Friday, June 26, 2009

It really is black or white

Only history will fairly judge the lives that we've lived, because choices we've made in the moment are still too fresh in people's memories to afford them the ability to objectively evaluate our lives in their entirety. Having said that, there is only One whose judgment carries eternal weight and value and that is the One of whom we have to be aware. There are many whose tergiversation where Michael Jackson was concerned was done solely because of what they read in the newspapers and not from any personal encounter with him. Today, sadly, Michael Jackson is no more. Dead at fifty years of age, one can only wonder what could have been. And while we're at it let's not forget Farrah Fawcett, the blonde bombshell of the TV hit, Charlie's Angels. Farrah died yesterday too at the premature age of 62, from a debilitating bout with cancer.

While our recent memories of Farrah may be of her hard fought battle with cancer, her life didn't engender the kind of controversy that Michael's and his etiolated skin did, so her death hardly raises an eyebrow outside of the circles in which she interacted directly. History however has inexorably connected them forever because, while they were born in different seasons to very different backgrounds, they both ended their act on life's stage on the same day, and have both left enduring legacies. Guys from my generation (late forties) will always remember Farrah Fawcett as the woman who made us wish we'd been born a decade or so earlier (maybe we might have stood a chance at serenading her). She is the quintessential Angel for which the hit show Charlie's Angels was named. Her legacy? An incredibly beautiful star who lived life to the fullest, and graciously faced the challenges of cancer as it ravaged her emaciated body until she succumbed to its death-blow.

Michael still holds the record for the highest grossing album of all time with "Thriller," an album which also holds the record for the most expensive and most revolutionary music video of all time (it virtually put MTV on the map). Michael gifted the world with the now legendary "moonwalk" first seen in his "Billie Jean" hit-single video performance. Thriller received 8 Grammy awards and sold a reported 27 million copies in the USA alone. His legacy? Whacko Jacko. He is best remembered not for his pulchritude as a talented up and coming star, but for his complete and 'mysterious' physical transformation from black to white; for having more cosmetic surgery than Liz Taylor and Joan Rivers combined; for his best friend being a chimp; for allegedly molesting underaged boys... and the list goes on and on.

Life, unfortunately, is so fleeting and none of us really know exactly how much time is alloted to us. If the greatest thing we can bequeath those coming after us is an enduring legacy, then we'd better live our lives in such a way as to ensure that if they ended abruptly today the story and testimony we'd leave behind is one that we really would want written about us. So I'll simply end by saying, thanks Farrah and Michael, for giving us a glimpse into what mattered to you both the most. Rest well!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran Contra...ry!!!

Hortatory and incendiary speeches are the hallmark of the theocratic regimes that have ruled supreme over some of the nations of the Middle East, brainwashing the people with fictitious and imaginative stories of the “Great Satan” that’s poised to color the world American. But people are not cattle. They will not be herded into a pen of brainless obeisance simply because an angry dictator presumes to do so. The recent elections (and I use the word lightly) in Iran are proof positive of this fact. In a bid to remain in collective power Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei overstepped their mandate and counted more votes than actual people who voted. This naturally led to dissenting voices taking to the streets in protest. According to the Ayatollah though, the election of Ahmadinejad was a “divine assessment.” People like the Ayatollah have been known to issue fatwas (“divine” death sentences) for less heretical claims. Clearly the people of Iran are tired of this repressive government that rules by force and fear as opposed to the rule of law.

“Supreme Leader” Khamenei, in his continuing display of regrettable stupidity declared that the USA, Israel, and especially Britain were behind the street protests that have roiled Tehran. Why doesn’t he just come out and call the Iranian people idiots and brainless twits? I mean, seriously?! He really believes that the people of Iran don’t know what they want? He’s actually convinced himself that these three nations are powerful enough to incite the people of Iran to sacrifice their lives protesting on the streets of Tehran for no reason other than the fact that the US, Israel and Britain suggested it? If that were true what does it say to him about his people, and more specifically about the way his ‘small’ mind processes big ideas. The people of Iran have spoken. They don’t want Ahmadinejad or his repressive policies that threaten to stamp out every vestige of independent thinking that they have.

The people have spoken, and their collective voice reverberates from the streets of Tehran stained with the blood of the innocent that cry out, albeit in the most taciturn of ways, for freedom. Freedom can often be somewhat of a nebulous concept because often those who have it take it for granted and complain about all the things they can’t do. Others, by reason of their freedom make choices that lead them right back into bondage to something other than the chains of political oppression. Then there are those who are willing to die for it knowing that they will never benefit from the spoils of their war against tyranny and oppression. For the people of Iran, this is a mountain worth dying on. So today, if you’re a Christ-follower, then the least we can do as a demonstration of solidarity for true freedom is to pray for the precious people of Iran! Won’t you join me?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Are you dying?

In John 1: 35-39 we read the narrative of Jesus’ first encounter with two of John the Baptist’s disciples who later became His disciples. In the discourse that ensued between them the first invitation that Jesus issues (really the first words of significance that he speaks to them) are the words, “Come and see.” In John 16: 1-4, as Jesus speaks what is essentially His final charge to His disciples, He essentially calls them to "come and die." He informs them of a time that is coming when people will kill His followers believing that they are doing a service to God (Saul of Tarsus was one of such people before his conversion and name change to Paul). Jesus' cryptic warning, “I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you."

Over the last three years these verses have spoken loudly to me in more ways than I care to recount. In many ways I have died slowly (so that He can live through me). Just as the Scriptures predicted, some of the voices of judgment and condemnation have even spoken in the name of Jesus (believing they were speaking for God) as they have spoken death over my calling and purpose. How have I kept my heart clean through all this? Simply by buying into the idea that as Christ-followers we must learn to embrace the principles that take us from the elementary stages of “come and see” to the missional and visional place of “come and die.” After all, the Bible does say that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.

Whatever the process you must walk through to get from “come and see” to “come and die,” embrace that process fully, knowing that it is the only way that you can fully walk in the totality of God’s calling and purpose for your life. Remember that Jesus’ first call to those who desire an intimate relationship with Him is to “come and see” and experience the fullness of life in Him. In other words He first calls us to a relationship. Then He calls us to embrace the mission and adventure, which requires a dying to our own carnal desires and a willingness to live for Him. So the real question today is: Are you dying so that you can really live?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's The End Of An Era!

Over the last week or so I've wrestled back and forth with whether or not I wanted to post a blog about the end of an era at The Well, and I'd been leaning toward not posting anything. I finally decided that the compromise would be that I would post the letter I sent out to all our regular attendees and friends so that you can get a direct sense from me as to what's going on as opposed to second-hand information, since, just like second-hand smoke, second-hand info can kill.

June 1, 2009

Dear CATWeller and Friends,

Yesterday was arguably one of the most difficult days of my life, yet one of the most inspiring and positive. We had an amazing service! The worship was so powerful and engaging, and the atmosphere was saturated with the presence of God. Sadly, it is with much regret that I inform you that it was the final service of The Well as we’ve known it. Now this may come as a bit of a shock to many of you, especially since, to all intents and purposes our church is growing and we are healthy and connected.

You see, over the last few weeks I’ve been wrestling with this decision for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my family’s wellbeing. The last three years have been at once the most incredible yet the most difficult journey of our lives, but we wouldn’t trade them for anything. I have personally grown in ways that I didn’t know were possible, and my kids have become stronger and more committed followers of Jesus because of our experiences. Sola has allowed her love for women to come to the fore and she has really shined as she has poured her heart and soul into “Thinking Pink.” I honestly can’t thank you enough for trusting me as your pastor and committing yourself to the journey. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we made a great community of faith, and I was truly inspired by the authenticity, friendliness, love, and heart of service that I saw constantly demonstrated in you and the rest of our amazing church family.

I must admit though that I am sad because of the relationships that I won’t get to nurture each and every Sunday, but I’m thrilled at the growth in maturity and leadership that you’ve shown over the times we’ve spent together seeking truth from God’s word. I’m convinced that because of your encounter with Jesus at The Well, you’ll do well (pun intended). God has something greater in store for all of us even though it may not seem like that at the present time. My family and I don’t know what God has in store for us next, but we know that whatever it is, it will be the next step in the journey toward fulfilling our destiny. After all, The Well is where your destiny begins! Our family will be remaining in the area for the month of June, and on the 24th we get to drop our son off at college at USF. Sola and I only have six more years before our youngest child goes off to college too, and so we want to be sure to give everything we can to enjoying our time with them.

As we seek for the next step in our journey we realize that it may well take us to any part of the U.S. (or the globe for that matter), and so while we’re still here in Central Florida we’d like to spend time hanging out with you too, so please don’t be a stranger. Call us up whenever you want, and if you need a Thompson fix then drop by and play a game of “Mad Gab” or “Balderdash” with us. I’d like to leave you with these powerful words that I’ve always spoken over you from the Scriptures in Isaiah 60:1… “Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

I love and deeply appreciate you always.

In His Grip

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's love got to do with it? Everything!

I know many of you watched the youtube video of Sam and Esther which I posted a few days back (incase you missed it watch it here before you watch this one), and I know that it impacted many of you in much the same way it did me. Many of you didn't leave direct comments on the blog but left comments on facebook, while others of you actually called me on the phone or e-mailed me directly (I do wish all the comments were left on the blog so that others could read all the incredible thoughts that so many of you shared with me in private). A few days have now gone by since that post and you've had lots of time to digest it, so the question is: do you still feel the same way or have the emotions settled and the need to make a difference faded?

However you answered that question let me tell you that every little bit will make a difference in the lives of countless, faceless people whom you may never directly encounter this side of heaven, but whose testimonies will hinge directly on the fact that you were willing to do something besides pray. This video is a follow-up story to the original Sam and Esther saga. It has an incredibly inspiring ending and it's proof that there are people out there in our world who will do the right thing once they are made aware of a pressing need that borders on life and death. Please. please be one of such people. I ask you again to give, go, love, serve, pray... shall I go on?

Where did you bathe this morning?

I have to honestly say that when I watched this video it didn't tug at my heartstrings. It figuratively ripped them to shreds, stomped on them, and then threw them into the abyss of human pain and misery. Please watch this video! For the sake of your children you need to watch this video. I am not playing the emotional card here, I'm simply telling you that this video will change the way you see your children, and hopefully the way you see other children and your call to love, serve, give, and go. I pray that this video will undo you the way it did me. If it does, then don't just weep and say how sad this is. Do something about it! You can connect with the ministry that's serving these kids and help them help others. You can go and serve, and easiest of all, you can pray. Please do as many of those options as you humanly can. Sam and Esther and many others like them are counting on your brokeness to help them live.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We're so, so sorry!

Let me begin by saying, “I'm sorry! On behalf of all Christians everywhere, I'm deeply sorry.” Now in case you’re wondering on whose authority I presume to speak for all Christians, let me unequivocally state, “The Bible.” You see, the Bible teaches that we will be known by our love for all people. It calls us to be beacons of light in a dark world, reminding us that we are the salt of the earth, and that unsavory salt is useless salt. In case you’re wondering what my diatribe is all about this time, I want to draw your attention to a recent news article regarding the slaying of a pro-abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas.

The news headline reads as follows;

“WICHITA, Kansas – Dr. George Tiller, who remained one of the nation’s few providers of late-term abortions through decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher and his wife was in the choir.” (

Now I’m fairly confident that there are some Christians who will rejoice at this news and may even make so bold as to claim that his death is God’s judgment for his choices. May I even more confidently state that, that response is the response of unsavory salt. We are called to be bearers of Good News and not judges, executing sentence on people at will. I don’t know if the news headline was written as an incendiary piece to further undermine Christianity, because I can’t in all good conscience see the need to highlight the fact that he was killed in a church where he serves as an usher and his wife sings in the choir. I do however know that killing him serves no useful purpose. We don’t even know if the person who killed him was a member of the church, but the article certainly leaves you thinking that ‘bigoted’ Christians are up to their ‘hatemongering’ again.

At the end of the day, Christians must ensure that we are loving hurting people and serving the broken-hearted, rather than passing judgment and executing sentence on people who believe and live differently than we do. After all, Christ did die for the sinner so that the sinner might live (you and I are beneficiaries of that grace), so what gives us the right to expect that the sinner still needs to die for himself and his sins? Just my two cents.