Friday, August 19, 2016

Imagine there's no...

You've heard the song. Beautiful. Wildly famous musicians made it world-famous and its magic lingers on.

Imagine there's no heaven, It's easy if you try,
No hell below us, Above us only sky;
Imagine all the people living for today...

Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for, No religion too,
Imagine all the people living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us, And the world will live as one.

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us, And the world will live as one.

Those who know me may brace and cringe for the diatribe, the disgusted dismissal of the drivel. (Come to think of it, that sounded about right!)
But no, a song that has such appeal deserves thoughtful attention. A few bullets and I'm done:
  • The music is beautiful and enchanting.
  • The words are too, combining for magical aesthetic harmony and otherworldly power.
  • The meaning expresses grand longings of the human spirit, couple with impossibly obtuse philosophical awareness.
  • The meaning mocks the reality we live with.
  • While we dare not mock the desire for peace, the means by which such peace will be gained is cruelly naive.
  • Peace will never happen this way, because people are fallen. Every. One. Of. Us.
  • Christ brings the now and not yet. Real peace from the inside out now. That reality giving tangible hope for the 'yet-to-come' -- the new heavens and earth where the curse of sin is no more and peace rules.
  • Proof? The mystery and glory of the cross.
So I find, in the end, the lyrics damnable and damning, as is anything that fundamentally denies reality. I understand the truly figurative meaning of the various words. By "religion" for example he can only mean organized religion as such; for to disallow the concept of religion would negate the song's message. He is doing nothing if not proposing a new religion of peace.

But in a world wildly afflicted with something badly wrong; and with a purview that disallows both sin and possible real personal savior, the song fails. Deeply sad, because so beautiful. And that makes it all the worse.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ministry Remnants: On Saying Enough

Our myriad means of communication cause us to say too much. This post may be a case in point. Facebook, texting, and twitter are case in point on global scale. We speak when we have little to say worth hearing, and we listen when there's barely room for all the clutter we have already heard. As the Proverb has it, "Where there are many words, sin is seldom absent."

How might this apply to preaching, that most peculiar of human communication? I think it means something like this:

Let God give you the words to say and no more. This does not mean that Scripture is the direct and obvious genesis for all you say. Congregations have Bibles. If all you do is parrot Scripture it will sound -- and be -- redundant. But if pastors spend time with the Author, listening, feeding on the Word, the right words will come and be aided by the Spirit. That's what folks need to hear in worship.

And while in the nature of essaying I'm tempted to push this string and see what else comes to mind, the nature of this particular essaying says I should leave off, for I've said all I have to say. Would we could hear the voice of the Spirit and never say more than that!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ministry Remnants: Pastors are Human

"Pastors are Human, Too!"

What does this mean? Everything, I guess. It means they have family pain and frustrations, that they wonder about their career path; it means they have money struggles or emotional pain or difficult habits -- just like those in the pew! This is not profound or new so why am I saying it? Because pastors are human, too.

Through the years I've heard this refrain and always thought it somehow diminished the pastor. I always considered the pastor a cut above, on a different plane. In some unusual sense he is, I guess, though I have no erudition for it. Perhaps his unusual calling places him in cruxes not unlike that of the Great Shepherd, cruxes without which he can never pastor.

But this matter of him being human is still to be heard. For as I know so very well first hand, pastors are human, too.

I realized this afresh this week as I faced that peculiar mix of fatigue, shortcomings, demands and emotional lows. Each factor interacts with the others to make some dispositions susceptible to real emotional pain, almost debilitating. Without the "almost".

The realization set me back on my heels. Would I like to overcome? I did overcome, but not immediately. There was suffering, humbling, learning, forced waiting. I am glad for the ordeal, but more glad to have endured.

Pastors are human, too. Don't imagine they can carry all the weight we too easily send them, whether imagined or real. It is their job to listen and help carry, but not to bear the whole load. Pastors are human, too.

That is all.

(None of this is reflection on my congregation. They are very gracious and forbearing. I do think the matter requires all the discipline a pastor can muster, and more. And they do not bat 1,000. Pastors are human, too!)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

News Flash: Old Guy Runs for Funds in Midnight Sun Run!

On Easter Sunday I stepped off the proverbial cliff and announced I would run in the Midnight Sun Run. At the time I thought it was a 5K. It is a 10K. No I was not in shape! No I do not have a death wish!
I did feel it was right, for the fun of it, and for the cause of raising mission funds. I have been training and plan to run Saturday night at 10 PM. 

The form below says a bit more and gives options for contributing if you would like. 

Smiles and gratitude and giving it my best -- thanks to all for friendship and prayers. I am looking forward to it! (be sure to read my stellar qualifications at the bottom!)

We'll let you know how it turns out!


 Fun Fundraiser for Missions

10K for $10K

Pastor Huff caught a vision to raise money for missions by running in the Midnight Sun Run this year. You read that right – he will run in the 10K! Skeptical? Good reason for that! Here are some ways to respond if you want to:

    I'm amused. I'll come to town and see if he makes it. _____
    I'm not amused! Does he have life insurance? _____
    I'm amused. If he survives I'll give $________
    I'll donate a wheelchair or crutches. _____
    I'm concerned! I'll come and encourage him! _____
    I'd like to run, too. (Register online) _____
    I'd like to run and raise mission funds too! _____
    I will give “per K” he actually runs. Gift amount per kilometer ran: $100 ____; $50 _____; $25 _____; $10 _____; $ Other amt. ________. (ex: A pledge of $50 per K means if he runs 6 kilometers the gift will be $300.)
    Additional snide remarks: __

What will this fundraiser support exactly?

This fund will support short-term projects that arise from time to time. This could include helping one of our own on a mission, village projects/VBS, or emergency needs. Please give as you feel led. If you wish just to give to the fund and pray for Randy's health, simply mark the gift accordingly and place in the offering. Randy qualified? YES! Consider:

  • he's breathing
  • he ran the ½ mile in 8th grade
  • he can stand for 30 minutes in line at the donut shop
    (Seriously, he has been training for a while and thinks he will be able to run at least 5K. Pray!)

All gifts are tax-deductible and will be prayerfully administered.

Gifts can be mark 'mission fund' and mailed to:

NPMC ~2485 Dawson Rd.~North Pole, AK 99705

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Alaska Weather

When I saw this Alaska weather pie chart I had a good belly laugh. Yes, winters are long, but 85% of the year?!?! Not quite, but it can seem that way!

Monday, June 13, 2016

On Understanding Gospel Songs

I have found a resting place when sore distressed
Jesus Rock of Ages strong and true
In a weary land I in His shadow rest
He is my strength in all that I do.

Jesus Rock of Ages, let me hide in thee
Jesus Rose of Sharon sweet thou art to me
Lilly of the Valley, Bright and Morning Star
Fairest of Ten Thousand to my soul. 

A few days ago I posted the words above and considered their meaning. Today I remember how easy it is to miss the import of words like this. I have tended to do one of the following:

1. Assume the writer wrote during a time of euphoria.
While this is certainly possible, and no doubt sometimes the case, I now see it differently. Expressions of adoration and high praise for God can spring from many sources within, all of which may be sincere and indicative of a genuine and sustained relationship with God.
2. Closely related: I disconnect the suggested experience or understanding from any real sense of living that way on a daily basis.Well, just because something is expressed in flowery lanuguage, even hyperbole, does not mean it fails to reflect something real.

3. Move thoughtlessly through the words regardless of their merit, rationality overpowered by the [somewhat super-] natural power of the music.This seems the largest difficulty. Ironically, the music 'blesses me' while the actual lyrica meaning is passed over. Perhaps more accurately, the music adds to the rational process a language of soul that brings body, mind and spirit together and confirms the meaning of the text.

Hmmm...not sure where that leaves me, except this. I want to know Jesus in the way this song-writer describes. I need that kind of friend.

That is all.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Empty Bottomless Pit of Human Rationality without God

"The arguments of man will not save me. Ethics, as much as they matter, will not save me. 
Only God can save me. 
To Him I look, on Him I depend."

I've spent most of my life having opinions as, I assume, do most sentient human persons. There, I just did it again...and get the idea; I did it again!

I recently followed a string of facebook comments that debated questions of life and murder and personhood with interlocutors weighing in on all points of the continuum. Many of them were highly educated. To cut through the hubris, assumptions, any logical clarity or lack of would only be possible for an infinite being. I came away because I must. To read further leads to near-despair.

So what of all this opinion-sharing? What matters in the end? I have only one answer. I really do trust the first century man Jesus to be who he claimed to be. I am barely aware of the virtually infinite arguments on either side of that trust and that claim. But it seems the trust is as intensely personal as is possible and as such surpasses argument in some way, just as love does.

I am suggesting that if we place our ultimate hope in the rational processes of mankind our hope is weak indeed. If we place our hope in the integrity and righteousness of mankind we are running on broken feet. Am I better off to trust a man who made claims to be eternal, infinite, God? Yes, if I can find those claims defensible in some reasonable fashion, if the claim to actual resurrection carries (however shocking) plausible substantiation, and if I am willing to die for this belief.

The willingness to die has no intrinsic merit, I suppose. Rather, it says I have abandoned all hope in other means. It is in Jesus I have invested my everything. I will suffer for this, for it is a truth claim countless people mock and will be unable to avoid persecuting. Such is the way of this fallen world.

The arguments of man will not save me. Ethics, as much as they matter, will not save me. Only God can save me. To Him I look, on Him I depend.