Thursday, October 30, 2008


Ben and I decided to have a “TacoBellpalooza” on Tuesday. “What is a TacoBellpalooza?” you ask. Good question.

On Tuesday, from 2 PM until 6 PM most of the 5,800 Taco Bell restaurants in the USA were giving away a free taco to anyone who came in and asked for one. And I got the bright idea that it would be fun to see how many Taco Bells we could visit (that’s the palooza part… it was kind of a Taco Bell extravaganza, a festival of Taco Bells). There would be no drive through windows for us—the plan was to dine in and munch down our free crunchy taco and then move on to the next Taco Bell. (Alex could not participate in our TacoBellpalooza because he had to work. Karla also was at work, but she joined us at Taco Bell stop #3). The TacoBellpalooza was a great idea on Sunday when Ben and I first discussed it. It was truly inspirational before we started wolfing down taco after taco, but now that the TacoBellpalooza is over my tummy tells me it wasn’t such a great idea at all.

Ben, Ben’s friend, Cole, and I started our adventure at about 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon. We went to the following Taco Bells:

• Santa Fe by Hobby Lobby in Olathe,
• Blackbob and 119th in Olathe
• Quivira across from the Oak Park Mall in Lenexa
• 87th Street across from the Police Station in Lenexa
• 87th Street in front of the Sear’s Grand in Lenexa
• Santa Fe west of I-35 in Olathe
• And finally, the Taco Bell in front of the Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe

If you are counting, that’s seven Taco Bells and seven tacos each. Let the record show that Karla joined us at the Taco Bell visit #3 and ate a taco at the next three stops. She refused to eat one at the final destination. Wise lady, she is. But your honor, let the record further show that the boys and I ate the whole taco and nothing but the taco at all seven stops. Burp.

I discovered yesterday I am no Takeru Kobayashi. You know him—that’s the skinny hotdog-eating champion guy from Japan. I was feeling a little green under the gills at taco #5 (I can’t politely describe for you my feelings after taco #7, but suffice it to say, “It wasn’t good”.)—So how does that dude eat fifty dogs in ten minutes? And how does he stay so skinny?

I like Tacos. They are tasty and crunchy and meaty and yummy. But after taco #7, I was referring to them as greasy and messy and icky and yucky. In fact, according to the rhinoceros that now occupies my tum tum, I won’t be visiting Taco Bell for quite some time. Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.

There could never be too much of a good thing in the church could there? We could never pray too much or read too much of our Bible or worship too much-- right? I’m not so sure….

Do you remember when Jesus and a few of the fellas hiked up the mountain for what had to be the world’s greatest worship service of all time? There was not a song sung or an offering taken, but check this out: Jesus’ faced glowed; his clothes became whiter than anything Clorox Bleach could ever do; a couple of guys who had been dead for only several hundred years showed up—Moses and Elijah; and the crème de le crème of the whole deal was when God Himself said, “This is my Son… listen to him!” Only one word could describe all of that: WOW! (Read all about it in Matthew 17 or Mark 9 or Luke 9).

Do you remember Peter’s response? He was ready to stay there forever. He wanted to build a retreat center—or at least build three shacks one each for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. I can imagine old Pete saying, “This is the coolest thing ever Jesus! Let’s never leave!”

But Jesus knew that his mission wasn’t to hang out on a mountain top and with a glowing face, rather his mission was to save the world. His mission was to reach out to the hurting, the poor, the messed up and troubled. The Bible says, he came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) So as awesome as it must have been, I think we could say too much of a good thing would have been a bad thing—had Jesus followed Peter’s suggestion and stayed on the mountain, he would not have accomplished his mission.

It’s the same with us. Jesus doesn’t call us to simply sit in pews and “do church” and glow. He calls us to make disciples. He calls us to make a difference. And if the extent of our commitment to Jesus is simply sitting in a pew (even if it is an awesome service with a fantastic sermon and the greatest music ever—in other words a typical Sunday at Central. hee hee! ), then we are simply experiencing too much of a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong—worship services are important, and I think we should be in one every week (see Hebrews 10:25). I love to worship God with God’s people. But that cannot be the extent of our Christian experience. Worship is meant to be a place to express our praise to the Lord and to prepare our lives to reach the world for Him. Every Sunday should be a celebration of the Resurrected Lord—but we can’t be content to keep the celebration to ourselves. We’ve got to break out of the pews and get out of the church and start rubbing shoulders with those who are getting beat up in the world and share with them that Jesus cares and Jesus loves and Jesus is the answer to life’s deepest needs.

Anything less is just filling up on tacos while the rest of the world starves.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SHARE-- the sermon series begins this Sunday!

Blue Prince?

When my #1 Cherub was born,Karla and I had a very difficult time naming the boy. Truth be told, he didn’t have a name until day five of his life. On that day a somewhat perturbed nurse burst into Karla’s room at the Bay Medical Center (in beautiful Bay City Michigan) and informed us that we had to name the baby. I guess the nurses were getting tired hearing all of the other newbies in the nursery calling him “hey you” (or whatever it is that babies call one another when they are hanging out in their cribs.). Looking at us like we had committed some hideous crime, Nurse Meany of the Maternity Ward glared and sneered and said, “You have to name the child!”

It wasn’t my fault the boy had no name. I had plenty of names. Great names. But Karla did not like any of my suggestions. I don’t know why. My favorites were Foot, Finger or Blue.

In my thinking, if one day our child became a beach bum what better name could he have than “Foot” Prince? I know it would have been better if we spelled our last name “Prints” instead of “Prince” but if you say it quick enough “Prints” and “Prince” sound exactly the same.

Or maybe our off-spring would be a famous police detective one day, wouldn’t “Finger” (Prince) be an awesome name for a super crime fighter?

Or what about “Blue” (Prince) for an aspiring architect? I thought it was perfect. Still, Karla said, “No!”

When Karla failed to see the wisdom of those choices, I suggested that we could give our boy a “normal” first name-- on the condition that his middle name would be “Isa.” Of course, his official name would have been something like Harold “isa” Prince. Again she said no.

Karla had names she liked too—mostly dumb names. She said she like the name “Austin.” Austin? Why would anyone want to name their precious child after the home city of the University of Texas Longhorns? Are you kidding me? I vowed to call him some other Texan city—any other Texan city but Austin. “Come here, El Paso, it’s time for supper,” I threatened to say. My goodness, if we were going to name him after a college town wouldn’t it have been better to name him Ann Arbor.

Unfortunately, as all Johnny Cash fans know, naming him “Ann Arbor” would have been akin to naming a boy “Sue.” That’s probably not a good thing. Especially given the fact that Karla and my child’s gene pool would never be such that we would be buying him “Husky” Toughskin jeans from Sears and Roebuck, I worried that naming a boy “Ann” would not be beneficial to his health. If we only knew that one day we’d be living in Kansas we could have considered naming him “Lawrence.” That’s a college town and a boy’s name.

Finally on day five, with the prodding of Nurse Meany, we decided the young Prince should be “Alexander.” I think it’s been a good name… it doesn’t have the same pizzazz as if his name were “Finger,” but I don’t think Alex is heading toward a career in law enforcement anyway.

Why the walk down memory lane with you on this cold October morning?

Parents, we have a responsibility to our kids. To give them a decent name that won’t cause them bodily harm on the playground is only the beginning. We have a responsibility to show them the love of Christ. We have a responsibility to point them to the things of God and keep them from the things that will hinder their walk with God. I don’t know any perfect parents. We all make mistakes. Still we should strive to model before our kids someone who loves God, loves them, loves our spouse (if married), and really strives to provide a healthy loving Christ-centered environment.

The Bible says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands… Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deut 6:5-8).

Moms and dads, let’s not stop showing our kids and telling our kids and retelling them about the great the love of God. It’s a never ending, 24 hour job…. But you can do it!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Calgon, I think I'll Stay

You didn’t ask for it, but I’m going to give it. Today is my official day to complain. So buckle your seatbelt buckaroos, because boy oh boy do I have a list!

• All of my favorite professional sports teams stink. (If you’re from Kansas City, then your favorite teams stink too. Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but I believe in the old adage “Misery loves company.”)
• The stock market stinks (even worse than all of our team’s locker rooms combined).
• My office stinks. I had a small chili from Wendy’s yesterday and our usually terrific janitors missed my trash bucket and now my office smells like yesterday’s chili. I assure you it smelled better yesterday.
• Speaking of my office, when the toilet in my office is flushed it is really loud… really, really loud. Sonic boom loud. So when “nature calls” not only does everyone in the office know but half of Johnson County and parts of Wyandotte County know it too. That stinks!
• Speaking of things loud and stinky, I awoke this morning to a zit on the end of my nose. For someone who is already quite “nasally endowed,” the new real estate on the end of my beak is an unwelcomed addition.
• Speaking of awaking, I didn’t get enough sleep last night. (Can you tell?) My dog thinks my bed is her bed. It’s not, but just try convincing her of that. She is not very reasonable.
• I’m having a bad hair day (my hair is not very reasonable either).
• I spilled my lunch on my shirt.
• I’ve got a headache.
• The Presidential mudslinging gives me a worse headache.
• So does the Vice Presidential mudslinging.
• In fact, this whole political season has given me a headache. When will November 5th arrive?
• Blah, Blah, Blah! “Calgon, take me awayyyyyyyy!”

OK… I’m done complaining. Do I feel better? Not really. Do you feel better from reading my complaining list? Probably not.
So why complain?

Good question.

Looking back over that list… every complaint is dumb. (Am I complaining about my complaints? I think I am… wow that’s weird!) Here’s the scoop on complaints: If I can’t fix the problem, if it is out of my control-- then why complain? After all my complaining, the problem will still be there. And if I haven’t tried to fix those things that I can fix—then why complain? I need to quit complaining and fix the problem. Bottom line… why complain?

The Bible goes so far as to say: “Do everything without complaining.” Philippians 2:14

When we complain, aren’t we in a roundabout way saying: “God can’t take care of me”? Listen, if God is in control (and He is) and if I complain (and sometimes I do) am I not saying during those moments, “I don’t like the way you’re running things, God. I think I could do a better job.” News Flash: I can’t do a better job. Not even close. I don’t want to be a complainer, I want to be faithful—even when the skies are grey and the stock market flops.

So instead of counting my losses, I want to be a person that counts my gains. Instead of making a list of my woes, I should be making a list of my blessings. Instead of seeing all the problems—I want to look to the Ultimate Problem Solver. And when I do those things— whether the problem is the stock market or a zit on the end of my nose, I know that my troubles aren’t forever, but God is. My troubles will soon be gone, but God will be by my side. So, never mind Calgon, I think I’ll stay.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The 100th Anniversary Celebration

I know there are other good churches besides the Church of the Nazarene. I know entry into heaven will not require a Nazarene membership card or the ability to name all of the General Superintendants or know the secret Nazarene handshake (you don’t know the secret Nazarene handshake? I can’t tell you, it’s a secret). I know there are lots and lots of people who have never heard of Phineas F. Bresee or Pilot Point, Texas and don’t know the difference between NMI and NYI that will still make it through the pearly gates. Still, I am thankful for the Church of the Nazarene.

I know it’s not always popular these days to claim denominational loyalty. I suppose some folks even view denominations as an out dated expression of the Church. And I know the Nazarene church isn’t perfect. (They let a guy like me be a member for crying out loud, and I am far from perfect). It has some flaws. Still, I don’t know where I would be if not for the Church of the Nazarene. Yes, I am thankful for our 100 year old church.

On Sunday, we will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene. We’ll have cake and celebrate the anniversary, and like all Nazarene churches around the world we will celebrate communion together. We’ll still have Sunday School and I’ll still continue on our “Elephant in the Church” series (This week it’s the “Mean Elephant” of judgmental attitudes), but Sunday will also be a day for us to say “Thank You” to God for the Church of the Nazarene and ask for God’s blessing for the next 100 years.

A Bus Hit the Church!

Last Thursday, one week ago today, life was quite normal within the hallowed confines of Central church. I was putting the finishing touches on my Sunday morning sermon. The secretaries were busy getting the Sunday worship folder ready, the food pantry was about to open for business, the other pastors were taking their well deserved day off— so it was mostly quiet around these parts. When we received a phone call from next door-- it was the friendly police dispatcher. (If you have never visited Central Church, the Lenexa police department is our neighbor. Biblically speaking, I suppose one could say our stretch of 87th Street is “Romans 6-8” Law and Grace. Don’t you love theological humor? Hee hee!).

The dispatcher explained that as she was entering the Police Station, she observed that a Johnson County Bus smashed into our building. You read that right— a bus hit the building. How does a bus hit a building? Ram a car speeding through an intersection? I’d say, “Accidents happen.” Strike a jaywalking pedestrian? It would be tragic, but understandable. Flatten a raccoon, bunny or squirrel? By the road kill I’ve observed—sadly it seems to be a frequent occurrence in the animal kingdom. But how can a bus run into a mostly stationary building? I don’t know, but it did.

Apparently the woman driver (with every ounce of my being I am resisting the temptation to tell a joke right now) was planning on delivering some people across the street at the Social Services building and was in the wrong lane on 87th Street, so she proceeded into our parking lot. Unwilling to make her U-turn in our wide open parking lot that is relatively free of buildings (and I don’t think that there were many cars in it either…it was a Thursday morning after all), she decided to go through our carport (unfortunately she literally tried to “go through” our car port). In her turning around, she apparently did not realize that her 10 foot high bus probably couldn’t squeeze under our 9 foot high carport. (Hmmm… maybe that’s why it is called a “carport” and not a “busport”). I guess buses can’t duck… who knew? So as Karla would say to our pre-potty trained boys, “We had a little accident.”

A bewildered bus company inspector came to examine the damage, pick up the assorted bus parts that were still lying on the ground, and assure me that the bus company would make our building “good as new.” I’m sure they will. (The first estimate for the building damage is over $5,000—I didn’t get a look at the bus, so I don’t know the cost of its repair.).

I tell you that to say— I long to have the Holy Spirit crash into this place. I long to have God—unexpectedly maybe, from “out of the blue” possibly-- so break up our routine that we would be forever impacted. Of course, when God smashes in there isn’t collateral damage—when God breaks in there is power and glory. I heard of one meeting (a few years back) when 120 people gathered in an upper room and were praying for God’s Spirit to come and God came in such a powerful and unmistakable way—that the world was forever changed! Read all about it in Acts 2.

I believe God still wants to impact his followers. I believe God still wants to fill us. I believe God still longs for us to be in such a place that we are forever moved. I still believe in the Pentecostal Power! And believe me, when God comes it is no accident!