Tuesday, December 24, 2013


This is one of my favorite Christmas videos. A beautifully rendered version of an old English carol by Sting. I think I like it primarily because it is unexpected.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I'm hearing from a lot of Christian parents who think the idea of Santa Claus is baad. They think it is their duty before God to shield their children from this cultural fantasy. Not only is it an evil, worldly myth, children must then endure the trauma of finding out their parents lied to them about St. Nick. These parents are taking steps to ensure that the Santa hoax is expunged from the Christian record.

...Yeah. As Dr. Bill Hendricks my theology professor used to caution us; don't get your exercise jumping to conclusions. I think it is rash, perhaps even harmful, to deny for our children  something their friends and classmates are celebrating. But that is the least of my reasons for standing up for the Jolly Fat man. The original Nicolas of Myra was a Christian bishop in the fourth century.  His benevolent gifts and actions are the basis of the Santa myth. Saint Nicolas, in one form or another, is recognized and loved around the world. Even the Godless, communistic Soviets couldn't stamp him out. Far from denying him, we ought to celebrate Nicolas as a Christian hero. His life should be emulated, not excoriated. 

Don't get me wrong, I understand the problem. The modern world of consumerism has taken old Nicolas hostage and made him over in its own image. Like a red velvet glove over a gold-plated fist, Santa Claus has become the sock puppet mouthpiece for every kind of greed and selfishness. That's true. It's been true for generations. It's not like we have to agree with it, or slavishly buy what the advertisers are selling us.

Okay, but what about the fact that Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa. We should not allow our children's affections to be subverted away from the true Reason for the Season. Okay, I'll stipulate the last two statements. I agree. But there is something fundamental that's being missed here. Trashing Santa ignores the developmental realities of childhood. Children learn through play and fantasy. You think an imaginary Santa is bad? I assume that means your children do not have Batman or Merida pajamas. Oh, and I'm sure you don't let them waste time playing with toys either. It's just Navigators Discipleship courses from the age of three, right? You know what I'm saying is true. Be careful of stifling your child's imagination and creativity.

The Santa story teaches children about generosity and giving to others. You say Jesus teaches that too? Sure, but we still teach our kids about King David, Zacchaeus and George Washington. That argument is shallow. Children fantasize about tangible things to help them understand the intangible.

Dr. Hendricks related a story to his students from his first pastorate. A Woman in his congregation told him how she scolded her grandson for having an imaginary friend. "You don't have an invisible friend," she chided. "There's no such thing." Later, they sat down to lunch. After saying grace, she looked up to see her grandson studying her face. "Who are you talking to grandma?"


Post Script: Be honest, were you REALLY devastated and traumatized when you discovered the truth about Santa Claus? I doubt it. Fantasy play is like that.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Have you ever wondered why God is willing to use people who are less than perfect?

It’s simple. He doesn’t have any other kind to work with.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Christmas imagery is filled with Heavenly Choirs musically heralding the Savior's birth. One problem with that: it never happened. There is zero evidence that angels sing. I know, I know, I'm trampling all over your cherished childhood memories. Tough. It's simply not found in scripture.

But wait, what about the Heavenly choir at Bethlehem? There was none. Matthew's Gospel talks about the Magi, but no angels. It's Luke 2:8-12 that tells us about the angels:
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel SAID to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and SAYING,
   “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests

Then the angels left and went back to heaven.


Well, okay... What about IN HEAVEN? Ah, ha! like in Revelation. Nope. Sorry. In the great picture of worship around the heavenly throne of Revelation 4, the angels before God SAY, "Holy, Holy, Holy." 
In chapter 5, "...many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were SAYING: “Worthy is the Lamb."

Why? Why don't angels sing? I think it's because singing--music--is an inherently human action. Animals exist in the completely earthy realm. Angels exist in the purely spiritual realm. Humans are amphibians; we exist in both worlds at once. Music moves us; to joy, sorrow, sometimes to tears. We don't just play or sing music; we FEEL it. I don't believe angels truly comprehend music.

So, sorry I had to break your heart. But I take theology seriously. I take the same stand on other "doctrines of men" that have no foundation in scripture, as well.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am speaking from a Biblical perspective. If you are an unbeliever, feel free to indulge your imagination. For those of you who claim to accept the Bible as God's Word, knock it off

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Jesus selected twelve men he would train over the three years of his ministry. He did not choose Priests or Rabbis. Nor did he choose Generals, or Kings. He chose ordinary working men to carry the Gospel message to the world. It’s still true today; God uses ordinary people to do his work.


Sunday, October 27, 2013



Among America's Founding Fathers why does the name of Benjamen Franklin stand out? I mean, he didn't defeat the British Army, like Washington. He didn't compose the Declaration of Independence, like Jefferson. Other than womanizing around France just what did Benny do? Think about it. Of all the names appended to that famous declaration, I'll bet the only one you're sure of is John Hancock. All the others have faded into the mists of time. So why do we remember Franklin?

I figure he had the greatest Press Agent in history. None of his myriad disasters were ever held against him. Every time he flopped face-first into the mud he came up smelling of roses. Don't believe me? Ha! That's because you are just another in the long line of suckers taken in by Franklin's Press Agent. Allow me to adduce some evidence.

First; Poor Richard's Almanac. Franklin wrote and edited that scandalous rag. I mean, c'mon! Aren't there already billions of poor people in the world? Do we really need an "Almanac for Dummies" to HELP people get poor? Hardly. But Benny's Press Agent made sure this piece of yellow journalism went down in history as some sort of great literature.

B; Franklin's Electric Kite. What a monstrous toy that was. "Here son, look what I got for your birthday. Why don't you go out and fly it in this storm? Be sure to hold on to the key!" ...And you thought lawn darts were dangerous. But does Franklin get any blame? Never. Why, he's a great American Inventor; that's what he is. Again, good press saves a shoddy reputation.

But the absolute cruelest invention Franklin ever foisted upon the young republic was Daylight Savings Time.
This evil concept still causes untold misery across these United States. Oh, sure; everybody loves Fall Back. Set your clocks back one hour and deceive your body. You can even stay up late and squander that extra hour. The next morning you'll wake up feeling great. Your body will thank you for "sleeping in." And you'll continue to enjoy that great feeling as your body grows accustomed to this luxury... Like a diver sinking deeper into the rapturous ocean depths. Ahh, the peaceful sleep of the long winter months.

Then Spring arrives. It's a time of rejoicing. Winter's icy grip begins to thaw and the world is fertile and green once more. Skip, tra-la! Yeah, but don't forget Mister Franklin's ticking time bomb. Like a diver coming to the surface without decompression, you suddenly lose an hour of sleep. Horror! Your body writhes in agony. "Why, oh why, are you doing this to me?" It's like Guido the Enforcer shows up at your door and beats those wonderful winter months of slumber out of your body.

Phooey! It's all a cruel joke, and I'm not looking forward to starting the cycle again this week. You may hail Benjamin Franklin as one of our greatest Founding fathers. I think his Press Agent just did a great job of image-building on an historic blunderer.


Ancient Jewish Baptism had two purposes, first for repentance, second, when starting in ministry. John baptized for repentance. He called people to turn from their wicked ways and follow God’s way.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


The New Testament came about in the cultural milieu of the First Century. It was a cosmopolitan world catalyzed by Eastern mysticism, cultural Hellenism, and hard-headed Roman engineering. These three cultures are found in the background of the New Testament.
Westerners have been raised with a Roman Greek bias in their thinking. Most of us do not recognize this bias until it is pointed out to us. Culturally, we have been trained to think like Romans and Greeks. We often find the Eastern—in our case, Hebrew—mindset difficult to understand.
Thus, it’s helpful to examine, briefly, the cultural differences between the three. Let’s say you buy a new car. You tell your friends about this new car. Cornelius, the Roman, asks, “how does it work?” Right? The Romans built aqueducts, water wheels and bread-making factories. Did you know the Romans had a coin-operated vending machine for dispensing perfume? They did. They were marvelous engineers and western civilization owes them a lot.
Your Greek friend, Aescalus, he has a different question for you. He wants to know, “what does your car look like?” Greeks are big into art, symmetry, form. That is their cultural bias and their first thought.
But Daveed, your Hebrew friend, he has a completely different question. He’s not interested in the mechanics of how your car works or the aesthetics of what your car looks like. Daveed has a highly practical question, “what is your car good for? What does it do?”
Our Greco-Roman cultural bias can be a hindrance when it comes to interpreting the Bible—both Old and New Testament. If we approach the Bible asking Greek and Roman questions: “What did Jesus look like? Exactly how does Christ’s death on the cross effect redemption?” we are asking the wrong questions. The Bible answers Hebrew questions: “What did Jesus do? Why did Jesus have to die?”
A road map does not tell you at what temperature to fry eggs. Ask the right questions if you want useful answers.

Monday, October 21, 2013


In religious talk, the term “flesh” is considered a naughty word. When someone is living a life that dishonors Christ it is common to hear “he’s living in the flesh,” or “she’s acting fleshly.” After all, the scripture says; “in my flesh is no good thing.” RIGHT? Why then does John the Apostle say of Jesus the Christ; “the Word became flesh?”

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Mercedes Benz is currently running a quite clever commercial featuring ol' Scratch offering a young man a devilish deal. Sitting in a stylish coffee shop, the kid observes a billboard being posted across the street featuring the newest Mercedes. He lusts to own it. Suddenly Beelzebub appears; "Make a deal with me kid, and you can have the car and everything that goes with it." Visions of fame, fortune and manly coolness dance through the young man's head. "What do you say, kid?" the devil prompts. By then the billboard has been completed, revealing the amazingly reasonable sticker price of under 30,000 Smackeroos. "Thanks," the kid replies, "but I think I got this." Ha! The evil one is vanquished and dispatched to the nether world in an angry puff of oily, black smoke.

Ha, ha. Clever, right? I love this commercial. It is witty and plays on turning the old, established, cultural deal-with-the-devil mystique on its ear.

It does something else. Our wealthy, ever-at-ease culture no longer sees any need for God, salvation or heaven. This commercial reveals the flip side. Neither do we need the ole seducer and his tricks to give us an illicit leg up these days. We got this.

Au contraire, we do not. We are fallen creatures. Even the atheists agree that the world ought to be better. That it is not, is the consequence of sin. Not the devil's sin, or Hitler's sin, or Bin Laden's sin; yours, mine. We are not what we ought to be. That is why the world is not what it ought to be.

God offers a changed heart and eternal life to all who call upon the name of Jesus the Messiah in faith. Surrender your will to him and he promises to make you a new creature. Reject that, as so many loud voices demand today, and the alternative is eternity in Hell. Don't like that? Tough toenails. I don't like death or taxes, either. Disbelieving in Hell is about as effective as disbelieving in death and taxes.

God's Love and Wrath are two sides of the same coin; the fire that warms also burns. it depends on where you stand in relation to it. Hell serves a good and practical purpose. It is not just God's torture chamber for people he doesn't like. C.S. Lewis called Hell God's tourniquet on evil. Evil cannot be allowed free reign forever. It cannot be permitted to go on polluting God's creation. It must be judged. It will be contained. But neither will God force anyone to obey. Hell is the place for the people who insist "my will be done." Hell is God's answer, "Very well, thy will be done."

"God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9
The choice is yours. What are you going to do about it?

Belief and repentance is the only answer.


It seems that Heaven is slipping, not keeping up with the times. As a culture we seem to have outgrown the need for Heaven as a place of comfort. In the words of Reverend Ike, we no longer desire "pie in the sky, bye-and-bye when we die." We want our pie NOW; "with ice cream on top."

Older Christian spirituals and hymns like "Go Down Moses" and "I'll Fly Away" reflect the sorrow of living in this vale of tears. They express a longing for a better place: Heaven. We don't sing those songs much anymore. There's a good reason for that. After all, what's Heaven got that we havn't got already? Is there universal healthcare in Heaven? Are there DVRs? luxury cars with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation and connected drive?

...Not that I've ever read about. 

These days Heaven simply doesn't come off too well in a comparative match-up with modern technology. At least not the pictures of Heaven found in sermons and popular culture. And after a hundred years of Hollywood the pictures of gold streets and pearly gates are... well, sort of lame. The pseudo-Biblical pictures are part of the problem. In fact, the word "Heaven" is itself a misnomer. The Bible never speaks of a place called Heaven. The word used is plural; heavens, and speaks more of all you can see in the night sky than of some sort of Cloud 9.

But the fact is Heaven has become a term for the presence of God. Though it is not specifically Biblical, it is at least useful. But it does not answer the original question; Is Heaven showing its age? is it out of date, passe? Not at all. As a society we are simply focused on the wrong things; things that won't last. We walk by sight and not by faith.

I got a new iPhone 5 this year. For the first time I have a top-of-the-line phone instead of a pay-as-you-go burner. I'm already wondering if I should trade it in for an iPhone 6 when they come out. And that's the problem with technology. There's always something newer, something better. We never reach Nirvana. We are in a relentless, never-ending quest for the best all the days of our lives.

And have you noticed this gollywog, super whamodyne, technologically wonderful world is rather high maintenance? Boy, don't you pay for upkeep, repairs and replacement.  To paraphrase the Bible, "the iPhone withers, the leather upholstery fades but the word of our God stands forever."

And that's my point about Heaven. You can ignore it. You can compete with it. You can ridicule the concept. Like it or not Heaven is still there. Heaven is simply code for "where God is." Forget the marvels and toys; when your life wears out, the question of Heaven will enjoy a sharp new reality for you. Jesus said "In my Father's house are many mansions. I'm going to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also."

You want Heaven? You need Jesus. That sounds Heavenly.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


REPOST from 6-11-09

I read a lot of Biblical commentaries that have little respect for the Old Testament sacrificial system. The most common dismissive remarks call the sacrificial system something like, a barbaric practice for a blood-loving deity. Humm. Seems too many people are unclear on the concept. In fact, those people are guilty of imposing modern expectations on an ancient practice.

I've talked to Jewish folks who are quite proud of the fact that they no longer offer sacrifices for salvation. And yet, that still misses the point. You see, the point of sacrifice is not that God enjoys suffering and slaughter. The point is substitution; a life for a life. And the funny thing is, you--yes, modern urban you--participated in a sacrifice today. If you haven't yet done it today you did it yesterday. If you didn't do it today or yesterday you are either fasting or facing some serious health problems.

You see, every bite of food you put in your mouth is a participation in the sacrificial system. Something died in your place; a life for a life. And don't get all righteous and vegan on me, either. plants are living things, too. To sustain our own life we must kill and consume living things. We moderns have conveniently ignored this fact because we don't do the violent deed ourselves, anymore. No, we pay the farmer, butcher and Sara Lee to murder our fellow creatures and discreetly package them for us. Hey, I'm not knocking eating living creatures, I'm knocking our current, smug hypocrisy.

Which brings me back to the sacrificial system. The whole point of the system is to point out our need. We are not self-contained, self-sufficient creatures. We are not gods. We need life. and we sustain the life within us by taking life from other creatures. The book of Hebrews points out the ultimate futility of the Old Testament sacrificial system; offering daily sacrifices that never end. Those sacrifices were reminders of sin, they never absolved sin. That is the reason Jesus gave his life on the cross for us. His death was a cosmic event. A one-time ultimate sacrifice for sin. Life for life. The sacrificial system and our dependence on food is the daily reminder of our need in this life and a BIG, RED pointer to Jesus the Christ, who offers us life eternal, through the shedding of his blood.

Believe and repent. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


What is the difference between perseverance and futility? I mean, when things don’t work out right should we stick to the task or just give it up as a waste of time? I once spoke to a frustrated young deputy who said, “We should just lock them all up. We’re getting nowhere. Wait a minute, I thought, this kid’s way too young for this kind of cynicism. But it wasn’t merely cynicism; he was dealing with the flood of despair Law Enforcement Officers encounter on the job. Many days LEO's only see the bad side of people.

            I thought about that. As a minister I struggle with frustrating people and situations too. For Law Enforcement Officers, it’s part of the job. My wife, a teacher, talks about the same frustrations.
            So what are we supposed to do? How do we NOT surrender to futility? Well first, I think that frustration is not a sign of weakness. The fact that it bothers you shows you still have some hope.
            So I have three questions; First, what can we learn about ourselves? Am I in this only for a paycheck, or do I think the job really makes a difference? If I believe the job is worth the effort, I need to look for the good among the bad. I’m always surprised at how much good I find when I stop focusing on the garbage.
            Second, how can we use this knowledge to positively motivate one another? When I am frustrated I tend to turn inward. This is the opposite of motivation. I don’t mean to sound touchy-feely, but we all need an encouraging word once in a while. I find a simple Atta-Boy from my peers works wonders.
            Third, how can we NOT become discouraged by life’s apparent futility? Ah, that’s an “ultimate question;” my specialty. I find hope in the fact that I believe in God. Though it eludes us, there is a reason for existence. This helps me carry on when I don’t see an obvious reason beyond myself.
Keep at it. When Jeremiah complained to God about how hard his task was, the Almighty had a few choice words for the prophet. I’ll put the reply into LEO-ease; "If you’ve chased crooks on foot and they have worn you out, how will you keep up with their cars? If you stumble during a five-mile run, how do you expect to make a foot-pursuit through a dark alley?"
                              Jeremiah 12:5 (Don's Paraphrase)

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Vocatius Atque nonVocatius, Deus adent.
(Bidden or not bidden, God is present.)
Latin expression