Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset...!!!

"Here's what's happening in your world even as we speak." I don't know if they are original to him, but these words were made famous by Willard Scott, the former 'weatherman' on NBC's Today show. Today (no pun intended), I thought I should give you a synopsis of what's really happening in our world (other than the weather) even as we speak.

  • Israel is at war with Hamas (Palestinian extremist terrorists)
  • A new study was published indicating that Teenage virginity pledges are 'ineffective'
  • Foreclosure rates continue to climb as interest rates continue to rise
  • There is a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan as they take over villages and towns
  • There is mounting tension between Pakistan and India as both countries mobilize forces towards their common border
  • Home values have dropped 18% from October 2007
  • 'Santa' gunman kills 9 people at his ex in-laws Christmas party. Reports are that he had also planned to kill his own mother as well as the attorney who represented his ex-wife
  • Child sex trafficking continues to thrive in Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines
  • Child 'slave' labor is alive and well and making inroads into the USA
  • People continue to die of starvation, malnutrition and disease in Darfur, Sudan

But, in the midst of all this apparent gloom and doom, the best news of the day is that Jesus is still Lord! He still sits on His stately seat of power, investing Himself in the affairs of men. The world may appear to be spiraling out of control as evil appears to triumph, but this is all an illusion. Truth will prevail and good will ultimately triumph over evil. Our part is to fix our eyes squarely on the Author and Finisher of our faith. As the sun sets on 2008, with all its attendant tragedies, I am looking forward with a great sense of anticipation toward the sun rise of 2009. You're welcome to join me!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Frivolous Friday!

I trust you had a great Christmas! Just in case though, I wanted to be sure and give you a good reason for a good ol' belly laugh so I found these frivolously funny signs just for you. I don't know about you but I'm thoroughly confused by this one and I must admit it left me scratching my hairless dome. Was Spiderman in the building or were they expecting him? The only other possibility is that the rest of you humans are keeping a big secret from me about our special abilities.

Please ensure that all nuclear grade plutonium is also left outside as the radiation messes with the flavor of the food. Also, please be sure to label your weapons for ease of identification on your way out. Management is not responsible for stolen nuclear warheads!!!

What the heck, if it happened to the people during Noah's time, I sure as heck am not going to let it happen to me. I'm not getting caught off guard if another flood hits, I'll just make my house ready for sailing 'cos I'm really smart like that. Now if I can just figure out which room to put the gators in, I'll be fine!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Who stole Christmas?

According to reliable reports coming in from the fictitious town of Whoville, it is now an indisputable fact that the Grinch has stolen Christmas! Reported sightings of the ‘mean green monster’ carting away all the presents belonging to the entire town, have created an extreme sense of disillusionment amidst speculations that this might be the worst Christmas on record. As the self-appointed investigator representing “Whoville,” and with all due respect to the masterpiece penned by Dr Seuss in 1957, I am amending the story ever so slightly. In the new version, the Grinch doesn’t just cart away the presents of the Whovillites (or Whovillians, depending on what part of the country you’re from), he messes with the adjustable mortgage rates so that there are unprecedented reports of home foreclosures. He destabilizes OPEC and the Middle East so that there are inflated oil prices, resulting in a snowball effect of increased prices on gas, groceries, utilities, rent… and the list goes on and on.

Hold up, wait just one second! I think I’m mixing the stories up. It wasn’t the Grinch who stole Christmas, it was you and I. How did we steal Christmas, I hear you ask? Well, simply by buying into the deception that Christmas is all about gifts and presents, and about being as pretentiously sweet as possible (just until the season is over). That is an illusion! By definition, an illusion is the art of deception by producing a false or misleading impression of reality. In believing the illusion that Christmas is about presents (even though we aren’t the ones being celebrated), many of us will go into debt before the season is over, trying to compete with the Joneses next door on who can put up the most outdoor lights without blowing the transformer down the street. We will max out credit cards purchasing gifts that will be returned on Friday in exchange for other gifts that will eventually find their way to Goodwill or the Salvation Army store (we've even created a new word "regifting" for the category of people that will give away a gift they received, to someone else). We will gather around gaudily decorated trees and ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the gifts we receive (whether we like them or not), and at the end of the day, very little, if anything, will have been said about what Christmas really is about.

I hate the overindulged spending that happens at this time of year (the marketing is almost as tedious as a presidential campaign), I despise the obligatory greeting of “Happy Holidays,” and I absolutely abhor the attempts to make Christmas a secular holiday that celebrates culture more than Christ. Christmas is about Christ! Regardless of what any one says or thinks, the idea behind this holiday is the fact that Christians are celebrating the birth of our Savior, who, by His shed blood redeemed the world from sin and eternal death. Whether you believe that to be true or not does not change the facts. If you’d rather pretend that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ simply because you say happy holidays instead of merry Christmas, that’s your prerogative. But I urge you to carefully consider that stealing Christmas is not the exclusive domain of the Grinch. Too many of us, in forgetting or choosing to ignore the real reason for the season, have effectively stolen Christmas too!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's in your closet?

Here's a hot topic that's been in the news of late: Kevin Naff, editor of The Washington Blade, a gay publication, recently lambasted Obama's choice to have Rick Warren give the invocation at his inauguration, stating, "His presence on the inauguration stand is a slap in the faces of the millions of GLTB (gay, lesbian, transgenedered and bisexual) voters who so enthusiastically supported him..." He went on to say, "This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise." Presumably this is a reference to President Bush's moral (and might I add Biblical) stand against homosexual marriages. I mean, last I checked, the president didn't carry a placard campaigning against homesexuals, nor did he vote in the recent California elections that opted to overturn gay marriage. Evidently whether it is Bush or Obama, as long as any president (or president-elect) does or says anything that is perceived as remotely 'offensive' to gay rights activists, they become persona non-grata.

This constant war of words back and forth between gay rights activists and conservative Christianity is a hackneyed strategy that serves no useful purpose. Clearly the freedom of speech allowed by our Constitution provides room for ideological differences rather than a sequacious following of so-called 'political correctness.' The angry diatribes proferred by both gay rights activists and 'gay-people loving' Christians further adduce to the fact that the only way to effectively win this raging 'battle' is on our knees and not through swollen, empty rhetoric. Lee Grady's, Charisma Online, recently published an article that highlighted Ray Boltz's (singer/ songwriter) "30-some years" battle with homosexuality. Married for 33-years, and with four grown children, Ray Boltz finally gave in to his personal struggle and embraced [his homosexuality], stating that he feels closer to God than he ever has. The article pointed out that the gay community is probably waiting with bated breathe, to see the response of Christians. They probably expect that we will take all of the 'heretical' Boltz's CD's and burn them in a bonfire while decrying his betrayal of true Christianity. The article rightly hints that such a reaction would be the wrong one. Sadly, there will be many-a-'Christian' who will respond in just such a manner.

My favorite part of the Charisma article is, in response to the question, "how do we react," Grady makes this simple but profound statement, "We must weep." He further opines, "It's not enough for us to preach to people. We must pray for them first. When they meet us, they need to see our moist eyes, not scowls and pointed fingers. Compassionate prayer bathes our message in God's mercy. It requires us to humbly identify with sinners as we recognize that each one of us battles some form of brokenness or addiction." Bravo Lee, well said! This 'battle' being raged in front of abortion clinics and across picket lines from 'card-carrying' homosexuals is destined to be a losing battle until we learn to weep for our nation. We must love the people enough to feel their despair and brokenness rather than point angry fingers of judgment that only serve to further alienate us and our message. The overarching message of the gospel is love. This kind of love is not found in the pages of books, nor in the lecture halls of seminaries. It is found only in an enduring and endearing personal relationship with Christ, that further demonstrates itself through an all-consuming love for others. If you're gay and you're reading this, I want you to know that I love you and welcome you with open arms at The Well, and believe me, I am not being condescending or judgmental when I say that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Incredible Journey!

It's truly amazing how quickly time goes by when you're living life to the fullest. The last three years have been an amazing season for my family and I. We've 'fallen' deeper in love with Central Florida and the people we are called to serve. We've, surprisingly, developed somewhat of an aversion to really cold weather, and have practically become Florida natives as we've discovered all the treasures Orlando has to offer. While The Well has been a large part of our lives over the past three years, watching our kids grow, adjust, and then fall in love with this region has given us the greatest joy. My girls are blossoming and thriving as they build new relationships, adapt to new schools and 'spread their wings' as they discover their likes and dislikes.

My daughter Bimi is an avid writer and her skills never cease to amaze me. She writes 10 years beyond her age (she's fifteen), and has such a way with words that she puts her dad's writing skills to shame. She also fancies herself as somewhat of a budding music star and has dreams of living in her blue mansion paid for from all the money she'll make from her recording contracts (it used to be a blue and pink mansion when she was planning on living with her then best friend. Apparently they never accounted for getting married and considering their husband's preferences too). Temi is both the athletic and academic one. She is so book smart that a single B on her report card can send her into a 'tailspin' of misery. She's been invited into the TAG program at her school and she's currently committed to pursuing music and a soccer career.

My son, Demi is in his final few months of high school (I'm still finding that hard to believe) and he has committed to the University of South Florida where he will be playing his college football. Today marks a special day for him in the process of his football evolution as he plays in his final high school football game. He was selected to the Central Florida All-Star game, and is actually going to be one of two starting defensive ends on his team. I am ovewhelmed with memories as I anticipate watching my 'young man' playing in his final high school football game tonight. Sometimes life seems to fly by way too fast, while at other times it appears interminably slow. Whatever the case is with your life, sometimes, if we don't slow down and savor the 'scenery' we might miss out on the best things life has to offer. I am truly thankful to be blessed with such incredible kids, and with the opportunity to watch them chase their dreams. What exciting things are happening in your life?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dancing with the non-stars!

I was on a friends blog and I found this youtube video. I'm not ashamed to say that it brought tears to my eyes! You see, I live in a world where 'performance' is a pre-requisite for 'success', and as a pastor, everybody measures your success largely based on parameters that you have little or no control over. I've said on numerous occasions that pastoring a church can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. An often thankless exposing of your heart to hurt and pain. In fact, just recently Craig Groeschel's blog, Swerve, had a post titled The Private Cost of Visible Success, and it was a poignant reminder that, while in the visible expansion of your ministry many will desire to have what you have, few are willing to do what you did to get there. He reminded us that only you and those closest to you will know the sacrifices, pain, loneliness, fear and weight you've had to deal with and carry along the course of your journey.

This youtube video reminds me of the simplicity of the power of love, laughter and a genuine caring for people. I know nothing about Matt! I don't know who he is. I have no idea where or if he works. I don't know where he lives, nor do I know what he believes. I do know this though: I know that in the simple, almost foolish gesture of a 'dance around the globe' he has piqued the interest of many. Who knows what was going on in the lives of many of the people that joined him in a dance? Whatever the case, for a few fleeting moments their pain and adverse circumstances were forgotten and they celebrated life and laughter. I applaud this unique expression of simplicity because, at the end of the day, that's exactly what I'm trying to accomplish as a Christian, except that I hope that what I add to people's lives will be of more lasting and eternal value than a fleeting dance of joy.

So for the next few moments, I dare you to forget the 'multi-million' dollar deal, the big presentation, the busyness that always beckons, and enjoy a dance with Matt. It doesn't really matter where you are because wherever it is, he's probably already been there and danced! a friend of mine once penned the words, "You dance over me, while I am unaware..." Since Matt might not be available, may be you'd care to join Him in a dance today. Have an incredible and inspiring day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Frivolous Friday! (we're back)

As you've probably noticed, my blogging has been somewhat sporadic over the last couple of weeks, and much of what I've posted has been fairly 'heavy' stuff. Incase you've begun to wonder if I've lost my sense of humor and simply live in this 'dark, angry place' I thought I should lighten your weekend with some more funny road signs. I can honestly say I have no idea what this road sign means (we don't have them in Florida). Does it suggest that there's a naked, large chested woman up ahead kicking a lamp post, or does it suggest that...? If you have any idea please put me out of my misery!

Now as you approach a gentle curve to the left watch out for two or three little exits where folks may not be paying too much attention as they turn onto the highway. Immediately after that curve, prepare to make a less subtle turn to the right and then accelerate so that you're going 65 mph as you zip across the railroad tracks (be sure to be going 65 as that way you won't feel a thing if there happens to be a train going by right then). Finally, if you happen to make it across the railroad track, drive at the same frenzied speed into a gentle S-curve. I'll meet you at the end with the gentlemen who run the psyche ward. Apparently, one of their inmates designed this little, neat driving experience!

"Hey, don't thank us, it's our job and we aim to please!" You know how they say things get worse before they get better (no, I'm not talking about the economy)? Well, the person who coined that phrase actually made it up while sitting in this traffic jam. Have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday bright and early.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The silence is deafening!!!

The silence is deafening! The ‘angry mob’ that has sought to oust the ‘Kenyan born usurper’ would appear to have failed in their bid to disprove his citizenship. The courts are throwing out law suits like Santa throws around Christmas gifts. What has come of all the hoopla? At best, another failed, weak, and poorly reasoned attempt to impose personal preference disguised as the will of God. And at worst? Who knows? But it may be argued that Christians have again become the laughing stock of our country and our political process. ‘Our man’ (or woman) didn’t win and so we embarked on an eponymous campaign to discredit the one who did. Jerome Corsi, who wrote a book which attacks Obama, did an interview with Fox News’ Steve Doocy on August 15, 2008 in which he claimed, with great alacrity, that Obama’s birth certificate was a fake.

The following is a part of the transcript of the interview.

Doocy: What do you mean they have a “false birth certificate” on their website?

Corsi: The original birth certificate of Obama has never been released, and the campaign refuses to release it.

Doocy: Well, couldn’t it just be a State of Hawaii- produced duplicate?

Corsi: No, it’s a – there’s been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it’s been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop. It’s a fake document that’s on the website right now, and the original birth certificate the campaign refuses to produce.
(To get the full transcript on the Obama birth certificate fiasco go here)

Why does this conversation remind me of the book 88 reasons why the rapture will be in 88 I’ve said all along that the merit of our testimony is significantly weakened when we rush like ‘bulls into china shops’ destroying everything in our path simply to establish our preference, even at the risk of being wrong. My concern has always been with the way we as the Church seem to present speculation as if it were fact, and then attempt to strengthen it with a "thus sayeth the Lord" to ensure that our weak suppositions remain unchallenged. So now, after all is said and done, and there appears to be no valid case for making Sarah Palin the 44th VP of these United States, we begin the ‘sheepish’ attempts at back-pedaling, while making every excuse in the book to justify our ‘foolishness’ rather than publicly acknowledging that we were wrong. The sudden silence from the American Church is deafening!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Payback's a stitch!!!

So, Sola and I just returned from a fabulous 3-day cruise to the Bahamas (Nassau to be precise). We had an amazing time, not having to set an agenda and 'pigging' out like food was going out of style and we had to eat all we could before it was actually phased out. Any way, before we left I took the time to record a video message to our church so that it could be played back on Sunday. I will spare you the details of what my message communicated, but a group of them got together after service to send me a recorded message of their own. I had an apoplectic fit as I rolled about on the floor doubled up with laughter. If the truth be told, you would have to hear my message to really understand why theirs was so funny, but I thought I'd share their message with you anyway since it was such a hoot. Paybacks a stitch aint' it?

Friday, December 5, 2008

We the people... at least I think we are!

You haven't read from me in a couple of days, but it is for good reason. I've been devouring copious amounts of material (written and video) regarding the troublesome issue of Barack Obama's birth certificate. I watched (or rather listened on youtube) with distate, a purported phone call by a 'bishop' to Obama's grandmother in Kenya, with the shameless intent of 'manipulating' her (through a translator) into affirming that she was present for her grandson's birth in Kenya. The large majority of the conversation was completely unintelligible and even through the translator, it was obvious that Mr. 'bishop' was clueless as to what was actually being said. Another 'bishop' has said he is willing to die to expose Obama's fraud, seeing that he is the "devil incarnate." Sadly, he didn't indicate that he was willing to die to make Jesus known in the earth, but to expose Obama would be a cause worth dying for.

Many Christians are leading the charge in the call for 'justice' against Obama's attempt to 'defraud' our beleaguered nation. youtube, and other internet channels abound with conspiracy theorists having their day in the spotlight as they concoct fantastic tales of how Obama came about his birth certificate. Many of them come across as angry, disgruntled, and slighted 'wack jobs' who are indignant that things haven't gone 'God's' way and so, in the 'spirit' of righteous indignation they are fighting to take back what has been stolen. Overwhelmingly, the prevailing sentiment amongst these conspiracy theorists is that there is a large scale attempt to silence the truth. The federal courts, prosecutors and other notable political leaders are purportedly all in on this conspiracy. Now, for the record let me state categorically that I don't know where Obama was born. He may or may not have been born in Hawaii, but that fact remains to be legally proven or disproven.

Meanwhile, Christians who 'prophesied' that Palin would be the 44th VP of the United States are sitting on the edge of their collective seat, feeding the frenzy of disseminated propaganda with the notion that this is God's way of fulfilling His purpose. Exposing the charlatan for what he is may well re-open the opportunity for McCain and Palin to actually ascend their rightful throne as leaders of the greatest nation in the free-world. Or will it? I am troubled on two levels by this reaction. The fervor and passion that has gone into 'exposing' this 'fraud', the unprecedented 'unity' around a common cause (to see the Democrat who supports abortion not take office), the efforts that have been geared towards fighting this 'evil' impostor, are unrivaled by any effort the Church in America has collectively put towards reaching and serving the lost, the hurting, and the next generation. We have built such a chasm between us and the people we are called to love and serve, that it is debatable as to whether we can 'build a bridge' to span this divide.

Secondly, I am in great fear that we may well be setting ourselves up as the adversaries of God. What if it is true that Obama was born in the USA? How would that affect our testimony? How would it impact our ability to influence and impact the lives of the people we are trying to reach? For that matter, what if it is true that he was born outside of the USA? Has the way we have conducted ourselves as Christians been with the integrity that allows us to still influence people? Is the need to ensure that Obama doesn't make it into the White House worth losing our witness over? I am first a Christian before I am an American, and my responsibility as a Christian requires me to love first and above all else. I am not suggesting that if indeed there is a fraud being perpertrated we shouldn't be doing something about it, but as is typical with us, we are going off on a tangent and answering questions people aren 't asking, while ignoring the ones that they are.

Is it no longer true that there are lawyers who are Christians? Or does our nation no longer provide avenues for litigation against injustice? How does signing petitions and making spurious youtube claims make the truth any clearer? Obama is the "devil incarnate"? Wow! What next? Can we come up with any more creative ways to justify the worlds contention that Christians are known more for what we are against, than for what we stand for? I for one disavow this tactic! This is not the way I fight my battles. Since my battle is not against "flesh and blood" I've found prayer and fasting to be a good place to start. Then, I am persuaded we will find divine insight to approach whatever circumstances we face, with greater wisdom. After all, the Scriptures do say that God does not do anything without first revealing it His servants, the prophets (and this is not an endorsement for hoaxsters and frauds who purport to speak in the name of God while promoting their hateful agendas). I remain prayerfully confident that God's true purpose will prevail.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sticks and stones...!!!

Lately I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about ‘caged’ Christianity and 400-pound gorillas in reference to living out loud, and being an effective, adventurous Christian. I had the opportunity to speak at the church of a friend of mine this past Sunday, in Sioux Falls, SD. I know, I know, I must really love him to be willing to go up to Sioux Falls at this time of the year. Seriously though, I had an amazing time, and it wasn’t just at the church services. I love hanging out with Steven and his family. They are warriors and true examples of what it means to live life ‘outside’ of the cage. They are often battle scarred and weary from the many ‘skirmishes’ in which they find themselves as they defend, with all that’s in them, the mandate they believe God has assigned them.

Steven and Kristin continue to lead the charge as a voice for the unborn, not only in South Dakota, but nationally, and not only during election years (as sadly is the case with too many Christians), but at every season of their lives. Steven is passionate about his need to find justice for the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves, and he has invested everything he has to fulfill this calling, often at an unimaginably high and exceedingly painful price. My heart bleeds for him and his family, as I know they often feel alone in the battle they’re fighting on a national scale. This bloodthirsty demon that seeks to destroy the lives of countless unborn children through abortion, is a behemoth.

Because of their very vocal stand against abortion, the Hickey’s often find themselves the object of not just ridicule, but downright hostility and even death threats. This past weekend was a prime example of such hostility. As we drove by the church on Saturday evening, we noticed that someone had spray-painted graffiti all over the church bus used to transport the handicapped. The words “Despise” and “God is dead” were liberally painted all over the bus, requiring them to get the whole bus repainted. We waited outside in the biting cold while the police came by to do an inspection and file a police report for insurance purposes. Through it all Steven and Kristen’s only response was to indicate that the bus needed a new paint job anyway. What an incredible approach to living outside the ‘cage’. What an amazing example of living the adventure. Any thing exciting happened in your neck-of-the-woods lately?

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Gorilla' Warfare

I've been thinking a lot lately about the story of the Rich, young ruler. I'm fascinated by the fact that he was so devout, that he told Jesus that he had kept the commandments from his childhood, and Jesus didn't contest that fact. Can you imagine never having lied, stolen or cheated? Apparently this was his testimony. However, he did have a small 'possession' problem. He was 'owned' by his possessions, and so rejected an invitation to become one of Jesus' disciples in exchange for selling his possessions and giving the money to the poor. What??? Can you imagine being so controlled by something in your life that, even though you're seeking something deeper than your already admirable faith walk, you're not willing to give up what you own to find what you need.

This is our story too you know?! We are in relationship with Jesus and profess our undying love for Him. However, there are things in our lives that we love substantially more than we love Him. Whatever those things are, unless they are put in perspective and placed in their rightful place, we have in essence rejected a call to follow Jesus as one of His disciples, and have instead opted for the 'cage' of safe, boring and unchallenging christianity. It was C.S. Lewis who so eloquently stated, "You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first." If we lose our opportunity to accomplish our purpose because we are blinded by our 'caged' and safe Christianity, then we might as well be a 400-pound gorilla with all of its strenght harnessed behind a cage in the zoo. It is good for nothing except an occasional nose-pick and body-scratch. Unleash the adventure that's in you so that you can truly live!