Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Supreme Court, Sergeant Schultz, Milli Vanilli, Fred Phelps, Mr. Bilow and me.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage reminded me that my beliefs and the dominant cultural beliefs are not always the same. I believe that a strong view of the Bible will increasingly put me at odds with our culture. So what do I do? Many Christian folks on social media took one of several approaches.

There were those who were like:

1) Sergeant Schultz. Anyone under 40 may have never watched the TV Show Hogan’s Heroes and might not remember Schultz. So let me explain, Hogan’s Heroes was based in a World War II German POW camp. The POWs were always pulling a fast one over the Nazis and working with the resistant “underground.” But there was one German guard, Sergeant Shultz, who was a lovable, chocolate-bar-eating, Teddy-Bear type of guy. I always felt a little sorry for Shultz. He seemed to be a guy placed in a position he didn’t want to be in. So, whenever Sergeant Shultz saw something that POWs were not supposed to be doing (i.e. sending a telegram to the Allies giving away strategic Nazi positions or building a bomb to be used on an ammunitions factory in Dusseldorf) Schultz’s response was always, “I see nothing. I hear nothing.”

 His approach: Ignore the “problem.” Pretend to not see or hear anything that he wasn’t supposed to see or hear.

Some people did that yesterday. Ignoring what was taking place at the Supreme Court, these head-in-the-sand believers simply didn’t want to see or think or dwell on the implications of the justices’ decision.

 The problem is that if we “Sergeant Schultz” it— sooner (rather than later) the culture will ignore us too and say we are irrelevant, meaningless and don’t speak to issues that matter.

2) Milli Villini. Do you remember Milli Vanilli? Milli Vanilli became one of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1990. However, their success turned to infamy when their Grammy was revoked after it came out that the lead vocals on the record album were not sung by Milli or Vanilli (I don’t think that was their real names). Their “concerts” were nothing more than lip syncing to someone else’s voices.

 I know Christians who just want to lip sync along with culture. They imitate culture. You can’t tell any difference between them and the dominant culture.

 The problem with “Milli Vanilling it” is that imitating culture also leads to irrelevancy.  If we don’t shape the culture, the culture will shape us. If we are not a separate, holy people—if our world doesn’t see that Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit makes a difference in our lives—then what incentive is there to becoming a Christian? Why follow Christ if there is no difference between those that follow Him and those that don’t? 

 3) Fred Phelps. He’s the Westboro Baptist Church guy in Topeka with the vile picket signs at soldiers’ funerals. He spews hate and says God hates this and God hates that and if you disagree, God hates you. He vehemently condemns culture.

I saw a lot of condemnation on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. Not to the degree of ol’ Fred, but close. Condemnation seems to be a bit of a cop out or (at best) plain laziness. It’s easy to condemn a Supreme Court decision. It’s not hard to find reasons to protest the direction that our society is heading. But if we are committed to seeing the transformation of society, then it seems that more than condemnation is needed. We need to offer a better solution. Wagging fingers and shouting condemnation seems to be less effective than if we were to offer better alternatives.

When we “Fred Phelps it” and all the world hears is condemnation from the church, soon it will be like my grandpa’s hearing aid when grandma became a little too naggy. He just turned it off. I wonder if most in our culture have already tuned out the church.

Or lastly we could be like my neighbor growing up…

4) Mr. Bilow. (I don’t know his first name… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Mister.” And I don’t know whether or not he was a Christian. I was just a kid when Mr. Bilow was our neighbor.) Here’s what I do know about Mr. Bilow. He worked on old cars. He restored them. Tow trucks would drag broken down jalopies into his driveway; Mr. Bilow would push the cars into his garage; and then he would begin to work. In many ways, Mr. Bilow was an artist. A car would begin as a rusty, ugly mess and end as a gleaming, restored vintage automobile. Mr. Bilow looked at those broken down vehicles and saw what they could become.

I wish that was us. Our culture needs followers of Christ who see what others cannot see. They need us to be creative and dreaming of something better. They need us to view our world though a God-sized lens and imagine the possibilities of what could happen when God declares, “I am making all things new.” They need us to roll up our sleeves and get to the work of offering our world God-sized solutions. A creative, God-influenced approach to our culture doesn’t involve ignoring, imitating and condemning—but rather it’s all about His Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. It’s creative, dynamic and powerful.

Paul reminded a handful of believers in a thoroughly pre-Christian culture in Thessalonica that “Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

Following yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, our culture, more than ever, needs that type of Gospel— one that approaches culture “not simply with words.” Our world needs a Gospel message that has power, the Holy Spirit and a deep conviction. For transformation to take place in our society, we will need to be less like Sergeant Schultz, Milli Vanilli and Fred Phelps and more like Mr. Bilow. Relying on the dynamic, creative, powerful work of the Holy Spirit, we need to offer a better way to our broken down culture through our loving actions.


For Nazarene Nerds Only

Since the Nazarene General Assembly is gathering in Indianapolis this week, and several of my friends may be bored to tears sitting in seminars and endless meetings, I have put together this little story to entertain and test one’s Nazarene trivia knowledge.  See if you can locate all 39 General Superintendants (plus the guy who was elected twice but never served) in the story below (Hint: Gerald and Talmadge have the same last name and are listed only once). 


Once upon a time there was a huge castle on a windy coast in a kingdom known as Strickland. It was once home to Prince Lewis Middendorf and his trusty butler Reynolds.  Unfortunately the prince of Strickland had many debts that he incurred while searching for the beautiful and wise Lady Ellyson in the rocky crags of Coulter. Moreover, Jenkins, his royal accountant misappropriated funds from the royal treasury and his great house went into foreclosure.   The legal firm of Morrison, Owens and Hurn filed for Chapter 11 in a bankruptcy hearing and turned the prince’s castle into an indoor water park to recoup the lost money. 

 Everyday people from all over Strickland (occasionally a few people from the neighboring kingdom of Lawlor would show up) to frolic in the Middendorf Indoor Water Park.  While sad for the homeless prince, the local Strickland residents were happy because they loved to swim, the bowling alley closed and it was too bresee to fly kites (their other love).

 Once inside the park, a porter would quickly stowe a family’s bags, enabling them to spend more time at the pool where they would make friends, share laughs and bond for life. 

 A very old life guard named Gunter (a no nonsense former swimming coach from East Berlin) viewed his job as doing anything in his powers to protect and serve the swimming area both day and knight. 

“My eyes vill not vander. Pool vill be safe from young hooligans! I am toler, stronger, and don’t let this walker fool you—I vill make you obey!” he would say in his thick German accent.  

In spite of his valiant efforts, playful games of Marco Polo and a massive cannonball dunk known as “The Duarte” would turn the pool area into a water warr.  

“Ick!” yelled the girls not wanting their hair to get wet. 

Of course, it was all in good fun and no one was really upset except for Gunter’s nease, a young lady named Benner.  “How can you splash me?” she cried to the two ringleaders of the water wars– John, son of a miller, and William, son of Wilson (the actor who starred with Tom Hanks in a movie a few years back). John was a good chap, man of many talents, and a fancy dresser.  William’s mind was cunning, ham for attention like his dad, and a great debater.

      “It’s only water. It won’t hurt you. How many people are in graves because of a little water?”  They convinced her they meant no ill will.  So Benner, John and William agreed to stop arguing and make up for good.  Win a game of water wars was not worth making enemies.   

 When it was time to leave all agreed they had a good diehl of fun at the Middendorf Indoor Water Park and everyone except for the homeless prince and his trusty butler lived happily ever after.

 The End!

 Will the following please accept my apologies:

1)  The non Nazarene readers of this article—I understand that you may neither know nor care about the General Superintendants listed or not listed above; and

2)  All lovers of the English language of which I took many liberties in the writing of this article.

Nazarene General Assembly 2013

General Assembly begins this week in Indianapolis. If it’s like past General Assemblies, I will…

 Participate in inspiring worship

Speculate on who might be elected General Superintendant

Enjoy good sermons

See old friends

Forget some names of people I should have remembered.

Learn of exciting new works around the world

Wonder why anyone would protest a church group (there always seems to be some protester around)

Have one or two people think I’m “Fred” (my brother)

Sing a couple of songs that I wish we would learn at Central

Answer more questions on headaches than I care to answer

Proudly notice all of our students who have been working for “One Heart Many Hands”

Attend a few meetings

Marvel at how many people from Central Church are there

Eat too much

Visit the Nazarene Publishing House Book area

Hope to get a few cool things from the vendors in the exhibit hall

Smile at a few jokes I’ve already heard
Enjoy communion with all my Nazarene brothers and sisters


General Assemblies are kind of like a family reunion. All your relatives are there—the nice and kind ones and the weird and wild ones. But it’s our family—you gotta love ‘em.    

Would you pray for this week? Pray that God would work in the midst of all the happenings and that His will would be known and accomplished.

My Skydiving Wife

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane has as much appeal to me as jumping into a perfectly erupting volcano.

It ain’t gonna happen.

My adventurous wife, on the other hand, has had skydiving on her bucket list for as long as I have known her. Karla loves thrills. She loves roller coasters. She has ridden the Rip Cord Ride at Worlds of Fun that pulls dare devils up on a bungee cord and lets them go falling toward the earth. She has no fear.

On one of our trips, she excitedly came to me and informed me that she had signed us (not herself but US— her and me) up for a nine-story-high, through-the-jungle zip line excursion. When she saw the horror on my face, it dawned on her that I didn’t share her sense of adventure. “Oh, you probably won’t like this, will you? Too late! I already paid for it. No refunds.”

She is adventurous and cheap.

This year is her BIG Birthday year (I will refrain from saying what Big Birthday it is for fear that she is also adventurous and vengeful, but trust me it’s a BIG one). So I said, “This is your year. Your birthday is on a Saturday. You could skydive on your Big Birthday.”

It didn’t take much convincing. This Saturday, assuming the rain and wind stay away, my lovely bride will celebrate her Big Birthday by stepping out of an airplane while it is flying 3,000 feet in the air. Crazy!
Trying to assure me that she will be OK, Karla told me her skydiving verse was Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”

I told her maybe her skydiving verse should be Matthew 4:7: “Do not put the Lord thy God to the test.”
In any event, she is jumping while my feet will be firmly planted on planet earth.  But I won’t just be standing staring up to the sky. I assure you I will be fervently praying. I have fervently prayed before, but I anticipate that from the time Karla steps out of the plane to when the parachute finally opens, I will be a praying mad man. Seeing your bride prove the law of gravity while dropping at 9.8 meters per second squared (my high school physics lessons are paying off) tends to make one a prayer warrior.

Have you been transformed into a prayer warrior?

If you have loved ones who are not following Christ with their lives and have never been captivated by the love and grace of God— then you too should be a praying mad man (or woman). If we really believe that eternity hangs in the balance of our loved ones; if we really believe that they are on a collision course with their destiny; then maybe a little fervency is what we need in our prayer life. Maybe we should be praying for them like one’s wife is plunging toward the earth!

Don’t let them fall without a fight. Pray and don’t stop praying!

Geronimo! Your loved ones need your praying like their life depends on it— because it does.

An Everlasting Witness

This week I spoke to someone who recently read my manuscript and he was very complimentary. I don’t always handle compliments well—but I was grateful for the feedback. I think I said “Thank you” fifteen times in course of our conversation (at least it seemed that way to me).

But I didn’t write that book for personal accolades or “ataboys.”  Just as God called me to preach in the summer prior to my seventh grade year, he called me to write while pastoring about 17 years ago. He didn’t call me to sell a bunch of copies or to make the New York Times best seller list. But he did call me to write.  So, when I sit in front of this keyboard and start pounding away, in many ways it is an act of obedience.

I knew I had to write.
It was a fire in my bones.

So writing for me was not about a book committee at the publishing house or even whatever readers might hopefully be helped by the book. It was a matter of trusting and obeying—  trusting that the God who called would help me accomplish what He called me to do. I didn’t know if anyone but Karla and I would read it. I didn’t know if I would have the courage to let someone else read (and critique) it. I just knew that I had to write.

My part is done (well, done except for working with the editors)— everything that follows after the writing is in God’s hands.

In many ways Isaiah 30:8 is my writing verse from the Lord:
Go now, write it on a tablet for them,
inscribe it on a scroll,
that for the days to come
it may be an everlasting witness…

“An everlasting witness”— that’s what I want my book to be. I want it to be an everlasting witness not on my abilities to capture a thought with a pen and paper but an everlasting witness on the faithfulness to God.
What is God calling you to do? How are you trusting and obeying the Lord? Will you have an “everlasting witness?”

Ben’s Olivet Orientation

Today, Karla and I are taking Ben to his freshman orientation at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. According to MapQuest, the distance from my driveway to Olivet’s campus is 500 miles (492.78 miles to be exact—sometimes preachers like to round up). Our first born, Alex, has attended MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas the last three years. It is one mile from our driveway to his dorm room (1.1 mile to be exact—sometimes preachers round down too).

There is a big difference between 500 miles and one mile.
If Alex’s car breaks down between his dorm and our house, it would take him less than 15 minutes to walk home.

If Ben’s car breaks down between his dorm and our house during Thanksgiving break (A real possibility if you’ve seen Ben’s car and assuming Ben doesn’t get lost—a huge assumption if you know anything about my directionally-challenged cherub), he might make it home in time for Christmas dinner (or he might end up in Hoboken, New Jersey).

If Alex forgets something in his room—it’s a quick little trip to get it.

If Ben forgets something in his room (that is a stone cold certainty if you know anything about my sometimes memory-challenged cherub)—it’s a seven hour drive.

During the school year, I get to see Alex every Sunday in church. Then following the service on most Sundays, he comes home for dinner. He usually has found a reason to come home during the week too. We’ll see Ben just a little more frequently than Haley’s comet (or so his mother thinks).

All this to say, today as I am driving to Olivet to begin the process for his enrollment this fall, I am also aware of changes that will soon be coming to our family.

Last week, Alex asked his long time girlfriend, Blaire, to marry him. She said “yes,” and in a year wedding bells will be ringing.

More changes.

Change happens.

It’s part of life.

Normal doesn’t stay “normal” forever—a new normal becomes normal.

Here’s what brings me peace in an ever-changing life: Our God does not change. Do you remember what the author of Hebrews wrote? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  He is constant and true.  Always loving. Always there. Always providing exactly what is needed for the moment. Just as God was with Karla and I as we anxiously anticipated Kindergarten Round-up with the boys years ago, He is now with us as we are moving into new territories of an empty nest, a daughter-in-law, and a cherub living 492.78 miles away (sometimes our stats are right on the money).

He is with you too! If your life has been full of changes—keep looking to the One who does not change. He will give you hope and confidence as you step out into the great big unknown future.