Change is hard…. So hard that oftentimes we would rather suffer through physical or emotional pain than change. Yet change is essential to life. As adults we no longer live with our parents, we no longer think as a child, we no longer dress as a child, and we no longer act as a child. To refuse change and to continue thinking or dressing or acting as a child would be seen as a problem and that there is something wrong. It is this paradox of dreading change and knowing change is essential to life that keeps us in limbo.

Here is the question, while change is essential to life, is there somethings that shouldn’t change?

There are several things that comes to mind that doesn’t change. First, Biblical truth doesn’t change. Some may say that it is an outdated archaic book that isn’t relevant to modern life, yet I say it is just as relevant today and tomorrow as it was 20 years ago or even 2000 years ago. Another thing that doesn’t change is Christ love for you. So often we think that if we do the right thing and don’t mess us then Jesus will love me, yet if I mess up then that love is reduced or even removed. The simple truth is that Jesus loves you warts and all.

Are there things that should change? Let me give you several things that should change:
1) Your love for your spouse will change over the course of time. So many newly weds go into marriage thinking that the ‘butterflies’ and the ‘honeymoon’ period will last forever, yet when it changes they think something is wrong and that they have ‘fallen out of love’. The reality is that the love between husband and wife evolves over time and as the phases of life shift. To love your spouse is a daily and active decision.
2) The methods you use to accomplish the task of life. Technology changes, your knowledge and experience increases, and your skill level changes. As these things change the way that you accomplish task changes.
3) Eating and exercise habits change. As we age we have to be more conscientious of our diet and our physical activity. Those sweets that didn’t bother us as children, teens and young adults, now become a significant concern with weight and our general health. Our exercise routine has become more intentional and the level of intensity changes as we age.
4) The methodology of how we do church must change. The gospel message mustn’t change. We must maintain biblical fidelity, yet the manner in which we accomplish the mission of making disciples must change to remain effective in the culture around us. I’m not saying that we must be like the culture around us, yet what I’m saying is that we must position ourselves to effectively reach the culture around us.

I’ve heard it said that as a church we are perfectly designed to get the results that we are getting. My friends, as I look at the world around me and as I look at the effectiveness of the church, what I see is worse than incredibly discouraging.

Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Yet in so many things in life, change is essential. It is incredibly unwise to change for change sake, yet wise change positions oneself, the church, or the organization to make the leap toward greater effectiveness.

The Grammy’s and Living in a Fallen World: Part 3

All day today I have been dragging, something has been off. I suspect it is all because of a ball game. You see I’m a big Duke fan and well the men’s basketball team just didn’t play up to Duke standards and to be frank just didn’t play like they really wanted the win last night for the UNC game. All day today I have been just off key. Yet, one thing I know with the UNC win over Duke last night, we live in a broken and fallen world (well maybe that is a stretch, but it makes me feel better about life). Either way all we have to do is watch the news or simply look around and know that we live in a fallen world that is far from the Lord.

A weeks ago we began the series on how we can respond to this fallen world. The first post we discussed the great need for us as believers to stay engaged with the world around us. It would be easy for us to look around and say we don’t want any part it, yet the Bible tells us that we are ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) for Christ and that as we are living and going that we should make disciples from new believers to maturing believers (Matt 28:19-20).

The second post we discussed that we as believers must live and stand by conviction. Our faith isn’t some sort of suggestion but our lives are to become more Christ-like in our words, actions, attitudes, and in our thoughts. When the Bible says that one thing and the world around us says something else what will we do? How will we live? Will we do what is easy and compromise or will we do what is oftentimes difficult and live by our convictions?

In this third post we are going to discuss that as a believer you must know that when you live by conviction, you will feel increasingly less comfortable. What creates this discomfort?  I believe the key to this discomfort that we see the two world: the world we live in and the world of eternal life seeing the Lord face to face. If you have been in the church very long you have probably heard the slogan “In the world, but not of the world.” This is a true statement, with just one revision. The Bible puts it like this in John 17:14-18, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Clearly from this verse we as believers are not of the world, yet we are sent into the world. Therefore, we are sent into the world, but not of the world. It is this sense and with this growing awareness of the Kingdom that we will grow more and more uncomfortable.

This is especially true in certain circumstances we find ourselves. Maybe you are watching a TV show like this past Grammy Awards show or having a movie go in a direction you didn’t expect. Maybe you find yourself uncomfortable at the office around the water cooler as one co-worker is talking negatively about another, it may be that colorful and course joke, or it may be just the general topic of discussion. As we go through life and as we live more and more by conviction we will find ourselves in situations of discomfort.

What do we do with this discomfort? In many situations we as believers must continue to actively be salt and light. Several weeks ago I was sitting around a table when one person said something that completely went against my convictions. To this is was very quick speak and stand my ground, to be that salt and light.

Yet, there are some situations we must follow Joseph’s example and simply get out. You remember Joseph that young fellow with the special coat, some of us may have learned about him as the coat of many colors. You remember in Genesis 39, Joseph was serving in Potiphar’s house, “One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She (Potiphar’s wife) caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” During the Grammy’s Christian singer Natalie Grant, nominated twice, walked out of the show.  You ask what is the situation that you should simply get out? I think there is a few questions that will help us answer this question.

1) Are you in a position to influence the situation? If you are not in a position to influence then get out.

2) Where you at in your walk with Christ? Are you fairly young in the faith or strong and mature in the faith? The less mature you are in your walk the more likely you may find yourself in a situation that you simply need to get out.

3) What is the level of celebration of non-biblical viewpoints? To put this another way, there is no need to knowingly be in a lion’s den. If the celebration of a non-biblical viewpoint is high, then the ability to affectively influence is low.

The reality is that as we live more and more by our convictions the more and more we will be uncomfortable.


Life is Good

I’ve been sitting here for a few hours working on a few things as my wife is still asleep and my newborn son lays just feet from me in his swing sleeping and all I can think of is…life is good. Correction: Life is Great!!! Even through the sleep deprivation, I know without a doubt that life is great. I sit here and realize that hopes and dreams are coming true and that life is truly filled with joy. The radical transitions that have and continue to occur in my youngfamily over the past couple of weeks is monumental and truly memorable. The thought of waking up to change a diaper or to prep a bottle multiple times at night will fade but these wonderful memories will live on in my mind forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there will be challenges and heart break in the days ahead. I know there will be frustrations with potty training and figuring out the work life and home life balance. I know all of these things and more, yet when the math is done the only conclusion is that life is truly great. As one of my old professor’s oftentimes stated, “I’m too blessed to be depressed.”

So that is where I am: truly blessed and realizing that life is great.

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.”

Do People Matter: Part 1

Earlier this year there was a video that hit the internet of a group of middle school students verbally abusing and berated a 68 year old bus monitor for over 10 minutes. What a horrific video! Words that come to mind about this video are atrocity, mean spirited, evil, cruel, crude, and anything but funny. (Here is the video: WARNING strong language)

We are seeing more and more things like this happen.  Last October in China there was a toddler that had wondered out into a city side street as her mother was in another building washing clothes. This toddler was hit and ran over by a van and if this isn’t bad enough 18 people whether by foot or vehicle passed by her including another truck that ran over her again. I thought about showing one or both of these videos but it is far too graphic. (Here is the edited video)

Another example is Black Friday in 2008 in New York at a Walmart. As the store was about to open at 5am the crowds broke down the store doors trampling a store employee. Hundreds of people stepped over, around and on the 34-year-old worker as they rushed into the store. It is reported by one shopper that “Nobody was trying to help him, they were rushing in the store, rushing, rushing, rushing.”

What is happening? Do people even matter? If they do why are people so callous and indifferent to other’s suffering?

Do people matter?

What do you think? Why are people so callous and indifferent to other’s sufferings?


Hacking Up A Lung

Over the past several days I have been ‘hacking up a lung’. I have coughed and coughed and coughed. I have felt bad. I have even slept a night on the couch to prevent my wife from ‘hacking up a lung’.
We all know that it is miserable to be sick. You feel bad, you can’t do the things you want to be doing or need to be doing, and you just don’t feel like yourself. We’ve all been there, we’ve all moaned and groaned about being sick, and we’ve all wished for those better days of not ‘hacking up a lung’.
Yet it is through days such as these I believe we can relearn two valuable lessons.
First, we learn the value of health. So often we take our health for granted. We feel good so we don’t really think about it, yet when we don’t feel up to par it reminds us of the value of our health. It reminds us that it’s great to feel great. It reminds us of our need to take care of ourselves when it comes to our health. Now I’m not a health nut advocating a stringent diet and exercise plan. What I’m suggesting is do we generally eat in a manner that we are health conscience, and do we generally keep ourselves active in our lifestyle being up and about and moving. Here is my question for you, “Do you consider your health a blessing or is it something you take for granted.”
Second, we learn the value of time. So often we take time for granted. We waste whole days doing nothing. Now please here me, I believe we need down days to recuperate from a busy week or season in our life, yet what I’m speaking of is not taking advantage of the time allotted to us. Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV) states, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Think about this, “Do you take advantage of the time given to you or do you find yourself wasting time?”
While I may not be 100% and I hate being sick, I am reminded of these lessons of health and time. My hope is without being sick that we would be reminded constantly of these lessons.

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.

Save Your Work

I can hear the resounding repetition of the words, “Save your work!!!!,” ringing in my head. I’ve heard it from teachers and professors. I’ve heard it from professionals. I’ve heard it from those who didn’t heed the words, “Save your work!!!!” If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a million times. In fact I’m sure you too have heard this phrase a million times as well.

I must say that I have always done a great job of backing up my papers, sermons, and the like with the exception of this blog. I did NOT ‘save my work!’ To my utter dismay I didn’t heed the phrase I had heard so often.

On Sunday when I was loading my sermon manuscript to the blog, WordPress wanted me to do an update. Unfortunately, I did not do an backup before completing the update. To further complicate matters, when I write these blogs I typically type them straight into the blog instead of typing them in pages or word and then transferring them to the blog. Because of this I have lost nearly all my work…sigh. (Can you envision the tears of heartache flowing?)

What I do have saved elsewhere in rough form I will work to repost, especially the series on grieving, yet the vast majority of the post are forever lost. So I conclude with this challenge for both you and I, “Save your work!”