One Up
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

 

“And you should imitate me, just as I have imitated Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)

 

                I will never forget the first time I saw him.  He was late to the interview – a characteristic that I come to fondly love about him.  He was always late.  Yet it didn’t seem to matter.  His smile was so infectious that such trivial issues as time management went away.  I can only remember one other time in my life when I was so taken back by a first encounter, and that was when I saw my wife for the first time.  I cannot describe the encounters, just to say that once I saw them, there was a deep stirring inside which I cannot describe.  One encounter was for my lifelong mate, the other for my best friend.

 

                Rick was always late.  In our healthier times, I jokingly referred to him as the late Rick Rigg.  Today, I am deeply saddened to say this letter is about the late Rick Rigg.  He passed away yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m. after a decade of struggles that would make Job stop and pay attention.  But, as I grieve with Rick’s family today, we would all agree that we are not grieving for Rick, but we are grieving for our lives without him.  I know that for sure, because Christ was more displayed in him than in most every other human being I have ever known.  He ranks right up there with my father.  And I am reminded as I think about him that we would have a far better world if we all imitated Rick, for he did indeed imitate Christ.

 

                Rick Rigg was a man of suffering, but not a man of sorrows.  He brought joy to so many lives by his own internal light that was truly a reflection of the glory of Christ.  From a legal standpoint, he was faithful in serving his church, a good husband, a good father, and a great supporter of his community and school.  But I know a lot of people about whom we could say that.  With Rick it was something different.  He went above and beyond the legal.  He was an imitator of Christ.  There was a profound working of our Lord in his spirit, and everyone who had an encounter with Rick knew it (whether they were Christian or not).  The glow, the caring, the warmth, the compassion, the genuine interest in his fellow human beings are not characteristics that can be copied by following a legal code.  They can only occur by reflecting the character of Christ.

 

                For two summers, when Rick’s health was better, we played a lot of golf together.  At the end of the first summer, after adding up our cumulative scores, he was one up.  Vowing to never let that happen again, I spent all winter trying to do a psyche job on him.  The following summer, we went at it again.  Going into the final game, after meticulously counting and recounting the season’s scores, it just so happened he was one up again.  We played the final round, head to head and going down the stretch, we were tied – tied for an entire season’s fun and ribbing.  Rick hit his shot into the rough and I drove right down the middle.  My cat calls grew loud.  All I got in return was a silly grin.  I was on the green in two and Rick in three.  I was counting the score and enjoying every minute of my prospective victory.  Then it happened, Rick’s long 30+ foot putt broke into the hole for a par.  Now I had to sink to beat him, two-putt to tie.  I missed my approach putt and left it 2 feet out.  Rick stood above the hole and gyrated like a Greek dancer and you guessed it, my putt lipped out.  Rick was one up for another year.  Sadly, that was his last year for golf.  Although we laughed and dreamed about a classic rematch it never happened.

 

                I tell you that story for one reason.  Rick is still one up on me.  He is first to see the Lord.  He was first in transforming character, and he was first in being the kind of friend every man longs for.  Rick, I will miss you terribly, and I long to pick up our fly rods and clubs again.  But next time, my fish will be bigger, my score will be lower, so you had bettered practice.  We only have an eternity to even the odds.  But for now, you are still one up.

                 I love you Rick.  May I receive a double dose of your spirit until we meet again.


Pains of Childbirth
Monday, September 28, 2009

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“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Gal 4:19 Note:  Many of these thoughts are borrowed from a letter I wrote to a dear friend this morning.               

 If you have never been a pastor or church leader, I doubt you can relate to the passion Paul felt as he addressed a legalistic church in Galatia.  His heart was ripping apart with almost every word of the very passionate letter to the leadership there.  For purposes of understanding Paul’s letter we must understand the definition of legalism.  Legalism is where the laws, traditions, and rules of men are more important than the Word of God and these same rules are substituted for Christ Himself.     

           I, like Paul, have a passion for the Body of Christ – the Church. And it is indeed like pains of childbirth yearning to see Christ transforming His Body.  And because of that passion, I have found myself in battle with organized religion (legalism) since the day I entered ministry.  Organized religion is destroying God’s church in America.  Sixty churches close their doors every month.  Attendance at worship has declined by over 40 percent in the last 50 years.  Mega churches, where people can go and get entertained but not discipled, fed coffee during worship but not spiritual meat and potatoes, hear rock music but not the uncompromising word of God, and where interpersonal relationships are lost in a sea of uncommitted faces, these spring up and die with the same frequency as do other churches, leaving the landscape of America littered with edifices of the failure of the Body of Christ.  The influence of the Church in America has been stripped and people are only allowed to do their “God-thing” as long as it does not interfere with the rights of the culture to destroy itself.  Seminaries have become academic icons of secularism and in them the God of the universe is relegated to a smallness of position so minute that He could not transform anything, including the poor unsuspecting pastors who attend there.

                The question has to come:  how did this happen?  Well, I believe it happened in the same way that 6 million Jews were killed in WWII without much protest from them, the Church, or the world in general.  The Jews refused to believe it was happening and were in denial all the way into the gas chamber, the Church acquiesced to Hitler rather than lose their positions and prestige and their right to exist, and the world hid its head in the sand.  So the church in compromise, led the people in denial into their own destruction – while the world paid no attention.  Therein lies the problem in the modern church, we are being led like sheep in denial by compromised leadership to our unsuspecting slaughter, and crucifying the shepherds who try to turn us away.                The modern church is led by politicians not men and women dedicated to prayer, fasting, and spiritual discipline, waiting on the Lord for instruction and direction.  We are led by politics and money instead of the word of God.  (I have said many times that in most churches in America today, if the constitution or a tradition clashes with the Word of God, you can bet the word will lose.) And we hire (instead of call) CEO’s who are more skilled in programs that in being in tune to God’s Holy Spirit.  And so the churches are run more like businesses than the Body of Christ.  A person’s right to vote becomes more important than their commitment to serve, so even the most uncommitted Christian can influence the direction of the church and have equal say with the saints who spend tearful hours in prayer and fasting.   

             These are the hard realities of the modern church.  I have spent so much time in battling this organized religion that I have wasted my ministry, destroyed the gentleness of my wife, and left my own tolerance for politics as usual on the wayside.  I have fought all the church battles I want to fight.  I dreams of a church where Christ is Lord, where disciplines are part of the joyous order of the saints, where lives are being transformed, where the word of God is the only constitution, and where elders meet the biblical requirements set out for them.  I want to be able to worship without hearing old people complain about the music or expressions of worship and young people complain about the traditional hymns that have sustained the church for ages.  I want a multigenerational church where the generations have learned to love each other as Christ loved the Church – loving, understanding, mentoring, learning, growing, transforming all for the Glory of God.  I would be content to be in a messy church which is committed to that but has not attained it; but one which does not put stumbling blocks in the pathway of making it happen.  My life and my ministry are drawing to a close and I want to spend what years I have left for God’s glory and purposes, not fighting religion.  My daily prayer is from Psalm 71, “My life is an example to many, because You have been my strength and protection.  That is why I can never stop praising You; I declare Your glory all day long.  And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside.  Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.  O God, You have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things You do.  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.  Let me proclaim Your power to this new generation, Your mighty miracles to all who come after me.” (Ps. 71:5-9;14-18) 


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10 South Main, Suite 201
Victor, ID 83455
903-262-5088
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