Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Powerful prayers?

Atlanta's WSB-TV is reporting that an Alabama woman was struck by lightning as she stood praying in her kitchen.

I would love to have lightning strike our church during prayer time - the Holy Spirit kind.
While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God's Word with fearless confidence. Acts 4:31 (The Message)

"At death, everybody fills a hole, not everbody leaves one."

Got this from a friend today. It is from Patrick Mead's blog. He is the Preacher at Rochester Church of Christ. Very good stuff . . .

Warning: I can be a very blunt individual. It may indicate a lack of kindness, but I hope that isn't the case. I prefer to think of it as one individual defined diplomacy: "warfare by other means." This column about children, church, and Christians might seem harsh... but I'm writing it anyway!

A couple was furious with our church. We had gone to see what happened to them after someone noticed they'd been gone from our worship assembly for some time. "We aren't coming back," the husband said. "That is an unloving, cold church that claims to care about people but doesn't." I asked him on what basis he made that judgment and he replied, "We were gone four weeks from that church before anyone there even noticed. What kind of church doesn't even notice something like that?"

I replied, "What kind of person are you, that you could be gone for four weeks and the no one in the church could tell?" They were shocked by this 'attack' so I pressed on. "What work suffered because you stopped your ministry? What mission work ground to a halt because you withdrew your funding, prayers and support? Could it be -- just imagine with me a moment -- could it be that you never really were a part of the church? Could that be why your departure was unnoticed?"

I tell people -- and mean it -- that the Rochester Church is the warmest, friendliest, and most talented congregation I have ever worked with... but we don't make it easy to be a member here. All who come to be a part of us are called into the ministry and work of this body. They are expected to give and live as disciples, to be deeply involved in our work, and to be available to any other member who needs prayer or backup.

Kami and I built this into our children at an early age. As I have written before, we would often end the day with two questions: "Where did you see Jesus today?" and "What did you do for Jesus today?"

Let me rephrase this: make your life necessary. When you die, as we all will, you can either fill a hole or leave it. Your choice. I have no interest in filling a hole. I have a great interest in leaving one. Make your life something that gives, serves, and leads in such a way that when you are gone, it matters!!! I ask my staff and my children -- but mostly I ask myself -- "what difference did it make that you lived today? In what way did you do something that would have remained undone without you? Did your life matter today?"

Did you pray for someone fervently? Did you sacrifice some money or pleasure for another's benefit? Did you offer kindness and courtesy to someone everybody else ignored? Did you look for those who have been robbed and beaten by life and offer to them everything you had to help them as did the Samaritan?

People ask me how we raised our daughter to be such a sweet, dedicated, serving Christian and how we raised our son to be a noble, honorable, courageous man who is headed towards the officer's ranks in the Marine Corps. We challenged them to make each day an opportunity to make their life count. My son has written extensively on why he is going to serve in the uniform of the Corps. I will not quote that extensively here, but the gist of it is that everyone lives, but not everyone matters. Everyone dies, but most never lived for something bigger than themselves first.

And everybody fills a hole at death, but not everybody leaves one.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Our Senator and Gay Marriage

The American Family Association reports that my United States Senator, Evan Bayh, is poised to vote against the Marriage Protection amendment.

My perspective and response to issues like this one changed quite a bit several years ago after reading Cal Thomas' book Blinded by the Might. Thomas devoted a big part of his early career to working with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. His basic thesis is this: after devoting decades and millions of dollars, the religious right has essentially failed to make substantive change via the legislative process. The only real change is made one heart at a time the way the church has been doing for hundreds of years - through evangelism.

I think I agree. We're not going to change hearts through legislation. Having said that, I think it is the right and the duty of each citizen to engage their political leaders. We should contact Senator Bayh. I did so some time ago on this issue, and he wrote me to say, essentially, that he was "studying the issue" and had yet to make up his mind.

For me, then, the response is one of engagement as a citizen, but in a limited way. My real efforts need to be directed at reaching people for Christ. This is hard because political power is a real siren song. I relish being involved in the process and have often thought I would like to one day run for office. What change could I make, though? Eternal change is only made by engaging in eternal pursuits. Where such visceral issues as homosexual marriage are concerned, legislation will never change the minds of those who oppose it, and protest will never change the minds of those who support it. The only thing that will ever change either of those positions is the regeneration that comes from having the mind of Christ.

That is harder than writing our Senator, but then again it is Christ doing the work and not me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yep . . .

Men Who Hate Going to Church . . .

Last week I sang on our worship team - a rare occurrence for me. I face the church each week and deliver a sermon, but it is not often that I can see our folks singing. I noticed something. I noticed that there were far fewer men singing than women. Many of the ladies worshipped with passion - eyes closed, hands raised, some with tears even. The men . . . well, many of them sat stoically with folded arms. Others sang listlessly. A few participated, but very few, I suspect, worshipped.

Why is that? I suppose there are several possible reasons. Some men just grew up in a culture that devalued singing. Not me. There was always music on in our home. I was encouraged to sing and did so. My dad, who is no Pavoratti, sang the great hymns of the faith with gusto. Maybe men don't sing because they don't know the words. Admittedly, we sing a lot of newer songs in our church, but even when we sang a couple "oldies-but-goodies," I noticed a disconnect.

I happened to pick up a new book this week as I've pondered this mystery. It is Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow. Check out what he writes:

Church involvement is good for men. But since when do men do what's good for them? Men regard churchgoing like a prostate exam; it's something that can save their lives, but it's so unpleasant and invasive, they put it off. Others see the worship service as their weekly dose of religion, a bitter elixir one must swallow to remain healthy, but not something to look forward to.
I suspect Murrow is right. Sunday was evidence enough for me. I'm eager to read his diagnosis and prescription for the problem. Check back for details.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Remembering . . .

Sixty-two years ago next month, Donald Nelson found himself crouching in a landing craft speeding toward Omaha Beach. As the boat-ramp dropped in front of him, he staggered out of the craft beneath the 70 pounds of gear strapped to his back. He was the fourth man off the vessel. The third man didn’t make it; he died at the water line. Nelson stepped over his fallen comrade and fought his way into France.

Before the invasion of Normandy was secure, 29,000 Americans would die. So would 11,000 British soldiers and 5,000 Canadians.

Freedom isn’t free. It never has been. Today’s liberty was purchased by the blood of our fathers and grandfathers, and it is preserved by the blood of our brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Whenever and wherever tyranny is confronted, there is always a price to be paid, and that price is almost always paid in blood.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ paid a price for our spiritual freedom. The Apostle Paul wrote,


When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)

Thank God for men like Donald Nelson who stood in the line of fire so we could be free. And thank God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who paid the ultimate price so we could be eternally free!

I Love This Place!


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail - $36.00
Clearance Price - $21.60
Final Markdown - $7.00
Price at Goodwill - $2.29
Panning for gold at Goodwill and finding a nugget - priceless!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Classic Jonah B.

My son Jonah spent some time cleaning his room yesterday. With him, it is a never ending battle to uncover carpet beneath the pile of dirty laundry, Playstation game cases, baseball equipment, and various toys. (Not unlike most boys his age, I suspect.)

As he trudged down the stairs and through the living room where Mrs. Frankly and I were reading, I asked, "Did you make your bed?" "No," he sighed. Then he brightened with inspiration and said, "I was going to, but today is the Sabbath."

The kid cracks me up.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Re-introductions

He stuck out his hand as a smile crossed his familiar face. "Hi, I'm Mike."

I knew that, of course. I've known Mike for over twenty years. My wife used to attend his church when she stayed with her grandmother during the summers. In fact, Mike officiated at Grandma's funeral. Oh, it has been a couple months since we've seen each other. I've started combing my hair differently to cover my nagging receding hairline. I shaved my beard. I lost 135 pounds. Other than that, I'm the same guy, so why didn't he recognize me?

When I stuck my hand out and said, "Frank Weller, nice to meet you, Mike," he let out an embarrassed laugh.

It's funny how you can know someone for so long yet fail to recognize them.

I sometimes do that with Jesus.

I've known Him since 1976, but there are still times when I fail to recognize His hand at work. There are occasions when I don't see what is obvious to others. I wonder why that is. Perhaps it is because I'm just not as familiar with Him as I ought to be. Maybe it is because the interval between the times we connect becomes to lengthy. Perhaps it's just because I'm not looking.

Whatever the reason, I clearly need to pay more attention. Do you?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Navy Chaplain Faces Court-Martial for Praying

Here is an update to the story I blogged about back in December, 2005. It is taken from KNBC TV in Los Angeles.

NORFOLK, Va. -- A chaplain stationed at Naval Station Norfolk said he could face court-martial for praying in uniform outside the White House.

Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt said he prayed at a March 30 protest opposing Department of Defense rules forbidding military chaplains from invoking the name of Jesus Christ. He's accused of violating an order not to appear in uniform at news conferences in support of personal or religious issues.

The issue seems to hinge on whether his praying at the event was permissible participation at a bona fide religious service. Klingenschmitt is rejecting non-judicial punishment in favor of trial by court-martial.

In addition, he's filing a complaint against the Navy claiming the threat of punishment against him amounts to religious harassment and he's appealing to the White House to end what he claims are the military's attempts to take reprisals against a whistle-blower.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A Powerful Letter

This Sunday I am preaching "We are . . . Letters from Christ." It is taken from 2 Corinthians 3:3. As I was preparing, I came across these powerful words. They're taken from Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail:

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of
heaven," and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no
meaning for the twentieth century.

Hmmmmmm. . .

Some Church Splits Make Sense

I spent most of last Friday in the company of an Anglican brother. A lifelong Episcopalian, my new acquaintance left the church of his childhood. Or better put, it left him. The Episcopal church in America has steadily marched to the left in recent decades, but never more than in the last few years. The low water mark, or so it was thought, was reached in 2003 with the appointment of the openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson. This heresy is just one more step in a parade that has already seen the rejection of such staples of orthodoxy as the virgin birth, the divinity of Christ, and the authority and infallibility of scripture.

With the rejection of scripture comes an ala carte approach to morality and church polity. The Primate of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, made this clear in his comments following the election of Robinson when he said that the debate over homosexuals in the church needs to be placed in "a historical perspective":

He said that in biblical times there was no understanding that homosexuality was a natural orientation and not a choice."Discreet acts of homosexuality" were condemned in the Bible because they were acts of lust instead of the "love, forgiveness, grace" of committed same-sex relationships, he said.

"Homosexuality, as we understand it as an orientation, is not mentioned in the Bible," he said. "I think the confirmation of the bishop of New Hampshire is acknowledging what is already a reality in the life of the church and the larger society of which we are a part."

So when Bill's pastor announced his intention to "modernize" their parish by following the diocese in it's progressive thought, Bill and several of his fellow parishioners formed a new church. God bless 'em.

A Minneapolis Star-Tribune report reveals that Bill and company probably made the right choice. California is about to elect a new Episcopal Bishop (itself a redundancy of terms). Three of the candidates are openly homosexual. The march to the left continues, leaving behind it a trail of shattered parishes and broken people. God help 'em.