The Allure of Lone Ranger Christianity

I'm baffled. It seems almost like the phrase "loving church" has become a paradox.

If I want my money to be used in a loving manner, I have to avoid giving my money to the church and decide to use the money to love people on my own. This should not be. The church should be the spearhead of love in every community. However, loving actions from churches are nearly non-existent in my small midwestern town. I'm fearful that my town is more of the rule rather than an exception.

What should one do as a layman in such a situation? Is it inappropriate for me to give my money to a church that isn't majoring in loving actions? Is it inappropriate for me to withhold my offering and use it to meet people's needs around me?

I now see why lone ranger Christianity prospers in America. I see why books focus solely on one growing as an individual Christian. The church is in a sorry state. It seems to be one of the last places that vibrant Christianity can be lived out. (I know there are exceptions. I'm talking about the area I live in.) I want to give up on the church and just worry about living out the faith on my own. If I, a person who believes so much in the church, have arrived at this depressing conclusion, how much more so do people who don't even have a grasp on what the church can be.

If I want to be educated on the principles taught in Scripture, then the church is the place to be. If I want to live out those principles in a body of believers, it will just be one intellectual battle after another. I have to abandon the church and live out the Christian principles on my own.

If I want to be entertained by a worship service, then the church is the place to be. If want to worship God through service, I have to abandon the church and do it on my own.

If I want to be on a committee discussing what God wants done, then the church is the place to be. If I want to start doing the work that God wants done, I have to abandon the church and do it on my own.

I weep at this situation. I don't want this to be. My heart twists in agony. I see in my head what the church can be if we are faithful. I see what a town like Antwerp could be with a loving church in its midst. I see what our nation would look like if every town had a loving church among them. Lives would be changed. God would be glorified.

I fear that many churches are dangerously close to losing their lampstands.

Maybe I'm just depressed.

Watch out for the potholes.

Blog Explosion

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Watch out for potholes.

Weekends Off

I know I've had a lot of new visitors this week due to Blog Explosion, so I just wanted to tell those new visitors that I take weekends off. Thanks for visiting.

Watch out for potholes.

Balance in Christ?

This is in reply to a question that a friend online made about whether we should have balance like eastern religions in our life as Chrisitians. Can we have too much Christianity? You can go read the whole question if you like at GLCC alumni, which is by no way officially sanctioned by Great Lakes Christian College.

Balance as in a little bit of self and a little bit of God never appears to exist in Scripture. Enjoying the things of this world in moderation seems to. But truly following Jesus and experiencing life to the fullest requires a complete and total commitment to follow him. There doesn't appear to be any minimum Christianity.

"Take up your cross daily and follow me." That implies extremism. Unfortunately, It's so cliche nowadays. But it is a call to extremism just like the rest of the gospels. We have to be willing to die dailly for the cause of Christ.

The problem might be the people you consider to be completely committed to God aren't. They might just be completely committed to the rituals that those completely committed to God established at some point. The strong faith of someone in the past is always mimicked by those in the future. We live in the future of many great people of faith.

If you're like me, you don't see great faith modeled often. At one point in my journey at Great Lakes I gave up on Christianity. (Not because of any of the professors.) I became completely frustrated with what I felt was the whole charade.

I remember going to a church function at the church I grew up with. They were having a campfire and such. I went for a walk with my mom around the yard. I told her there that I don't think I'm a Christian any more. She wept. I hugged her. I just couldn't be a Christian when all the world is filled with all of these fake people who think they are saved just because they have proper belief statements.

Thankfully, God didn't give up on me. God laid Isaiah 5:1-7 on my heart. It's a story about God trying his best to create a fruitful vineyard. However, he did all he could and it still produced bad grapes. He told others to "judge between me and my vineyard." At that point I decided to do just that. I can't judge God based upon the people who claim to follow Him, but I can surely live my life in such a way that I hope people will see God through the way I follow him. I hope that my life on and offline does such a thing.

Obeying the teachings of Christ and following him isn't something that is frowned upon by someone in love with Christ. As you mentioned the Bible does say, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). It goes on to say, "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them" (John 14:21) In 15:12 he goes on to state what that commandment is: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Freedom in Christ, which you seem to be implying the people who have just enough God exhibit, is to be used to further that commandment. "For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

In conclusion, I don't think there can be too much of the faith Jesus taught in us. We can follow empty traiditions and fake rituals too much, but we cannot follow him too much. We are expected to follow him to such an extent that we are willing to die for him, that we are willing to put aside our own wishes and desires, follow his example, and become slaves to those around us. I don't see how anyway could ever take that as balance between self and God.

We give our whole life to God for him to do with as he wills. That is what makes us Christian. I think the eastern teaching of balance is helpful when we talk about work and family or rest and activity; however, it doesn't come into play when we talk about God and our lives. In those cases it's either all or nothing.

Have a great weekend and watch out for the potholes.

Trekking through a Denominational Menagerie

I've been wondering whether to officially become a member of the church of the Nazarene. So I've been reading around on the internet. I ran across an article with someone stating why they were a Nazarene.

So here is the article, Come Share the Dream.

But then it got me thinking. Why should I be just a Nazarene?

Here are some more articles explaining why people are members of other denominations.

Why I am...

...a Baptist. a United Methodist. a Primitive Baptist. a church of Christer. a Unitarian Universalist. a Presbyterian. a Lutheran. a Catholic.

The list could probably go on and on if I took time to find links, which I have already spent over a half hour doing. So I'm going to stop there.

Most people would leave more confused than ever. However, I believe God is tugging on my heart. During all of this and recent events that I am not allowed to share in public, I have had a strange desire to head back to the non-denominational church of Christ/Christian churches. Maybe everything has been done in order to bring me into a greater grasp of the entire body of Christ and to insure a non-sectarian vision of the kingdom in my heart.

Victor Knowles gave a speech that pointed out that the conservative church of Christ/Christian churches were the second fastest growing denomination in the United States behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1990-2000.

You can go read the whole speech if you want, but he points out reasons he thinks this is the case.

1. Conservatism
2. Commitment from members
3. Loyalty to our heritage
4. A passion for evangelism
5. Nondenomenational status
6. Attempting new strategies
7. Contemporary worship
8. The rise of the megachurch
9. New church plants
10. World mission emphasis

And then he goes on to quote Dick Alexander (last I heard he was at Clovernook Christian Church around Cincinnatti).

Will a higher head count be the only measure of a church (producing breadth without depth and foreshadowing collapse)?

Are we sure we’re reaching the lost? Some churches may just be gathering up dissatisfied members from other churches.

Will we engage the emerging culture? “Will our large auditoriums become, within a few decades, the equivalent of European cathedrals—relics of a former era of faith?”

While many churches are growing, most are not. Will these stagnant churches find the faith and conviction to do whatever it takes to reach the lost?

While my heart might be tugged, I am still confused on the practical application. I love this following God thing at times.

Watch out for the potholes.

The Shepherd and Us, The Flock.

What is an aspect of the ideal church that you wished was lived out among the body of believers you are in fellowship with?

Some might say there isn't one. They are complacent. We will ignore those because none of will ever be in the perfect church until the other side of the grave.

Part of our being a Christian is seeking the kingdom of God. That entails making our church more and more of an example of the kingdom here on earth. Most of us who read this are in positions of leadership (except for me) in the churches we attend. We are in a position be the first sheep following the shepherd to the better waterhole.

People that are where they should be need no leader. Grace allows us to freely admit that none of us are where we should be. We all need a leader, and that leader is Jesus Christ. We need to submit to him and be the first in his flock to hear his voice and set an example on following him. We aren't shepherds. We're just a few of the sheep that, hopefully, listen more attentively to the shepherd's leadings.

We're just sheep.

Just sheep with the greatest shepherd.

Watch out for the potholes.

Battle Royale - a book recommendation

For the last five days, I have had a book that I read a year ago on my mind. It has plagued me. Maybe it is because I am discouraged lately. Only God knows.

I won't explain the events of the book. I'll let the back of the book do that.

"Battle Royale, a high-octane thriller about senseless youth violence, is one of Japan's best-selling - and most controversial - novels. As part of a ruthless program by the totalitarian government, ninth-grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food, and various weapons. Forced to wear special collars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one "winner" remains. The elimination contest becomes the ultimate in must-see reality television. A Japanese pulp classic available in English for the first time, Battle Royale is a potent allegory of what it means to be young and survive in today's dog-eat-dog world. The first novel by small-town journalist Koushun Takami, it went on to become an even more notorious film by 70-year-old gangster director Kinji Fukusaku."

It's like Lord of the Flies on Crystal Meth. It's written much differently than most American novels since it is a Japanese novel tranlsated into English. It's also been adapted into manga (for those who don't know what that is - it is Japanese comic books). I recommend only the novel, not the manga.

You could get hung up on all the gore and the violence. Maybe you should. But I couldn't get past the message of hope and friendship that this book brought me. The students live in an extreme world. A world where the government has complete control. A world where people look out for only themselves in order to get ahead. Now they're plopped on an island where the government has provided them with weapons and they have a limited time for only one of them to be left alive or they all die, all for the world's entertainment.

Should you trust your good buddies in an extreme culture of individualism? Is there point in friendship besides just meeting one's selfish needs? Do we really need one another? Is individualism evil and community good? Maybe we should look beyond the temporary and perceive the system.

The book expresses some amazing points in a very unique and, sometimes, disturbing way. If you don't like brains being blown around and heads being chopped off, then this book isn't for you. But if you can endure that or even enjoy that, I can't recommend this book enough. I couldn't stop turning the pages and still can't get the point of the book out of my head. It's ultimately a book about trust. Soemthing we all need to do with our fellow man if we are ever going to truly experience the kingdom here on earth. It's also something that if we do, we will inevitably get burnt. I guess being a Christian is about healing from the burns and going out and trusting again.

Watch out for potholes.

This is my father-in-law, Marty. He recently started playing his guitar. It has reached such levels recently that he now sleeps with it.  Posted by Hello

This one is an extra. This is a picture of Eli pulling himself up. It is one of the first times. He could finally get into the toybox. Now, he is a professional. Just ask my cup of juice I had sitting on the coffee table yesterday morning. Eli loved playing in the spilled juice. Posted by Hello

Eli - "We would like to welcome you once again to our daddy's blog. Hope you enjoy the pictures. If not, don't blame me. I'm not the one taking or posting them. And remember, always start your Amazon search here. It gives my daddy a little money and costs you nothing extra. Life is good. Now only if my brother would take this a little more seriously and quit trying to tickle my armpit. Gotta go." Posted by Hello

Lots of Pictures of Isaac & Eli

Sorry if you don't like pictures of my children. There are a lot of them today. I'm finally catching up.

Watch out for the potholes.

Eli posing next to his doctor's office toy. Posted by Hello

Eli cannot control the joy that the doctor's office toy brings to him. Posted by Hello

I can't think of captions for all of these pictures of the same two guys. Posted by Hello

Isaac showing off all of his presents.  Posted by Hello

This one is potentially my new favorite picture. Eli is very happy to start opening his presents. At least that is what I hope he is happy about. Posted by Hello

I title this one the worst Christmas Photo. Eli is drooling mad. He's going to get his presents all wet if he doesn't quit. Isaac is trying to do a fake smile. Apparently, it takes more years than three on this earth to master the art of fake smiling. Posted by Hello

Isaac and Eli opening gifts. I am master of the obvious. Posted by Hello

The Steak & Shake milkshake is talking to you, through me. Listen. Listen. I am hypnotizing you.  Posted by Hello

Isaac having fun sledding.  Posted by Hello

This is Isaac after his sledding wreck. Posted by Hello

I'm not always looking crazy. It's just the photos of me that daddy puts on the internet. Posted by Hello

If you give me any more applesauce, I might get tipsy. Hope you had a good time today at my daddy's blog. Until next time - good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight. Posted by Hello

The Rut or the Horizon

Back to Mitch Daniels State of the State speech. One of his comments really hit me.

"We need to shake ourselves of the natural human tendency to mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon."


He was talking about political changes and producing an "honestly" balanced budget, but it struck me in a lot of ways. That speech came on the evening after I posted my frustrations with continuing to seek after the kingdom and all of the ideals it stands for. For some reason that quote reinvigorated me. I still have no idea on how to go about bringing the kingdom to reality outside of doing it on a personal level (something that really isn't seeking the kingdom because kingdom implies others), but I will continue seeking for ways to do it.

Ruts are discouraging. When you get out of them they sometimes give us a false sense of achievment. Sometimes our ruts are so deep that the horizon is not visible but just a concept in our heads. It is our job to bring a ladder into the ruts of life and help people climb it so that they can see the horizon.

Horizons are promising. They are grand and magnificent. Our ruts will be overcomed when the horizon is our focus.

Are we focused on a problem at our church or in our individual life or are we focused on the kingdom? The rut or the horizon.

"We need to shake ourselves of the natural human tendency to mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon."

Watch out for ruts and potholes.

George Washington's First Inaugural

I'm very grateful that the Presidential Inauguration occurs today. For the last week the news has been focused on it. I am more sick of it than I ever was of the Scott Peterson murder trial or Kobe Bryant's rape trial. Personally, I thought I would read through George Washington's inauguration speech today. I ran across it a few years ago in a book that I have that contains historic documents of America. I was greatly impressed. So here it is. I bolded my favorite sections for the ease of those who don't like to spend over a minute at a blog. Just read the bold if that is your cup of tea.


Washington's Inaugural Speech, 1789

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

Among the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with a humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.


Tomorrow, I will talk about an amazing quote from Mitch Daniel's State of the State speech. It was a doozy.

Watch out for potholes.

Political Junkie or Inspirational Politics

You know you're a political junkie when you are driving home from work and run across the governor of the state next to yours giving a political speech and decide to stay there and listen. That's what happened to me last night as the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, was giving his first State of the State address.

In the speech he had a few good one-liners. However, the thought between the one liners quickly shifted in my head away from politics to the church, which is sadly oftentimes infiltrated with politics. So here is one of the good one-liners and how they apply to being the kingdom. I'll talk about another one tomorrow.

"Instruction before construction."

That's a great line. I think before any church builds a building there should be an organization that comes to them and explains the pitfalls of buildings. I just heard a story two days ago about how a new building destroyed a church. I've personally seen it in the past.

The building is irrelevant. If it is necessary, it will just be a by-product of being a healthy church. One of the key elements of church is instruction. If we are not training people what it means to be Christians and creating a loving body of Christ, then we are just setting ourselves up for disaster if we decide to build.

Oftentimes, a building will cause a church to be strapped financially. If this happens and prevents a church from being loving, then it is a sad, sad event. When a church can't just write a check to help out people and their financial needs because of bad decisions, they are in a very dire situation of becoming just a social club and not an example of the kingdom of God. A church, just like individuals, needs to express itself in love.

Then there is the problem of unity. I have seen buildings divide barely united people. Become one body, then decide together whether you are to build a church. The church I currently attend is in the midst of a building project which appears to be causing all of these problems, division to a lesser extent. The crazy thing about this building project is that I have asked around because I wanted to catch the vision from the person who felt called to build it and nobody knows whom the vision for the building originated with. Nobody has ever said to me that they felt called to build it.

We have stifled church growth ever since I arrived at this church almost two years ago because we have been waiting for the new building. We are crammed like sardines where we currently meet. They say you are supposed to build when you are at 80% capacity. I bet we have reached 120% capacity some days. We could've easily moved to a larger rental place at some point before the building project.

We aren't able to be financially loving because of sorely strapped finances. But I digress. The decision to build has already been made. We need to live with it. I'm just an inconsequential layman who has to sit back and watch the ship get holes and help it as much as a layman can not to sink. We should be moving to the new building by the end of February. I'm excited about it, but I'm also terrified because nobody has ever addressed the potential and actual problems that this building has and will create and how we will address them in a kingdom manner.

Watch out for potholes.

Giving Up or The Continued Quest for the Ideal

This week I have been torn between continuing to strive for the kingdom or just becoming complacent and living as good of an individual Christian life as I can and not worry about the kingdom.

It seems that it would be so much easier to be a lone ranger Christian. I see why it is appealing. No conflict with other Christians over what the church should do. No taking time out to help another brother or sister out in their struggles except for when it is convenient to me. No frustration over churches failing to be examples of the kingdom.

I know I need to continue to seek the kingdom first and all of the ideals it stands for. It's just frustrating. I don't even know where to begin without planting a church.

Watch out for the potholes.

Enjoying the slippery slope.

With a title like that you would think this would be about sledding. It's not. We did take Isaac sledding for the first time a week ago. We had a great time until the last time down the hill. Isaac wrecked and planted his face into the snow. He wasn't happy.

My dad told me about a news story he saw last week in which there was a slippery road on a hill. At the bottom of the hill cars were just piling up one on top of the other. The exciting thing about this story is that there was a guy at the bottom of the hill recording it all on his camera. It made for good television.

It got me thinking. How often do we just stand at the bottom of the hill and watch lives crash when we could go to the top of the hill and warn them so they could avoid the mess in the first place. It's not our responsibility to prevent them from receiving harm, but it is our responsibility to warn them.

Ezekiel 33:1-9

"1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, 'If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his {own} head. 5 'He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. 6 'But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand.' 7 "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. 8 "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. 9 "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life."

Watch out for potholes.

The Power of Faith

Yesterday we talked briefly about using the phrase "the blood of Jesus" or the power of relics. After thinking about it throughout the day, it brought me to the following conclusion. If we say "the blood of Jesus" or use a relic to increase our faith, then that is why the work. It is our faith that brings saves us. We see that using Jesus' name didn't work for those who had no faith. We see in the New Testament where the woman was saved by touching Jesus' garment because of her faith.

The power isn't in the relic or the saying; it's in our faith. However, our faith doesn't turn God into a big Santa Claus where we should be able to get whatever we want. We see this at the close of Hebrews 11 where some great people of faith faced death. All the faithful, save two (my number might be wrong) , throughout history have died. To me the perfect model of faith is exhibited by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

Our faith doesn't always get us what we want. But that is no reason to lose faith. It is a reason to grow stronger, even to the point of death.


Here is a link that Muddy sent me in an email. It deals with one of my favorite passages of Scripture at the end of Acts.

Watch out for the potholes.

Relics, Blood of Jesus, and Entire Sanctification

I don't use an alarm clock. I just wake up when my body tells me it is ready. That time is usually anywhere between 5:30 - 6:30. However, my body never told me it was time today. I woke up to the sound of Lindsay coming downstairs at around 7:15. I guess that is a result of the flu; however, I am feeling almost 100% today.

Here is a section of Scripture that has been on my mind lately:

Acts 19:10-20

10 And this went on for two years, so that all the inhabitants of the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. 11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul's hands, 12 so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.

So relics of Paul did have power? Wow. Does that mean that ancient relics have power today? Probably. I'm sure I've read this verse plenty of times, but never did it strike as relics being used in healing. I'm sure we even went through it during my Acts class, probably with a disclaimer that this was a special event that no longer applies to us today.

13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!" 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize--but who are you?" 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded.

What a warning to those who might want to fake the faith for their own personal gain. We can compare the power of relics to the power of the name of Jesus. The one worked; the other didn't. It shows me that it isn't the words that are said but the heart of the people involved. No catchy phrase, even if it is the phrase "blood of Jesus", can cover up a false heart.

17 This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value, and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver. 20 In this way the Lord's message flourished and prevailed.

The Nazarene church teaches a concept of Entire Sanctification. In essence, it is a belief that we are saved by grace at some point in which our sins our forgiven; however, that point is not always necessarily linked with a total commitment to follow God. That happens when people, through grace, decide that they are willing to give their whole life to God. The problem with me was in seperating total commitment with salvation, but after much thinking and pondering I tend to think that they can be seperate. Not everyone who receives the initial grace of forgiveness are ready to totally surrender their life to the Lord. Sometimes they don't even know what it would mean to live a life totally surrendered to the Lord at the point in which they accept the grace of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Entire Sanctification has been a liberating belief for me in the last few days.

We see an example of that in this passage. These people became believers and then came with their books of witchcraft to burn them. It was in publically removing their tangible sins that the Lord's message flourished and prevailed. I haven't seen a repentance like this in a while.

Watch out for potholes.

Blogging and Illness and a Recommendation

Well, I have the flu too. It's horrible, but I have made a tremendous discovery, Oscillococcinum. That's the overly-commercialized homeopathic flu remedy. I was starting to feel real bad yesterday, so I went down to Meijer and purchased it for $13.50. The price tag almost turned me away, but I'm glad it didn't. I have yet to join the other Clem's in the fun sport of vomit tag. Lindsay is the ultimate loser because she always expels her fluids into the toilet; however, Isaac is the reigning champ.

Yesterday, I came home and the house smell was back to normal. No lingering effects of vomit. Everyone had a good day. No more vomiting. And Isaac even smiled and wanted to play games with me. I was in no shape to play games, but it is nice to see he is back to normal.

One of Isaac's favorite toys, and I strongly recommend them to anyone, is two poster packing tubes. We play swords with them. They are great. You could spend thousands of dollars on him, but he wouldn't like anything more than he likes those poster tubes. He calls them trumpets and says he wants to sword fight with trumpets.

Here are some of my favorite Isaac quotes from recently.

The night before he was sick he told me on his way up the stairs, "My food is not becoming poo-poo." I had no idea what he was talking about. Apparently, he knew his food wasn't being digested.

After he had vomited all over his bed and himself, I asked him if he was hungry. Isaas replied, "I always hungry." Our boy has an insatiable appetite. I think he is probably at the worst age to get the flu because he wanted to constantly drink. If we gave him liquids, he would just vomit them up. I bet he asked over 100 times for water. It was crazy.

I know there was some much better quotes from the last few days, but I can't remember them.

Here are some tips on blogging. In my case, having to write something every day makes me have to continually challenge myself. I like that. It makes me have to live a life observing things around me. I like that too. As long as I receive those benefits, I will continue to blog every day.

I heard a quote from the Donnas the other day on NPR. They were asked, "Why do you think you succeeded when there are tens of thousands of garage bands around the country?"

They replied something along the lines of, "We only played for ourselves."

If the success of your blog is dependent upon personal growth, then it doesn't matter how many hits you get. You will continue blogging for yourself.

Watch out for potholes.

It's a Nightmare Now

I really don't want to go to work today. I've been up with Isaac almost all of the night. He vomited again 15 minutes ago. We are running out of dry places to try and sleep. Vomit has flown everywhere. And one of the parents joined in on the ordeal. I won't use names lest I embarass her, but she did vomit in the proper place. Isaac just seems to explode all over the place. Like the time we were laying on the couch together. The next moment we are drenched. Then the time that I am sleeping on the ground (the couch was wet) beside him on the love seat. The next thing I know I am getting sprinkled with the indirect hit of vomit. It's exciting. Did I mention I don't want to go to work today? Hopefully, he'll be able to hold some liquids down soon.

Watch out for potholes.

How I Wish You Were Here

Okay. Maybe not. It wouldn't be a good time to be in the Clem's household. Isaac goes to be around eight. At 10:20 I hear two whimpering "mamas" through the monitor, then a "blaggghhhh", followed by screaming "mamas". Isaac is my responsibility if he wakes up in the middle of the night because Lindsay takes care of Eli. Unfortunately, this was not a task that superdad could handle alone. Vomit covered Isaac's bed.

Then I brought him downstairs. I figured he could sleep on the love seat while I slept on the couch to be close to him and keep an eye and ear on him. I'm laying there trying to go back to sleep when I hear some heavy swallowing going on from the love seat. I get up and go ask Isaac if he needs to vomit again. He says he's okay. I go back the lay down and hear another "blaggghhhh". The love seat has now been Isaacitized. He then proceeds to tell me he is feeling better. That is where we are right now. He is sitting in the living room watching Baby Van Gogh. I figure if he vomits he can stay up and watch television with daddy. However, I then came in here to type this.

The one thought that came to my mind during this whole situation was this: Your child vomiting makes you stop everything and take care of him and the vomit. It made me think how I need to be the same way when it comes to Kingdom situations. When I see an opportunity to serve God or love another, I need to be as responsive to following God as I am to my child's vomiting. I hope that there isn't a return to the vomiting. I'm going to go back out there and join him. Maybe I can talk him into letting me watch another episode of Andromeda.

Watch out for the Potholes.

Loving Equally

As you know, I am currently addicted to Andromeda. I love the show.

A quote at the beginning of one of the shows read: "The truest measure of a society is how it treats its elderly, its pets, and its prisoners."

I've seen good churches and bad churches when it comes to the way they treat the elderly. Every church seems to be very quick to spend money on the teens and children; however, when it comes to spending money on the elderly doesn't come so quickly. The teens are the future. The elderly are dying.

We need to invest as much energy into loving our elderly as we do to anyone in our church. In eternity's eyes they are still rather young.

Watch out for the potholes.

Seek Ye First...The Evangelization of the Lost?

If I was an outside observer viewing church in America it would be tough for me to see that people are seeking first the kingdom of God. In many cases I think people are sadly misguided and are seeking first to evangelize the lost. Evangelism isn't a bad thing; however, when it is taken out of perspective it can be detrimental to both the person doing the evangelism and the victim of the evangelistic salvo.

The key to effective evangelism is being in the kingdom. If you live and breathe the kingdom of God and are part of a body of believers that are a glimpse of His kingdom, then you will inevitably be effective at sharing Christ with the people around you. If we aren't part of the physical kingdom of God, then what in the world are we going to win the lost to? We oftentimes bring flashes of the Pharisees: "For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves." We must be part of the kingdom of God in order to effective bring people to God.

Evangelism is about bringing people into the kingdom, not just getting people to say a prayer, be baptized, or believe in Jesus. It is about showing the kingdom of God. The evangelized can make the choice whether they want to enter. We dare not water life in the kingdom down and make it simpler than Jesus made it. "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 8:34).

That passage came immediately after Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah. To the nation of Israel a Messiah was to come and establish God's kingdom here on earth. They recognized Jesus for what he was but didn't yet comprehend the kingdom he was establishing. We oftentimes fall into the same category. We understand Jesus but not his kingdom. If we are to truly understand Jesus, then we must understand the reason for his coming, establishing the kingdom of God.

When our focus is seeking his kingdom we will grasp and become part of his kingdom. Jesus will be our king, and evangelism will become like second nature to us. Everything that is important should become natural to us when we have the right priority, the kingdom of God. Thing become stressful and too difficult to do when the kingdom is removed from the central priority in our life.

Watch out for the potholes.

Nothing to say today.

The American Charity Scam and True Charity

The disaster and all of the charities clamoring for my money got me thinking. How do the most prominent charities use their money?

After spending an hour this morning searching on the internet, I have found a few good resources.

The best resource is the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Also, I have found a page that lists the top 20 salaries for charities.

I have a tough time with any head of a charity making over $200,000. That seems like a reasonable enough salary to me.

The President of the American Red Cross in 2002 had a base salary of $450,000. That seems a little outrageous to me. To top their outrageousness, I have found two instances of where the American Red Cross paid severance pay in excess of $1,000,000 to former presidents, once to Harold Decker and once to Bernadine Healy. It seems like they call it severance pay, but it is really a planned bonus at the end of one's tenure. But that doesn't compare to the United Way paying their past President/CEO $1,537,837. That is just ridiculous.

The American Cancer Society and the Boy Scouts, apparently the most proficient firestarter in the States, pay their CEOs in excess of $700,000. The list is pilfered with medical charities. They seem to pay the most.

At this time when we are helping Tsunami victims, be careful to not just fill the silk pockets of rich charity executives. Please give wisely. It is important to know where your money is going.
At the recommendation of Shannon last week, I explored more of Rick Warren's program of partnering with churches in the area. I would much rather give my money to trusted locals in the effected regions than to rich suits in America to decide how to distribute. Here is Rick Warren's Tsunami Relief program.

Here is an excerpt from that site:

"We will funnel 100% of the money your congregation sends, getting it to trusted purpose driven leaders in each of the regions devastated by this disaster. These are leaders like Dishan Wickramaratne, in Sri Lanka, who is one of our recent PD Church Health Award winners. Although his church was not directly affected by the tsunami, he is leading a large effort to get the resources distributed to many of the hundreds of small churches who need the help. Many of these small churches don't have access to email or a bank account for wired funds, but they still need the help. Another example: John Kwan, also a recent PD Church Health Award winner, who lives in Batu Ferringhi, Penang (Indonesia). He is now the head of the local Baptist seminary there. Fortunately, the seminary is fine, but many churches in the area are damaged and many others are helping to respond to their neighbors."

So give but give wisely. And the most important thing is giving is to make sure that God is glorified by your giving. It's not about us; it's all about him.

Matthew 5:16
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

And in loving others, we are loving God.

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

37 Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

44 Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Watch out for the potholes.

Seeking What?

"Many hold this truth in theory who after all utterly deny it in practice. Almost every body will admit that we ought to seek first the kingdom of God, and that religion is the supreme business of life; yet how almost constantly is this denied in practice?" - Charles Finney

Matthew 6:31-33
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?' or "What will we drink?' or "What will we wear?' 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NRSV)


31 "Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' 32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (NASB)

What do we seek?

Do I seek the Jesus or the kingdom of God and his righteousness?

Do I seek the the power of the Holy Spirit or the kingdom of God and his righteousness?

Do I seek biblical knowledge or the kingdom of God and his righteousness?

Do I seek helping the poor or the kingdom of God and his righteousness?

Many times we let great and noble things get in the way of the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

In seeking the kingdom of God we join Christ in his mission on earth. Luke 4:43 - But Jesus said to them, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." Jesus was sent for the purpose, not of redeeming the world, but of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. His redeeming the world was a necessary by-product of establishing the kingdom. Our personal redemption is just the beginning of what should be a life in the kingdom of God. Too often we focus solely on the gateway, but the gateway is never the reason for a city. It is just the gateway. The cross is the gateway. The kingdom is the city.

In seeking the kingdom of God the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be used in such a way that the body of Christ (or the earthly glimpse of the kingdom) will be used for the upbuilding of one another. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will not become an end in themselves, but they will be viewed as tools to bring about the will of God, to help us live in such a way that we are a constant glimpse of His kingdom.

In seeking the kingdom of God our education will be in its proper light. Charles Finney wrote the following in 1845. It's from an article entitled Seeking the Kingdom of God First.
"Yet let me say here that ever so much proper attention to religion can never be any loss to us. It never robs us of other things which are really better. The student who seeks first the kingdom of God rationally, will not need to neglect any useful study. He cannot lose any thing on the whole by putting each and all things in their proper places, and giving to each its due measure of attention. The wise-minded student may not know so much of Shakespeare or of Byron--may have less to do with Homer or with Virgil; but he will not therefore fail of learning the things that are most useful. I do not hesitate to say that the student who shall obey this precept will come out ahead of all his fellow-students who disobey it; he will not be an intellectual drone, a lounging idler, only half awake to the value of knowledge, and only half alive to pursue it. No, his mind will apprehend the value of truth and will press forward with quenchless longings to attain it. Hence his mind will move under such impulses and be encompassed with such an atmosphere of light that he will be a better man, will have more of all useful knowledge, and will have a better balanced mind than any of his associates who seek first something else and not God's kingdom."
And finally, in seeking the kingdom of God our acts of kindness to others will not be done for selfish reasons but will become an expression of the kingdom in its fullest. As long as it depends upon us the elements of the perfect kingdom should be lived out among us in order to proclaim to the world God's intention for mankind. When we see someone hungry, we feed them because in the fully revealed kingdom there will be no hunger. When we see someone homeless, we house them because in the fully revealed kingdom their will be no homeless. When we see someone too poor to properly clothe themselves, we buy them clothes because in the fully revealed kingdom their will be no tattered clothes. As long as it depends on us, we should let the reign of the kingdom of God be now.

Our lives should be about shining the light of the kingdom of God to the world. When that is the case, everything else will be taken care of by God.

And lest I fail to mention. The other half of the equation is that we are to seek God's righteousness. Striving to be holy is almost a negative in the church today. God's righteousness is something we are to strive after. We cannot be a genuine glimpse of the kingdom if we are not righteous. Our sin will keep us from being focused on the kingdom of God.

Watch out for the potholes.