Saturday, August 20, 2016

Faithful God

38 years ago this week, I cashed in my US Savings Bonds, loaded up my ’73 beige Chevy Nova, and headed to the city of Angels for Bible college. I didn’t know that I knew anyone there at all! Imagine, leaving Hicksville, Colorado for the Megatropolis of LA, 12 million persons, and not knowing a soul!!!

I soon found out, via the hype of our college veep, that if you decide not to “piddle in the middle” you could get the ”most on the coast.”

It was at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College that I would meet friends that still speak to me. Good guys like Brad Courtney, Ken Walker, Steve Bender, Everett Napuanoma, and, BMOC Tim Adrian, his dad, Ken, and a few others.

I did run into 3 others I knew well from our Rockies, Danny, Rhonda and Tim. Good thing I did. On registration day, Rhonda introduced me to a local pastor, Tom McCrary, who needed a flunkie. He hired me on the spot for $50 a week to lead the music, paint, clean, visit and recruit as many other students to attend Faith Baptist in Riverside as I could. This would include stuffing 7 Baptists in my car for each church service and driving the 40 minutes to Riverside from San Dimas. I made this trip to the church at least 6 days a week and the $50 basically covered gas and eats. BTW, I learned to play the Harmonica on the LA Freeways to redeem the time. Better than road rage and there was no texting back then, so…

I was soon out of Savings Bond money, had nothing in reserves for the second semester and could barely come up with the cash to eat on Sunday nights at the local Greek greasy spoon AND slip a couple of dimes into the table-top TV for some worldly entertainment. Two things about Bible college back then: TVs were not allowed and you were on your own on Sunday nights, the cafeteria wasn’t open.

But those were good days. We were a soul-winning bunch of knuckle heads. It was all about leading people to Christ. Not like we didn’t have quite the pool of people to talk to, since our area was carpeted with 12 million people.

One of our guys in the dorm had a little portable TV that we would put a blanket over on the bed and we would surround it on our knees and catch a bit of Hollywood until someone came in the room to find out why he heard shooting. We’d quickly silence the one-eyed monster, throw the blanket over it and act like we were in a prayer meeting. Spiritual we were!

Rats!!! Rats were everywhere in and around our dorms. The old campus was built with secret passageways and tunnels in case of a foreign attack. The rats loved these areas. Some of our dormies worked as security guards and carried some powerful flashlights. Of an evening, we would shine the lights on the vines of the rear wall behind our dorm to reveal several rodents ascending and descending the wall on the vines.

Let me tell you, it’s no fun when, on a cold winter’s morning (40's) with no heater in the dorms, you tip toe in your bare feet, eyes still crusted halfway shut, over to the closet, open the door and a rat bails from the upper shelf on to your foot. My roomies probably thought I gone to Pentecostal dancing! Because of this infestation, food was strictly prohibited in the dorms.

We had a very nice little guy with a withered hand who closed up at KFC every night. Somehow he managed to drive his motorcycle with that withered hand, carrying buckets of chicken, buttered corn on the cob and what not to his buddies in the dorm. He had to leave some bribery chicken off at the guard shack and then lightly tap on our doors to let us know the golden brown Baptist manna had arrived. Strange that our dorm monitor never got wind (7 secret ingredient seasoned wind) of this near nightly ritual. We ‘d just toss the leavin’s out behind the dorm toward the wall, thus the “rat race” out yonder. “Big Bob” Diggery could insert a piece of chicken into his mouth and pull the bone out clean as a whistle in two seconds. That dude was amazing! All 450 pounds of him.

Nobody could ever have had a more entertaining roommate than I had in Tim Adrian. His antics antedated ROTFLOL, but nobody could ever be more ironic, come up with better pranks or have more fun than Tim. I swear, his mind must have spent 20 hours a day cogitating trouble.  And look at him all these years later, on the executive committee of the BBFI!

Well, that was 38 years ago. My best buddy, David, joined me for the second semester. It wasn’t long until we were both summarily dismissed from the school. We were pulled out of Dr. Eli Harju’s History of Israel class to be interrogated by the discipline committee for infractions that threatened national security, or something like that. Poor Bro. Walker (dean of men) was sent to accompany me to my room to get packed up and sent down the road. I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed as he watched me pack up several snacks (rat bait) from my drawers. I sure do like that brother.

Good times!

So, this week it’ll be 38 years since the day Pastor McCrary gave me my first ministry position. The roller coaster of ministry has taken me to California, Baja, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska. Wow, what a ride! It’s been a blast. I’ve made 46,427 mistakes, preached or taught about 8,000 times, won a few to the Lord, married the best gal on the planet, had 3 great kids, and pastor the best little church in America.

And it all comes down to this one very simple truth, God is faithful! Well, that and He is so much better to me than I deserve. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Winner of Life's Lottery

God is way better to me than I deserve.

1. My name is written on the Father's hand.
2. I am married to the smartest, most talented, beautiful, devoted, godly woman alive.
3. I pastor the best little church in America.
4. I live in Lincoln, NE (you have to live here to understand).
5. I get to ride a Harley!
6. I am completely healthy.
7. Warren Wiersbe prays for me every day!!!

So yeah, JACKPOT!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tiny Church

The devil used a frumpy lil' teen girl to tell me how irrelevant I am.

She walked into the sanctuary last night and said to the girl who invited her to an overnight teen activity, in earshot if the whole group, "Your church is so tiny! It's so....tiny!"

Boom, the devil hit me where it hurts the most, in my pride, in my need for relevance, in my drive for validation. "See, punk, you are nothing, a big fat zero with the middle knocked out. Your entire life, the complete body of your life's work is boiled down to the truth and honesty of a pubescent, pony-tailed kid. You're a loser, and the sum total of your existence amounts to 'it's so tiny!'"

Well, she was right. I am a mighty small cog, relegated to a flyover spot, laboring  amongst the predominant religions of Luther and Constantine. Trying to carve a work for God out of the granite of good works. And honestly, it hurts to be surmised as miniscule, reduced in one careless but demonically inspired exclamation to "tiny."

I wish I could find comfort in platitudes such as big things come in small packages. I don't have to "not despise the days of small things," I am living them. And I hate to be reminded, but the devil knows those malicious whispers of half truths cripple me most.

I do take umbrage in the realization that this tiny cog serves a purpose. With the viscosity of the Holy Ghost, this cog helps move the mighty engine of an institution that will never suffer the spoils of victory to be gained by the gates of hell.

Our tiny edifice houses holy, praiseful, perpetually revived saints passionately bent on winning the world through personal soul-winning and world-wide missions efforts.

I hate to get into a "mine's bigger than yours" contest with this teeny bopper, but I wonder how many souls are won at her cathedral? How many services result in a full altar with people committing to what they just experienced? What percentage of her fellow parishioners give a large portion of their time, talent and tithe to God? How many of their missionaries win how many souls, planting how many churches?

Yes, young lady, your denomination cuts a wide swath 'round these parts, but what good is it to send people to hell with the phrase invented here falling from their lips, "No thank you, I have my own religion."?

And let me remind you, lord of the flies, you gut punched me again with your discouraging taunts but I confidently remind you that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

So, I will stand tomorrow with my average sized church in our tiny building and render worship to our all-time, undefeated, undisputed God of glory. I read the back of the Book and we win!
Meanwhile, your people will be snoozing in their temples of ritual as uninspired clerics drone their homilies, rehash their lifeless liturgies, sprinkle their babies and conduct their useless rituals.

But I put you on notice, we are coming after some of those religious adherents, we are going to be there when their religion fails and we will introduce them to our great Savior, see their lives transformed, and welcome them into our tiny church. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Holy Week!

This is my favorite week of the year. I find myself meditating much more on our Lord’s passion: His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, His cleansing of the Temple, the Last Supper, the betrayal by Judas, the Lord’s final instructions, He arrest, trial and Crucifixion, and His glorious Resurrection.

I tend to live a more holy life during this annual commemoration than at other times during the year as I carefully consider that I owed a debt  I couldn’t pay, while He paid a debt He didn’t owe.

On Wednesday of Holy Week, we always show the death of the Lord by observing the Lord’s Supper. Involved in that observance is the introspection required of the partakers. “Let a man examine himself” taught the Apostle Paul, before taking the bread and the wine.

On crucifixion day, I find myself walking and working in a sort of a fog, trying to grasp the reality of Christ, the pure, innocent Son of God, dying for a worm like me.

I spend the next couple of days in anticipatory excitement, knowing that the greatest day of this impactful week it the last day, the culmination of redemption by the glorious Resurrection of Jesus by the fantastic power of Almighty God.

I hope that you will be transported this week from the mundane to the spiritually sublime as you meditate day by day on our Lord’s passion for your soul. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Who Is Jesus

Who is Jesus? Mark 6

As Jesus taught in the synagogue, those hearing Him were astonished at HIm and at His words.

The People's Questions About Jesus
1. From whence hath this man these things?
2. What wisdom is this which is given unto him?
3. ...that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
4. Is not this the carpenter?
5. ...the son of Mary?
6. ...the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?
7. Are not his sisters here with us?

He answers by word and deed:
1. A prophet    4
2. A teacher    6
3. A healer    5
4. A provider  7-8, 41
5. A shepherd   34
6. A miracle worker   41-44, 55-56
7. A water walker   49

Who is Jesus to you?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Who is Jesus?

 Mark 6

As Jesus taught in the synagogue, those hearing Him were astonished at Him and at His words.

The People's Questions About Jesus:
1. From whence hath this man these things?
2. What wisdom is this which is given unto him?
3. ...that even such mighty works are wroght by his hands?
4. Is not this the carpenter?
5. ...the son of Mary?
6. ...the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?
7. Are not his sisters here with us?

He answers by word and deed:
1. A prophet    4
2. A teacher    6
3. A healer    5
4. A provider  7-8, 41
5. A shepherd   34
6. A miracle worker   41-44, 55-56
7. A water walker   49

Who is Jesus to you?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Other Side of the Sea - Mark 5:1-19

You know, that little body of water, Galilee, Genessaret, Chinneroth, saw way more than its share of ministry and miracles. Whether on the sea itself or on one of its banks, Jesus did a lot of work that changed history. Consider Peter walking on the water, a fish with a coin in its mouth, the great catch of fish that almost sank the boats, The Lord’s prayer (version II), the Sermon on the Mount, “Peace, be still!”

In this account, Jesus compels His minyan to sail to the other side of the sea to a place where Jews didn't often go – Gadara. It was a short-term mission trip.

I find a poignant missionary truth in this story:

What's on the other side of the sea?

1. Foreigners! (vs 1) Culture, language, tradition, heritage, religion – everything is unfamiliar on the other side. What the disciples ran into when they ran aground was eye-opening and jaw-dropping. One of them might have said, “Dorothy, we ain’t in Kansas no more!” Indeed, crossing the lake put them a world apart from the usual fare. Here, there are no Pharisees badgering them, no tax collectors harassing them, no temple tops gleaming in the sun. Just raw difference. God never called His servants to living lives of comfort, but He does call them/us carrying crude crosses. It may not be Club Med awaiting you when you dock. 

2. Men (and Women) in need. The first man to greet them was the man most needy. This particular one is demonized.

*He lived among the tombs (he was spiritually dead, what better place to haunt?) 
*He was possessed with an unclean spirit (it happens here too. The demons of drugs, lust, etc.) 
BTW: The demons within were called Legion, that is, there were many spirits.
*He was bound with fetters (that is, he was chained to his sin)
*He was exceedingly wild (no man could tame him)

Every lost person you encounter is no better or worse off than this man. The demons which keep them from the cross may be more subtle, but they are every bit as insidious and effective as this maniac.

But, Praise the Lord, Jesus came! Someone cared enough to go to the other side where a great need existed among many people in great need.
*This man saw Jesus (as opposed to what he had been seeing – darkness of the worst kind)
*This man ran to Him. He ran away from everything else – this is repentance. The demons urged him away from Jesus, away from deliverance, but he was compelled toward salvation.
*This man worshiped Him – to his knees and to his face he dropped before the only One Who had the power to save him from his misery.

3. Demons on a Mission. Remember the ministry that Satan has! To steal, kill and destroy. In the 3rd world his work often looks much different than its manifestations here in “Christianized” America. But the end goal is the same. Abbaddon/Apollyon, the Destroyer has one set of goals, destroy lives, damn souls to hell and get back at God for expelling him from heaven.

Note: We must be very careful to separate the demons from the demonized. On demons, we must have no mercy. On the victim, we must have compassion. Jesus went out of His way for the man, not the devils.

Consider this, who was really speaking, the man or the devils? Who was really acting bizarre? It was the demons within using the man without. We wrestle not with flesh and blood.

4. Swine Feeding! On the other side of the sea, we will find disgusting, cannibalistic, suicidal pigs. There is nothing kosher on the other side. All of our societal taboos are turned on their heads in Gadara. You will not be comfortable when you cruise to the other side. There, they may speak Pig Latin, and you don’t even eat bacon!

5. Fear!  (vs 15) Why were people afraid? As a result of Christ’s power, the man was now sitting, clothed and in his right mind (possibly now he was left handed? I’m just sayin’).

*They were afraid of change. Can you imagine? Their comfort zone included a demon possessed, naked, uncontrollable mad man who lived in the grave yard!!! They'd rather have the familiar with its discomfort than a Savior that will change everything. 

*They were afraid of the unknown. Never had this kind of power been displayed. Exorcism, deviled ham, changed life, a new normal. No possessed men terrorizing the graveyard, no swine feeding on a hillside. "Demons? We know. Salvation? Not so sure about that!"

Men are gripped by, yea, frozen by fear. “What if I do get saved? Will I be ostracized by my peeps? Will I ever get to have fun again? Will I have to learn Christianese? Will the church demand all my money?”  

As they say, you don't know what you don't know! 

6. On the Other Side - A New Missionary (18-19)
Goodness! Without a day of discipleship, this man went from demoniac to so soul-winner, from crazed loony to being in his right mind. Hopefully, on the other side of the sea, we will find some lives so transformed that the mission target becomes the missionary. 

Perhaps today, you will feel a heavenly nudge to go across the sea, or across the street, out of your “normal” and into some foreign, demonized, needy and fearful part of the world to find the next target of God's grace, and possibly, the next missionary. If so, go! You have been given the promise of His presence and power to present His message.