Friday, June 27, 2008

In conclusion...

I have thoroughly enjoyed the varied viewpoints expressed on my last couple of posts, including Jordan's attempt at playing the "devil's advocate" or "satan's attorney" depending on your country of origin :) Seriously though, it seems patently obvious to me that this is definetely an issue for open discussion among Christians as we approach what may well be the most historic election in the political life of our nation. I'd like to conclude my thoughts today with a little help from a few 'experts.' In the July 2008 edition of Reader's Digest, I came across a really interesting article by Arthur C. Brooks, professor of business and government policy at Syracuse University, titled: Why we're Happy. I could reproduce the entire article for you here, but I suspect that RD would not be pleased as it would impact their bottom line. So for the purposes of my summation I will give you the salient points.

Brooks begins by stating, "In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders didn't treat happiness as some fuzzy concept; they believed that people wanted happiness and had the right to pursue it. Along with life and liberty, happiness was the connection between the Creator and our nation's destiny, and the ability of its citizens to pursue and achieve happiness was a measure of the effectiveness and morality of the state." He continues, "But today's leaders and policy makers seem to have forgotten this. To hear politicians talk about gross domestic product, health-care reform, and Social Security, you'd think that this nation's Founding Fathers held as self-evident that we are endowed by our Creator with the ability to purchase new, high-quality consumer durables each and every year, or to enjoy healthy economic growth with low inflation and full employment."

He concludes his lively discussion with information garnered from "hundreds of reliable surveys" regarding what he calls "Happiness Predictors." Can you guess what the first predictor for happiness was according to the surveys? You guessed right, it was Faith. In an unrelated article from a "Blogalogue" David Klinghoffer surmises the following, "Jesse Jackson has rightly called Barack Obama's presidential bid a "theological campaign." Indeed, in the primary season, the leading Democratic candidates all correctly emphasized that spiritual values play a legitimate role in shaping political values." In response to an assertion that the primary factor for the Christian in casting a vote should be social programs, he had this to say, "Again, I don't discount the need to provide some kind of governmental safety net for the needy. But if we respect Biblical wisdom, then the best hope for minimizing the suffering that goes along with neediness is to nurture a society-wide respect for Godly values as they pertain to every aspect of our public and private lives."

Finally, contrary to the opinion that this nation was not founded as a Christian nation, here are the reflections of some of the Founding Fathers as well as the opinion of a decorated General of the United States army.

  • "It is impossible to rightly govern....without God and the Bible" - George Washington
  • "He who should introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity shall change the face of the world." - Benjamin Franklin
  • "It cannot be emphasized too strongly nor too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ." - Patrick Henry
  • "It is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians as our rulers." - John Jay (First Supreme Court Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States)
  • "History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster." - General Douglas MacArthur

I couldn't have said it any better myself. I am persuaded that as a Christian I am duty bound to vote my values. Not because I want to impose some sort of moral control on society, but simply because I love my country enough to want GOD's best for her. Now you can have the final word!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So, what do you really think???

Thanks to those of you who commented on my post, This is how we do it. I enjoyed reading all of the varied perspectives and so today I wanted to give you my take on voting politicians into political office.

  • I believe that every human being makes decisions influenced by their world view. I am shaped by my upbringing and by what I believe to be true. This belief influences the way I choose to respond in any given situation, whether consciously or subconsciously.

  • I believe that it is my prerogative, indeed my duty, to ensure that the people who influence and lead me (especially when I have the ability to choose) must be people who lead me in the direction that I believe to be equitable and right. Isn’t that the whole premise of voting for a candidate? Shouldn’t our worldviews be closely aligned enough so that I’m confident that he/she will serve to improve our way of life?

  • Truth, contrary to many people’s opinions, is not subjective. Truth is absolute. Jesus did not compromise truth in order to live amicably with the people around Him. In fact, He was quite antagonistic to the religious and political leaders of the day (the Pharisees). According to 2 Chron 7: 14, a nation is only blessed to the extent to which the Christian lives out his worldview.

  • Nations are not Christian, people are! If Christians want to see certain values reflected in our societies then we must get involved with the political process whether by voting or by running for office. If, hypothetically speaking, I am voted into public office, I will unapologetically begin each day with prayer. If that is offensive to those who don’t believe in prayer, so be it. The hypocrisy of their position is the fact that they would rather I be like them and not pray, yet they call me narrow-minded and bigoted when I suggest that they should consider being like me, and pray.

  • Freedom, as defined by constitutional rights, is at best a tenuous value. The freedom to make choices can lead you into bondage to addictions that are ultimately destructive. In that instance you cease to be free. That’s why a good parent makes the decision to protect their child from certain ‘freedoms’ that our culture allows us, in an attempt to keep them from potential harm. If Jesus is truly Lord (and He is), then it is incumbent upon those of us who profess to believe in Him to live the values that He has outlined for us. We don’t force people to believe nor live as we do, we simply make it attractive to do so.

  • I concur that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even the freedom to worship a piece of metal, are all First Amendment rights, however they are binding on those of us that are subject to the laws of the United States and not on God. The Scriptures don’t change because the constitution says people can worship whatever or whomever they want. This means that the separation of Church and State is a fallacy. If we vote for a person who lives and believes differently from us then the legalized ‘killing’ of unborn babies is the resultant effect and we all bear the consequences of that decision. If we have leaders who espouse our values then, according to the Scriptures we live Godly, peaceable and quiet lives.

  • Prayer works! This is why we have concerted efforts such as One Prayer to harness the collective strength of the Body of Christ and establish the will of God over the nations. If His will isn’t established, someone else’s will be.

Well, what do you think? Don’t go quiet on me now, let’s continue the dialog! I’ll conclude my thoughts on this tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is how we do it

I'm still working on this idea of voting politicians into office, and what the criteria are or should be. Should their worldview be a significant consideration or just their political savvy? Should it matter if they don't believe in God the way we do as Christians? Should we vote primarily because of their public policies, or should we base our decision on their unflappable moral standards? If you've got ideas on these questions I'd love to hear them. Tomorrow I'm going to be posting my ideas about how we should approach the idea of voting for a Presidential candidate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Do you see what I see???

Blogging, like giving public speeches can sometimes be damning, which is why I try to steer clear of making assertive statments such as, "You're not a good Christian if you...." One of the pitfalls of being quotable is that your words might come back to haunt you. A classic example of this is Barak Obama's June 28, 2006 uninformed tirade regarding Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in which he stated, "...a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."

Regarding same sex marriages, in a 2008 speech, Obama, who has consistently said that he opposes marriage equality, stated: "I don’t think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans."

Finally, in a sermon given at a Chicago, IL church on Father's Day 2008, Obama had this to say about the Sermon on the Mount: "At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus closes by saying, “Whoever hears these words of mine, and does them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.” " So which is it, I ask? Is the Sermon on the Mount too radical for modern day application as he claims in his initial message, or is it readily applicable when it suits his purpose as demonstrated in the latter two examples? So this brings me to the question of the day: What are the criteria by which you measure who you vote for as President of the worlds principal nation?

Monday, June 23, 2008

See you at the movies

We have had the most amazing time over the last few weeks as we have listened to great speakers share their One Prayer for the church. One of my personal favorites was Greg Surratt's message titled "Lord Make us Obedient." Sadly, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and this series comes to an end for us this Sunday (we began on June 1 and will conclude the series on June 29).

So what's next you ask? I'm glad you asked because I was planning to tell you anyway. We have found that the summer months are an extremely transient time for churches. Lots of people are traveling, visiting extended family, or generally doing things other than church on Sundays. Many churches have come to accept what has 'affectionately' been dubbed the "summer slump" but we, in our hard-headedness, continue to kick against the status quo and look for creative ways to bring in newcomers during these down months.

Every year since inception (that's only two years actually) we have held a series titled "See you at the movies". In this series, we ask for people to suggest movies that they think hold a subtle moral or spiritual message (not overtly Christian movies). We show clips of the selected movies and then discuss the spiritual message in an open-mike format. These have traditionally been incredibly popular and successful. This year we are adding a new twist: we are providing popcorn and water (we've got to keep it healthy) during service so that you can munch on popcorn while watching the movie clips. This is where you come in. We need you to suggest possible movie titles that we might watch. Tell us what you perceive the moral or spiritual message to be, and whatever you do, make sure it's a movie that's already out on DVD so that we can show it and discuss it. Thanks for your input. If you don't want to leave a message here, then go here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Decisions, decisions, decisions!!!

In keeping with my tradition of 'brainless' Friday, I am posting a couple more roadsigns that make you scratch your head and go, "Hmmmmm!!!" This first sign makes you wonder whether the bridge being out was the reason for the sign in the first place, or if the sign was in fact erected simply to inform us that the sign had sharp edges. I can picture the city council sitting around the table at their annual meeting, agenda laid out in front of each one of the members of this coveted and exclusive committee, and Mayor Marlon, between loud burps and mouthfuls of 'questionable burger meat' saying, "Weeeeell, Ah think we need a sign that teeeells folk about that there broken bridge that's broken, but we gotta warn 'em not to touch the sign as they're liable to get hurt! Any one second that motion?"

This next sign settles once and for all the question why all the college students turned right instead of left! Have a positively brilliant weekend!!! :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This way please, ladies and gentlemen...

I've been reading the Book of Micah, one of the minor Prophets of the Bible. Micah, like other Prophets before and after him, always had to contend with being extremely unpopular, completely marginalized, and tagged as irrelevant. The uphill task for every Christian today is to convey the truth of the Gospel, yet command the attention of the ones you're trying to reach with the message, while remaining relevant. The Gospel is a message of love, provision, and forgiveness, but it is also a message of repentance, obedience, and judgement. It is impossible to preach the truth while eschewing one or the other. Micah finds himself battling the cultural mandate of the day, as well as the leaders of Israel.

The search for balance and creativity in communicating the message of truth sort of reminds me of a flight attendants thankless job. I would wager that it's probably been a while since you paid undivided attention to the flight attendant during the seemingly repetitive and arduous pre-flight safety demonstration. Look around you next time you fly, people are reading, talking, laughing... everything but paying attention to the most important part of the flight. This shook me to the core when I watched a show on NatGeo the other day about a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight that ditched in the waters off the Comoros Islands along the south-eastern coast of Africa. Before the crash-landing people were instructed to put on their life jackets and not inflate them until they had exited the plane, many ignored the instructions. It cost them their lives. While many people survived, everyone who had inflated their life jackets while still sitting in the plane, found that they couldn't escape the plane as it broke up on impact with the ocean and immediately began to fill up with water. Their inflated life jackets caused them to float to the top of the plane and they just couldn't muster the requisite strength to swim against the bouyancy of their life jackets. less than 100 yards from shore, they perished in a tube that had been broken open on both ends.

While the stories of the Bible may sometimes appear minatory, the truth is that they are the same 'repetitive announcement' from God about a world that is on a fast track to crash landing into the very abyss of hell. Christians are the 'flight attendants' on this doomed flight, and we have to get the people's attention to ensure that they don't perish uneccessarily. If the truth be told, it is not just about being a great raconteur, but about understanding that it is the nature of sinners to sin. We cannot allow ourselves to be offended by people to the point that we lose an appreciation for the value of their lives. The flight attendant can no more decide he/she is not doing the announcement because less than half the people on the plane are paying attention, than we can decide to quit trying to find creative ways to communicate the truth so that people pay attention. What are some of the more creative ways you've figured out how to communicate truth? (You can't say blogging!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Celebrating an Overflow of...

Okay, you are probably expecting a play by play of the Overflow: Sanford outreach held this past weekend, however my report will be of a slightly different nature since I'm inclined to highlight a principle more than a run down of the days events. It was an incredible day and we had more food, groceries, clothes and other 'stuff' to give away. The Scriptures say "It is more blessed to give than to receive," and we felt and saw the evidence of that truth in a tangible way. People were 'shopping' for free, hauling boxes and boxes of things out to their vehicles while wondering if it was an early Christmas, or if there was a catch.

While I was thoroughly thrilled at the fact that we could give away so much, I was even more impacted by the fact that we were able to help a few people pay some of their outstanding utility bills. I can only imagine how tough it must be, being a single mother and always having more month than money. We had a single mother of four kids needing to pay her utility bill which was two months past due and scheduled for disconnection. It was a relatively small amount (compared to what many people spend in a month eating out), but for her it might as well have been a million dollars, since it was impossibly out of her reach. It took a simple phone call from the Church, to take care of the bill and guarantee that her lights stay on (at least for the present). As I processed through the idea of helping people with their utility bills, I began to think about failure, and the mindset that accompanies it. The majority of the people who applied for financial assistance at our outreach, appeared completely defeated and without hope. It reminded me of what Job had to say in his memoirs of the same name:

I make sad sounds as I eat; my groans pour out like water. Everything I feared and dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace or quietness. I have no rest, only trouble.

Many of the stories we heard reflect the same sentiments as Job. The truth is though, that the recipe for the fear of failure is not success but failure. That's why Bootcamp in the military, in an attempt to keep you alive in the event of war, simulates the extreme conditions of battle in an environment that is not always pristine and safe. I recently read a Harvard business School review, that extolled the value of failure in order to ultimately find success. It cited some of the most successful business moguls of our day as having failed monumentally before they found success. As I watched the precious people at Overflow: Sanford gratefully receive the gifts we were privileged to share with them, I realized that, though the majority of them see themselves as failures, they are simply walking a path towards their ultimate success. So, how was Overflow: Sanford? Amazingly successful!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shining lights

I'm exhausted! My family and I are taking a well deserved break after a rather hectic but fulfilling week of 'criminally' early mornings and 'insanely' late nights, preparing for our weekend outreach. We headed out to the ATL (Atlanta, to the uninitiated) at 6.45am this morning to hang out with my brothers, one of whom will be getting married soon. I really want to give you a report on the amazing success of our Overflow: Sanford event this past Saturday, but I couldn't do the report justice as tired as I am at the moment. So instead of boring you to death trying to string coherent sentences together, I'll simply invite you to come back tomorrow when I will be in a significantly better frame of mind to give you an update. Until then, ponder these statements: You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before all men so that they may give glory to your Father in heaven. Now answer these questions: Is your circle of friends exclusively Christian? If yes, who are you shining your light for?

Friday, June 13, 2008

A peace offering

I admit it, yesterday's post was the longest I've ever had on my blog. In my defense though, it was unavoidable considering the topic, and there was no way I was turning it into a two part series. As a peace offering for making you read as much as you did on your finals when you were in college, I am posting some more light hearted stuff for your weekend pleasure. First I wanted you to be aware of our incredible weekend planned for the city of Sanford. This Overflow: Sanford event will be the culmination of a lot of hard work, prayer and sacrificial giving so that our community can experience another dimension of God's love as expressed through The Well. We'll be giving away tons of free stuff and even helping some less fortunate people to pay some bills. If you live in the area, come on out for a couple of hours, and if you don't... well, come on out anyway.

This is probably my favorite funny road sign to date. I know a lot of people have been waiting a long time to see this, and some of us have even made impossible promises with the addendum "when hell freezes over I will...." Well, I guess it's time to pay up. Have a great weekend, I know those of us participating in Overflow: Sanford will!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The more things change...

Disclaimer: This will be a long post! But believe me, it's worth the read.
My blogging buddy, Kamsin, recently tagged me in a meme. Exactly! I asked myself the same question. What in tarnation is a meme? So I checked it up in the Cambridge English Dictionary. I can only hope that this is the implied meaning as used in the following "meme" she tagged me in. Whatever the case, I will do my level best to articulate my 'soap-box' position as succinctly as possible (while adding a new word to my lexicon) :)

When asked why he did not rebuke the sinfulness of the people around him, St. Francis of Assisi responded:

"The life of the Christian should be burning with such a light of holiness that by their very example and conduct, their life will be a rebuke to the wicked."

In an era where Christians are largely known for the sin they oppose, this wisdom could not be more timely. Francis calls us to face the compromises of our culture by becoming living alternatives with how we live. As sin is defined, not by what it is, but by what it fails to be (thus its meaning "to miss the mark"), so to our approach to facing the systemic sin in our world should be battled by becoming that which it fails to be. For example, in the face of rampant individualism, we must embrace radical community, not simply condemn it as wrong.

Along this line, I am starting this meme to challenge your creativity:

1. Consider aspects of our culture where we have too easily compromised, issues that you passionately oppose.
2. Then ask yourself what it would mean for you, both as an individual and as a part of a community, to be a living alternative. Write about it.
3. Link back here to this post.
4. Tag others to participate.

The following is my response to the tag:
Understand that this meme has taken on a life of its own as it has been tagged across the globe, as different people attempt to express their sentiments regarding a cultural compromise that we have so readily embraced as Christians. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my background, I'm a Nigerian, raised in England, living in America and pastoring a multi-cultural church in a suburb of Orlando, Florida. It would seem apparent then that a clear passion of mine is the fight against racial stereotyping. As Christians, not only have we compromised in our willingness to 'turn a blind eye' to this culturally acceptable 'elephant-in-the-room' but it would appear that we have wholeheartedly embraced it, sighting various hollow reasons for why it is so.

It's been said that the most segregated hour in America is the eleven O' clock hour on Sunday. The implication being that churches congregate under such clearly, racially divided lines, that we might as well be praying to different gods. Because people largely fear what they don't understand (especially if they perceive it as posing a threat to the familiar and comfortable), they tend to respond with a measure of hostility that immediately eliminates the potential for civil conversation. We have experienced this first hand living in the "South." I will relate two different instances that will illustrate my point a little more clearly. Years ago, when I lived in London, I was looking for a flat to rent in the swanky up and coming neighborhood of the Docklands. I spoke to the Estate agent who arranged for me to meet with the landlord to view the property. It was a typical January morning in London. Cold, overcast, drab, dreary... you get the picture. It looked as if the city had been painted in grey.

When I got to the flat, I waited for more than an hour and the only vehicle that drove by me, immediately turned back and left. When I finally managed to drag my near hypothermic body and frozen limbs to a nearby pub, I called the Estate agent. With great embarrasment he explained that the guy who had driven by me was the landlord, and when he saw that I was black, he promptly called the agent and told him that he wasn't renting his flat to "no niggers." I had two choices. I could become bitter and label every white person a racist, or I could shrug my shoulders and accept the fact that not everyone will respond to me with a positive attitude. I chose the latter. A month later, a beautiful house in the Coulsdon area of Surrey came available at a great price, and someone gave us the money needed to pay a downpayment towards purchasing it. Had we successfully entered into a lease contract on the flat, we would have been unable to buy the house. I refused to allow this experience to color or taint my impression of people, by generalizing.

I determined that as a Christian, it is my fundamental, and indeed quintessential calling to love people irrespective of how they respond to me. I am persuaded that both as an individual and as a group of Christians called to live as part of a community called The Well, it is incumbent on us to live out Christ loud. A few months ago we had the perfect opportunity to model this fact, and so my second illustration follows. I performed the wedding ceremony of my youth pastor last year. He is a white midwesterner from Iowa, while she is a fiesty black beauty from Haiti. She had a brides maid in her wedding party that had grown up never having interacted with a black person. My youth pastor's wife (Odile) was the first black person she had befriended, and when Odile visited her in her family home, her brother had literally insulted Odile and walked out of the house, refusing to be in the same room with a black person. My wife and I offerred our home to Odile and her brides maids to dress for the wedding and we had the opportunity to spend 20 minutes with this precious lady, who was admittedly overwhelmed by being in the home of a black person, yet confused that we seemed so nice and not at all like she was led to believe black people should be.

Unknown to us at the time, our 20 minute interaction had a profound impact on her life, and a few days after returning home, she sent this e-mail to my wife. I have intentionally left out her name to protect her privacy.

"I just wanted to say that you and your husband left quite an impression on me. I'm amazed at how our 20 minute conversation has impacted my life. On the flight home I noticed I had a different "tolerance" for the vast array of ethnicity around me. I have the utmost respect for your family and wish I had access to a similar church closer to my area. Thank you very much..."

I guess it's true that love is the greatest 'force' in the world. In a 20 minute conversation, all we wanted to convey to this precious lady was how much she was loved by God and by us. We wanted her to know that we were not remotely interested in judging her for having lived a life of bigotry, and that we were profoundly impacted by how much our lives intersect with people whose destiny is hinged upon how we relate to them. In concluding this 'thesis' I would suggest that, though our culture accepts the idea of racism, bigotry and stereotyping as the norm, it is of the utmost importance that the Church takes the right approach to this as described by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now I tag Hope, Hope C., Ashley, Thea and Scott. What do you guys have to say about this meme?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

He loves me, He loves me not...

As I continue my 'eye opening' meander across the sometimes precarious slopes of pastoring a local church, I continue to learn that one of the occupational hazards of the job is second-guessing yourself. Some days I am flying higher than a kite on helium steroids, and on other days I feel like I'm due a visit from the men who put you in a little white jacket with extra long sleeves that stylishly wrap around the torso. As I talk to other pastors from around the country, I find, sadly, that I don't have exclusive domain of this feeling. I've been 'stuck' in the books of 1 and 2 Kings for a while now, and I'm thoroughly enjoying rediscovering the incredibly relevant truths that abound between the pages.

Take for instance the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18. Today I'm not going to focus on the amazing miracle of suspending the rain for three and a half years, or even on the fact that God sends him to go back to Ahab the king and notify him that it's about to begin raining again. I'm not even going to focus on the fact that Ahab was 'headhunting' Elijah (and I mean that in the most realistic of terms as opposed to the modern day terminology which implies a good thing), and Elijah knew it. Instead, today I'm going to focus on Elijah's 'schizophrenic' approach to trusting in God's call on his life. From verse 16 through the end of chapter 18, Elijah is a spiritual 'monster.' He is masterful, confident and confrontational against Ahab, the Prophets of Baal, and the powers of darkness.

Now fast forward to chapter 19. Elijah, having orchestrated the deaths of all the Prophets of Baal, having confronted king Ahab and even verbally sparred with him, knowing that he was a spineless and godless dictator who could have ordered him killed in an instant, he receives a message from Jezebel, Ahab's wife. The message: "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them (the Prophet's of Baal)." Elijah's response: "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life." Excuse me??? You've just called down rain on a land that hasn't experienced rain for three and a half years. You've just confronted the Prophet's of Baal and demonstrated the impotence of their gods (the same gods by which Jezebel swears). You've just proved to Ahab the power of an All-Powerful-God, and all you know to do is flee at the threat of a 'puny' woman? Wow! I guess myself and all those pastors who seem to approach God with schizophrenic inconsistency, are in pretty good company. Do you ever second guess God's purpose for your life?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Here's your sign...!!!

I have to put out a disclaimer first and say that I haven't physically seen this sign and I didn't take the photograph. Having said that, it certainly looks legitimate enough and knowing what I do about Arkansas I'm going to have to say... hmmm! One thing's for sure though, no one can accuse the State of Arkansas of being discriminatory. They treat all their citizens fairly even if they don't all have road signs proudly displaying their association with the state.

In the continuing spirit of light hearted 'reading' for the weekend, especially since it's the last day of school for my kids... gosh, typing that right now reminded me: it's the last day of school for my kids! They're home for the summer!! Gulp!!! We probably need padlocks on the refrigerator or at the very least a grant from the Federal Govt. for food allowance... but I digress. Speaking of grants, I know that fuel prices are skyrocketing and that diesel has become almost as expensive as gold (I should know, I drive a diesel powered truck), but I didn't think that the value of diesel had put it on par with olive or canola oil. I wonder what this chicken would taste like.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We have big 'buts' and I cannot lie...

The story of Naaman the leper in 2 Kings 5 has always held particular fascination for me. One of the reasons for my fascination is the slight language barrier I experienced when I first came to the USA. You see, I only speak English, and was completely unaware of the nuances of speaking 'American.' I remember preaching this message with great fervor and emphasizing that Naaman, as successful and celebrated as he was, had a 'but' in his life. You see, the Scriptures say "He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy." I proceeded to explain how we all have a 'but' in our lives. Some 'buts' are bigger than others... well, I'm sure you get the picture. Unfortunately I didn't get it until people were falling off their chairs, weeping with insane laughter, as I doggedly pressed home my point with gusto, emphasizing the word 'but.' How on earth was I supposed to know that in America, that word with an extra 'T' on the end meant something else.

Anyway, I digress. My real fascination with the story is actually the series of events that led up to his healing. Who would have thought that God's plan was to use a slave girl (prisoner of war) that worked for Naaman's wife, to lead Naaman to the place of his healing. Pride, indignation, anger, frustration were among the many emotions he experienced when Elisha the prophet didn't even see fit to come out and welcome the 'great' Naaman when he pulled up in his late model chariot. He threw an apoplectic fit when Elisha's servant further suggested that Elisha asked that Naaman go bathe in the Jordan. "The Jordan?? The filthy Jordan??? As if the rivers of Damascus are not bigger, better and cleaner than the Jordan, I had to come all this way to the home of a man who isn't even hospitable enough to come out and meet me, only to be told to go and wash in the Jordan?"

You'd have thrown a fit too if you'd been in Naaman's position. After all, he was the military commander that had defeated Israel in Syria's bid to overthrow and take control of that nation. Now he was faced with having to give in to one of two unsavory choices. Accept his fate and live with leprosy, or humble himself and bathe in a filthy river with no clear explanation as to why. What would he choose? The answer would lie in which one hurt more? His ego, having to deal with the perceived 'humiliation' of bathing in a filthy river, or his 'but,' having to deal with the social and medical stigma of leprosy? History records for us that he made the right choice. He bathed in the river and was completely and miraculously healed. His healing further led to his salvation. So, what's your 'but' and what are you going to do about it? Will you jump in the river or will you live with your 'but.' (pun intended)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Say it aint so!!!

I have to admit to being stupefied by this photo! It was posted on (Carlos Whittaker's blog), and I couldn't help copying the photo and pasting it here. I admit that I was pretty rankled when I read it. And we wonder why church attendance and the perceived relevance of Christianity is on the decline? We wonder why the world considers us intolerant and judgmental? This sign says it all. Isn't it amazing how we choose to major on the minors? The self-appointed, self-righteous people who came up with this list, have determined that these are the people or lifestyles that God hates the most. Since they have so 'thoughtfully' and 'prayerfully' put the list together, I guess that makes slave dealers/owners, arbiters of genocide, and other such abominable acts, safe?

To read this, you would think that these were the things that condemned people to hell. You would get the distinct impression that Jesus didn't die because He loved us, but merely because He wanted us to observe a set of rules. I imagine that the people who came up with the idea for this sign have probably never had an evil thought or committed any of the acts that they so gleefully list on their sign. Don't miss my point by thinking that I support these lifestyle choices, I just don't think that's the way we'll convince people that a loving God cares for them and that we are His very 'caring' ambassadors. What do you think?

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's your turn

I know the global One Prayer series doesn't officially start until next Sunday (June 8) but I'm a glutton for good "food" and so we began our series yesterday (June 1). We will have five Sundays of One Prayer messages instead of four, so that we get to hear messages from four different speakers other than myself. Yesterday we watched Craig Groeschel's message titled Lord Make Us One. Now, I could give you a full review of the message but that would destroy it for those who won't begin the series until next week, so we'll hold off on that right now (your thanks is accepted!!!). What I'd like to ask you to do this morning, is what 63 pastors did when we submitted our messages to the One Prayer website so that people around the globe could hear and watch our one prayer for the Church. Would you tell us: If you could pray one prayer for the Church globally, what would your one prayer be?

I really would like to know since I am devoting my time to pray in line with all the expressed prayers in the One Prayer messages. I'd like to add your one prayer to the list that I'll be praying for. Thanks for your response.