Mar 20 2013

Griftin’ and griftin’

“Excuse me, sir, but I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, and my ex-wife passed away and I’m on my way to Omaha, Nebraska to pick up my girls and I need some gas and they kicked me out of that gas station over there so if you could spare some gas….”

Look, buddy, I guess you think people out in the sticks are easy and gullible. It’s really pretty easy to spot a grifter:

  1. They call you ‘sir,’ –an appeal to pride.
  2. They have this impossibly terrible situation that involves the welfare of children, –an appeal to sympathy. My favorite is the one where the guy has run out of gas and he had to leave his kids in the car with the doors locked while he went to get some gas. My pastor’s favorite is the one where the guy came by the church looking for money to feed his kids–twice. The first time he claimed to have 5 kids, and the second time he claimed to have 3 kids. Apparently he used this ploy so much that he forgot who he used it on. When my pastor asked him what happened to the other 2 kids, and informed him that he had already tried this one–he didn’t want to talk about it anymore and left.
  3. They claim to want gas or food, but the fact is they really just want money.

So get back in your ginormous SUV with large chrome rims and low-profile tires and quit trying to bum money from a guy about to drive an hour to work in a 17 year old beat up Chrysler.

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Feb 23 2013


I recently got to observe a discussion between pastors on the subject of church discipline, and I got to hear a word that everyone knows used in a manner I had never heard it used before. I have a long explanation before I get to the term. As you likely know, a term is a word used in a specific context.

Portions of the New Testament describe church discipline, a process by which the church as a local body deals with someone caught up in serious, unrepentant sin. I say ‘process,’ because that is how it is supposed to work: as a series of steps designed to bring the believer back to right relationship with God and, therefore, fellowship with the church body as well. It is not simply a ‘you sinned, now get out,’ kind of thing.

Yes, I am aware of some churches that have either really gone overboard, either abusing their authority, or doing nothing, continuing to permit rampant sin (see Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, where he addressed an issue where a man was married to his own stepmother—and the church at Corinth was apparently cool with it). But I hope to give an accurate overview of the way the process is supposed to work according to Scripture.

  • The first step is simply you as a mature believer approach the individual in a spirit of humility as a friend/brother. Most of the time, that is all there is to it. The church body as a whole is largely oblivious, because the issue has been addressed on an interpersonal level. Despite the belief of many who despise the church, we really don’t like the idea of dragging people out and shaming them, any more than we would want that done to us—or our parents, children, or friends. I think Someone a long time ago might have taught on this concept, but maybe not….
  • The second step, if the person is unrepentant, is taking a couple of witnesses with you to again confront the person, to again implore the person to abandon their sin, and if they will not, to confirm the truth in order to obviate any ‘he said, she said’ business.
  • The third and final step is to take the issue before the church and expel the member from the local congregation.

The results of not performing this duty are bad for the person and bad for the church: the believer is left to continue wallowing in sin and therefore reap its consequences, and the church justly reaps the charge of hypocrisy, because of known sin within its own body that it refuses to deal with.

In the same way that ‘computer’ may apply equally to either an entire personal computer setup (with monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc), or just the computer part (not the monitor, keyboard, or mouse), ‘church discipline’ may refer to either the entire process or just the third step.

I know there is a question I have raised and not answered: what qualifies as serious sin? Well, that was the topic of the discussion—what merits the third step of church discipline?

I was at a youth worker’s conference, and Heather and I were sitting in a coffee shop with our pastor, his wife, and their (and now our) friends (another pastor and his wife). Besides us three couples, there was this guy that looked kind of like a pudgy, part-American Indian Indiana Jones with glasses, fedora, and leather jacket. My pastor and the other pastor brought up a couple of example cases to see how he would handle them. Indy presented his guidelines on how he would handle them based on the available Scripture. He made it a point to inform that there were other pastors who would disagree with him, that they would think he was not being firm enough, but I thought he was very balanced, firm, fair, and generous.

Finally, to get to the actual term. Indy used the word ‘church’ as a verb, expressed as shorthand for ‘church discipline.’

Pastor: “What would you do in the case of x?”

Indy: “I would do y.”

Pastor: “But don’t you think x is serious?”

Indy: “Yeah, but do you church him for it?”


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Mar 3 2011

You can’t say that here

A couple of years ago I went on vacation and instead of going floating and camping, I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. While I was in the hospital undergoing treatments you couldn’t use on people in Guantanamo, Heather stayed with me almost the entire time. After I had been there a few hours I received a visit from my pastor and his wife. I’m not Catholic, but my hospital was, and as such there was a crucifix above my bed.

As we were all the parents of at least one teenager, and Pastor and I either are or were youth leaders, the conversation soon turned to teens and some of the temptations they face. Mrs. Pastor said something about why so many teenage girls were drawn into being sexually active.

“You can’t say that word with Jesus watching you!” Pastor exclaimed, crossing himself in mock indignation to his wife.

“That will be ten thousand Hail Marys!”

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Jan 27 2009


Though I have repeatedly told my kids that there is no such thing as luck, my youngest daughter will still occasionally either make or give me something to take with me “for luck.”

The current item, which I have carried with me now for two winters, is a buckeye. I used to wear a bead bracelet she made me, but it frequently got in my way while working.

I bring this up so I can tell you the following story:

A couple of years ago I went on a float trip with some of the men in our church. While I am not a strong swimmer [read: I am desperately hydrophobic],  I still enjoy boating on bodies of water I can see the bottom of.

I was in a canoe with Tim, an ex-Marine (though some contend there is no such thing as an “ex” Marine). The pastor and Forrest were in another canoe, and Bruce and his son Travis were in a third canoe.

This is the way I remember what happened: the Pastor fired an opening salvo, saying something about how they were in the lead because they were the Navy, and how we were trailing because we were the Marines. So Tim and I kicked in the afterburners and blew past the S.S. Pastor.

While we were still speeding ahead, we came to a partially submerged stump, almost in the exact center of the river. I was in the bow, and I had to make a snap decision: left or right. I chose left, the opposite of right. You know what else is the opposite of right?

We were slightly right of the stump when I guided us left, and then I found that the heretofore lazy river was moving quite swiftly at this point. I found it out because the current pushed the canoe immediately sideways, and I was thrown immediately overboard.

I have already mentioned that I am not a strong swimmer. It was a blazing hot day, and, like an idiot, I wasn’t wearing my lifejacket.

I managed to control my phobia keep my presence of mind and swim upwards with my hands above my head to keep me from banging it on the bottom of the canoe, which I then climbed into.

So, in the end, wasn’t it a lucky bracelet?

No. No, it wasn’t.

There is no such thing as luck.

But I still keep the bracelet.

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