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Thursday, June 21, 2007

On steroids and supermen

Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run last night. Good for him. I can remember seeing him at Wrigley Field, running out at the beginning of the game to his spot in right field, to the adoration and applause of the Cub faithful.

How quickly he fell from grace. Out of baseball a year, he comes back and reaches the plateau that only 5 or 6 others have reached in baseball. A certain hall of famer based on the home runs he hit.

But what about the steroids thing? What about Mark McGuire and other "sluggers" who are known steroid abusers?

I hear this discussed on sports talk radio all the time.

Are their records "tainted." Does someone who used performance enhancing drugs deserve to be in the hall of fame?

Does the name Barry Bonds ring a bell?

I go back and forth on this. On the one hand I feel strongly that the playing field should be level when it comes to how you perform in any sport. Outside of lifting weights and running, etc, each player must play based upon his natural effort and physical ability.

On the other hand, whether you are a monster or not in physical size (like watching Bonds go from a skinny 20 year old to a man/superman in his later years of baseball) a person still has to have the ability to hit a 95 mile and hour fast ball.

He still has to have the hand/eye coordination to do so.

Of course with Bonds it makes it hard because he can appear to be so obnoxious in public.

Anyway, only time will reveal how history views Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Tom Taft came over and helped me plant a Crimson King Norway Maple recently (actually I stood there and watched him do it).

It is described as a tree with rich maroon leaf color throughout the growing season. Very adaptable, tolerates hot, dry conditions. Provides dense shade. Excellent ornamental tree.

Requires full sun. Grows well in almost any type soil. But here's the kicker: "Will reach 30-40' tall and 25-35' wide in about 35 years.

Okay, now. 35 years! I will be 85!

The point? The point is that I'm entering the season of my life where several of the things I start - I will not see to the end.

That's why the move from success to significance becomes of greater importance.

What am I doing today that will outlast me for eternity? What am I doing this week that will have a profound effect on someones life who will then influence someone else who will then...well you get the point.

That's why the greatest joy I know receive is not how many people we can see sitting in our building on a Sunday morning (and that's still a passion of mine), but spending time with people, coaching, mentoring, leaving a part of my journey in theirs. That, my friends, will outlast me forever.

Significance. May you be blessed this day...and be a blessing that others might be influenced for eternity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The true source of freedom

In 1990 I visited Auschwitz. Above the entryway to the concentration camp during World War II were the words, Arbeit macht frei. The same thing stood above the camp at Dachau.

It means, "work makes free"—work will liberate you and give you freedom.

It was a lie—a false hope.

The Nazis made the people believe hard work would equal liberation, but the promised "liberation" was horrifying suffering and even death.

Arbeit macht frei.

In spiritual terms it is a lie as well. It is a satanic lie. It's a religious lie. It is a false hope—an impossible dream for many people in the world. They believe their good works will be great enough to outweigh their bad works, allowing them to stand before God in eternity and say, "You owe me the right to enter into your heaven."

It is the hope of every false religion—arbeit macht frei.

I can't earn my way into heaven. It's only through a relationship with Christ.

It's only the love of God that liberates. It's only the blood of Jesus Christ that liberates. He died in my place, and I am free.

Free to love God. Free to draw closer to Him.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Brokenness is not an exciting word. We live in a day and age where the primary goal of our culture is "Happiness", being "self-fulfilled," being "content."

All of those things are good in and of themselves.

God wants us to be happy.

God wants us to be self-fulfilled.

God wants us to be content.

The difference comes from the process we following in achieving those goals.

For example, for a Christian:

Happiness comes from brokenness. Jesus was broken on the cross. He lived his suffering and death, not as something to avoid at all costs, but as a mission and purpose to be embrace.

In the same way, we also, are to be broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds or even broken spirits. We suffer in the midst of broken relationships.

We must embrace our brokenness rather than avoiding it. Hurt and pain is a part of life. Being truly happy comes from using our pain for the greater good: the good of others and ultimately the good of our own lives.

God wants us to be self-fulfilled by being God-filled. A great self-image comes from having the right "God-image." And the image that God has of me is one of being his child...a son....created by Him to do works of righteousness.

God wants us to be content. The way we become content is by becoming content with what we have in God. By being being thankful, not for what we don't have but for what we do have.

Do you want what you have? Look at what you already possess. Does that make you happy? Fulfilled? Content? What would happen if that one "thing" were taken away from you? How would you respond?

Interesting thoughts.

May you be happy, self-filled and content this day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can an evangelical Christian vote for a mormon to be president?

It's interesting to me that "faith" as the media calls it, is part and parcel of the presidential debates and concerns as we choose our next president.

I saw part of an interview with Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barak Obama concerning their "faith" and what it means to them.

But what's really interesting to me is how Milt Romney's presidential run will play out with Evangelical Christians being that he is a Mormon.

I can remember when I was first pastoring in a small town near Bakersfield back in 1981. One of the major issues amongst the evangelical churches was whether to have the Mormon church softball team play in our "church" league and it even went so far as there were some Christians who suggested we banned Christians from going to our local Mormon dentist.

So the bigger question becomes, "can an evangelical Christian vote for a Mormon to be president?"

I don't want so much to give an opinion here as to ask your opinion - what do you think?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

True defintions of greatness

What makes someone great? I suppose we could all come up with different definitions. And in reality, a the definition of a truly great person is layered. It comes in different forms with different dimensions.

One layer of a great person is the ability to focus on others. To do something each day without expecting anything in return.

I was a UCLA basketball fan when I was growing up, and I don't know of a better coach than John Wooden. It wasn't just the x's and o's, it was his ability to lead and influence young men.

He once said, "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

That leads us to the story told of a former athlete that was coming back on a plane from Rio. This ex-athlete had come down for a few days of festivity, but he was struck by all the poverty he encountered. Especially the groups of homeless children who beg on the streets during the day, and sleep in the doorways of buildings at night, huddled together on strips of cardboard.

The man said that he and his buddies got an idea: They rounded up a few kids and took them to a pizza place -- the buffet type that keeps bringing food to your table. He said these half-dozen boys had never seen anything like it: the food kept coming and they kept eating. The kids had a blast, and so did he and his friends. And he was glad to know that those young men slept on a full-stomach that night. The man said, "The whole thing cost less than $50 -- and it’s the best money I spent in Brazil."

Do you realize how many chances you'll have today (and tomorrow) to obtain that kind of greatness? You can get a jump-start on it right now, maybe by walking in the next room or picking up the telephone. Or maybe you can take someone out to lunch or give an employee the day off or surprise someone with a special gift or ... if you put your mind to it, you'll be amazed at the possibilities.

Jesus said, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they can't repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14:12-14)

Good thoughts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

True spirituality

I've always been quietly amused at Christians who under the guise of being "spiritual", fall into the trap of trying to appear mystic or "other-worldly" to those around them.

As if being a spiritual person makes you into some kind of person who prays 24-7 and walks around with a glassy-eyed expression on their face, as if they really aren't a part of this world.

I would suggest to you that the truly spiritual person is a person who is well grounded in this world.

The truly spiritual person is one who is connected not only to God but with others. Our love of God, when it is lived to the fullest, should lead us to a selfless dedication to those around us.

Here's the principle: Deep, intimate, spiritual experiences with God should lead us to incredible activity, not only in the kingdom of God, but with those around us.

True spirituality is the opposite of withdrawing ourselves from the world around us. True intimacy with God leads us to being highly involved in the lives of others.

As Evelyn Underhill writes in her book, "The Mystics of the Church," "It seems that ecstasies and vision are slowly replaced by a "steady inward certainty of union with god and by a new strength and endurance." Although frequently experiencing "sudden waves of fervent feelings," in this often very active period, the mystic is nonetheless calm and sober in his practical dealings with men."

Good stuff.

Monday, June 11, 2007


It's Monday morning, and it's very typical. After a great Sunday, the "stuff" of Monday hits. Problems, pressures and people can slow us down.

Yet God calls us all to a life of perseverance. To "keep on going". Anybody can continue when things are easy - only the committed, the called, continue when not everything is going right.

There's a scene in the movie Rocky Balboa that's about this -- Rocky is teaching this lesson to his son, Robert. This is the final movie in the Rocky series; he's now past his prime (for an athlete), in his fifties, a little punchy, and has just decided to attempt a comeback. Robert tries to talk him out of it, saying it isn't fair to him, that he is trying to build a life for himself, and he's tired of living in the old man's shadow. He tells Rocky how this will hold him back. Rocky says to him...

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place. And I don't care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you permanently there if you let it.

"You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.

"Now if you know what you are worth, go out and get what you are worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers, saying you ain't where you want to be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain't you. You're better than that."

It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. Jesus promised (though it's a promise we're not particular eager to claim) that in this world we will have tribulation. The rain will fall. The question is, how will we handle it?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don't know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we get knocked down, we get up again." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Are you going to pesevere today? Don't quit! Keep on going!

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Are you prejudiced? It's a hard question. None of us, if we are sane, want to be, yet we can all find it creeping into our everyday lives. I know what you are thinking. You're thinking of racial prejudice, harboring ill-will toward others of a different color or race.

But it can go even beyond that. We can be prejudiced toward others who do not think the same way we do politically. We can look down on those who don't agree with us doctrinally.

We can even be prejudiced toward still others who don't dress the way we do, act the way we do or talk the way we do.

Here's the deal. Sometimes we aren't even aware of how deeply rooted our prejudices are.

We like to be comfortable. We like to be around others who are like us.

So, today, let's remind ourselves that God loves "those other people," just as much as He loves you and I. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Let's don't strive for everyone being the same; let's rejoice in the diversity and the ways that God has created us!

As the old song goes, "what the world needs now, is love, sweet love."

Father, forgive us for treating those around us with prejudice. Forgive us for desiring that everyone be "just like us." Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you that you love me in spite of my failures and weaknesses. Amen

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Life is full of contradictions isn't it. You can be home but yet feel homeless, you can be busy while feeling bored. Some feel poplar while feeling lonely, others are believers in God yet have many doubts.

It can cause us to feel frustrated, irritated and even discouraged.

But there is another response to the contradictions of life that come our way.

Contradictions can move us to God.

We try so hard to take the mystery out of life, don't we. We want all the dots to be connected, everything to be in its place. Sometimes we even feel that way about God.

God created us, and know we feel we have to create God, in our own image.

Even God himself can seem to be a contradiction. He is holy, yet loves us unconditionally. He will do everything He can do see that we connect with Him, yet gives us a free will, the ability to choose.

I suppose what I am saying is that we must become comfortable with the contradictions of life and not obsessively concerned about figuring them out.

After all, isn't that what makes life exciting?

Let me leave you with a quote from National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

"We are living through a time of testing and consequence—and praying that our wisdom and will are equal to the work before us. And it is at times like these that we are reminded of a paradox: that it is a privilege to struggle. A privilege to struggle for what is right and true. A privilege to struggle for freedom over tyranny. A privilege, even, to struggle with the most difficult and profound moral choices.

American slaves used to sing, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen—Glory, Hallelujah!" Growing up, I would often wonder at the seeming contradiction contained in this line. But as I grew older, I came to learn that there is no contradiction at all.

I believe this same message is found in the Bible in Romans 5, where we are told to "rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Becoming wordless

I read a story this week about a business meeting where the situation began to a little tense, even a little heated. One of the men -- the principle involved -- stopped the conversation and said, "Excuse me, I'll be right back." Then he got up and left the room and left us there waiting.

Five minutes later he returned, and said, "I didn't like where the conversation was going, and I didn't want to say something I would regret. I decided a few minutes of silence would do us good."

They continued their discussion on a softer level, and ultimately came to resolution.

Solomon said, "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)

I am really trying to work on that. Being the competitive person that I am - it's hard.

There's a time to talk things out; we all know that. But there's also a time to put our words on hold. We need to learn to identify those moments when added words won't really bring about a solution, they'll just cause us to dig a deeper hole for ourselves.

When you're tempted to go on and on and on about something, (this happens to me most times when I know I'm right) try this instead: Take a break from talking about it. See what a little silence can do.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Where is the church when it hurts?

Author and speaker Philip Yancey writes:

One day a man said to me, "You wrote a book called Where Is God When It Hurts, right?"

"Well, I don't have much time to read. Can you just answer that question for me in a sentence or two?"

I thought for a second and said, "I guess I'd have to answer that with another question: 'Where is the church when it hurts?'"
Where is the church when it hurts? Are we there? Do we care? Or are we out to just count "nickles and noses" as I have heard it described recently.
At First Assembly here in Battle Creek, we are becoming a church that cares. That really cares about the needs of people around us.
I was thrilled yesterday as several new families came to our church. But what was even more fun to watch was the response of our church family around them. Reaching out. Communicating. Connecting.
Truly, we are becoming a family, the body of Christ.
If you are reading this, and you don't belong to a church - come and check us out! We would love to connect with you.
We don't claim to be perfect, no church or person, or for that matter, pastor, is.
We claim to be fellow strugglers on this pilgrimage that God has given us all. Some choose to take the journey with us, some don't, but all are welcome.