Mike Cope's blog

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The perfect bumper sticker for a day on which I preached on love and yet felt irritable: Don't Upset Me! I'm Running out of Places to Hide the Bodies.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Good for Chicago Cubs fans. They've blown up the cursed baseball--the one a fan interfered with, thereby costing the Cubs a trip to the Series. Now, can we blow up: Bill Buckner's glove (come on Red Sox fans--get in the game!) The old pitching mound at the Ballpark in Arlington The football Jackie Smith dropped in Super Bowl XIII (thrown by Staubach) The basketball I shot into an opponent's goal in a junior high game (Neosho vs. Goodman) Wouldn't it be nice if we could also do this with some of the bad decisions we've made in life? This would be the ultimate "do over." Wouldn't it be nice if our sins could be removed from us "as far as the east is from the west"? Hey . . . . (See Psalm 103.)

I got stuck again watching Fox News. They were interviewing "Mancow"--their conservative version of Howard Stern. "Mancow" is a shock jock who is offensive, lewd, and tasteless. He was defending Howard Stern (following Stern's removal from several radio markets) even though he insisted he absolutely hates Stern. He kept emphasizing all the people he hates. But then he also claimed that he's a conservative Christian. Ouch. He hates liberals. Really, really hates them. And he says he is a conservative Christian. Perfect for Fox News, where they just report and let you decide. (Laugh track here.) At least "Mancow" pointed out how ironic it would be for Fox, who has provided the most offensive stuff on television, to be opposed to Stern's antics. By the way, Howard Stern is complaining about freedom of speech. But . . . isn't this freedom of speech at its best? Listeners in certain markets have voiced their opinion. They're offended by the way he treats women like toys that exist for the gratification of men. Businesses have voiced their opinion that they're not interested in supporting a show like that. And a media company has voiced their opinion that they need to listen to the audience and the people footing the bills.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I leaned to Eddie Sharp and said, "Right now I feel 20 years old." It was Tuesday afternoon at ACU lectureship, and Jim Woodroof and Terry Smith were speaking. It transported me back 25 years. Jim was the preacher at the College Church in Searcy (where I later preached for seven years) when Diane and I were students at Harding. Terry was the campus minister -- the one who did our premarital counseling. Isn't it amazing -- the power of familiar voices to sweep you away into a different era? They both sounded the same! Jim still sounded sincere, open and kind; Terry still sounded intense and God-hungry. Some Jim Woodroof memories: I still remember his smile and a slight nod of his head as he led us--again and again--through the life of Jesus. He said a couple times, "I so want to be with Jesus that I believe I'd go into the depths of hell if it meant being with him." When he preached, you had the feeling you were on a journey with him. Often he would stop right in the middle of preaching a text, wrinkle his brow, and admit (yes, ADMIT!) that he'd just thought of something that hadn't hit him before. I remember a debate at Harding lectureship about what songs our churches ought to be using. Someone who wasn't from campus was making his case for a certain kind of song, and then he was unkindly bludgeoned by an "expert" from campus who claimed the other man's preferences weren't worship but entertainment. It was a public whipping, administered with an angry face. Afterward, I watched Jim walk out with tears streaming down his face. He didn't say anything. He didn't have to. I remember leading a prayer at the College Church as a junior. Afterward Jim got up to preach and said a kind word about the prayer "the young man led." Isn't that crazy? He probably said just a sentence or two, but 27 years later I remember his affirmation. (He never knew my name, but I understood then and I understand even more now! Caring deeply about people doesn't always mean you can recall their names.) I can still remember Jim preaching through John and 2 Corinthians. I remember a message called "Now, Therefore" in which he urged us to respond to all the blessings we had received. Just hearing his voice Tuesday afternoon made me want to be a more eager, humble reader of scripture. As a preacher, I have followed two of my heroes: Jim Woodroof (with someone briefly in between us) and Lynn Anderson. In both cases, the closer I got to their tracks, the more authentic their ministries were.

Here's an important note from the end of Roger Ebert's review of "The Passion of the Christ" (which he gives four stars to): Note: I said the film is the most violent I have ever seen. It will probably be the most violent you have ever seen. This is not a criticism but an observation; the film is unsuitable for younger viewers, but works powerfully for those who can endure it. The MPAA's R rating is definitive proof that the organization either will never give the NC-17 rating for violence alone, or was intimidated by the subject matter. If it had been anyone other than Jesus up on that cross, I have a feeling that NC-17 would have been automatic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Thanks to Highland folks for turning out en masse for the live recording with Zoe yesterday in the Paramount. What an incredible hour! If all we did was gather to listen to Sheryl sing "My Redeemer" one more time, it would have been worth it! I love worshiping God under Brandon's leadership.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Some favorite lines from a few older songs: Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round: On Jesus' bosom naught but calm is found. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big will mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head. O Joy that seekest me through pain, I can not close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Just finished watching Sing Song, and I'm having one of those "my life is flying before my eyes" moments. Wasn't it just yesterday that Matt and Cole were 16, meeting for the first time at one of the many places where their dads ministered together (as speaker and worship leader)? Wasn't it just a few years ago that Ryan and Jackie Beth were in 4th grade?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

"I'm embarrassed that you're not embarrassed." Those were my Beloved's last words to me before we kissed and went our separate ways this morning. God love her -- she's outnumbered. Since Megan's death, it's been one female and three males in our house (at least when Matt's home from college). This morning the issue was Chris's insistence on wearing his worn-out tennis shoes rather than his new ones to elementary school. The old ones would be rejected by any charitable organization. If we mailed them to sub-Sahara Africa, they'd mail them back. There is not a stitch left on the toes, so they're basically flip-flops with a lid. But Chris's argument is that it's more important to save the tread on his new tennis shoes for Saturday basketball games. Better to look homeless at school than to take a chance on slipping in an AYBA game. And it's an argument I buy. Makes perfect sense to me. Diane looks at me, shaking her head. On one hand she's upset with me for agreeing with him; on the other hand, she merely pities me for being so shallow. She just doesn't understand our priorities. It's the same problem we face with trying to explain to her why we keep a basketball goal in the living room to play HORSE. ("Over the family photos . . . off the wall . . . against the TV . . . nothing but net.") Or why we play soccer indoors when it's cold outside. Or why we always know where our baseball gloves are but can never locate this morning's paper. Some day, our 5th grader will be in college. Who will I be able to kick a soccer ball in the living room with then? Mis nietos!!

Following an allegation by a former player that she was raped while she was on the team, Gary Barnett, the head football coach at Colorado, had this to say: ''It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful. Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it.'' He is being "punished" by being placed on paid administrative leave. Now I'm not going to claim that CU ought to be run like ACU (i.e., as a Christian university), but shouldn't a coach who responds to a player's allegation of rape by talking about her inadequate athletic performance be FIRED?

Randy Harris and I are covering 2 Corinthians in class today. Reading 1 Cor 1-4 and all of 2 Cor puts you on full alert against spiritual elitism. When people think their experience (or church) is vastly more spiritual . . . when they think they and they alone have decided to take the Lord/worship/discipleship seriously . . . when they think they've outgrown most other Christians and churches . . . when they keep talking about how they want "more" . . . when they begin elevating some gifts above others . . . when they begin feeling sorry for all the unenlightened . . . when they begin convincing themselves that if others ever really get serious about Jesus they'll look more like them . . . WATCH OUT!! "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." "As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." "Knowledge puffs up while love builds up."

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Let's see if this is right . . . The city of San Francisco has decided that a California law isn't constitutional, so they aren't follow it. Isn't that really a court's job? It is nice, however, that the governor of California, has weighed in with his moral authority to advocate the sanctity of marriage. That means a lot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Pudge is gone. Rafael. Juan. And now A-Rod. The ultimate betrayal, by the way: he's going to the Yankees! (That could come back to haunt us if the rules change and a last-place team is allowed in the play-offs.) It was fun being able to watch A-Rod the last few years, but who ever thought that signing him for $252,000,000 would be good for the team? Perhaps the key word here is TEAM. You can't win with all the $$ going to one superstar. Now . . . when are the Rangers going to get around to trading for John Lackey so we can watch him pitch more often? (I shouldn't wish this on John, though. The Angels ought to be back in contention this year.)

Monday, February 16, 2004

We saw "Miracle" this weekend. Now THAT is a movie!! Can't you still hear Al Michaels uttering what is now one of the most famous lines in sports broadcasting history: "Do you believe in miracles?" The whole nation was frustrated by the plight of 52 hostages in Tehran. Yellow ribbons were appearing on mailboxes, truck antennaes, ponytails--as well as around old oak trees--as a kind of communal prayer for the return of the hostages. Jimmy Carter was pleading with us to be people of character, committed to building a future with hope. Here are a few words from the SI obit for coach Herb Brooks when he died, at the age of 66, this past summer: Brooks' leadership helped turn a ragtag team into champions. He had hand-picked each player. "You're looking for players whose name on the front of the sweater is more important than the one on the back," Brooks once said. "I look for these players to play hard, to play smart and to represent their country." Interviewed years later on why he headed to the locker room shortly after the Miracle on Ice, he said he wanted to leave the ice to his players, who deserved it. "It was not my spot. I always say sort of flippantly, 'I had to go to the bathroom.' Or, 'If I'd have went on the ice when this thing happened, someone would have speared me or something.' It's a great feeling of accomplishment and pride. They had to do it; it was their moment."

Saturday, February 14, 2004

"There are two kinds of preaching that people won't put up with: bad preaching and good preaching." - Fred Craddock

Friday, February 13, 2004

Highland has reserved a showing of "The Passion" at a local theater on Friday, February 27. Tickets will be on sale Sunday morning, the 22nd.

The Zoe Group, led by Brandon Scott Thomas (a "Highland boy"), will have a live recording session on Monday, February 23 at the Paramount Theater. It begins at 5:30, and admission is free.

From C. S. Lewis: "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to hink of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

There are a couple insightful paragraphs in today's paper in an article by Berry Tramel entitled "Why Does Bobby Knight Get So Angry?" The second theory [of why he gets so mad] is sanctimony. That's the one I buy. Bob Knight's teams play the game the way it ought to be played, and he runs a clean program, and by gosh, he believes he's right, whether you're talking fly fishing or military history. Trouble is, righteousness is a burden. You can see it in political parties and in pulpits. Folks who believe they have the corner on honor and justice can be driven bonkers by those who see the world a little less black and white.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

This word just in from MOM. I could not have seen the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 because the show was on Sunday nights while we were in church. Same reason I never saw the last half of "The Wizard of Oz." (Didn't know until I was an adult that the Wizard was some little guy behind a curtain.) Well, the whole Dr. Atkins thing has to bother you, doesn't it? Apparently the man had "a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure." I'm telling you, dear friends: be suspicious of any diet where guacamole is not a prime food source.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Thanks to Keith Brenton for this link. If you have broadband connection, listen to this little NPR connection. A woman who ministers in the NW describes a recent experience at the communion table. It's a reminder of how the bread of communion creates the desire to serve bread to the hungry. The table of communion and the table of service as intertwined!

We just watched "Radio" this weekend. As parents of a child who was mentally handicapped, Diane and I were moved by the deep compassion portrayed by Ed Harris for "Radio." Then the scenes at the end, of the real "Radio" cheering on the football team he's been "helping" for so many years, sent us over the edge. It was nice to have a really good movie (hey, football is involved--how bad can it be?) that we could watch with our 5th grader!

Monday, February 09, 2004

This morning's USA Today quotes Jack LaLanne--as he prepares to celebrate his 90th birthday--as saying, "I can't afford to die. It'll wreck my image." It says the famed fitness junkie eats the same regimented meal every single day: a soy milk shake for breakfast; five pieces of fruit and four egg whites for lunch; and a salad (with at least 10 raw vegies), three ounces of fish, brown rice, and a glass of red wine for dinner. Every day? Doesn't he ever wake up and say, "Darn it, I'm having four ounces of fish tonight. Do you hear me? FOUR! I've worked out every single day of my life and I'm almost 90 years old." Maybe he never gets that wild and crazy. Here's my main problem with the diet: Where's the guacamole? You're trying to tell me the man eats NO guacamole? That can't be good for him. He'll pay for that eventually.

The infamous appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show was 40 years ago today. I'm not sure if I actually remember it or if I've seen it so many times since then that I've created the memory. What I do remember is that very soon after that every girl at Field Elementary School (I was in 2nd grade) had decided which Beatle she was in love with. My favorites: 1. "Twist and Shout" (not even on the "One" album) 2. "Yesterday" 3. "Hey Jude" 4. "Let It Be" 5. "The Long and Winding Road" Honorable mention to "Get Back," "Day Tripper," and "A Hard Day's Night."

Friday, February 06, 2004

I'm co-teaching a class with Randy Harris this semester. We have eightysomething freshmen Bible majors for Acts through Revelation. Does that sound like a hoot? Half the time I get to LISTEN to Randy Harris teach. That's worth being in there for. Wade Hodges (note my new link to his blog) has a great Harris quote -- I'm guessing from the recent OCU lectureship: "The only thing holding some churches together is lack of communication."

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I'm going to do you a favor here. Need a lift? Think of someone you need to speak to at ACU, but don't dial them direct. Instead call 674-2000. You'll likely get Kim Quile who says in the kindest voice you'll hear all day, "I hope you have a blessed day." It's amazing that one kind voice saying something so simple as "have a blessed day" can make life more enjoyable. But it's true. (Now -- only do this once -- so I don't add to her workload!)

Rubel Shelly and I have been the editors of Wineskins Magazine from its beginning. The first issue was in May of 1992. It's been a labor of love -- with lots of devoted readers, lots of angry critics, lots of great articles . . . and little money! So now, we're moving toward New Wineskins being an online (at least mostly online) journal. Here's my new editorial: Five young adults stood on a stage in Arkansas. Two of them were making promises so outrageous, so unbelievable, but all five were too young to know any better. My brother, the best man, was 17. Diane's oldest sister, the maid of honor, was 19. We were both 21. The preacher was the mature one. He was all of 22. We repeated those familiar vows: I will honor and cherish thee from this day forth, For better or for worse, For richer, for poorer, In sickness and in health, Until death do us part. No one stopped us from saying those wild, blind words of promise. I think now it's a conspiracy. Every married couple out there knows enough that they could warn young people about those vows. But we've all agreed not to say anything! Now, in the year that we celebrated our 25th anniversary, we are so thankful for those promises. Little did we know twenty-five years ago how many challenges would be before us. We didn't know how many years of exhaustion there would be with a mentally-handicapped, physically-challenged daughter who seldom slept. We couldn't foresee (thankfully!) the months and even years of grief after her death when, often alone in our sadness, we couldn't find each other. But the vows were the glue. The vows meant that the word "divorce" could not be in our vocabulary. Now . . . well, now we have the marriage we always hoped for. Not that everything's smooth, of course. Not long ago I told Diane I thought I was going to be deaf someday because I'm always having to ask my students to repeat what they've said in class. She said, "That's all right." I asked, "You mean, you'll still love me anyway?" She replied, "No. What I mean is that's all right because there isn't a lot of difference between being deaf and not listening in the first place." (I had to restrain myself from saying, "I'm sorry. What did you say?") For our 25th anniversary, we played two songs with our sons and our friends listening. One was Steven Curtis Chapman's "I Will Be Here." The other is Terry Clark's "I Just Want to Be Mad." Both seemed to fit! It's so hard for those of us who are ministers to know what to say about divorce. We hurt for people sitting in the assembly who have been in failed marriages, and we don't want to beat them down. And yet I often find that these brothers and sisters, knowing full well the pain of divorce, are the ones most eager for me to speak directly and forcefully about it. One friend from my college days recently sent me a note that included these words: "Any time you get the chance to talk to people who are struggling in their marriage, do your best to convince them that divorce is not the answer. In fact, it brings up a whole new set of problems." I think we are often making two mistakes on this subject: (1) we're too easy on divorce; and (2) we're too hard on divorced people. Let's not back off what we teach about marriage and divorce. God intends for our vows to be kept! "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate," Jesus says. We need to teach and model Christian ways that make marital longevity possible: forgiveness, community (the support and encouragement of fellow believers), submission, compassion, integrity, peace-making – and more forgiveness. We also need to let our younger members hear testimonies from some who have experienced the jars and clashes of close relationship but who have continued to love one another. They need to hear words like these from Walter Wangerin as he wrote about his sometimes troubled marriage: And the thing that neither one of us would even contemplate was divorce. We were stuck with each other. let the world call that imprisonment; but I say it gave us the time, and God the opportunity, to make a better thing between us. If we could have escaped, we would have. Because we couldn't we were forced to choose the harder, better road. (from As For Me and My House) But as we continue to be "hard" on divorce, let's not be hard on divorced people. We all come to the table of Jesus in need of mercy and grace. None of us has earned a right to be there. We're there because Jesus welcomes us–failures and all. Divorced people aren't second class citizens. They don't need an asterisk by their name in the church directory. They need to be received in love and called, along with all the rest of us, to the upside-down world of the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Stop now and read this pastoral letter on spiritual formation by Richard Foster.

"We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God's glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart." - John Piper

The essence of wisdom is knowing two things: (1) God is eternal; (2) we are not.

Monday, February 02, 2004

CBS and MTV are insisting that Justin Timberlake was not supposed to have exposed Janet Jackson during halftime. The two were performing a flirtatious song, with Timberlake singing, ''Rock Your Body." When it happened he was singing, ''I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song.'' Oh, so it was supposed to be family entertainment!

The Gulfcoast Get-a-Way was wonderful. There were 1800 university students from 40 different campus ministries. The hardest part for me was adjusting to college students' schedules. Friday night I didn't begin speaking until 10:30. (Can you say, "bedtime"?) After I preached for an hour, the coffee house began. Baptisms took place in the wee morning hours. Yesterday morning when I spoke for the last time, it struck me what an amazing moment that is: to commission 1800 students to go back to their campus as representatives of Jesus Christ. Tried to catch as much of the Super Bowl as I could on the way back. Saw Steve Tyler (AKA "Arowyn's dad") sing "Dream On" before the game. What orbit does that guy fly in to sing that high? Then I landed in time to join my boys and some of Matt's friends for the second half. Wasn't everyone wanting to scream at the Carolina coach: "You'd better not leave a minute on the clock"?