Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rev. Gaius Thede

"The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth... I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
(3 John 1, 4)

Every time I read 3 John 1, and I see the name "Gaius," it brings warm feelings in me... reminding me of the beloved campus minister that helped shape my life (and calling as a pastor) at the University of Hawaii - Manoa.  Rev. Gaius Thede was his name.  He's since finished his course of faith, but his witness and influence live on... both in my life and in the lives of many others.

Gaius taught me a number of things that I still hold on to tightly...
  • God is often found in asking good questions... even more than in giving the "right" answers.  He wasn't afraid to ask good questions of God, the church, and us.  It gave me permission to ask bold questions as I developed my own faith.
  • You're never too old for God to teach you something new... Back in the late 1980's (when I was in college), I remember that we wrestled together with the issue of homosexuality and the church - decades before it became a popular topic of discussion.  Gaius, who came from a fairly conservative theological tradition, was open to believing that God might indeed be wanting to teach him something new!  What a gift for me to witness.
  • The world is am amazing place - get out and see it... Every summer, Gaius & his wife, Ann, would take college students on an epic bus trip (using Bob Dylan's old tour bus!).  I was blessed to go one summer, myself.  The trip I went on was 3 weeks in California (including 10 days camping in Yosemite!).  Amazing.  Many students were able to see the country on a relatively cheap budget... with two amazing leaders!
  • Ministry is all about relationships... Gaius excelled at this.  He went out of his way to get to know the students who were a part of Wesley Foundation.  He invested himself in our lives.  He was genuinely interested in us, and in the things we were interested about.  Despite the fact that Wesley had cheap parking, Gaius was the driving force behind why people came to Wesley!
  • Community is where it's at...  Friday nights at Wesley Foundation were amazing!  Volleyball, dinner, talking story, music & some kind of program happened every week.  Alumni came to hang out with us, long after they'd finished their college studies.  The Friday night experience was really all about being around people who truly cared for & loved one another - even more than any program or content.  This is "the church" at our best!

I know that Gaius would be pleased with so many of us who knew him "walking in the truth" that he helped teach & model for us.  Thanks be to God for the saints, like Gaius, who have gone before!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Resistance is Futile!"

"And to this people you shall say: Thus says the LORD: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.  Those who stay in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but those who go out and surrender to the Chaldeans, who are besieging you, shall live and have their lives as a prize for war."
(Jeremiah 21:8-9)

In STAR TREK lore, whenever the Borg communicated with some entity/ship/race that they came up against, they always ended the transmission with: "resistance is futile!"  Was it a claim of hubris... or words of wisdom & prudence?  (Well, the Borg usually backed up that claim, so it was prudence!)

The prophet Jeremiah has a difficult message to proclaim to the people of Israel: 1) They're about to be attacked by the Chaldeans, 2) Resistance is futile!  Well, they can choose to resist if they want.  But God will not save them.  In fact, they'll die.  God wants them to surrender & go willingly into exile.

Such a hard message to hear.  Even for us today. We're taught to "stand up for ourselves," to "never give up," and to "fight the good fight."  But not here.  Not for Jeremiah.  God wants the Israelites to humbly submit and go into exile.  Why?  Well, God knew that they couldn't keep living the way they were.  They needed change.  BIG TIME!  They had a lot of character work that God needed to do in their lives.  Exile was needed.  Not resistance. 

Sometimes God needs us to submit - even to something that seems "wrong" at the time - so we can truly be changed.  Resistance is futile.  But God is faithful.

The right time

[From 10/21/14]

"But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the LORD one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.  The LORD Is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance."
(2 Peter 3:8-9)

"I just need a little more time," we often say.  To finish a project... or get the housework done... or to read that book we've been wanting to... or to do any number of things.  Call it a busy lifestyle... or too many interests... or heck, maybe even poor time management.  But we've all been there, right?

Then author of 2 Peter reminds us that God works on a completely different time schedule.  God created time.  He has all the time in the world.  Literally.  The author of 2 Peter reminds us that to God, one day is like 1,000 years (and vice versa).  Does that mean that time doesn't matter to Him?  I don't' think so.  I think it means God sees the bigger picture!  God has patience.  God's ultimate goal is for ALL of us to come into a relationship with Him.  God won't coerce it.  He wants our willing hearts.  So God can wait for the right time.  Not our right time.  His right time.  May we wait for that, too!

It's not really about wine

[From 10/20/14]

"But I myself have spoken to you persistently, and you have not obeyed me."
(Jeremiah 35:14)

The prophet Jeremiah was the master of object lessons.  One time God called him to be a bartender at a party with the Rechabites (chapter 35).  The Rechabites traded their origins back to Jonadab ben Rechab, who didn't like the way his fellow Israelites started adopting the cultural practices of the neighboring Canaanites (including their propensity to get rip-roaring drunk & act foolish!).  So he decided not to ever own a vineyard (and, of course, not to ever drink wine).  He descendants (& followers) did the same.

So you can imagine what kind of success Jeremiah had when he tried serving drinks to the Rechabites!?!  They politely (but firmly) refused.  They even explained WHY they were refusing.  Then Jeremiah, spurred on by God, asked the Israelites why they couldn't be more like the Rechabites!?!?  "They've done a great job of following a simple command," says God.  "But I've been trying to get you to follow my commands for centuries, and you still IGNORE me!!!"  (ouch!)

We have our own habits & tendencies that we "religiously" follow, don't we?  Friday night = pizza night.  Tailgating before a football game.  Washing hands before dinner, etc.  But do we follow God's call for compassion, justice & faithfulness in our own daily walk?  How quick we are to keep traditions that we want, yet miss the really big stuff God calls us to.  (ouch.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Don't get me started...

"Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind."
(1 Peter 3:8)

One of the more controversial passages int he Bible today is the beginning of 1 Peter 3.  It calls for wives to "accept the authority" of their husbands (KJV "be submissive").  Unfortunately, that verse, over time, has been misused & abused to justify all kinds of unhealthy (and inappropriate) behavior towards women by their husbands.

I don't really want to get into social/ethical debate over it.  Or even a theological debate.  I seriously don't.

The writer than addresses husbands (v.7-9), calling them to "show consideration" to their wives, and to "honor them."  Which is a good step, but then it's kinda ruined by calling women the "weaker sex."  I know many women who are a whole lot stronger (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally) than many men.  So I'll also leave that passage alone.

What caught my attention this morning, however, was verse 8.  The author calls BOTH men & women to have unity (spiritually), sympathy, love, tenderness, and humility.  As they say in the south, "THAT'LL PREACH!"  This is wonderful advice for everyone: men/women, married/single, young/old.  So don't get me started on the controversial (and obviously antiquated) passages of 1 Peter 3.  Instead, focus on the true "gold."  Focus on how ALL OF US should be treating each other.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


"...You shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give... You shall no more be termed, 'Forsaken,' and your land shall no more be termed, 'Desolate'... but you shall be called 'My Delight Is In Her,' and your land, 'Married.'"
(Isaiah 62:3,4)

Names are powerful things.  We're all given a name at our birth (or very soon thereafter).  Sometimes that has genealogical significance.  We are named after beloved family members of the past.  Other times our parents name us with a future in mind (our son, Ezra's middle name, Tadao, means "faithful man" in Japanese).  Then we sometimes acquire names as we move through life.  Nicknames.  Pet names.  Terms of affection.  Sometimes these are funny, encouraging, or situational.  Other times they're a bit more painful (we humans can often be mean & cruel to others).

Isaiah understands the power of names.  The people of Israel had developed a painful nickname: "Forsaken."  It seemed like God had abandoned them.  Their land, once affectionately known as "The Promised Land," was now deemed "Desolate."  But God was ready to change all that!  Israel would soon, by God's grace garner a new name: "My Delight Is In Her."  The land would be known as "Married."

I think this is a word we ALL need to hear from time to time.  When we think we've been forsaken by God (or others)... Isaiah 62 blows through our souls, reminding us that God's delight is in US!  We are not forsaken, no matter how it may seem to us.  Take heart, my friends.  Have courage.  God loves us & delights in us.  What a blessing.

(A BIG 'but'...)

[From Sept. 30, 2014]

"See, the LORD's hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  Rather, your inquiries have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he does not hear."
(Isaiah 59:1-2)

"The LORD Is merciful & gracious, slow to anger & abounding in steadfast love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us."
(Psalm 103:8-12)

These two passages were part of my daily devotional reading today.  The first reminds me that God CAN save and help us through anything.  God's hand is not too short to reach us!  BUT (and this is a big 'but'!) our actions/sins play a big role in the effectiveness of our prayers.  WE can't just live however we want and expect God to bail us out whenever we call.  Our actions have definite ramifications - both in the physical realm and in the spiritual realm.

And yet... Psalm 103 reminds met hat my sins don't trump God's grace and mercy.  He does not give us what we deserve.  He is gracious & merciful and he willingly takes our sins away from us (as far as the east is from the west... I love that phrase!).  The key, I think, is acknowledging our sins... and having a humble heart.  God will forgive.  God will cleanse.  If only we'll let him.