Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hell; NO!

I love my son, Jonathan. Like too many fathers and sons, we have not always gotten along as well as we would like, but we have both grown through the pains of the past. Our love and mutual respect for each other these days is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. He now lives a few hours away, so whenever he has the chance to spend some time at home, it brightens my calendar. Last weekend was one of those bright pleasures.

He reads this blog (hi son!) and stays in touch with as much of my preaching as he can, so he generally knows where I have my spiritual sights aimed. Saturday, he said he saw a t-shirt advertised in a catalog that made him think of my current, "No Name Sermon Series". The shirt says something like this; Religion is for people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there." Amen.

I have often said that too many people already live in hell on earth. For any thoughtful Christian to use that afterlife threat as a means to witness is just ludicrous to me. In fact, I have encountered quite a few people down through the years who have told me that they would prefer hell over heaven if going to heaven meant that they would have to hang out (forever!)with some of the Christians they know. But, more seriously, too many lives are already suffering hellish torture, right here, right now. Trying to scare people with more punishment is like offering a drowning man a glass of water.

Another side of this whole matter is that the most rich and real Christians I know are people who have been delivered out of their personal hell and into the Kingdom of Heaven, right here, right now. Hell? Been there, done that. Authentic Christian Spirituality? Ahhhhhh.....abundant dynamic, animated and thoroughly living!

Unfortunately, there are church people who still think that we have to get the word out about hell! "Turn or Burn!" Truly, it is the ultimate blackmail message for some folks. And when you look closely at them, you will see the worst that "religion" has to offer: judgementalism, bigotry and hatred for a world that "God so loved". The truth is, most of these sad-sacks are just plain scared to death, not just of hell, but of life and living.

Jesus had an altogether different message. He came proclaiming a Kingdom of Life full of Spiritual reality for those who were hungry and thirsty. In fact, He joyously made this offer to the poor, the broken hearted, the prisoner and the outcast as a right here, right now Life, that, as a bonus, would stretch out for eternity. The only thing that sounded like a "turn or burn" message that came from Jesus was for the pompous religious brood of His day. The same is true today.

Those of you who know me, know this quote; "RUN FROM RELIGION AND FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS!" Yet another t-shirt waiting to be sold....

Thank you Jonathan.....I love you, son.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I'm Dreaming....

With just a pinch of imagination, I can hear Bing crooning "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, on my biological iPod. The timeless popularity of this song is testament of the season's brimming capacity to inspire us to dream and I absolutely love it. But this season finds me already dreaming. Come take a short written walk with me and let me share some of my dreams.

I'm dreaming of families genuinely loving each other. Tenderly, forgiving each other day by day with little or no memory of past wrongs. Homes warm and alive with time for each other. I'm dreaming...

I'm dreaming of uncommon courtesies given and taken from stranger to stranger on highways, sidewalks, parking lots, stores, schools and businesses. People saying, "excuse me", "after you", I'm sorry; please forgive me", with all the authenticity imaginable. I'm dreaming...

I'm dreaming of hearing and saying, "Merry Christmas" without thinking of law suits, political correctness and the "war" on Christmas. I'm dreaming of "peace on earth, good will to all" and "joy to the world". Call me crazy, but aren't we ALL missing the point if we focus on our differences and sensitivities? I'm dreaming of fair play, thick skins, kind hearts, deference to those of difference, tolerance for minorities and longsuffering for the majority. I'm dreaming...

I'm dreaming of a church. Not my church or your church but the wider scope of the Body of Christ. I'm dreaming of that church loving each other profoundly and without without political persuasion or competition. I'm dreaming of that church loving the world the same way God loved the world and gave His only Son. I'm dreaming of that church, nationwide, celebrating Christmas so majestically, so purely, so thoroughly, so expansively that we hardly notice where we cannot celebrate Christmas.

I'm dreaming that some of you reading this are dreaming the same thing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Who is Scrooging Who Now?

Sometimes I wonder about me. Read on and maybe you too, will wonder about me.

Over the past several years we have all witnessed the battle lines drawn over the religious meaning of Christmas. I have been very bold in my own little way of celebrating Christmas in the face of the secular "Scrooges" who fight manger scenes on public property, Christmas Carols in public schools and merchants who establish inane policies about saying, "happy holidays" on one hand while they love lapping up the profits they make from "Christmas" sales. But this year something new has arrived on the battleground. And as disturbing as these other issues are, this new "Scrooge" is much more bothersome to me. Remember now, I wonder about me in all of this, too.

The new "Scrooge" is us. Yep, that's right, I believe we have become what we hate. In our effort to hold on to the meaning of Christmas, we have squeezed it so tight, I fear we are killing it. The most recent battle being fought for this season of "peace on earth" (oxymoron alert!), some of the "brethren" have taken the fight to court. Now, either I am having a mental breakdown of some kind, or this is just all wrong. "We" have decided to fight fire with fire, to live by the sword, "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead"; this is America, by golly, and "we" have a stinking legal right to "celebrate" Christmas!

Bear with me...I'm in pain here. When did our butter slip right off the bisquit?

An old newspaper cartoon entitled, "Pogo" had a famous one liner that I love to quote in moments like this; "We have met the enemy and he is us." Jesus made it abundantly clear that His Kingdom was not made of the political material of the kingdoms of human making. He said that if His Kingdom was made of that material, "...My servants would fight..." to prevent His arrest (John 18:36). Once "we" take up the sword of the legal fight on this front, "we" stand to be sliced to death by the sword.

Please don't miss the fact that I am truly disgusted by the political correctness police of our day. As I stated earlier, merchants who love the bottom line of Christmas sale's receipts are completely hypocritical to forbid their employees from saying, "Merry Christmas". My point is that if we take to the courts to win this cultural war (oxymoron warning) over "good will to all people", we are actually admitting defeat!

That's right, when we have to hold on to our cherished Christmas expressions in this manner, we have admitted that our faith is won and lost on the same basis as we win or lose a dispute over a parking ticket. I, for one, refuse to stand in that quicksand. Maybe I'm the crazy one, and if so, just leave me with the drool on my face.

One last thought. I saw Rev. Jerry Falwell on the news the other day defending Christmas celebrations and vowing to take this fight to every court in the land. He told the newscaster that "we" Christians of America were the majority and "we" intend to stand for our "rights". A still small Voice came up in my heart urging me to read Matthew 5:38-45. I won't quote it here, but I strongly suggest that you get a Bible out right now and read these words of the Christ of Christmas. His Kingdom prevails only when "we" members of that Kingdom live by and "fight" by the principles of that Kingdom. Not when we become like the very world we say is persecuting us. Brother Falwell does not represent me, or the drool on my face, thank you very much.

Please, have a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Renounce Religion! Seek Only the Kingdom of God!

Before I begin this blog, I need to thank our church cleaning person. She does a great job keeping up with our very over-used building, but that is not where I need to thank her the most today. I need to thank Penny Hagar because she inadvertantly pointed me to a book on my shelf with an of off-hand reference she made in an e-mail this morning. She was talking about the author, Dr. Myles Monroe and his recent teaching on the Kingdom of God. She said it reminded her of what I was preaching and teaching at church. That little comment refreshed my memory of his book that I had given to me as a gift about a year ago. I pulled it off the shelf, read the preface and danced around my office. I'll get around to reading the rest of the book this week.

Here is a taste of what set my feet to jumping; "The greatest threat to the future of the world is Religion. Nuclear weapons, terrorism, AIDS... are simply tools used by religion. More wars have been fought in the name of religion than any other influence. Millions have died over the past 2,000 years under the destructive hand of religious zeal. Misplaced and misguided religious passion has produced such historical scars as the Crusades, the Inquisition, ethnic cleansing, and the horror of the Holocaust." Why did I dance? Because I love confirmation of God's Word in my heart.

Jesus did not come to start a new religion. He did not come to take sides politically. HE CAME TO TAKE OVER! His Kingdom is what He is all about. Jesus' proposal to us about His Kingdom is so expansive, that He promised that if we seek the Kingdom first (to aim at, strive for in all our pursuits) that every need of our life will be met. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7; it's Constitution of King Jesus and His Kingdom. No religious trappings, no religious bigotry and no religious big-headedness here. We are to think of birds and grass and flowers as the basis of our life and living. Forget about religious appearances, think perfume, fish and trees. And when it comes to the art of "preaching" (a personal favorite of mine) think of an authority that bounces the heads of current religious power brokers.

So, if there is a religious bone in your body that keeps you from living in the Kingdom, REPENT NOW. Change your mind and join me in a wild dance into the Kingdom of God!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What if We All Just Started Loving God?

The egghead brainiac reading the title of this blog might ask, "Who is this lightweight author?" The warm fuzzy emotioniac might say, "O, yes! I feel that is soooo right!" The non-thinking, non-feeling average western Christian robotiac might read it and say, (in a monotone sound) "That's exactly what I am doing". But something, no.....SomeOne....inside me is crying out, "Hear, O Israel (the people of God's present chosing and calling; Romans 2:28,29), the Lord our God is One Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength....".

Loving God is no head trip, no warm fuzzy feeling trip and it is most certainly not an empty, passion-less, plain vanilla, pale, sterile, antiseptic, uninspiring, tranquilizing trip! At the risk of sounding obvious, it is about LOVE! You remember that thing called love don't you?

Unpredictiable, breath-taking, pulse pounding, mentally consuming, butterfly in your gut experience....LOVE. Sometimes maddening because your lover makes no sense but your inner connectedness to them is stronger than your need to "win". The motivation for poetry, songs, paintings, sculptures, carvings in trees-school desks-etc. The inspiration for novels. The reason Junior High boys take a shower. LOVE.

When did we lose the capacity to see that loving God came under these same catagories? Why do we put God last on our list of "falling in LOVE"? Who in our lives gets the love that is intended only for God? What mystery somebody are we chasing not knowing that when we find whoever "they" are, that we wasted our time chasing "them" and did not pour our love on the feet of God and then kiss those same feet in worship? What church would risk everything, and I do mean everything, to promote the all out, even reckless pursuit of just flat out LOVING God?

Well, the answer to the last point is; the church that I am shepherding here in Forest Wisconsin; Living Word Chapel. We might not do it perfectly, but the last time I looked, real love was not a science. In fact, the first time most of us "fell in love" and we asked some one to explain love to us, all we got was a goofy look in return.

I will do what I know to do to lead my flock to a passionate love for God. Why? Because religion is dead and church systems are failing. Calling people to an all out love for God is the only truth that will build the Kingdom of God and potentially create an authentic spirituality that is worth embracing. The church in America is dying for change, but just rearranging schedules or bringing in different worship styles is like giving a cadaver a flu shot. We must, TODAY, start LOVING GOD like there is no tomorrow. Like Saint Janis Joplin said, "When you hold somebody, you've got to hold them like its the last minute of your life, man".

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Weekend Nazi

Those of you who know me know that my hobby is acting. Down through the years I have played parts large and small in community theater, a small semi-professional stage and a wide variety of church dramas. I guess since I don't rock climb, parachute, hunt or anything else requiring some degree of non-work related risk, it is just my way of tempting fate. The difference is that in the other forms of risk-taking you stand a fair chance of physical injury or death. Most acting related hazards involve a bruised ego. Much less lethal but adrenalin inducing none-the-less.

Our church just finished a great run of an off broadway play called, "Smoke on the Mountain" and I played Burl Sanders. The character is a combination of Andy Griffith and Jed Clampett. I will spent several weeks trying to get rid of his 1930's southern accent (not to mention the songs I had to sing that are still renting space in my mind). Right after one of the productions, the lady who runs a local community theater came to me and told me that she needed an emergency favor. This week she is running a production of "Sound of Music" and the guy who played the main mean Nazi got a call to be in a movie out west and he bailed on her at the last minute. Could I please play the Nazi one week after playing Andy/Jed? The call of risk over rode my common sense. Last weekend, "ya'll come", this weekend, "HEIL HITLER".

Last night, at the one and only full practice I can attend before opening night tomorrow, I found myself hiding in a dark backstage corner, trying to read my prompts and getting ready to run across stage in my SS uniform chasing the missing Von Trapp family. Suddenly, I became aware of a tiny little red headed 7 year old hiding in another sub-staging about 10 feet away. She is playing the youngest Von Trapp. Well, the point is, when I could make out her sweet face I saw real terror looking back at me. That's when it hit me; I look scary in my jack booted, swastika decorated costume and she's getting ready to pretend to be "hiding" from the Nazi monsters that are soon to be stalking her.

I wanted to smile at her, or make a funny face, wave cutely, or anything to relieve her tension. But the moment was gone, my prompt came up, and I was off across the stage sounding like a German (from down south) yelling orders to find the Von Trapp family. This morning I can't get that frightened little face out of my mind. It was such a poingnant slice of time.

This might not be a profound blog, but I just needed some forum to "confess". I thought talking southern hick and singing old blue grass gospel music was haunting. Now, I'm really haunted! Sometime this weekend I NEED to find a moment with that little Von Trapp sweetheart and do what I can to make sure I don't become a permanent player in her inner stage of nightmares!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ned Flanders and Bishop Carlton Pearson

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had heard Bishop Carlton Pearson at a conference I attended in Atlanta. The setting was small and informal. He was asked to speak on the stir he has created of late when he says that, "God is not Christian". Not everyone in that room agreed with everything Bishop Pearson said, but I am certain that everyone in that room left the meeting knowing that a man of God had just challenged and blessed us. The good Bishop is saying some things that western Christianity needs to hear, even if, in the end result we still disagree. Truthfully, all he is really saying is that Christianity in 2005 has created a God in OUR image who gives us an excuse for hating the world, "God so loved...that He gave His only Son."

Another person I have heard recently is Homer Simpson's neighbor, Ned Flanders. He's not a preacher, in fact, he's not even real (and not just in the manner that some preachers and Christians aren't real); he's a cartoon character. But, he is the personification and compilation of what many outside observers have concluded to be a good picture of evangelical, fundementalist Christians. Homer once asked Ned where he had been and Ned's answer makes me hurt and giggle all at the same time: "We've been away to a Christian camp. We were learning how to be more judgemental."

Another speaker at the conference I referred to earlier said, "Jesus was crucified, not for what he said, but for what people said He said....and not much has changed 2005 years later." Sadly, the world is full of Ned Flanders and his flock who hear or see something on the surface and run to judgement faster than a speeding bullet. Ironically, it is for that very reason that the Holy Spirit is stirring Bishop Pearson to speak, so as to challenge what we have become.

I don't agree with everything that Bishop Pearson says, but I will tell you this much; I trust the Holy Spirit in him and in me to sort it all out and create more of the image of Christ in the Body of Christ, in the end result.

On a side note; last spring I had the wonderful opportunity to take my bride of 31 years on our first honeymoon to Jamaica. While there we attended a 2 day conference which included Bishop Pearson. I saw him a number of times back and forth on elevators, the hotel lobby and the beach. Now, I have been around preachers for more years than I have been married and I can smell pride and "fake" a mile away.... trust me when I tell you I have smelled all too much of that stench. But what I saw in Bishop Pearson was kindness, passion and REALITY, both on and off the stage. I hope that influence, and my own, helps to make the cartoon character, Ned Flanders, an obsolete image for my granddaughter's generation.

Bye, bye Ned.....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Saint Janis

I love Janis Joplin. Her voice, her spirit, her passion and her hippy (albeit stoned) wisdom. At the Canadian Festival Express at Calgary, July 4, 1970, she said, "Everybody in the world wants the same "@#!" thing. They need the same thing....I don't understand why half the world is still crying while the other half is still crying too, man. I can't get it together. If you've got to care for one day, man....maybe you want to care for 365 can't....You got it for ONE day and that day better be your life. Because you could cry about the other 364 days but you're gonna lose that ONE day. That's all you've got. You've got to call that love, man....when you hold somebody, you've got to hold them like it's the last minute of your life." In an interview about her singing style she once said, "If I hold back, I'm no good. I'd rather be good sometimes than holding back all the time." ......AMEN.

Every so often I like to listen to her CDs and imagine that she's leading worship. I close my eyes and try to envision a cool church service with her throwing down her version of "Revelation Song" or "Jesus, Holy and Anointed One". I believe God had a calling on her life for just that purpose. I believe that her talent was God's gift that was tragically stolen by the culture of her day and lost on a church that was asleep at the wheel.

Whether she knew or not, she was desparate for the God Who gifted her. Whether we knew or not, we were desparate for the gift of God that was in her. I totally identify with her when she said, "When I hold back, I'm no good. I'd rather be good sometimes than holding back all the time." I preach based on that ideal. When I hold back, I'm no good. It isn't easy, but it is truth, and truth was never supposed to be easy.

I often wonder how many gifts from God, like Janis, are thrown away by the church because we are too self-righteous, too self-satisfied and too judgemental to see their potential gifting. Someone I heard recently said, "Christians are saints AWARE of Grace. Sinners are Saints UNAWARE of Grace." The Apostle Paul said that he was chosen for his calling from his mother's womb. That being the case, he sure did some destructive and nasty things before he was changed by the power of God. And I know the church of his day sure looked at him sideways for a while......but aren't you glad they finally got over their fear and received the man of God and his gift?

Ironically, God's goodness changed my life in the late 60's. I played a rough but mean guitar with no other idea of music except rock, the blues and alittle (cough, choke, spit) country. When I came to Christ and His Church, I was naive enough to think that my guitar could come with me. So, me and my Gretsch guitar came to the orchestra rehearsal. I started wondering if the song we were practicing was called, "Turn it Down" because 14 people around me kept chanting that phrase. One night, right after rehearsal, after everyone was gone and the sanctuary was empty, I turned "it" back up to just enjoy myself. I was immediately startled by a shouting deacon at the back of the sanctuary who wanted me to know, "This isn't a honky-tonk....turn that down!"

From that time forward, my Gretsch spent too much time in a closet, but in spite of that and many other unfortunate experiences, I remained naive and continued to love God. I just can't help but wonder how many others took their guitars, voices and gifts from God back into the "honky-tonk" (what a lovely term) and possibly died premature deaths, just like Janis. So, I take her wisdom; "You got to care about ONE DAY, man. That day better be your could cry about the other 364 days, but you're gonna lose that ONE day."

I'll be preaching tonight and I promise you this one thing; I won't hold back. Oh, and I'll be playing my new Gretsch guitar tonight too. Heh, heh, heh....I just dare any deacon within 20 miles to tell me to turn it down....

Monday, October 31, 2005

Brother, Can You Spare A Million?

Before you read this, let me warn you. I'm mad. It's not righteous, holy, or indignant. I am plainly and simply...... ticked off. You have no idea how much I want to use stronger langauge but I will at least restrain myself at that most basic level. But that's where my restraint ends.

Corporate quarterly earning reports are filtering out into the media landscape. History has been made, records have been shattered and tens of billions of dollars have been banked for the past quarter. (that's 3 months or 12 weeks or approximately 84 days). The oil company giants are overwhelmed at the jackpot. They have blitzed previous earning records for any company in any business. At last estimate I think I tabulated that the big 4 or 5 of these pigs have an extra 33,000,000,000 in their vaults. That's billion folks. Not million, 33 BILLION just in the last quarter. Exxon, Shell, BP, Texaco. Fat, happy and still charging us $2.25 at the pump. If somebody doesn't ask some serious questions in a large and public arena somewhere, I'm going to be mad all over again.

We've been told that the hurricanes are the cause, that the limited refineries are the cause, that the evil Arabs are the cause and our unlimited consumption is the cause. Enough of the lies. The cause is unmitigated, unbridled, unmasked, unimaginable GREED. And not just garden variety greed, but a greed that jumped on the backs of hurricane ravaged victims on the coast and in central America. A greed that saw a historic opportunity to mug and rape hapless customers.

But, before you dismiss me as some raging preacher looking for a soapbox, let me educate you. I just hung up the phone from yet another family in our area that is about to be evicted from their tiny home because they have been pouring more and more money into their gas tank to get to a minimum wage job. I am the president of ministerial association that sponsers a food shelf, emergency fuel assistance, rental assistance and other small efforts to bridge life and death gaps that welfare and low end jobs do not cover. During this last quarter I have been watching and listening to the escalation of calls for help in our little corner of the world. Our food shelf is under seige. Thank God we have good resources and wonderful volunteers, but, our little assistance checkbook is almost completely drained.

And yes, I DID just hang up the phone from a weeping lady offering to do any kind of community service she can just to get an extra $100 for rent, today. Last week I pulled off a miracle (because of time and procedures) to get $10 of gas to a lady needing to get to the hospital for a potentially life saving treatment. The week before that I was called by a man who was in obvious emotional pain because he was embarrassed to ask for $10 of gas to get to work. When I also sent him to our food shelf, he was beside himself with gratitude.

I have answered calls like this for the better part of 30 years. I can smell fraud. Faking your need does not generally work with me. The people I am talking to lately are, for the most part, very painfully real. But while I am on the subject of smelling the stink of fraud, let me tell you that the stench of fraud is at at the gas pumps. These oil company CEO's are faking their need and as of right now, I have had it! Beginning today, I am going to find a way to contact these god-fathers and their underworld partners in crime and ask for a spare million for the ministerial account I represent. The people they have stolen from are in real pain and I need just ONE million of their last quarter ill-gotten billions to assist these weeping souls who are calling me. No administrative costs will come out of that, no office overhead....a straight million back into bellies and pockets of the people who have just been robbed over the last several weeks.

"Hey brother Exxon, brother Shell, brother Texaco and brother BP! Can you spare a million? I know life is real hard on you right now....all that money counting and searing of your conscience and all. But if you could spare a paltry million, maybe you could help stop the bleeding in a few genuinely needy families out here in fly over country. If it helps you make up your depraved mind, please know that a great deal of that million will go to $10 gas vouchers for people trying to make to their poverty level jobs and doctor appointments."

Did I mention that I'm mad?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Apocalypse WOW!

I am looking at an 11 x 17 full color brochure sent to me, my church and several members of my church. The cover shouts, "Apocalypse Now!....Coming October 23 to Menomonie, WI". Today is October 26th and unless every major news outlet has missed it, Menomonie is still there. Maybe the Apocalypse didn't know how to get there, took a right turn in Eau Claire and ended up in a farm field and wiped out some poor cow....utter devastation.

Now, I know that this slick (sick) brochure is advertising a program called "Apocalypse Now!" but the silly contradictions are too blatant to ignore. Like the teaser on the back that says, "Future Topics to be Announced!". Future?, What future?

Now.... let me describe the best contradiction of this ad. On the inside, centered among bizarre cartoons of strange multi-headed beasts and scary "Killer nations coming" subtitles, is a large font headline that reads, "Surviving the Terror", and just below that is a caption that says,"This prophecy seminar is presented in a relaxed atmosphere....come as you are and enjoy.....!" RELAXED?! ENJOY?! WOW! Indeed, "Apocalypse, WOW!"

This is a perfect illustration of why I am saying, "God is not Christian". He is not "Christian" in the form of this silliness. He is not "Christian" by the definitions offered by cartoon ads seeking to scare the pants off the average postal customer. The God of historic Christianity, the real, one and only God defies all slick brochure caricatures and is above our fictional fantasies.

I am offering myself as a voice in this brochure wilderness, crying out for those who have an ear to hear, "Let's rediscover God! Let's give God a chance to reshape, reform and renovate modern Christian 'spirituality' into something that shines forth the awe inspiring light of the face of Jesus Christ in our day and on our streets." Will you join me?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Book of Revelations

Before you skim over this entry to see if you are interested, take a look at the title. Look again.

See anything amiss? The Bible does not have a book in it called "Revelations". Somebody might say that I am being picky. That's OK. This is America; you have the right to be wrong. I am not being picky.....what I am is a shepherd watching over the flock by night and I have witnessed a sick wolf stalking the flock.

Skinny and mangy, but he is the most hazardous type of wolf to the sheep because he is a wolf of doctrinal purity and theological precision. He can quote 10 scriptures more quickly than you can say the Pledge of Allegiance. This wolf has intentionally misrepresented the character of God and the beauty of Jesus Christ with impunity on Christian TV and in Christian book sales. This wolf believes that the last book of the Bible is a spooky collection of revelations about the (scary organ music please) "end times".

The simplicity of the book of Revelation is found immediately in its opening verse; "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place." That simple statement has been mangled, twisted, abused, stretched, ignored and plural-ized. What if the book is not at all about any end of the world business? What if the book is not at all about a 7 year anger itch that God has buried in His nasty side? What if the word pictures, the mysterious images, the mystical portraits and the colors, numbers, scrolls, trumpets and symbols are just exactly what the first verse says? What if it is about Jesus Christ and things that have taken place and will always take place in human history?

The dear man who wrote Revelation, John, was a man of poetic eloquence and passion. He laid his head on the chest of Jesus at the last supper. He was a man of deep feelings who must have struggled mightily to find words and means to express the unimaginable things revealed to him.

God took a magnificent risk in trusting such a soul to write this book, but it was a necessary risk in order to paint the portrait that emerged. Now then, think of this book as the most majestic original word painting ever created.

It is not a collection of revelations. It is the depth, width, height and length of a Jesus most have never seen. It is an artist's view of history from the heavens. It is rich in metphors, symbols and word pictures that point to a Jesus Christ who must be rediscovered by the church.

I dare you who read this to completely shed yourself of the religious baggage you may taken on and join me in a passionate treasure hunt for the real, one and only Jesus Christ. I believe we have not yet seen and known the Real Jesus and I believe He can be found in the book of Revelation.

Oh, and remember that sick wolf roaming around the edge of the flock? When you have a true revelation of Jesus Christ, he is "left behind".

Saturday, October 08, 2005

God is Not Christian

Last week I attended a small conference in Atlanta where a man of God named Carlton Pearson said, "God is not Christian". Now, he got our attention as I hope I have your attention with that statement as my title. God is indeed, NOT Christian.

Before I tell you how wonderful that truth is, and before I take on any Narrow-sees (you know the Narrow-sees....they're folks like the Pharisees who hated Jesus and finally had to kill him for thinking and believing outside their narrow sight) let me introduce you to Bishop Pearson. He is a very well known singer, speaker and pastor who for years has been greatly loved in many pentecostal and charismatic circles. I heard him 25 years ago preach a beautiful sermon on "Shadrach, Meshach and a Big-Negro (Carlton is African American). But these days Bishop Pearson is not so loved by those same circles. He has gotten himself in trouble. He has stepped into the same territory that Jesus did in His 3 years of public ministry. The good Bishop is no longer satisfied with church and Christianity as it has become in 2005. The Holy Spirit has revealed a truth to this man of God, so threatening, so world shaking, so dangerous that one well known pentecostal leader has declared that he has ship wreaked his ministry. What is that truth? God is not ticked off. God loves everyone. God is not seeking new and creative ways to kill people who displease Him. God's wrath is satisfied in the Cross. God does not need anger management counseling. He loves the world and everyone on it. His mercy is severe.

Get down off that table and stop throwing things at me long enough to think....think deeply....I know some of you haven't done that in a while, but give it a try. Ready? Well, ready or not, here we go.

American evangelical/fundementalist Christians have gotten so narrow in our sight (remember the Narrow-sees?) that we have intentionally produced a god in our own image. We are too frightened to let Him produce us in His image because if He does, we might have to let go of our secret desire to enjoy hurricanes that "judge" New Orleans and earthquakes that mangle school children in Pakistan.

God told Moses that His Name was (and IS) "I AM". He is independent. He is God, all by Himself. He does not need our approval, vote, direction or counsel on who should be judged. God is not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Buddist or Hindu. When Joshua saw a human image of Him he asked if He was on "their side" or "our side". God giggled and shot back, "Neither. I'm on My own side."

It's time for a New God. One Who is not really new, but One Who has been "above" us, not shaped by our prejudices and ignorances. A shocking God. A God untamed and out of the cage we created to protect ourselves from His consuming fire of His Big Bad Self. It's time for an extreme make-over of the God Who "AM"!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Spiritual Fatherhood

"For though you might have 10,000 instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." (I Corinthians 4:15)

About 6 years ago I ran across a book written by Dr. Mark Hanby called, "You Have Not Many Fathers". When I read it then I knew the truths of that book had been and always would be an integral part of my life and calling. With every passing year since then, that awareness just gets stronger. What is the essence of this book, you ask? For me its most basic essence is this; as a pastor I can opt for the clean, easy, passionless, "professional", patronizing, pitiful, minimal, hireling, lazy path of "ministering" to people or I could take up a cross, die daily and be a father in the Spirit to those I have begotten through the gospel. I have chosen the latter.

It hurts and it is exhausting but if I want people to hear the words I speak and take them to be the very words of God which will work in them to set them free, I must be a father and not just "live-in" boyfriend. This is the basis of ministry that the Apostle Paul chose and described in I Thessalonians 2:1-20, " recall our hardship, how working night and day....we proclaimed to you the gospel of we exhorted...each one of you as a father would his own children... and for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the Word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God...".

A few days ago, I looked into the empty eyes of a young man and wondered, "Where is this boy's father?" And then another thought struck me like a lightning bolt, "Is there a Spiritual Father in this boy's life?" While I am not at liberty to describe the remainder of that encounter, I can tell you that it occurs to me that the Ameican church has gleefully infant baptized, confirmed, lead 'em to the altar to "get saved", had 'em sign cards, promised 'em heaven when they die and left hundreds of thousands of spiritual babies left without spiritual fathers to raise them to maturity, perfection in Christ and full spiritual potential. Why? Because fatherhood is hard work.

Pardon me while I weep.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Power to the People at the Pump

The free market system of America works in a far reaching, complex, yet amazingly effective way. It's called the law of supply and demand. I won't take the time here to define it; Google it, or look it up in a high school social studies book. Today's high prices at the pump reflect, in part, the sky-rocketing demand of our market and the bloating demand in China where everyday citizens are discovering the miracle of the internal combustion engine by the tens of thousands every week.

The oil producers, domestic and foriegn, simply see that the demand is pushing the supply and the demand shows no sign in slowing down. 2 plus 2 for them equals setting the price for a barrel of oil at whatever they deem reasonable. If the demand shows no sign of diminishing, they will smile and add another dollar to the price of their barrel. If the demand effectively and steadily slows down, they will frown, hold and or drop the price of that precious barrel of oil.

For me, the message of the Kingdom of God makes everything, and I do mean everything, spiritual in nature. Even the price of gas. And since it is, a pastor ought to speak something from the heart of God to this issue. Some pastors won't and since this is America, they have the right to be wrong. I, however, will not be silent.

I am calling on anyone and everyone who will listen to join me in sending a simple and strong message to the oil companies. DO NOT BUY GASOLINE ON SUNDAYS. I'm a dreamer, and in my dream I ask, what if millions and millions of people all across the nation just simply stopped buying gas on Sundays. One day of demand evaporates from the balance sheet by the millions of gallons. Sound interesting to you? What have you got to lose? Let's try...........let's see those fists raised in the air and shout, "Power to the people at the pump".

Saturday, September 03, 2005

For God So Loved New Orleans He Sent His Son, Not a Hurricane

Whenever human suffering reaches the level of what we are all witnessing on the Gulf Coast I am brought again to the reason I am called to be the pastor/teacher/spiritual father that I am called to be. These events bring out the best and the worst of everyone involved and these events nearly always bring out the Christian obsession with the notion that this must be the judgement of God.

The Christian and Church "mind" of 2005 is in desparate need of being renewed by the power of the Word of God. I can think of no better example of this need for renewal than to read again the most basic of Sunday School scriptures (not to mention the most advertised scripture at televised sports venues); John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotton Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Hold on now, some of you did not even bother to read my quote of this familiar passage. You breezed over it. If so, stop now and read it slowly and drink in the potential revelation. In fact, it would be helpful to pull out your favorite Bible and open to that famous chapter because I want to draw you in to the message of the Kingdom of God inherent in these Words.

Before I do that, however, lets review the events of the past week. Hurricane Katrina has unleashed an unparalleled fury on the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Lousiana. New Orleans in particular has suffered in an, as of yet, unmeasured manner. Having visited all these places first hand and now looking at the pictures flooding the airways, I am, as most viewers, stunned by the magnitude of the damage. Senator Trent Lott, who lost his home in Mississippi, said it well, "My home has survived 150 years of the worst of Mother Nature's fury. But this was the storm it could not survive."

At the risk of drawing on a cliche I beg of you reading this, "What would Jesus do?" Well, if He was not personally present to raise the dead and heal the sick He would most certainly be beset by questions by His followers and curiousity seekers. Questions like, "Who sinned that this tragedy should be put upon these people?" (John 9:2). His answer? "This has nothing to do with sin, but it has to do with the potential of the works of the Kingdom of God being brought to bear on the situation." (John 9:3).

I am amazed at how quickly and easily some evangelical Christians swerve away from the Spirit of Christ and immediately lay their template of God's "end-time" ticked off nature on these historic moments of massive human suffering. I have already heard with my ears and I can sense in my spirit, the eagar teaching and reaching to put this horrible time into the hands of God's judgement, especially on "sin-city", New Orleans.

I wish I had 10,000 billboards, 1000 newspaper headlines, 500 radio stations, 250 television programs to shout to the world, "God's love over-rides His reported 'need' to kill and destroy." Any Christian, whether they are everyday people or extravegant end-times theorists who imply that God intentionally did this to 'get our attention', is sadly and tragically dysfunctional at best and massively deceived and deceitful at worst.

To be as simple and to the point as I can, part of the reason for the scope of this hurricane's fury is the fact that we have for scores of years, built and populated areas prone to hurricanes. When I visited New Orleans five years ago, a horse and buggy tour guide flatly told us that his beloved city was built below sea-level and if a catagory 4 hurricane ever hit the Big Easy, they were finished. Why does this need to be stated? Because too many people are missing this simple fact. As surely as my life is severly impacted every January by ear stinging, toe numbing cold, and that every year many vulnerable people in Wisconsin die of exposure and sickness due to the severe winters, so living on the Gulf Coast in Hurricane season is risky. Harsh reality? Yes! God's judgement in "these end-times"? NO!!!!!!

Why am I passionate about this? Because for too long too many other voices have dominated the spiritual environment and an evil assumption about the character of my Father in Heaven has
been spread. It is time for someone to have the billboards, articles and media that I mentioned earlier to set the record RIGHT.

Go back to John 3:16, read it again, and now drop down to the next verse; "For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him." I am not so naive as to miss the reality that humans have a miserable ability to behave like animals. But what has to happen in the focus and mind set of the Christian is a revelation of the complete, unrestrained, passionate, all-consuming love of God to reclaim, restore, rebuild and completely heal the human condition through the actions of His Son, His Kingship and the expression of His Kingdom coming through the annointed, Spirit empowered people of God in the Church.

We must be about announcing the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom of God, not the sick and anemic bad news of the end of the world and God's need to let off a little steam by murdering vulnerable coastal dwellers. If you join me in this passion, then please do 2 things: 1st, contact Samaritan's Purse at or the Salvation Army at to contribute any amount, great or small. 2nd, do what you can to silence and replace and all "Christian" voices who gleefully and ignorantly assign this misery as God's judgement for the end-times. Let me hear from you if you join me in this passion.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Great Escape!

This blog is committed to the notion that I will speak clearly those things that I know that God has revealed in my life and heart. One of the pillars of God's revelation to me is the message of the Kingdom of God: Christ rules and reigns in the Heavenlies, we are presently seated with Him far above every name on earth, under the earth, above the earth, past, present and future. He calls His church, the Bride, to spread the Good News that His Kingdom is now in place, it transcends every geographic, political and human boundry. One day, when His bride has matured, speaking and demonstrating the Good News of the Kingdom of God, He will physically return, not to BECOME the King of kings, but AS the King of kings.

As I am sure you know, there is "another gospel" out there. I saw it with my eyes on Christian TV yesterday. Every so often I surf the wasteland of satelite TV with a pause or two on another wasteland, Christian programing. Filling the screen yesterday, I saw in full detail the apt description of what I believe is braking the heart of God and draining Christianity of of its power and potential in this day and hour. The preacher's chart was headlined in gigantic muliplied footage with the words, "The Great Escape". Part of me was relieved, because, in part, finally the truth of this doctrinal virus is spelled out....escapism. Turn the world and it's unworthy inhabitants over to the devil and a furious God, but get me out of here via the rapture, a.s.a.p.

Before I go on, let me be very clear about one thing: for me this is not about picking at points of doctrine and belief systems for the sake of a glorious "religious" debate. Most of you out there are sick of that, I am sick of that and a watching, waiting world outside the church is plenty sick of that. My passion is to ensure that a believer's "root system" is drawing nutrition from healthy life giving Truth so that the fruit we bear is the attractive, life giving, nation healing fruit that God intended it to be. Now, back to the cartoonish chart with the admission of escaping the responsibility that God gave us as far back as the Garden of Eden.

This preacher's premise is an exact copy of the premise built by his mentors of dispensational escapism:
Premise #1,2,3,4,5, etc: God needs a series of anger management counseling sessions. Wrath is coming. Mind you, no ordinary wrath, but a once and for all wrath that unleashes God's pent up disgust for human-kind. We are talking planetary devastation. This point, for these people can not be over stated. Why? Because it creates the absolute necessity for the rapture to pull us (ie; all who believe in the rapture) out before God reveals the nasty side of His true nature.

If you do not see why I call this a "virus", let me help you. Isaiah 53:11 is healthy spiritual soil for roots to draw life giving power; "As a result of the anguish of His (Jesus) soul, He (God) will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities". Simply put, God's "need" for wrath has been SATISFIED by the offering of His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that there are lesser levels of judgement coming and I know that there are other smaller issues of God's wrath to be resolved. But if we say that the Cross is the center point of God's will and if we say that Jesus took the sin of the world upon Himself and if we say that God made Jesus who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf and triumphed over sin in the Cross, then why oh why is God STILL so angry and in need of flushing the planet? That kind of thinking is a virus because it infects a Christian's mind set and world view as ultimately destructive toward the world that God so loved that He gave His only Son!!!!

It is also a virus because it pits an end-time conspiracy fantasy against the very Words of Jesus when He prayed, "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." The Words of Christ's prayer keep me in a world view of redemption, restoration and healing for all.....NO MATTER WHAT! We must never allow our disgust for the behaviors of some people in our culture to drive us toward a cynical, angry, viscious view of "wrath to come", and an escape for us. Worse than false doctrine, this is love-less and contrary to the character of God.

One more thought for this posting. I apologize for being so long. With the sum total of the ability of the nations of the world to launch nuclear weapons which could explode the earth three times over....should we be recklessly misrepresenting God as a disgusted old man climbing a cosmic clock tower with 22,ooo nuclear bombs in His backpack? (this is the approximate number of nuclear bombs in the hands of all nuclear nations). Besides, and most importantly, being untrue to historic and Biblical integrity, am I the only person who sees this as just plain irresponsible?

Is this Vengence-filled Deity the God you see in the Gospels? Who, by the way, taught His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of the NATIONS? Or, has God brought us all to the Kingdom for such a time as this (read the book of Esther in this light!!) to represent His true character of redemption, restoration and healing through the Good News of the Kingdom of God to such a degree that the nations of the world turn their missles into farm tractors (Micah 4:3)? You may call me a dreamer, but I am not the only one. I hope some day you will join us and the world will be WON to the True Christ of God!! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Glory of God IS Covering the Earth

We have just completed another Wednesday night service at the church that I pastor. Once again, the Spirit of the Living God has dumped Himself all over us. The presence of God is taking over our gatherings and is doing in us something beyond anything we could have asked or thought.

When Israel complained that they could not conquer the promised land due to the "giants", God rebuked their unbelief by telling them that one, all the earth would be covered with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. The implications are clear. After telling Israel to go into the Land, and after suffering their unbelieving disobedience, God jumped centuries forward forward to tell of a day when a people somewhere, would believe Him for conquering the world by setting forth the glory of God to cover the earth.

I have offered our little out of the way, middle of nowhere church to be a place where that glory can pour out through us. I do not know if any one else is doing that....quite possibly they are....but if they are not and God is looking for a place... then I am offering us. I truly hope that others are, but just in case God needs someone, somewhere to start this glory volcanoe.....well.....for what it is worth.... here we are.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Who Wants to be a Millionare Part 2

I'm finally back. If you have not read last week's entry you need to do so before picking up at this point.

The stand in the car dealership parking lot proved to be the reason I was at the audition. As stated in the last blog post, I spent the day conversing with a successful CEO who is not impressed with current evangelical Christian thought about leaving the earth behind to be microwaved in a nuclear fit of human stupidity. Imagine my pleasure at hearing his view from the "outside".

What a delight it was for me to share with this intelligent man, that as an evangelical pastor, I agreed with his basic frustration. His eyes almost rolled back in his head when I told him that from my pastoral perspective, the "Left Behind" mentality is draining modern Christianity of it's power, potential and perspective. I took note that as we talked, several bystanders were cueing in, shaking their heads in agreement. One sweet elderly lady, a school teacher whose husband is slowly dying from a lifetime of smoking, thanked me for what she heard.

Think about it for a moment....these are people that some evangelicals are secretly taking delight in the notion that they will be left behind at any moment to face God's nuclear fury. So, you say, we should quickly evangelise them so that they won't be "left behind". And I say, what a pathetic, anemic, sad and shallow motivation for longing to lead people to the God I love. I take one of my basic stands in my spiritual life on Zechariah 8:23 which says, "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man saying, 'Take me with you, for we have heard that God is with you'".

Romans 2:28, 29 says, "For he is not a Jew is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." So as I take my heart to God, in faith in the finished work of Christ and He circumsizes my heart, I am a member of spiritual Israel. Ephesians 2:19-22 shouts this truth! My goals are out of not some kind of fear motivated, shame based, judgement longing exercise! I am motivated by the calling to have God so near, so real, so tangible in my life that ten people grab me and beg for the reality of the God I live with and richly enjoy.

So, return with me to the audition waiting line. This CEO is convinced he can "pigeon hole" me as a "Left Behind" narrow minded bigot. But what he finds is a pastor whose theology is rooted in historic, orthodox Christian history and not in the pop-theology of million copy sales receipts. I told him that the Garden of Eden is rooted in the full intentions of God for the planet and the human race. I told him that my daughter and son-in-law are so impassioned by this integrity of Biblical truth, that they have named their first child, Eden. And what was his response? "I did not know that such a church or a faith existed in Christianity."

What is my conclusion? That for all of our "seeker sensitivity" programing and all of our efforts to make the church "relevant", we are missing whole and gigantic chunks of our society by avoiding the truths that Jesus came teaching and announcing.....the Kingdom of God is at hand! As a result, lives are changing from disease, doubt, fear and loothing into leaping, sighted, hearing hope-filled joy!!!!

Who wants to be a millionare? Me, so that I can finance the aforementioned announcement of the Kingdom of God reality available to anyone with a spiritual hand eager to grasp it.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Who Wants to be a Millionare?

Me, that's who. So, I went to Lakeview, Minnesota on my day off to audition for the game show. I think I have seen the show twice but both times I yelled at the people competing for being....... hmm........not smart. Anyway, my wife and daughter convinced me that I should put my brains on the line and stop yelling at the TV. The auditions started at 9am.

I stood in the sun at a car dealership for 4 hours to take 2 ten minutes tests, 30 questions each, ACT style. The tests were simple, however, I knew there was a trick to this whole matter when the producer who introduced the testing said, "It is our policy to never announce what your test scores are and that we have our own model for what constitutes a satisfactory score for being invited to participate in our game show". Translation = We are looking for people who don't drool when they think but we are not looking for people who are can answer all of our trivia questions. That way we can create the drama of contestants who need to call lifelines, ask the audience, etc. I suspect that the test scores have to come in at about 85% to 92% to be considered a winner. I did not win.

I don't think I missed that many questions, but I really don't care. My day was made with a 2 to 3 hour conversation I had with a CEO of multi-city company who was standing in line with me. When he found out I was a pastor, his first question was, "So, are you part of the 'Left Behind' **** crowd?" Wow! I could not ask for a better lead. I asserted that I had enough integrity of soul to refuse to buy in to those fantasies sold as theology in story form......I am out of time for now......I'll finish this later this week. (Check out my profile; especially the answer to my pro wrestling finish manuever).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm back for a second posting. I don't have much time today, but I do sense a need to stay at this project if for no other reason but my own discipline.

I have heard it said that when the church stops transforming lives, we will substitute transformation with information. When we lack the power to transform lives, we seek to placate our conscience by informing lives. Sad.....especially when the promise of Christ is abundant life as contrasted with decaying life (John 10:10).

I think another substitution we make is offering "heaven" when you die. That way we convince ourselves that we've done something. Problem is, it does not come close to the reality of what Christ did. Blind people could see. Deaf people could hear. The lame walked. While I believe in the present day work of healing, I don't think it is exclusive to the physical. What about blind minds, deaf emotions, lame living? The difference is where we base our faith. Jesus clearly said, "heal the sick....and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you.'" (Luke 10:9).

When we base our faith in "Receive Jesus! when you die you'll go to heaven!" any life changing that happens is in spite of us and our ignorance. But when we base our faith in, "Confess Jesus Christ as Lord and let His Kingdom order and power change everything about you into an abundant way of living." then heaven is the bonus, not the goal.

Get it?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my new Blog site. My name is Randy Dean and I am pastor of Living Word Chapel in Forest, Wisconsin. I love to tell people that I pastor a church of 200 in a town of 15; We've reached our city for Jesus, now we're coming after yours! Seriously, it is a pleasure to serve God in this beautiful setting. We are an hour from the heart of the Twin Cities which gives us the best of all worlds...quiet country living and great dining, entertainment and shopping just up the road.

My reason for posting this new blog in the vast wasteland of blogging is to take advantage of every tool at my disposal to put out the Word of God in my heart. That Word finds its root and anchor in the good news of the Kingdom of God. Not a message of hopeless "end of the world" fantasy, not a message of "when you die you go to heaven", not a message of "any minute now, the church will disappear and let all hell brake out", not a message of "God wants to blow the earth to tiny bits".....But a message of "Thy Kingdom come! Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

When I speak at youth conferences or any other venue, my altar calls are not "tonight if you die, will you go to heaven or hell?" MY call is, "If you LIVE another day, are you living in heaven or hell?" I follow that up by saying that everyday, in every decision we make, we set our eternal destiny. If my choices are hellish and reckless, then by extension, when I die, hell is waiting for me. But if by the grace of God, in this life, I chose the Kingdom of God, where Jesus Christ is already Lord of lords and King of kings, then by extension, the Kingdom of God (and Heaven) are waiting for me when I die.

I also add to any call to salvation that I want all heads UP and all eyes OPEN. I ask, "Is there anyone here who has never publically declared for their life, that Jesus Christ is Lord? Are you willing to keep on living, die to yourself and believe in your heart that resurrection power is yours, for life NOW, come forward in the view of everyone here." That way, I believe, we give spiritual birth to warriors not cowards who come or confess in secret.

This is just a small slice of the call of God on my life. I have been in ministry for 33 years serving in Texas, Ohio and now western Wisconsin for the past 17 years. God has taken me to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tallin Estonia, Helsinke Finland, Krivoy Rog Ukraine, Valles Mexico, Saltillo Mexico and countless cities, burgs and "middles of nowhere" here in the states. This blog may or may not be an ongoing expression of God's gifting to me. We will see where it takes us. Stay tuned....if you are hungry for Truth that might slay sacred cows, check back at this site. If sacred cows are happy to pasture with you and lead you to their anemic pastures, this site will outrage you.

A great man of God, Ern Baxter, once said, "I do not seek to offend you, but if offended you must be, then I am your man." So say I.