Saturday, December 16, 2006

I hate shopping

I Hate Shopping

Karla is a very methodical Christmas shopper. She wants to buy the perfect gift. She thinks and shops and ponders and shops and thinks and ponders some more before ever laying down her cold hard cash. She puts great effort into buying gifts for her loved ones. Like Santa, she enjoys making a list and checking it twice. Karla receives great satisfaction in finding the perfect gift in the tenth store she visits especially when it is two dollars cheaper than it was in the first store and one dollar cheaper than it was in the eighth store.

I’m not that way. I go to one store. I rush in, buy it (whatever “it” is), and rush out. I’ll pay the extra two bucks. In my mind, shopping malls at Christmas time are like the “hairy-lipped kisses” my grandma used to give— they should be avoided at all costs. I know there are presents to buy. I know that I must buy them. But like those Christmas smooches from grandma, I derive no enjoyment in the process.

It’s not that I don’t want my loved ones happy on Christmas morning, I do. Despite my propensity to utter “Bah Humbug” whenever I think of a mall, I don’t think I’m a Scrooge. And this little e-mail is not intended to be a “materialism, consumerism, and every other “ism” is evil” type of writing. All that may be true, but my point is not that deep. It’s simply this: I hate shopping.

While I never seem to have a problem finding a parking space at church (It helps that I arrive before the roosters are awake on most days), in a mall parking lot I never seem to get within three football fields of the doors. Once inside and upon receiving the necessary oxygen from my Everest-like hike to the mall, I never know where the stores are located in which I want to shop. After an eternity of seeking, asking, walking and wishing I was like the Magi with a star to follow, I might locate the necessary store or maybe not. Assuming I do find the store, upon reaching my destination, I am usually once again in need of oxygen and a meal following this store searching marathon.

Of course, entering the store is when my “fun” really begins. I am the Ponce de Leon of Christmas shopping. I rarely find what I am after and frequently settle for a second, third, or even the fifty-fourth choice. My frustration doesn’t end there. You see, I have the gift of being able to pick out the one item on a shelf of hundreds of items that doesn’t have a price tag or bar code on it. I have the ability to enter the one check out line that contains the worker with the least capacity to work a cash register, a cash register that has run out of paper for the receipts, and/or the line where the credit card machine just went on the blink. And I have an uncanny knack of standing behind a person in line who has won the prize for being: a) the most Grinch-like person in Who-ville; b) the foulest mouth in the Navy; c) the worse head cold the Mayo Clinic has ever diagnosed who also has the penchant to sneeze in my general direction; or d) as is usually the case, the super trifecta of all of the above.

Yes, I hate shopping!

Like it or not, we have ten more shopping days until Christmas. Unless you are one of those sick individuals that have had their Christmas shopping done since July, like me you will probably find yourself in a mall in the next ten days, or at the very least, in a Wal-Mart or Target. You will have a choice. You can be grumpy and rushed and have a bad attitude and foul disposition like the guy I’m usually behind in the check-out line or you can determine to be happy and spread the love of Christ.

Here’s how to be happy in a mall at Christmas: In spite of all of the facts from the previous paragraphs, determine to smile a lot. Say “Merry Christmas” to as many people as possible. When entering the mall, have some change ready for the Salvation Army Bell Ringer. Be generous. Hum a Christmas Carol while you shop. Take a moment to watch bright-eyed kids tell Santa all of their materialistic desires. Find a Starbucks and order a Peppermint Mocha (a tasty drink that is quickly becoming a Rob Prince holiday tradition). Be polite. If you pass a Santa hat display, ALWAYS try one on while loudly saying “Ho! Ho! Ho!” (If you have teenage children shopping with you this will make them disappear quicker than asking them to do the dishes following dinner.) If someone has more than their allotted items for the express check-out line, don’t sweat it. You’ll get your turn to purchase Aunt Lucy’s Chia Pet, I promise. While in the mall, don’t be afraid to use these words: “excuse me,” “thank you,” and “I’m buying this present for my pastor.” (Oops… how did that last line get in there?) Point is: don’t let crowded malls, cranky people and tight schedules remove the joy from your heart. It’s Christmas! The greatest news of all is ours: God is with us! Why not act like it—even in a shopping mall!

Monday, December 11, 2006

3327 Text Messages

Have you ever opened up a bill and noticed that there was a glaring, unmistakable error. At least you hoped that there was a glaring, unmistakable error. It happened to me this week.

On Saturday, my cell phone bill arrived (I won’t tell you what cell phone company it is, but I’ll give you some clues: The headquarters for this company is in Overland Park; several fine Centralites work for this company; and, its name rhymes with “squint.”) Anyway, I received my bill and much to my surprise, it said I owed this fine company an eye popping $691.19. Here’s a general rule I live by: if your cell phone bill is higher than the cost of a plasma TV, you’ve got a problem.

I had a problem.

Upon investigation I discovered that $574.60 of that bill was my #1 cherub’s text messaging bill. Alex, during the billing period, had received and sent a grand total of 3,327 text messages. How can anyone send and receive 3,327 text messages? I love my son, but I don’t believe I spoke to him 3,327 times in the last year—maybe not in his lifetime. 3,327? Are you kidding me?!?

Here’s the whole story: On our cell phone bill, from the month prior to the Super Colossal Bill of $691.19, Alex had gone over his text messaging limit and it cost him something like $14.95. Knowing that to have unlimited text messaging was $15.00 a month, my astute math whiz decided that he should have unlimited text messaging for a nickel more. So he and Karla went to the local cell phone office that rhymes with “flint” and changed his coverage from 1000 text messages a month to unlimited text messages a month. Unfortunately, the employee at the cell phone office that rhymes with “mint” must have typed in the wrong information or hit the wrong button, because instead of having unlimited test messaging we had no text messaging coverage. Hence, our cell phone bill was for $691.19.

As you might imagine, quicker that you can say “Can you hear me now?” I called the cell phone company that rhymes with “Splint” and said: “I think we have a problem.” Jessica was the name of the friendly cell phone employee on the other end of the line (Is it correct to say “the other end of the line” when referring to a cell phone company? Probably not.). Anyway, Jessica informed me that my $691.19 bill was over her limit to authorize an adjustment. She was sympathetic. She was nice. But she could not do anything about my bill. I told her a $691.19 bill was over my limit too. She said she was sorry and that she would fill out some form (I assume it was a form for people who were about to text message “I owe a crazy amount of money to a phone company!” to the whole wide world) and that a representative from the company that rhymes with “tint” would call me on Monday.

I waited on Monday. All day I waited. Finally, I could wait no longer and called the company that rhymes with “Lint” and said: “We’ve still got a problem.” This time I spoke to a fine employee named Troy. Troy told me we had no problem. He said that my $691.19 cell phone bill had already been adjusted, and that my worried son no longer had to figure out how many driveways he would have to snow shovel to come up with the $691.19. Whew! Thank You, Jessica. Thank you, Troy. Thank you cell phone company that rhymes with “Clint,” as in “Eastwood,” because just like Dirty Harry they “made my day!”

Why did I tell you all of this?

The phone bill was an honest mistake, which the phone company quickly rectified. In life, I had a much bigger problem than a $691.21 phone bill. My debt was huge. It was a mile long. It was a million miles long. It was the type of debt that on my own I could in no way clear up. And no cell phone employee (even with the proper authorization) could clear it up either. My “sin” record could only be cleared by a savior. And that’s the good news of Christmas. The glorious message of the angel to Joseph in the Christmas story was mine and your good news too. The Angel told Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). I need Jesus. So do you. Jesus came to this world to save people from their sins. That’s exactly what I need, and that is the ultimate message of Christmas. A savior came. His name is Jesus!

Now, that’s a message we could “text” to 3,327 of our closest friends!

Thursday, November 16, 2006


It is my theory that in 1981 most of the world’s events flowed through Lenexa, Kansas, in some way or another. Here’s what I mean:

In 1981, while living in beautiful Garden City, Michigan, I had never heard of Lenexa, Kansas. But believe it or not in 1981 I frequently wore a Kansas City Royals hat over top of my great big afro. You thought I only wore Tiger and Michigan apparel, but that is not true. (Although this week I have been wearing a lot of Maize and Blue because of a little football game that will be played in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday. Just in case you are wondering… I have it on very good authority that the score will be Michigan 28 OSU 24. Sorry, about that little tangent, but I thought you should know.). For a while back in 1981 I was wearing a Royals hat. Truth be told, I had no affinity to George Brett, Freddy Patek and the boys in Royal blue, instead I liked a girl whose initials were K.C. I thought that Kim Cundiff was cute, so I wore a hat with her initials “KC” on it. It was a blue Kansas City Royals hat. I suppose if I thought a girl named Nancy Yak-face was cute, I would have worn a New York Yankee’s hat. But since I liked Kim Cundiff, I thought wearing a hat with the letters KC on it showed her that I really liked her. Kind of like guys who tattoo their girlfriend’s initials or name on their arm nowadays (Back in 1981, tattoos were only on sailors and biker dudes. Skinny guys with big afros didn’t get tattoos. We wore hats. It’s a fact for which now I am quite thankful. You see I lost that hat years ago and I lost interest in Kim Cundiff even before that. Had I tattooed “KC” on my arm, I would have either had to change the “C” to a “P” or cut off my arm. I’m glad I just lost the hat.). In 1981, I never thought I would live in Kansas. I had never heard of Lenexa, but I was wearing a hat worn by most people living in Lenexa… strange, very strange.

There were other notable events in 1981 that had a Lenexa, Kansas, connection. Such as:

In 1981, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, was shot by John Hinckley. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was also shot that year, and Pope John Paul II was shot too. I guess 1981 wasn’t a good year to be a pope or a president. Of course, those three people are no longer with us, so we don’t know if they had ever heard of Lenexa, Kansas. I don’t think any of them were goofy enough to wear a Royals baseball cap in hopes to impress a girl. But we do know is this: It would have done them well to have lived in Lenexa, because no one was shot in Lenexa in 1981. Hmmm…..

In 1981, MTV made its debut on cable networks. A little known fact is that had the good people of Lenexa refused to tune into MTV, it is possible that the media outlet and cultural icon would have gone the way of the 8-track. An opportunity lost in Lenexa you might say.

In 1981, Harrison Ford was looking for the Ark of the Covenant in the box office smash hit Raiders of the Lost Ark which contrary to rumors was never hidden in Lenexa.

In 1981, Christopher Cross was singing his #1 hit “Sailing” all the way to a Grammy Award. While not known for exotic beaches or miles of surf, still people were singing “Sailing” in Lenexa. Eerie!

In 1981, the dreaded Oakland Raiders won the Super Bowl and the L.A. Dodgers were on top of the baseball world. Unbelievably, not a single player from either team would claim to be from Lenexa. How odd!

OK, I’m just being silly—most news did not flow through Lenexa, Kansas, back in 1981. Most folks were focused on some other corner of the world. But I’m glad for a small band of believers that were focused on Lenexa.

I am very glad that in 1981 a committed group of followers of Jesus Christ dedicated Central Church of the Nazarene to the glory of the Lord in Lenexa Kansas. It was a huge deal. The building of a church on the corner of Rosehill and 87th Street didn’t get the headlines of say the release of the 52 American hostages in January of 1981, and it wasn’t even close to the biggest story out of Kansas City that year— the skywalk tragedy at the Hyatt would get that distinction. Still Central’s move from Kansas City, Kansas, to Lenexa was a really big deal. The 200 or so people that made up the congregation had borrowed $1.4 million dollars to make the move happen (that’s equivalent to over $3 million dollars today). They gave and sacrificed. Some double and triple tithed to make it happen. And on December 6, 1981 they dedicated this corner and this building to the Lord.

I don’t know how many people have found the Lord watching MTV or Raiders of the Lost Ark or wearing a Royals hat or any of those other things that happened in 1981, but I know this: a lot of people have found the Lord on this corner since 1981. A lot of families have been restored. A lot of great things have happened that will forever impact eternity. So, in terms of the Kingdom maybe Central’s move to Lenexa should have made headlines.

No, all the news didn’t flow through Lenexa in 1981, but some really Good News has been coming from this corner ever since! The Good News that Jesus Christ brings hope and help and salvation and freedom! The Good News that Holy Living can be a reality even in 2006. It is our desire to see that Message continue to be proclaimed for many more years on this corner.

This Sunday, we are going to celebrate our 25 Years in Lenexa. We are going to celebrate the sacrifice and the dedication of those believers. And we are going to call on the church today to “Now Finish the Work.” Just as those folks that called Central home 25 years ago had vision to see the amazing and the miraculous in what God could do, today we have the opportunity to participate in a mighty movement of God.

God’s call for us is to make more and better disciples. With our building complete, we are in the best possible place to see more and better disciples made on a regular basis. So let us “Now Finish the Work!” Let’s build upon the dedication of those believers 25 years ago, and more recently let’s build upon the success of the Seize the Moment efforts and let us “Now Finish the Work.”

We’ve been praying all week in our Prayer is Central effort. We’ve been seeking the Lord’s direction as to how we can participate in making more and better disciples and how we can participate in the Now Finish the Work campaign. This Sunday will be the first Sunday to put your faith into action as we begin to collect the Now Finish the Work Commitment Cards (We will be collecting the Commitment Cards until December 3, 2006). Again, my prayer is that we will simply do as the Lord directs. If He directs a $50,000 pledge-- Be obedient. If He directs a $500 pledge—be obedient. If we are all obedient, like the folks 25 years ago, then great days will follow!

Sunday is going to be a terrific day! There will be lots of good music, stirring testimonies, and an inspiring time in both morning services and the PM gathering. I hope you will plan on being at both a morning service and the all-church reception at 6 PM. Let’s celebrate what God has done and look forward to what God is going to do!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Elections in Kansas

On Tuesday I voted. This was my first election as a citizen of the great State of Kansas. So here are my impressions:

I like the electronic touch screen voting machines. They are pretty cool. I don’t know if I voted correctly, but I think I won two games of solitaire. In using those machines there is no possibility for the dreaded “hanging chad” which is just fine with me. I have never liked that phrase anyway—especially since I know some really nice people named Chad and I’d never want to see them hung. (Wouldn’t you agree Brothers Armstrong, Carmichael, Doane, and Holland? If you couldn’t guess those fine men are some of our Central “Chads.”)

I don’t know if I simply picked the right time to vote, or if not many people were voting in my precinct or what, but I walked right in and voted. No lines. No hassles. Just nice election people, who seemed happy that I was there. I liked that too!

I had to show a picture ID when I voted. The man informed me that next time I vote that I will not have to show my ID. I guess he’ll remember me. He was a nice man with a really good memory since he won’t see me again for two years. (Now I could understand him remembering me if this were Chicago where voters were encouraged to “Vote early and vote often.” Maybe he thought he was in Chicago and not Olathe and that he would see me again later in the day trying to vote for Mayor Daly one more time.)

With the 2006 election over, I wonder if Laura Bush and Senator John McCain (not to mention the governor, senator and a couple of dog catcher candidates) will stop calling my house. The conversations were usually one-sided (as it was simply a tape recording of the candidate or celebrity) but it was nice of them to call. Maybe I could return the pleasantries— I could have an automated tape of me call their house during supper time. Like when they called me, I am sure that they would appreciate listening to me go on and on about immigration or some such thing while their pork chops were getting colder than an ice cube in Antarctica.

Could we have a ballot proposal that all candidates in the future need to be nice to each other? No mud slinging, no grainy black and white photos, no innuendoes of improper things. Don’t tell me how awful your opponent is—tell me how great you will be if I vote for you. Vote “No” on Mud!

I know there’s that little thing in the constitution about free speech, but while we are voting away mud, could we also vote away all the political yard signs. Think of all the trees we could save. Would the anti-yard sign people have yard signs telling people to vote “No” on yard signs? Just wondering.

I like elections. I like the fact that we can vote. I like the fact that even if I do not know every single judge running for every single office, it’s still my right to vote. Maybe your candidates got elected, maybe they didn’t but isn’t it great to live in a country where the people decide?

In a way, you’ll be voting in the next couple of weeks at Central. There will be no election boxes or political signs and hopefully no mudslinging—but you will be voting with your pledge cards and your hearts. What direction do you want Central to go in the next several years? The “Now Finish the Work” campaign is crucial for the future ministries of Central. It will greatly determine our ability to make more and better disciples.

Just to refresh your memory: Our “Now Finish the Work” campaign is an effort to raise $1,080,500 in the next 24 months (Which apparently is a bargain compared to soccer fields in Johnson county). If we raise the million dollars it will save us one million dollars in interest and knock four years off our payments. It will also open up $288,000 in monies for ministries today. That money is crucial because our payments have increased over $9,000 a month in the last two years due to rising interest rates. In other words, the success of the “Now Finish the Work” campaign is vital to the current and future ministries of Central.

Next week is our “Prayer is Central” week. As you are praying for the ministries and pastors and future of Central—pray for your involvement in the mission of making “more and better disciples” and how you can be involved in the “Now Finish the Work” campaign. If you haven’t signed up yet—you can do so on Sunday Morning or by e-mailing me or by calling the church office. PLEASE SIGN UP TO PRAY! WE NEED ALL OF CENTRAL PRAYING!!!

And remember to be at Central on November 19th. We will be celebrating 25 years in Lenexa in the morning worship services, and the PM Gathering will be an all-church reception in the fellowship hall with good music, better testimonies and great hors d’voeuvres. That’s the day we will be begin to receive the pledge cards for the “Now Finish the Work” campaign.

So like the elections we just came through-- the best scenario for America would have been if every single voter was informed and participated. The best scenario of Central through our “Now Finish the Work” campaign will be as all of us are informed and participate. So please, pray about how you might be involved in these crucial days at Central.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What We Could Do with a Million Dollars

What could you do with a million dollars? With a million dollars you could:

Walk into a candy shop and buy 500,000 pieces of two cent candy. (This means if you ate one piece of candy every single hour of every single day for the next 50 years, you would still have candy left over. You wouldn’t have any teeth… but you would have left over candy).

Drive up to the window at McDonald’s and buy 334,448 Happy Meals. That means 334,448 little worthless prizes and 334,448 clogged arteries.

Sashay into a Starbucks (Is it true that people who get their coffee fix at Starbucks sashay more than the average person?) and order 240,964 half caf, quad, venti, sugar free vanilla, with double whip, extra hot, no foam lattes. Of course, then the question is would Starbucks have enough cup holders for 240,964 half caf, quad, venti, sugar free vanilla, with double whip, extra hot, no foam lattes?

Or… if you were a church you could write a big fat check to a bank every single month until the year 2020 and say “Jeepers, Mr. Bank, I sure like giving you so much money in interest payments every single month.” Quite frankly, you’d have more to show for your money if you went through the drive-through at McDonalds.

But that’s what we’ve been doing at Central. (We’ve been paying a lot in interest, not ordering a lot of Happy Meals at McDonalds).

Many of you have received or you will be receiving in your mail today or tomorrow, a letter from me. The letter tells you about an opportunity at Central to further our desire to make more and better disciples. It boils down to this: if in the next 24 months we could raise just a hair over a million dollars, we would cut off four years of payments and save… (This is awesome!)… over one million dollars in interest payments. One million dollars! I don’t know what our bank plans to do with the million dollars in interest that we will be paying them, maybe buy a lot of toaster ovens and blenders to give out as people sign up for checking accounts. But I know this, with an extra million dollars we could sure make a difference for the Kingdom. With a million dollars we could reach more people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. With a million dollars we could see more lives changed and more families restored.

You see, we have a choice at Central to either continue paying what we’ve been paying while our bank gladly takes the millions of dollars in interest from us or we could accelerate our payments and thereby free up a million dollars for real ministry (No toaster ovens here, pal!). It seems like a simple choice. It’s kind of like a two for one sale at Wal-Mart. When we give a buck, that buck will be paid onto our principle and (here’s the cool part) it will also free up a dollar that we won’t be paying in interest. That’s why we are calling for our church to “Now Finish the Work.” The building is complete, but the work is yet to be done. It’s time to “Now Finish the Work.” But that’s not all…

Here’s another cool part of this deal. It frees up money today for ministry! Because of rising interest rates, our payments have gone from around $29,000 a month to $38,000 a month. For you non-math whizzes that’s $9,000 in additional interest payments each and every month! Imagine what would happen to your family’s budget if your home mortgage went through the roof like that in 24 months. Around the church it has taken a huge bite out of our ministry options, and, quite frankly, has put a financial burden on us. Through this program, the $12,000 a month principle payments that we are currently making will be covered, so that $12,000 dollars can then be used to make more and better disciples right now!

Here’s what I am asking each one of us to do: PRAY. Not give? Nope that comes later… first we need to pray. Pray for our church, the ministries and pastors of Central, and pray for our future. This Sunday, there will be several people (Jim and Kathy Gorman, Dan and JoAnne Rexroth, and others) who will be asking you to sign up for a 30 minute block of time during the week of November 12th through the 19th to pray for our church and the days ahead. I think everyone who calls Central home will want to pray sometime during that week. (Won’t it be awesome for one solid week, someone at Central will be praying for the ministries, pastors, and future for Central.) And while you are praying for the church, ask the Lord in what ways He would have you come along side our mission of making more and better disciples. And finally, ask the Lord to give you and your family direction as to how you can help us “Now Finish the Work.”

In the next couple of weeks you will get a lot of information, every detail of the “Now Finish the Work” campaign. I hope to answer any question you might have. On November 19th we will have a TREMENDOUS Celebration Day! In the morning we will be celebrating the 25 years that we’ve been in Lenexa and in the evening we will be celebrating what God is just about to do! It will be an all-day party that I hope you will mark on your calendars now!

Great days are ahead for Central as we “Now Finish the Work” for which God has called us— Making more and better disciples!

Thank you for praying and investing in the Kingdom!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ten Things I think that I think

Sometimes I talk, write and think too much about sports (Did I just hear Karla say, “Amen!”?). With a favorite team in the Fall Classic in Baseball, and another favorite team beating all comers in football (the Wolverines, definitively not the Lions), it’s easy to talk (read: brag) a lot about sports. Still, I am trying to reform. To that end, this e-mail will be completely sports free. There will be no references to the World Series playing Detroit Tigers. No gloating on the #2 in the nation Michigan Wolverines (which will turn to #1 in the nation on November 18th following the whuppin’ – that’s Oklahoma talk for a very fine win—that Michigan will give the hated Buckeyes. Oops, you almost got me talking about sports). I will not mention Herm Edwards or the Kansas City Chiefs. I will not speak of my hopes for a hockey team to become the occupant of the yet to be completed Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. In this e-mail, I will not even mention that it’s MNU’s homecoming this weekend and how I hope the mighty Pioneers will stomp Lindenwood College. There will be nary a word about basketball, soccer, volleyball or lacrosse. Yes, this e-mail will be a sports free zone.

Instead, it’s been a while since I’ve given y’all ten things that I think that I think. So here we go…

1) I think I am looking forward to seeing the 3,000 people or so that will be coming through our doors on Friday and Saturday for the Central Christmas Craft and Cookie Sale. I am praying that these folks will not simply see nice crafts and tasty cookies, but will see and sense the love of the Lord that is here.

2) I think I am tired of negative political ads on TV. If I see one more grainy, black and white, frowning picture of the rascally opponent of some candidate while an announcer is flinging more mud than a super motocross race, and then see the pure as Ivory Soap candidate’s smiling, happy video with cute babies and nice senior citizens I think I just might puke all those cookies I’m planning to eat.

3) I think the opening of the 87th Street exit off I-35 is a wonderful thing. It saves me a few minutes getting to the church every day, and it takes me right by Steve’s donuts. Steve makes tasty donuts.

4) I think my favorite animals this time of year are Tigers, Lions and Wolverines. I also like birds with Red Wings, but not Cardinals. (Those are not sports comments, but rather animal kingdom comments). And if you were to ask me, my favorite auto parts are Pistons. What’s your favorite auto part?

5) I think I’m getting excited for Sunday, November 19th. In the morning, Central will be celebrating 25 Years in Lenexa. Lenexa Mayor, Michael Boehm, will bring greetings from the city as we rejoice in what God has done over the last 25 years. That evening, we are planning a very special gathering where we will look forward to the next 25 years and discuss how we will “Now Finish the Work.” (Clear your calendars and stay tuned for more details).

6) I think brand new baby and son of our own Joe and Amy Hall, Samuel Hall, was very embarrassed to be seen wearing an Oklahoma Sooners beanie cap. Quite frankly, he told me that he believes he would look much better donning Maize and Blue apparel rather than red and white. (FYI…that also was not a sports comment, it was a fashion comment from little Samuel.)

7) I think I am still amazed at how well Annikah Tooley is doing. Major surgery sure doesn’t seem to have slowed her down. She is still the same smiling, beautiful baby that she has always been. Praise the Lord! Speaking of the Tooleys, they will be leaving for their missionary assignment in December. On November 12th in the evening service they will be sharing how God has led them on to this new journey.

8) Speaking of folks leaving, I think I am sad that this month we will have said “See You Later” to two terrific Board Members. Melanie and Bill Crayton moved to Nashville a week ago, and Brad and Tresha Richerson will be moving to San Antonio in a week. Both families have served the Lord and Central well and will be deeply missed!

9) I think that you might want to check out my new “blog.” It is still a work in progress, but it will contain this little e-mail each week for people who might not be on the list or folks who are checking out Central’s website. And if somehow your e-mail gets kicked out of our list (I don’t know how or why that happens, but from time to time it happens.) Which is kind of weird if you ask me, then you can still check out the latest stuff. The address is:

and, 10) I think that Central Church of the Nazarene is a great place! I am so pleased to be your pastor, friend, and co-worker in the Kingdom. You have blessed me and my family in many ways. Thank you Central Nazarene!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Knowing what to do, but not doing it

When will I learn? When oh when will I learn that I have to save the data on my computer?

On Tuesday, when I left the church office to head for home, I had this Sunday’s sermon approximately 75% completed. A few finishing touches, a few humorous anecdotes, maybe a nice little illustration and Sunday’s sermon would be wrapped up. I’m not sure that Mrs. McCleery would have given me an “A+++” for the sermon or not, but it was going quite nicely. (Mrs. McCleery, a former school teacher, is the greatest encourager I have ever known and when she likes a sermon she grabs my hand with both of her hands and says, “Oh Pastor, that sermon was an A+++!” It makes me feel good when Mrs. McCleery gives me an A+++.) But we’ll never, ever know if that sermon was an A+++ because something happened. Something terrible happened.

It happened in the thirteen and one half hours that I was away from my computer. Sometime between my leaving at 5 PM on Tuesday afternoon and arriving at 6:30 AM on Wednesday morning something terrible happened. While I was cheering the Tigers onto victory over the Oakland A’s, my computer decided it was time to shut down. I don’t know if there was a power surge, an electricity outage, or maybe an evil terrorist or disgruntled Yankee fan broke into the church and turned off my computer. All I know is that when I arrived on Wednesday morning my computer was off. My sermon was gone. And now, I am back at square one.

To quote Charlie Brown just as Lucy is moving the football away from him during football kicking practice, “UGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” (Incidentally, that is the same noise made by Yankee fans last week and Oakland A’s fans this week, and hopefully, St. Louis Cardinal fans next week after the Detroit Tigers give them a beatin’!)

I wish I could say that I learned a lesson in all of this. But I already knew the lesson I was suppose to learn. To quote Lucy, “Always save your data, blockhead.” I knew it. I just didn’t do it. I repeat, UGHHHHHHH!!!!!

A lot of people approach their spiritual life with the same recklessness. They know what they are supposed to do, but they don’t do it. They know they are supposed to spend time with God, but they don’t find the time. They know they are supposed to be sacrificial in their giving, in their attitudes, and in their life. But sacrifice is hard in this me-first world in which we live. They know they should avoid gossip, anger, self centeredness, “even the hint of sexual immorality,” and other non Christ-like behaviors and yet they find themselves falling into the same old patterns and the same old habits and the same old same old. They know what they need to do, but they just don’t do it.

There’s a powerful moment in Tolstoy’s War and Peace when Pierre, the main character, shakes his fist at the sky and says, “Why is it that I know what is right and do what is wrong?” The Apostle Paul talks of the same battle within in Romans 7 when he says, “I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate… I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!” (Romans 7:15, 18-24)

There are a lot of people who know exactly what Paul is talking about. They know exactly how miserable it is to know what to do, and yet find themselves not doing it. Like me knowing that I need to save my data on my computer, but not saving it. They know they want to love God and serve him. They want to be completely His. But seemingly every time the slightest temptation comes around, it’s back to the same old patterns and all those wonderful promises and commitments made to God are out the window. Have you been there? Are you there right now?

Had Paul stopped at the end of Romans 7, we who truly long to live a holy, God-pleasing life would be in real trouble. Had he simply ended with how miserable he was in this condition of knowing what to do but not doing it-- there would not be much hope for victorious living.

But he didn’t stop there. Paul goes on to ask, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25). Jesus can enable us to not only know what to do, but to actually do it!

He goes on in Romans 8 to write, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin… you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you… The Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” (Did you read that? We are under no obligation to do what the sinful nature urges us to do!) “For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” (Romans 8:1, 9, 10-13).

What an awesome truth! The Power of the Spirit is more powerful than any sin! When the Spirit of God is living within us, He empowers and enables victorious living. He puts an end to the control of the sinful nature, when we give the control of our lives over to Him. In other words, through the Spirit we can know what to do and actually do it! We do not have to be doomed to a roller coaster type of Christian walk. Up one moment, down the next. Through the Spirit of God we can know God’s will and actually do God’s will.

What a lesson! It won’t bring back Sunday’s sermon from cyber-nothingness, but Christ can bring victory and enable us to truly live a wonderful, God-pleasing and holy life.

World Series Tickets

I have cheered for the Detroit Tigers my whole life. When they won the 1968 World Series, from my kindergarten classroom I cheered them. During the 1972 American League Playoffs, I booed loud and long at Oakland A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris who threw his bat at a very nice Tiger pitcher named Lerrin LaGrow all because Mr. LaGrow accidentally drilled him with a 95 mile an hour fastball. In 1976, I was in attendance at a “Monday Night Baseball Game of the Week” when the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees because of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych talking to the baseball while pitching. When the Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series, I was “high fiving” all of my friends in the TV room in Chapman Hall at Olivet Nazarene University. I never even wavered in my support for the Motor City Kitties in 2003, the year they lost an astounding 119 games. Moreover, in my office I have former Tiger great, Al Kaline’s jersey (on which he not only signed but he also wished me a “Happy 40th Birthday!”). Among other memorabilia, I have an old box seat from Tiger Stadium, bats, balls, pennants and pictures galore. As I write this article not 12 inches from my computer monitor is a poster of the final game played at old Tiger Stadium. I am and will always be a Tiger fan.

So when the Tigers announced that on Monday morning, at exactly 10 AM (Eastern Time) they would sell the approximately 10,000 remaining tickets to the World Series games, I knew I would have to try to get a ticket. It was a no-brainer. I knew that it would be difficult. I knew the odds of getting a ticket would be slim. Some estimates had over a million people trying to get those 10,000 tickets. I also knew that even if I got a ticket, in order to attend the game, I would have to preach on Sunday Morning and quickly head to the airport, catch a plane, hope for no delays, arrive in the Motor City, and take a quick taxi ride from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to the ballpark all before 6:30 (Kansas City time). Everything would have to work perfectly to get to the ball game on time.

But first things first-- I had to get a ticket.

At exactly 9:50 AM, I logged onto the Tiger Website and began to click my mouse on the “buy tickets” button. A message came up that the tickets were not on sale yet. I kept clicking and clicking and clicking. For eleven minutes I clicked. At 10:01 I got in… but a message told me I had to wait. I nervously waited. It kept telling me to wait. I kept waiting. At 10:10 a message came on the board that said I had two tickets in section 342 for Sunday’s game. I was talking on the phone to Karla through out this ordeal and I started to shout “I GOT THE TICKETS! I GOT THE TICKETS! I’M GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES, BABY.” The message also said I had two minutes to fill in the request form and submit it, or I would be “timed-out” and sent to the back of the line.

Two minutes. Two minutes really isn’t a lot of time when you are a slow typist, who tends to make many errors when he types. In the whole scope of a lifetime, two minutes isn’t very long at all. On the other hand, two minutes can seem like an eternity at the end of a college basketball game. Depending on which side of the bathroom door you’re standing, two minutes can be a very long time indeed. Two minutes should have been plenty of time to read over the instructions and then type in my name, e-mail address, retype my e-mail address, type in a password, retype that password, and indicate how I was planning to pay for the tickets. Oh yes, one more thing, I had to type in my zip code. After I composed myself from all my shouting and celebrating because of my good luck, I typed in all the information--except for the zip code. I forgot to type in my zip code. A message appeared on the screen and told me that I forgot to type in my zip code. Oops. Silly zip code. I typed it in. 6-6-0-6-2. It’s not a hard zip code to type. In fact, it’s rather easy. There are three 6’s, one zero and a two. You can’t get much easier than that. 6-6-0-6-2. I typed in my zip code, and then hit “send.” That’s when it happened!

How could this happen? Another message came on the screen. It was the most awful and horrible message I have ever read in my entire 43 years of living on this planet. It said that I had “timed out!” I had gone over the two minute limit. I had spent too much time celebrating and not enough time typing, and when I forgot to type in 6-6-0-6-2 that pushed me over the time limit. I was being sent to the back of the line!


No tickets. No World Series. NOOOOOOOOO!

I have thought a lot about this between my sobs the last few days. I’ve asked the Lord what message he was giving me throughout this heart wrenching ordeal. I’ve come up with a few lessons that the Lord might have been trying to teach me. Here they are:

1) Don’t count your chickens (or in this case tickets) before you got ‘em. Maybe I shouldn’t have been standing on my desk singing: “I got ‘em, I got ‘em! I really, really got ‘em”—when I didn’t quite have them yet.

2) Like the boy scouts, always be prepared. I’ll admit I got a little nervous during that 2 minute drill.

3) Learn to handle disappointment. If the worse thing that ever happens to me is missing out on a ball game… that’s not such a bad life

4) You never know when your “time is up,” so act appropriately. (See #1 and recall my little singing on the desk episode that took place.)

5) Family before Baseball. Not only is this Sunday Game #2 of the World Series, but it also happens to be my #1 cherub’s #15 birthday. Alex will only have one Happy 15th so do I really want to spend it away from him and the rest of the family? (Also Karla’s folks are in town… oh wait a minute, I’m supposed to be giving reasons I want to stay in Kansas City. Just kidding. I love my in-laws. What kind of host would I be to leave when they are here?)

6) Pride cometh before a fall. Could it be that the many Royal fans at Central finally grew tired of the beast I had become (I believe the official scientific name is “Obnoxious Pastorus”) and asked the Lord to dish me up some humble pie? I’m afraid to admit that had I attended a World Series game in which my beloved Tigers actually won the game, I might have become a tad unbearable.

7) Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Ummm… the game is being played on Sunday… and that “Remember the Sabbath” thing is still one of the “Top Ten.” Would I be keeping the day holy if I was yelling “KILL THE CARDINALS! KILL THE CARDINALS!!! RAH! RAH! RAH!!!”??

8) Good Stewardship might not include two $190 tickets, an airplane ride to Detroit, a taxi ride to the ball park, a World Series souvenir or two, a couple of hot dogs, nachos and a large coke at the game. Maybe there are better uses for the money that God has provided.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure what lesson I should have learned from this fiasco. Maybe it was none of the above, maybe it was all of the above. Karla probably put in the best perspective. After removing all the sharp objects from our house, she reminded me that God is in control and if He really wanted me to be at the game I would be there.

She is not only pretty. She is smart too!

This is what I know: God is in control and He has given me a great wife! Oh yea, one more thing: Go Tigers!