Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Disreputable Sinners And Other Scum

[Jesus] saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector's booth. "Follow me and be my disciple," Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus' followers.) But when the teachers of the religious law . . . saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum?" When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor -- sick people do. I have not come to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." Mark 2:13-17

Mark observed that those considered disreputable sinners and scum sought out Jesus' company (keep in mind that it was the teachers of the religious law who viewed them in such a way, not Jesus or Mark); they felt welcomed in His presence. Their comfort didn't come because Jesus disregarded their sinfulness or condoned it. His words alway led people out of their sin and into the righteousness of forgiveness. Their comfort came from knowing that Jesus not only provided a diagnosis of their sickness, but also a cure. Mark also reveals Christ's reaction toward those who think they are righteous: Jesus mocked them.



A similar scenario played out in my own life in a more vague form. After I did the invocation on Memorial Day, Sandy and I went down to the Riverwalk to ride our bikes. I was wearing a sportcoat and tie, Sandy was in a dress, so we go had to go down the stairway toward the river and change into our biking clothes in the restrooms. When we got to the restrooms, two men and a woman were sitting on park benches drinking beer. It was only 8:45 in the morning.

As we approached, one of them slurred, "Are you a cop?" I said, "No." "Are you a lawyer?" I said, "No," again. Once again, he asked, "Are you a politician?" I responded, "No. You'll never guess what I am." "What?" he asked. "I'm a pastor." "Oh, no! A pastor and here I am drinking!"

I went inside and changed my clothes. As I was changing I thought about what I would say to the trio just outside the door. When I came out, they were gone. It could be that they left due to genuine embarrassment. Or could it be that churches and pastors have developed a reputation that implies, "We don't associate with disreputable sinners and other scum?"

Have we diagnosed sin, but neglected the cure?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Eternal Flame

I was invited to do the invocation for the Memorial Day Observation and Medal of Honor Plaque Dedication at the Columbus Government Center at eight this morning. We gathered around the Eternal Flame Memorial. The mayor of Columbus was there, a Superior Court judge, former Congressman Jack T. Brinkley, and many other dignitaries. All branches of the Armed Forces were represented: men and women who served in WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf rose up early to gather and honor those who have died in service to our country. A specific honor was bestowed as well: a plaque in honor of the late Jackson Charles Pharris, a Columbus resident and Medal of Honor recipient.

All my life God has kept me connected to our military. I take great pride in the fact that my father turned 18 in a submarine in the Pacific. When I was young, my sister's classmate, Jimmy Chase, was killed in Vietnam. His death was the first wartime loss I personally experienced.

When I received my own marching orders, I was commissioned to do a church start in Northern Maine. Our congregation was consistently 30-40% Air Force personnel. Now, twenty-three years later, I minister in the shadow of Fort Benning. Many Regular Army and Army Rangers attend MBC. I have never met finer people.

The correlations between spiritual warfare and the actual battlefield are unmistakeable. Even though I never served my country in the U.S. military, it has always been my desire to wage spiritual battle with a burning passion. I even have a few scars.

Scanning the audience today, I saw men and women of varying ages, a reminder that every generation has to fight for freedom -- politically and spiritually. Winston McQuaig and his wife Freddye were there; they are members of the church I serve. Winston received a serious head wound in WW II. His scar is our reminder of the cost of freedom.

War leaves casualties. Spiritual warfare also leaves casualties.

I hope we never forget.

Friday, May 26, 2006

An Amazing Proposal?

Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach . . . Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, "Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth?" Mark 1:21-28

I don't think much has changed; demons still attend religious services. The spirits who lurk around centers of religion can be identified. How? Their message: Why are you interfering with us, Jesus? I will concede that demons are more civilized these days; they don't shout out their opposition to Christ. Or, it could be that there is no work of Christ worthy of their opposition. It appears that the demon possessed man in the synagogue went undetected until Jesus showed up. When He did, He commanded the demon to leave. The evil spirit did not want to leave the man or the synagogue. He kicked, screamed, and abused his victim all the way to the Pit.

Question? What about now? Are authentic believers, though not possessed, subtly oppressed? Could it be that rather than shouting, a sinister voice has replaced the voice of God? Has the majority of Christ's church settled into a mindset that asks, Why are you interfering with us, Jesus? Are you amazed at such a proposal? So were the synagogue attenders that day, Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. "What sort of new teaching is this . . . !"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wilderness

This messenger . . . was in the wilderness . . . The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. Mark 1:4, 12

I slept very little last night. Each time I awoke I prayed. I felt no panic in spite of a keen awareness that I was being oppressed (Yes, count me among those who believe the Evil one oppresses God's people). It was incredible how clearly I was able to see the tactics of the Evil one. I constantly leaned on my Redeemer as I prayed. He assured me that I would hear from Him before it was over.

Throughout the night God seemed to encourage me with these words, "Bill trust Me. I am going to give you something fresh." Long before daylight I quietly got out of bed and went to the kitchen table to read. Before I opened my Bible I asked God to direct my reading; as of late the gospel of Mark has been calling to me. I opened my Bible to Mark and began reading in chapter one, "This is the Good News . . ." I thought to myself "Good News! Here it comes!"

I read about John preaching in the wilderness. John was different . . . his message, his clothes, and his diet. He seemed so solitary, vulnerable, and out of place. I read on about how the Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. Jesus looked so solitary, vulnerable, and out of place. A sense of peace remained, but I was unable to discern what God had for me. "What is the connection?" I asked the Lord. I stopped reading and took my question with me on a bike ride.

Fulton Road is one of my favorites -- no traffic and miles of fences and horses -- like a picture book. As I rode I fought off the accusations of the Accuser and calmly listened for God's voice (Yes, count me among those who not only believe that we have a relentlessly oppressive Enemy but also believe that God speaks to His own). As I crested a hill, just like that, it came to me. I sensed God saying, "Bill you've been feeling isolated, vulnerable, and out of place, haven't you?"

"Yes Lord, I have."

Then the events I read in Mark's gospel began to connect, "This messenger . . . was in the wilderness . . . The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness." I had received the fresh news! God's voice encouraged me, "Yes Bill, you are in a wilderness, you are lonely, and you are vulnerable. You are feeling out of place. You are also my voice there. I am coming into the wilderness with you. Enjoy the Adventure!"

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Old Man And The Sea

Saturday night around 10:35 our daughter Meagan graduated from Columbus High School. The week leading up to the big day was busy: sports banquet, baccalaureate, shopping, and the senior dinner.

We were able to fly Meg's oldest brother Justin here from Massachusetts for the graduation ceremony, so our nuclear family was present. It seems impossible that the last of our children is taking another step toward independence. We are happy for Meg and proud of the fine woman she has become, but we have battled back tearful emotions regularly.

Meg has been receiving gifts from family and friends. Mom and Dad bought her a new MacBook for college. Justin, though, bought her a particularly touching gift. He and Meagan have always shared a special bond. In 1998, we were on vacation at our cabin in Maine. Meg was ten years old; Justin was seventeen. Justin had her read 10-15 pages a day of the book, The Old Man And The Sea. At the end of each day the two of them would sit down and Justin would ask her questions about the book.

Before he left to go back home, Justin bought a copy of the book, wrote a message to Meagan in the flyleaf, and wrapped it. He left it for her to open when she got home.

Yesterday Sandy, Meg, and I went to the Cannon Brew Pub for lunch. As you would assume, we started talking about and rehearsing the events of the past week. For me, the conversation was like listening to a book being read. Our little girl was turning the pages that have made up her life as a child. I am quite sure there will be more books written, but the one I was hearing was great.

After a while the conversation turned toward an actual book. Meagan told us about her gift from Justin, and she began to cry . . . and Mom cried . . . and then this old man was awash in a sea of tears.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Catch Up

Miss Meagan's CHS Blue Devils lost in the semi-finals of the state soccer tournament. Westminster put 2 balls in the back of the net. Columbus never found the back of the net. We have sighed a few times as we've thought about the fact that Meg's high school career has come to an end. Next stop is Georgia College and State University.

Our annual Men's Ministry fishing tournament was at Lake Martin on Saturday. Like Meg's Blue Devils, I put nothing in the net! That's correct. I fished for nine hours through wind, rain, a cold chill, and caught nothing (other than flack from my partners). I prayed for divine intervention, "Just show me where to cast my line. The fish doesn't have to have a coin in its mouth. I just need a fish!" Nothing.

Outside, the weather can't make up its mind -- first sun, then clouds, then rain. Inside it's been a quiet and contented Mom's day at the Shorey's. I left a message with my mom, napped for about 20 minutes, and then began this post. Sandy took a call from our son Justin, read for a bit, and is now taking a nap. Josh and Meg are chillin' in different parts of the house.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Priceless

I just finished watching The Parent Trap with my daughter, Meagan. Priceless!

Baccalaureate (Written by my bride)

We sat near the back in the outer section of the crowded high school auditorium this afternoon. The low rumble of voices quieted almost instantly when the pianist played his first melodious notes, high and sweet. We all stood as he began the familiar fanfare of "Pomp and Circumstance," and young ladies dressed in white drifted down the aisles to their places in the center section. Young men in dress shirts and ties followed, looking handsome and confident.

This was the Class of 2006 at Georgia's top-rated high school, Columbus High.

Our Meagan began her journey along those old and venerable halls four years ago. In a school full of high achievers, Meagan held her own.

We are proud of her accomplishments on the soccer field; her team faces the number one seed in the state semi-finals this Wednesday. She's a captain and the starting keeper. In the fall, she'll be playing for her college team on a scholarship.

We're also proud of her accomplishments as an artist. She's produced some incredible work all through her middle and high school years. She's especially good at ink-drawn characters.

She did well in academics too, especially in French and Anatomy & Physiology (I know...those two don't seem to go together. What can I say?)

What we're the most proud of, though, is that her class chose to recognize her as "Most Humorous." Why, do you ask, is that the best honor? Because Meagan is well-liked by all the students in her class. That says a lot about her interest in other people and her desire to be a good friend. Plus, a sense of humor makes all the other things a lot more fun. As the scripture says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine."

Our Meagan is Good Medicine.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

On To The Semi Finals!

Miss Meagan and her Blue Devils won a 3-0 shut-out against Oconee County High School! CHS dominated the entire game but didn't put the ball in the net until the final 10 minutes. Yasha Blount got it started with a breakaway and then quickly added two more goals.

Meagan was terrific. Her senior leadership was evident as she directed traffic during corner kicks. She handled everything that came her way and launched some punts that sailed deep into the opposition's end of the field.

Next up is the semi-final game against Westminster. If the Blue Devils get by the reigning State Champions (4 years running) it will be the upset of the tourney. The game is scheduled for next Wednesday at Kinnett Stadium. It will be our baby's final game or the final step to the State Championship game for the Columbus High Blue Devils.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Just Google Larry Sandvick

When it was time to leave Montana we boarded a plane for the first leg of our journey home. We would make a brief stopover in Colorado and then on to Atlanta. The flight was jam-packed; every seat was filled. Overhead storage was scarce, so I carefully wedged my new cowboy hat in whatever space was left. The woman across the aisle said to me, "Turn it upside down. If you don't it will ruin the brim." I immediately confessed to her, "Thanks, I am a cowboy wannabe." She just laughed and said, "I am married to a wild bronc rider. He is very particular about how a cowboy hat is handled."

We introduced ourselves. Lynn is the wife of Larry Sandvick, A.K.A The Wildman. Sure enough, he truly is a legendary bareback bronc rider. Lynn showed me his cards (similar to the baseball cards I used to collect) and gave me the website addresses of his sponsor and the pro rodeo circuit . Larry is the real deal -- no rhinestones on that cowboy! I learned enough about Larry to know that I already like him: He is an avid Louis L'Amour reader, tough as nails, and not overcivilized . . . just the way a man should be.

Lynn was on her way to Utah to spend a weekend with a girl friend and Larry was on his way to a rodeo. Before the flight was over my wife and I had an open invitation to the Sandvick's 27oo acre ranch. All we have to do is call!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman is booming. Some projections suggest the population will exceed the 100,000 people who live in Billings. To my knowledge, Bozeman has only one viable evangelical church. There are a number of cults that have already set up shop (Everyone of them had a nice, neat building).

We spent the good part of a day in that beautiful city surrounded by majestic mountains. I quizzed every person I met trying to get a feel for her inhabitants. One of the questions I continually asked was, "Which direction is the city growing?" The answer everytime was "Every direction!" I was amazed at how optimistically everyone looked toward the future.

As we drove through different parts of the city my mind churned constantly and my eyes searched, looking for possible locations for a church start. My view of the deck tells me that God is gathering a large group of people together so that He can bring them the message of His Son's redemption. God has many in that city He wants to save.

Somewhere God has or is calling a man to follow Him to Bozeman.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Wildlife and Grizzly Bar

The Montana landscape is breathtaking and beyond description. The Beartooth Mountains, the Pryors (home of the wild mustang), rolling hills, buttes, the Little Big Horn, and the Yellowstone River were a few of the sites we got to see.

If you are going anywhere in Montana, plan on doing lots of driving! It seemed like every town and village were separated by 30-50 miles. Driving in Montana is anything but boring; the landscape is constantly changing and wildlife are every where.

Here are some of God's creatures we saw: herds of Prong-horn antelope, a herd of twenty elk, hundreds of mule and whitetail deer. We saw gigantic sand hill cranes, porcupines, skunks, hawks, ring-necked pheasant, and geese.

We also saw thousands of horses and cattle. In spite of seeing myriads of horses, we only saw one person actually riding a horse. In one of the wide open pastures we saw a calf being born. We hoped to see the wildest of wildlife -- a grizzly bear. We did not. The next best thing, though, was eating at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe, Montana.