Monday, March 29, 2010

New Life

Not a care in the world.
I looked at my new nephew lying under a heat lamp (it was a lot more complicated than just a bulb). His birth occurring just a couple of hours before.
New life, a blank slate, a life filled with opportunity and hope for the future.
This reminds me of the new life that each of us have in Christ.
We celebrate Easter because it is in His rising from the grave, defeating death do we have new life.
Like little Drew, our new lives are filled with promise, hope for the future, but it also a life of skinned knees and broken hearts.
As much as Mom and Dad will do everything to prevent Drew from hurting, it will happen. And like most kids we Christians sometimes will stick our fingers in the electric outlet, finding out what happens to us when we ignore God's warnings about straying too far from Him.
But when the hurt happens Mom will be there, my Mom was there for me when I skinned myself up (shoot my sister was there for me in my 20's when I would come home skinned up from sliding into bases playing softball).
Like Mom, God has been there when I hurt, when I messed up or when my heart was broke. As I look back at my life God has always been there. I didn't always see it then, but I do now.
Perhaps we should look at our new life in a way that would honor our Father in heaven. Maybe we could see our new life as a clean slate, letting God draw something beautiful upon it. The only thing that holds us back is ourselves.
So this Easter as we think about the price that God gave to purchase us, the wonderful gift of new life, may we become what God wants our life to be.
That would be a life pleasing to Him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Haiti Question

Why help?
Paul Shirley, ex NBA basketball player asks that very question. He sees Haiti in the same way he looks at a homeless man. Paul reasons that Haiti, just like a homeless man would not handle the gift he would give with any responsibility. He wouldn't really change; he would just spend the money on booze or something so why help at all?
And if I may be cynical for a moment, I’m sure as with most countries when millions flood into the country somebody is probably filling their pockets.
It’s an old game. We don’t have to look at Haiti to see that, we have that going on in our government, our places of employment, and sometimes it happens in churches.
Grab what you can get and if somebody else suffers, to bad for them.
What is really convenient for those who refuse to help because they see a wasted dollar spent really can ease their conscience. They will just waste it anyway.
And to be honest, I’ve past beggars by. Many that I see are young and healthy looking, at least healthy enough to have a job. Would they buy drugs or booze with my cash?
But in Haiti we are talking about something different. Contrary to what my brother Pat Robertson has said, the people of Haiti didn’t ask for this earthquake. If being bad or doing a stupid thing caused earthquakes, our entire nation wouldn’t stop shaking.
Yes they are a poor nation, yes perhaps corruption has led to them to ruin, and yes maybe they will never get it right. Jesus told us the poor will always be with us.
But that didn’t stop Jesus from helping.
In fact, let’s take it deeper. Imagine Jesus and God having a discussion.
God: I want you to leave your nice home here, become a man that will feel all the pain and misery a man will experience, have friends that will doubt you and finally be beaten and die for the very same people that are hurting you.
Jesus: Do what?!?
God: You heard me, I know it makes no sense, but I love my creation that much.
Jesus: Okay, a gift of eternal life. You’re going to give that gift away to people who will reject it, abuse it and ignore it. They are going to deny who I am and curse you. Surely you can find something better to do with a gift like that. They will just waste it! They will spend some much time worried about themselves that they will never follow you wholeheartedly.
God: I know, but I’m crazy in love with my creation.
This discussion is fictional of course, because Jesus knew all of these things and yet still suffered and died for us.
I’m glad God didn’t see us like Paul Shirley sees Haiti, a waste of time and money.
Many churches are on the ground in Haiti, but they have been there before the earthquake and they will be there long after the quake situation is over.
Because that is the example God has shown us,
And that is what He has called us to do.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Go Tim!

I've had it.
I try very hard to avoid political and sometimes cultural controversies, mainly because I want to focus on more positive subjects. Sometimes all of the arguing just isn't worth it.
It started with my wife telling that Tim Tebow was going to do a pro-life Super Bowl ad. No problem, I thought, it would be better than some of the ads I've seen.
But I forgot how politically correct we have become.
Now first I want to say that I respect Tim Tebow. I'm not a Florida fan, and frankly I just got tired of them winning all the time (especially since Illinois couldn't win this year).
But as a man, Tim is tough, he played in the toughest football conference in the nation and he has never backed away from his beliefs.
It would have been easier for him just to keep his Christianity on the down low (hip sounding aren't I) and nobody would have known.
But he didn't, he wasn't afraid of LSU linebackers and he's not afraid to state what he believes.
And what does Tim believe?
That his mom was courageous for continuing her pregnancy even when doctors advised her, because of an illness she had during a mission trip, to abort her fifth child...Tim Tebow.
Tim will talk about the cause "Celebrate family, Celebrate life" which comes from the Focus on the Family group.
Wow just think, a wholesome, encouraging, positive, uplifting Super Bowl ad!
Ohhh but hold on a minute.
The fine girls at the National Organization for Women have cried foul.
They want CBS to cancel this ad, why would CBS air such filth?!?
And to CBS's credit (which one can rarely say these days) they just don't see what the big deal is. Hey, Focus on the Family's 2.5 million is just as good as Coor's 2.5 million right?
The ladies are worried that the ad is simply to divisive, and contains a message that simply isn't respectful of others.
You know if these gals were really worried about women, (and I don't really believe they are) maybe they would protest beer ads that portray women as sex objects, or all the other ads that show women that way.
But alas not a peep.
Just whining that a strong, courageous, and respected man saying simple and true facts might upset some poor gal.
This is where we are, but as I looked at some of the comments of this story (I saw this on Fox sports) I found that most people don't see the add nearly as dangerous or divisive as the ladies at NOW do.
Perhaps there is hope.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I have never liked thorns

I looked at my old coveralls and sighed.
I had this pair of bibs for many years, they were insulated so they had come in very handy when winter came. Like a lot of my clothes they had become tighter.
I think our washing machine shrinks clothes.
Anyway, I noticed how tore up they were. The legs had many ripped spots and along with some holes from welding, they were looking pretty sad.
The rips had come from thorns, nasty sticky things I had stumbled into over several years of chasing rabbits.
I hate thorns because they hurt, they would rip my exposed skin and tear into my clothes. They make a nice place for small animals, but for a big guy like me they aren't nice at all.
In fact I wondered why have them at all? We can't eat them (as far as I know, at least I haven't tried to eat them on purpose).
As I thought deeper about it, we aren't equipped to handle them. Our skin would have to be a lot tougher to walk through them without getting hurt. Oh we can cut them and burn them but they show up other places.
Now that I think about it, we were never meant to live in a world with them.
As I recall my Genesis (the book in the Bible, not the band Phil Collins was in) God tells Adam this;
"17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
So before the fall, no thorns, after the fall...ouch.
We know something is wrong, we watch TV and see the pain that's out there. People abusing other people, death and destruction, injustice and corruption.
We know this isn't right, life isn't supposed to be this way.
And when the thorns hit home, when we have been wronged, or lose a loved one, or get bad news from the doctor, we hurt. It's not what we signed up for, especially if we are a follower of Christ. God is supposed to block the pain.
And then I remember it was the fall that created this mess, the choice to let God be the god of our lives or we are the boss.
I remember the line in the movie "The Princess Bride" (which I thought was a pretty good movie) the male lead tells the princess "Life is pain princess, anybody who tells you its not is trying to sell you something". Pretty good line and unfortunately it's true.
The fact we live in such a painful place should drive us into the arms of Christ, to know He died that we would one day live in a place where God would wipe the tears of our pain away.
I believe it is a place that is worth waiting for. It makes Christ's sacrifice even more special knowing that He loved me enough to offer such a place to me. I don't deserve it, but His grace and mercy are enough.
I have some great days on this earth, great friends, great family and good times. I have also seen and felt real pain. I have lost loved ones and seen others that I care about experience great pain in their lives. Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from pain. John the Baptist knew all about that, but the best days are the ones that are coming.
I look forward to a time and place...
without thorns.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Joy to the world and get your hands off my Tickle Me Elmo.

How did we get here?
How did the celebration of the birth of the Messiah of the world, our path to God, the one who has saved us from eternal destruction, into a one day shopping melee?
I had not heard the term "black Friday" before, is this new or am I living in a cave?
Think about it, we sing happy songs at Christmas, Joy is the theme, celebrate God's gift to humanity.
Then we scratch, claw, over spend, and end up hating the very holiday that we are supposed to be overjoyed about.
We lose the true meaning because somehow we always bring it back to us. It's not about God, it's about being at a store hours before you normally get up. That kills me, let's open our store at 3 am and expect people to be in a good mood! I see people get up at 7 am who are crabby.
Now I realize that not everybody goes nuts at Christmas, many get it. I also want to state that if you want to fight the crowds the day after Thanksgiving, go for it.
If you find yourself ready to kill to get the last $199 laptop, that you want to strangle the family in front of the check out line at Wal-Mart, that you want to say or do things that would get you a free nights stay at the local jail, remember this...
It's really about our salvation, our freedom, our savior.
It's not about maxing our credit cards and finding the biggest bargains.
This was brought home to me at the community Thanksgiving service. I was asked to speak at the service and I talked about what we should really be thankful for. As man came up to me after the service, thanked me, and told me how thankful he was, he had been "clean" for 8 years.
You see Jesus had freed him from an addiction. He understands better than most what an amazing gift God has given each one of us.
That's what Christmas is.
Please understand I find nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts, one of my biggest thrills is giving my family gifts.
I just want each one of you to stop and think about what Christmas really means.
You might find the joy we sing about.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


"Stay away from the road!"
I can still hear my Mom's voice. Warning me to remain within the confines of our yard.
I was probably 8 or 9 at the time and I was pretending to be a football player. I was by myself of course so I had to pretend I was making incredible catches against imaginary opponents. At that time we lived on a corner lot, so their was a road that ran in front of our house and a road on the side. A garage created a wall on the other side, and while I had a huge back yard to play in, I usually played close to the house. Mom was in the house so I knew that if I needed something she was really close.
There was always something cool going on in the shop across the road. Guys would be welding and grinding on things, making cool looking sparks. Also I learned new words that Mom and Dad didn't use.
But I didn't dare cross the road. It would not go well for me if I did.
Now I will openly admit that I haven't always stayed within the boundaries in my life. You probably haven't either.
In fact, human beings have always had trouble living within boundaries.
Just think about Adam and Eve, they had a BIG yard to play in. God said here and no farther. Enjoy this place, but stay away from this tree, it will kill you.
We all know how that worked out.
Want a more modern example?
There are people who are paid to come up with a safe speed for us to travel in our cars. I don't believe they meet in a secret place and say "let's mess with people, let's come up with a speed that people will hate". Speed limits are boundaries that are there to keep us safe.
If you've driven very long at all you know people, for the most part, ignore these boundaries.
By ignoring them however does not mean they don't exist. I might say that I believe there is no speed limit, but that probably would not fly with a police officer.
As our culture evolves, we desire less boundaries. Think about television of the 70's, now think about television today. Are the boundaries different?
We keep pushing the boundaries farther and farther. We see what's across the road, and we want to be able to go across. It looks so good and inviting. Cool looking sparks and new words.
And we want a God that says, "sure, go ahead, I know how cool that must look. Just be careful." There are even those who claim to be God's heralds that tell people that it's okay to ignore the boundaries, God understands. They draw decent crowds because that message is so cool.
But that's not the God I read about in the Bible.
And speaking of God's Word I would be the first to agree that men have sometimes tried to set boundaries on God's behalf. The Pharisees did it, some do it today.
If I read the Word, I begin to see the actual boundaries. I understand that I haven't been good. I need forgiveness for leaving the yard. Jesus took the punishment that I deserved.
And now I'm a child of the King.
It's not that my desire to check out the cool stuff across the street has went away, but I know if I stay close to my heavenly Father, He will keep me and provide for me. He wants the very best for me. He has given me an opportunity to serve Him, to help Him.
I know I need to stay in the yard.
Because boundaries are for my benefit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Transitions. Part 2

I saw this one coming.
I stumbled across the web site of the Fort Lauderdale based Coral Ridge Presbyterian church once led by the late Dr. James Kennedy.
They were seeking a new pastor.
Before I get into this, I want you to know that I had seen Dr. Kennedy on the TV before. His neatly combed hair and blue robe stand out in my memory. To be honest I'm not sure I ever remember listening to him for very long.
This is NOT a slam on Dr. Kennedy, I have no doubt he was a man of God who led one of the first mega-churches in this country. He must have been a great leader. A far better one than I am.
What caught my attention was the man they hired to replace Dr. Kennedy.
Enter Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, a younger man who happens to be Billie Graham's grandson!
What I read about Pastor Tullian was that he was everything Dr. Kennedy wasn't.
The robe was ditched, Pastor Tullian didn't get involved in politics like Dr. Kennedy had. Tullian spiked his hair once in awhile, and had a little stubble on his face sometimes.
Now to follow a man like Dr. Kennedy would make most men turn down the church, who would want to replace a legend?
And of course there are some who are not happy.
Dr. Kennedy's daughter seems to be leading the opposition, circulating a petition (ah the infamous petition) for the removal of Pastor Tchividjian. From what I can determine the opposition is a very small group who are screaming the loudest.
What does this teach us about transitions?
We are creatures of habit and we are all unique. Coral Ridge will never find another Dr. Kennedy. He was a unique, special man of God.
But so is Tullian, in his own way.
If you read the Old Testament you will find that God would choose the right man for the right time. They were unique men, who had their good points and bad.
Sometimes we never hear the message that God has for us because we are to busy being upset by appearances or styles. We often are to obsessed with the past.
I truly believe God is raising up leaders of all ages that are not interested in style, procedure, politics or formality. They want to add to the Kingdom. They want to be Jesus' hands and feet.
And while you will be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with these important points, it seems we have a "not in my backyard" approach. You can do all of those things, but don't change anything at my place of worship.
I read something on Pastor Tullian's blog that rings true. All churches are dying.
Some are literally dying.
Some are exciting and glamorous, the latest of everything. But at their very core their mission is dead.
And some have taken up their cross and died to selfish desires for the sake of the Kingdom. They don't care about anything except for serving Christ and their fellow man.
I modified these, but in essence this is true. Until all of my silly preferences pass away and are removed will I begin to see what the gospel is really all about.
I'm praying for Coral Ridge. I pray for peace and protection from the attacks of the evil one.
I'm also praying for a willingness to change.