Saturday, March 26, 2011

Plastic Bad Ass

Okay first off… I need to post a disclaimer: I’m not given to coarse language or jesting. Those of you who think you know me from afar off are simply wrong. I am highly sensitive to the holiness of God, for which I am called to live, but sometimes there are only a few words that describe what we are intending. And the above title is exact. Yet I’ll refrain from excessive using the “A” word so as not to offend too many people.

In college I dated a famous Assembly of God missionary’s niece. She was special and I thought highly of her, but she told me regularly that the use of that word was simply cultural. One time I presented the idea to my parents and they were flabbergasted to say the least. I’ve avoided using the term except in extreme circumstances. Like the year I was camp pastor at the Iowa District Youth Camp, and was awakened several times in the night by some hooligans in the cabin next to mine. You see my wife and infant child were trying to get some sleep and the kids next door were just banging their bunk beds on the wall and screaming and goofing around.

Unfortunately for them, on my second warning, standing in my boxers, I told them, “If you wake up my baby, you’re gonna piss the hell out of me… so you better stop right now!” Granted, my choice of words was not the most statesmen like or pastoral, but it was visceral and honest, they stopped. Plus, the King James Bible uses both of those words, so take it up with King Jimmy.

Anyway, what’s been on my heart for a few days has been this: So often in our lives, we really don’t understand the power that God has given us. Yes, that’s what I said, we don’t really get it. We don’t fully grasp the concept of “resisting the devil” in the midst of a crisis.

The reason I say that is because most of us can quote that portion of James 4:7. And all the evangelical charismatics in the room cheered “Amen!” And so did the Amway people, and the Young Republicans, and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving crew, or even the Fox News groupies (of which I’m one). Yet so often we miss the KEY PORTION of that passage.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God.” Did you get the precursor to victory OVER the enemy? Submission to God, His Word, and His Spirit; all of what encompasses God. His mercy and His judgment. His forgiveness and His wrath. His love and His hate. All of God is included in the submission command, not just the parts that we like, or that have grown to be politically and churchly correct.

So what’s the point of the title of this blog? I’ll tell you. For way too long, we’ve attempted to saddle the devil with meaningless words from the Bible, because we’ve not fully embraced and accepted the entire Word of God. And thereby we’ve become “Plastic Bad Asses” in the eyes of the enemy. Meaning we are nothing but a sham. We are nothing but posers and sometimes hosers.

A Plastic Bad Ass is someone who really has no “show behind their go”. You know, like the guys in high school that put mags on their cars and turned the lid to the air-cleaner over and maybe strapped on some glass packs, yet nothing was really done to the motor. It just sounded bad and looked bad, but couldn’t get the wheels off the ground if it had to. All show and no go.

Kinda like the seven sons of Sceva. They got their tails whipped by the demons, because they were simply not known in the arena of testimony. They were not known with the ranks of Paul, and Peter and even Jesus. They had NOT YET submitted themselves to the Lordship of Christ, but only the “image” of effective religion.

So what’s my point? Far too many of us are going around like Plastic Bad Asses trying to defeat the enemy, all the while we’ve yet to fully submit to Christ. The whole counsel of Christ. Not just a few things we like, but the entire body of record of who Jesus was and is, and still is to this moment.

So the next time you find yourself in a street fight with the devil, make sure you’re not heading into that fight just blowing a lot of smoke and acting like a Plastic Bad Ass. This fight is for real and we’d better be ready.

Any takers?

Monday, March 21, 2011

No Place for Mercy

If ever there was a time and place for no mercy; here and now is it. Let me explain.

About three times in the gospels, we find a story of Jesus approaching a demon possessed man. Google the story and read it for yourself. Anyway, as the Son of God approaches the man filled with legions of minions from hell, they all spontaneously do something that the enemy tends to do when he’s backed into a corner. They begged for mercy.

That’s right, the entire legion of demons begged and begged, repeatedly that Jesus not send them away or into an arid region (a dry place). And they even begged Him not to cast them into the Abyss (the bottomless pit mentioned in Revelation). I guess because that’s one nasty place with the arch demons locked up and all.

So get this, the demons that so mercilessly tormented this poor man, for years; and stole his very life, actually begged Jesus to be “kind” to them. Oh my word, can you believe the audacity of these minions to actually beg for mercy from Jesus.

And guess what? He gave them mercy. Now granted, He’s the Son of God and He’s come to grant mercy, but I can hardly believe that He was that kind.

For what I’m suggesting, just might blow your socks off. I’m suggesting that in our day and age, the same demonic spirit appeals to each of us when it comes to standards of holiness and righteousness. Some might call it being politically correct.

Nonetheless, when the enemies of the Kingdom are exposed, they screech out cries of mercy. When all the while they have tormented and bound humanity without mercy or compassion. Now get what I’m saying.

If we are not careful, EVERY TIME we are challenged by lies or deception or political correctness, be very careful; because you may be hearing the minions from hell crying “mercy… mercy” so as to play on your Christian sentiment. The sentiment of mercy and compassion; and I say that’s No Place for Mercy or compassion.

That IS NOT the time to back off or have mercy. At best they must be cast into “pigs” or some other cultural anathema so as to self-destruct; so as to be banished to arid places where survival IS NOT possible.

Now don’t miss what I’m saying. For us to “live in truth we must betray error”. That’s right. We can no longer be in love with a lie; we can no longer massage the error of our ways or the iniquity that seeks to be resuscitated within. And further we must be frugal with our mercy, because the enemy of our souls is historically smarter than our historic Christianity. Yes that’s true. Our enemy knows that we by Christian nature are compassionate and likely very merciful, like our Master.

But therein lays the TRAP; for if you look at the composite exposure of the legion of demons in the poor man from Gadarene, they had absolutely NO MERCY, yet they had the audacity to ASK FOR MERCY. That’s just like psychopathic spirits. Merciless until they need it for themselves.

So, the next time you’re tempted to be politically correct, or to not call sin, sin. Or to not call evil, evil; or any other number of demonic ploys for mercy, based upon the lie that Christians are supposed to be merciful, just tell them in Jesus’ Name, this is No Place for Mercy; and get on with advancing the Kingdom of our God and cast them into a heard of pigs (you pick the political party).


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our Message

Over the years my perception of the message of the Kingdom, has morphed somewhat. I mean, when I was very young, the message was delivered by one type of believer, who held certain values and convictions, and thereby influenced the shape of the message.

As I grew and entered college, not only did I meet other believers who held different values and convictions, but I also came face to face with professors who also held different values and convictions. And I get that, I get the fact that our Kingdom is far more global in its reach and scope, and the variances of values and convictions are no less broad, but somewhere, deep behind all our presuppositions and filters IS a universal message.

And I hold the belief that Our Message must somewhere somehow have some common ground, that cannot nor should not be altered in anyway. Our Message, meaning the genuine message of the Kingdom of God, must be universal and consistent. And therein lays the challenge set before us. Set before me as a preacher.

We must be able to discern and decipher what God is communicating and then accept it and implement it. But oh how challenging that can be; with so many variants within our own family called Christian.

The apostle John records Jesus’ own words regarding the Kingdom message.

John 12:47 (The Message)
“If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn't take it seriously, I don't reject him. I didn't come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I'm saying is willfully choosing rejection.”

Please take note of what Jesus says. If anyone doesn’t take seriously His message and implement it, He WILL NOT REJECT them. Catch that; Jesus will not reject you if you don’t get the message right or implement it, because He didn’t come to reject people, but to save them.

But don’t miss the gravity of what He is saying. Because He doesn’t reject us, we can easily be lulled into believing we’re still in good standing with Him. That’s right, since His role is not to reject us, we can find ourselves so deluded that we fail to realize we’re off message. We can fail to realize we’re drifting from Our Message and moving onto some other message.

Maybe I’m not making it clear, the risks we run when we come to Him. Because He loves us so much and His job is to save us and not reject us, we can be so far off the mark that we suffer great loss; all the while we think we’re still okay.

Because He won’t reject us, we figure we’re still okay with Him even when we’ve perverted the message and passed that perversion on to others. That’s the dangerous risk of grace.

Granted, I’m hoping that the Holy Spirit, the Great Counselor of my soul, will indeed speak to me if and when I’m off message, but that relationship too can be compromised, if I grieve or quench Him too often.

So I leave you with this question. Do you know Our Message? Do you know the genuine Message of the Kingdom of God? The Message that cannot be compromised no matter how chic-less it becomes?

Our Message does matter. And it better be right.

Friday, March 18, 2011

To Shave or Not To Shave

Many a wayward man has let his facial hair grow beyond reason, but not I. I mean, I’m not wayward, albeit I love Kansas’ song “Carry on My Wayward Son”. Nonetheless, I don’t think my goatee is beyond reason.

I mean if I had some growth or chin deformity, no one would challenge the existence of six inch hair from my chin to cover my shame. So why is it an issue now? Okay, I admit it gets in my food and my food sometimes gets in it, and I did get it caught in a Dremel tool one day. That was really bad. And I almost got it caught in a ¾ inch hammer drill, but hey, life can be dangerous.

So here’s my thought on the subject. I post all sorts of things on my Facebook page, and I post many if not all the blogs I write, most of which are deep and meant to provoke thought or action. And what’s crazy is, most people don’t comment. Now granted my blogs are often lengthy and sometimes wild spins on what’s happening in my heart and head at the time, but nonetheless I believe most are worthy of consideration. Yet one simple question regarding my goatee and at least 58 responses were posted.

I find it laughable that so many people hold an opinion about my facial hair. Maybe I should ask if I should shave my back hair. Oh I’m no preemie ape, but I do have these tufts of hair on my shoulder blades that look like undeveloped wings.

Anyway, the number one reason why I will shave my goatee, if I shave my goatee, is because I hate taking the time to shave around it. I prefer shaving in the shower and I just can’t do that with this extension of protein growing from my chin.

One drawback about cutting it; I’ll get carded going into biker bars. I look so young. At least with the goatee, I’ve got an in with the Amish and the tattooed biker crew, but if I cut it off then I’ll look like every other prepubescent wannabe AG minister, and I’m not sure if I can go back there again.

As for what I think of it, I like it. Sarah’s told me it makes me look like a bad @$$ and that’s not all bad. I mean if I hang out in the East Village or Fong’s Pizza everybody just gives me the obligatory nod of approval. I like that. I just can’t seem to bring myself to wearing the blue suit and wingtips anymore. Although we did buy a Buick La Sabre this last year, not because it looks pastoral, but because it was a great buy. But as rides go, I’d prefer a VW Beetle or a Ford E150 Van. I do have the van, and I used to drive a yellow bug, but I think the goatee has become an entity in and of itself. It’s even got its own website and Facebook fan page.

How can I say goodbye to such a close friend? How can I say goodbye to possibly the one and only thing I’m known for? God alone knows why my preaching and writing haven’t garnered interest like my chin hair has, so maybe it’s not all bad. Who knows, it might look good on a book jacket someday. I mean Gordon Fee has a killer goat. And C. Everett Koop just keeps pushing his chin hair on the world while he tells us smoking is killing us.

One of my favorite repeat clients told me I looked like Jeremiah the prophet. She’s just a year older than me, so I wonder how she knew him. Although she used to be a Catholic nun so maybe she had an inside track? Anyway, I’m flattered that so many people have taken the time to post a response as to whether I should cut it or not.

So while you all await my decision, consider my position on this whole matter. One final reason I like it is because so many people don’t. It’s as simple as that. Now granted if my job depended upon me cutting it, then of course I’d get a different job. But since my job is not contingent upon my cutting it, I might not cut it. I just don’t know.

To Shave or Not To Shave… that is the question.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who Were You Named For?

Just over 50 years ago, my parents named me Russell. Actually they named me Russell after the Open Bible minister who did their wedding ceremony; C. Russell Archer. I’m not sure if that’s significant, but I know names can be very important.

When the time came for our son to be born, Andrew, we named him after the brother of Simon Peter, from the New Testament. The reason being, Andrew was the one who brought Peter to the Lord, upon Jesus’ inauguration as the Messiah. Our rationale was, Andrew would have a brother, and we’d name him Peter Logan, and then Andrew would direct his younger brother to the Lord.

As it was, Andrew had a sister. We named her Anna; after the prophetess in Luke 2:36. Somehow we really believed she would have a prophetic voice. And she does. As a matter of fact she’s very black and white and thinks she should be a lawyer.

Anyway, names are a funny thing. Sometimes there’s great meaning and significance behind them and other times, there’s no real rhyme or reason for their being; they just sound good on the tongue. And that’s okay.

But what I had on my mind was this: Who Were You Named For? That’s right; did your name have any significance to your parents, and if so, what was it?

The reason I ask that is because; very often our names will shape our destiny. Oh you may think I’m whacked, but seriously, if your parents by faith named you after someone of great faith or Kingdom exploits, just maybe, that explains why you’ve been assaulted by the enemy so much of your life. Now granted, most of us wouldn’t know if we were in the thick of some devilish plot to thwart the work of God on earth because of us; but the fact remains many people have gone before us, who’ve held names that were of great faith and significance, and God used them mightily.

And we are no exception to the rule. If by chance (or providence) you were named after someone who was godly and did great exploits for the Kingdom, you may be in store for something very powerful and significant; then again maybe not.

Either way, if we will trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; God tends to direct or guide our footsteps so as to make the most of our existence. And just maybe, our names will mean a great deal for generations in the future.

Who Were You Named For?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fragile Handle with Care

Over the last few days I’ve been riveted to the TV watching the coverage of the earthquake; tsunami and nuclear reactor melt down in Japan. I’m so grieved for those people. Life will never be the same for so many and if the whole nuke thing goes from really bad to really worse, those areas will be uninhabitable for many years.

But what’s come to mind in the last few days is how fragile life is. I know we humans are a resilient lot, but we are also very fragile when it comes to our dependency upon modern technology and conveniences. Granted, we could once again learn subsistence living from the ground, but it would take a generation or two to get it dialed in so we wouldn’t actually starve to death. But really, who among us would be able to live without going nuts, if we didn’t have electricity, or heat or decent shelter? Few of us likely could make it very long.

I’ve never been homeless and don’t plan on it anytime in the near future, but being homeless in America is probably far better than many of the people who live around this world in third world countries, eking out a living from garbage dumps and paltry little vegetable gardens, and eating the random stray cat or dog. I suppose if that’s all I had, I could pull it off, but since all I’ve known is blessing and warmth and prosperity and safety... I’d likely crack under the pressure of such a radical life style change.

So what my heart has been telling me these days is – life is Fragile Handle with Care. Oh not just the lives of the unborn or the octogenarians, but I mean ALL LIFE. Despite our intelligence and resilience to make it through all sorts of difficulties, we are fragile people.

One good swift kick in the head can kill you, or a Dorito stuck in the wind pipe and it’s curtains, or the wrong combination of two once thought benevolent medications combined to make an unintended Kevorkian cocktail and bingo the old heart goes into arrhythmic thrombosis and your prickly, cold sweating skin is history. Or how about the random car accident; or the unforeseen melanoma on your shoulder you thought was just an age spot, but 8 months later you’re wasting away with terminal cancer.

You get the point. Now factor into your actuarial tables “Mother Nature” having a bad day and well not much hope can be garnered from statistics like that. So what am I saying? Life is tough and thick necked when everything is going well for you, but shut off the electrical grid and have a few terrorists toss a dirty suitcase bomb of nuclear isotopes into your local high school and oh yeah have the ground heave up about sixteen feet or so and then crack like a whip… oh and add a thirty foot wall of water that stops at nothing roll across your little home town and well, I think life would go from being tough and thick necked to wimpy and pencil necked real fast.

I mean, we believe somehow we are beyond cataclysmic loss and failure, and our jobs and homes will always be intact and gas will never break four dollars and everything will remain as it always has been, but oh how wrong and fragile we really are.

Since I’m a minister, I’ve been by the bed side of many of my parishioners as well as the bed side of my father when death comes calling, and the fragility of life is clearly seen when the monitor goes flat line and their chest ceases the up and down movement of natural respiration. And do you know what? There’s no fanfare or freak out. It’s just over. Fragile is the life we’ve been given and grace is the mechanism that’s allowed us to make it thus far so as to have such creature comforts and conveniences that no population in the history of mankind could have ever imagined.

But I still say life is Fragile Handle with Care. Or maybe it’s the fragility of the human heart, the soul, and the insides that are fragile? I mean have you ever seen a broken heart? For that matter have you ever heart one break? Yikes its proof that life is fragile.

So the next time you thing you have tomorrow and everything’s going to stay the same, think of Japan. Think of Haiti. Think of any and all of the people groups and lands that have suffered over the centuries and know that although humanity has advanced and we really think we’ve got this life mastered; all it takes is a magnitude 10.0 earthquake to change it all.

What life you have before you, remember its Fragile Handle with Care! You never know when it’s going to be called from you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Along Fault Lines

The catastrophic events in Japan are heart breaking. I can’t even get my mind around such a disaster. I know there have been many such incidents in the past and likely more in the future, and humanity is no stranger to tremendous suffering; but nonetheless it’s tragic. Our prayers and aid are essential right now.

All the news commentary and explanation on how earthquakes and tsunami’s occur got me thinking. The Kingdom of God is built squarely Along Fault Lines. And we shouldn’t even wonder about why Kingdom stuff divides people, because it does.

In Luke 2:34-35; Simeon the old prophet whom Mary and Joseph met while taking Jesus to be dedicated at the Temple, spoke a very profound and fearful warning. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

Wow if that’s not a serious fault line I don’t know what is. Simeon spoke God’s promise that Jesus would shake things up so much so that it would scandalize the world. Scandalize to the degree that ALL would be revealed. That what we thought was level He would overturn and what we thought was crooked He would straighten out.

In Isaiah 8:14 we’re told that Jesus the very fault line of human history would; “…be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.” Jesus was destined to scandalize the nakedness and shame of all modern as well as ancient religion.

He came into this world like a mighty earthquake. Oh they may not have noticed the trimmers at the time, but everything about the Kingdom of God is built Along the Fault Line that Jesus Christ creates within the context of humanity and creation. Matthew 21:44 tells us we either fall in all our brokenness and honesty upon Him or He will fall upon us like a mighty conqueror and crush us like an enemy.

Either way He’s a fault line. Either way He’s going to upset what we hold dear. Either way a choice will be made. Because ever since the fall of mankind, the Kingdom of God has been built Along Fault Lines of our idolatry, our infidelity and our selfish will, therefore when the ground shakes and shifts all our folly will come crashing into the crevasse of His Sovereignty.

No matter how you view it; our world is built upon the greatest Fault Line in the cosmos, and soon the pressure will be released as all heaven and earth are shaken beyond our wildest imagination, so we will ultimately know what’s real and what’s not. (Hebrews 12:25-27)


The tour guide said; “If you’re careful, you can step right across without even getting wet.” So I did, and she was right, my Vans didn’t once touch that mighty and famous Mississippi. What a novel concept, considering I’d spent almost twelve years of my adult life living right next to that mighty and vast body of water.

At the place on the river where I lived, its muddy waters spanned almost a mile in width. Now that’s a pretty wide river, and I understand it gets wider the further south one goes. That makes sense when you understand fluid mechanics and how liquids like water are subject to gravity.

Anyway, as I sit in my office, taking some much needed respite from my bout with the flu and the daily grind of life, I was deep in thought while reading a book by Timothy J. Stoner, entitled, The God Who Smokes – Scandalous Meditations on Faith. Simultaneously I’m listening to Switchfoot’s album Hello Hurrican and the song The Sound came on. It’s a great song, check it out. But what came to mind was this.

Headwaters; yes headwaters. Ergo my novel use of fantasy in the first paragraph. I’ve never been to the headwaters of the Mississippi, but I did live in Davenport, Iowa for almost twelve years and I have driven over the Mississippi many times in my life. But no matter which river you are partial too, they all (okay most) start the same way. A source, headwaters, a spring, several springs, but nonetheless, very small amounts of water flowing on a continuous basis until they culminate into something many times their breadth and depth.

And much like the mighty Mississippi is a collection of streams and sources, yet ultimately coming from headwaters somewhere up in Minnesota, so too with our passions for the things of God. Let me explain.

If and when we ever come upon the sight and the sound of the impassable might of God’s presences, like the mighty Mississippi, it’s source began somewhere, and I propose it starts in the hearts and through the tears of a few. That’s right, even just a few people who incline their hearts to God and pour out their supplications and tears to the Lord, tend to find their way down stream and combine with others ultimately culminating in a powerful force to be reckoned with.

You may not agree, but the fact remains, if God’s people will. Our combined desire and passion for the sacred to be accomplished will be blended with the hearts and the tears of other saints and a powerful source for God’s presence is created. But that all powerful river, of God’s presence, begins with the simple headwaters of a single tear shed for the lost, for the will of God, for Kingdom of God, for our ongoing need to be connected to Him.

No move of God in the history of mankind was precipitated without the headwaters of the tears. The intercession of each individual flows down so as to create power like no single tear could accomplish. So do not despise the day of little things – or single tears. For God collects them all and hears the cries of His children, and He always utilizes our faith and passion to push the glacier of His will forward, regardless of the obstacles.

So bow your heart, shed your tears and plead with saints around the world, that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For within the headwaters of your single tear, is the power of ALL the saints combined.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Leveling Effect of Loss

Jesus taught us that if we want to gain we must loose. Now there’s a whole lot of doctrine and theology wrapped up in that paraphrased statement, but the bottom line is this; loss tends to be the universal leveler and God uses it for our advantage. Keeping in mind He needs no advantage, He’s God.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not into some Machiavellian authoritative dominance that slashes everyone and everything to the bone so as to achieve some benign personal goal; and by no means does God do the like. But what we can learn from scripture is that loss tends to drive us one direction or the other. Loss in one way or another becomes the fulcrum on which dependency upon God or dependency upon another source is balanced.

In a beautiful and perfect world, life is balanced and perched amazingly upon the pivot point of loss; and no pain or gain is allotted; we’re just placid. That’s an ideal place to be, everything’s peaceful and warm gentle breezes and sweet aromas are whiffing their way through our consciousness. Oh let me bask in the moment. But unfortunately that brief respite isn’t reality, except on TV commercials advertising some beach in the Bahamas.

And yet all of a sudden wham! God takes note of something growing inside. Apathy, pride, self-reliance, worldly delight, immediate gratification, me now and you later; all of which stink in the nostrils of God, because they lure us away from the only Source that matters. They look good from the outside, but once they take root, there’s only one way to deal with them – uproot them.

Ergo the divine effect of loss. Loss tends to bring us back to our diapers and pacifier. A place where we cannot make it alone, a place where Someone else has to step in and protect and provide, because we cannot. Our inability to successfully navigate loss on our own is a divine design, causing us to move toward Him.

Oh granted, our enemy the Satan, exists to spread lies, to steal, kill and destroy, and that factor comes into play for each of us, but keep in mind, there again, could it be part of God’s way for us to find Shelter in Him alone, while all hell is breaking loose upon any given situation? I think so.

For whether it’s minions from hell or simply my old sin nature wanting to be defibrillated; either opponent will cause me to run into God’s arms or away from His arms. And that’s where my free will comes into the picture.

Because His grace is so prevenient, it’s only because of Him that I might even look over my shoulder and consider Him for help. It’s not because I somehow weigh the value of God versus the value of my way. If and when I choose God over me in the midst of loss, it’s really and only because He’s placed that consideration within me.

So the next time that you suffer a degree of loss, consider this; God wants you to trust Him. I know that sounds so cliché, but that IS The Leveling Effect of Loss. Remember, you’re not alone.