It is that time of year again. The request came out last week for all clergy of the District to contribute towards a gift for our District Superintendent.

I don’t participate in this.

I could; easily. The requested amount, $15 each, is nothing for me. On the other hand, we have a lot of clergy making far less than I, many with more family and other expenses.

On the other end of the collection, our DS makes more than $100,000 a year.

Dollars aside, I don’t think it is appropriate to take collections for superiors.


What does it mean to be a “believer”?

We (Christians) use lots of different terms to identify ourselves, and to distinguish us from others. One of the most common of these is to call Christians or followers of Jesus “believers.” So, what do we mean by this?

Surely we mean more than the generic “belief in God” that Gallup and Barna and others year after year show that 95+% of the US population claims.

Do we (generally) mean there is a certain minimum amount of claims about Jesus that one must agree with to be a “believer”?

If we mean, “to be a believer is to have given one’s heart to Jesus,” or “to be a believer is to have accepted Jesus as one’s savior,” are we claiming there is an ontological change in the individual when such a decision is made?

A quick perusal of NT uses of the word (this question deserves more than a quick perusal) leads me to think that use of the term “believer” there is used more as an affirmative, almost generic, identifier of those who profess to being part of the church much more than it is commentary on whoever make up the pool of non-believers.

Now I’m rambling.  What does it mean to be a “believer”?

Lessons from a Funeral

I had never before seen anyone wear a bandana to a funeral service. Yesterday, I saw at least three dozen doing so at the same service. Our church hosted a funeral service for a young man who did not have a church home. Most of his family and friends who came to the service were not “church folk.”

Can I admit to you here that some of my first thoughts were “Don’t these people know how to dress and act at a funeral service?” and “Haven’t they been in church before?”

I hope I caught myself before anyone noticed such thoughts in my eyes, because as soon as I thought such thoughts I was confronted with the real truth of the Gospel.

My goal, our calling as Christians, is not to make other people look and talk like us. Our goal and calling is to help one another look and talk more like Jesus. Before I could look down my nose at anyone for not knowing how to play church, God was already convicting me for thinking it was about how to play church.

I am regularly reminded that Jesus spent a great deal of his time among those who were not only not “church folk,” but who had little or nothing to do with the religious institutions of his day. Jesus went to them, befriended them, and loved them; he didn’t buy a building and open the doors hoping they would come to him.

In fact, when I read the Gospels, I am confronted by the fact that Jesus has harsh words of correction and judgment for the religious people, not for those who have little or nothing to do with religion.

It isn’t that Jesus is not about lifestyle. It is that Jesus is not about my lifestyle. I need to continue to learn to be about Jesus’ lifestyle.

What are we to do?

I am in a quandry, and these days the place to play out a quandry is online, so feel free to help me.

Our Conference, the Central Texas Conference, is facing a budget crisis. As we prepare for a 2007 budget to be presented at Annual Conference in June, the trend seems to be to raise the budget again.

I know there are a lot of worthy programs. Things are being planned that will bring with them the opportunity to change people’s lives and build the Kingdom.

So, here is my quandry: it seems abundantly clear to me that the trend for receipts is down while the trend for spending is up. Unlike the US Government, the Central Texas Conference cannot merely make more money. Something has to give.

Since we are being overrun with oportunities for Stewardship training, the message from “on high” is clear: churches need to suck it up and give more.

On the other hand, CTC Churches already commit between 15 and 20% of their budgets to apportionments, and some think that is more than enough.

Please, please, help me. What are we to do?

The Difference a Little Light Can Make

Father, forgive me, for I have grown up. At least I have grown up a little.

I have been confronted several times recently about the appropriate place of darkness in life. I am not quite ready to say with many that “without darkness we could not know light,” but I am now eager to admit and recognize that there is no life that does not know darkness.

When I was in high school, the band that played for a midwinter retreat played Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which opens with the line “Hello darkness my old friend….”

I was incensed. How could some alleged “Christian” group sing a song about darkness being a friend? Darkness was the enemy of God. Unable to quell my rage, I wrote a letter to the editor of our denominational paper decrying all that was wrong with that retreat, youth ministry, and the church as a whole.

I have learned to see another side of darkness.

The times in my life that I have felt most in darkness turn out to be times of great opportunity for learning and growth. When my world seems dark, there really isn’t much I can do but wait and listen; listen for God to speak to me.

And He always does. We don’t always listen, but God will always speak. And when He speaks, He reminds us that Jesus came precisely to bring light to our darkness.

If you are in a time of darkness now, let God shine His light into it. Listen expectantly, and God will speak. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” – John 1-5.

How old is old?

Did you catch the Rolling Stones’ halftime show? While I am impressed that Mick and the boys are still in shape to do what they do, watching the show with some of my youth brought it all into perspective for me.

Halfway through their opening “Start me up,” one of my junior high youth asked what the song was. I gave her the name of the song then started to ask if she didn’t remember all the commotion of the roll-out of Windows 95, which was tagged to this song.

“Start me up” was released on the Tattoo You album in 1981, but may be more famous lately for its link to the Windows revolution that was Windows 95.

This youth, though, was only 4 at the time of that Operating System’s release.


I literally did a double take when I read it. I use the Bible Gateway all the time for research. For whatever reason yesterday I clicked on the button at the top of the page for “Daily Wisdom.” I found some, but not all of it was actually daily wisdom. Some of it reeked.

Sunday’s was good. Brief, insightful, and an interesting take on the relationship between faith and works. Then I read Saturday’s.

The title is “Is God All-Loving?” Not if you are the writer of this alleged wisdom. It claims, several paragraphs in, that “God’s love and forgiveness are not unconditional.”

The point is the old, hyper-Calvinist argument that God’s love and forgiveness are only offered to those whom God knows will accept them, and that, thus, they are offered conditionally.

For the writer of that unwise wisdom, “God loves those who obey Him” and only forgives those who repent.

Semantically I could find a point on which to agree. One cannot realize the love and forgiveness God offers to that famous “whosoever” unless one turns and accepts it. How that can reasonably be construed as conditional on God’s part is beyond me.

Join me in praying that Melanie Schurr, the author of this piece, finds the God of grace and God of glory who sent His son to die for everyone.

Conditional grace is not grace.