Monday, January 19, 2009

What's the big deal about church?

Why do you go to

For a moment, I'd like to talk to just the churched folks in my audience. I am well aware of those of you who aren't...and even though I'm a preacher type, have often felt more sympathy with you than the other brand. But for those of you who do go, assuming you are beyond the age where you are forced at gunpoint to go to church, with a combination of threats, bribes, pinches, stares, and the ubiquitous gum and candy gifts from your mother/grandmother; why in the wide, wide world of sports do you go to church?

Well-known Christian pollster George Barna claims there is a revolution going on right now in church attendance.

There is a new breed of Christ-follower in America today. These are people who are more interested in being the Church than in going to church. They are millions strong...
So with all these true believers dropping like flies, why are you still in the game? I'd like to hear from you,

whether your church background is among the grandest:
or the most pedestrian...

I'd like you to post your comments in one or two sentences:
Why I go to church?
or "What I like about my church..."

Thanks. I'll mention the best posts in University chapel on Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Meet Mr. Weasel

This is a long-tailed weasel (mustela frenata). According to the most convenient online dictionary there are two definitions:
  1. Any of various carnivorous mammals of the genus Mustela, having a long slender body, a long tail, short legs, and brownish fur that in many species turns white in winter.
  2. A person regarded as sneaky or treacherous.
I'm no naturalist, but perhaps the weasel gets his well-known reputation for skullduggery from his habit of stealing and eating eggs of other animals. Their name "Mustela" means 'one who carries off mice,' and the weasel is known as a fierce fighter who will attack animals many times its size, fighting ferociously. But when we say to someone "you little weasel" we are not giving out a compliment. 

Which brings me to Jacob. (His story picks up in Genesis 25-35) Maybe you've heard of him by his more famous name "Israel." That's a great, godly name that means "one that prevails with God."  But Jacob was his given name, something that meant "supplanter," "one who grabs by the heel." Literally, it was a reference to his birth as a twin, grabbing on to his brother's leg for a boost out of the womb. But apparently this kid lived up to his name, managing to swindle his own (older) brother out of his birthright.  He disguises himself with a clever "arm wig" to fool his dad into blessing him, and with his mother's help executed to perfection his plan to steal the family "nest egg." Liar, cheat, manipulator, Weasel...That's our man Jacob.

See this is the thing I love about the Hebrew Bible. The characters there are wildly authentic. You can't make this stuff up--it feels too real. Too close for comfort, in fact, because when I watch Mr. Weasel closely, I confess I see myself. Take for instance this week. I am playing the game of LIFE with my kids, a Christmas present to the fam. My son (Lil' Weasel) has a recurring habit of cheating at games, which he sharpened to perfection through a series of bank "withdrawals" convenient "spins" of the dial that just happened to land him on "Collect $500,000" spaces. You know the drill. So in my best fatherly tones, I lectured him on the dangers and evils of cheating. Then about two thirds of the way through the game, I spin a "three" which should have landed me on a "Pay $20,000" spot, but noticing that my kids are distracted I stop at "two" which was a "Collect $200,000" spot. Isn't that convenient? I shocked myself by continuing on as if nothing had happened. 

A momentary lapse? A silly child's game? I think not. I'm no naturalist, but I can spot a long-tailed weasel when I see him. I have this distressing tendency to skulk through life looking for the eggs left lying in a convenient spot, and well trained in the artifices necessary to give those eggs a new home. All my religious devotion can't mask that weasel musk. And when I read more of Jacob's story, I recognize how Mr. Weasel relates to his creator. 

0 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

Jacob in the famous "Jacob's Ladder" scene realizes that the God of his father Abraham and Isaac is near him. He didn't realize it. He's a little spooked at first, but then he thinks, "Hey, maybe there's something in this for me." So he starts negotiations with Almighty God, to get him on Team Jacob. "Look, IF you will be with me, look after me, give me what I need, then I will cut you in on 10% of the action. Sign here, and here, and here."  Awfully nice of Jacob to cut God in on his life. 

I feel that way--immature faith, self centered deals with God for my aims, my goals, my "eggs." Mr. Weasel, signing God onto the journey as a guide and go-to guy. Immature faith, better than nothing, I suppose. But in need of growth for sure. 

How does your faith grow? Do you find yourself making deals with God? Cheating children? (ok, that's probably just me) Are you in touch with your inner weasel?


Monday, January 5, 2009

Look before you Leap! in 2009

Blink. Everybody is always complaining about a lack of time, but they never do anything about it! Finally, someone did something. Did you miss it? That's right, you news buffs know that the U.S. Naval Observatory, keeper of the Pentagon's master clock, added an extra second last Wednesday in coordination with the world's atomic clocks at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. It is a phenomenon known as "The Leap Second."
If you blinked, you may have missed it. But have no fear--I have an idea for you to start 2009 on the right foot. You can redeem your Leap Second using a very simple exercise. Ready?
How to Redeem your Leap Second

1. Think about an area in your life that you KNOW needs work in 2009. If you are having trouble thinking of a topic, ask your wife, or your roommate. (If you both are having trouble, pinch yourself, you may still be hung over from New Year's)
2. Think about the last time you felt good about that problem area. If it is weight, when did you last feel good about your progress? If devotions, when was the last time you were on track? If it is chain saw juggling, when was the last time you can remember having all your limbs? You get the picture.
3. Determine WHAT you were doing at that time that made you feel like you were making progress. Were you keeping a certain schedule that helped? Did you sit in a certain chair to pray? Did you start eating a certain food, avoiding a certain person, etc.? There was something that made you feel that you were on the right track before.
4. Use your "LEAP SECOND" at the best time for you TODAY to perform that "on track" excercise. That way you can "LEAP" back on track to success in 2009.
Good luck, and let me know what you used your second for...