Life is Good

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting here on the bed beside my wife and my dog laying at my feet, but I’m loving life. Far be it for me to say that life has been easy or alway ‘great’ because it hasn’t been easy, but as I reflect on life I must say I’m loving life. To steal from a fast-food chain “I’m loving it.”

It’s funny what brings happiness and contentment. For me happiness and contentment is laying here beside my wife who has a wet head from a recent shower. For me happiness and contentment is sitting here and writing. For me happiness and contentment is the knowledge that all is in the Lord’s hands and there is no need to worry or fret. For me happiness and contentment is the love and support of great family and friends. Life is good.

There has been many people that have asked me how I kept going or how I kept my head up over the past two plus years? To this I knew that better days would come. I knew things would one day look up and because of this I had to keep looking up. I believe this quote from Castaway best sums it up, “I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” Happiness has replaced sorrow. Contentment has replaced discontentment. Because who knows what the tide could bring in tomorrow.

What about you, is life good or not so good? Is life half-full or half-empty? What brings you happiness and contentment?

Is it the End of the World?

As we all know the Mayan long calendar has created a lot of brouhaha with people thinking it is the end of the world. Is it the end of the world? Will tomorrow bring the apocalypse? Should I pay my house mortgage this month? Should my local school be closed two days earlier for Christmas break, like 33 Michigan schools?

My short answer to this question, don’t hold your breath because I’m confident that mankind will see the sunset on December 21, 2012 (and yes you do need to pay that mortgage bill). I am confident because of verses like: Matthew 24:36-44-“’But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'”

1 Thess. 5:1-3- “‘Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.'”

This Mayan calendar apocalypse is definitely not creating the same level of fear as the infamous and greatly exaggerated Y2K, it still elicits many question from a number of people.  What is interesting to me is where people are seeking or not seeking the answers from.  They are seeking answers from NASA. NASA has received so many emails and phone calls, that it has established a f.a.q. totally devoted to this topic. At the risk of ruining your hopes that you don’t have to pay you mortgage this month, NASA totally debunks the whole idea that the world will end tomorrow. My question is why is the church not receiving many of these calls and emails?

1) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because the church is not speaking up.

Many believe the church has been forced into a corner by society. This may be partially correct but I believe the issue is more the church has put it self in a corner. In today’s world you and I hear little to noting from the faith community in relation to such issues and the little that we do hear is oftentimes secondary and soft. Take for instance the “War on Christmas” discussion, if I am completely honest I hear more about it from Bill O’Reilly on this issue that Christian leaders. Let’s be honest the church has fallen silent and no longer speaks out.

2) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because it is not seen as essential and credible in society.

In recent history the church is losing influence as it is not seen as essential and a credible source of information within society. This can’t be stated any clearer than the fact that people go to NASA about questions on the end of the world far more than they do the church in this situation. Why is this? The church isn’t seen as either an essential or credible provider of answers to the questions such as the Mayan scare. You don’t see me going to The National Enquirer for news on current events, because I don’t see them as an essential, viable, or credible source of information. In the same way the world doesn’t see the church as an essential, viable, or credible source of information.

3) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because of the increase in secularist thought and tendency.

While it is reported that 92% of Americans believe in a God, it is also evident that there is a continual regression in faith compared to secularism. With this rise in secularism, there is little doubt why questions like the Mayan question are not brought to the church. Further, why would someone who is influenced very little by the church come to the church to ask a question. That individual is going to go to the source they most identify with.

4) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because it is seen as not open to these questions.

Let’s be honest here, I am a Christian pastor and most of you the readers are coming from more of a faith background than the general population, but the church really isn’t open for people to ask these questions. We say that we are but when the questions are asked we respond with scathing self-righteousness and judgement. From where I come from this is seen as not being open to a question.

5) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because the church is no longer actively engaged in the communities in which they reside.

Generally the church is becoming more and more about ‘us four and no more’ mentality and very internal focused. Because of this mentality and focus we as a church are not engaged with the communities that surround the church and the world at large. In fact  in Transformational Church Stetzer and Rainer state, “We have churches filled with knowledgeable religious people not living on mission, wasting their time criticizing those who are.” We as a church must engage and be the sent church who is on mission for God.

If we as a church are not engaged with the community, why would they engage with us?

6) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because of the perceived loss in the faith verses science debate.

I don’t think it has to be argued that there is a debate of faith verses science or science verse faith. My argument is why does it have to be a verses? Do they have to be mutually exclusive?

The underlying question is which is trusted more, science or faith. From events such as this it is evident that science is winning.

How will you proceed with tomorrow? Will it be different from any other day? While I don’t believe that the Mayan calendar scare will amount to anything, I do see a visible illustrative issue for the church. The question is how should the church respond?

What do you think? How should the church respond in the wake of an event that gives undeniable evidence that the influence of the church is greatly diminished?

 

 

 

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.

Welcome????

Who should be welcome at church? Does one have to have the ‘right’ clothes? Does one have to have the ‘right’ look and that includes tattoos or piercings? Does one have to have the ‘right’ Bible? Does one have to have the ‘right’ beliefs? Does one have to live the ‘right’ life? I wonder who should be welcome at church?

I’ve been thinking about such questions as I have been contemplating the traditional church. Yes there are some traditional churches that are making some great strides in being relevant both in method and culture in today’s world. I applaud these churches for seeing people as individuals who are desperately need the love and salvation of Christ. I applaud these churches for seeing that the world is changing in relation to customs, dress level, and cultural taboos and being sensitive to these culture changes. Now, I am in no way advocating for being footloose and fancy free with the gospel message, yet what I am advocating for is being sensitive to the culture in relation to the methods we as the church uses in order to be the salt and light to the community and world in which it ministers.

So who should be welcome at church? The Bible answers this questions in this way, “Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?’ Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders (Matthew 9:10-13 The Message).’” In other words everyone should be welcome, whether this be the three piece suit guys with the hair that is just perfect, the person in the blue jeans, the person with body piercings, or the person with the million tattoos. Further this also includes those who are black, yellow, white, or even polka-dotted. All are welcome!

Think about this verse whenever someone different shows up at your church, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts (James 2:1-4 NIV)?”

So here is my question for you. Who is welcome at your church? While no one may voice it but who isn’t welcome at your church? Why? Is this Biblical?

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.”

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!”