Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Let's Stop Being So Thin-Skinned

Sometimes I hear or read things with which I disagree, or, I encounter something which casts groups with whom I am affiliated in a negative light and I find myself thinking, “Hey, what’s going on here? This is not fair. The person(s) responsible for that communication need to apologize. That bothers me!”

But then—when I’m thinking right—this type of realization occurs to me, “Hey, relax. People are allowed to express opinions even if you don’t agree with them. Lighten up. Everyone doesn’t think the same way you do. Everyone doesn’t see the world the same way you do. Don’t be a baby.”

My dear friends, I honestly believe it will be in our own best interests for all of us to stop being so overly sensitive. (Including me.) Also it will help us to stop treating everyone like wimps who cannot handle any type of disagreement with their views and opinions, or any criticism of groups with whom they may be associated.

Please understand, I am not endorsing disrespectful, dishonest, hateful language. I believe it is important for us to be loving, gracious and respectful toward each other. I really do.

Also, I am not writing this post in anger. I would honestly like to be helpful. I am concerned. I write this in an effort to offer some thoughts about the general direction of our culture. It seems we are becoming overly sensitive, unable to confront any type of communication which might challenge our thinking or point-of-view. This inability to hear any challenge to our position on matters will not serve us well.

Of course, this cultural over-sensitivity is only likely to change if people will stop claiming to be victimized by any minor remark with which they disagree. As I admitted earlier, I know the feeling. I don’t like hearing ideas that challenge my positions. It is easy to feel defensive and cry, “You can’t say that! I’m very delicate!” But come on, we can handle some differing opinions once in a while, can’t we?

In the book of Acts there is a story about Paul debating Epicurean and Stoic philosophers while he was in Athens. It also mentions that Paul went out to speak in the public square “daily.” In other words, he was sharing the gospel message with people who had not heard it before. He was using reason, logic and sharing evidence from his own eyewitness testimony. Everyone did not believe him. Everyone did not agree with him. In one passage we are told the philosophers said this about Paul: “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” (Acts 17:18)

Paul did not respond to these comments by crying and trying to create a safe zone in which no one could respond in ways that challenged what he was saying. He did not say, “They called me a babbler. That’s it, I’m going to get a lawyer.”

He kept on going back and talking, listening, reasoning, debating. He realized everyone would not agree with him. Reasonable, mature adults understand this reality.

I acknowledge that some language can be incredibly mean, hurtful, inappropriate, rude, irresponsible, offensive and even destructive. Again, I am not condoning such behavior. But I’m concerned we are becoming too small, too weak, too insular and too willing to be sheltered from differing ideas and opinions.

We need to be bigger than this. I say this with love: Our culture needs to grow up.

Monday, November 30, 2015

We Choose How We Respond

For the most part, we choose how we respond to what happens in life. In other words, we are not forced by the circumstances of life to think, speak and behave in certain ways. Rather, we choose our response.

I realize there are some really bad circumstances which can happen sometimes. And I understand that when incredibly difficult circumstances occur this is not inconsequential. The circumstances of our lives matter. I have great empathy for this reality. However, it is still true that, in general, we choose our response.

This can be a difficult idea to wrestle with because it takes away some of our excuses. If we admit we have chosen our response then we cannot claim circumstances dictated that we respond in negative, hurtful, unwise and unhealthy ways. We must accept responsibility.

With God’s help we can choose—even in difficult circumstances—to respond to life with love, respect, grace, joy, patience and kindness. I want to make these kinds of positive choices.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Humble And Being Thankful

Real thankfulness requires a measure of humility because thankfulness involves the realization that we are receiving goodness from a source outside of ourselves. After all, if we are responsible for all the goodness in our lives thankfulness is no longer necessary. In this case, the only attitude necessary is a sense of amazement at ourselves for how incredible we are. (I’ve tried being amazed at myself a number of times and it never works very well. I find it disappointing.)

Are we willing to humble ourselves and recognize the wonderful blessings in our lives we did not create?

This humility will lead to thankfulness which will bring yet another blessing: Joy.

I humbly wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, lots of joy and God’s continued blessings!

With much love,


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Optimism of A Worst-Case-Scenario Thinker

I knew a guy who would always assume the worst case scenario was likely to happen when it came to the events of his life. This frustrated me because I thought he was too pessimistic. It seemed like he always had an attitude that threw a wet blanket on things.

But then I came to realize this fellow’s pessimistic worst-case-scenario approach to life was actually a coping mechanism he employed to keep from having his hopes dashed. Think about it: Most of the time something which is not as bad as the worst case scenario will occur. For those expecting the worst this will, therefore, wind up being better than they expected.

This approach would mean he would not have to deal with the kind of disappointment that might have occurred if his hopes were very high. So oddly enough, this worst-case-scenario type of thinking was my friend’s guarded attempt at being optimistic since his thinking typically resulted in outcomes which exceeded his expectations!

…But, to be honest, I still think he was too pessimistic.

Here’s a bit of biblical optimism for those who are trusting in Him: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Could God Do Something Profound In A Church Service?

Some people think of church services as stodgy, dull, boring, dry, predictable events at which very little of interest or value could happen. I’ve been to a lifetime of church services and I’m aware of that reality.

And it is why I sit here on Sunday morning thinking like this: Could God do something good, helpful, challenging, important, interesting and even surprising in the midst of a church service?

Of course, you already know my answer. I’m expecting something significant to happen in our services today. I’m believing God will be here and people will connect with Him. I’m trusting that our lives will be impacted and we will draw closer to God and to His truth.

Prayer: “Lord, surprise us today. May we know that in our time at the service this morning, we had a genuine encounter with you.”

You are invited to join us…

First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street
Oak Lawn, IL

Service times:  9am and 11am

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Making The Important Connections Between What We've Sown And What We Reap

I’ve been working with people who have difficulties, problems, struggles and hurts for over 22 years, as a pastor.

I’ve noticed that occasionally there will be people who tend to have problems and troubles over and over again. It is possible this is not their fault. It may be they are truly victims in some way or another. It is not my intention to pile on those who have already had plenty of difficulty and struggle. I recognize that for some people, the troubles may involve issues which are genuinely beyond their control and unrelated to their own actions.

But I have also noticed in some cases there are people who see no correspondence between their constant troubles and their own attitudes, actions and choices. They only see themselves as victims and they see all the troubles as issues that are initiated outside of themselves.

“Someone else has done this to me,” they say. Every time.

“The circumstances of life are stacked against me. Poor me,” they say. Every time.

These are the people who cannot seem to understand why their problems and difficulties are never-ending. And they are unable to see their role in what is happening.

This passage of scripture could be of great value to them if they would be willing to open their eyes to the truth it conveys: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7

I do not write this to tear anyone down. Actually, I write this to express an unavoidable and very important reality of life. I write this as a caution and reminder to myself. I write this in love and out of a desire to offer helpful truth to those who are willing to recognize the truth.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do You Want My Cinnamon Roll?

A man at the table next to ours got up to leave and he said to me, “Sir, I hate to throw this away, would you like to have it?”

He pointed to his plate on which there was half of a large cinnamon roll.

At first I thought, perhaps, he was joking. But I looked at his face and he seemed quite sincere and quite serious. I said, “No thank you. I appreciate it. I’m trying not to eat too many carbs. Do you see my problem?” I pointed at my stomach, shaking my head and laughing.

He smiled and said, “Okay. I understand.” But he seemed disappointed.

Then he turned to a group of three women at another nearby table and offered the half a cinnamon roll to them.

They looked slightly puzzled but quickly said, “No, but thank you.”

So, he took his plate over to the trash area and threw it away.

I’m divided in my thinking about this incident. On the one hand I have never had a stranger in a restaurant offer me food from his plate. It strikes me as an unusual thing to do. Please understand, I don’t see it as bad or wrong. It’s just an uncommon offer. I think most people would assume that strangers in a restaurant would be very reluctant to eat off of their plate.

On the other hand, I really felt like the man was being sincere and honestly attempting to be generous and non-wasteful with this food.

I happened to notice the man while he was sitting at the table next to ours before all of this occurred and part of what I noticed was that he looked like a comedian I have seen on television a number of times. So, if it turns out I was being pranked on one of those hidden camera shows and you see it pop up on TV or the Internet one of these days, now you know the story behind the story.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Terrorism, Fear and God

Terrorism has a certain measure of effectiveness because fear is such a potent emotion. A terrorist group knows if they create enough fear they can exert control over people. Sometimes people will even surrender values they hold dear, such as freedom, in order to avoid the incredible discomfort of fear.

Sadly, surrendering these values—in the long run—will not stop the fear because no matter how many values we surrender it will never be enough for the people who advance their agenda through fear. So they will never actually discontinue their fear tactics. Why would they stop doing something which gives them power over others?

Why would they stop using a tactic which, from their perspective, works?

I do not want to live with fear. More importantly, God does not want us to live with fear. A genuine sense of God’s presence in our lives is one of the most certain ways to experience true freedom from fear.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…”  Psalm 23:4

Why is it possible to walk through this valley with no fear? Because “thou art with me.” God’s presence matters.

It is one thing to pretend, when it comes to God. It is another matter to cultivate a genuine relationship with God in which there is true assurance of His presence. Pretending provides no relief from fear. A genuine relationship opens a whole new way of living with confidence and power.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Taking God Seriously

Spending time in solitude and prayer is an act of taking seriously the idea that God is real, that He is available to us, and that He is capable of being with us in a meaningful, personal way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Does The Truth Exist?

If a person tells you “the truth is not knowable” a great question to ask would be this: “Aren’t you claiming something is true with your statement? Aren’t you claiming to know that what you just told me is true?”

You see, if we consider the matter logically, this statement is self-defeating: the truth does not exist.

It’s actually sort of amusing in a way. In order to deny the existence of truth you have to claim to know something true.

(Okay I admit, I’m easily amused.)

Jesus believed in the existence of truth.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, acknowledge and confront. The truth can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it is what it is, nevertheless. I agree with Jesus, the truth exists.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” [Jesus] John 14:6

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Loving Those Who Are Not Easy To Love

There are people with whom we do not naturally connect. In fact, there will be some people in the course of life who will just simply rub us the wrong way. We may not even be able to explain why we feel the way we do, we just recognize that certain people are irritating to us.

The love of God alive in us can help us to love these people.

You might be thinking, “Well, here we go. Dan is really losing it, again.” And I will grant this is not easy. This love of God for those who are not easy to love involves a level of maturity and wisdom that—I regret to admit—some Christians never attain on this side of eternity. (Wisdom does not come automatically with age and it is not inevitable. Unfortunately, it is possible for a person to grow old but never become wise.)

This kind of love which goes beyond our natural inclinations will also involve a work of the Holy Spirit in us. We don’t muster this up through our will power. In the book of 1 John 4:19, we find these words: “We love because he [God] first loved us.” God is the initiator of love, He is the source of real love.

When God’s love is alive in us, however, then the love of God can be experienced and expressed through us, even for those who would not be easy for us to love under natural circumstances.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

All Of This Goodness Is Happening Today!

We will be having an unplugged type of service today with acoustic guitars and candlelight. This is an approach we take from time to time to present the music with a different feel. (A few times we have taken this approach when the power has gone out in the building, but sometimes we do it intentionally. Today it is intentional.) It is our desire to express our worship for God in fresh and creative ways. He is deserving of our best efforts.

I will be talking about an interesting interaction Jesus had in which He talked about belonging to God. People got mad at Jesus when He told them about this but, of course, He always spoke the truth.

Then after the 11 o’clock service we will be having our Annual Chili Cook-Off. This is a chili competition which serves as a fund raiser for our Youth Group. Do you like great chili? Yeah, me too. There will be lots of it at the Chili Cook-Off!

You say, “Wow! All of this goodness is happening at the services today? How cool!”

Yep. You won’t want to miss it.

Join us at 9am or 11am at…

First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street

Oak Lawn, IL