Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hate the Sin Love the Sinner?

"Hate the sin, Love the sinner."

Ever heard that one before?  It has become a popular phrase among Christians over the years to help explain how the church and Christians should interact with the world.  We cannot deny that the Bible proclaims certain things to be "sin" and we also can't deny that the Bible calls us to "love our neighbors."  So, how do we blend these two seemingly opposing doctrines?  We hate the sin and love the sinner of course.......

The problem is that also seems to be the exact order in which we often do it.  We often hate the sin first and then love the sinner second.  Jesus didn't say too much about "hating" sin, but He said a heck of a lot about loving one another.

I wonder what would happen if we were to reverse the order?

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Socialism or Capitalism? That's not the point

One of the things that concerns me about the overall direction of our society is the lack of ability to seen topics and issues from a balanced perspective.  It seems anymore that we are driven to take a stand on a subject and then root for our side no matter what.  Like a sports fans who can see no wrong with their team or the players, we determine that our way is best and any other perspective is foolish.  One area this seems to occur in is in regard to economics.

Currently our nation is growing more and more embattled in the tension between Socialism and Capitalism.  The Capitalist view the Socialists as lazy freeloaders who wish to distribute the wealth they have worked hard to earn.  The Socialist view the Capitalists as greedy cutthroats who exploit the less fortunate to their own gain.  The problem is that neither form of government is better or worse than the other.  When looked at objectively, just about any sort of governmental system can work quite well.  Capitalism, Socialism, even Communism.  Big government, small government, no government.  All of them are capable of working quite well in theory.  The factor we forget to plug into these equations is that the problem is never the actual system.  The problem is always the people within the systems.  You see, each system has its pros and cons and the cons are almost always based on human nature.  Each system is open to exploitation and it is the exploitive nature of man that creates the weakness in every system.

So, perhaps the time has come for us to stop viewing each other as idiots for having opposing political or economic views as each system is equally valid in a world were everyone is honest and hardworking.  The problem isn't ideology.........its us.      

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tolerance.....It's not what you think or what you say....It's how you act.

Tolerance.......its something most of the commoners in America seem to understand that those atop the highest mountains of publicity can't seem to grasp.  It is sad to me that we have become such a sensational society that the only people who seem to be able to claim the spotlight are those with either the most radical stances or the most outrageous stunts.

As a commoner, I've noticed some rather interesting trends down here at the base of the social ladder.  I've seen how liberals and conservatives, gays and straights, religious and atheists, blacks and whites and browns and yellows can still be friends despite their differences.

I see it all the time.  I see it in the relationships I have with friends who have different stances on social issues than I do.  I've seen it with my friends of other races, I've seen it in watching the friendships of others as well.  You see, the thing about tolerance is that its not about thinking alike, or looking alike, or being alike.  Its actually quite the opposite.  Its about having the ability to treat people with kindness no matter what your differences.

The idea of a nation full of people who think or look exactly alike is actually quite terrifying to me.  That lack of diversity and individual thought would be the kind of thing that could lead to a very dull, shallow, and possibly dangerous society.  But a nation full of people with vast differences and ideas who possess the ability to still treat each other well?  Well, that would be a beautiful thing!

I know its possible because I see it every day, and I notice it even more when I don't turn on the TV.....

Friday, November 29, 2013

When We All Get To Heaven

There is an old hymn called, "When We All Get to Heaven" that we often sang in the little church where I grew up.  If you spent much time in a Protestant church during your life you are probably familiar with this little tune.  It joyfully details the wonderful encounter the followers of Christ will one day have with Him in the ever after.  It's a happy song as it kinda makes you look forward to dying and having a giant heavenly potluck.

The concept of Heaven has become a difficult one for me lately in life.  I used to be able to accept it wholeheartedly as a place I could look forward to when I die, but I have to admit, I'm beginning to struggle with certain aspects.  I struggle with the idea that many Christians are so focused on Heaven that they don't really take the time to appreciate this life in the here and now.  I struggle with the idea that Heaven is some sort of a reward for living a good life or accepting Jesus.  How good of a life am I really living, if my motivation is to inherit an eternal reward?  How genuine is my decision to accept Jesus if part of the reason for doing so is to obtain eternal bliss?  This is compounded when we also consider the idea of also trying to avoid an eternal Hell.  I've come to the conclusion, at least for now, that the existence of Heaven and Hell are a bit disappointing in that they take away from the genuine decision to follow the teachings of Christ.  Do this and you get Heaven, don't do it and you get Hell....any questions?  

Wouldn't it be much more genuine if there were no Heaven or Hell, if you just got this one shot at life to live as you please?  To see the true value of following Christ for exactly what it is, a truly better and more fulfilling way to live.  No punishment or reward, just a genuine desire to live that way.  Now that would be genuine!  I know that's probably blasphemy, but that would just make more sense to me. (Not that I wouldn't want a heaven after I die of course)

Lately, I've found myself quite enamored with an often over looked statement Christ made in Luke 17 when He said this:    

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20, 21 KJV)

What if the heaven Jesus was talking about isn't some place we have to wait until we die to get to?  What if it isn't some place we go to or have to find?  What if it is actually something we become?  Perhaps we become heaven part of heaven when we learn to live with the love and freedom with which Christ taught us to live.  Perhaps when we choose not to repay evil for evil, when we choose love over hate, when we choose the peace of forgiveness over revenge, when we cast off our masks of insecurity and have the courage to be vulnerable, when we choose to see the beauty that lies within each other......perhaps we don't go to heaven, perhaps we become heaven and take another step toward bringing it to Earth.  Is this what the Prophet Micah meant when he made this prediction about the last days?

 "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Micah 4:1-3 KJV)



Maybe this is what the world might someday look like................. when we all get to heaven?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What If Everybody Did That?

One of the great little lessons I learned as a child was not to litter.  I recall on many different occasions a parent or teacher telling either me or some other little kid who had just thrown trash on the ground, "What if everybody did that?"  For some reason, that argument worked pretty well because it was easy for me to grasp what our world might look like if everyone littered.  Even as a child, I was able to see the logic.

Today I sit as an adult, and wonder why we didn't use that wonderful little argument for so many other things in life.

Why shouldn't we lie?  Well....what if everybody did that?

Why shouldn't we steal?  Well......what if everybody did that?

Why shouldn't we repay evil for evil, or be selfish, or run red lights, or cheat people?

Well.........what if everybody did that?

And of course that argument could be reversed to work the opposite way as well:

Why should I be kind to others, or love my neighbor, or help those in true need?  

What might our world look like if everybody did that?

Monday, August 26, 2013

What's Wrong With Us??


Today was a truly sad day in America.  Today, a story broke of an elderly couple who died 11 hours apart after having been married 65 years.  Harold and Ruth Knapke passed away quietly in a nursing home in Ohio, the conclusion of a simple but epic love story.  Although this story made some minor headlines, it was vastly over shadowed by the antics of a celebrity's child gyrating on an awards show stage.

When are we as a nation going to stop lying to ourselves about what we want?  As a culture we pretend to be obsessed with finding true love.  We even have shows like The Bachelor and Bachelorette devoted to finding "true love."  When we walk through the checkout line in every grocery store, the isles are filled with cover stories of who's dating who, who's cheating on who, who is divorcing who, how to have better sex, how to get the guy, how to get the girl, and everything else.  But the one thing that is blatantly missing is a single show or story about people like the Knapke's.  Why is that?  Why is it that when we are presented perfect examples of the very things in life we say we are looking for that we turn away and look elsewhere?

The fact is we have no interest in true love.  What we are really interested in is courting.  Think about it.  Every love story is about the process of the couple falling in love, then we sum everything up with "they lived happily ever after."  We are so consumed with falling in love that we completely ignore the art of staying in love.  When we hear of stories like the love that the Knapke's had, we dismiss it as sheer luck and wish we could find that.  We fail to recognize that true love is not just about finding "the one" is also about being "the one."  Its about what we give to the relationship rather than just what we get. As people we change and evolve over time.  The person we are married to in year one is not the same person we are married to in year 20 or 40 or 60.  True love involves the work of continually learning how to love our partner in the ways they need to be loved.  It's about sacrificing to meet their needs and hoping they do the same for us.  This! This is what we need to study.  This is what we should have TV shows about.  As a society, we are pretty good at getting into the relationships, but we have a great deal of work to do after that.  Perhaps the problem is that we really are not that interested in the rest of the story?  Perhaps we are more interested in other people misery than we are the happiness we could find for ourselves in the wisdom of others.  Or.........perhaps we'd just rather focus on attention starved celebrities trying to out do each other on a stage.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Red Cups, Mizzou, and Everyone Else.....

* A re-publish from a couple years ago in light of recent events....


Every so often a celebrity or public figure comes out with a tweet or a statement that reveals their true feeling about another group of people.  One of the things I find interesting about the public reaction is that normally there is a huge outcry for said person to lose their job, or to lose sponsorship or be forced to apologize.  Immediate social pressure is created to somehow "punish" these people for being racist or homophobic or whatever prejudice they convey.  Why?

Why do we have to punish people for voicing their opinions?  Isn't that what America is supposed to be all about?  Isn't it about being able to speak your mind no matter how crazy your ideas might be?  Personally, I think its sad that anyone hate anyone else based on a general set of criteria, but when that person voices that sentiment and they are met with an overwhelming backlash crying out for them to be punished, then doesn't that only reinforce their already warped view?  Shouldn't sponsorship or whether or not someone keeps their job be a decision left to the employers and sponsors?

I'm afraid that America is becoming a place where people are being intimidated into keeping their controversial thoughts to themselves, suppressing their right to express themselves and creating a pressure cooker of venom.  If someone is a racist, they are a racist, if they are a homophobe they are a homophobe, firing them and forcing them to apologize will not change their heart.  If anything it will only provide it new resolve, fanning their flames of hatred.  As a Christian, I can tell you we have over 1,000 years of church history where we tried to "force" people to believe and think certain ways and it hasn't work out all that well.

If you don't agree with someone then don't agree with them.  If they say something you think is out of line, then tell them they are out of line.  Punishing them for what they think doesn't make them change their mind and does nothing to fix the real problem which resides in their heart.  A wise man once said we should "love our enemies."  It sounds crazy but for the entire history of mankind just about everyone, including His very followers, have pretty well tested the idea of hating our enemies and this is where we are at.  Perhaps it might be worth giving His idea a try.    

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Profile of a Hero (A Tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots)



After spending almost 12 years as a First Responder my heart is always broken when news comes out about any sort of emergency service member losing their life.  The loss of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots was especially hard as it is local and I have friends who knew many of these guys.  My hearts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones as their pain must be unbearable.  For what its worth, we all love you guys.

If I may split hairs for a moment, I'd like to comment a bit on the idea that these 19 men were heroes because they were firefighters.  I'd like to suggest that they were already heroes who happened to become firefighters.  I realize that these men will be immortalized and remembered for the job they did, but lets not forget that its still just a job and that there is and was so much more to who they each were.  The same can be said for any First Responder.  The job doesn't make them great, they were great when they chose the job.  One of the most terrible ironies of death is that it is often the only way for true greatness to be exposed and appreciated.  Last weekend, nobody knew the names of any of these men.  They were just a group of average guys doing the job they loved.  Sadly, due to the tragic circumstances of their death, it is only now that the world will learn of the types of human beings they already were.  It is only now that they will receive the recognition they already deserved.  Death, you are hated for the immeasurable pain you inflict, but for some strange reason you must also be respected as you also can bring the honor due to a great life that it might have never received without you.

What a horrible trade for the families.  To trade a quiet, unassuming life to live with your hero in your arms or have them taken from you to the applause of the world for how great they were.  This week is just one more testament that it is how one lived that makes them a hero not how they died.  Sadly, thought, it seems like it is death that often provides the needed spotlight.  In the midst of this let's not forget their sole surviving brother.  May you Brendan McDonough not be forgotten in all of this.  May you receive comfort in your pain and may we all recognize you for the hero you are as well.

Godspeed to each of you gentlemen......and I pray that we don't forget to remember how you lived along with how you died.      

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Diseases" and "Disorders"


With the recent announcement that obesity is a disease, it's really got me considering the validity of a number of "diagnosis" that have been brought about by recent medicine and Science.

I have to admit that personally I've become a bit suspicious with certain aspects of modern medicine when I see absurdities like this arise.  It's interesting that the same people who declare these new syndromes and sicknesses are the same ones who stand to gain the most financially by treating them.  I heard just this week on the radio that almost 70% of Americans are on some type of prescribed medication.

If obesity is a "disease" one can make a lot more money by medicating it than by simply telling people to make healthier decisions and be more active.  I have the same suspicions about things like ADHD.  For thousands of years children were extremely active, having to hunt, gather, build, and survive with their families.  I would wager that the ones who had the best chances of survival were probably those who were energetic and highly sensitive to their environment.  The ones who were "easily distracted" from a mundane task to notice that snake, or lion, or whatever threat that was lurking.

But, over time, society and technology has changed our world.  Rather than run around and burn off energy, kids are asked to sit in classrooms for longer and longer periods of time with fewer and fewer recesses throughout the day.  As a result, the same characteristics that were an advantage in the past, have now become a disadvantage in our modern society.  And to make matters worse, we now tell these kids that they have a "disorder."  They have a "problem."  They are not normal.  Is that really true?  We can't ignore the fact that this world has changed and changed rapidly.  The world has changed more in the past 100 years for man than in the last 5,000 before that.  Things that were advantages then are "disorders" today.  Social settings that allowed kids to be highly active and prevent things like obesity are now in the distant past, replaced by long school days followed by sedimentary hours of television and video games.  All the while billions are made medicating us for not fitting in to our new environment.

Perhaps I'm not qualified to make these types of observations as I'm not a doctor, but when doctors come out and tell us obesity is a disease, it makes me wonder if they are qualified to make these observations either..........  

Monday, May 6, 2013

One of a Kind


I recently had the honor of getting to help out with a Miracle League Baseball game.  Prior to this year, I hadn't realized what an amazing experience I was missing out on.  For those of you who are not familiar, the Miracle League is a baseball program for Special Needs individuals of various ages.

One of the most refreshing aspects of this is getting to watch these kids and adults play baseball with a complete and total lack of self consciousness.  They dance, they sing, they stop and give hugs to everyone as they round the bases.  They have fun and are completely uninhibited by the prison of self image in which so many of us dwell.

In our culture where there is such a huge emphasis on being a stand out individual, we stumble all over each other trying to be unique in the way we dress, talk, and act, mainly the way we present our external self.  We glorify individualism on television which is much more about finding a creative way to present yourself rather than to just be yourself.  Yet as I stood and watched these wonderful kids play, I couldn't help but notice how amazingly diverse they all were.  Each had their own unique and different personality, unsculpted by the pressures of pop-culture.  Strangely, they were all so different not because they were trying to be but because they just embraced who they truly are.  We can all learn from this.  If we want to be unique and stand out from the crowd the easiest way is to discover the true person within us all, because that's someone who is one of a kind!  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Good Time To Disobey God


I've decided to re-post this blog each time an act of terror in the name of religion takes place in the world.  This is due to the attack in Kenya.

I got to pondering the idea of "world peace." This is an idea people have pondered since time began but for some reason we have yet to figure out that all that is needed to attain this lofty goal is just for everyone to agree to leave each other alone. That's when an interesting thought hit me. There are people in this world who believe it is the will of their God to eradicate any and all who believe differently than them. Since that is the case, for world peace ever to exist, these people would have to actually defy their God.

To put this in better perspective, for people who come from a Judeo-Christian belief system, the book of Joshua chronicles the story of a Biblical hero who led the Israelites on a march of conquest over evil nations to reclaim the land of God's chosen people. But, if you do not come from a Judeo-Christian background, the story of Joshua looks nothing short of a reign of terror over the region as the Israelites eradicated city and nation killing men, women, children, infants, and even the animals. I wonder how Joshua would have been viewed had he looked his God in the face and said, "No, for the sake of peace, I will not destroy these people." Imagine the implications of that! Yet, it is the exact same thing we are asking others to do right now. In the name of world peace would you please tell your God "no" and just leave me alone.

Now, Christians and Jews might quickly make the case that Joshua went out and destroyed "evil" nations who had all kinds of horrid practices, some even sacrificed their children on altars. But I think it would be pretty narrow minded of us not to see how radical followers of other belief systems might view us here in America as equally "evil." Pro-choice or pro-life, we would have to admit that when you lead the world in abortions, its not a stretch for someone to believe, based on their system of values, that we are just as bad.

Imagine the stir that Jesus created when He corrected the Old Testament teaching of and eye for an eye saying instead we should "love our enemies." When Jesus says stuff like this, it kinda makes you wonder if Joshua heard God right. That's a pretty big contrast. And when I see the contrast between what Jesus taught and some of the things that took place in the Old Testament, I honestly struggle. If world peace was ever going to be reached in the day and age of Joshua then he would have had to defy God just like if world peace is going to be reached in this day and age radical Muslims would have to defy Allah, and any other radical groups out there would have to defy their gods or teachings.  

The only two ways to attain world peace are either to follow your God all the way and eradicate any and all who oppose you, or to defy your God if he is calling for the destruction of others and love your enemies. There are really no other options. So, for world peace to be attained, someone, somewhere, at some time is going to have to defy their God and if I'm going to ask them to, the question then becomes, could I?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Love


I've found myself pondering religion lately. Not just Christianity, but every religion. The followers of just about every religion on Earth believe that their way of believing is the "right" way, thus the reason they follow. What is interesting is that as different and diverse as religions are, they all have the common idea that their way is best and all others are found lacking.  As a Christian, I was brought up with the idea that Judeo-Christianity was "God's" religion and that every other faith was just something made up by man. Every belief system on Earth, every one but mine, was just made up by people through the centuries.



Then it hit me that every other religion feels the same way about mine. From that perspective, religion really seemed to echo quite hollow as mine was like every other in that regard. Then the next thought that hit me was, "What if all religions are just made up by man?" Of course that was blasphemy and I was certain to go to hell for thinking it, but it did cross my mind. What if there are no gods, what if all of these different beliefs were just made up throughout history? If that were the case, would I still follow any of them?



If there are no gods, if religion is simply teachings made up by man, which one would have the "best" teachings. If there was no heaven and no hell to bait me or scare me, if I didn't have to worry about eternal consequences for objectively choosing something, could I or even would I choose any of them?



That is when Jesus really began to rise to the top of the list. Jesus taught that we are all to love each other. Jesus taught not to judge people, to embrace people, to accept people. He demonstrated this to the extent that it actually cost him his life. Of all the religions in the world, which one could still change the world in profoundly positive ways if there was no God behind it?  I have come to believe that even if there is no God, love can still change the world in profoundly positive ways!  If everyone on Earth were to suddenly believe in Jesus, I'm not sure the world would really look all that different than it does now because we have ample examples throughout history of people who believed in Jesus but still hated each other. But what if we were to all love like Jesus? What then? I believe if that were to happen the world would be changed for the better in an instant!



Love can change the world even if there is no God behind it…………which is exactly why I believe He is.
     

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday!


Sunday

Luke 24:13-35

It is approaching midday as Cleopas and his unnamed friend are preparing to leave Jerusalem.  The Passover and the Sabbath have now passed and things are beginning to calm down around the ancient city.  The crowds are disbursing, returning to their home towns.  Cleopas had hoped to leave earlier but was delayed by a rumor that Jesus' body was now missing from the tomb.  Some of the women claimed to have been greeted by angels at the gravesite where they were told Jesus had risen.  When the rest of the disciples went to the tomb they found that it was empty, but there were no angels present.

As Cleopas and his friend set out on the seven mile journey to Emmaus, they are greeted by a stranger on the same path.  In these times it was common for people to try to travel in groups due to thieves and bandits along the roadways.  As expected Cleopas and his companion are overcome with confusion, disappointment, and depression as a result of the events that have taken place the past few days.  They now have very little to live for as their hopes of deliverance for the Jews was stolen away and killed in a matter of a few hours.  At one point the stranger asks them what their conversation is about.  Cleopas immediately assumes that the man must have just arrived in Jerusalem and has no clue what has occurred.  He tells him about Jesus and how they expected Him to be the deliverer of the Jews.  They also express their disappointment at His death.

The stranger then asks them a question, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?"  At this he begins to teach the men of all the things the Scriptures said about the Christ.  This conversation lasts the duration of their journey.  As the sun is setting into the evening hours, Cleopas and his friend reach their destination.  The stranger continues on by himself when Cleopas pleads with him to stay the night with them.  After some convincing, the stranger decides to stay.  After dinner is prepared the stranger breaks bread and gives thanks to the Lord for the food.  As the bread is broken, the men both noticed he prays for food in a way that is strangely familiar.  Suddenly they realize this is no stranger, they are in the presence of Jesus!!  As soon as this realization takes place, Jesus disappears.  Even though it is late, the two men immediately begin the journey back to Jerusalem to share the news of what they have just experienced.

And so here we stand today.  We were not there to witness the events of 2,000 years ago.  Like Cleopas and his friend we never saw the empty tomb and all we know of Jesus' resurrection is from what others have told us.  Like Cleopas and his friend we are now left to walk the road of life in the presence of a Savior we may not always see, resting our faith on a testimony brought to us by ancient stories.  And like Cleopas and his friend, we too have the responsibility to share the news of our experiences with our friends!

It is my hope that this week we have all had the opportunity to grow a little closer to God by taking a little closer look at Jesus' final week.  I love you all and I pray that we all will enter this next week compelled to "...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  Let us always remember that final promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  (Matt 28:18-20).  Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Passion Week- Saturday



Saturday

As the followers of Christ awake this morning they are greeted by a brief glimmer of hope that it was all only a dream, the same feeling many of us who have unexpectedly lost loved ones experience that next day.  All night they replayed the events of the previous 24 hours in their minds.  Again and again they see that strange encounter between Jesus and Judas, over and over again they see Judas greet Him with a kiss, they see themselves running for their lives in the garden, again and again in their mind's eye they see Jesus writhing in pain as He was whipped, beaten, and tortured.  The sounds haunt them as they can still hear His cries with each clank of the nails being driven.  What a horrible night.  Then, in complete exhaustion, they finally fell asleep.  Now as they begin to stir in the early morning that faint glimmer of hope quickly vanishes and is replaced with dread, shock, emptiness, and sorrow as they soon realize that it was not a dream.  They quickly scan the room and their eyes fall on the empty bed Jesus would have occupied.  He really is gone, the man they had spent almost every waking hour with for the past three years was now gone.  Worse than that is the realization that they were wrong about this person who they thought was the Savior, the Son of God.  They almost feel betrayed, yet at they loved Him too much to be angry.  All of this is compounded by the fact that they all know that they are marked men, and that if they are not careful, they might all meet the same fate as there leader.

They all wonder, "Can this day be any worse?"  As those words are pondered, suddenly the door to the upper room bursts open.  They all jump, fearing the Romans are coming for them.  Only it is not a soldier, instead it is one of the other followers with a shocked look on his face trying to catch his breath.  "Judas!" he blurts out.  "Judas is dead!  They just found him outside the city gates."  “He hung himself next to the ravine!”  It looks like the branch broke because when they found him he was laying at the bottom with the rope still around his neck and his body mutilated from the fall.

At this point shock sets in again, only now they are too numb to cry.  Another brother, another friend is gone.  It is only now that the greater shock begins to set in, and it will soon grow to hatred.  Did Judas betray the master?  No, he couldn't have, but why was he with the soldiers?  They spend the rest of the day trying to make sense of it all.  Time seems as if it has halted.  There is no energy, no hope, no will to move on, only despair.  They are only left to wonder, "What now?  What do we do? Where do we go from here?"  All is lost.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Passion Week: Good Friday


Friday


Matthew ch. 27, Mark ch. 15, Luke ch. 22:54- 23:56, John 18:25- 19:42

As we went to bed last night, Jesus would have just been taken captive in the garden.  This morning we are awaken by the shouts of a crowd.  Quickly we arise, get dressed and scurry down to the center of the old town to see what is going on.  Here we find a lot has happened during our hours of slumber.  The man we had seen praying in the garden last night now has His hands bound.  His clothing torn and His face battered and bloody.  His eyes are so swollen He is hardly recognizable.  We can now make out the cries of the crowd to be a death chant, "Crucify! Crucify!"  The disciples are nowhere to be found and one of them, Judas, is now dead, hanging from a tree just outside of town.  Unbeknownst to most of Jerusalem, Jesus has been paraded around the city during the night to a series of kangaroo courts that attempt to condemn Him to death.  At one point Jesus, who has now been separated from His disciples for several hours, is standing in the court yard of the high priest.  The dawn is now fast approaching and our exhausted Christ is weary and beaten.  Suddenly in the mist of the chaos Jesus hears a roster crowing.  He immediately turns and looks over His shoulder, among the large crowd Jesus locks eyes with a single person.  It is Peter.  When Peter notices Jesus is looking at him, his expression changes to that of pure horror.  He melts to tears and runs from the area as he realizes, just as Jesus had predicted, that he had just denied Jesus for the third time.

As sun light begins to break over the ancient City of Jerusalem, Jesus is led back to Pilate.  Pilate has very little desire to have anything done with Jesus as he is unable to find any guilt in the man.  In an attempt to satisfy the crowd, Pilate sends Jesus off to be scourged, in hopes it will suffice the hostile audience.  During this process, Jesus is whipped with a "cat of nine tails" a whip of nine strands held by a single handle.  Braided into this whip are pieces of jagged bone and metal, designed to literally tear the flesh from the body.  History shows that most people who endured scourging normally died anyway from the trauma of the event.  After this, it is quite likely that parts of Jesus' rib cage would have been exposed as His flesh was sliced open as result of the severity of this practice.  After this terrible torture, the people are still not satisfied.  As a last ditch attempt to free Jesus, and thus save his own political skin, Pilate falls back on a tradition he has with the Jews of releasing a single prisoner at the time of Passover.  He intentionally picks out the worst man he can think of, a violent rebel named Barabbas, a man he is sure the Jews will want to remain in custody.  Pilate gives the people the option of either Jesus or Barabbas.  The plan backfires when they unbelievably choose Barabbas.

Pilate is now caught in an odd predicament.  Although history shows him to have been a rather cut throat individual, he has been instructed by Rome to keep things under control in the remote outpost of Jerusalem.  If he supports the killing of Jesus, he will be condemning a man he knows is innocent which will not fare well.  If he sets Jesus free he runs the risk of a complete riot which could cost him his position.  On top of all of this, his wife has come to him and told him of a troubling dream she had about Jesus and warns him to have nothing to do with this situation.  In an attempt to relieve himself of all responsibility, Pilate washes his hands of the situation and tells the Jews to do what they wish with Jesus.

Sometime around 8 AM, Jesus is led to a hill just outside the west wall of the town known as the skull.  By this time He can barely even stand as a result of the brutal treatment He has endured.  He is suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, blood loss, and indescribable pain.  His condition is so poor that a man from the crowd is selected to carry the cross beam of Jesus' cross for him.  Once at the hill, about 9AM, Jesus' arms are nailed through his wrists to the cross beam.  The cross beam is then hoisted up onto a larger stake that has been driven into the ground.  When this action occurs, Jesus is pulled up from the ground by His arms that have been nailed to the wood.  This act more than likely dislocates both shoulders and possibly His elbows.  Jesus, now dangling by His arms, then has His feet nailed to the vertical stake that the crossbeam is now attached to.  He will spend the next six hours in this position.

As we go through our daily routines today, lets remember that from about 9AM until 3PM Jesus was suffering on the cross.  During these hours of torment, Jesus still finds the love in His heart to ask God to forgive us for what we did to Him.  As the 3PM hour draws near, Jesus' mouth is so dry He can't even speak.  A rag, soaked with vinegar wine is then raise up to Him on a stick so He can wet His mouth enough to call out some of His final words.  "IT IS FINISHED!"  These words were known as a victory cry in this time period.  The phrase was often called out at the conclusions of battles.  Jesus had been victorious. He had spent 33 years on this Earth living a perfect life and in spite of His desires, at times, to walk away from this responsibility He stayed true to the cause.

Quick work is now made to get Jesus off of the cross and buried prior to sunset as the Sabbath begins.  Tonight as we are settling down with our families, lets remember the hopelessness the disciples and followers of Christ must have felt that night.  They had just poured the last 3 years of their lives into a man who was supposed to be the one that would save them from their oppressors.  All hope, all joy, everything is now gone.  The so called "savior" is dead.  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Passion Week: Thursday


Thursday

To get an idea of the significance of the next 36 hours we can look to the Book of John.  The first 13 chapters of John deal with all of Jesus' life.  The next 6 chapters alone deal with this short period of time!

I imagine Jesus must have awaken with a sick feeling in His stomach as He knew He had just experienced His last night of sleep.  The story picks up with Jesus asking His disciples to find a place for them to have the Passover dinner.  That evening, Jesus and the disciples gather to take part in the Passover meal.  During this time, in an act of sheer humility, Jesus washes the disciple's feet.  I wonder what He must have felt as He washed the feet of Judas?  The feet that would soon be leading the soldiers to capture Him.  Jesus begins to tell the disciples of His coming death and predicts Peter will deny even knowing Him by day break.  Jesus also identifies Judas as His betrayer to Peter and John with a simple piece of bread dipped in wine, an ironic symbol as Jesus later describes the bread and wine as symbols of His sacrifice.  Shortly after nightfall Judas leaves the meal for an unknown reason to the rest of the disciples.  While they remain, a conversation about which disciple is the greatest begins.  This is an interesting argument for a group of men who in about 3 hours will experience the greatest fall of their lives.

As the meal concludes, probably around 9PM, the group leaves the upper room and begins to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane which is located across a ravine, several hundred yards from the east gate of the city.  As they are walking, Jesus uses every last second to continue teaching these young men and comforts them as He speaks of His love for them.  Once at the entrance to the garden, Jesus calls for Peter, John, and James to accompany Him away from the rest of the group to pray.  Once they are separated, Jesus walks a little farther on and begins to passionately pray to the Father.  It is apparent to the disciples that Jesus is under some sort of stress as He has been acting strangely all day.  His demeanor has been very dark and here in the garden they see it reach its climax.  Jesus is literally brought to His knees by this unknown stress.  He actually begins to have droplets of blood form in His sweat.  (An extremely painful medical condition that has been observed in people under intense stress where the blood pressure rises to such a degree it begins to rupture the sweat glands)

Here the salvation of the world hangs in the balance.  Every moment from the fall of man until now is fixed on this one place in time.  God has sent Jesus into the world to save it and in the garden we see Jesus actually express that He doesn't want to do it and pleads God to "...take this cup from me!"  Jesus grapples with this decision for an hour or so in what had to be the most intense spiritual battle of all time.  One has to wonder if Jesus was still clinging to the slight hope that God would still spare Him?  I wonder if His mind wandered back to Abraham and Issac.  Perhaps He hoped that God would spare Him at the last second the way He spared Issac?  This emotional battle is so intense that an angel actually appears to encourage Jesus.  I have to wonder why God had to send an angel to encourage Him?  Could it possibly have been due to the fact that when Jesus needed encouragement most, His most devoted followers fell asleep?  What if they had been praying with Him as He had asked them to?  Would the angel have still needed to come?  In the end, we see a man who is completely exhausted and very much alone, suddenly gain the strength to rise to His feet.  All hope of being spared by God is now gone and Jesus submits to His fate as He says, "Not my will but Your will be done."  At the end of this time of prayer we see the same man who just a short time ago was in tears praying for the test to pass, now having the strength to actually walk out to meet the challenge.

The disciples are awaken by Jesus and jump to their feet as they hear a commotion coming their direction.  They have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs that something very bad is about to happen.  They watch with confusion in their eyes as Judas, who had just left the dinner a short time ago, approaches Jesus and identifies Him to the group of soldiers with the infamous kiss

A fight breaks out and all the disciples, who had just sworn their willingness to die for Jesus, flee the area for their lives.  During this altercation a man loses his ear only to have Jesus heal him before being lead away.  It is now between 10 and 11PM.  Jesus is bound and beaten as He will spend the rest of the night enduring six unfair trials that will eventually condemn an innocent man.

Tonight as we prepare for bed, let's think about the pain Jesus experienced in the garden as He fought so hard to be obedient to His Father's call.  Let's not abandon Him to some other distraction tonight.  No, tonight let us stand by our Savior in prayer as we failed to do 2,000 years ago and thank Him for choosing to provide us the salvation we so desperately needed.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passion Week: Wednesday



Wednesday

There is nothing mentioned in the Gospels about anything taking place on Wednesday.  Many scholars believe Jesus may have used today to spend time with His family and loved ones as it is the last day before His capture.  As for this day, we are only left to wonder what Jesus might have done.  What would we do if we knew tomorrow we were in our final hours?  How would we spend these last few moments?  Perhaps Jesus contemplated fleeing the city to avoid His death all together.  Perhaps He walked the streets of Jerusalem preparing Himself for what He was about to endure.  I imagine He probably spent time with His mother Mary, as this was the last full day He would spend with her as her son.

I wonder what Jesus will feel tonight as He goes to bed?  Will He even be able to sleep?  Perhaps, from where He is staying, He is able to hear the sounds of the thousands of sacrificial lambs that have been brought into the city for Passover.  Will He listen to them tonight and think about their common fate?  There is no doubt that Jesus will spend the majority of this day in prayer.  Maybe we can better learn to follow this example.  Maybe we should use today to pray that God will help us to understand a little bit of what Jesus may have been experiencing, and thus gain a better perspective of the incredible sacrifice He made to save us.  Maybe as Jesus lays down tonight He will think about His childhood.  Will images of His teenage years and His deceased father Joseph enter his mind or will He think of the first day He met and called His disciples?  I wonder if He questions where the time has gone and how quickly this night has come, how it seems like just yesterday He was a young boy in Galilee learning carpentry.  Maybe He will think of the generations of people who have come and gone who looked forward to His arrival and the salvation He would provide.  Perhaps He thinks about the generations to come who have no idea He is saving them before they are even born.  Perhaps as His eyes are growing heavy, just before He is finally able to drift off for a few hours of sleep.............He thinks of you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Passion Week: Tuesday


Tuesday

Matthew 21:18- 26:16, Mark 11: 20- 14:11, Luke 20:1 - 22:6

This is perhaps the busiest day of Jesus' final week.  It is a day that is filled with teaching as well as traps by the Pharisees as Jesus wraps up the final few hours of His ministry.  The day begins with Jesus and the disciples walking back into Jerusalem from Bethany.  As they are walking they pass the same tree that Jesus had cursed yesterday when He attempted to find figs.  They notice that today the tree has completely withered.  The fig tree, the symbol of God’s blessing, withered and dead, symbolic of what has now happened to the temple.

They proceed into town and head back to the temple.  Upon their arrival to the chief priests are waiting for Him.  I can imagine they were enraged as they stood in the mess of the broken tables from the day before.  They sharply ask Jesus, "Who gave you the authority to do this?"  Jesus halts them with a question of His own, one that they can't answer.  When the chief priest respond that they don't know the answer Jesus leaves them dumb founded as He tells them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Jesus then begins to tell the parable of the Wicked Tenants.  In this story Jesus is obviously describing what is going to happen in just two and a half days.  He speaks of a man that rents a vineyard to some farmers while he is away on a journey.  While he is away the master sends a number of servants to check on the vineyard.  The tenants proceed to beat and kill the servants until the man finally sends his only son, thinking the tenants would have to respect him.  The tenants instead decide to seize and kill the son, throwing him out of the vineyard.  When the master learns of this he returns to the vineyard, kills the tenants and gives the vineyard to others.  This is an interesting passage as it alludes to the spreading of Christianity being taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles.

The Pharisees are angered by this story because they know Jesus is talking about them.  They instead decide to try to trap Him with a political question.  They ask Him if they should pay taxes to Caesar or not?  If Jesus says "no" to this then they can report Him to the Romans for treason, if Jesus answered "yes" He would lose much of His support from the people as it would appear He supported Rome.  Once again Jesus gives a brilliant answer that leaves them silent.  "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

Time and time again the Pharisees attempt to trip Him up with questions intended to be traps and time and time again Jesus is able to answer them.  Finally Jesus leaves the temple area.  He and several of the disciples walk about a quarter to a half mile from the temple to the Mount of Olives.  From here they can over look the city and the temple and Jesus begins to tell of the future.  He foretells the eventual destruction of the temple, an event that took place almost 40 years later in 70 A.D.  Jesus concludes with this warning, "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back - whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

I can't help but wonder if Jesus, as He spoke these words, thought about the fact that His disciples would soon be sleeping in the garden when He needed them most, or that Peter, His most loyal follower, would soon be denying he even knew Jesus.

That evening Jesus returns to Bethany where He stays at the house of Simon the Leper.  While they are reclining at the table Mary, the sister of Lazarus, takes a bottle of a very expensive perfume and pours it over Jesus.  This perfume known as nard, was worth a years income, $30,000 to $40,000 by today's standards.  As she is pouring it on Jesus, Judas complains that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  Jesus rebukes him and again alludes to His death as He says, "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial..."  Even as Jesus gives ample hints that His death is drawing near nobody seems to catch on.  

As Mary is performing this beautiful gesture for Jesus, Judas, perhaps angered that he was just rebuked, slips away in the night to prepare a deal with the Pharisees and the Chief Priests in which he is offered 30 pieces of silver to turn Jesus over to them.

Tonight before we go to bed, I pray that we will remember both the beauty and the evil that was taking place on this night 2,000 ago.  And who are we tonight?  Do we display the selfless, loving, beauty of Mary in how we live?  Or do we act on our own interests, motivated by our own desires like Judas?    


Monday, March 25, 2013

Passion Week: Monday


Monday

It is Monday morning, the dawn has not yet broke and Jesus awakes in a rather grouchy mood.  All night images of people peddling God in the Temple courtyard have been running through His mind.  He probably arose early and went out alone to pray, as was His custom.  (Mark 1:35).  After this Jesus and His disciples begin their journey back into Jerusalem.  As He is approaching town, Jesus notices a fig tree, the symbolic tree of God’s blessing, on the side of the road.  Seeking some breakfast, Jesus approaches the tree but only finds leaves.  Already in a bad mood, Jesus is irritated by the tree's lack of fruit, He pronounces a curse on the tree, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again."  Much like the temple He was about to enter, this tree offered signs of hope.  It was full of leaves and had every indication that there should be something there to eat.  Instead the tree offered nothing, but the empty promise that it had food.

Jesus then proceeds to the temple where like the fig tree, a place of hope has been turned into a place of empty promises by the thieves that inhabit it.  And like the tree, God’s blessing was about to be taken from this place.

Last night, He had witnessed the thieves and swindlers selling sacrifices and taking advantage of peoples desire to worship God.  At this point, Jesus is both angry and hurt by the mockery that is being made of the worship of His Father.  Jesus cries out, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of thieves."  Chaos erupts as He begins to overturn tables, releasing the sacrificial doves and chasing all of the peddlers out of the temple area.

I wonder how Jesus felt moments after driving these people out.   I wonder if He cried as He now stood alone in the rubble of broken tables and scattered cages.  Again I wonder if He questioned whether or not we were really worth dying for?  I wonder what Jesus did?  Did He drop to His knees in frustration with humanity?  For some reason in my mind, I picture Jesus sitting alone in the temple staring down at the ground with tears of frustration in His eyes, muttering to God.  I can then imagine Him being startled by somebody touching His hand.  As He slowly looks up He makes eye contact with a small child who has a badly deformed leg.  Jesus' heart melts with compassion and He heals the child.  After this more and more people begin to come to Him in the temple and He spends the rest of the day healing the blind, the sick, and the lame.  These few moments of sorrow begin to erupt in joy as people who have never walked begin to leap, people who have never seen suddenly can see the vibrant colors that have always been around them.  Children begin to sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"  Reference the children singing, Jesus later says they have "...perfected praise."  At the end of this long day, after seeing the joy and the hope He had brought to these people, I wonder if Jesus was encouraged?  I wonder if He felt renewed strength to face His fate with every child He heard laugh, with the first expression of every blind man that could suddenly see, and with the leaps of joy from every cripple that had never walked.  I wonder how He felt as He walked from the temple grounds back to the small town of Bethany where He spent the night?  At least for today, the temple was not a place of empty promises.  Today, God was in His house.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday

The first day we are going to look at is today, Palm Sunday, found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.

Just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem, a small band of shabby characters are making their way toward the city.  Among them, a man named Bartimaeus.  For years he spent his days at the gates of Jericho as a blind beggar seeking spare change from those who would give.....until yesterday.  Yesterday he was healed of his blindness and today he is eagerly following the sage who granted him this gift of sight.  Sadly, these new and perfect eyes, that today allow him to see the vibrant beauty of the world, will soon show him the contrasting horrors of life as he will watch the man who healed him being tortured to death.

That man now walks with a quiet intensity while the rest surround him like the entourage of a boxer approaching the ring.  The men are excited as they fully expect their leader to establish himself as the Messiah and overthrow Israel’s Roman oppressors.  Little do they know their leader has all but given up on trying to explain to them that the Messiah is to be a sacrifice rather than a conquer.  Jesus is fully aware that He is now living the final days of His life and He is approaching them with courage and dread.

As He reaches a point that He can overlook the city, He begins to weep, lamenting that the people failed to recognize the day of their Savior’s coming, an event that was predicted to the day by the Prophet Daniel.

As He and His disciples are approaching the town, Jesus sends some of them ahead to find a donkey colt, one that had never been ridden.  The disciples locate the colt and bring it to Jesus where He then rides it into the city.  As Jesus is entering, His followers begin to take their cloaks as well as palm branches and lay them on the ground in front of the donkey.  The people cheered as their king arrived, having no idea that within five days they would be calling for His execution.  I wonder if Jesus thought about this as He was coming into town?  He said that if these people had not cheered then even the rocks and trees would have cried out in worship of Him.  The people had grand plans of how Jesus was going to save them from the Roman Empire, and as usual, God had something bigger in mind.

After the procession, Jesus went to the temple.  Upon His arrival to this holy place, He finds people using the worship of God as a means to make money.  This obviously upset Jesus as we will see in His actions tomorrow.  In the midst of this commotion, Jesus chooses to remain silent, He instead slips away for the night.  I wonder what Jesus must have thought that night.  He had just experienced people cheering for Him, people that He knew had no idea why He was there and people that He knew would want Him dead in just a few days.  He then walks into the Holy temple and sees what He later calls "a den of thieves," making a mockery out of the worship of His Father.  With the scene of the money changers replaying in His mind, I wonder if His heart began to swell with a burning intensity as He sat quietly that night weaving the whip He will use tomorrow to drive those thieves out of His Father's House?  I can't imagine the hurt, the mockery He felt was taking place in the name of God.  I imagine He will not sleep well tonight.

It is my prayer that tonight as you lay down to bed, that you ponder what He may have been thinking that first Palm Sunday.  It is my prayer that this week more than any other, we really take time to appreciate what Jesus did all those years ago.    


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Taking Control


I have come to a realization that the happy man is the one who lets go of all the things in life he can't control and uses those free hands to take firm hold of the things he really can. We can't really control if we get cancer or if a loved one dies. We can't control the stock market or the weather.  But there are a couple things we all can control and most of us just don't.

Many of us allow other people to control things like our emotions. All day we ride a roller coster of highs and lows based upon how other people treat us. We place our happiness, sadness, anger, and joy in the hands of those around us, whether we like them or not.  We are slaves to how people "make us feel," constantly reacting to how we are being treated.  We manipulate our loved ones by placing the burden of our happiness on their shoulders.  True happiness is a decision not a result of what someone else does. But if someone has the power to "make me happy" then do they not also possess the power to take it away?  One of the great ironies of life is that so many of us spin our wheels trying to control all the things we can't while neglecting the only thing we can............that being ourselves.  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Illusion of Freedom


As a nation we have championed freedom for over two centuries but as of late, I'm afraid we are now preaching a lie.  I fear that as a country and a society, we no longer believe in freedom.  Oh, we say we do, and we think we do, but when our actions are examined closely, it can quickly be seen that this is all an illusion.   Nowhere is this reality more evident than when it comes to the freedom to fail.

We refuse to grant people the freedom to fail anymore.  We have conditioned a generation or two that all they have to do is nothing and someone from somewhere will save them from their folly.  I sat in a meeting this week were 12 of the most selfless and wonderful people I know discussed for an hour what we could or would do to help two families who completely refused to help themselves out of their situations.  I was left wondering why their failure to help themselves was suddenly our problem?  Then I turn on the news and see how every year our nation spends billions of dollars all in the hopes of not allowing people, who refuse to succeed on their own, to fail.

Yes, some people need help, and yes we should help them.  But there is a fine line between helping and enabling.  What about those who don't want to succeed?  Shouldn't they be free to make that decision for themselves?  If they choose to fail why do we try to stop them?  Why do we try to rob them of that freedom?  After all, is that not a freedom that God Himself has given us?  If I refuse to work or take care of myself, its not like God causes money and food to fall from the sky.  

One of the greatest gifts God has given us is freedom.  He has freed us from the fear of death through His sacrifice, He has freed us from guilt and shame through forgiveness, He has freed us from punishment through His grace, yet we don't want it.

We just don't seem to want freedom.  In fact, mankind has never really seemed all that big on it.  Every now and then we find a generation that will fight for freedom, but then over time, those who come after tend to slowly give it away again.  It's almost like we don't want the responsibility that comes with it.  We give away our freedom to kings and governments.  We even give it away to religion, rather than seek God on our own, for generations we have simply asked religion to tell us what to believe.  Just tell us what to do and we will do it.  We want other people to make decisions for us.  And why? What is it about humans that we constantly reject this wonderful gift of God?

The problem with freedom is that it is risky.  It take guts.  Guts to pursue our dreams and risk losing everything in the process.  The greatest of ironies since at the end of every life we lose everything anyway.  Rather than experience the euphoria of the adventure that accompanies freedom, we trade it for the illusion of safety.  The certainty of routine and in doing so we are once again allowing the boa constrictor of oppression to slowly tighten his grip on us.  With each little squeeze we rejoice with how much safer we feel in his embrace.  We are repeating the cycle of humanity as we yet again reject the gift of God and forsake the freedom He desires for us.    

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tim Tebow and the First Baptist Church of Dallas


Recently Tim Tebow made some news for agreeing to speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, then he made even more news for canceling his appearance.  There has been a lot of debate swirling around as to whether or not he made a good decision but that's not what I want to talk about right now.  I'd like to talk about both sides of the controversy.

Had Tebow spoken at the church he would have been viewed as controversial by many in the LGBT community as being anti-gay or at least anti-gay marriage based on the stance of the church.  By not speaking he is now controversial among Christians primarily for not taking a stand for his beliefs and caving to the pressures of the naysayers.  Whatever the true reason for Tebow's decision is up to him and honestly his business.  I would guess that it must be exhausting just to be him and have everything you do either questioned or mocked by half the nation.

The point I'd like to evaluate is this notion that we must separate ourselves from people who are controversial.  Why must we do so?  I think if we asked most people that question the reason given would be that we don't want others to think that we think the same way as the person we are trying to distance ourselves from.  We see this all the time in politics.  "Leaders" (and I use that term loosely) establish their clans and then avoid all others so there is little chance of being "associated" with people with who have different stances.  But again I ask, "Why?"  When we break this down to its most basic premise, we are just plain scared of what people might think we think.  Once again, it is perception that we allow to trump truth.  Why can't we as a nation develop the fortitude to be comfortable with our own true thoughts.

Tebow's thoughts are Tebow's thoughts.  Where he delivers them really doesn't matter.  As Christians especially, we are called to love everyone, so if that's really the case, why do we have to avoid anyone?  If a Christian celebrity gets called to speak at the Westboro Baptist Church or a Gay Convention, why do they have to "avoid" either.  Why can't they just stand up and confidently speak their own thoughts and their own beliefs and if the hosts get upset too bad, its their fault for inviting that person.  When we are transparent and real, we don't have to avoid people because everyone knows where we stand.  And for those who think we think differently, they are wrong, the truth is what really matters.

Christian, atheist, conservative, liberal, where every we stand it's time to stop cowardly pandering to perception.  It's time to stop furthering the divisions of our nation by "avoiding" and "distancing" ourselves from one another.  It's time to stop worrying about where others think we stand based on who we hang out with.  It's time to speak the truth about what we believe, whatever that might be, and have the courage to let the chips fall where they may.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Pursuit of Greatness


Greetings all,

Sorry I've been so quiet on here lately.  I've really been buckling down on trying to wrap up this new book called the "Human Side of Christ."  It should be releasing this Spring and the opportunity to pre-order should be available within the next month.

Now that I've shamelessly plugged myself, on to the thought of the day.  What exactly is it that determines greatness?  I got to thinking about that recently as our society seems so ready to place that distinction on so many people for such a variety of reasons.  We have great singers, great athletes, and great actors but do we have very many great people?  It seems like we will often take one attribute that a person possesses and use that to construct a framework to determine they are a great person.  I would suppose the pressure of this might be immense for many and perhaps that is why we see so many crack under its weight.  I'm afraid we have become so good at worshiping attributes that we no longer celebrate character.

Can you think of anyone in our culture who is celebrated for simply being a great human being?  I suppose if I took some time to really ponder it I might be able to come up with one or two, but immediately, nobody comes to mind.  What kind of a message does this send to our younger generations?  Doesn't it tell them that if you want to be celebrated you should just work really hard at honing a single attribute rather than building yourself into a well rounded person of integrity?

Just a thought to ponder.  I understand we like to be wowed by those of us with great skill.  The other day I happen to come across a hall of fame baseball player.  He is known for being very cold and rude to people yet he is worshiped by millions because he can throw a ball.  I fear for our culture as we continue to send our kids the wrong messages.  We tell them to be good student and to work at becoming good fathers and mothers someday but then we turn on the television and worship people who have abandoned their children and destroyed their marriages.  We give them a pass simply because they are unusually good at something.  We teach kids that greatness is hard to obtain and that few will find it, yet, who among us is not capable of becoming a good and decent person?  If greatness was determined by character, we would all have a shot at it.  It would not be solely available to those born with some sort of unique skill or talent.

Ultimately greatness is something that is determined and bestowed by society, but what happens with the society that bestows that greatness on others is no longer great itself?  Food for thought........