Thursday, January 31, 2008

Restoring Passion; Reducing Lostness

January '08 ended on a wonderful note. The Missouri Baptist Evangelism Conference was incredible. I believe that it was the best of the eight years that I've been attending.

I started my trip by visiting with my in-laws and preaching Sunday morning at their church. I told the story from 1 Kings of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon. I explained that just as the Queen came to check out everything that she had heard about Solomon, people today are checking out what they've heard about our King, Jesus. The Queen judged Solomon by his great wisdom and wealth, but also by the way that his servants and officers served him. It is a humbling thought that people will judge Jesus by the way that I serve Him and represent Him--but it is true. Maybe you have judged Him by the way that some "Christians" have acted in the past. It's sad, but true. It was true of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon and it's true of those that come to examine the claims of Jesus today. As Christians, we must be ever mindful that our Savior is being judged by the way that we act and treat those around us.

The folks at New Testament Baptist Church were very friendly. I enjoyed my visit with them and hope to visit them again sometime.

Monday morning was the beginning of the conference. The morning session is put on by the Fellowship of Missouri Baptists Evangelists and then the hired guns come in for the rest of the conference. Our state Director of Evangelism opened the session by welcoming everybody. We started with prayer and music lead by the music evangelists. Leading off in the preaching category was yours truly. It was a real honor to be asked to preach at the conference (a first for me) and preaching to a bunch of preachers that have way more education and experience is a bit intimidating. Of course nobody expects the leadoff man to hit one out of the park anyway--the heavy hitters were yet to come. I thought that the morning session went great (in spite of that first guy) and I received many words of encouragement. I was especially encouraged by my own pastor that made the trip for the morning session.

I skipped out of the afternoon session to visit with some good friends in St. Louis. Their 5 month old was having surgery and I thought that being with them was more important than sticking around for the conference. ( I bought the DVD's of the entire conference, anyway.) I could really sense their feelings of helplessness when little Jake was brought out of surgery. You want to take away all of their pain...and you can't. I had to smile at Jill's (mom) question. It was never a matter of "Can I hold him?" but "How do I hold him without hurting him?" Momma was going to hold her baby!

I made it back for the evening session and I think that it was THE BEST music and preaching that I have ever heard. WOW!!! I hope that all of the pastors, evangelist and lay leaders came away with the same energy and motivation that I did. If so...look out Missouri! We'll be telling His Story in the coming year!

Tuesday was an interesting day in the St. Louis area: a record high temp of 73F (23C) at around 1 pm, 22F (-5.5C) and snowing by 5 pm, and an overnight low of 14F (-10C)!

I'll have more from the conference in the coming days. For now, I'm getting ready for the first of three associational conferences on successive Sat/Sun/Mon/Tuesdays. The best part of these events is hanging out with the evangelists that are serving in full-time ministries. They offer so much in the way of encouragement. I'm kind of the new kid on the block and they have all been great at referring me to pastors and getting my name on these programs. They are my heroes!

Remember baby Jake in your prayers and ask God to smile on me as well.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Feel Good Story

Imagine that you've just come to the end of your dream vacation. You had planned it and looked forward to it for many months. It was everything that you expected it to be and more. You have dutifully recorded your "vacation of a lifetime" by taking hundreds of pictures.

And then just as your vacation is coming to an lose your camera! You return home sick about having lost all of those pictures, all of those memories. And then a couple of weeks later, from half way around the globe, you receive the news that your camera is on its way home!

In a day when so much of the news is bad news, I just wanted to share a really nice story. Somebody went to a lot of work to find the camera owner and their story should be shared! Talk about your Golden Rule, these folks really put it into action!


Makes you want to do something nice for someone, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slacker Blogger

Alright. So I haven't posted much this month. I have been spending time studying, researching and trying to prepare sermons for the upcoming weekend. I have also been getting a little (very little) bit of reading in and believe it or not--I've been trying to work on some new magic. Anyways, all of that has kept me from taking the time to write here.

Oh yeah, and one other thing that has taken up way, way, way too much of my time--over Christmas break, Aaron found a stash of classic computer games that are now on my computer. Games like Tetris, Rattler, Pipe Dream, Rodent's Revenge, Jezz Ball and a whole host of others. When I can get the computer away from Chris, I have a tendency to want to play just a few games before getting busy with work and then end the session prematurely to play a few more.

It's been years since I have played many of these games and I had forgotten just how addicting they can be. I fear that intervention may necessary to reclaim my wife. I could always just delete the games from the computer but I'm certain that would be grounds for a divorce and I would lose the computer in the settlement!

Well it is time for a quick game and then on to sermon prep!

Is carpal tunnel surgery painful?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It's been just over ten days since my last post and you're thinking John has his computer back and will once again grace the blogging world with his wisdom and wit...right?

Well I am back and blogging, but it's not because I have my computer back. The reason that I don't have it back yet is because I never sent it out. Now I have to wait until mid February after I've finished the winter round of evangelism conferences around the State of Missouri.

The first is the State Conference and I am very much looking forward to it. I have been asked to speak in the Monday morning session and I am pretty stoked about it. I'll have more about my message in a later post. The three weeks following the state event I'll be at associational conferences in the Mineral Area Association, Laclede Association, and Pulaski Association. I really enjoy these events as I get to spend some time with some of the finest people I know. They are great encouragers and mentors. I learn a lot just from hanging out with them. I also get to meet many of the pastors, youth leaders and children's directors from around the state. It's about the most fun a guy can have during the Missouri winter!

I also have a couple of other events on the calendar and the year of '08 is looking to be another busy one! God is good!

On a completely different subject...

I just finished reading a book called The Magician and the Cardsharp by Karl Johnson. It is a dual biography of the greatest sleight of hand and close-up magician of the 20th century--Dai Vernon, and his gambling counter part--Allen Kennedy. If you're a magician, you will really enjoy the history and the stories that surround Vernon and his quest for perfection. If you're a card enthusiast, Kennedy's story and the world of gambling in the Mid-west during the 20's, 30's and 40's will surely be of interest. And if you just enjoy reading up on a bit of Americana, you will like the work that Johnson put into this book. Put it on your list of books to read--$15 at Barnes and Noble.

Aaron and Jenny are back to their respective colleges for the spring semester. It was great to have them at home and now we are once again delegated the role of parenting from a distance and transitioning to letting them loose to face life on their own.

C'est la vive.


By the way, I'm trying to save time on my blog reading by using the subscription features on your blogs. If you have one, I'm reading your blogs as you post them via Google reader. If you don't see me as a visitor, don't worry--I'm still reading. It just saves me from checking when you haven't posted anything. You can do the same at the very bottom of my page.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Most of you that read regularly already know that I am not a big movie fan. Chris generally goes to the movies with friends and I usually wait until they hit the discount bin at the rental place or Wal-mart. In spite of that, I've been to the theater twice in the past week and watched a couple of others on DVD. The two trips to the theater may have tied my 2007 total!

I took Hannah and her friends to see I Am Legend last week before school started and then Chris, Hannah and I saw American Gangster the other night. They were both good movies. American Gangster was a long movie at 2 hours and 45 minutes. It seemed a little hard to follow at the beginning as it told separate stories of the good guy and the bad guy, but they came together nicely and I enjoyed the show. I Am Legend had quite a bit of action and (as my teen daughter and her friends would say) a sad ending. I think that Will Smith has come a long way from his Fresh Prince days.

The two DVDs that I saw were The Prestige and a disturbing documentary type film called Jesus Camp. The Prestige was enjoyable--not only because of the magic theme--I thought it was a good movie. Jesus Camp scared me. I work with kids at camps and try hard not to do the very thing that is purposefully done in this movie. I hope that I never have to stand before God and explain how I manipulated the tender hearts and minds that were entrusted to my care for a week. I want to teach kids and believe that God has called me to that purpose. But I have no desire to brain wash them or guilt them into doing something that they don't understand. I do agree that we should begin to teach our kids about Jesus at a young age. I don't believe that taking a page from the militant Muslim's playbook is in the best interest of our kids, our country or our faith.

That's four movies in '08 and it's only the 6th. I'd better pace myself.

Tomorrow, January 7, puts the retirement eligibility at 4 yrs. That's a mere 1,461 days.

I've been putting off sending in this computer for some warranty work. They tell me that I'll be without it for about 10 days. It's time to send it in. I'll try to keep up with reading your blogs when I get a break at work and may even have the opportunity to seize my daughter's 'puter long enough to write a short post.

'Til then...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

His Dark Materials

Well I have finished reading the trilogy His Dark Materials. I have also read several transcripts of interviews and one e-mail interview with Philip Pullman and have included links to some so that you can read them, too. In my last post (about The Golden Compass), one reader commented about Pullman saying in a television interview that he writes books with the sole purpose of destroying God in the minds of children. I've not seen this and it is not the attitude that is portrayed in the interviews that I have read. If that reader heard it first hand, I'll accept it as a true testimony and would expect to hear from him again (perhaps with a link to the source). If it was something in an forwarded e-mail (I received several of those myself), then it is just hearsay and I dismiss it as such.

As for the book(s):

It is really hard not to read the entire trilogy. It really reads like one book, not three. Each of the first two books could have the line "to be continued" at the end and only the first book (Golden Compass) could stand alone but with an unresolved ending. The Subtle Knife or The Amber Spyglass would be very difficult to understand without have read the other books in sequence.

The trilogy is a work of literature worthy of being read. Personally, I am not typically drawn to this type of reading but was drawn into the story as a well written story tends to do to its readers. Over all, the story shares a wide variety of beliefs about the afterlife. It does share the author's values on what he believes are good (love, kindness, courage, self-sacrifice, etc.) and evil (tyranny, greed, corruption, lying, etc.) characteristics of mankind.

Contrary to what I was told to expect, the author doesn't "kill" God in the third book. The Authority dies. If you want to accept that the Authority of the trilogy is God, then God dies. However, the Authority in the book does not meet with the definition of my God. I have to understand that this is a work of fiction and the author has the right to define his characters as he chooses. In his story, there are many different worlds that are all connected through "Dust."
Dust comes to a life when a child reaches puberty or perhaps the author's way of saying they reach an age of accountability. The characters in the story have souls in the worlds of the living and are separated from their souls in the world of the dead. There are many worlds among the living, only one world of the dead.

The book has angels, witches, ghosts, specters, daemons, talking bears and creatures from other worlds and times. Although the story certainly reflects the authors beliefs, I don't think that it in any way is designed to cause anyone to stop believing in God any more than Alice in Wonderland would cause us to believe in giant rabbits.

It is understandable that the "Church" would take exception to his portrayal of the "Church" in his books. On one hand, I think that it is more a portrayal of the Catholic Church than of Christianity in general. On the other hand, I think that we all need to be aware of how we may be perceived by those that have different beliefs than ours. The call for boycotts and bans on this book/movie as well as others is exactly what is portrayed in the story...having the "Church" think for the individuals and allowing the "Church" to decide for each individual what is right and wrong and how we should behave. When religion becomes political and controlling of its followers, it becomes dangerous as well.

We should each make our decisions based on what we believe to be the right thing to do according to the values that we live by. For Christians, that should be based on the teachings of Jesus. Many are more than willing to allow others (that they feel they can trust or think they know better) make decisions for them. Personally, I enjoy the power of deciding for myself. I hope that you do, too. (A caution here--in the Book of Judges, the Israelites spent several centuries in and out of the will of God because each man did what was right in his own eyes.)

I find it interesting that the books were written quite some time ago(last one in 2000) and yet the controversy is only beginning now...perhaps because of the movie. It would seem that the Harry Potter books took all of the spotlight and controversy and Pullman slipped quietly under the righteous radar.

If you're interested in any of the interviews, you can do Google search like I did. Here are links to a few of the interviews that I read:

An e-mail interview with a writer from BC Christian News
MSNBC Questions and Answers
Humanist Network News (HNN) Interview
Video clips from Beliefnet

In the end, I don't think that Philip Pullman is an evil man. In fact, he is most likely a good man by any social standard. I do resent that it seems he feels that believers are less intelligent than non-believers. (Although I know that many believers feel the same way about non-believers.) Perhaps it's just a matter of having examined the same evidence and coming up with different conclusions.

I think that as Christians we would serve God better if we would stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and pointing fingers at what is wrong with others beliefs and start pointing them to the Cross and to Jesus. Islam is growing in America. Mormonism is growing in America. Buddhism is growing in America. New Age beliefs are growing in America. We can sit on our self-righteous butts and point our fingers at them and talk bad about them, or we can share the love of Jesus. Sometimes we sound like a bunch of political candidates engaged in mudslinging campaigns. It's as if there isn't enough good to say about our own beliefs so we have to trash everybody else's.

I don't think that my God needs me to defend Him. He is God. And unlike the Authority of the Pullman trilogy, God will survive eternally...with or without my help. My job then is to glorify God, to live according to His commands and to teach others what He has commanded. He does not need me to help Him judge others or condemn others. He only asks that I help teach others.

If fantasy is your thing, then go enjoy the movie. If you would rather read the book, feel free to do so. If your afraid of Pullman getting your money, check it out from the library. I don't think that you'll come away doubting what you've always believed in because of what you've read or seen. Whatever your beliefs might be, I would hope that they are strong enough to withstand a bit of debate or at least some thought provoking discussion.

Well it's time to get back to my regular reading.