Chasing your Lions

Here is an article I wrote for the local newspaper here in Asheboro, NC. You can find it over the next couple of days in the pastor’s column at http://courier-tribune.com/faith-worship.

 

I know I’m a little different, that is ok. One of the unusual things I personally do is at Christmas my attention moves to the cross and at Easter, you guessed it, my attention goes back to that first Christmas with the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Luke 2:8-11 states of the birth of Christ, “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

In this passage we are introduced to some shepherds and we have an angel who delivers a message that will forever change the course of humanity. When these shepherds saw this angel we are told that they were “terribly frightened”. Yet what I want us to notice is this simple message from the angel, “Do not be afraid.” I wonder how many of us are buffeted by fear? How many opportunities do we let slip by because of fear? Your fear may be that conversation you know you really need to have, yet your fear keeps you from engaging in that conversation. Your fear could be a situation or some type of circumstance that you see as your Goliath that is too big or impossible to overcome. In the end your fear keeps you from being a lion chaser, a conqueror, a giant slayer.

Some time ago I came across a manifesto of sorts from Mark Batterson in his book In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. In this manifesto he states, “Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don’t try to be who you’re not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Don’t let fear dictate your decisions. Take a flying leap of faith. Chase the lion!”

Paul tells us this same truth in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” We can enjoy the journey of life, we can set God-sized goals, we can blaze new trails. We can take that leap of faith because we have been given power and love and boldness, not fear. My friends, we are not called to fear and worry, but we are called to be lion chasers, conquerors, and giant slayers.

You ask, how do we overcome our fear? First, you overcome your fear through prayer. I truly believe that everything should begin and end on our knees in prayer. You need to seek the source of your strength, to give you boldness to overcome. Second, you need to trust in our Heavenly Father, because He wants the best for you. There is an insurance company that has the slogan, “You’re in good hands.” When it comes to your Heavenly Father, you are truly in good hands. Third, there comes a point where you have to take that step of faith. It may be uncomfortable, yet you have to make a move.

The question remains, what lion or giant is God calling you to chase?

Depression, Suicide, and Hope

With the recent death of Robin Williams, depression and suicide have come to the forefront of many peoples minds. According to the CDC there were 39,518 suicides in 2011. Put in another way there was a suicide every 13 minutes. When it comes to depression the NIH reports an estimated 16 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. This represents nearly 7 percent of all U.S. adults. 

The point of this post isn’t to give all the in’s and out’s of depression and suicide: causes, symptoms, and the like. It is not my purpose at this point to enter the debate on the brain chemistry of serotonin, hereditary issues, or environmental issues. The point of this post is multifold.

First, depression and suicide is real. To pretend it isn’t real and it doesn’t affect loved ones is foolish and dangerous. To stick our heads in the sand doesn’t make depression disappear. I want to encourage you to be able to identify it and understand it. Here is a link that you may find helpful.

Second, take a few moments an tell someone you care, especially someone you may know who is struggling. Maybe this touch of encouragement comes in the form of a phone call, a text message, an email, an old school note in the mail, or even better yet a pat on the back. Whatever form it may be tell them you care, be that smiling face, be that caring touch, and be that word of encouragement.

Third, overcoming depression takes more than just taking a “happy pill”. Overcoming depression can be helped through anti-depressive medications, yet depression must ultimately be overcome through talking and counseling. To try to overcome depressing simply with “happy pills” is like trying to bandage a gun shot. The bandage may help temporarily, but the bandage isn’t going to solve a gun shot. Someone must go in and remove the bullet particles and repair the damage.  Find someone that can help, like a competent pastor or a christian counselor.

Fourth, lean on Christ. He is the source of hope, He is the source of love, and He is the source of encouragement. Apart from Him there is no ultimate source of hope or love or encouragement. Psalms 31:24 states, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”

A Nation Grieving

This past Friday (12-14-12), our nation grieved after a tragedy in Newtown, CT that must be characterized as horrific and heinous of a gunman walking into Sandy Hook Elementary School killing 20 children all between the ages of 6-7, and 6 adult female staff members. Words can’t express the horror of this tragedy, as my heart goes out to these parents, family members, and community.

I can’t imagine being a parent in this situation of having now having an empty bed and presents under the tree that will never be opened. The thoughts of children who will never graduate high school, get married, or have children. The horrors of this reality is unimaginable.

What I do know in relation to this is two things. First, we as a nation will and must grieve this tragedy. This is a tragedy that will live on in our memories and while this is a horrific tragedy it is amplified by the fact that 20 young elementary students were killed. Further this tragedy will greatly affect our behavior about security in schools in the future. So we must grieve. While I agree that tragedies such as this should infuriate us and stir within us an indignation. We as a nation must be so infuriated that we vow that something such as this should never happen again. In fact I agree with what President Obama stated,”We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”  Yet, we as a nation must be careful to not jump on the wagon of blame too quickly. There will be a day in the near future to debate the issues of the mental health system, video games, movies, and gun-control. Yet, for now we must resist that temptation and simply grieve.

Second, I know that we have a God that still cares and love us. I know that we have a God who is still on His throne. I know we have a God who mourns when tragedies strike His beloved children. I know that no matter how saddened we may be or how angry we may be at a tragedy such as this, God is more saddened and angry. I know that when we need comfort God is there. I know when we need strength God will provide. I know that God is the great “I AM”. It is on this truth that we must run to. It is on this truth that we must rely upon.

2 Cor. 4:8-9, 16-18, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Dealing with the Horrific

Nearly a week ago we woke up to the horrific news of another indiscriminate murdering rampage in Aurora, Colorado as patrons of all ages crowded into the movie theater for the premier of the newbox office block buster, The Dark Knight Rises. I remember waking up in horror as the news spread of the dozens of individuals shot and a number killed. I remember asking the questions. Why does something so awful happen? What could drive someone to such heinous behavior?

These questions haunt us as we struggle to live in a world that seems be coming apart at the seams. In another example it wasn’t that long ago that egregious video of the middle school students taunted and cursed unrelenting at a bus monitor for no other reason that to put a video on Youtube. What do we do in situations such as this? How do we respond? How do we cope?

Before we jump into questions such as these it must be said there is no doubt that evil exist in the world. Not all people have good intentions, in fact there are some that have evil intentions. We see evil in this latest murdering rampage. We see evil sense beatings. We see evil monsters in the like of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, or Pol Pot. Simply put evil exist and there are some who do evil things.

Some people in the face of such evil say they can not believe in a loving God. I would argue that it is because of such evil that we must believe in a loving God. For better or worse God gives us the choice between good and evil. We see this in the beginning in the garden as God gave the first man and woman a choice.  Genesis 2:15-17 states, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (NASB).” God did not create us without a will. God did not create us to be automatons.

Now back to the original questions. What do we do in situations such as these? I see we have three choices. First, we can put our heads in the sand and pretend it didn’t happen. For the record this response doesn’t help matters, even if we pretend it didn’t happen it still did. Second, we humanity and more specifically believers can go hide in the corner, shrink down into a fetal position, and suck our thumbs. In other words we can see it, isolate ourselves, and be too scared to say anything. To be honest this has been our general modus operandi and we see where this has taken us. There must be a different way to respond. There must be something better than to be frozen in fear as a deer in the headlights.

The third way we can respond is to first recognize evil for what it is. These types of events don’t happen without reason. Evil exist. We must also respond with courage. We mustn’t stand around and just let things happen around us. We must step up and speak out. Edmund Burke once stated, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” How long will we see evil and just walk by as if nothing is happening?

The final question is how do we cope in situations such as these? Psalm 16:1 states, “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You (NASB).” I want to encourage you my friend cope in situations such as these by taking refuge in the Lord. Find your hope, strength, and courage in the Lord. Let’s be honest with ourselves, if we try to find refuge, hope, strength, and courage in anyone or anything else, they or it will ultimately fail you. Yet, when you find refuge, hope, strength, and courage He will never fail you.

Hope and Blessings of a Birthday

Today is a birthday. Happy Birthday to me! Another year in the books and another year older, this can be depressing or hopeful. Which shall it be?

For some birthday’s are depressing because it serves as a reminder that they are aging. For some a birthday is depressing because it is a reminder of where they wanted to be in life by that particular age and where they truly are in life. Maybe this is in their career of were they wanted to be at a certain place by age ___. Maybe this is in their personal/family life were they wanted to be done with school or started a family by age ___.

Yet for some a birthday is uplifting. They see it as a reminder of the hope and blessings they have in life. They see it as another chapter in the exciting story of life.

I choose to see it as a reminder of the hope and blessings I have in life. I choose to see it as another chapter in an exciting story of life. I know all too well that every chapter in life doesn’t end with “And they lived happily ever after,” unfortunately I have been there and done that. You and I are going to have seasons in our life where things don’t seem to go as planned. There will be those times in life where tragedy strikes. We are not promised that every chapter in the story of life will end on a high note. Yet, the truth is that the chapters that don’t end with ‘happily ever after’ are chapters that simply sets up the next chapter to be great.

The choice is yours, how will you choose to see a birthday? Depressing or hopeful? I choose to see a birthday as hopeful. I choose to see a birthday with hope because of the hope I have in the Lord Jesus Christ. What about you?

Psalm 71:5- “For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.”