Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Night Thoughts

Wow!  It has been a busy week.  

Aaron is home for the summer and so the homestead reverts to the usual disarray that is caused when a college aged son returns for the summer.   The TV is on ESPN or FSN and nobody else gets control of the remote (not necessarily a bad thing).  You may find yourself stumbling over something like size 27 shoes anywhere in the house (anywhere except his room which you can't get into anyway).  The quiet one child home is replaced by the "MOM, would you tell Aaron to leave me alone!" And we all adjust for the next 10 weeks or so until he returns to school in August.

On the bright side, I was able to see Mike at Ted Drewe's on Thursday when we drove to St. Louis to pick him up.  I think that Mike got there ahead of me to buy his own cone so that he wouldn't have to respond to my survey.  (anybody is still able to respond if you haven't yet...Fiona)

Friday afternoon and Saturday evening were busy as well.  I had the pleasure of officiating at a wedding for a young couple.  They were very brave to have me perform their ceremony as this was only my second wedding--and the first was quite sometime ago!  It was a beautiful outdoor wedding held at the Hvmbolt Mansion and Carraige House.  Everybody looked great!  I wish the best for Brian and Katie.

I enjoyed getting to meet their families and friends and received a number of compliments about the service.  I don't think that very many knew that this wasn't my normal sort of gig!

I'd like to share some of the words that I shared with Brian during the service.  In the Bible, Peter writes, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”  NKJV

This is quite a challenge to husbands.  I explained to Brian that this means that he is to become a student of his wife.  He needs to learn what makes her happy.  He needs to learn to read her emotions.  He needs to "Dwell with her with understanding."  

I also explained about the honor given to the weaker vessel.  This isn't about physical strength.  The analogy that I used was that of a coffee mug.  A mug is designed to hold your hot beverage.  It has a handle so that you don't burn your hand holding the hot cup.  It is a durable vessel and is probably stored in a cuboard with other coffee mugs.  They may be stacked on top of each other or crowded together.  We don't worry about how we handle tham because they are durable.  

A china teacup is also a vessel designed to hold  your hot beverage.  It has a handle so that you don't burn you hand on the hot cup.  But you wouldn't store it with the coffee mugs...and you wouldn't stack your teacups one on top of another.  You would probably have a special place for all of your fine china, perhaps a glass cabinet so that everybody could see how beautiful it is.  You may have the teacups displayed on their saucers or hung from hooks to keep the delicate china from chipping.  Among all of the cups, mugs and glasses in your home, the teacups would have the place of honor.  That is  how we are to honor our wives--by treating them as someone special.

One of the most troubling things in the Bible is what comes next.  If I understand what Peter is saying here (and I think I do), he is saying that when I fail as a husband to dwell with understanding; when I fail as a husband to honor my wife; when I fail as a husband to understand that it is together that we are heirs to God's grace; then God doesn't hear my prayers.  

Yeah, this marraige thing is work.  And it is important work!  There is a lot at stake when you figure that messing up hinders your prayers.  

So guys, treat your ladies well.

John <><

BTW, tomorrow starts eight consecutive days of kid's camps for me.  Monday-Friday(am) for our Association and Friday (pm)-Monday (am) for our Hopedale kids.  Your prayers are requested...for me and the kids!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Not About the $$ Money $$

One of the comments I received in my survey had to do with churches always asking for money.  I view money as a necessary resource.  It's that way in my home.  It's that way in business and it's certainly that way in the church.  I do agree that when churches focus on money, there is a great distraction from the worship and work of the church.  I know of many churches that have faced building projects and capital stewardship campaigns that have seemed to be very burdensome for the members.

Hopedale Baptist Church is in the position of needing to grow.  Although the church was in a very rural area when it was started nearly 125 years ago, today it is on some pretty prime commercial property.  Consequently, the land around us is very expensive.  Anytime they price acreage by the square foot, you know that it is expensive.  You may recall from a recent post that Hopedale purchased an adjacent piece of property with its building for $1.2 million.

As is often the case in church life, actions like the purchase of this building and property are actions of great faith.  The church, after much study and prayerful consideration, came to the conclusion that it is God's will for us to acquire the property in order to continue to grow and glorify His name in our community.  Believing that God will provide (through His people) the resources to pay for the building, we bought it.

I know that buying the property and then figuring out how to pay for it seems backwards in the business world.  But that is what we did.

The purchase was followed by a capital stewardship campaign.  For those not familiar with capital stewardship campaigns in churches, they are basically fund raising projects.  Pastor Terry's approach to these types of projects is different than most.  He approaches stewardship from a total giving of ourselves to God.  Throughout the campaign, money wasn't emphasized at all.  I believe that the messages helped each of us to grow spiritually.  Along with that spiritual growth comes the maturity to trust God with the things (time, abilities and money) that He has entrusted to our care.  In the end, each family was asked to prayerfully consider a regular gift (above their regular tithes and offerings) to be given over a three year period.  These commitment cards were turned in two weeks ago.  Then last week we gave the "first fruits" of our pledges.  These initial offerings were designated for the remodeling of the building to accommodate the needs of our church.  

At this point, I need to say that Hopedale is not a really big church.  Our Sunday School attendance is generally between 220-250.  Total Sunday morning worship attendance is less than 400.  Nor is Hopedale an affluent church.  We are pretty much American Middle Class.

The faith and generosity of these people truly amazes me.  The three year faith commitments totalled $546,995.00.  The "first fruits" collected last Sunday (in addition to regular tithes and offerings) was $92,462.50!  Our giving is a vital part of our worship.

I didn't hear (or hear about) a single complaint or negative comment during the weeks of the campaign.  This is the best group of believers!  Right now we are having a blast working for the glory of God.  New believers are joining the family and being baptized nearly every week.  We love coming to worship together and love to hang out with each other.  For all of the faults of the church and her people...there is no place that I'd rather be and no people that I'd rather be around.  

Again, I would encourage you to trust God.  Don't make the mistake of judging God by the actions of men.  

God is good.
All the time.

John <><

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cartoon Saturday

I'm borrowing from Bilbo this morning.  My own Cartoon Saturday (I promise not to make it a habit).

In the midst of all of the cookouts and celebrations of our freedoms this weekend, take some time to give thanks for the price that was paid to secure it.

John <><

Monday, May 18, 2009

Putting Lipstick on a Pig (with an added comment)

The Church is supposed to be the Bride of Christ. I'm afraid that many today would say that the Bride is pretty homely looking. I think that it is time to get the Church ready for the coming of the Groom. Maybe time for an extreme makeover!

Thanks to all of you that have responded to my survey. Please feel free to respond if you haven't yet. I posted the survey in my Facebook Notes and received several responses from that as well.

Although a few responses were positive and from active church members, I am really more concerned with the ones that are not church members and their reasons for staying away from church. I you fall into this category, I would like to hear your story. I think that we (as the church) need to examine our failures if we are going to learn from them.

I've gathered a few of the common complaints about the church and mixed in a few of my own. I've also added some thoughts about each.

The church is full of hypocrites, gossips, back biters, people that are judgmental about political beliefs, sexual preferences, etc.

It is both a blessing and a curse that the church is a place for sinful people to come together and worship a forgiving God. A friend once shared the thought that if we are willing to let a hypocrite come between us and God, then it is the hypocrite that is closer to God. As difficult as it might be to forgive others, we must. Too often we make the choice to be judgmental about them being judgmental and leave. Not only do we manage to distance ourselves from them, but also from the God that forgives them (and us). It is important that we remember who is in church. We all bring our own baggage of fleshly nature into the place. We all need to make allowances for each other's faults. We all need to allow others to grow in spiritual maturity.

I want to address the political part separately. If you've been a reader of Out of My Hat for very long, you already know how I feel about politics and church. I don't think that God has a favorite political party. I don't think that one party's platform is any better than the other's (spiritually). I don't look to a party or government for my spiritual leadership. I don't believe that changing the behavior of people through legislation will bring them into God's favor. I do believe that bringing them into God's favor (through salvation in Jesus) will change their behavior (with or without the legislation). Since politics is such a polarizing thing, it needs to be kept out of the pulpit and the educational part of the church. The church needs to focus on the teaching of the Bible.

There were also those that feel that church people are closed-minded, both to other beliefs and to science.

Although it would be difficult for me to address the exclusivity of other beliefs (other than Christian), in each case that this was mentioned it was in reference to a Christian denomination. I'll deal with it from my perspective. Please understand that this is not representative of any church doctrine--it's just John on a rant.
I believe:

that it is by the grace of God
by the death, burial and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus
by believing in my heart that Jesus is everything that the Bible claims
and by oral proclamation that Jesus is my Savior and Lord

that I have a home in heaven.

I also believe that you must be able to make the same statement of faith if you are to have a home in heaven. I understand that that is extremely exclusive...most religions are. (Religion is as polarizing as politics.)

Having said that--intolerance is a completely different thing. I am not anybody's judge. Jesus gets to be the judge. I am very willing to talk to you about your beliefs. In fact, I am as willing to talk about your beliefs as I am about my own. I want to know what you believe, why you believe it, what is the benefit of your belief--all of it. I want to know.

If you are a Buddhist, tell me about it. If you are Mormon, I want to know about your Jesus. If you are Muslim, teach me about Allah. If you are an atheist, tell me why. A Darwinist, let's talk about The Origin of the Species. If you're just a really hacked off Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, whatever--come on. Feel free to vent on John.

In the end, it comes down to this: Do you believe in a heaven and a hell? In your belief system, how do you get into one and stay out of the other? Are you sure enough of what you believe to bet your eternal soul on it?

I think that there is a heaven and hell. Not believing in it doesn't change that. Each of us has to figure out how to get to heaven. Hell is the default...doing nothing gets you to hell. Doing the wrong thing, gets you to hell. We have to find the way to heaven and we have to help others to find the way.

I believe that churches should help us find The Way. I believe that churches should be--first and foremost--places to worship God. I believe that (in the Christian churches) we are to make disciples of Jesus, teaching the things that He taught. I believe that the value of the local church goes far beyond the social networking that some have mentioned. It has to be more than the Rotary Club or local country club.

If you have comments, bring them on. If you don't want them published, just say so.

John <><

Reading this several hours after posting it I see that it may sound a bit like I'm bashing the comments that I solicited. Trust me, that isn't my intent. I do want you to feel free to comment without fear of harassment about your beliefs. I hope that you can take the difference of opinion as it is intended.
J. <><

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Survey

So it's Friday afternoon and I'm sitting here (mildly sleep deprived) and thinking about the disappointment in "The Church" that I mentioned in my last post.  I have read different surveys that various organizations have done about church life and thought that I would do a mini survey of my own. 

I know that readers to Out of My Hat are quite varied in background and culture.  I know that you range from atheists to professional clergy.  I know that this is in no way a scientific gathering of data.  And I know that I'll be lucky to get even a few responses.

The thing is this...I'm really interested to know why people go or don't go to church.  I want to know what people expect of a church in the way of worship, ministry, service, community involvement, etc.  I want to know what it is that attracts you to a church and what it is that makes you want to stay away from church.  

So here is what I'm asking of you.  Please look over the questions and give me your honest answers.  If you don't mind if they're published, you can just respond in the comments section.  If you would rather not have them published, you can email them to me.  Or if you want to remain completely anonymous, just respond in the comments and say that you don't want your answers published.

Are you now a regular church attender or member of a local church?

If yes, what kind (denomination) church do you attend?

Have you ever been a regular attender at a church?

Again, if yes, what kind?

Please tell me the number one reason that you have for attending or not attending church.

Have you ever felt hurt or rejected by a church or some of its members to the point of completely turning you away from God or the idea of organized religion?

If yes, please summarized your experience.

Do you believe that there is any value to being a member of a local church?


If you could design your own church, what would it look like?  Tell me about the music, worship, ministry, sermons, demographics...anything you can think of.  It's your church.

Please tell me a little about yourself...married, single, divorced, kids, age, profession, etc.

Please invite your friends to drop by and answer these few questions.  I don't know that I'll ever use the answers for anything more than satisfying some personal curiousity, but hopefully it will help me to grow as a witness and defender of my own beliefs. 
(Please note that I'm interested in organized religion.  I did mention God in one question, but it was in conjuction with organized religion.  I would lke everybody to feel that they can participate in this survey.)

Thanks for your time.

John <><

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Random Thoughts

Well it has been several days since I've posted and I'm enjoying a cup of coffee while reading all of my favorite blogs.  I've just finished the second of four mid shifts for the week and will be heading off to dreamland in a short while.

Last Saturday was the last meeting of the Ozarks Chapter of the American Christian Writers.  I really enjoy meeting with this group of incredibly talented writers that are so willing to share their knowledge and experience about writing and getting published.  Meetings will resume in the fall with a new list of scheduled speakers and writing events.  The local chapter is sponsoring a writing contest for devotions this summer.  I think I'll work on a couple of entries.  Even if they don't pass muster with the judges, I'm sure that you'll see them here at some point.

School is wrapping up for the kids.  I'm looking forward to Aaron being home and taking in a ball game or two.  Hannah had her band concert Monday night and had a flute solo in one of the pieces.  She made section leader for next year's marching band.  This year's band had 3 section leaders for 22 flutes.  Next year she will be one of two section leaders for 30+ flutes.  Out of six flutists that tried out, only two were selected.  They figure that they have their work cut out for them!

I've been thinking of several other Favorite Bible Stories that I need to post.  I really need to dedicate some time for such things.  I often have the thoughts but not at the times that I have the opportunity to research and write.  Other times, I have the time but lack the motivation.  

I have enjoyed the random chats with some of you that have Facebook accounts.  If there are other readers on Facebook, you can link to me here.  Be sure to send me a message that you linked from my blog.  

One of the things that has been weighing on my mind and heart--I am becoming very disappointed and discouraged by the actions (and inactions) of the Church in the US.  I know that I'll need to organize my thoughts before posting them if I don't want to sound like a rambling, ranting idiot.  For now, I have this terrible feeling that we don't look anything like the Bride of Christ.  If you have been disillusioned by the Church or by a person that claims to be a follower of Jesus, please accept my apology for them (or me).  If you find yourself in search of God, please feel free to comment, call or e-mail me.  If I can help, great!  If not, perhaps I can connect you with somebody that can.  I'm re-reading Lee Strobel's A Case For Christ to help me organize my thoughts and defense of my beliefs.  I'll doing more apologetic reading as the summer passes--maybe some more apologetic writing, as well.

I hear the bed calling to me from down the hall...

A little rest and I'll be a little better ranting idiot!

John <><

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Great Idea!

I pulled this one out of the file.  It was sent to me some time ago and is a pretty good idea.

If you have car keys with the electronic fob, you should place them on your nightstand when you go to bed.  In most cases, the panic button will activate the car's alarm from anywhere in the house.  If you hear and intruder in the night, you have an instant alarm at your finger tips.  Even if your car is in the garage, it should be loud enough to get some attention or scare off the intruder.  If it's on the street or in the driveway, the neighbors are sure to notice.

Carrying your keys in hand when walking to your car is another way to protect your self from a parking lot attack.  It's just making the alarm work for you for more than protecting your vehicle!

It can also be used if you've fallen and can't get up!

John <><

Thursday, May 07, 2009

By the Numbers

In the Book of Numbers (from the Old Testament) is a little story of a time when the people of Israel complained agaist God and His servant Moses. These people had already been condemned to wander in the desert for forty years (until the passing of a generation) because of their doubting that God could deliver them into the Promised Land.

Once again, we see the familiar cycle of man's sin, God's judgment, man's repentance and God's deliverence.

Here's the text from Numbers 21:

4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

This raises several thoughts in my simple little brain.
First, when the people finally come around to repenting, they tell God how they expect relief (deliverance) to come. They tell Moses to ask God to take the snakes away. God however, rather than taking away the snakes, tells Moses what to do so that the people that have been bitten might not die. God didn't take away the punishment for their sin, but He delivered them from the death that accompanied the snake bite. I imagine that once they no longer feared death from the snakes, they probably set about to get rid of the snakes themselves.
Second, I have this image in my mind that there were people that managed to die in spite of the deliverence that God provided. Imagine a Hebrew lying in his tent, dying a painful death from a snake bite. His friends rush in to tell him that he can be cured. He just has to go out at look at this snake that Moses has put on a pole in the center of the camp. The man looks at them like they're crazy. He tells them to leave him alone to die. As much as they try to convince him, he refuses to believe this fairy tale that one can simply look at a statue of a snake and be healed...and so he dies in his unbelief.
I also wonder about those that had been saved from death. I can see two such people walking through the camp talking about the miracle of their healing. As they are talking, they remember their friend that was bitten. The conversation goes something like this:
One asks the other, "Did you tell our brother Josiah about the snake on the pole?"
"No. Did you?"
"No, but I'm sure that somebody did."
"Do you think that we should go by his tent and tell him?"
"You can if you want. I've got to tend to the sheep. Besides, I'm sure that his neighbors will let him know."
And so their friend dies in his tent, never having heard about the cure in the center of the camp.
Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
John 3:14,15
God hasn't taken away the sin that surrounds our lives. But He has taken away the death that is a consequence of our sin. Even today, there are many that are dying in their sin and they refuse to believe that eternal life is as simple as looking to the Cross and trusting in Jesus.
There are many believers that have been delivered from eternal death by trusting in Jesus but find themselves too busy to tell others of the cure that is theirs for the asking. Surely somebody else will tell them, right?
If you are still living with the punishment of sin hanging over your life (...the wages of sin is death), look to the Cross; trust in Jesus.
If you are saved from the power of sin, then tell somebody that needs to hear of the cure for the punishment of sin. Tell them about Jesus.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Amazing Human Body

I was sent this e-mail recently.  I've seen it before but thought that I would share it with my blogging friends.

The Human Body
It takes your food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach. 
 One human hair can support 3 kg (6.6 lb).

 The average man's penis is three times the length of his thumb.

 Human thighbones are stronger than concrete.

 A woman's heart beats faster than a man's.

 There are about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.
 Women blink twice as often as men.

 The average person's skin weighs twice as much as the brain.
 Your body uses 300 muscles to balance itself when you are standing still.

 If saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.

 Women reading this will be finished now.
 Men are still busy checking their thumbs.   

John <><      

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Simple Pleasures

I was just pausing before heading out for morning worship and thinking of how blessed I am. 

Too often, we get caught up in the grand things of life--making enough money to pay the bills and buy all of the extras that we want, satisfying our physical desires, increasing our social know, the whole keeping up with the Joneses thing.  We worry for the things that the Bible tells us not to worry about.  The Bible says that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...these other things--well, God will take care of us.

I wanted to share a few of the simple pleasures in my life.

Although spending a few days at the Super 8 in Potosi MO wouldn't make my life's highlight reel, spending an hour on the phone last night with my son sure made the evening worth living.

I really enjoy a late night espresso americano or a mocha latte with my teenaged daughter.

Or how about an evening walk around the neighborhood with my wife--even if one of the reasons that we're walking is because we need the exercise!

I enjoy seeing a friend from halfway around the world on Facebook and engaging in a brief chat.

I enjoy hearing other ideas through blogs and Facebook status updates.

I love the regular phone calls to my parents to see how they're doing.

I love to laugh.

I love that there is a God that cares about me.

Even when it takes me away from home, I love that He has called me to this ministry of sharing the Gospel of His great love.

Sometimes I find myself complaining about things at work.  Truthfully, I really like my job.  It's a real kick!  I've had to work for a living before...this isn't work.  It never is when you really enjoy what you're doing.

Well, I need to be going...
I hope that you will take a few moments to enjoy the simple pleasures of your life today...and to thank the God that makes it all possible!

John <><

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Way Too Busy for Blogging

It's another busy Saturday.  It's already past 1 pm!  Where did the morning go?

I'm getting things wrapped up so that I can be on the road this evening as I head to Liberty Baptist Church in Belgrade MO.  I finished laundry and most of my packing (clothing) last night but still have to get the magic stuff packed and ready to go.  

I managed a brief visit to the magic conference in Branson this morning.  Mostly I just wanted to show up to say hi to a couple of friends and show some support for the hosts of the conference.  I also managed to spend a little money and pick up some new items.  Then it was out to feed the horses, home to mow the lawn (just the front today) in the very light rain, and now to enjoy a couple of minutes before getting the magic stuff ready for the road.  

Since I don't have a real need to be there tonight, I've already notified the hotel that I'll be arriving around 10 pm.  That gives me until around 5:30 this afternoon to get everything done.

I'll be staying in Potosi, MO and should have plenty of time to catch up on a few things that I've been wanting to blog about.  

Have a great Sunday.  Praise God when you get the chance...and tell Him that John says Hi!

John <><