Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Blackberry is not working!

I've got to admit that this is one of the funniest youtube videos I've seen in a while. Now I must warn you that you've got to be able to appreciate British humor to really get the full impact of the video. For those of you who might not be aware, you should know that "Orange" is a local phone network in the UK much like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T are in the USA. If that just totally confused you, then you definitely need to watch the video now. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bee Spit and Android Technology

I absolutely love the creativity (and unspoken but clearly intended dis' on the i-pad) of this video advertisement for the soon-to-be-released Motorola Android Honeycomb tablet. It's almost irreverent, but incredibly captivating as it explores five thousand years of the advancement of "tablet technology." I've personally never owned an i-phone or i-pad (never liked AT&T), but I'm told the i-pad is pretty much an oversized i-phone. Since I have an i-pod touch (which is essentially an i-phone without the phone function, I can honestly say that I much prefer my Motorola Droid-X to any thing else I've owned or seen. I can hardly wait for the release of this tablet with Android technology. Thinking of giving someone a late Christmas gift? Well, here's the perfect opportunity to make up for it being late. You can simply argue that you had to wait for the 2011 release date of the new Android Honeycomb. Enjoy the video. And have a really wonderful Christmas. BTW, incase you're wondering about the blog title, it has absolutely nothing to do with the article other than the fact that the tablet is called a Honeycomb. I simply like the title of a friends blog "Soggy Weeds and Bee Spit."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who Do You See? (Part 3 of 3)

Today I’m concluding this three part series titled, “Who Do You See?” If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read Parts 1 and 2 before you read this so that it makes more sense. Yesterday I concluded part 2 by telling you that we’d ask and answer the question, “When God saw Jesus, whom did He see?” The best way I can think of to answer that question is by first sharing an excerpt from Max Lucado’s book, Six Hours One Friday.

The King swallowed….
He looked at the Prince of Light. “The darkness will be great.” He passed his hand over the spotless face of his Son. “The pain will be awful.” Then he paused and looked at his darkened dominion. When he looked up, his eyes were moist. “But there is no other way.”

The Son looked into the stars as he heard the answer. “Then, let it be done.”
Slowly the words that would kill the Son began to come from the lips of the Father.

“Hour of death, moment of sacrifice, it is your moment. Rehearsed a million times on false altars with false lambs; the moment of truth has come….

“Oh, my Son, my Child. Look up into the heavens and see my face before I turn it. Hear my voice before I silence it. Would that I could save you and them. But they don’t see and they don’t hear.”

“The living must die so that the dying can live. The time has come to kill the Lamb.” …

So I ask again, when God saw Jesus, whom did He see?

When God saw Jesus, He saw the only way to reconcile His creation to its Creator.
When God saw Jesus, He saw the sacrificial Lamb of slaughter, born to shoulder the sins of the world.
When God saw Jesus, He saw His beloved Son who was born to die at the hands of the very ones he created.
When God saw Jesus, He saw Heaven’s best given in exchange for earth’s worst (yet He loved us still).
When God saw Jesus, He saw a future filled with promise
When God saw Jesus, He saw the pain and suffering of broken humanity encapsulated in the Son of God (and this is significant to remember as we walk through our own dark journey).

Which brings me to my final question: When you see Jesus, whom do you see? If all you see is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger… then you’re thirty three years behind the story. If all you see is a broken body hanging on a cross… then you’re still behind even if a little closer. If all you see is an embalmed body lying in a rock hewn tomb… then look again. The tomb is empty! He is risen!!!

In order for pain and suffering to make sense, you must see what God sees. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Behold, your Redeemer lives. You see, your failures, your pain, your suffering, your insecurities, none of them are unfamiliar to the “suffering” Savior. He knows what you’re feeling and He’s already set a plan in motion, though, from where you sit right now you may not fully understand what it is (Had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory). God knows what it feels like to bury a Son. I know that may sound trite and contrived, but it is the gospel truth! God is writing the story of your life and though the current chapter may be fraught with pain, darkness, and difficulty, the story isn’t over yet. The Master Story Teller is weaving the tapestry of your life into a fitting testimony for His glory and for your good. But don’t take my word for it, ask Job!

For this season to make any sense at all. For it to truly be the “most wonderful time of the year.” For there to be a purpose to the pain and suffering, we must understand the season for what it is: God became a baby, born through the birth canal of His own creation, so that He might reconcile the world unto Himself. Neither presents under brilliantly lit trees, nor exotic fare arrayed on well laid tables, can bring joy to hurting hearts that have suffered such tremendous loss. Only the Son can restore sunshine to a world gone dark with the pain of loss. Only the true meaning of Christmas can restore hope and healing to hurting hearts.

So even if this Christmas threatens to be one filled with pain and sorrow, remember that the veil has once and for all been torn in two to make a way where there was no way. Remember that, as your Savior and mine took His final breath upon a Roman cross, He declared, “It is finished!” However “dark” this season may appear, remember that God is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. However dark tonight may appear, morning is on the way. I pray that your Christmas is brightened by the Light of the Son.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who Do You See? (Part 2 of 3)

In an attempt to answer the questions I posed yesterday, I’d like to begin by telling you a story from the Scriptures. It’s imperative that you understand the story so that you can answer the larger question posed in the blog title. Only after you’ve been able to answer this larger question, will you be in a position to answer all the others.

The gospel of Luke chapter 23 opens with the narrative of Jesus being arraigned before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect or Procurator of the region of Judaea (Today he’d be called Governor). While I don’t want to lose you in the tedium of detail, it’s important that I explain this role for the benefit of backdrop. Rome was the ruling civilization on the earth during this time of AD 26 – 36 while Pilate served as Procurator. He was Caesar’s representative from Rome to the region. The amalgamation of Samaria, Judaea, and Idumea formed a small, far-flung outpost of Rome that provided very little by way of taxes, to support the largesse of the Roman lifestyle. Nobody worth their political salt really wanted to serve in Judaea, and it was clearly recognized as a stepping stone to a more significant posting… but only if you served effectively and maintained the Pax Romana (Roman Peace)!

Pilate had done fairly well for himself up to this point in time, and the region provided very little distraction other than the typical uprising of false prophets and seditious elements seeking to overthrow Rome’s oppressive government, but even these were easily quelled by the Temple Guards and often didn’t require the involvement of the Roman Army. Let’s pick up the story straight from the NCV Bible:

1 Then the whole group stood up and led Jesus to Pilate. 2 They began to accuse Jesus, saying, "We caught this man telling things that mislead our people. He says that we should not pay taxes to Caesar, and he calls himself the Christ, a king." 3 Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Those are your words." 4 Pilate said to the leading priests and the people, "I find nothing against this man." 5 They were insisting, saying, "But Jesus makes trouble with the people, teaching all around Judea. He began in Galilee, and now he is here." 6 Pilate heard this and asked if Jesus was from Galilee. 7 Since Jesus was under Herod's authority, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at that time…. 13 Pilate called the people together with the leading priests and the Jewish leaders. 14 He said to them, "You brought this man to me, saying he makes trouble among the people. But I have questioned him before you all, and I have not found him guilty of what you say. 15 Also, Herod found nothing wrong with him; he sent him back to us. Look, he has done nothing for which he should die. 16 So, after I punish him, I will let him go free." 17 18 But the people shouted together, "Take this man away! Let Barabbas go free!" 19 (Barabbas was a man who was in prison for his part in a riot in the city and for murder.) 20 Pilate wanted to let Jesus go free and told this to the crowd. 21 But they shouted again, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" 22 A third time Pilate said to them, "Why? What wrong has he done? I can find no reason to kill him. So I will have him punished and set him free." 23 But they continued to shout, demanding that Jesus be crucified. Their yelling became so loud that 24 Pilate decided to give them what they wanted. 25 He set free the man who was in jail for rioting and murder, and he handed Jesus over to them to do with him as they wished.

When you read the above narrative, what catches your eye? If you had to answer the question, “When Pilate saw Jesus, whom did he see?” how would you answer it? Don’t worry if you’re not up on your Bible knowledge, I’m going to answer the question for you.

When Pilate saw Jesus, he saw a potential impediment to his political progress. Up until now, there had been relative peace in the region and the locals had handled all of their own religious and political disputes. Now they were demanding that Pilate take action against Jesus, whom, they “suggested” was out to destabilize the Pax Romana by telling people not to pay taxes to Caesar. They had “conveniently” forgotten that, in times past, this same Jesus had removed a coin from a fish’s belly and given it to Peter to go and pay taxes for both of them. They’d “conveniently” forgotten that He’d told them to render unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar and to God what belonged to God. But they had a plan. They knew that if Jesus was convicted of inciting a rebellion against Rome, then Pilate would be forced to respond and who knows what kind of uprising might result, potentially leading to a conclusion by Caesar that Pilate was not fit to hold any political office talk less of a promotion.

When Pilate saw Jesus, he saw a thorn in his side, potentially stirring up an unwanted distraction in the form of a religious and cultural rebellion. Because he didn’t want to get involved in the politics and religion of the region, he had allowed the people to largely govern themselves as long as it didn’t infringe on his ability to collect taxes and maintain the peace.

When Pilate saw Jesus, he saw a decision that he didn’t want to have to make if he could avoid it. As soon as he found out that Jesus actually hailed from Galilee, he carted Him off to Herod Antipas for judgment. Herod, a Jew, was the Tetrarch of Galilee (a largely figure-head political ruler over the region) and essentially saw himself as the true governor of the people as opposed to Pilate.

Having interviewed Him extensively, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. Let’s pick up the story in verse 8:

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, because he had heard about Jesus and had wanted to meet him for a long time. He was hoping to see Jesus work a miracle. 9 Herod asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus said nothing. 10 The leading priests and teachers of the law were standing there, strongly accusing Jesus. 11 After Herod and his soldiers had made fun of Jesus, they dressed him in a kingly robe and sent him back to Pilate. 12 In the past, Pilate and Herod had always been enemies, but on that day they became friends.

So, here’s the next question: When Herod saw Jesus, whom did he see?

When Herod saw Jesus, he saw a temporary distraction from the emptiness of his maudlin life. Herod was a figure-head ruler. The High Priest was the de-facto religious and political ruler of the people. In addition, Pilate had usurped all of Herod’s authority since he was officially Rome’s and Caesar’s representative to the region. There was very little left for Herod Antipas to do and his life needed some form of entertaining distraction. Pilate’s inclusion of him in Jesus’ judgment gave Herod a sense of worth.

When Herod saw Jesus, he saw an entertainer. He’d heard of the many miracles Jesus had performed, and his desire to meet Jesus did not stem from any altruistic motive, but purely from the perspective of whatever “entertainment” value He could bring. Herod “was hoping to see Jesus work a miracle.” Herod viewed Jesus in much the same way our generation views David Blaine or Chris Angel… as a performer or magician.

When Herod saw Jesus, he saw an opportunity to display his misguided and misinformed sense of strength and power (he ridiculed and mocked Jesus, then dressed him up as a pseudo king), which in actual fact was really weakness. Oskar Schindler, in Schindler’s List, pointed out that, “Real power is having the ability to punish someone yet choosing to forgive them.” Remarkably reminiscent of how God continually chooses to deal with His creation.

Tomorrow we’ll answer the question, “When God saw Jesus, whom did He see?” Following that, we’ll ask and answer the question that will tie this entire series of posts together and hopefully answer all of the questions posed in part 1.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who Do You See? (Part 1 of 3)

For many, Christmas won’t be so pleasant this year! I’ve heard it said ad naseum that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” and if it reflected its true meaning, that would no doubt be true. However, with the commercialization of Christmas such that in the West it’s not even politically correct to say “Merry Christmas” but “Happy Holidays,” I’m not so sure it’s the most wonderful time of the year any longer. For many who say it is, they probably sing a different song come January and the new cycle of credit card bills. Well, maybe for the stores that exceed their annual sales quota in four weeks of Christmas sales, it is.... Or maybe for the ones whose bonus checks ensure that there’ll be more food on the table than they can consume in a week, it is…. But those categories of people are definitely in the minority.

Now hold your horses, before you begin to think I’m the reincarnation of the Grinch trying to steal Christmas. This post is not in any way, shape, or form a Christmas bashing session. In fact, if anything, I’m trying to “return” rather than “steal” Christmas, because it isn’t the Grinch who stole it, but commercialization, political correctness, and cultural trends! Stay with me a moment while I explain.

I have a number of friends who have experienced tragic loss this year. One couple buried their son who died in an automobile accident. The car was being driven by one of his friends (who survived the accident). The kid was only 19. Parents shouldn’t bury their children! This devastating loss has caused the family to some times question their faith. But their story is still being written by a faithful God. Another couple lost a son who died in his sleep at the age of 27. Tragically this same couple has a 22 year-old son whose body has been so riddled by cancer, he weighs all of 90 pounds. Less than a week ago the doctors told him there was nothing more they could do for him. They gave him four to six weeks to live, and sent him home to die surrounded by his family. How does a family cope with potentially losing two sons in one year? Parents shouldn’t bury one child let alone potentially bury two. And in the same year! As you can well imagine, their faith has been tested to its very core. But their story is still being written by a loving God.

I know what it feels like to lose someone near and dear to you. I lost my father in May this year. Unexpectedly. The pain is still often unbearable and sometimes I can hardly catch my breath from crying so hard, yet he died at a decent age. I know how painfully difficult it is to bury a parent. I haven’t a clue how much more so it must be to bury a child. I can however speculate that at the very least it must feel like your world has come to an end. So, how do you tell families like these to “Have a Merry Christmas”? How do they process the idea of a season that’s meant to be the most wonderful time of the year, when for them it isn’t? How can we, in all good conscience, ask them to trivialize their pain and suffering by attempting to replace it with gifts, lighted trees, and eggnog?

And while we’re on the subject of pain and suffering, I should mention that I’ve spent the last few months counseling with five different Christian couples whose marriages are on the rocks. Three of the couples have finally filed for divorce, while one of the remaining two couples is in the process. Did I mention that two of the men are pastors? How do we tell these couples that this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year? How do we convince them that carving a turkey around a shared dinner table surrounded by extended family and other happy couples, all extending empty but well meaning platitudes, isn’t a poor substitute for a broken heart?

I’m confident that the answers to the myriad questions I’ve posed are many and varied, and we’d probably not agree on all of them. But I know one thing for sure that we’d all agree on: Even if the Grinch returned all the stolen presents, it still wouldn’t make Christmas a happier time for the folks whose stories I’ve mentioned above. So what are the answers to the many questions, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to come back tomorrow to find out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Gift of Going Second!

This short video demonstrates an amazing principle of leadership. I encourage you to take a moment and watch it! I love the notion of giving people the gift of going second. Often the person who leads out is the one who gets to be criticized, judged, ridiculed, laughed at.... The reality is that all too often, many of us want to embrace the same concepts or ideologies. Many of us want to walk the same path, but we're too afraid of the repercussions. The one who goes first, gives the rest of us the gift of going second and mitigates the tension and fear of going first.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friends With Benefits!

I recently returned from Auburn Hills, MI, where I attended the “Human Experience” event. If the truth be told, it has represented a real shot-in-the-arm in my spiritual journey over the last couple of years, and that truth is supported by the fact that I’ve been back three times. There’s always so much to masticate and decompress, that it often takes me a little while to wrap my head around all the concepts, ideas, and amazing stories of gospel-induced life change, which is why it’s taken me this long to post on it.

In addition to the typically invigorating brain storming sessions at this event, Michigan in October served to heighten my sensory experience. I couldn’t help but admire the verdant greens and the vivid reds and yellows in the turning trees, and it all served to remind me of just how much I miss the changing seasons, and indeed how important seasons are to the cycle of life. Anyway, I digress…. One of my favorite discussions at the event was centered around the idea of mobilizing the Church to engage our 21st Century world, instead of working so hard to bring people “back to church.” Let me begin by putting out a disclaimer here: My thoughts are exactly that… my thoughts! As I process through these ideas, feel free to make your own contribution to the conversation so that we can all benefit.

  • Jesus didn’t come to start a movement of Christianity but to reconcile the world to Himself by making the world more human again. The first time people were called Christians was at Antioch in Acts 11. Prior to this specific occasion, there were both Jews and Gentiles who were finding a relationship with Christ. What were they becoming once they engaged in this new relationship? I suggest that they weren’t making a horizontal or lateral transition from Judaism, Secular Humanism, or Atheism to Christianity, but a vertical relational transition into being Christ-followers.
  • Even if we somehow bucked the current alarming statistical trend of 150,000 people a week leaving the institutional “church” and somehow managed to mobilize millions to come back and start attending a local gathering… so what? Would that somehow solve the issues that our world is contending with? Would that make people better at living out the ethos of being Christ-followers? What about the billions of others who didn’t respond to the “back to church” trend?
  • Is our mission to “repair” the Church so that people are attracted to our institutions, or is it to become the Church by following Jesus into the world and engaging people right where they are? I’m reminded that, though Jesus did visit the synagogues (local churches) and read from the scrolls of Isaiah and the prophets, His greatest work in the hearts and lives of people was done at the Wedding in Cana; by the Pool of Bethesda; at Jacob’s Well with a broken, destitute woman; on the opposite side of a hostile crowd calling for the head of a woman who’d been caught in the “very act of adultery” (while the man somehow mysteriously went awol). I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the point.
  • Instead of focusing our attention on trying to get people back to church, should we be mobilizing the Church forward to engage the world? If so, how do we get the Church to move forward into mission? Is reaching the non-Christian really a function of getting people to switch their religious affiliations or is it calling all people, Christians included, to encounter the risen Christ and follow Him?

Your orientation to the future and to these questions will largely determine how you engage culture and community. As you process through these questions you’d do well to remember that they are not meant to be divisive but are meant to form the framework for healthy conversations that answer the question: What’s the starting point for a conversation about God in today’s world? With that in mind here are a few parting thoughts:

Would we be more effective in our mission if we viewed the local church as a staging area for a cosmic battle in which Christ-followers are the foot soldiers that heaven is marshaling against the enemy of our souls? You see, every army that strategizes and prepares for battle, must have a camp or staging area from which to wage its war, but we’d also do well to remember that no army has ever won a war cowering in camp! Even when Israel cowered in their tents in rabid fear of Goliath, it took the exploits of a brave, ruddy faced, young lad to go into battle against him, remembering that his and Israel’s deliverance lay in the hand of God and not in his own. He was privileged to merely be an instrument of battle.

Had David not been present when Goliath issued his laconic challenge to God’s (Israel’s) army, Israel’s story may have been told differently. By the same token, the establishing of the local church is not the end of the Great Commission, it is merely the beginning. It is simply the staging area from which we wage the war in which we are embroiled against spiritual forces which seek to block the good news of the Gospel message from reaching the hearts and ears of those who are seeking truth. Remember that the crepuscular effects of Satan’s strategies are designed to keep us busy about the “local church” (doing good stuff) and less engaged with fulfilling our mandate of making the world more human again (doing our mission).

Finally, guaranteed safety cannot be a prerequisite for participation in this battle. As Christ-followers we’ve been called to “die daily.” Whatever this looks like from where you sit, it still comes with the ineffable parentheses that makes it abundantly clear that your life is not your own. When you don’t own something, you have no absolute claim in determining its direction, use, or purpose. That, is truly one of the great benefits in being a “friend” of Jesus’. Now it’s your turn!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Three Days To Live!!!

I know the blog title sounds rather melodramatic, but it's true. My project (not me) has only three days to live unless you help provide "life-support!" It’s the 27th of September and it appears that social media has not worked for me quite the way I’d hoped. At the beginning of the month I posted a blog asking people to help vote to give our idea $250k through the Pepsi Refresh Project. I posted a link to the info on Facebook (and got reported as spam for my troubles). I tweeted frequently about it, and… as of this morning I’m 248th on the list of potential winners of $250k. On the bright side, that’s 248th out of over 1000 applicants. On the not-so-bright-side, who cares?! You see, in order to win I have to be one of the top two vote getters. That means – and I’m no math whizz - I still have 246 places to climb!

It would seem impossible right now, with only three days of voting left, that I would even remotely entertain the notion that I might still end up in the top two, but that’s the beauty of faith. Actually, faith aside, it’s still possible statistically. While I don’t know exactly how many votes it would take to win, I’m fairly certain that if 1000 people voted for me by text and online every day for the next three days (that would total 6000 votes for those of you who sweat the details), that would more than likely do it. Is that likely to happen? Well I don’t know, have you voted yet? If you live in the USA, or know people that do, you can help by voting or inviting them to vote. It’s a worthy cause (go here and refresh your memory) and it will impact more than just the kids whose lives are being changed in the immediate, so I’d urge you to consider voting today through September 30th.

Listen, I know your life is busy and I know you have myriad things to get done today, so you probably can’t be bothered with all the time it takes to sign onto the Pepsi Refresh page and register to vote, but think about it a moment will you? I’m not asking you to commit your hard-earned dollars, I’m not asking you to sleep on a mat in a rural African mud hut in the wide open Okavango basin, I’m not even asking you to jump on board and commit your time and resources to being a part of making this project happen. I’m simply asking that you consider voting for the next three days so that we can get the funding to make it happen. What might end up being a minor inconvenience for you, would serve to dramatically alter many lives for good. Is it worth your time and effort? I sure think so. Please vote. Oh, before I forget… on behalf of the kids and their families who may never meet you this side of heaven, thanks a bunch in advance for your vote.

BTW, the amount of time it’s taken you to read through this post is more time than it will take you to register and vote right here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Making Sense of Nonsense!!! (Part 2)

Following yesterday’s blog, the premise of my post is the fact that, contrary to what we might have been taught to believe, pain and suffering, and trials and tribulation, all form part of the fabric that God uses in shaping and molding our life stories. Before you begin to argue the basis of my theology let me point out a couple of verses in 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 which read, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye” (The Message). The CEV translation declares; “These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever”

An acute understanding of these verses is essential in order to find a place in life’s seemingly arbitrary puzzle for such pain as, the deformity of a child, the magnitude of an earthquake’s devastation, or even a senseless event such as the 9-11 plane “bomb” disasters. The only way to make sense of such “nonsense” is to see these types of events through the lens of an eternal perspective. When we understand that God is writing a story much larger than just our own, when we can embrace the fact that the intersection of life’s difficulties and God’s larger purpose can often hold confusion and misunderstanding for us in the immediate, only then can we understand that what doesn’t seem to make sense in this season of life will make perfect sense in the next. For that matter, what appears to make no sense in this life will make perfect sense in the next. Proof: you in the womb.

Every moment of your time in utero prepared and equipped you for your life here on earth. Your bones solidified, your eyes developed, your umbilical cord transported nutrients into your continually developing frame… why? So that you could remain in the womb? Absolutely, resoundingly, no! Womb time equipped you for earth time. Some of your prenatal features went unused before birth. Your nose, eyes, tongue, toenails, and hair all served no function in the womb. Aren’t you glad you have them now? We often think that certain chapters in this life seem so unnecessary, such as suffering, loneliness, disease, holocausts, martyrdom, and even the 9-11 disaster. If we assume that the world exists just for pre-grave happiness, then these atrocities disqualify it from doing so.

But what if this earth is eternity’s womb? Is it potentially possible that these challenges and difficulties serve to prepare and equip us fro the world to come? Better yet, what if your current trials and suffering are merely preparation for your next season of life? Imagine what it would be like if you had to go through this life without those features that you developed but didn’t need while you were in the womb, but that are essential to the life you’re living now. Maybe, just maybe, you’re in the womb of your life’s story, being prepared for what the future holds in store for you. Live the adventure! Enjoy your story!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Making Sense of Nonsense!!!

I make so bold as to declare that pain, trials and tribulations, and disappointment and hurt, are all necessary parts of living a good story! For that matter, they are essential parts of God shaping our lives for His purpose. You see, living through these circumstances forces change in us, especially because humans, by nature are not given to readily accepting and embracing change (especially when it moves us out of our comfort zone) without a “prompting.”

Every branch of the special forces of the US military “forces” change by inducing more pain than any normal person thinks they can endure. At the end of their torturous training, ordinary men become precision weapons, and well oiled machines because of the changes they have had to undergo in order to successfully become whatever special force it is they aspire to become. Those who resist or cannot endure the change, are destined to fail, or doomed to repeat the cycle of training until they embrace and fully accept the change necessary for success.

I find it exceedingly difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that, if you want to become a coast guard rescue swimmer, you must first learn to embrace death by drowning. What? If you think about it carefully though, it really makes sense. In order for you to rescue someone from drowning, while yourself contending with twenty foot high waves in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, you must first know what it feels like to drown so that you can anticipate and prepare for their reactions. Failing this, you may well find yourself drowning too. So in training, they simulate worst case scenarios so that you can experience drowning before you ever really have to experience drowning. Make sense?

God’s broader purpose for us is to be used by Him to change our world so that it embraces Him. In a sense, this cannot happen until we embrace the changes that He’s orchestrating in us. Often, as God’s changes reshape and alter our perspectives and our world view, He also alters our assignments. Gideon went from being a farmer to being a general. Mary went from peasant girl to mother of Messiah. Paul went from local Rabbi to world evangelist. Joseph went from rejected and scorned kid brother to Prince of Egypt. David went from goat herder to king of Israel, and Peter from fisherman to first church leader. In each one of these cases, the process of change was painful, and was not without its unique trials and tribulations, but the “fruit” of each one of their changes is still being felt in our world today.

I'll finish my thoughts on this idea tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to share yours.

Friday, September 10, 2010

To burn or not to burn! Is that really the question?

If, ultimately, the goal of Christianity is to introduce people to Christ by living out the message of the gospel authentically (and indeed it is), then how is that goal accomplished by burning Qurans? In fact, judging from the vociferous reactions from around the globe, if anything, such an act would not only serve to derail the message of the gospel, but it would put many Americans (and Christ-followers) in harms way. For instance, this Saturday (proposed “burning day”), my son’s football team, the USF Bulls will be playing against Florida up in Gainesville. As a result of the antics of the “Quran burning congregation” additional security is required for the stadium and the town. The lives of these kids are unnecessarily endangered, as well as those of the over 90,000 people who will be in attendance simply to watch a college football game. Additionally, General Petreaus has made it abundantly clear that burning Qurans would simply provide unnecessary fodder for the Taliban to engage even more dramatically in harming US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The effects of this singular act would be more far reaching than anyone can imagine.

Amazingly, the pastor of “Quran burning church” has stated that he is simply trying to be obedient to God’s will. I give him the benefit of the doubt! I believe that he is being sincere (yep, go ahead and call me gullible). But I also believe that he is sincerely wrong. I don’t know what his church background is or how he’s been raised, but I do know that the Scriptures make it succinctly clear that neither Islam nor Moslems, nor any other religion for that matter, are the enemy. Jesus died for all people and He made it abundantly clear that the enemy against whom “all people” battle is Satan. The way to win this war is to snatch people who are unwittingly ensnared in the enemies clutches, out of the “enemies” camp and into God’s camp. The only proven way to “snatch” people out of the clutches of the enemy is to try and understand why they are the way they are, and why they think the way they do, all the while loving them unconditionally. That’s the way Jesus did it (remember the woman caught in the act of adultery?), and that’s the way He’s called us to do it.

So, while we’re ranting and raving against this beleaguered pastor, let’s spare a thought and a prayer for him and his family too, recognizing that whatever has made him view God and the Scriptures through the lens that he does, also needs a touch of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Before you begin to attack me for riding the fence on this let me unequivocally state that I’m not a pacifist; I’m simply a Christ-follower learning to live out the love of God that is so desperately needed in our love-starved world. After all, love does cover a multitude of sins, right? And that includes yours and mine too. What are your thoughts about this?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thank you just seems so inadequate!!!

I can't begin to thank you all for your very kind thoughts and wishes for my birthday. It means the world to me that so many of you would take time out of your busy day to spare a thought for me today. I'll be so bold as to further presume upon your generosity and thoughtfulness, and ask you for a gift: Would you consider signing into Pepsi Refresheverything and voting for our project which is in the running to win a quarter of a million dollars to help underprivileged kids earn an athletic scholarship to college? Alternatively you can simply click on the link at the top left hand corner of my home page and it'll take you directly to the voting site where you'll log in and vote. It would truly be the greatest gift I've ever received as the only way to win the grant is by the number of people who vote for me. I'm currently 267th in the standings which means we have a really long way to go and only the top two vote getters will win the grant. If you need further info just read this previous post in which I explain the details here. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, and thank you seems so inadequate to say, but... thank you anyway!!! :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Your Country Needs You!!! (Yes I'm Talking to You)

Okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Well, I’m confident that your country does need you but I just used that title to get your attention since it’s really me that needs you. You see, I’ve always believed in the efficacy of social networking media, especially since its use and impact are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Tweeting, blogging, Facebooking (who knew such words would become part of our lexicon just ten years ago?) have all opened doors to myriad opportunities to connect with a world that might otherwise not even know you exist. Social networking media has, in some instances, been responsible for connecting business partners who live half-a-world away from each other and didn’t even know each other existed until they “friended” on Facebook or “followed” one another on Twitter. More than at any point in time since I’ve been a user of social networking media though, I need to flex the full might of its benefits.

I’ve always had a burning desire to contribute to impacting the lives of myriad people who can in turn impact the lives of others (why else would I have pursued the torturous vocation of pastoring?) I’ve always wanted to see a community transformed for the better because of something I contributed to that community, and now there’s a very real opportunity of which you can be a really meaningful part, as well as follow its success at no cost to you beyond the click of a keyboard button. The What? Pepsi came up with this incredible idea to give away $1.3 million every month in support of community development projects for the entire 2010. The Why? Because Pepsi figured that a great way to help fulfill dreams while transforming communities for the better, was to financially support viable projects that people were passionate about. The How? They invited submissions of various projects in various categories which they screened and then made available for the public to vote on. The projects in each category with the highest number of votes would be awarded the cash : A cool $1.3 mil every month!

The minutiae! There are award categories for $250,000, $50,000, $25,000, and $5,000. Each month the top two vote getters in the $250,000 category each win that amount, while the top ten vote getters in each of the other categories each win those respective amounts. Go here if you’re really interested in the technical details. Your project can benefit education, neighborhoods, the planet, food & shelter, arts & culture, and health. Our project, called Primal Purpose, uniquely benefits, education, neighborhoods, and food & shelter, and we are running in the $250,000 category. Go here to read up on our project details. Now here’s where you come in. The plan is simple: The only way to win is to get the highest number of votes! This is clearly not rocket science: If every one of my social networking friends, and every one of their social networking friends went here and voted for me once a day for the entire month of September, I’m all but guaranteed to be one of the two finalists in the $250,000 category. It really is that simple! Success is not determined by Pepsi (the hurdle of just being able to submit my project among thousands and possibly millions of others was hard enough as I’ve been trying since February), but by you, the voter.

So, will you help me, and consequently help a community and their kids, who otherwise would not be able to afford it, potentially get a great education through earning athletic scholarships to college? The possibilities are endless, as one of these kids might just turn out to be the next Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or even the next Jerry Rice, or Emmitt Smith simply because they were afforded an opportunity. If you’re willing to do this with me, then all you have to do is simply go here and vote once every day for the entire month of September. Also, If you would, encourage your social networking friends to jump on board too! Imagine how much of a difference we can make if we can get tens or even hundreds of thousands voting each day. Since voting is only open to people living in one of the 50 States and D.C., those of you who live outside the country can still contribute by encouraging your friends resident in the U.S.A. to vote daily. I’ll be posting regular updates here so that you can keep track of our progress as well as developments happening with Primal Purpose. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and I’m so grateful that you’re considering partnering with us in this. I love social networking media!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Quit Being A Christian! (Part 3 of 3)

So where does this Anne Rice “adventure story” (remember that God is writing her story just as He is yours and mine) leave us? I guess if nothing else, it tells us a lot about people in general and about Christians in particular. It tells us that we love to label. In fact, we have an inordinate desire to label and box everything and everyone we see so that we can relate to them from a position of cognizance based on our perceived label. Recently Pete Wilson of Cross Point Church in Tennessee wrote an insightful blog on this phenomenon. It tells us that we can’t seem to help but judge and criticize things we don’t understand. It tells us that we’re all on a journey and are all at different points along that journey. But maybe most telling of all is that it reveals that no one has a monopoly on wisdom. We must be willing to admit that, because we don’t know it all, there’s room for error. If you are gracious in relating to and responding to other people’s perceived errors, then you will be more likely to receive the same sort of grace when people are responding to yours.

Rather than rail against Anne Rice (who, judging by the public response to her decision to “quit Christianity” is clearly a much more “listened to” voice for our faith than most of us will ever hope to be), what if we stopped to consider her contentions about Christians and Christianity. Is it potentially feasible that there are some really simple things that are easily remedied simply by each one of us making a decision to be more like Christ in our attitudes and responses to others who think differently than we do? Look, I get that you are passionate about your faith and everything, but passion doesn’t always equate to being right or doing right. After all, like Anne, you and I are human and therefore prone to error. I’ve often said that the message of the Gospel has endured for thousands of years so it certainly doesn’t need you and I to defend what we perceive to be it’s efficacy in order to keep it from evanescing over the next few thousand years. We don’t have to battle against others who are on the same side as us, albeit in a different company, while the real enemy sits back and laughs at our self-styled regnant.

All that our infighting and judgment serves to do is to obscure and adumbrate the real message of the gospel from those who really need to hear it. As she has told us quite clearly in her interviews and write-ups, Anne Rice loves Jesus! That needs to be sufficient for us whether we agree with her stand on quitting Christianity or not. We don’t need to label her or her decision, nor do we necessarily need to feel any sort of obligation to defend the Church or the Gospel message. There are a lot of dangerous people who serve as real threats to the furtherance of the message of Christ, and Anne Rice is definitely not one of them.

So now that we’ve had this amiable talk, and just in case you needed a new target for your prayers, consider this: A self-styled Christian Church in Florida wants to burn the Koran on 9/11. They believe that this is God’s will and that Jesus would do the same were he still on earth today because Islam is of the devil and it’s evil. We have severely misplaced our priorities if Anne Rice’s decision to walk away from “Christianity,” is, to our reckoning, more of a front page story and a concern for many Christians than this asinine act of overt bigotry. We should surely focus our attention and prayers on this grossly uncalculated act of foolishness rather than on trying to persuade God to “get Anne.” The repercussions of this clearly barbaric decision, unfortunately will not stop at the front door of these so-called Christians in Florida, but will ricochet and reverberate around the Church in much the same way the loss of innocent lives randomly plunged families into untold mourning on 9/11/2001.

Sadly for those of us who disavow this kind of stupidity, these apparent “Christians” may be opening a can of worms that they won’t be able to reseal especially since the majority of them are probably not willing to be martyred for their cause the way many Jihadists are. Just my two pennies! You have the floor!!!

I Quit Being A Christian! (Part 2 of 3)

Concerning relating to and being a part of the Body of Christ, Anne Rice emphatically states, “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” It is on this issue of a wholesale condemnation of “Christians” that Anne and I reach a point of departure.

Before I address the reasons why Anne and I disagree on this latter point, I wanted to categorically state that, following my thoughts yesterday, I’m fully convinced that Anne’s decision to disavow “Christianity” and “organized religion” is one that is becoming increasingly popular. This means that, rather than position ourselves against people like Anne in an attempt to make them see the “error of their ways,” maybe we should be examining our methods and motives instead of unwittingly attempting to make ourselves sole curators of Truth.

Clearly Anne has not backslidden from her faith. Whether or not you contend that she may be misguided in her understanding of “Christianity” and the “Church,” there is no way that you can rationally contend that she has strayed from Christ. We’d do well to remember that, in her own words she declares, “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me.” No one, and I repeat, no one, is in any position to question or judge the efficacy of her commitment to Christ.

But here’s where Anne and I may find our major sticking point: while I’m all for not conforming to traditional stereotypes, labels, and behavior that seek to “box” the Church into being an esoteric organization, I for one don’t believe that the Church is an organization. No, the Church is an organism. It is a living, breathing, extension of Jesus who is the Head of this Body. No part of the body survives by cutting itself off from the whole. If you severed a torso at the waist, while that person might survive with swift and skilled medical attention (I’m not stating this as an empirical medical fact), the limbs below the waist would not (this is an empirical medical fact). We cannot be separated from the head, but we cannot be separated from the rest of the body either. BTW, for you smart Alecs that would point out that, limbs are often amputated yet people keep living, I would conversely like to point out the fact that the limb that’s severed does not!

Paul, in direct reference to Jesus, declares this profound truth: He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love - like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. The Old Way Has to Go [Ephesians 4: 11-16]

Observe the first emboldened portion of the text carefully or you might miss it! “…working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all… fully mature adults…” Right there is the key! There is a process to becoming fully mature adults and in the meantime life occasionally gets messy. A baby’s diaper needs changing from time to time and it’s generally a messy proposition. It would be an entirely different matter if our teenage kids wore diapers, or messed their underwear (not to talk of adults), but it is certainly expected of babies. We tend to forget that, though oftentimes we may be dealing with fully mature adults in the flesh, we may well be dealing with spiritual babes. Clearly though, some Christ-followers are a little further along in their walk as not every Christ-follower fit’s the bill of a “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious” person. We are all at different points along this journey and some of us need a little more “diaper care” than others. Now look at the second emboldened portion of the text and observe that it is totally contingent on the first being fulfilled. It is only growth in Christ that matures us enough “to know the whole truth and tell it in love…” It is only when we allow God’s “very breathe and blood flow through us” that we are able to “keep in step with each other.”

This truth is further evidenced by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews as he addresses this “new” concept of the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ: “Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. If we give up and turn our backs on all we've learned, all we've been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ's sacrifice”[Hebrews 10:24-26]

Here’s something else to remember: The Church (made up primarily of Christ-followers), according to the Scriptures, is the Bride of Christ. If Christ loves His Bride so much, enough that He is willing to extend grace and forgiveness to Her continually, then it is incumbent upon those of us that form this “Bride” to extend the same measure of grace and forgiveness to each other. Scripture further opines, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”[1 Corinthians 12: 21] There's so much more to this faith journey than anyone of us can comprehend on our own, and so there is no doubt a clear benefit in addition to a biblical mandate to remain in fellowship with each other. I'll post my final thoughts tomorrow. Meanwhile, I've really loved your feedback so please keep it coming.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Quit Being A Christian! (Part 1 of 3)

I'm somewhat late to the game because I've found it more beneficial to my learning process to listen and observe more than to talk. I'm also patently aware that people a lot more intellectually and spiritually astute than I, have registered their comments, and so one might wonder what I have to add to contribute to an already exhaustive discourse. Having said all that though, I do have a thing or two to contribute so bear with me a while. Recently, popular author and social commentator Anne Rice, made a startling declaration on her Facebook page! Anne boldly declared, “…I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

Her Facebook page literally garnered thousands of comments (yes you heard right… thousands!) in response to Anne’s honest yet somewhat jarring declaration. Not surprisingly the comments ran the gamut of opinions, from “closet-Christianity-quitters” who were emboldened to take a more public stand following Anne’s bold declaration, to the self-appointed “religious police” whose self-appointed-duty is to monitor and screen every professing Christian who so much as breathes differently from them, in order to determine whether they qualify to use the term Christian.

Anne further explained to her pot-pourri of Facebook followers that: “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

Sadly, the instantaneous yet predictable reaction of many Christians (as evidenced by some of the responses on her FB page) is to do exactly what Anne has come to expect, and that is to raise their hackles, bare their fangs, and devour her for being such a heretic. Such people make no allowance in their world view for even attempting to find out what the root cause of her decision is, nor do they care to understand her position so that they are better able to consider her paradigm. Instead, this self-righteous brigade of brigands unloads their vitriol “in the name of Jesus,” in an attempt to show Anne how sinfully misguided she is. The fact is, even if their contention were true, such an approach would serve only to steel her resolve rather than open a channel for honest, helpful dialog.

Interestingly enough, in part, Anne’s contention about the importance of “Christianity” is somewhat true. I’ve written extensively about this subject here, in which I contended that when people are saved, they are not saved into Christianity but into Christ. To suggest that you cannot be a Christ-follower without being a Christian is a dire misconception. For instance, a Moslem who lives in a country that’s hostile to the Gospel so that there is no access to church or Christians, but who encounters Christ (such as Paul did on the road to Damascus), is not saved into Christianity but into Christ. He becomes a Christ-follower. Someone who is brought to Christ supernaturally by the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who continues to build a relationship with Jesus in an environment that is completely heathen and devoid of any “Christian” influence (such as Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road from Jerusalem) does not become a Christian but a Christ-follower.

Or take Cornelius, whom the Scriptures declare was a God-fearing, prayerful, Roman soldier who sought God and heard God clearly enough to be able to discern God’s voice giving him specific directions to find Simon Peter at the home of one Simon the Tanner, where he was staying. At his conversion through Peter’s breaking of traditional Jewish taboos, Cornelius neither became a Jew nor a Christian (especially since the word “Christian” hadn’t even been coined yet), but a gentile Christ-follower. This is more than just a semantic difference because, in supposing that the only proof of being saved is in being a Christian, we are liable to exclude the work of God amongst the Cornelius’ of the world in and through whom God is doing a powerful work. I'll pick up this thought tomorrow, in the meantime, join the conversation!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Acceptable Christianity?!

We wish to make God possible, to make Him comprehensible to the naked intellect, domesticate Him so that He is easy to believe in. Every century the church makes a fresh attempt to make Christianity acceptable. But an acceptable Christianity is not Christian, a comprehensible God is no more than an idol. I don’t want that kind of God ~ MADELEINE L. ENGLE.

So the real question is: How true is this statement? Is it true that Christians seek to make Christianity acceptable in every century? What does it even mean to make Christianity acceptable? Isn’t it true that in order for people to be drawn to something it must first be acceptable to them? If by making Christianity acceptable the writer means that Christians water down the message of Christ, then I concur that it’s a completely maudlin thing to do. If however, the writer is suggesting that making Christianity palatable to the century in which it’s being preached is wrong, then I beg to differ. Even the Scriptures teach that you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. The message of the gospel is the “wine” that Christianity offers. The method by which it is preached is the “wineskin.”

I’ve said many times before that it’s incumbent upon us to explore the best possible methods by which we can communicate the truth and passion of the gospel message. What’s your opinion? How do you interpret the writer’s sentiment?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Art of Caring - Mere Christianity 101 (Part 2)

If it’s true, and it is, that our actions speak much louder than our words, then it behooves us to ensure that our actions scream love at the tops of our “voices.” We must become so selfless in our actions that people are forced, albeit grudgingly, to admit that there really is something positively different about Christians. We appear to have made it our consuming purpose to ensure that people become Christians at all costs, but is that really our calling? According to the Scriptures the work of conviction and conversion is done by the Holy Spirit, while the work of serving, loving, caring, and giving is done by the Body of Christ. This would seem to suggest that, in order to demonstrate God’s love we must be present in the lives of people, especially when they are at their worst. Being present in people’s lives means that we must genuinely give ear and attention to the things that consume them and potentially hinder them from seeing, accepting, and embracing God’s love.

I’d previously indicated that two separate but equally profound events informed this two part blog, of which we discussed one in some detail yesterday. Today I’d like to examine the second event which was brought to my attention. Since the Haitian catastrophe in which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, a well known Hollywood actor has made it his consuming passion, largely at his personal expense, to help rebuild and restore not just the infrastructure of the country but the lives of the people that make up that country. Recognizing that without people a country is merely a piece of land dotting natures landscape, Sean Penn has moved to Haiti indefinitely and is tirelessly investing himself in restoring hope.

Carefully navigating the political landscape, red-tape, and all the potential pitfalls that inevitably surround a tragedy of this magnitude, Sean lives in and operates out of a pup tent in a tent city he himself is responsible for building. Regardless of his political persuasions, in spite of his theological leanings or lack thereof, Sean is convinced that people matter, and so he considers it a most valuable investment of his time and resources to help people rebuild their lives, this no less in a country in which he has no stake other than the fact that they are fellow travelers through life’s arduous journey. What could be more altruistic than that?

Here’s a quote from Major General Simeon Trombitas, of the U.S. army who is a frequent guest at Sean’s tent city:

“My politics are not in line with Sean Penn’s, but we are allied in trying to save lives and alleviate human suffering. He is a doer and not a talker…and I respect that immensely.”

Lieutenant General P.K. Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, declared:

“In a humanitarian crisis you can be a neutral—always pinching your knuckles white. Or you can operate an NGO the way Mr. Penn does…. He intuitively knew how to both work with the U.N. and break its bureaucracy down…. I applaud the leadership he has shown. He doesn’t have to do this.”

There’s so much more I could write here but you’re better served reading the entire article by Vanity Fair in their July issue right here. Now compare and contrast the reaction of the “e-mail lady” who professes Christ, whom I referenced in yesterdays post, with this report about someone who doesn’t even profess to be a Christ-follower, and you decide which reaction seems to represent the love of Christ. Just my two cents!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Art of Caring - Mere Christianity 101 (Part 1)

I am not a social activist! But, I am a Christian. And of necessity, Christianity includes and embraces elements of social activism. You don’t believe me huh? Then ask Jesus. You don’t go chasing money lenders and opportunists out of a synagogue with a whip if you’re not keenly aware of the social constructs of the culture. Nor do you spend time hanging out with the “rejects” of society if your priorities are personal social advancement and the acquisition of elite status. Ever think about the fact that nothing about Jesus’ decision to hang out with the woman at the well (a societal reject) suggested that he particularly cared about what people thought? Why, even his disciples initially questioned the wisdom of His decision, as did Simon the Pharisee when Jesus allowed a woman of questionable morals to shower his feet with her tears and wipe them off with her hair.

But I digress! I really want to talk about you and me, and about how social awareness must become an integral part of the demonstration of our faith if we are to ever make any significant inroads into reaching the hearts of the seeking, the hurting, and the next generation. Before you ask I might as well tell you that my rant is inspired by two separate but equally powerful incidents that were recently brought to my attention. My friend, Rob Curry, the President of the Atheists of Florida, copied me in a note he sent out to a number of his Facebook friends. I was appalled at what I read. The following e-mail was sent to Rob (after a series of back and forth e-mails) by a Christian who was up in arms over a billboard the Atheists had put up in Lakeland, FL (I had written about this here a while ago). I have omitted the name for reasons of privacy.

from: L.W.
to: Rob Curry
date: Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 11:23 PM
Thanks for your very amusing E-Mail. I will keep it in my Bible, right next to Psalm 53:1 when I think of you. Whether you think me all talk and no action is of no importance to me because time will tell.There was once an arrogant, little atheist and racist man who dared to speak to me with expletives and tried regularly to intimidate me with his hateful persistent stares. Initially that bothered me, until one day the Lord told me to take authority over the demonic spirit that was controlling that man, because what was in me was far greater than what was in him. I looked that man straight in the eyes and showed him who I was in Christ. I watched as this man turned as a pale as a ghost, became diaphoretic and began to shake and tremble uncontrollably. He died right then and there, probably from a heart attack. And he went straight to hell where he will wait to meet God -- the One as you know is "all talk, and no existence."Rob, you really don't know who you are dealing with, for if you did (and weren't so stupid) you would be smart enough to be concerned.

In case you misunderstand my position, let me clarify that I’m not by any stretch of the imagination defending atheism. I realize that my friend Rob sometimes says things that Christians may find extremely offensive, but why is that surprising? After all, Rob does disavow Christianity and all other religions, which is one reason why he serves as the President of the Atheists of Florida. Rather than take an incendiary posture against Atheists though, I choose instead to focus not on our differences but on our common causes. Rob loves people and he hates injustice and inequity. I know this from first hand experience. Interestingly enough, love is not just a characteristic trait of God but is actually His personification according to the book of John. Jesus loves people (and that includes Atheists, whether they are nice to Christians or not).

Jesus’ command to His Church is to love all people. The Scriptures actually emphasize that there are three great tenets of Christianity: Faith, Hope, and Love. It then unequivocally states: “But the greatest of these is love.” Jesus Himself declares, “This is how all people will know that you’re my disciples; that you love….” Apparently there’s no escaping it. Since as a Christian I profess to love God, I’m committed to loving all people regardless of their response to me. Love, according to the Scriptures, “is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast it is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” Now in light of this passage how does the e-mail above rate? That’s my point. It doesn’t matter how right we are, we must commit ourselves to loving people rather than proving how right we are and how wrong they are. Clearly nothing she’s said in her entire correspondence has served to help any of the atheists that have read her e-mails draw closer to God. So what purpose have they served?

In our attempt to prove how right we are as Christians, have we so quickly and so conveniently forgotten that the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery is our story? Have we forgotten that she is us? Let us not be caught holding the stones! Jesus’ response to the adulterous woman was not one of judgment and condemnation but one of love and caring. Her life was changed because she realized that He truly cared for her and her future, and not because of a sermon He preached or a Scripture He quoted. Now I know some of you out there will remind me that Jesus demonstrated “tough love” when he drove the money changers and opportunists out of the temple with a whip, but last I checked that wasn’t His mandate to the Church. His mandate to us is not now, and never was to drive people out of the temple, but it is and always was to go and make disciples of all nations and to love all people.

I’m discovering that my life speaks volumes louder than my rhetoric for better or for worse, and quite frankly I’m tired of people saying that they can’t hear what Christians are saying because the volume of our lives speaks louder than our words, and our lives and our words are saying different things. I'll conclude my thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Be Still But Don't Do Nothing!!!

I watched the new Karate Kid with my two teenaged daughters yesterday. I know, I know, I’m way late to the party. Truth is we kept putting it off so my wife, Sola, could go with us until I realized that we might end up putting it off till it’s released on Blu-Ray. I loved hanging out with my girls and hearing their take on the movie. It warmed my heart to hear their interpretations of the myriad life applications that were liberally sprinkled throughout the movie.

Here’s what stood out to me as my favorite scene: I absolutely loved the scene where the female martial arts practitioner at the top of the mountain was totally dominating and controlling a venomous king cobra! Cobras are known to be able to spit out a steady stream of venom for up to six feet yet this woman was within inches of its head. Even before Mr. Hun called Dre’s attention to the fact that it wasn’t the lady following the cobras movements but the other way around, I’d picked up on that fact (yeah I deserve a shout out). Then he uttered the provocatively profound statement, “Being still and doing nothing are not the same thing.” I love that line! Too many of us Christ-followers often interpret God’s command to, “Be still and know that I am God,” as a command to do nothing, when, in actual fact it is a call to quiet your troubled mind and spirit and trust in and completely rely on God.

I’ve known something of this quite literally over the last four or five years, and I can personally attest to the fact that Mr. Hun certainly knows what he’s talking about. It takes living through the circumstances and obstacles that life throws your way to provide real opportunities for you to quiet your mind and trust in God’s faithfulness and ability to deliver you. So, while your circumstances certainly might require you to actively pursue a certain solution, you can be still in the midst of them, knowing that God is actively at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. Oh, by the way, jacket on, jacket off is the new wax on, wax off!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Dogs-eye-view!

I recently read a book by Garth Stein titled The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s a narrative from a dogs-eye-point-of-view with the overarching theme being “the car goes where the eyes go.” I’m oversimplifying it of course but it made for a fascinating and intriguing read. I’m not sure what Garth’s worldview is, and if I’m being honest, his afterword would seem to indicate some kind of New Age or eastern mystic philosophy. In case you’re instantly turned off by this I want to clarify that I’m not advocating some kind of Manichean or dualistic worldview, I do however think that Garth’s book is a great read and highly recommend it. But I digress…

I can relate to the idea that the car goes where the eyes go because I’ve literally experienced this truth. I owned a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide, and if you know anything about motorcycles you’ll know that this is a heavy beast of a machine. Even for being a big guy, I sometimes found it difficult to maneuver, that is until I took a riding lesson with the local Police Department. My instructor informed me that if I’m trying to turn the bike in as small an arc as possible, instead of looking at the front wheel or at the ground beside me I needed to concentrate on a point across from me that I wanted the wheel to turn toward. Amazingly it worked! I found that I could maneuver my bike in some of the smallest spaces possible with no fear of toppling over. My bike went where I was looking!!

This theme is applicable to life too. Our attitude largely determines our “altitude.” Now don’t misunderstand me to be propagating some mind over matter mumbo jumbo, as all I’m suggesting is that if we keep our eyes on our circumstances and problems, we’ll find ourselves succumbing to them. However, the Scriptures clearly advocate that God is not surprised by our struggles, and promises that if we keep our focus on Him even when the storms of life loom large and threaten to toss us into the raging seas, He will deliver us. There are ample stories in the Bible that support this truth. Our attitude toward the storms of life will determine whether we stay on course or drift asunder. So, just like in the art of racing, our life goes where our eyes go. What are you looking at?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Really Inconvenient Truth! (Part deux)

Continued from yesterday's post. If you haven't already done so please read yesterday's post first.

Talking about religious intolerance and bigotry, I wonder how the phrase “separation of Church and State” will be reworded as Islam and other growing religions take their place as key players in our ever-evolving cultures. I wonder how these self-appointed watchdogs (critics of Christianity) will angle their speeches to decry these new religious “threats” to our Western secular society, or more precisely to their religion of secular humanism. In my humble and fairly uninformed opinion I think these critics are merely toothless bulldogs. They look and sound menacing but have no bite. As a matter of fact, I contend that contentious critics of Christianity such as Bill Maher and his ilk are simply playground bullies. They are spineless, gutless voices in the crowd who strike out at Christianity because they know that Christianity won’t strike back. They know that Christians fight fair and as such won’t blindside them. These importunate imbeciles make an unenviable profession of speaking through their rear trumpet holes. If these critics are really that confident about their contention that religion is narrow-minded, bigoted, and intolerant, then they should be willing to put their collective money where their collective mouth is. I’d love to see them pour out their vitriol against Islam and its practitioners. After all, the tenets of Islam clearly state that any one who is not a follower of Mohammed is an infidel.

Considering their swift and certain reaction to Christians calling homosexuality a sin, I imagine they’d be up in arms about being referred to as infidels. I expect that they will raise up a standard against Radical Islamists who have waged a direct and debilitating war against Western culture and lifestyle, and have made no secret about their goal to Islamize the world and to fly the “flag of Islam over the White House.” Radical Islam has even used our own planes as bombs against us. They have beheaded innocent citizens of the USA and other Western nations on public television as a statement of commitment to their cause. They have, as in the case of Saddam Hussein, even turned their weapons against their own people but, conveniently, Bill Maher and his fellow crusaders against Christianity are silent. I guess they aren’t such brazen defenders of their way of life after all, or maybe they’ve heard of Salman Rushdie and his “Satanic Verses”. Maybe they’re aware of the fatwa (religious death sentence) that was issued against him simply because he dared to speak against some of the antiquated and questionable practices of Islam.

With all of that going on in our world, one can’t help but wonder at the absurdity of these critics of Christianity speaking out against the very foundation upon which our Western civilizations and cultures are built?! How arrogant and self absorbed do you have to be to believe that the most workable solution to humanity’s problems is to eradicate or at worst minimize the influence of Christianity in society? You’d think that Christianity and Christians do more harm to society than good to listen to these Neanderthals talk. Yet, while these belligerent, bellicose, buffoons strain at gnats and swallow camels, Radical Islam is slowly but surely advancing their cause as they recruit people right under our noses on our own soil, yet the critics think Christianity is the problem and so imprison preachers for calling a sin a sin. I would suggest that our Western culture has much more to fear than the advancement of Christianity and its attendant values. But what do I know? After all I’m just another one of those Christian bigots, right?! Go figure!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Really Inconvenient Truth!

I was recently in the UK attending my father’s funeral. While there I read a newspaper column that left me rather befuddled. The article title read: The Orwellian logic that’s turning the faith Britain was built on into a crime. The more I read, the more acutely aware I became of the fact that there is undoubtedly a really inconvenient truth surrounding the issue of Christians and homosexuality. If you embrace the liberal media’s interpretation of the Christian approach to homosexuality, and if you listen to the actual Christian position on the same issue with a tin ear, you are liable to miss the subtle nuances that actually determine the clear distinction that Christians try to make between homosexuals and the homosexual lifestyle. To suggest that a clear distinction between the two is impossible to make is like saying that it’s impossible to separate an orange from its peel. An orange is made up of both the actual nutritious fruit and the peel. However, it is clearly possible to distinguish between the two so that you can like one and not the other. As a practicing Christian, I support, and indeed, would fight to defend the rights of homosexuals to be treated fairly and to live as they want in private, in much the same way as I would defend mine. However to label me a bigot because I confidently express my values and my faith which clearly state that the homosexual lifestyle is contrary to God’s will, would in effect deny me of the same rights to freedom for which homosexuals claim to be fighting.

If it isn’t already immediately obvious, let me unequivocally state that I disavow the homosexual lifestyle! But let me just as unequivocally assert that I deeply love and respect all people and that includes homosexuals! Contrary to the opinion of many, one is not mutually exclusive of the other. The fact that I wouldn’t endorse nor encourage people to indulge in a homosexual lifestyle does not automatically place me in the category of bigot. I disavow a heterosexual, polygamous lifestyle too. Does that qualify me as a hater of people who practice that lifestyle? I strongly reject smoking, illicit drug use, and drunkenness, does that somehow affirm that I hate people who indulge in those lifestyles? It would not only be disingenuous but somewhat simplistic to draw any such conclusions. In the article I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail (a leading news publication in the UK), in response to a preacher being thrown in jail for stating that homosexuality was a sin, suggested in her column that “Britain is turning from a liberal Christian country—whose liberalism is rooted in its religious tradition—into an illiberal, oppressive secular state with no room for religious conscience. Under the camouflage of human rights, this is the way freedom dies.” [emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, critics of Christianity would have you believe that their only goal is to ensure that the “bigoted” doctrines of Christianity are not foisted upon an unsuspecting culture. In practice though, their objectives are far more sinister (read my post titled I want Tim Tebow to fail here) as, for them, freedom is the ability to subtly and systematically impose their “doctrine” of secular humanism on the culture in place of a Christian moral code. Much of their rhetoric about freedom: freedom to express whatever sexual proclivities you desire; freedom to say whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want; freedom to keep a separation between Church and State; and the freedom to worship whatever; is at its crux, directly targeted at Christianity. Even though the foundations of free and progressive societies like the USA and the UK were built upon the blood, sweat, and convictions of professing Christians, and even though much of the liberal thinking about freedom and the rule of law is based upon the Hebrew Scriptures, these critics of Christianity would have us believe that religion in general and Christianity in particular is the bane of progressive societies. I'll conclude my thoughts on this inconvenient truth tomorrow. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Hero Rests!

Hey Dad,

It’s surreal. It doesn’t feel real. I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. And the journey is only just beginning. I’m heading to the United Kingdom to meet up with my brothers and sisters so we can begin the arrangements for your funeral! Just writing that phrase is hard, because you don’t typically bury the living. That means that you’re really gone. You really are dead. I feel abandoned. I feel orphaned. I don’t really know what I feel because the feelings change constantly from moment to moment. Grief hits me like the wash of a massive wave and then it gives way to a calm serenity. Then my brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out all the things that need to be done and who needs to do them. We always relied on you for that.

I’m not an expert at this since I’ve never buried a parent, so I’m not sure what expressions of emotion are appropriate. Is it okay to feel abandoned? Is it selfish to feel sorry for myself? Are my brothers and sisters hurting as much as I am? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I sure know that I’m experiencing all the emotions attendant to them. The selfish part of me wants you right here beside me, but the spiritual part of me realizes and rejoices in the fact that you are where I want to be: In the arms of our everlasting, ever-living, and ever-loving Father. Here’s something else I know: You were loved deeply. It’s good to be loved. It’s good to have friends and family that can help you keep the proper perspective. Yesterday I got a phone call from our dear friends Kola and Erejuwa, who live in England. He has lost both parents and she has lost her mum. They were such an encouragement to me. She shared a poem with me that really spoke to my heart, especially because you were a self-confessed Christ-follower.

The poem is simply and aptly titled What is Dying? And it goes like this:

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon
And someone at my side says, “She is gone.”

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large now as when I last saw her.
Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says she is gone,
There are others who are watching her coming over their horizon,
And other voices take up a glad shout: There she comes!

That is what dying is. A horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further!

I guess for now that will have to do! I’ll have to rely on the wonderful memories I have of you from this horizon. You were my hero in a day when true heroes are few and far between. I’m reminded of the Scripture that says, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 13) That brings me tremendous comfort right now because I know the depth of that truth. I guess this will be my last letter to you, so say hi to Jesus for me and I'll see you when I get there.

Rest well mighty warrior, you’ve earned it! I look forward to seeing you on the other horizon. Always yours in love and hope.

Your Son,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Want Tim Tebow To Fail! (Part Grand Finale)

In order to grasp the full merit of this article I suggest you read the previous two posts first.

When did character come to mean so little in the psyche of American culture? When Bill Clinton was President of the United States, arguably the most powerful political position on earth, he displayed a gross lack of character when he cheated on his wife with an intern, publicly lied to cover it up, and cost the country millions of dollars in revenue spent on uncovering the truth. Bill Clinton’s support skyrocketed as people indignantly suggested that he be left alone to focus on the business of running the country (a lack of integrity and character not withstanding, nor the fact that he had perjured himself by lying under oath). While Clinton and his embattled wife cited a “vast right wing conspiracy” as the reason for the unmitigated persecution, the lead counsel for the prosecution, Ken Starr, was vilified in the press as being on a “witch hunt” and called all kinds of unrepeatable names.

So why do people dislike Tim Tebow so much? Has he displayed poor judgment as a student athlete or leader? Has he been arrested for a DUI, or armed robbery, or shoplifting? Has he raped anyone or gotten anyone pregnant and denied paternity? Has he cheated on exams, skipped class, or broken the law in any way? Has he lied to the NCAA, “violated team rules,” or been spotted at night clubs over-indulging himself? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no! But there are tons of athletes at every level who have been cited for all of these and more, yet they are still celebrated. And therein lies the problem. Tebow is too pristine for our entitled, overindulged, and perverse sensibilities. We would like nothing better than to discover that he is as flawed as the rest of us a la Tiger Woods. Pearlman and his kind have missed the boat on this one though. You see, we've never claimed that Christianity and perfection are interchangeable terms.

We are a nation that enjoys creating heroes and then destroying them. It makes us feel better about ourselves when we can point to those we celebrate and say, “He/She struggles with the same things I do and so they’re no better than me.” That’s why the Tiger Woods scandal was so newsworthy while myriad others live the same despicable and hypocritical lives every day, in anonymity. It’s hard to see how Tebow’s life, which is clearly committed to promoting good and serving the needy, can be considered dangerous, while others are out there scheming and plotting how to destroy everything and everyone that lives contrary to what they believe. Radical Islam has succinctly articulated the fact that their consuming passion is to ensure that the flag of Islam flies over the White House. They are committed to ridding the world of Christianity and have made it clear that no method is out of bounds, including murdering innocent people to ensure that their goal is met.

Yet Pearlman thinks Tebow is dangerous! Is Tebow a terrorist? Has he forced his faith on anyone? Since when did using your platform to promote your world view become a sin? Isn’t that exactly what advertisers do every single day when they bombard the airwaves with claims of their products being the best in the world even when they’re not? Are they dangerous too? Does Pearlman think he’s the smartest person in the world? I mean, how condescending and elitist must you be to suggest that you have greater insight than everyone else into Tebow’s motives for playing football, and they are not altruistic? He clearly gives no credence to the idea that other people have brains and are just as able to use them as he is his. If people don’t believe in what Tebow is “selling” then they don’t have to “buy” it. He’s not using guerilla tactics, or forcefully manipulating people into believing what he believes. He’s not even aggressively proselytizing on street corners, yet Pearlman thinks he’s brainwashing people, and so he wants him to fail. As a parent, I vehemently and vociferously disagree with Pearlman and his ilk.

Here’s what a few of Pearlman’s own readers had to say about his article:

“Wow, you’re such a bigot, and you call yourself liberal. I’m a liberal democrat and you are why we (are) losing power. You(’re) narrow-minded and don’t really care about free speech, you preach but you don’t practice. What if I said I want your kids to fail? You would blast me and call me out like you should.”

“Why would someone who disagrees with Tebow want him to fail? What’s the big deal if his success enables him to help more missionaries convert people in third-world countries? Don’t missionaries help more than they hurt?...And if they think I am going to hell, who cares—if I don’t believe it, why should I care? I am scared of Islamic Jihadists, not Tebow.”

“Frankly, I’m not sure I see the danger in a famous Tebow. He’s far from the first evangelical Christian to make it big in sports (ie: prayer huddles after games) and far from the first athlete to hold opinions which I disagree with. But aren’t people smart enough to make their own decisions? I find it hard to believe that somebody would decide to not get an abortion because a football player—or the parent of a football player, even—told them it was a sin.”

Like Tebow’s parents, I have a son playing D1 college football, and every time I read a comment about my son that is less than complimentary I bristle. Now, don’t get me wrong, I certainly welcome constructive and objective criticism, but when the comments are simply unveiled insults that question a student-athlete’s heritage or upbringing, I certainly draw the line there. Over time however, I’ve come to realize that such comments don’t come from people who see our children as humans with feelings, but from indolent idiots who merely see them as commodities that provide a few hours of entertainment for them on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I’m learning not to let them get under my skin. I applaud Tim’s parents for having to deal with the pain and frustration of hearing and seeing their son vilified, derided, and second-guessed at every turn, but I also realize that there is a worthy reward for both him and them. The Scriptures say it like this:

“So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven.” (Jesus speaking in Matthew 10:32)

As it happens, Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos with the 25th pick of the 2010 NFL draft (the first round no less) contrary to all the speculations and permutations of the so-called experts. Kudos to you Josh McDaniels, for recognizing the value of character as being equal to talent. You did it with Tom Brady in New England, and I’m confident you’ll do it with Tim Tebow in Denver. Oh, by the way, for those of you who’ve forgotten, Tom Brady, a high-character guy, played his college football as a back-up to Brian Griese, a high-talent guy, at Michigan. Hmmm, I wonder what their NFL careers reflected?! I’m just sayin’!! Now it’s your turn to weigh in on this conversation.