When Cats and Pharaohs Go Bad

A fox, badger, peacock, swan, squirrel, cat, and a seagull. 

In Common?

Yes, according to news reports those animal have all been reported as:

“Animals that have gone bad” 

In fact, there is a series called, “When Animals Go Bad.” I can feel the pain. There aren’t many things worse than a snarky squirrel, a raunchy raccoon, or a cranky cat. 

mean cat

Others? 

Sure, how about when people go bad? History is replete with dastardly dictators and noisy neighbors. What about pesky pastors? They are the worst aren’t they? There should be a TV show called, “When Pastors Go Bad.” Here’s another:

“When Pharaohs Go Bad” 

Pharaohs?

Sure, like the Pharaoh of Egypt who clamped down on the descendants of Jospeh and his brothers. As the Hebrews multiplied the god of Egypt decided to fear them. His worry was that the Hebrews would form an alliance with Egypt’s enemies. 

Pharaohs

What happened? Pharaoh orchestrated slavery to control them. Slavery was framed by brutality, abuse, and ruthless and bitter treatment. All of which was birthed in fear.

Fear

Fear will cause us to:

  • withdraw and separate from people
  • cower in the corners of our lives
  • attack others because we despise them
  • subjugate, diminish, or enslave them

Pharaoh feared the Hebrews due to their massive numbers. It wasn’t like they had a fortified army or weapons of mass destruction. They were sheep herders and farmers. At some point, prejudice and racism become foundational to hatred and discrimination. 

Pharaoh did it and so did the Nazis. As did a bible class teacher who didn’t like having a Vietnamese child in her class, and the kids who beat me up because I was new. 

To Close

We fear what threatens us. I guess its a normal response. But what did Jesus do? Did he attack those who feared him? How did he treat those who were different? Did he castigate and cast them out? Can you imagine this show on TV?

“When The Messiah Goes Bad”

Shalom 

The Wookii Effect

There are places for men with really hairy backs who wear tank tops?

Sure, Such As?

  • the beach
  • the internet
  • carnivals 

Places They Shouldn’t Be?

  • fashion shows
  • bill boards
  • church

Did that last one surprise you? It did me too but then I was there in 1997. 

Where?

In church when a man with Wookii like body hair walked in and sat down wearing a tank top. I noticed him right away, he was hard to miss.

Wookii
Not the gentleman from 1997 but close, really very close.

Then It Was Monday Morning

 I began getting phone calls, letters and not a few drop by conversations from members. 

Even in 1997 tank tops were considered, by some, to be an undershirt. To go out in a tank top was to go out in your underwear. There were complaints and demands. There was a call for action, for a dress code, and that I should speak up for modesty and good taste. 

It was a long and difficult week. 

What Did I Do?

I took it to heart and the next Sunday I spoke against inappropriate clothing in church.

I said,

  • “You wouldn’t wear your swim suit to church.”
  • “You wouldn’t want your family coming in their underwear.”  
  • “You need to be sensitive to those around you and set a good example.” 

 I was thorough, clear, and effective. I was proud of myself. Good job Rick!

Then It Was Monday Morning, Again

I began getting phone calls, letters, and not a few drop by conversations from members.

They said it was inappropriate to set a dress code. They asked, “Where do you get the authority?”  People were mad, and they were mad at me. 

Well?

There was no pleasing them. I was either to soft or to hard. The younger people, my peers, were furious. 

They said, “In a growing church we need to do everything we can to reach out to the community and the last thing we need is a dress code that makes them feel awkward and unwelcome.” Okay, good point. 

The others said, “In a growing church we need to do everything we can to reach out to the community and the last thing we need is inappropriately dressed members who make them feel awkward and unwelcome.” Okay, good point. 

Two sides of the same coin and I was getting flattened by both sides.

Something Interesting

  • Neither was willing to see the other’s point of view.
  • The two sides were generationally divided. 
  • Both used church growth as the basis for their objections.
  • Truthfully, it had little to do with growth and everything to do with preference. 

To Close

Ultimately, I gave a sermon appealing to everyone to see everybody’s point of view. I asked us to do what leads to peace and mutual edification, and to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. I appealed on the basis of love.

I quit being the moderator of modesty and good taste.  

It worked.

Shalom 

 

A Battle: Colored Corn Starch

It’s not so much the heat, but the humidity. It’s more of a moist heat. 

Where?

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended our church’s Family Camp. It’s nice there, with a beautiful lake and all kinds of fun things to do. We had 30 families with a total of a 140 grandparents, parents, and kids. It was great.

What?

We had our annual “color war.” Teams are organized and given a Dixie cup used to fill and refill with colored powder. The whistle blows and we throw the powder on the other teams. It quickly descended into a free-for-all melee. That means all of them got a free shot at all of me. I left the field covered in blue, orange, yellow, and red. 

It was an epic beatdown. 

IMG_9486
Last year’s epic beatdown. This year was worse!

Result?

It was 90+ degrees with humidity around 114%. I was weak, dizzy, and confused. Then after the color war I was even worse! I ran and chased little kids because I could keep up with them. They chased me back and we laughed. When it was over I limped off in ignominious defeat. 

It was hot and sticky. I was a mess and I was done. 

Dignified?

Forget about it. There is no dignity in being a walking tie-dye shirt. But dignity wasn’t required. It was a time for silliness, for fun, and for interacting with kids and their parents in ways that never happen anywhere else. 

And Jesus?

Well, please don’t be bothered for I mean no disrespect. But I imagine Jesus being out there tossing the powder. I imagine the children running after him with wide eyes and big smiles. I can easily see him having fun, being silly, and making the children laugh. 

To Close

Perhaps I care too much about dignity and what others people think. Decorum and appropriateness are foundational to good character. It’s true. 

But don’t forget to laugh, to play, and be silly. There is an inner child in all of us, there is in me, and every now and then it’s a good thing to let him out to play.

Ours is more of a moist heat.

Shalom

 

Could The Preaching Be Better, Pt. 2

Monday’s blog was about sermons.  

Sermons?

Actually, it was about trying to predict what people want to hear. Having preached for forty years and having delivered 3500 sermons I have some skill in public communication, but thats not the same as knowing what people want.

The variations are intriguing. There are different styles of preaching that people like and many opinions as to how long they should have to listen. There are lots of topics and all kinds of subject matter that people ask to hear about. 

Many of You

Pertaining to Monday’s blog, many of you reached out to me about not getting discouraged. Thank you for doing so and for offering such kindness. But I wasn’t upset or complaining. I assure you that I am neither discouraged or disappointed. In fact, I am enthused and energized! 

No one has been negative or critical. In fact, the comments and suggestions from the groups have all been politely expressed and stated positively.

rick and chicken
Nothing to do with the blog topic. Just me and a chicken.

And Paul

I am reminded of Paul’s admonition to Timothy:

“Preach the word; be prepared always; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For people will gather teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear. But you…do the work of an evangelist.” 2 Timothy 4

In Closing

I love being a preacher and I love preaching. Every Sunday I get the honor of speaking to the warmest, more receptive congregation I’ve ever known, and I get to do it twice!

I’ll probably never be good at anticipating what people want to hear. But it’s okay, it really doesn’t matter. As I mentioned yesterday, the sermons I deliver originate from a higher source. 

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. My love to all. 

Shalom

A Divine Helping Hand

What Is The Value of Prayer?

Credentials

I offer the following acknowledging  that I am neither a medical doctor or a mental health professional.

Values

When I think about the value of prayer I land on two primary benefits.

The Spiritual: Being a believer allows me to connect with the presence of God. The Holy Spirit takes me to the place that is not of this world. It’s a holy place, not a location, but a place of divine availability. It’s how I talk to Him. It’s how faith becomes expressed in words. It’s about heavenly power. 

The Physical: Being a believer means that I can share whatever is on my mind, my heart and my soul. Prayer can be offered in a quick moment or in long periods of thoughtful reflection. Nope, God is not my medical doctor, my analyst, or my emotional guru. Prayer doesn’t fix everything or eliminate all problems. Here are some of the benefits prayer provides. 

  1. connection to a higher power
  2. a relationship with the divine
  3. relieving anxiety
  4. the place to take problems 
  5. the place to off load worry 
  6. the way to ask for help
  7. the way to seek assistance for others
  8. the place to confess weakness, sin and struggle 

Other Benefits

Praying lowers my blood pressure and provides me a sense of peace and calm. Praying makes me feel better both spiritually and physically. 

A friend of mine told me that he was struggling with something and the more he thought about it the more angry he was becoming. So, rather than stay angry or get even angrier, he decided to find someplace quiet and pray. It won’t be a quick prayer but a day of confession and connection with his heavenly Father. Whatever his mental and emotional condition when he begins to pray will not be his condition when he is finished. He will come back changed and for the better. 

god lending a hand
We all need a little help now and then, a divine helping hand.

In Closing

I’ll leave you with this.

“Rejoice in the Lord and I will say it again, rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Shalom

 

 

Juicy Fruit: A Great Reward

Jesus Wept

It’s true, he did. A family had lost a brother. When Jesus entered their home he found them weeping for their loss, and so, he wept with them. It’s in John 11:35.

This Blog

This blog isn’t about grief, or about Jesus weeping, or even about raising the deceased  from the dead, which Jesus did. His name was Lazarus. It’s in John 11:43-44. 

No, this blog is about the shortest verse in the English language Bible. Growing up, I had several occasions to quote it.

  1. At bible camps when quoting a verse received a reward.
  2. At Vacation Bible Schools when quoting a verse received a reward.
  3. In bible classes when memorizing a verse received a reward. 

Quoting John 11:35 was the least labor intensive path.

You might think those rewards were really special? They weren’t. They were things like a pack of gum or some little doo dad that meant little and were soon lost.

juicy fruit gum

It wasn’t about the rewards.

The Real Reason

The motivation to quote was to avoid negative attention. It wasn’t impressive to quote the shortest verse, it was just the easiest way to avoid embarrassment. I did’t want to be the kid who was laughed at, or have their teasing. It was about my insecurity. 

I’n not sure that peer pressure was a good motivation for kids to learn scripture. 

To Close

That shy little boy had no idea he would grow up to be a preacher, but he did. Over the years I’ve memorized and quoted others verses in addition to John 11:35. It’s a good thing and the rewards have been rich and plentiful. I guess it’s the motivation that changed. 

“Jesus wept”

Juicy Fruit was my favorite.