbor has stupid opinions I should be gentle and understanding like I need others to treat me when I have stupid opinions.

I think it means I want the best for my neighbor just like I want the best for myself.

Jesus’ second commandment is a hard one, but it actually makes His first commandment visible. In other words, how does anyone know if I actually love God? I can tell you that I do, but I might be lying, perhaps even lying to myself. But in tying these two commandments together, Jesus gave us a way to show that we truly love God by revealing how much we love our neighbor.

Do you understand what that means? It means I cannot claim to love God unless I love my neighbor. If I don’t care about my neighbor’s hunger, or his lack of clothing, or his hurting, or his need for help and forgiveness then I don’t really love God.

Jesus’ Second Commandment might be one of the most important things He said.

It is sad that so many will wrap themselves in the protection of the Second Amendment yet fail to comprehend the Second Commandment. If you read them carefully they are almost opposite in meaning.

The Second Amendment is designed to allow me to protect myself, while the Second Commandment is designed to allow me to give myself to others.

The Second Amendment gives me license to kill someone who wants to steal my stuff, and the Second Commandment gives me license to give my stuff to anyone who needs it.

The Second Amendment focuses on my need to take care of myself (and my family), but the Second Commandment focuses my attention on the needs of others.

It causes me to wonder what would happen if Christians (just those who actually follow Jesus) were as adamant about demanding their Second Commandment rights as they are about the Second Amendment rights. Perhaps we would stop hating and killing one another and start loving and taking care of one another. Or more importantly, at least for me anyway, what would it mean if I took Jesus’ Second Commandment more seriously? How would that change my life? Perhaps it’s time to find out.

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